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Can I move house during the current lockdown?

Ikea is closed, Currys is closed and the Land Registry closed…….you’re not going to have much luck for your Billy book case, your 65 inch TV or even having the ownership of the house transferred to you.

The world is coming to a standstill due to the virus and has affected conveyancing in Northern Ireland. From the social distancing measures meaning it is impossible to have face to face meetings right through to concerns about whether a house will be clean and free from germs, every issue in a conveyancing transaction has been affected.

Last week the Land Registry (“LR”) closed their doors as they were not considered to be providing an essential service. Pulling the shutters down on the LR has meant that the Law Society of Northern Ireland have advised practitioners should, if possible, not place any of their clients into a contract to sell or purchase a property due to the lack of protection and uncertainty that the closure of the LR has meant.

Various mortgage lenders have also due to the closure of LR withdrawn mortgage offers or even requested advance funds back as the closure means that no priority searches can be effectively logged and the lenders priority period of 40 days will not start until the LR re-opens.

These priority periods are essential for a solicitor to comply with their obligations to lenders in relation to the mortgage loan and as such we and our colleagues have been scratching our head as to whether protection can be afforded.

Aside from the legalities, the social distancing measures are affecting the entirety of the stakeholders and agencies involved. Surveyors have issues as do mortgage lenders, removal firms, estate agents, law searchers and planners/building control are all stymied during the lockdown. All of us are getting used to the new normal and showing great resilience and inventiveness to try and assist clients and each other despite working from home.

At present it is difficult and nearly impossible to move house BUT it is not impossible to get all ducks in line before the sun comes out again and you are brain dead from another “Homes under the Hammer” or “Bargain Hunt”. Interest rates may be lower and there may be some correction in the market but things will get back to normal.

At the minute most clients are not panicking or even thing about pulling out of sales/purchased. All of our transactions are on ice and all parties moving as far as they can to ensure that they are on the right footing, hopefully the near future.

Our property department is still fully functional and ready to help in any shape of form. We can meet virtually via Skype or Zoom if you wish.

For further information please contact David Sturgess, Partner on 028 90408388or email david.sturgess@edwardsandcompany.co.uk


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