Thursday, 2 April 2020
Like all other law firms involved in the sale and purchase of residential property, we have been closely monitoring Government guidance and our primary concern at this time must be for the health of our staff, clients and the public. Accordingly, our office is now closed and staff are working remotely from home where possible. We appreciate your understanding and patience in these unprecedented circumstances as we adapt to working remotely.
In keeping with other restrictions already in operation to try and minimise the spread of Coronavirus, The Law Society of Scotland has issued guidance advising that entry dates for the sale and purchase of residential property should be postponed wherever possible. This is partly in response to the closure of the Application Record by Registers of Scotland which means it is not possible to register any titles at present. Aside from the issues caused by the temporary closure of the Application Record by the Registers of Scotland the UK Government have issued very clear guidance on moving house under the current lockdown regime. Essentially the Government are discouraging any house moves in all but exceptional cases. The regulations can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak
We are also aware that mortgage lenders are operating on skeleton staff meaning there are issues with obtaining loan funds and some lenders are declining to release funds due to the current closure of the Application Record. It is also understood that many removal firms are temporarily closing in adherence with the Government guidance regarding social distancing which makes the logistics of moving home at the moment extremely difficult.
Registers of Scotland have put interim procedures in place where postponing settlement would result in ‘severe financial or personal consequences’ being suffered by either party. We would caution that this is a very high test to meet and will only apply to a very small number of transaction and this does not come without risk. It is therefore advised that where at all possible, settlement should be postponed and efforts should not be made to move at this time.
The current measures that have been enforced are completely out with the control of the legal profession. We appreciate that moving home is a stressful time and the current measures may have served to exacerbate this, however we would emphasise that it would be our advice to postpone completion of sales and purchases wherever possible.
Those who have already concluded missives and have set entry date are also being advised to enter into discussions with the other party and attempt to agree to postpone settlement. As both parties will face the same logistical issues with moving at the current time it is hoped that agreement can be reached to defer entry. It is, of course, unsettling that we do not know how long the current lockdown provisions will remain in place and when new entry dates will be able to be agreed but there is, unfortunately, no way to circumvent the problems with settling at the current time.
With the present uncertainty, we would ask our clients to have regard to the advice and guidelines that have been issued and would hope that once measures are relaxed we are able to recommence transactions and pick up where we left off.
These are difficult times for all and we are of course happy to discuss any concerns or queries you may have in more detail.