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Regional law firm Napthens is calling for special conditions to be included on house move contracts which are trapped by the coronavirus pandemic.

With the latest government advice to avoid moving house while the stay-at-home measures are in place, it leaves thousands of home moves in limbo until the restrictions are lifted.

Simon Ainsworth, partner at Napthens, said one way of keeping deals alive during the period is to insert a one-off coronavirus special clause in sale contracts.

The clause would allow parties to exchange contracts while maintaining social distancing advice yet enabling either party to delay completion because of factors caused by Covid-19, he said. This could include circumstances such as lenders being unable to release funds, removal firms not being available, clients self-isolating or being diagnosed with the virus or being unable to have signed and witnessed documents in place.

Similarly, a ‘get out’ clause allowing people to walk away from the sale without incurring substantial penalties would need to be included should the social distancing advice still be in place in a few months, he added.

Simon Ainsworth said: “The purpose of a coronavirus special condition in sale contracts would be to ensure house moves can be put on pause and completed quickly once the advice is lifted. Equally, should it last for an extended period of time, or a person’s circumstances change as a result of the virus, a get out clause would allow them to walk away without being seriously penalised.

The conveyancing team at Napthens is keen to work closely with estate agents to ensure deals are still done where they can be, even if completions need to be delayed. 
However, their overriding aim is to ensure clients follow the government’s guidance and stay safe during the crisis – using special clauses like this can help achieve both.

Thankfully the government is allowing the purchase of vacant properties to proceed and we are able to buy and sell investment properties already occupied by tenants as nobody is physically moving in that case.

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