Many of the questions both our Residential Conveyancing and Commercial Property teams are being asked are from those who are in the process of buying or selling a property and want to know if the transaction can proceed as usual.
We have answered some of the most frequently answered questions below, however, the guidance changes regularly and so our teams will discuss individuals’ positions in more detail as and when necessary. We would advise those who are in the middle of the buying and selling process to keep checking The Law Society’s most recent guidance as well as GOV.UK.
Can I still move house?
Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has announced that as of today, 13th May 2020, anyone in England can now move home if they follow social distancing and safety measures. The property markets in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland continue to be subject to the pre-existing guidelines, presently.
You can view the new government advice on home moving here.
The new changes mean that removal firms and estate agents are now able to resume operation. Our conveyancing team have, of course, been continuing our operations throughout the lockdown, observing government guidelines with our teams working remotely. We’ve been working on both pre-lockdown transactions and new transactions taken on since then.
As you would imagine, the level of new property transactions opened during lockdown reduced, compared to before. As people consider today’s news and risk-assess, our conveyancing solicitors anticipate an increased number of transactions being agreed and we are well-placed to service all our clients’ sales and purchases with our usual high standards and efficiency.
Can I still put my house on the market?
As of 13th May, estate agents are now open and viewings can be carried out in person, although it’s important to remember that there may still be reduced staff levels, and social distancing rules must be adhered to.
I’d like to sell my house and need a conveyancing solicitor. Can you help me now?
Yes. We can open a file on your behalf and prepare all the paperwork necessary to issue the draft contract. Once you have a buyer, we can send the paperwork to their solicitor to approve and progress the sale.
I’ve had my offer accepted on a house purchase and need a conveyancing solicitor. Can I instruct you?
Yes. As with the process of selling a property, we can open a file for you and prepare all the paperwork necessary. We will still work with the seller’s solicitor to progress the purchase.
Get in touch with our conveyancing solicitors in Bristol
What issues are likely to arise with my house move?
There are several issues arising from the Covid-19 outbreak that are likely to cause disruption to the conveyancing process. For example, mortgage lenders may not issue funds in time, delays in post deliveries or your local authority and/or water authorities being closed, although the Bristol and surrounding areas have been continuing to operate throughout lockdown.
Also, apart from a couple of exceptions, mortgage lenders funds have still arrived in good time to complete purchases, given sufficient notice. There may also be delays in producing searches and Land Registry backlogs. Other law firms/conveyancing solicitors might have reduced staff, meaning that resolving enquiries with the other party’s solicitors could take longer. In addition, some removal firms will not be operating due to difficulties in maintaining social distancing.
How do you manage the signing of documents and completion?
It depends on the type of transaction. However, our current approach is to scan documents and email them to our clients so that they can print, sign and scan them back to us. We would then ask that you send the originals by post.
When signing documents, please note that documents cannot be witnessed without physical presence of an independent adult witness. The Law Society says that electronic signatures can be used to sign buying/selling contracts, unless it’s being executed as a deed. Electronic signatures cannot be used where a signature needs to be witnessed, unless the witness was present when the signature was applied.
We can then either complete on the basis of scanned copies, provided the other side’s solicitors agree with that approach, or in the normal way if the original signed documents are in one of our offices.
HM Land Registry have also now introduced the facility to conduct online interviews, via Skype for example, as a further way to have documents validly signed whilst ensuring distancing or shielding as appropriate.
Following completion, once you’ve posted the originals to our offices, and the lifting of the government’s lockdown restrictions, our team will arrange for them to be dated with the date of completion. We will then send them to the other side’s solicitors as part of our post-completion formalities.