News & insights
Latimer Hinks advises home movers to proceed with caution during coronavirus crisis
4th April 2020
Latimer Hinks Solicitors is advising its clients in Darlington and North Yorkshire to proceed with caution during property sales and purchases, following government advice to defer moving home.
Although the government has not prohibited or restricted property transactions, it has strongly advised that these activities are put on hold until the coronavirus situation has passed, and transactions should only be completed if there is no house move is necessary.
Martin Williamson, a director and head of residential property at Latimer Hinks, is suggesting that clients look to exchange contracts and complete on the same day in order to avoid legal difficulties if they find they are unable to complete on the legally binding date.
Martin said: “If the parties agree an exchange and completion on the same day, this removes the stress of having a date looming that you may not be able to meet and finding yourself in breach of contract.
“Also, prior to the exchange of contracts, it is still possible to continue with processes such as searches and land ownership technicalities if the lawyers, mortgage providers and others involved are able to continue to help them.
“However, if your sale and purchase has been negotiated but contracts have not as yet been exchanged, there is no legally binding agreement between the buyer and seller. If any party decides that for whatever reason they do not now think they can proceed, they can simply withdraw without any penalty. There is, of course, a risk if you choose to exchange and complete on the same day; you have no guarantee in advance that completion will actually happen.”
For those who have already exchanged contracts and set a completion date that may not be able to be met, and negotiation may be required to ensure there are no adverse legal consequences.
Martin said: “If an exchange of contracts has taken place, the parties will have given each other a legally enforceable agreement that completion of the transaction will take place on the date set. If either party is unable to complete on the date, the terms of the contract will be breached, and the other party will have legal redress against them. Sadly, this will be the case notwithstanding that a party is unable to complete because they have been let down by some other party on whom they rely or even if they have been taken ill or are having to isolate.
“In some cases, it is possible for the legal professionals involved to come to an agreement to defer or, at the very least, not enforce a previously agreed completion date until after the crisis has ended. It’s advisable to ensure any changes are recorded in writing to avoid confusion in the future and to give peace of mind to the party that has had to delay.
“That said, in the current climate it is probably advisable that buyers and sellers do not enter into a legally binding contract that sets a completion date some days or weeks off as they may find when that day arrives that for reasons outside their control they are unable to honour the contract.
“Clearly these are difficult times for us all in all walks of life and nobody has any clear idea of how long we may live with these uncertainties. In the current circumstances, it is all the more important to rely on the advice and knowledge of experts in their field, acting solely with your best interests in mind.”