Coronavirus and the impact on House Sales and Purchases
Like everyone, Morgans is closely monitoring Government and NHS guidelines in the fight against Coronavirus. During these unprecedented times, we are now working from home wherever possible with IT links to the office and calls diverted to mobiles, so that we can keep in touch with our clients and continue to offer our services as best we can. Staff and client safety is of absolute priority and so we ask all clients to have patience and bear with us as we work tirelessly from behind our laptops from home to keep working in all service areas in these unforeseen circumstances.
The Law Society of Scotland has issued specific guidance to all Solicitors over many practice areas, including the sale and purchases of residential property. All guidance reiterates the importance of the Government restrictions and that we must not do anything which in any way conflicts with the restrictions.
What is the guidance?
Like each and every one of you, we are being asked to Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives. This applies to each and every aspect of our day to day lives. We appreciate that moving house is a stressful time and more so in the current circumstances. However, the guidance must be followed to ensure the safety of staff and clients alike. We are not an exception.
The Law Society views the sale and purchase of houses during the current lockdown period to be unnecessary contact between and among individuals and that we are obliged, wherever possible to postpone or defer entry dates and the settlement of sales and purchases.
The Registers of Scotland has currently closed the Registers to applications, meaning that most transactions cannot be completed regardless of whether the buyer and seller are happy to proceed.
This is entirely out-with the control of the legal profession.
The Law Society of Scotland has worked closely with The Registers of Scotland to provide guidance to Solicitors and the message is clear:-
Although interim measures have been put in place to allow a very limited number of transactions to take place, the strong recommendation remains that parties should reschedule rather than settle during the closure of the Application Record.
In addition to the legal challenges, house moves are now almost logistically impossible due to removal firms closing. Anyone involved in a house move during this time is putting themselves, their families and all professionals involved at risk.
Unfortunately, this means that in almost every purchase and sale transaction, we must advise that settlement is postponed until the restrictions are lifted.
We are committed to do all that we can to progress transactions just as soon as we are able to do so. As it seems that lockdown will continue for some time, there is no definitive answer on when transactions will be able to be completed, but as the restrictions apply to all of us equally, we hope that common sense will prevail between Solicitors, the Solicitor acting for the other party and all clients involved.
Your Solicitor will continue to keep you updated regularly and can be contacted on the usual telephone numbers and emails to answer any questions you may have.
What are the interim measures that have been put in place and do they apply to my transaction?
The Registers of Scotland and The Law Society of Scotland have put in place interim measures to allow a very limited number of essential transactions to proceed to settlement in the next week or so. The obvious risk of settling a transaction during the closure of the Application Record is that the purchaser’s title and the lender’s security cannot be registered. This leaves the purchaser’s title and the lender’s security at risk from the insolvency of the granter of either deed. The normal protection against this by the registering of an Advance Notice only applies for a period of 35 days from the registration of the advance notice and so if titles cannot be registered during this time, the protection is lost.
The Registers of Scotland has therefore extended the protected period as an interim measure for essential transactions only to ensure that a deed for a settled transaction remains protected beyond the period of the application register closure so that registration at that point can be effected.
Despite this interim measure, the strong recommendation is that parties to transactions should attempt to reschedule rather than settle during the closure of the application register.
Only cases where the failure to settle will result in “severe financial or personal consequences” to one, other or all of the parties to any transaction, should efforts be made to complete the transaction, rather than postpone settlement.
We will of course do all that we can to settle your transaction if you fall within this category, but this will only apply to a very limited number of emergency cases i.e where a person might otherwise become homeless or experience significant financial hardship as a result of their transaction not settling.
These links will provide further information:
Further updates will be provided as and when further guidance becomes available. In the meantime, we would ask that all clients follow the guidelines and take a sensible approach to their transaction in these difficult times.