Can I move house during lockdown?
We have been asked this question many times, by both developers and buyers, since the government introduced the lockdown measures due to the outbreak of Covid-19. The simple answer is yes, although it may depend on individual circumstances and the type of home you are buying.
The government has helpfully released guidance on moving home, but this has not been helped by sensationalist headlines that often accompany any article related to the corona virus. One such headline read "Britons told not to move house in another blow to UK property market", but this isn't what the guidance says – so what does the government say about moving house during the lockdown?
What if I have already exchanged contracts?
The government has confirmed that there's no need to withdraw from a transaction where you have already exchanged contracts, but that the measures for self-isolating and social distancing should be strictly adhered to, especially where moving home.
Where measures cannot be adopted safely (for example, where a home is currently occupied), the seller and the buyer should agree to delay the sale until the measures have been lifted.
It has, however, been confirmed that critical home moves will be exempt from the police emergency enforcement powers.
If I delay my purchase, my mortgage will expire
The key in these unprecedented times is communication and this extends to your prospective mortgage lender also. Mortgage lenders may be willing to be flexible in their approach, particularly in the circumstances, and mortgage offers can be extended.
What if I'm buying a new build, shared ownership or empty property?
Where the property that you are moving into or selling is a new build or vacant property, the government has reiterated that the transaction may go ahead, provided that the above measures are adhered to.
If buying a new build or new shared ownership property, ask the developer to arrange a contact-free handover – this is something we have already seen successfully happen during the lockdown with many developers and housing associations putting in place new procedures to mitigate the risks.
If I'm buying a house, is there anything I can do to protect myself?
Where buying or selling a house, there are clauses that can be put in a contract (subject to the seller agreeing) to mitigate the effects should you not be able to complete due to the corona virus – for example, due to needing to self-isolate or the government introducing stricter measures. These can be negotiated to suit the situation and whilst they may not be appropriate for every transaction, it is important to know that these options are available to you.
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If your business needs legal support with any issues arising from COVID-19, please get in touch with Josh Clark.
All information in this document is accurate at the time of writing. It is meant for general information only and is not legal advice.