Conveyancing delays

People trying to move house are now affected by a perfect storm. Following the original lockdown in March 2020, the housing market ground to a standstill. The pent-up demand then led to a significant increase in housing activity during summer and this was fuelled by the Chancellor's announcement that Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) rates would be substantially reduced from 8 July 2020 to 31 March 2021. This led to an unprecedented demand for conveyancing services as homeowners tried to move to take advantage of the SDLT holiday.

However, many people are still working at home following lockdown including conveyancers, mortgage brokers, surveyors and those in banks and building societies. This has led to a delay in the release of surveys and mortgage offers. The local search is an essential part of a purchase transaction – it is a search in which the local authority in which a property is situated will respond to questions about a property on issues such as adoption of roads, planning permissions and building regulation consents. Generally speaking, it is not possible to get a mortgage without a satisfactory local search. The problem with conveyancing delays has been further compounded by the fact that some local authorities now have a backlog are unable to issue local searches for some weeks if not months.

Despite the fact that 31 March 2021 is still some way off, some conveyancing firms are informing their seller and buyer clients that they are unlikely to be able to conclude their client's transactions before the end of the SDLT holiday. Those thinking of moving house should ensure that they have got the basic information in hand to assist with the conveyancing process. Clients should consider the following:

  • on a sale, getting all relevant paperwork together including copy planning permissions for any work which the seller has done, guarantees, window certificates, boiler service reports
  • on a purchase, ensuring that their mortgage offer is agreed in principle and that all of the documentation which a lender might need, such as payslips, is organised
  • most buyers will be putting money towards the purchase of their property and their conveyancer will need evidence of the bank or building society where the money is being held such as bank statements and evidence of where the money came from (e.g., salary, work bonus, inheritance)
  • all sellers and buyers will need to have their proof of identification available for their conveyancer such as, current passport or driving licence and utility bills which are less than three months old

In such a difficult market, no conveyancer can guarantee that their client will be able to move before the end of the SDLT holiday. However, clients should get their own paperwork in order and consider instructing a conveyancing specialist.

To discuss this or any other conveyancing matter, contact us

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