Following the legislation published late on 12th May, we are now aware that estate agents can open their doors and arrange viewings. In addition, removal companies and other key players in the property industry can now start operating providing Government guidance is followed:
The Government advice on home moving during the COVID outbreak has now been updated (as of 13th May). This guidance applies to home movers and all those working in the industry. It is essential that all those in the industry are aware of this guidance before opening for business. Likewise, it is strongly advised that the guidance is read before any house move is considered to ensure the process of moving home is carried out as safely as possible:
The Key Guidance
- People are now free to move home. This is; however, conditional on law firms, estate agents, surveyors, removal companies etc adopting the necessary pre-cautions throughout the process and all parties following social distancing.
- Those who are shielding or considered clinically vulnerable should consider the circumstances of the move and seek prior medical advice before proceeding. All clients who fall into this category should inform their legal advisor to ensure pre-cautionary measures are put in place with other parties.
- Those who are self-isolating or have tested positive for COVID should not leave their home and should therefore delay any house move until all household members come to the end of their self-isolation period. This is one of many reasons why we currently caution against an exchange of contracts – see below.
- Those who are self-isolating or have tested positive for COVID should not allow anyone else enter their home for example to carry out a viewing or a survey until the self-isolation period comes to an end and all surfaces have been cleaned.
- When viewings, surveyors or removals are being carried out, social distancing should be maintained at all times and all access should be provided without minimal contact between parties.
Throughout the COVID Crisis we have strongly cautioned clients against exchanging contracts prior to completion and rather have advised clients simultaneously exchange and complete on the same date. As a further policy, we have steered against agreeing to any amendments or additions to the Contract in an attempt to account for a failed completion resulting from COVID, due to ambiguity and unforeseen implications that can arise when moving away from the Standard Conditions.
Despite the new legislation, this advice will not change. We appreciate, this does not offer any party the reassurance and certainty that an exchange of contracts brings as any party will be able to withdraw from a transaction without recourse until the point of exchange, leading to potential costs such as removal fees, time off work and legal costs etc. However, the current default position under the Law Society guidance is that the terms of the Contract [ under what is known as the Standard Conditions of Sale ] will still apply and therefore, if we are unable to complete on your purchase due an unforeseen circumstance (for example and not limited to; redundancy, self-isolation or a second restrictive National lockdown) then you will be in breach of contract, which may result in severe financial penalties.
The Residential Property Team are always looking to provide the very best ways to assist our clients move home. We are currently looking at proactive ways to assist new client which include assisting clients on a "no sale agreed no fee" basis as their property is marketed (as opposed to when an offer has been accepted). This allows us to carry out the normal ID checks and AML checks before an offer has been accepted to allow your transaction to go through as smoothly and quickly as possible.
For further advice regarding the above, please get in contact with the Residential Property Team by email or calling 01603 610911. For further insights and articles about COVID-19 see our Coronavirus Hub.