Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having an impact across the home moving industry. Buyers and sellers will find the process very different from the way it was before the government took steps to restrict transactions. They may need support to help them understand the changes to the buying and selling process.  The impact of COVID-19 is causing significant uncertainty not only for buyers and sellers but also for conveyancers.  The position will probably continue to be uncertain for some time as the UK government monitors the effect of the changes it’s introducing and amends its guidance in accordance with the results.

Agreeing the completion date needs thought – the date needs to accommodate:

  • the circumstances of the transaction
  • a second wave of COVID-19 that could result in the parties not being able to move
  • provision for deferring completion with a longstop date

Before agreeing completion dates
• Please check you will have enough time to transfer monies, as online banking limits might mean there are restrictions on the amount they can transfer on one day (sometimes £10,000)

• Check with your removers and the other party that the property will be vacated before you and your removers arrive. It’s not possible to guarantee this but having the conversation may alert everyone to the additional time that may be required

• Please check the terms and conditions of your contract with removers. Some may include penalty payments for late cancellations and some have hourly, rather than fixed, rates after certain times in the day have passed

Simultaneous exchange and completion

Some firms recommend to clients that they should exchange contracts simultaneously with completion. This solves some problems – for example, the risk of completion not happening is reduced – but creates others: for example, if there’s a chain, all transactions would need to agree simultaneous exchange and completion which may be difficult and may not always be suitable

Some firms suggest that encouraging clients to agree a date for exchange and completion a week or so in advance, enables them to start packing up and booking removers for a fixed future date. There are obviously still risks with this approach and some removers may not make a booking unless contracts have been exchanged. The risks need to be assessed against the risks of having a short time between exchange and completion.

Short period between exchange and completion

Keeping the period between exchange and completion short might provide a compromise. A practical approach might be to limit the period between exchange and completion to five working days, having submitted the certificate on title and obtained clear final searches ahead of exchange; but these matters are all for negotiation.

Even having a short period of time between exchange and completion does not eliminate the possibility that someone may become ill or receive a test result in this time and not be able to move. The transaction may need to be paused at short notice. Remember where you are buying and selling simultaneously any bespoke provisions should usually apply throughout the chain. Risk should be apportioned fairly. The aim is to provide the same solution and let the risk fall in the same place across the chain. This may be difficult to negotiate.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should seek advice before acting on any information provided above

Please contact any of our Residential Conveyancing lawyers who can give you proper advice and guide you through the process