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How could the Coronavirus pandemic affect my move?

Our Residential Property Partner, Nigel Matthews talks to us about how the pandemic might affect your moving plans.

At the beginning of Lockdown 3, the government confirmed that unlike the first one in March 2020, people are still be able to move house during this National Lockdown. However the combination of lots of people trying to move by the March SDLT (Stamp Duty Land Tax) holiday deadline and the new national lockdown means that lawyers are busier than normal.

MARCH 2021 UPDATE: Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced the 2021 Spring Budget, including heavily anticipated news regarding the stamp duty holiday and the government's mortgage guarantee. Read more here.

What may slow down your house move?

  1. Whether you are starting your purchase now or started it last year, your lawyer cannot guarantee completion by March. Even in normal times, not many purchases are completed in less than three months from initial instruction. Your lawyer will always do their best to avoid unnecessary delay, but the speed of a purchase depends on many factors, some of which your lawyer cannot control.
  2. If your purchase is part of a chain of transactions, if you also have a property to sell or the person selling to you is also buying a property, then nobody can move until everyone is ready. A chain moves at the pace of the slowest link.
  3. It is important to have realistic expectations. Some staff in many solicitors' firms will be ill or self-isolating, and this will make it harder to get legal work done. Mortgage lenders have already warned that they will take longer to process applications and pay out loans. Banks, surveyors, valuers and removal contractors will all be busier than usual.
  4. Even when contracts have been exchanged, the completion of a sale or purchase may be held up if someone falls ill and is unable to move house. The rate of SDLT depends on the date when the purchase is actually completed, not the date of exchange of contracts or the agreed completion date stated in the contract.

How could Coronavirus disrupt my Moving Day?

Even if contracts for a sale and purchase have already been exchanged, coronavirus could unfortunately still affect your moving day by delaying completion. Completion could be delayed by;

  1. A seller may be in isolation, and unable to move on the completion date.
  2. A seller may have nowhere to move to because the seller's own seller or someone further up the chain of sales and purchases cannot move.
  3. A buyer may be unable to move because removers are not available, or because the buyer's own buyer cannot complete and the buyer must sell in order to pay for the purchase.
  4. A property may need deep cleaning before it is safe to move into, because a coronavirus patient or suspected patient has been living there.
  5. If contracts have been exchanged, a problem of this sort anywhere in a chain of transactions can stop everyone completing and leave several buyers and sellers in breach of contract.

Your lawyer will do everything to manage the situation and will advise you on the safest solutions to try and minimise any risk of completion delays.

If I move after the end of March, how will this affect the price I pay?

Your lawyer's initial quotation of charges and other expenses will normally have been based on the reduced rates of SDLT introduced last year, including the temporary nil rate on most purchases at prices up to £500,000.

There will be more to pay if completion takes place after 31 March, unless the government extends the concession.

If you are buying a property, I would suggest you think at this stage whether you could pay SDLT at the higher rates if you had to. Your lawyer can tell you how much extra this would be for your particular purchase, or you can use the HMRC online SDLT calculator.


If you have any questions about your conveyancing transaction, please do contact your lawyer in the first instance to see how your matter is progressing. If you are unable to contact your lawyer, feel free to email and one of the team will respond to you as soon as possible.

About the Author

Nigel Matthews is a Partner at Amphlett Lissimore who specialises in Residential Property. He leads the private conveyancing teams based at Crystal Palace and West Wickham.




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