COVID-19: CONVEYANCING UPDATE

On Monday 23rd March, the Prime Minister provided a statement which placed the UK on lockdown for at least three weeks. Following this statement, many of our clients at BBM have asked us what this means for the sale of their property, or their purchase of a property – particularly those with concluded contracts.

Registration closures

On Tuesday, Registers of Scotland (the body responsible for the keeping of public records of land and property in Scotland) made the decision to close their offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow. They are no longer accepting paper applications from law firms like BBM to register their client’s title to property in Scotland, at least until they find a “digital solution” for registration. As you can imagine, getting a registered title to the property that you have purchased is absolutely vital – for you and your mortgage provider – who will be providing you with the loan funds to fund your purchase.

Postponed Settlements

With the closure of the application record at Registers of Scotland, conveyancing transactions in Scotland essentially came to an immediate halt shortly after this announcement. In addition to this, the Law Society of Scotland (the governing body for solicitor firms across Scotland) recommended that “solicitors should not settle conveyancing transactions until we have a further update from Registers of Scotland”. Solicitors across Scotland were starting to inform their clients of the news that no contracts for the purchase or sale of properties in Scotland would be concluded, until further notice.

Lenders

Despite the challenges of registration, some lenders (i.e. mortgage providers) have already confirmed to conveyancers that they are willing for settlements to go ahead this week – even if this means there is a delay in the registration of the bank’s Standard Security in light of the closure of the application record at Registers. At BBM, we have been contacting our client’s lenders on a case by case basis to come to an agreement with the bank in order to allow us to proceed with imminent settlements for our clients.

Temporary Solutions

Over the course of business yesterday (Wednesday 25th March) Registers of Scotland issued several updates, the latest of which provided some clarification to conveyancers for those sales or purchases which are due to settle imminently. We understand that discussions have been made with financial bodies to try and come to a temporary solution which should allow most imminent purchases or sales to go ahead. The measures mainly concern “Advance Notices”, which are notices that provide a 35 day protected period for a deed that is intended to be registered. The plans are to extend the length of this protected period, but Registers recognise that they may need emergency legislation to do this.

An alternative solution, which seems more practical, is to allow conveyancers to renew their existing Advance Notice for a further 35 days, and Registers have indicated that they would work to help conveyancers in situations where renewal of an Advance Notice is required.

Further Updates

The latest update as at this morning (Thursday 26th March) is that Registers have submitted their proposed temporary measures to the Law Society of Scotland, who are considering and will hopefully make comment over the course of today, if not tomorrow.

BBM will issue a further update shortly.