Government Guidance Issued on House Moves – Covid-19 Pandemic
The current Covid-19 pandemic and resulting social distancing provisions have had a big impact on the housing market. This comes after the recent boost in house prices with months of price increases following the December election and the effect of the ‘Boris Bounce.’
The Government is aware of the impact of the health restrictions on the housing market and has issued advice to help clarify the position. The Government has urged parties involved in sales and purchases ‘to adapt and be flexible’ and to stay at home and delay moving whilst the emergency measures are in place. The advice is to amicably agree alternative dates and not to withdraw from transactions. The Government has stated, ‘prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be the priority.’
The health restrictions have raised a number of questions in relation to the conveyancing process, for example, issues in fully marketing properties without viewings; possible delays in obtaining standard searches from Local Authorities and mortgage lender’s ability to carry out physical inspections for valuations. There are also other questions arising, for example, where a matter is ready to complete but a seller is in ‘isolation’ or a buyer is unable to book removalists whilst at all times complying with the social distancing provisions.
The Government advice includes guidance at various stages of the home moving process, such as marketing the Property, before and after exchange of contracts and moving into unoccupied Properties.
The advice includes the following:
- Where a Property is not yet being marketed, a seller is able to speak to estate agents over the phone to obtain advice on marketing but they are not allowed to invite’ unnecessary visitors’ into their home, including estate agents to carry out a market appraisals or take internal photographs.
- If a Property is already on the market, the advice is that a Seller can continue to advertise it as being for sale but they should not allow people in to view the Property. Virtual viewings are however allowed.
- If a Property is vacant, the parties are able to continue with the transaction, as long as the Government guidance currently in force from Public Health England and Public Health Wales is strictly followed.
- Where a Property is currently occupied and contracts have not been exchanged, the advice to all parties is ‘to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move’ for a time when the stay-at-home restrictions are no longer in place.
- If contracts have been exchanged and the Property is currently occupied , all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter. The advice states, ‘If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus. Anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if at all possible.’
The Government also stated in its advice that UK Finance have confirmed that mortgage lenders are looking at finding ways to enable buyers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to 3 months so that they are able to delay completion.
The effect of the current health emergency on the housing market is no doubt significant but it is temporary and the general Government advice appears to be to sit tight and look to delay the moving process if you can until the restrictions are eased and then removed altogether. Hopefully then the housing market will quickly start to ‘bounce back’.
If you have any queries in respect of your house move please do not hesitate to contact our Property Team for expert advice.