The Law Society is urging people wanting to buy or sell a home during the temporary stamp duty holiday to have realistic expectations about completing before the 31 March deadline.
In July, chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced he was cutting stamp duty for residential properties in England until 31 March 2021. Days later the Welsh Government announced a similar tax 'holiday' for homebuyers in Wales.
The Society said it wants consumers to have realistic expectations about achieving their dream move before the stamp duty holiday ends. David Greene, president, said: ‘Consumers must recognise that it is increasingly unlikely that if they sell/buy their house now, they will complete by the 31 March deadline. The solicitor is often the last link in the move, and it is only when the solicitor has all the pieces, which they are dependent on obtaining from others, that buyers and sellers can move.’
Sarah Dwight, a sole practitioner in Birmingham who sits on the Society’s conveyancing and land law committee, said she was telling clients at the beginning of November that would try to help them complete by 31 March deadline but it would be a push. ‘From the beginning of December I was saying I don’t think it’s going to be possible. I might be able to get ready to complete on 31 March but other parties in the chain might not be ready,’ she said.
‘I need to manage my clients’ expectations in light of what other people are doing that I might not know about. I had a call this morning from someone who sold their house yesterday, I had acted for them before, they want me to act for them again and complete by 31 March.’
Dwight said Christmas is historically a busy time for house moves.
‘Now you have got to manage an unhappy client who potentially is going to spend more money on their house move. It’s not down to their solicitor but down to other parts of the infrastructure of the conveyancing process.'
Government guidance notes that property agents, conveyancers and other professionals have had to modify how they work in the pandemic. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says inspecting properties may be difficult due to Covid-19, either because of the firm’s internal procedures, government-imposed restrictions or the occupant’s unwillingness to grant access.
Greene says the Society has urged the government to ‘ameliorate’ the 31 March deadline. Options include extending the deadline or introducing appropriate transitional arrangements to ease growing pressure on the conveyancing system.