Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for buyers hoping to move house

There are a number of measures people hoping to move should take in light of Covid-19. Government guidance for moving house was updated on 26 March. If you have already exchanged contracts in your purchase, and have a completion date fixed in the next week or two, there are some immediate steps to take.

Guidance has been split into 3 specific categories:

  1. If the property you are buying is vacant, you may still proceed, provided the parties, especially your removal company, follow safety advice;
  2. If the property is not vacant, but the move is critical, you may still proceed again provided the parties follow safety advice;
  3. If the property is not vacant, and the move is not critical, solicitors are required to agree a new completion date that falls into the period when stay-at-home rules are expected to have been lifted.

On this basis, if your move falls into category A or B above, firstly speak to your removal company and ensure they are still open and working. The government’s advice is for removal companies to honour existing arrangements for critical moves, or where the property is vacant, provided they follow safety rules. Removal companies will likely have developed policies on ways to limit possible transmission, you may wish to check so you can reassure your seller/buyer that contamination risk is minimised.

Secondly, speak to your solicitor and the estate agents involved with your house sale and/or purchase as there are key questions to ask.;

These are:

  1. Are the other parties able to move on the agreed completion date?
  2. Where mortgages are required, have all parties been able to submit requests for mortgage funds and are lenders able to release mortgage funds. Most solicitors and lenders are set up for remote working.
  3. If there is any foreseen problem with any party completing, can the contract be varied and a new completion date agreed, or a clause agreed to say completion will take place once the lockdown ends.”

Buyers and sellers should also make sure they are up-to-date with any new guidance. Where the completion date can be moved, it should be. If you have not yet exchanged contracts, your solicitor is required to include contractual wording to allow a completion date to be moved should coronavirus impact the move. Banks and building societies are now required to extend existing mortgage offers by a further 3 months and where circumstances have changed, such as the borrowers’ financial situation or property prices, to work with the parties to allow the mortgage to proceed.

The Law Society and government have now issued guidance and please follow Stone King’s posts on this as we keep you up to date with developments.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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