An Announcement From The HBF Regarding Moving Home During This Time
HBF Member Briefing: Government publishes advice on home moving process during coronavirus outbreak
27 March, 2020
The Government has published guidance on the approach that should be taken for home moving during the ‘stay-at-home period’.
The advice, developed with Public Health England, clarifies statements made by ministers and others in recent days, and urges flexibility where possible. The advice states ‘there is no need to pull out of transactions’ and, of significance to home builders, the document says:
‘Where the property is vacant, then you can continue with this transaction although you should follow the guidance in this document on home removals’.
This is emphasised by clear advice to conveyancers that they should:
‘continue to support the sales of unoccupied properties as far as possible’
Government urges all parties in housing transactions to be flexible and alter usual processes in order to manage and sustain transactions and stresses that public health must be the priority.
The document, drawn up after numerous discussions in recent days between HBF, government, lenders and legal representatives, confirms the position of lenders that they will try to find ways to extend mortgage offers where delays to completions are unavoidable. It also advises conveyancers that they should continue to support the sales of unoccupied properties as far as possible.
For surveyors and removals firms, Government advises that current guidance states that work carried out on people’s homes can continue provided those conducting the work are well and displaying no symptoms.
As well as advising clients of possible difficulties executing transactions during the Covid-19 outbreak, the advice states:
• Conveyancers should continue to support the sales of unoccupied properties as far as possible.
• Conveyancers should make every effort to support clients who are due to complete on occupied properties in the stay-at-home period to change this date.
• Conveyancers should advise their clients who are ready to move not to exchange contracts on an occupied property unless they have made explicit provision for the risks presented by the virus.
Government also confirms that work is ongoing with representatives of legal practitioners to develop a standard legal process for moving completion dates.
UK Finance, the representative body for mortgage lenders and other financial services, have confirmed that their members are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend mortgage offers for up to three months allowing them to work with other parties to alter completion dates. Material changes to customer circumstances will need to be considered during this period where they occur.
Removals firms are advised that they should honour any existing commitments to home movers and that, provided all parties are healthy, work should be conducted in accordance with Public Health England guidance.
Surveyors should not expect to carry out non-urgent surveys in homes where people are in residence, and no inspections should take place if any person in the property is showing symptoms, self-isolating or being shielded. However, government advises surveyors ‘it may be possible to carry out some of your work online and also carry out urgent surveys on empty properties, or those where the occupants are out of the property’.
Members of The Public Already Involved in The Home Buying or Selling Process
The home buying and selling public are advised where possible to delay home moves. Where contractual commitments mean that the transaction proceeds physical distancing measures observed.
If the property being purchased is vacant buyers can continue to transact. Where property is occupied, all parties are advised to work together to agree a delay to the completion of the transaction.
Home sellers are free to accept offers on their property but should do so in the knowledge that the process may take longer than usual.
Prospective Home Buyers and Sellers
Homeowners who have not yet marketed their property are advised that the process will be more difficult during this period and that there should be no viewings during the stay-at-home period. Unnecessary visits include those from estate agents, photographers and energy performance assessors.
The full guidance issued by Government can be found here.