Update on house moves: Guidance published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Guidance published on 13 May 2020 by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
What has changed?
Previously, moving house was only permitted where "reasonably necessary" and parties were strongly encouraged to delay completion where the property had not been vacant. This position has been relaxed and transactions can broadly go ahead as normal, unless parties are self-isolating or symptomatic.
What is the current advice?
Transactions can go ahead as normal, but parties should follow the new guidelines:
- You can market your property and prepare the sales pack as normal. Estate agents can visit the property to take photographs etc. Surveyors and tradespeople can enter a property for inspections (ideally only one at a time).
- Viewings should be virtual where possible. Physical viewings should be limited to members of the same household, and only those whose attendance is essential. Agents should accompany clients where possible, obeying social distancing rules.
- Parties should ensure contracts allow completion to be delayed due to a party self-isolating or becoming symptomatic. In practice, we are seeing clauses that permit completion to be delayed for other consequences of COVID-19 too, such as a delay to mortgage funds being released.
- Removal firms can still operate.
- No one should enter any property where the occupier is self-isolating or symptomatic, nor should anyone self-isolating or symptomatic undertake viewings.
- No one self-isolating or positive for Coronavirus should move house. Where moves are essential then Public Health England or local public health bodies should be contacted.
- Where contracts have been exchanged and parties are self-isolating, completion should be delayed until everyone in the household has finished their period of self-isolation.
What should I do if I am selling or viewing a property?
Anyone visiting another's property should:
- Minimise contact with the occupiers and follow social distancing rules and strict hygiene procedures.
- The owner should:
- keep internal doors open;
- provide access to hand-washing facilities, ideally with paper towels;
- clean surfaces and door handles with household cleaning products; and
- ideally vacate during the visit.
What does this mean for rural property transactions?
We are still seeing a number of private transactions exchange and complete, but we have seen a decline in new transactions being agreed. We have a number of parties hoping to buy or sell and we expect this relaxation of measures to result in a rise in new transactions, particularly where parties are able to take advantage of a dip in property values. Social distancing measures ought to be relatively easy to follow for most rural properties.
We are still able to carry out most, if not all, of our usual due diligence on a purchase. We are using bespoke clauses to enable flexible completion dates. A number of the lenders we work with, particularly private banks, are operating largely as normal, and physical mortgage valuations ought to resume.
The Land Registry has relaxed its requirements for conveyancers to be holding original signed transfers, which has reduced the risk of completion being delayed due to the postal service. Where plans are required, we can print and sign them on behalf of our clients.
The current global crisis is evolving rapidly, and the rules and guidance for individuals, companies and other entities to manage its implications are similarly fast moving. Notes such as this may be out of date almost as soon as they are published. If you have any questions prompted by this article or on any other matter relevant to you, please get in touch with your usual contact at Forsters.