Whilst most have been able to put their plans on hold whilst the lockdown continues, some are already in the middle of the buying or selling process. For those individuals, families and businesses our Property Lawyers have popped together a helpful guide with everything you need to know about moving during the COVID-19 crisis.
Adapt & be flexible
Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday 23rd March about a UK wide lockdown prompted a lot of questions from those in the property industry who needed further clarification on how this would affect their operations. Two days later a Government spokesperson offered the following advice:
“Homebuyers and renters should, as far as possible, delay moving to a new house while emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus.
If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus.”
Based on the above guidance, those who are househunting or have not yet exchanged are being urged to hold off until after lockdown to avoid situations where they’re legally committed to completing, but unable to move due to lockdown restrictions.
There’s no need to pull out of transactions though, and through good communication between Estate Agents, Conveyancers, Buyers and Sellers you can come to a sensible solution that suits all involved. Remember - all members of the chain will be affected by similar circumstances.
Exchange and completion
For those who haven’t exchanged contracts yet, now is the time to work with your Conveyancer to progress the transaction and absorb all the various documents involved in moving home. Ensure all queries have been answered and as much of the process has been completed so that you can get moving once lockdown is lifted.
Expect delays though. Whilst proof of identity and proof of address documents can still be carried out at the Post Office, if searches on your purchase have not yet been completed you may have to wait until lockdown restrictions are lifted.
If you’ve already exchanged, then your Conveyancer will discuss with you postponing your completion, working with all involved to arrange a deferred completion date. A written agreement could be drawn up, and whilst there is no evidence to suggest COVID-19 can spread via paper, you may be required to provide an e-signature instead of a physical signature to avoid contamination and any unnecessary contact.
When a completion deferral is not possible and moving is completely unavoidable for contractual reasons, then you must follow social distancing guidance during the move to help minimise the spread of the virus.
How to stay safe during a move
Due to the safety implications and the downturn in demand, most removals companies are temporarily closed whilst the lockdown is in place, so families must safely move themselves, whilst adhering to social distancing and hygiene regulations.
Complete a deep clean before you move into your new home, ensuring you follow the Governmental advice regarding decontamination.
Put a plan in place for moving day to ensure it runs as quickly and efficiently as possible. Once the big day arrives maintain a 2-metre distance from anyone outside of your household and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water at regular intervals.
For those worried about new emergency enforcement laws, provided that your move was completely unavoidable, you have evidence to prove this and are moving home in a sensible and responsible manner, then the police will not be able to prosecute you.
To avoid any conflict with your new neighbours, perhaps let them know ahead of moving day by writing them a letter explaining that you were unable to defer your moving date and will be carrying out your house move whilst adhering to social distancing. Your Conveyancer may also be able to provide you with a letter outlining that your move was unavoidable, should you be required to present this to any official bodies.
Preparing to sell
If you’re looking for ways to pass the time whilst stuck at home, and are planning to put your property on the market once the lockdown is over, then now is the time to start preparing.
Get online and research Estate Agents, Conveyancers, Removal Firms, Storage Providers and Painters and Decorators. Many are able to provide virtual consultations or provide quotes via email or phone.
You can also take time to tackle all those DIY jobs you’ve been putting off such as decorating and gardening, to ensure your property looks it’s best when you put it on the market Check out our recent blog on 2020 design trends and how you can get your home ready sell for more ideas and suggestions.
If you’re in the middle of buying or selling a property, or if you’re preparing to move home following lockdown, please contact Hayward Moon for all your legal property needs. Our offices will remain closed during the lockdown, but our Property Lawyers are continuing to operate from home and can be contacted via the usual channels.