Advice for clients on Covid-19 and conveyancing

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You have instructed Griffith Smith to deal with your conveyancing.  We hope that this information sheet will assist you in deciding how to proceed with your transaction.  We understand that this is an uncertain time and the situation is changing daily.  We will update you when necessary but you can find the latest Government guidance here  > https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

The following situations may apply to you:

You have already exchanged contracts and a completion date has been agreed.

It is still possible for you to complete on the completion date, unless others in your chain have Covid-19 issues preventing this.  Completion will, of course, be dependent upon the monies on your sale (if any) arriving on time and mortgage funds (if any) being received on your purchase.  If you are physically moving house then we recommend that you contact your removal company as soon as possible to check whether they are still able to deal with the move for you.  If your removal company is not able to deal with the move then there may be others who can assist.

If the move does go ahead, all those involved should take care to follow government guidance on social distancing and hygiene. See Public Health England’s guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.  The link is https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection.

You have not yet exchanged contracts

The governments current advice is that Home buyers should, as far as possible, delay moving to a new house while emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus.  If the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, they must follow advice on social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus. Anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice and not move house for the time being.

If you instruct us to exchange contracts and completion does not take place due to COVID-19, the parties not completing will be in default.  The contract provisions relating to default will probably apply unless the non-defaulting party takes a ‘good faith’ view. Notices to complete, penalty interest and deposit loss may all come into play.  If the transaction forms part of a chain of transactions, it may not be possible to take such a view without incurring a penalty.  There’s no specific ‘force majeure’ provision in the Standard Conditions of Sale and it may be that it would be difficult to imply one.  The contract may be frustrated but it depends on the circumstances.  The situation is unclear.

You should therefore think very carefully before you instruct us to exchange contracts.   If you have to proceed to exchange then our advice is that we should try and exchange and complete on the same day in order to minimise the risk.  That way each person in the chain can check on the day that all parties are still willing and able to move.

If you exchange contracts and then agree to complete at a later date the following issues may arise which will mean that you cannot complete:

  • Requests for properties being decontaminated.
  • Refusal to vacate on completion because the Seller is in isolation.
  • Failure or disruption to parts of the Banking System.
  • Reluctance on the part of Removal Company Employees to enter properties.
  • Issues with Mortgage finance. Offers may be withdrawn after exchange.

Could you please let us know how you wish us to proceed with your transaction.  We can continue to progress it up to the point of exchange.  If you then want us to exchange we will then need to discuss the risks with you again.

Please contact the conveyancing team on 01273 324041 or email Paula Williams or Helen Rowe.

Please note that some of the information contained in this article can be found on the Law Society website.