Government advice on home moving during the coronavirus outbreak
Given the situation in the UK with regard to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Government is urging parties involved in home moving to adapt and be flexible, and to alter their usual processes.
Jane Bohill a Partner in the Residential Property team with Warners Solicitors outlines the key points from the latest advice released on 26 March 2020.
Buying and selling homes during this stay-at-home period
There is no need to pull out of a transaction, but we all need to ensure we are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be the priority.
Moving into an empty property
Where the property being moved into is vacant, then it is possible to continue with this transaction although you should follow the guidance from the Government on home removals.
Delay moving into an occupied property
Where the property is currently occupied, the Government is encouraging all parties to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus will no longer be in place.
Critical home moves
In the new emergency enforcement powers that the police have been given to respond to coronavirus, there is an exemption for critical home moves, if a new date cannot be agreed.
Additional Government measures
So far, the Government have also sought to ease this process by:
- agreeing with banks that mortgage offers should be extended where delay to completions takes place in order to prioritise safety; and
- working with conveyancers to develop a standard legal process for moving completion dates forward.
Advice to the public
What does this mean for my property move which is scheduled while the stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus apply?
- Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Government advice is that if you have already exchanged contracts and the property is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter.
- If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.
- In line with Government advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving to a new house for the time being, if possible. All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group, or where someone in a chain is in this group.
What if an extension goes beyond the terms of a mortgage agreement?
UK Finance have confirmed that, to support customers who have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.
If your property is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it as being for sale, but you should not allow people inside to view your property.
There should not be any visitors into your home, and you should not let people visit your property for viewings. Your agent may be able to conduct virtual viewings and you may wish to speak to them about this possibility.
The buying and selling process can continue but you should be aware that the process is likely to take longer than normal.
You are free to continue to accept offers on your property, however the selling process may take longer.
Once you have exchanged contracts, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase that home and there may be penalties to pay if completion is not achieved.
If the property you are purchasing is unoccupied you can continue with the transaction.
If the property you are purchasing is currently occupied, we recommend that all parties should work together to delay the exchange of contracts until after the stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus have been lifted.
Putting your home on the market
Putting your property on the market will be more challenging than usual since you should not have any visitors to your home. Therefore, agents will not be able to visit and occupied property to carry out an appraisal or to take pictures, and energy assessors will not be able to issue the necessary energy performance certificate.
However, if you do want to move, now could be a good time to make sure your property will be market-ready when the current crisis is over. This could mean carrying out those repair and maintenance jobs you are able to do yourself or ensuring there are no title or legal issues that could jeopardize a future sale.
Government advice to conveyancers
Conveyancers have been asked by the Government to prioritise support to anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus who form part of a chain that has exchanged contracts and urged to do all they can to set a new date.
If you have any concerns regarding your property transaction or would like further information, please contact Jane Bohill in the Residential Property team on 01732 747900 or email [email protected]. Warners Solicitors has offices in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, Kent.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.