The government has updated its advice on home moving during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England)(Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2020 come into force on 13 May and soften the restrictions imposed under the earlier regulations which came into effect on 26 March.
The amended regulations will enable citizens in England:
- to visit estate and letting agents;
- view residential properties to look for a home to buy or rent;
- prepare property to market or to move into; and
- move home.
These regulations allow estate and letting agents to re-open for business with effect from 13 May 2020 enabling them to market properties on behalf of prospective sellers to interested buyers, arrange viewings of properties and offer mortgage advice.
It is to be anticipated that surveyors required for expert inspection and valuation of properties on behalf of buyers and lenders will also be able to return to work.
Removal companies are also returning to work on the basis of government guidance this week encouraging businesses to return to work that cannot be performed from home.
These steps are clearly a welcome relief to all of those buyers and sellers whose transactions had been placed on hold as a consequence of the emergency legislation introduced in March who are now able to conclude their transactions with a precautionary approach. Also to new buyers and sellers keen to embark upon the home moving process.
Businesses engaged in the housing market will also be very pleased by these early relaxations to trading restrictions including estate agents, mortgage lenders and property solicitors whose business activities had been placed on hold during the lockdown period.
Extension to mortgage offer deadlines
Many mortgage lenders had previously agreed with the government to extend mortgage offers issued around the time of the emergence of the pandemic for three months to enable transactions delayed by the lockdown period to be capable of completion.
All parties involved in home moving and property investment transactions should prudently continue to observe social distancing measures and practice guide hygiene to safeguard against any risk of exposure to coronavirus and its spread. Buyers should also consider thoroughly cleaning established homes either prior to or shortly after arrival, carefully washing all surfaces within the property with a suitable santizer, wearing suitable protective clothing, and following advice on good hygiene, regularly washing hands and avoid touching one’s face.
Common sense and good faith rather than COVID-19 riders to contracts
The Law Society of England and Wales had previously advised solicitors and conveyancers not to attempt to add “COVID-19 specific” untried or untested clauses to property contracts, due to the wide range of circumstances that could arise during the pandemic period.
Parties have been encouraged to exercise ‘common sense’ and work together ‘in good faith’ to overcome any associated challenges. Solicitors are expected to continue to support the government's advice and act with integrity to all parties to reach a compromise should this be required.
Early communication is key
Should any home mover suffer suspected coronavirus sickness in their household, in particular where exchange of contracts is imminent or has already taken place, then they should raise this with their conveyancer soon as is reasonably practicable. If completion has to be re-negotiated, then the sooner parties are informed, the greater the opportunity to reduce any consequential costs and preserve their goodwill.