Covid Guidance Documents Updated for Conveyancers
Updated guidance for conveyancing practitioners around dealing with the continued impact of the Coronavirus has been released.
The original guidance was compiled by The Law Society, CILEx, the SLC, the Conveyancing Association and the Bold Legal Group. This latest iteration follows on from the work these bodies have been doing in consultation with their respective memberships.
Included in the guidance is advice around the Covid Rider, sector specific guidance for conveyancers which expands on the Government’s own advice, and advice for clients.
One of the most relevant advisory notes relates the forthcoming end of the SDLT holiday in England and Wales. Here, the advice is clear about continuing to manage client expectations appropriately. The recent Parliamentary debate suggested there was widespread support for an extension from constituents and industry. Responding on behalf of the Government, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman MP, suggested that the SDLT holiday, which was designed to stimulate immediate momentum in the property market following the near 50% drop through the Spring/Summer lockdown in 2020, had been a success. Pointing to the 34% increase in December transactions year on year, Mr Norman suggested the time limited aspect of the measure was what had driven demand.
Within the guidance, conveyancers are advised as follows:
Whilst we have made suggestions to Government to soften the deadline of the SDLT concession on 31 March 2021, you should continue managing clients’ expectations about obtaining the benefit of the SDLT concession. Clients need to understand that the transaction is not wholly within your control and that there are many factors that can prevent the purchase or sale proceeding… You should ensure that your clients do not have unrealistic expectations about completing before the 31 March deadline.
Check whether your clients still want to proceed with the transaction, or not, if it looks unlikely that they can complete before 31 March and whether they want to renegotiate the contract to reflect any new terms agreed.
You will need to ensure, preferably before exchange of contracts, that should they not be able to complete by 31 March 2021, they can let you have the money necessary to pay the SDLT which will be due on completion after that date.
The update comes as regulatory and advisory bodies continue to work with the industry to help conveyancers deal with the challenges of the past year.
The guidance includes information relating to client identification and onboarding, particularly relevant following the release last week of the Legal Sector Affinity Group’s (LSAG) latest update to the Anti-Money Laundering guidance.
Links to the updated documents can be found below.