FAQs - After Exchange
17 April 2020
By Andi Michael
You should be moving into your new home, but you're in lockdown. Our property experts answer your questions.
We'll continue adding questions as they come in, but these are the most recent questions from those who have exchanged on their new home, but can't move. If you have questions, please add them in the comments and our property experts will be able to answer.
How do we agree a new moving date when we don’t know what’s happening?
You don’t have to choose a specific date now. The best thing to do is work with your conveyancing solicitor and listen to their advice. They may work with a ‘for now’ date and you can reassess as the time gets nearer.
Are we allowed to hire a van and move ourselves?
If you qualify your move as essential, and you are able to move yourselves with no help from those outside of your family, it’s probably the safest way to move. However, you’d need to find a van company who are happy to hire to you, and you should discuss what their safety measures are – will they clean and wipe down the van before its delivered/before leaving? Will the driver wear gloves, etc?
Bear in mind as well that if you would have hired a removals team before and you are putting yourself at risk by moving, it may be better to wait. You could find you end up damaging some of your items or hurting yourself.
I have been able to move but haven’t been able to update any of my services – including redirecting post. Do I legally need to move in?
Legally you don’t have to move into a property if you have completed, but you will be responsible for the bills. Also bear in mind most home insurance terms mean you can’t leave a property empty for more than 30 days.
The good news is that you can update services online – have a look at our Change of Address Checklist to change your address and organise other services.
Also, don’t forget to check that either you or the previous owners have made a note of the meter readings, so there’s no dispute about the bills down the line.
What happens legally if we can’t complete?
This depends on the buyer, seller and their conveyancing teams, the reason for non-completion and the stage the move is at. The government has asked for people to delay their moves, even if they have exchanged and legal experts have created clauses to achieve this.
If the buyer or seller insists on still completing, there could be penalties for not doing so, but most conveyancing solicitors will negotiate this fairly. If you have only had offers accepted, both parties can pull out of the deal at any time. Talk to your conveyancing solicitor about completion.
Aren’t all properties vacant when you move in? What do the government guidelines mean?
Apart from new builds, most people will be moving into a property that someone else is moving out of. Usually, this move in happens on the same day the previous owner is moving out. Typically the seller has to be out of the property by 1pm, and often there are delays with people underestimating how long the move will take, or how much help they’ll need.
In terms of the lockdown, if you’re moving into a property that has only recently been vacated, it means you’re putting yourself and your removals team at risk, as you can’t tell whether they have had the virus. You also won’t have time to properly clean the property.
The government says that moving into a vacant property is still okay, but by that they mean a property in which no one has been living for a significant amount of time, not one that has been recently vacated just before your move.
What can we do whilst waiting to complete?
Whether you’ve started packing or not, having a good clear out can be therapeutic and will cut the costs of your removals when you’re able to move in. You can also start preparing for any work you’ll need to do at the new property, by getting the plans or measurements from the seller/estate agent. Now is the time to make those decisions about décor and future layout. Get inspiration from Pinterest, source suppliers and make wish lists so you know exactly what to do when you do move.
You can also have a look at our article on what you can do during lockdown to prepare for your move.
We completed but now we can’t move in – will we be charged for leaving the property empty? Do we still have to pay the bills?
If you have completed and the property you are moving to is empty, then this should be classed as a ‘move house where reasonably necessary.’ However, if you can’t move for any reason or want to wait, then remember that upon completion you are responsible for all bills. Double check your insurance as properties are typically covered for being empty for 30 days. If you think it maybe longer than that, check to see if your insurance company can accommodate this.
The purchase went through but our sale didn’t – will this impact our Stamp Duty payment?
If you own two properties at the point of purchase, then you will have to pay the 3% additional Stamp Duty, but you can reclaim this money from the government if you sell the first home within three years.
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