Throughout the United Kingdom both businesses and individuals are settling into a new and uncomfortable reality. The pandemic caused by the COVID-19 has affected almost every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally. While it would be tempting to simply bury your head in the sand and simply put life on hold until this crisis subsides, this is not an option for everyone. People in the middle of property transactions will need to decide how to proceed.
While advocating caution, the guidance is clear that there is no need to automatically pull out of a transaction. For example, if you are moving into a vacant property there is no real reason why the purchase could not go ahead. The same can also be true for the purchase of a Buy-to-Let investment property with tenants already in place. However, HM Government has said that home moves into occupied properties should only take place where contracts have already been exchanged and the parties have been unable to agree a deferral.
For the time being the best advice, and common sense, is that if you have not already exchanged contracts, to put matters on hold until further guidance from HM Government. Once the metaphorical fog has lifted, life can resume. UK Finance (the trade association for the UK banking and financial services) has already confirmed that lenders are going to find ways to enable people to extend their mortgage offer for up to 3 months to enable them to move later.
Where contracts have been exchanged: there can be difficulties. Just because a party is unable to take occupation of a property (because they are in lockdown, rather than the property is not vacant) is not grounds for rescinding a contract. In these cases, frank conversations, careful monitoring and contractual variations agreed by reasonable parties mean that a transaction can be put on hold without any legal fallout.
We at Bishop & Sewell LLP have seen a flurry of transaction both stall, move forward to exchange and complete during this period of lockdown. In every case, we have done our best to put our clients in the best position we can. We remain dedicated to serving our clients and their needs, especially during this time of crisis.
Charlie Davidson is a Solicitor in our Property team, dealing with both residential and commercial property.
If you have any question regarding conveyancing, or how the current COVID-19 crisis may affect you, please call 020 7631 4141 and ask for a member of the Property team or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is intended as a general summary on the law – no reliance should be placed on it. The above is accurate as of date of writing. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.