The Scottish Government has issued fresh guidance on the property market, urging people to delay transactions until such a time that it is safe for the public to move around.
Mirroring advice has also been issued by the Registers of Scotland, The Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates.
Their collective instruction to parties who have an agreed date of entry is that they should seek to delay that date with the other people involved in the transaction, taking account of the period of time the restrictions are likely to be in place.
We asked Robert Fraser, senior property partner at Aberdein Considine, what this means for people looking to move home in the near future.
Can I move whilst the stay at-home measures against coronavirus apply?
Home buyers should, where possible, delay moving to a new home house while stay-at-home measures are in place to fight Covid-19.
I haven’t agreed a date of entry, what should I do?
People who have not yet agreed a date of entry should not agree a date that falls within the period during which stay-at-home measures apply.
It should be noted that these measures might be extended. Any agreement made between parties around a future date of entry should make explicit provision for the possibility of deferring that date.
I have a date of entry agreed and it’s soon. What should I do?
People who have an agreed date of entry should seek to delay that date with agreement from the other people involved in the transaction, taking account of the period of time the restrictions are likely to be in place.
Bear in mind that you may have reached a formal legal bargain to buy or sell on a particular date and discuss this with your solicitor.
You should also agree the approach to any future potential need to delay as a result of COVID-19.
I must move, otherwise I’ll have nowhere to go. What should I do?
Where emergency or hardship cases arise, you may be able to move. The government has stipulated that you must be able to do this safely, i.e. you and anyone else involved in the move can maintain all the social distancing requirements, and that the property into which you are moving is empty or can be safely vacated.
Even then, there are legal obstacles to overcome due to restrictions at the Registers of Scotland, where the deeds transferring ownership are registered.
To proceed, the following criteria must also be met:
- The prior registration of an advance notice with the Registers of Scotland;
- Agreement from your lender to proceed; and
- An agent available on the other side of the transaction to complete.
For these cases, we have a team of our core and most experienced conveyancers on hand to help.
What if an extension goes beyond the terms of a mortgage agreement?
UK Finance have confirmed that, to support customers who have already set dates for completion, mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.
My house is on the market, can I conduct viewings?
If your property is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it being for sale but you should not allow people in to view your property.
I want to accept or make an offer, can I do so?
The buying and selling process can continue during this period but you should be aware that the process is likely to take longer than normal.
You are free to continue to accept offers on your property. However, the selling process may take longer. You should seek advice from your solicitor.
Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite visitors into your home, including prospective buyers.
Can I still conclude missives?
The government recommends that all parties should work either to delay concluding missives until after the period where stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus are in place; or to include explicit contractual provisions to take account of the risks presented by the virus.