The property market has now reopened but Covid-19 has changed the status quo in various ways. I will now address some of the main queries that have arisen.
Am I allowed to move home?
Yes, the government has released new guidelines putting stringent measures in place, to protect all parties to a transaction, in line with social distancing rules. The important point to note is that if you are moving home every transaction is unique and so we, as solicitors, will need to assess your individual situation and that of the other parties in the chain in order to ensure that your conveyance takes place as smoothly as possible.
The Government have implemented guidelines that must be followed. These are:-
Social distancing must take place i.e. when selling a property, you must vacate the property prior to the new buyers entering.
If someone in the chain is showing symptoms and/or self-isolating, the move should be postponed until it is safe to do so.
Anyone shielding or vulnerable should not move home unless it is essential
I have exchanged contracts. How might Covid-19 affect my move?
The standard position is that once you have exchanged contracts you are contractually committed to move home on the completion date set. Failure to do so may result in a breach of contract or penalties for delayed completion, both have financial implications and may even result in the defaulting party being liable for the 10% deposit.
The Government’s latest advice is that you should delay your move until all members of your household have come to the end of their self-isolation period. The advice further states that all parties involved should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change the completion dates should someone in the chain need to self-isolate, or has tested positive for Covid-19.
I am in the process of moving home and have NOT yet exchanged contracts. How might Covid-19 affect my move?
As the Government have opened the housing market to everyone and not just essential moves, your transaction should proceed in the normal way up until exchange of contracts, where the above will apply. The key thing to consider is a provision for non-compliance with the agreed completion date i.e. what will you do if someone in the chain cannot move due to Covid-19? A contingency plan should be discussed with your solicitor, so that you are not homeless if the completion does not go ahead on the date set. There should also be provision for the breach of contract due to Covid-19 in the contract, if appropriate. If you are purchasing an empty property there is less risk of a breach of contract as there is no reason that you cannot collect the keys. If you are in a chain and are moving out of one house and into another on the same day, this poses a higher risk as there will be a chain of people that are all reliant on each other to move on the completion date.
If you have any further queries then please do not hesitate to contact Laura Lineker or any member of our Property Department.