Moving home under normal circumstances can be one of the most stressful and hectic times. However, the current Coronavirus pandemic makes moving home much harder. We, understandably, receive several questions about moving home during the pandemic each day. To provide some much-needed clarification, I will provide the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
I have exchanged contracts, what will happen if we go into lockdown?
Exchange of contracts is a legally binding transaction. Once exchange has taken place, the buyer and seller are both committed to the transaction and completion is to take place on the date agreed in the contract. Solicitors may include provisions in the contacts to manage any risks of a lockdown. This is known as a ‘Covid Clause’.
The current Standard Conditions of Sale state that in the event a party to the contract defaults on completion then the willing party are able to serve a Notice to Complete. This allows the defaulting party 10 days to complete with penalty interest paid (or deducted). The defaulting party must complete within this time frame. Failure to complete could mean the buyer will lose their deposit; the defaulting party could pay damages; and the other party could contract could be withdrawn, unless the non-defaulting party takes a ‘good faith’ view.
Do I still have to pay stamp duty?
The Government the government introduced a stamp duty “holiday” to boost the property market. The current threshold for stamp duty is £500,000, which means that if you purchase a property for less than this amount then there will be no stamp duty to pay. This applies until 1 April 2021, thereafter the threshold will be £125,000 for residential properties.
You can find out how much stamp duty you will have to pay using the online calculator.
What if my mortgage offer has expired?
On 26 March 2020, mortgage lenders began offering an extension to existing mortgage offers of up to three months. The extended offer will keep the original terms of the existing offer and simply change the expiry date of the current offer.
There are however still some risks that the offer may be withdrawn if your financial circumstances change, for example a job loss, change to income or drastic materialistic changes to the property. If this happens, the lender reserves the right with draw their offer.
How are ID and verification checks carried out?
During lockdown there was some relaxation to the way in which ID checks were carried out and certified in our office. We carried out ID checks over live video link, to ensure the safety of clients and staff. However, as restrictions have eased, we carry out ID checks within the office. Please remember that you must always wear a face covering unless exemptions apply.
Of course, restrictions and Government advice are changing all the time. Should circumstances change, we will advise you on any new procedures for ID checks.
Will the transaction take any longer?
Although buying and selling properties can now continue in some kind of normal way, there is still a lot of uncertainty with regards to the length of time taken to complete the transaction. The length of time may be longer than usual and there may be some delays. We will work to ensure the transaction runs as smooth as possible, however we may experience delays from third parties. For example, it may take longer than usual to obtain search results, responses from lenders and delays from other third parties.
We understand that moving home at the moment may seem extremely stressful. However, do not let this put you off. Your conveyancer will help you every step along the way. Rest assured we are all working as best we can, after all we’re all in this together.
If you would like to speak to one of our conveyancers, please call us on 0800 988 7756. Alternatively, you can obtain an instant conveyancing quote online.