Can we move house during the coronavirus lockdown?

It’s Friday – traditionally one of the busiest days in conveyancing, with buyers and sellers across the country normally on the move. The big question which most buyers and sellers have been asking is, should I be moving house during the coronavirus lockdown period?

The circumstances which we find ourselves in at the moment are very unusual, and conveyancers in Scotland have found themselves regularly checking the advice and updates from the Government, Registers of Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland and UK Finance for information on this question.

According to the Government’s advice, buyers and sellers should not be moving house during the coronavirus lockdown.

Wherever possible, buyers and sellers should come to an agreement to postpone the date of entry. There is “no need to pull out of transactions”, according to Government advice, but speak to your solicitor who will try to re-arrange an alternative date for your move.

Despite the above message, those buyers and sellers who have concluded their contract and have legally committed to move in or move out of property, have still raised the question of whether they can still go ahead. This, we understand, are buyers and sellers who are worried about the ramifications which can follow from a breach of contract.

For example, a seller who has symptoms of coronavirus will be required to self-isolate in their home for 14 days, therefore cannot leave their property for the new buyer to move in. No vacant possession – breach of contract. Understandably, a lot of buyers and sellers all over the country are facing this very difficult reality. Our advice would be to contact your solicitor straight away for advice if you are in this situation.

There are a couple of exceptions to the above message, according to Government advice:

  • Firstly, we understand that there is an exception for “critical moves”, however, the Government has not yet released guidance or a list of what this will include. We can reasonably assume that it may include those moves which involve a key worker, such as someone working in the NHS who is moving house in order to be able to continue working.
  • Secondly, buyers can continue with their purchase if they are moving into a vacant property. However, many buyers and sellers have come to realise that following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday night, removal companies have been advised by The British Association of Removers to cancel their services in order to protect the health and safety of all those working for removal companies and also for their clients. Therefore no removal companies should be operating during the lockdown.

Otherwise, with most conveyancing transactions unlikely to fall into the above two exceptions, buyers and sellers should know that they should not be moving house during the lockdown. For any conveyancing queries please contact the property team at BBM Solicitors.