As the talk now moves towards the road out of lockdown and when sites can re-open, this raises the question about what else needs to happen to allow completion of house sales?
How do you achieve sign off from the Local Authority to allow occupation?
On 14th May the Scottish Government updated guidance issued at the start of lockdown whereby Local Authority Building Standards officers were encouraged to be pragmatic and flexible in the delivery of their building standard verification services. The updated guidance encourages the use of remote video inspections as evidence within the context of the verifier signing off on new build houses for habitation. Scottish Government has indicated that a remote video inspection can substitute for a physical walk through inspection to facilitate compliance checks and achieve the occupation of housing. Housebuilders and Local Authority Building Standards Departments are encouraged to work together to develop ways in which this digital process can be enhanced, not only as part of working through current challenges, but also with a view to the development of a formalised remote inspection practice.
As for sign off by the new build warranty provider, a number are similarly providing services by way of inviting builders to upload digital information that will allow the required confirmation to be provided. The message these providers are promoting is they are still open albeit working remotely to service the house building industry.
Can the Solicitors settle the transaction?
The closure of the Registers of Scotland to paper applications caused a temporary disruption to settlement of transactions. However whilst the Registers remain closed to paper applications, a process has been introduced to allow digital registration and the Registers have been diligently working through the backlog of applications. Legislation introduced in April remains in place to allow for any settled transaction to retain the protection of an advance notice until expiry of 10 days after the Registers are fully re-opened. This protection allows transactions to complete.
The advice from The Law Society of Scotland to solicitors is settlement of transactions can proceed provided the move can be completed safely and in accordance with the current Scottish Government guidance and regulations.
Can the Purchasers access their mortgage requirements?
If Purchasers are nearing the end of their existing mortgage offer, then they should be able to obtain an extension on their loan offer for up to 3 months to allow the funds to be available for settlement. The major lenders have approved the statutory measures put in place by the Law Society and Registers of Scotland to allow transactions to settle whilst the Registers of Scotland remain closed to paper applications.
So, once sites re-open, there is a way forward for transactions to complete, but it will require the housebuilders, the lawyers, the lenders, the Local Authority Building Standards Departments and the new build warranty providers to work together to achieve this.