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Conveyancing during the Coronavirus crisis

Ocean property lawyers

We recognise that our clients are very concerned about how the Coronavirus crisis is affecting their planned sales and purchases. 

Clearly the situation and the current restrictions on movement is affecting everyone. However, whilst we stay at home, stay safe and support our NHS, our contingencies have ensured that we are able to continue to progress our case files. 

We hope this guide will be helpful, and go some way to assure you of our intention to continue to work for you to the best of our ability during these extraordinary circumstances. Of course, the situation is fluid and things will change, we will update this information.

How do I contact my conveyancer?

Please email your normal contact at Ocean property lawyers, your enquiry will be forwarded to the qualified conveyancer who has been allocated your case. Rest assured that the conveyancer will respond as soon as possible. Please bear with us as we have a reduction in support staff during lock-down.

Telephone calls are redirected to mobile phones, please allow for reception quality. Initial enquiries may be taken by team members not familiar with the case, your case handler will be updated as soon as possible.

Will my conveyancer update me?

Yes, please rest assured that we will let you know of any developments as soon as we hear of them.

How do I handle documents & forms sent to me?

Please scan and return by email when possible, including copies of your identification documents. Taking photos of all completed and signed pages on your mobile phone and emailing is acceptable.

The original signed client agreement will be required in due course, we will advise if we need to see the original ID documents post lock-down, in many cases we can obtain an electronic verification of identity. In the meantime, we can still open your case file and begin work. Please pay the requested money on account as normal.

What about searches?

Our search providers are working with their usual efficiency, although they may be affected by delays at Councils and other information providers. Please advise if you would prefer us to go ahead with searches, we are happy to discuss the pros and cons of applying at this time.  

What about enquiries?

Your conveyancer will continue to raise and answer enquiries as is normal with the other conveyancer. Our goal remains to be in a position to advise our clients we/they are happy with all legal aspects of the sale or/& purchase as soon as possible. We will minimize delays to ensure parties are ready to proceed.  

What about my mortgage finance?

Of course, this is a potential concern. If you are buying with a mortgage loan, we need to be sure that the mortgage will still be in date and available to draw down when ready to complete.

If you have already exchanged contracts but the completion date has been delayed due to the crisis, mortgage lenders have confirmed that they will be making efforts to arrange extensions of offers for up to 3 months so that the loan can proceed. If your financial circumstances have changed as a result of the crisis the lenders have stated that they will work with people to try to avoid hardship.

If you have not yet exchanged contracts this may not apply but you should seek advice from your financial adviser.

Is it safe to pay my deposit?

Yes. Payment of a deposit does not mean that we will commit you to a contract or completion without your agreement, and your money is safe in our client account in the meantime. If you wish to delay or are unsure please discuss with us.

Will I still be able to exchange contracts and complete?

There is currently a lot of comment in the media and not all of it very well informed. We take a positive view, most transactions can still go ahead although not all necessarily in the originally anticipated time line. At Ocean we support and promote a “can do” attitude”, and when Ocean property lawyers are acting on both sides of a sale this can greatly assist ensuring transactions are completed.

This is within the Government’s current advice to restrict unnecessary movement and the requirement to follow medical advice and not to move when people are suffering from symptoms of the virus, or are required to self-isolate. However, the Government is not trying to stop the process, just asking people and their conveyancers to be adaptable.

Let’s look at a few examples:

  • If no one is actually moving, for example you are transferring a property from one name to joint names, you are buying with a tenant in the property, or buying an empty property which you are not immediately moving into there is no reason to hold anything up.

  • If you have exchanged contracts and people need to move then the Government’s advice is to try and change the completion date and only move when reasonably necessary. Discuss with us, we will remind you of the position as per the original contract but we will also talk to the other conveyancers to see what can be agreed within any chain that affects you. Where Ocean estate agents are selling the property they will assist with these discussions too. Clients will have different views and priorities but we anticipate that 'give and take' in the process will usually lead to an agreement where it is necessary to change a date. Bear in mind that if you need a removal company they will need to be available. Many are now not working due to advice from their own trade bodies regarding safe distancing practices.

  • Keep in mind that once the current lock-down is eased there is an opportunity to move and therefore it is likely to be a very busy period.

  • If you have not exchanged contracts, we will be attempting to agree on the way forward with the other party’s conveyancer, subject to clients wishes. Agreeing a certain fixed date for completion is best. Your options are to delay exchanging contracts until the movement restrictions are lifted and then do so, or exchange now, but beware the risk of entering into a contract where you could be penalised (even lose your deposit) if you cannot proceed if you cannot proceed for reasons beyond your control relating to Coronavirus.

  • If the move does proceed it is essential to observe safe social distancing for all involved. The best advice is to carry out a deep clean of the property immediately on gaining access.  

  • What the Government and flexible lawyers like ourselves encourage is a clause in the contract whereby parties can withdraw without penalty if things go wrong as a result of a Coronavirus related event, such as illness, self-isolation, cancellation of removal arrangements, or unavailability of finance. These are new clauses and the wording will need to be acceptable to all parties. You will need to discuss with your conveyancer what this means for you and whether you are happy and confident. As mentioned, it can be an advantage when a different lawyer at Ocean property lawyers is working for the seller and buyer. Not only do we share the “can-do” Ocean attitude, but we will be familiar with the proposed clauses, and we can more easily contact each other. If you as a client are happy, and it is essential, we can achieve an exchange of contracts when this might be unachievable with other lawyers involved.

Will it cost more if the process is delayed due to the Coronavirus crisis?

Generally, we will not charge extra fees for a delay, but reserve the right to do so if we spend an unusual amount of time negotiating dates, agreeing non- standard clause with outside lawyers or communicating with mortgage lenders. We will in those circumstances always put a reasonable cap on the level of any extra fees and inform you at the time that we will need to do so.

Money transfers - Special notice

Please be extra vigilant in relation to money transfers as fraudsters will take advantage of the current situation in any way that they can, e.g. by pretending to be Ocean. We have very strict procedures in relation to the transfer of money to and from our bank account. It is essential that you follow these procedures.

Please raise any queries with your conveyancer before taking action that could be unsafe for your money. 


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