In the current coronavirus emergency the government is taking extraordinary steps to restrict movement (and therefore to reduce the rate at which the virus spreads in the wild).  If you are moving house and have already exchanged contracts this gives you a potentially serious problem.  Under the terms of the contract you will have made legally binding pledges to move out / in (if you are selling or buying respectively) and both if you are both selling and buying.  Your solicitor may also have requested your new mortgage funds, if you are buying with a mortgage, and a redemption statement to be able to pay off any current mortgage on your sale.  All of these figures are usually time critical. The government has now advised that if the property you are planning to move to is not already vacant then you should make every effort to agree, within the chain of transactions that may be affected, that you will all agree to a postponement.

From a legal point of view this could be a nightmare but there is very strong governmental pressure upon all the relevant parties who are involved to facilitate this.

It may be as simple as agreeing to postpone a previously agreed completion date for a certain length of time or you may run the risk that the contractual provisions, which oblige you to vacate the house you are selling, are enforced against you by law (if an open Court can be found!).

If your removal company cannot meet the date they promised, they should agree to rebook without charging you an additional fee - but the terms you accepted when you signed up, may compel you to pay them, if the reason they cannot fulfil your insturctions is due to force majeure.

Most mortgage lenders have agreed that the validity period of any mortgage they have offered to you will be extended for three months if you have exchanged contracts but not been able to complete.

Last minute searches to check the state of a title at the Land Registry cam be quickly and simply re-done by your solicitor to make sure that your purchase is protected.

The underlying position will be a sudden sharp cooling in the housing market and this may affect values of properties in the longer term.  If you find yourself in a difficult position in relation to your house sale or purchase as a result of the lockdown, take advice from your solicitor.  Most firms are running electronically with their staff now working from home and will be pleased to help you if they can. 

The aim, as always, is certainty, to make sure everyone know what is going to happen.

If you can't move, be kind, be patient and stay safe - this too shall pass.


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