Representative and trade bodies including the Law Society have joined forces to prepare additional government-backed guidance for conveyancers worried about how to complete transactions during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has already told home buyers and sellers to delay completions until lockdown ends in guidance published last week. However, the Law Society, the Society of Licensed Conveyancers, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, Bold Legal Group and the Conveyancing Association have now drafted additional guidance to help conveyancers comply with the latest requirements.
Simon Davis, president, said: ‘The Law Society recognises the real difficulties faced by those who are trying to move home, particularly for those who have exchanged contracts, but are not able to complete, for a variety of reasons created by the restricted movement requirements. The guidance from the government, and that produced by the Law Society in conjunction with other conveyancing bodies, is our attempt to offer some solutions in these exceptional circumstances. There are no simple solutions and the position is one that is fluid and changing. We will keep it under review and if necessary step in again.’
The guidance covers how to amend existing contracts. It also provides advice for clients who have already or who have not exchanged contracts; and advice for clients who have to move during the lockdown.
To amend existing contracts, a draft clause has been agreed outlining the process for deferring a completion date. Conveyancers should exchange a written agreement to vary the contract. To avoid contamination through physical documents, the parties will need to e-sign the agreement to vary the existing contract or authorise their conveyancer to sign it. Where contracts have been exchanged, the guidance states that it is a good idea to have a two-step process so that the move can be delayed until the end of the lockdown period, but with the ability to extend the timescale if restrictions are extended.
The full guidance can be found here.
Paul Smee, chair of the Conveyancing Association, said: ‘At present, home moves should not be contemplated unless the need to move is critical. So, this guidance only applies to cases where contracts have already been exchanged and the parties involved have been unable to agree on a delay in completion. It outlines the relevant requirements that have been put in place by the government to counter the spread of the virus, and what conveyancers need to do to work within them. Home moves can only occur where it is safe for them to do so. Some cases will have special features on which specific advice will be needed and home buyers and sellers should always talk to their conveyancer.'
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.