I am sure everyone will agree that the prospect of moving house is one that is synonymous with stress, which is true more so now than ever. During these unprecedented times a lot of people have decided to take the plunge and move. This is an extremely challenging time for both solicitors and clients and the main priority is the health and well-being of everyone involved. A degree of flexibility is required whilst always being mindful of the risks that moving during this period carries.
From 29 June 2020 the Scottish Government permitted people to move home, provided that this was carried out safely and they published guidance on 9th July 2020 and this guidance is updated periodically. So, what are the main points that require to be considered when moving home during these times.
- The first thing that should be considered is that viewing properties now is quite different. Property viewing can now be conducted virtually and in most instances, this is the preferred method. House viewing can still take place; however, you should be mindful of hygiene practices and wash your hands before and after leaving the property and wear face coverings. The government guidelines set out that physical property viewings should only happen when there is a party very interested in making an offer.
- You should also be aware of any local or travel restriction that may be in place as these may impact on what is permitted as we are now at the point where different parts of the country are experiencing different levels of restrictions. Despite the Scottish Government putting in place new measures to tackle the upsurge of new cases, they have confirmed that house moves can still go ahead, however, local restrictions may make it advisable to delay moving house where possible.
- Removal firms are still able to operate and others may make their own arrangement to move their belongings. It is important that you make arrangements for moving at the earliest opportunity, this includes contacting removal firms, confirming van hire and making arrangements for storing furniture if required. If you are using a removal firm you should make sure, as much as possible, to avoid any potential spread of the virus, by keeping a 2 metre distance and regular washing of hands.
- It is also worth noting that moving dates may change and people should stay as flexible as possible. As there is a possibility that the Scottish Government may change the rules, someone may fall ill or someone may have to self-isolate. At present most contracts have no clauses that cover these eventualities (although that is expected to change shortly) meaning the conclusion of missives (i.e. the contract) is likely to happen later in the transaction. This is due to your solicitor looking after your best interests and not tying you into anything that leaves you open to a claim. Once a “COVID clause” is agreed and introduced this may go someway in negating the issues with the conclusion of contract.
- Another issue that requires to be considered is how you will have contact with your solicitor. The government guidelines states that solicitors “should aim to conduct as much of their business remotely as possible”. Even last year it was almost unthinkable that you would go a whole transaction without having face to face contact with your solicitor. However, this is now the norm. This has required solicitors to come up with new ways of providing a good service without ever meeting the client, however, this also raising its own issues. Consideration must be given on the best way for solicitor and client to exchange documents in time for settlement. Gone are the days where it was as easy as turning up to your solicitor’s office a week or so before settlement and signing all the relevant documentation. All documentation is now sent to the client either by post or e-mail. This can pose problems. While solicitors will try and give a clear step by step guide on how to correctly sign the deed it is inevitable that some are signed incorrectly which sometimes requires fresh documents to be signed. Therefore, it is important that all documents are sent to clients and returned to solicitors as quickly as possible to stop any delays that may arise from requiring fresh deeds to be signed.
- It is also worth noting that should also contact your various utility providers to make arrangement to move your service providers to your new address. You should also make arrangements for any installations that may be required as it is possible that these companies are working through a backlog.
- Lastly, once you have moved into your new home or before you leave your old one, it would be a good idea to clean all surfaces to limit any potential risk of spreading the virus. Although this was probably advisable pre-virus it is now more important than ever.
For those that are contemplating moving it is highly recommend that you consult your solicitor as early as possible so they can guide you through the process.
William Allardice, Trainee Solicitor
The opinions expressed in this blog are of the author only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blackadders LLP.
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