Moving home under normal circumstances can be a very stressful time. Those involved in property sales or purchases when the current Covid 19 restrictions were put in place, including property solicitors, found themselves in uncharted waters with very little clear guidance. The following frequently asked questions will hopefully assist both those involved in transactions at the present time and those hoping to enter the market.
1. I have concluded missives and the date of entry is during the lockdown. Can I still move? The advice from the Scottish Government is to try and re-negotiate the date of entry to a date after the restrictions on movement are lifted. Where reasonably necessary, a transaction may be completed, but bear in mind that this will involve a number of processes and people and, therefore, should be reserved for situations where there is no other option. There are also some technical issues. The Land Register is effectively closed for new applications but there is a workaround which allows deeds to be protected until the Land Register re-opens for applications. Most lenders are on board with the temporary arrangements, but your solicitor will have to check this. It may also be difficult to find a removal firm to assist with your move.
2. I am selling my property and the missives are concluded but the purchaser is refusing to complete until after restrictions are lifted. I need the funds for other commitments. What can I do? Changing the date of entry must be agreed by both you and the purchaser. It is essential that the safety of those involved is protected, but if you absolutely can’t agree to a delay then you may insist that the purchaser completes. If they don’t, then they may be in breach of contract and you may be entitled to claim for penalty interest or damages. You should seek detailed advice from your solicitor. These are unprecedented times and at this stage it is difficult to know how the Courts will view any case brought against a defaulting purchaser. If it is at all possible to agree a delay then you should do so, for the safety of everyone involved.
3. I have concluded missives for a purchase but can no longer proceed, as I have lost my job. Where do I stand? This is difficult, as there is a contract in place. Given the circumstances, the seller may allow you to withdraw without penalty, but does not have to. A seller may be entitled to claim penalty interest or damages. You should speak to your solicitor as soon as possible.
4. I submitted an offer for a property just before the lockdown and want to proceed but nothing is happening. What should I do? Even with a willing seller the transaction is likely to take longer to progress. The first thing you should do is make sure the seller’s circumstances haven’t changed and that they remain committed to the sale. Your solicitor can check this. The missives (contract) will need to allow some flexibility when it comes to agreeing a date of entry. This could be tied to the date on which the current restrictions on movement are lifted. Only in exceptional cases should transactions complete during lockdown. If you are applying for a mortgage you may find that this too slows down, as mortgage advisers and lenders adapt to remote working and staffing issues. You should make sure that you have your mortgage offer before concluding the missives.
5. I submitted an offer but have now lost my job and can’t proceed. What can I do? If the missives are not concluded you can withdraw without incurring any penalties. You should advise your solicitor as soon as possible, so that the seller may be informed.
6. I am marketing my property. Can I still sell? Apart from the fact that no new viewings can be conducted until the restrictions on movement are lifted, you can continue to market your property. Demand is low at the present time but if an offer is received that you wish to accept, then there is no reason why the paperwork cannot be progressed, subject to the date of entry being after the lifting of restrictions.
7. I want to offer for a property. Can I do that now? Yes, your solicitor should be able to help with this. Again, the date of entry should be a date after the lifting of restrictions. While offering without physically viewing a property may be tempting, you should exercise caution. Once your offer has been accepted the seller is unlikely to agree to give you access until after the missives (contract) are concluded.
8. I want to sell my property. Can I put it on the market? It is very difficult to place a property on the market. Home report surveys cannot be carried out, photos cannot be taken, and no physical viewings can take place. The advice is, therefore, to wait until restrictions are lifted. This keeps everyone safe. In the meantime, however, we can assist by advising on value and the sale process.
The Partners remain on standby to assist our clients where they can, and if you do have any property related questions, we would be very happy to discuss them with you and advise you on the current guidance. You can get in touch by email: firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will get back to you or if you know the Partner you are dealing with, please contact them directly. Our landline is not manned but messages are being monitored and if you call someone will call you back as soon as possible.
Please stay safe.