Understandably, there have been many questions arising around residential conveyancing and the possible impact of COVID-19. We are continually monitoring the situation and adapting accordingly. We are pleased to report a steady stream of new residential conveyancing transactions and we hope that by taking a pragmatic and common-sense approach, we can continue to deal with these matters without much disruption to the usual process. Speed of response and pragmatism will be the key to success.
Some of the questions raised include:
- Refusal to vacate on completion due to isolation or infection;
- Disruption or delay to the banking system
- Delay to or inability to obtain search results
- Reluctance of removal companies or their employees to enter the properties
- Difficulties in certifying identification documents and obtaining witnesses
- Issues in physical surveys, both for building surveys and valuation purposes
- Requests for properties being decontaminated
There are solutions that we can provide to some of the issues highlighted above but some of the problems identified may be more difficult to overcome. In that situation, we are making sure that everyone involved understands who bears the risk and that the risk can be mitigated as much as possible.
Business as usual for now
The Law Society has offered the profession helpful guidance and we will continue to ensure that we stay up to date with the latest recommendations. At this stage they are suggesting that exchanging contracts on a “business as usual” basis may be preferable to attempting to use new provisions and they do not consider bespoke clauses are necessary or desirable as standard. It is of course down to us as professional advisors to make this assessment and we will do so based on the factors influencing each transaction at the time.
If completion does not take place after exchange of contracts due to COVID-19, the party not completing will be in default. The usual position as to who takes responsibility for this will apply unless the non-defaulting party (or chain) takes a “good faith” view. Bearing in mind of course that it may be impossible in a chain of transactions to take such a view without incurring penalties.
There are ways to mitigate the risk and we have arrangements in place to assist with that such as:
- Reviewing and considering the appropriateness of search insurance
- Ensuring as far as possible that original documents are circulated and returned well ahead of completion (and using electronic engrossments wherever possible)
- Assisting with compliance/challenges on production of documents in as flexible a way as possible
- Ideally requiring receipt of mortgage advance and completion monies 3 working days before completion
- Recommending simultaneous exchange and completion or as short as possible a gap between the two.
It is more important than ever before for lawyers and estate agents to work together to ensure that we can maintain the highest standards of client care, courtesy and communication. Together, we can encourage everyone involved in residential conveyancing to deal with others in a fair and reasonable manner. Prompt and efficient service will be essential and those transactions that will succeed are likely to be those involving professional advisors who can exercise commercial judgement, react and respond quickly to achieve swift exchanges and quick completions.
We are very much on hand to talk through any concerns you may have or indeed very happy to speak to any of your potential clients who may be anxious as to whether they should continue to transact during this time. Don’t hesitate to call us anytime or to pass on our number to anyone who might like a no obligation chat. All our contact numbers remain the same.
Warning note to the reader: this is a fast moving and very fluid situation in which new announcements and measures are being made almost on a daily basis. This blog is for guidance only and we can only assure you that it is valid as of 22.03.20. We will make every effort to keep you updated and to help us do that you may like to join our mailing list. Please contact us to ensure that you are on it.