The Scottish Government has issued clear guidance to solicitors on what it expects to happen during the current lockdown, which is likely to continue for many weeks to come.
The salient message from their communication is this; where possible, delay transactions until such a time that it is safe for the public to move.
Mirroring advice has also been issued by the Registers of Scotland, The Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates.
Their collective instruction to parties who have an agreed date of entry is that they should seek to delay that date with the other people involved in the transaction, taking account of the period of time the restrictions are likely to be in place.
Furthermore, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should not move house at the present time. All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for households with individuals in this group.
Aberdein Considine's policy is one of adherence to the government and professional body guidelines. Therefore, where it is possible for settlements to be postponed without hardship or emergency arising, we are strongly urging our clients to do so.
Where emergency or hardship cases arise, and other criteria can be met (detailed further on) then we have a team of our core and most experienced conveyancers working through this crisis with the sole aim of settling as many transactions, safely, as possible.
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions, together with the latest guidance.
Can I move whilst the stay at-home measures against coronavirus apply?
Home buyers should, where possible, delay moving to a new home house while stay-at-home measures are in place to fight COVID-19.
I haven't agreed a date of entry, what should I do?
People who have not yet agreed a date of entry should not agree a date that falls within the period during which stay-at-home measures apply. It should be noted that these measures might be extended.
Any agreement made between parties around a future date of entry should make explicit provision for the possibility of deferring that date.
I have a date of entry agreed and it's soon. What should I do?
People who have an agreed date of entry should seek to delay that date with agreement from the other people involved in the transaction, taking account of the period of time the restrictions are likely to be in place.
Bear in mind that you may have reached a formal legal bargain to buy or sell on a particular date and discuss this with your solicitor. You should also agree the approach to any future potential need to delay as a result of COVID-19.
I must move, otherwise I'll have nowhere to go. What should I do?
Where emergency or hardship cases arise, you may be able to move. The government has stipulated that you must be able to do this safely, i.e. you and anyone else involved in the move can maintain all the social distancing requirements, and that the property into which you are moving is empty or can be safely vacated.
Even then, there are legal obstacles to overcome due to restrictions at the Registers of Scotland, where the deeds transferring ownership are registered.
To proceed, the following criteria must also be met:
For these cases, we have a team of our core and most experienced conveyancers on hand to help.
What if an extension goes beyond the terms of a mortgage agreement?
UK Finance have confirmed that, to support customers who have already set dates for completion, mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.
If a customer’s circumstances change during this three month period or the terms of the house purchase change significantly and continuing with the mortgage would cause house buyers to face financial hardship, lenders will work with customers to help them manage their finances as a matter of urgency.
My house is on the market, can I conduct viewings?
If your property is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it being for sale but you should not allow people in to view your property.
Virtual viewings can take place - please speak to us if you would like us to facilitate this.
I want to accept or make an offer, can I do so?
The buying and selling process can continue during this period but you should be aware that the process is likely to take longer than normal.
You are free to continue to accept offers on your property. However, the selling process may take longer. You should seek advice from your solicitor. Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite visitors into your home, including prospective buyers.
Can I still conclude missives?
The government recommends that all parties should work either to delay concluding missives until after the period where stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus are in place; or to include explicit contractual provisions to take account of the risks presented by the virus.
If you have concluded missives, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase the property. In these circumstances, the government has asked that all parties do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus will no longer be in place. You should seek advice from your solicitor about the implications for you.
If we are acting for you, your solicitor will be in touch to update you on the latest as the situation evolves.
We also have a contact centre where clients can reach us on 0333 0164 315. This line is open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, and from 9.30am to 12.30pm on Saturday.
Alternatively, use the button below to submit an online contact form.
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