Regulators Update Guidance On Business Continuity Approaches

Regulators try to offer consistent guidance to the property sector as the government try to help businesses with measures worth over £300 billion.

On day three of the government’s promise to provide regular daily updates on the developing situation, the Chancellor has pledged at least £330 billion to help businesses and the NHS is set to cancel all non-essential medical procedures.

The housing market is undoubtedly going to struggle as the UK adapts to the way we are all being asked to alter the way we live our lives. However, regulators have spent the past week offering advice, striving to help the nation’s conveyancers get through the next and most dangerous phase of the virus’ development.

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) has advised the sector to continue working to Standard Conditions of Sale as opposed to inserting ‘Coronavirus Clauses’ into conveyancing transactions.

The CLC suggest that such new clauses would not be in the best interests of the client as the risk to an untested clause could present complications.

The CLC advise a frank and open discussion with all clients ahead of exchange of contracts. Educating clients on the likely delays in the case of self-isolation, will help to appease the situation. This should already be laid out in the Report on Title, but communication is king and conversations cannot hurt.

When asked about business preparedness, the CLC insisted they have been testing remote working arrangements as part of its business continuity plan.

A business continuity plan is something they have urged all firms to have in place over the coming months. Any firms still to make a plan have been advised to steer their arrangements to the most up to date guidance offered on COVID-19.

Conveyancing Association (CA) members have been advised to check their insurance arrangements. All firms are advised to ensure they have adequate disaster recovery procedures in place.

This will help in the potential reality of completing transactions remotely if offices are forced to close.

The CA also announced that all members should be working towards remote working in order to align with governmental advice.

Law Society guidance issued earlier in the week has married together with the CLC’s in order to provide a level of consistency in approaches, advising against clauses and encouraging legal professionals to assess contracts before proposing additional clauses with this only being done on a case by case basis.

The Law Society stated in recent updated guidance on transactions:

“You should review your existing contracts and test what the position would be in certain situations on the basis of that contract.

“Your client may wish you to negotiate new provisions to suit particular circumstances. We do not consider that bespoke clauses are necessary or desirable as standard.

“Once you’ve assessed the contract that you’re proposing to use, you’ll be in a better position to establish if any additional provisions are required or desirable in the particular circumstances of the transaction that is, or may be, affected.

‘The contract provisions relating to default will apply unless the non-defaulting party takes a “good faith” view. If the transaction forms part of a chain of transactions, it may not be possible to take such a view without incurring a penalty.”

The NAEA and ARLA Propertymark are claiming that agents should be offering video viewings rather than home viewings as standard until further notice.

Their guidance reminds agents that governmental predictions speculate that the impact of the virus is likely to last for months and a clear alternative is needed to prop up viewings.

Mark Hayward, Chief Executive of NAEA Propertymark, and David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, said:

“It’s vital that agents continue to uphold the highest standards and follow best practice for their clients when undertaking valuations, viewings, inspections, maintenance and cleaning.

“Agents should remain transparent with their clients and maintain their compliance with the Consumer Protection Regulations.

“It’s important to be sensible, reasonable and think of what others might need during this period – particularly those who are more vulnerable.

“The Government is predicting that coronavirus will impact us for months so agencies need to plan for the long term and think carefully about business continuity.”

How has your law firm amended business continuity plans in recent weeks?

Today's Conveyancer