BREAKING NEWS: Guidance Issued For Conveyancers

On the 13th May the Housing Secretary announced plans for the UK to re-open the housing sector. In light of this, today there has been Cross-Industry, sector specific, guidance issued to provide conveyancers with information to keep property transactions moving in line with the Government advice relating to COVID-19 and the new usage of the ‘test and trace’.

Created by the collaboration of the Conveyancing Association, the Law Society, CLC, CILEx, and the Bold Legal Group, the guidance covers: Meeting with clients, Taking Initial instructions, Complying with ID requirements, Amending undertakings, Dealing with lenders, Exchanging contracts and using the code for completion, Agreeing completion dates, Executing documents, and Dealing with transactions in Wales.

Here we provide a brief summary of the guidance and the key focus:

  • The implications of COVID-19 have changed the processes for practice in order to make sure the safety of Conveyancers and the public are kept at the forefront, changes such as using ‘virtual, electronic and/or telephone options to discuss issues with clients wherever possible. In cases where this is not possible the recommendation is to making changes in the office to ensure compliance with Government guidance.
  • The guidance around ID checks in compliance with the AML regulations is to use electronic ID checks, even if there is client interaction and they bring in paper ID documents, as electronic ID checks are confirmed to be more reliable.
  • Ensure clients check their mortgage offers, some banks may want to review this due to employment changes such as furlough. They may also want to decrease the loan to value.
  • Ensure clients are aware of the delays and changes to completion in light of Government guidance, keeping in mind a possible second wave of COVID-19 and any changes that may be implemented by the Government if this occurs. Also, if someone in the home needs to self-isolate this is likely to cause delays.
  • Wet signatures can continue as long as steps are taken to reduce any risk of transmission, an example suggested was not allowing the same pen to be used.
  • ‘Mercury Style Execution’ has been allowed temporarily, this means that for land registration purposes, a signature page will need to be signed in pen and witnessed in person (not by a video call). The signature will then need to be captured, with a scanner or a camera, to produce a PDF, JPEG or other suitable copy of the signed signature page. Each party sends a single email to their conveyancer to which is attached the final agreed copy of the document and the copy of the signed signature page.
  • The introduction of ‘Rider’ Clauses which are designed to deal with the potential scenarios which may arise in the current climate. There has been guidance issued for both conveyancers and clients which highlight the main issues which may arise within the transaction relating to delays and deferring of completion dates which protects both parties in the agreement.

This guidance will help provide clarity to conveyancers to allow for flexibility in the transaction should the Government guidance change. The key point that is highlighted throughout is to ensure that the client is aware of the contractual changes in the clause, the ramifications of that and that there can be contractual provisions to help ensure the process can be completed.

Simon Davis, President of the Law Society, said:

“It is important that conveyancers work together to ensure that home moves can take place safely and that buyers and sellers can understand how the new process is different. It will be important for conveyancers and buyers and sellers to remain flexible as the position may change suddenly. Local lockdowns might be imposed that might affect some transactions. This sector-specific guidance will help conveyancing solicitors to get the market back on its feet safely, securely and as expediently as is possible.”

Paul Smee, Chair of the Conveyancing Association, commented:

“As always, the industry works best when it works collaboratively, and this new sector-specific guidance is the result of a number of industry bodies and organisations pooling their expertise and resources. We’re all acutely aware that this new post-COVID-19 environment presents a number of challenges for conveyancing firms in terms of their ability to progress cases, and we wanted to ensure our members had information which they could follow not just to do this but also to proceed in a safe manner. We believe this Guide does exactly that and we are urging all conveyancing firms to make full use of it.”

The full guidance can be found at: https://www.conveyancingassociation.org.uk/

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