Scottish Government issues own guidance for buying and selling homes

Those buying or selling private residential homes in Scotland are urged to delay moving to a new home while stay-at-home measures are in place under new guidance from the Scottish Government.

Scottish Government issues own guidance for buying and selling homes

While it stresses there may be no need to pull out of transactions, the guidance includes a reminder that “we should all be trying to reduce social interaction between people in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus”.

It adds: “People are therefore urged to delay moving to a new home while stay-at-home measures are in place.”

Previous guidance issued by the UK Government called for parties involved in home moving to “adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes” and to “amicably agree alternative dates to move” if possible.

The guidance noted: “Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with this transaction although you should follow the guidance in this document on home removals.

“Where the property is currently occupied, we encourage all parties to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against COVID-19 will no longer be in place.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart had previously said the Scottish Government is “broadly supportive” of the UK Government guidance, but that it was developing a version adapted for Scotland which took into consideration the differences between the Scottish and English systems.

In its own guidance published yesterday, the Scottish Government also urged parties to work together to amicably agree a delay or another way to resolve the matter but added: “If the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on social distancing to minimise the risk of spreading the virus as a result of the move.”

People who must move house can proceed if the following both apply:

  • you are able to complete the move safely, i.e. you and anyone else involved in the move can maintain all the social distancing requirements (view the guidance on social distancing on NHS inform); and
  • the property into which you are moving is empty or can also be safely vacated.

Housebuilders are asked to follow the latest Scottish Government guidance, which makes specific reference to the construction industry, due to be published shortly. Housebuilders can continue to take online reservations during this period and can work with their customers to line up sales for completion in the future.

Surveyors should also follow the latest Scottish Government guidance and may continue to support the residential property market if they can do so in a way which is fully consistent with the social distancing advice.

For solicitors, the guidance states: “Solicitors should continue to support the sales process as far as possible and consistent with the protection of the safety of themselves, their staff, clients and the wider public and compliance with the stay-at-home measures against coronavirus.

“Solicitors should make sure their clients are aware of the difficulties of completing transactions in this period, particularly where any documentation requires to be physically signed (and/or witnessed), including dispositions and standard securities. Reference is made to the Guidance and Practice notes issued by the Law Society of Scotland and the Keeper’s up-to-date guidance on registration. In particular, solicitors should make every effort to support clients who are due to move in the stay-at-home period to change the date of the move.

“Where possible, as noted above, if missives have been concluded, encourage seeking agreement between the parties to a variation to missives concluded to take account of the COVID-19 outbreak and not to move.

“Priority should be given to supporting anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, and we urge them to do all they can to help a new date to be agreed in these circumstances.

“Where reasonably necessary, the movement restrictions imposed by the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (S.S.I. 2020/103) may provide a reasonable excuse to allow clients to move (regulation 8(5)(l)). This may apply where contractual provisions remain binding and safety precautions are taken.”

Last week, Registers of Scotland (RoS) temporarily closed the application record after the government agency moved to safeguard the health and wellbeing of employees who scan files sent via post from around the country.

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.
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