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Safety First as Conveyancers follow Government Guidelines

View profile for Gillian Hawley
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Specific guidelines will help the housing market recover and allow Property Solicitors to speed up house sales and purchases.

We’ve all spent a long time at home these last few months and the housing market has been hit right from the start by the coronavirus pandemic with moves cancelled or postponed – now the market is starting to show some signs of recovery, however experts say property values may initially be hit.

The Halifax suggests a 0.2 per cent month-on-month decline in property values from May but does predict that in the long-term there will be recovery as the reopening of estate agents and viewings now taking place have provided an initial boost to the market.

Gillian Hawley, Conveyancing Executive at Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers has been taking a flurry of phone calls and new instructions this past two weeks with people keen to get moving in time for the summer:

“As restrictions are lifted clients are confident that we can deal with their property matters swiftly and get their move back on track so my emails and phone calls have been busy,” said Gillian.

“As conveyancers we witnessed property sales falling off a cliff at the start of lockdown so any movement is good and activity has certainly picked up with many pre-lockdown sales resuming and new instructions taking place.

“Clear guidance has been given on how we can proceed safely with house moves and we must now wait to see how economic uncertainty, redundancy and unemployment threats affect client confidence and the availability of mortgages, particularly first-time-buyer mortgages impacts on the housing market’s recovery to pre pandemic levels,” she added.

Government Guidance for Conveyancers

A collaborative industry guide has been produced for all Conveyancing Solicitors covering social distancing measures, considerations for electronic and wet ink signatures, checking ID, witnessing and simultaneous exchange and completion.

The guidance has been prepared by The Law Society, The Society of Licensed Conveyancers, CILEx, and the Bold Legal Group and the Conveyancing Association.

Some of the things it covers include:

  • Conveyancers are clear with the client about their service and any changes due to Covid-19. 
  • Client confidentiality continues to apply in line with GDPR legislation – this will not be compromised by staff home working.
  • When possible avoid physical contact with clients, use digital technology and virtual meeting platforms.
  • ID checks to be conducted using electronic verification methods in accordance with the LSAG Covid-19 Guidance.
  • Witnessing should always maintain social distancing when done in person, each signatory use their own pen, do not share pans, wear gloves and masks to minimise risk.
  • Electronic signatures should be used if possible. With the very important exception of documents that need to be supplied to HMLR for registration, electronic signatures can be used in most cases.
  • Current guidance from Government states there is no need to wear gloves when handling documentation.
  • To avoid physical document exchange for anti-money laundering, electronic identification verification systems should be utilised.

“As property Solicitors we are reassured that the provisions we have in place for our clients is as recommended by our representative body,” said Gillian.

“With the developed changes by the Land Registry and bodies such as the Equity Release Council, provisions have been put in place to allow us to proceed safely and efficiently with the benefit of technology, to offer the very best client experience in difficult times.

“The guidance indicates the importance of communication with all parties. Here at Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers we understand the need to adjust our working practices but we are embracing it and using this time to introduce even more advances to our forward thinking service.

For advice on all aspects of residential property contact our Specialist Conveyancing Team on 0161 785 3500 or email enquiries@pearsonlegal.co.uk or complete the online enquiry form.

NB. Whilst our teams are currently working from home we are moving towards being able to host meetings in any one of our offices in Oldham, Tameside or North Manchester (near the M60 motorway).   The choice will be yours whether you want a virtual meeting or whether you want to meet in person adhering to Government guidelines.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.