How does conveyancing work during Covid-19?

Jun 25, 2020

Your offer on the home of your dreams has been accepted, but it doesn’t actually belong to you just yet. This is where a conveyancer comes in. Conveyancing involves the legal transfer of homeownership from seller to buyer, and a conveyancer is a solicitor hired by each party to help with the major checks during a property purchase, from the acceptance of the offer to the key collection. 

As with so many aspects of the property market, Covid-19 has impacted the conveyancing process to some extent. That’s why we’ve answered a few of your questions on conveyancing in the time of coronavirus.

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How a conveyancer works

A conveyancer handles the legal side of buying or selling a home. 

If you’re a seller, your conveyancer will give you a few detailed questionnaires to fill out about the property and the sale terms. They will then use this information to draw up a draft contract, which will be sent to the buyer’s conveyancer along with the Title – also known as ‘Deeds’ – for approval. Once approved, the conveyancers will exchange contracts for you to sign – after this, you will be legally bound to sell the property.  

If you are a buyer, your conveyancer will help you understand and negotiate the contract. There may be things about the property that you won’t know just from viewings or even a survey. Your conveyancer will organise local searches to highlight any factors you should be aware of before completing the process, such as planned developments. If you’re taking out a mortgage on the property, your conveyancer will go through the conditions of the mortgage offer.

Is it safe to use a conveyancer?

In the age of Covid-19, it’s a good idea to minimise the number of people you come into contact with to limit the spread of the virus. However, if you’re planning on buying or selling your home, you will need to get a conveyancer involved, and there are ways to make the process as safe as possible. 

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What’s changed during Covid-19

Before entering into the conveyancing process, your conveyancer should explain any additional risks involved as a result of the pandemic, for example, the possibility of delays. This should be confirmed in writing, and your contract will set out how competition can happen in accordance with current health guidelines.

You should restrict physical meetings as much as possible – and avoid them completely if you or any member of your household shows Covid-19 symptoms. Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, you’ll have to prove your identity to your conveyancer, and this will now be done using electronic verification systems so that you don’t have to meet in person.

Contracts can be signed electronically too, although your conveyancer may still post them to you; there are no restrictions in place when it comes to handling documents. If any of your legal documents need witnessing, your witness will have to be physically present, but you can minimise the risk by maintaining a two-metre distance, wearing disposable gloves and using your own pen. 

In the vast majority of cases, getting a conveyancer involved is necessary to complete the sale and purchase of a house. Plenty of the conveyancing process now takes place online. However, where a conveyancer needs to physically visit a property, taking the right precautions and following guidelines will minimise any risks surrounding Covid-19.