The Conveyancing Association (CA) has endorsed industry-wide guidance to conveyancing firms advising clients on house moves during the Coronavirus crisis.
The guidance has been prepared by a group which includes the Law Society, the Society of Licensed Conveyancers (SLC), the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, Bold Legal Group and the Conveyancing Association (CA), and has the support of government departments including HM Land Registry.
Its primary purpose is to help conveyancers assist clients and comply with the latest government regulations and guidance on home moving, in particular:
- Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight Coronavirus and in accordance with government guidance
- If the client has already exchanged contracts, and the property is currently occupied, then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter
- If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.
This additional guidance covers four key areas:
- Amending existing contracts
- Advice for clients who have already exchanged contracts
- Advice for clients who have not yet exchanged contracts
- Advice for clients who have to move during the current restrictive period.
In terms of amending existing contracts, the stakeholder group has worked together and agreed a draft clause and the process for firms to follow when varying a completion date.
The guidance sets out the need for conveyancers to exchange a written agreement to alter the existing contract, to e-sign or authorise the conveyancer to sign on the client’s behalf, to formally exchange documents and to ensure clients are fully advised in accordance with their own circumstances. It also outlines how firms might wish to consider issues that may arise around the client’s mortgage, searches and any additional costs that might be involved.
It also urges firms to treat every case on an individual basis and any clauses or processes recommended by the firm should be amended according to the individual needs of the client.
Within the document there is also specific advice that conveyancing firms can offer to clients who have exchanged, have not exchanged, or for those who have to move during the current restrictive period.
The Guidance can be downloaded by visiting the CA’s home page, www.conveyancingassociation.org.uk/, and looking in the Featured Downloads section.
Paul Smee, chair of the Conveyancing Association, said: “At present, home moves should not be contemplated unless the need to move is critical. So, this guidance only applies to cases where contracts have already been exchanged and the parties involved have been unable to agree on a delay in completion.
“It outlines the relevant requirements that have been put in place by the government to counter the spread of the virus, and what conveyancers need to do to work within them. Home moves can only occur where it is safe for them to do so. Some cases will have special features on which specific advice will be needed and home buyers and sellers should always talk to their conveyancer.
“Firms should be prepared for a changing situation and their service will need to respond flexibly in order to comply with the government’s evolving objectives. To that end, we are also able to provide members with access to business continuity guidance, provided by both individual member firms and the SLC, which is available on the CA website.
“This has been a real collegiate effort amongst a range of conveyancing trade and sector bodies, plus the regulators and government departments such as HM Land Registry, to provide this supplementary guidance that should help firms to work through such cases.”
Simon Davis, Law Society president, added: “The Law Society recognises the real difficulties faced by those who are trying to move home, particularly for those who have exchanged contracts, but are not able to complete, for a variety of reasons created by the restricted movement requirements.
“The guidance from the government, and that produced by the Law Society in conjunction with other conveyancing bodies, is our attempt to offer some solutions in these exceptional circumstances.
“There are no simple solutions and the position is one that is fluid and changing. We will keep it under review and if necessary step in again.”19