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Philip Costigan

Philip Costigan

Partner - Commercial Property

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Curbs lifted on moving house

House moves and viewings are able to resume in England from today, Wednesday 13th May, under new UK government regulations presented to Parliament yesterday. Estate agents can now open, viewings can be carried out and removal firms can restart operations, subject to observing safe social distancing rules.

In what many will see as a surprise move, the Government hopes that England’s housing market can be re-started from the deep freeze it has been in since the Coronavirus lockdown restrictions were first imposed. 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said “Our clear plan will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process, from viewings to removals. This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting  patiently to move can now do so.”

This relaxation only applies in England, and not Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the previous restrictions continue to apply. It must also be emphasised that the relaxation in England only applies where safe, social distancing can be guaranteed.

From the legal point of view, there are broadly 3 different scenarios, first where contracts have already been exchanged and completion dates deferred, secondly where transactions have not yet reached the point of exchange of contracts but are at some point in the pre-exchange process, and thirdly where transactions have not yet been agreed in principle.

Those sellers and buyers who are in the first 2 categories will no doubt be highly relieved that their state of limbo can now be resolved, and that their transactions should now be able to move forward towards eventual completion, once a number of issues have been sorted such as a mutually agreeable moving date, removal arrangements being put in place, and mortgage offers revisited to ensure that they are still valid.

Time will tell when those in category 3 return to the market.

The new regulations will apply equally to new-build as existing properties, with the Government outlining measures to get the house building sector moving, all subject of course to maintaining safe, social distancing.

For further information please contact us and ask to speak to any member of our Residential Property team.