Government Guidance Needed On Transactions During Outbreak

The conveyancing sector has urged the government to provide clarity on residential transactions over the weeks ahead.

Yesterday, minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, in addition to other civil servants contacting Propertymark, had intimated that transactions which were not imminent should be postponed to ensure the public comply with governmental advice and stay in their homes.

However, those looking to complete in the days ahead could do so.

The government has faced some criticism in recent days over their desire to ensure the economy continues versus the need to stem the flow of the virus. The mixed messaging over the construction sector and ambiguity in regards to transactions are just two examples creating uncertainty in the property market.

With removal companies being asked to wind down their interactions with the public, moving house following the exchange of contracts could prove difficult.

Whilst governmental advice does not currently prohibit future transactions completing, the concept of moving house could contradict government expectations concerning social distancing measures. The Law Society are now calling for further clarity on this issue.

Simon Davis, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, commented: 

“Michael Gove said yesterday that if transactions have been committed to, they should go ahead. He also said that people should, if at all possible, seek to stay in their current home.

“If you are acting for someone who has exchanged contracts and has a completion date within the next few days, and you, your client and the other side are able to proceed, there is currently no government guidance to prevent you doing so. This is, of course, subject to following current guidelines in respect of public health: properties not being occupied with cases (or suspected cases of) Covid-19, occupants not being in a state of isolation, and all parties abiding to social distancing requirements.

“We are seeking further clarity from government and will monitor closely as the situation develops. We are hoping for official guidance to be published in the next few days.”

What impact will further restrictions have on the sector?


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    Conveyancers should not be surprised if the only answer is a total lockdown on moving home.

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    Our completion is due on the 3rd of April. There are 4 parties in our chain. Two of them are families and in both cases, the pre-booked removals companies have ceased operations (correctly IMO) out of a duty of care for their staff and customers and inline with government advice. We urgently need the Government to provide clear guinance in these circumstances. Without that, we’re relying on the doctrine of frustration to apply. Would any court award that in these circumstances that the penalties for non-completion still apply?

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    Seems like the Government has published advice:

    Doesn’t seem like everything has to come to a complete halt unless someone has the virus or self-isolating – just take extra precautions and be happy with the ‘risk’ of moving.

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