We have returned from the Easter break (well, we didn’t actually go anywhere!) but there is still no official confirmation on how long the UK restrictions to tackle the coronavirus will remain in place.
What does this mean for residential property law and practice? Our team has been working remotely for the last few weeks and, although life has changed, we are continuing to work on certain types of transactions. Of course we strongly encourage everyone to follow the relevant government guidance (which can be accessed here) and this means that some house moves will have to be delayed. However, we are continuing to act on instructions where properties are empty or the parties have agreed sensible and safe arrangements until the current restrictions are lifted. We are introducing flexibility in our contracts to allow for some Covid-19 uncertainty between exchange and completion, and are also continuing to advise on certain restructurings, family transfers and purchases for international investor clients.
The government has said anyone wanting to move home, whether a buyer or a renter, should delay the transaction where possible while the coronavirus “stay-at-home” measures are in place. Physical surveys are out, but homeowners wishing to get a move under way can lay the groundwork of instructing agents, a solicitor, and applying for a mortgage, in anticipation of the restrictions lifting. Where a buyer and seller have exchanged contracts, ministers want the parties to postpone completion until the restrictions come to an end. If a deal can’t be postponed for legal reasons, “people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus,” it added. Where a home is already vacant or no move is involved, a transaction may go ahead, as long as any removals that take place are carried out in accordance with the rules on social distancing. Buyers who have exchanged and have a mortgage offer in place for only a limited period can take advantage of a three-month delay being offered by mortgage lenders to prevent a deal from collapsing. If you have exchanged but not completed, doing nothing brings its own risks. The Law Society has said that if completion does not take place after contracts have been exchanged due to coronavirus, “the parties not completing will be in default”.