The Coronavirus epidemic is increasingly affecting the way we deal with conveyancing transactions. However, Seatons will continue to offer the best possible service to clients, taking into account recommendations from the Law Society and advice from government and the NHS.
The offices are closed to the public to minimise the risk to both clients and staff and our services will be delivered by telephone and email. We are confident that the transactions will not be affected by this and have strengthened our telephone team to cope with a higher volume of calls. If you need to deliver documents to the offices (e.g. original ID) please place these in an envelope in the post boxes outside the offices. They will be returned to you. Communication is very important and we believe that the measures we have in place will ensure that this continues.
There may be practical consequences for conveyancing transactions if any party is affected by COVID-19 and may not be able to proceed. There are 2 scenarios to consider to take account of this:
- To exchange contracts and complete the sale and purchase on the same day. The disadvantage to this is that either of the parties could decide right up to the day of completion not to proceed with the transaction for any reason. The other party would not be entitled to any compensation. We would only recommend proceeding on this basis if there are only 2 parties to the transaction so that the chances of either party being affected by the virus are small. If this method is adopted for a longer chain of transactions there is also a risk that any complications or delays with the transfer of funds in the banking system may make it impossible to complete everything in one day.
- If there is a chain of transactions with several parties involved we recommend that completion takes place a few days after contracts are exchanged. A binding contract gives everyone in the chain some certainty and allows them the opportunity to make the necessary arrangements for the move. Once contracts are exchanged there are penalties for failure to complete but in the first instance these sums are likely to be small. Thereafter it is possible for a notice to be served on the defaulting party calling for completion within 14 days. This can be done in extreme circumstances to minimise any losses to the injured party but the outcome is rarely acceptable to them. We shall do all we can to minimise the likelihood of any such problem occurring but obviously we cannot guarantee this as it depends on circumstances beyond our control
In both scenarios, if it becomes apparent that the seller has been affected by COVID-19 and is physically too ill to move house the transaction could be in jeopardy. This does not provide grounds for the buyer to fail to complete nor is the buyer entitled to claim compensation for any losses in cleaning the premises etc..
As these matters are complex our experienced staff will advise you fully on what is most appropriate for your individual circumstances and we will continue to be available to guide you throughout your transaction in these very difficult times.