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Maria Lati

Article by Maria Lati, Partner, Residential Property

Following on from my guidance note on 13 May 2020, I am delighted to share a further update on the residential property market.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant uncertainty, not just for buyers and sellers, but also for conveyancers. We have to play our part to assist clients to move safely whilst maintaining social distancing measures in line with Government guidance.

At Grant Saw, our conveyancers ensure we are acting in the best interests of our clients and helping them to comply with the new guidance. We continue to liaise with clients via video conferencing, telephone and email and we are noticing same day exchanges and completion as a preference plus very short periods between exchange and completion.

Our conveyancers carry out due diligence in the form of ID checks to comply with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) obligations, preferably via electronic identification and continue to comply with the obligations set out in the UK Finance Mortgage Lenders Handbook and the BSA Mortgage Instructions for lenders.

Before agreeing completion dates, we ask our clients to ensure they have enough time to transfer monies as a result of online banking limits and ensure the property is vacated prior to the arrival of buyer’s removal company. We also advise clients to check terms and conditions of their contract with their chosen removal company to identify penalties for late cancellations and so on.

It is also important to consider that even if a short period of time between exchange and completion is agreed, it does not eliminate the possibility that someone may fall ill or test positive for COVID-19 which in turn will pause the transaction at short notice.

Clients are able to execute documents in the physical presence of a witness but this must be conducted in line with social distancing requirements. There are alternative methods of execution such as the ‘mercury’ style execution and the use of electronic signatures. Witnesses to electronic signatures must be physically present when the signatory electronically signs on the third-party equipment or device.

In summary we must consider each client’s circumstances and take that into consideration before advising on timings for exchange and completion. During this unprecedented time, there is an increased fraud risk. Never send funds unless you have confirmed bank details with your solicitor. For buyers searches are available as usual from most local authorities but time frames vary. The conveyancing team at Grant Saw Solicitors has adapted to working from home and providing our legal services in line with Government guidance. We are here to assist you.

The full guidance from the Law Society can be found here.

To discuss this advice note further, please feel free to email me on contact me directly on 020 8305 4229.