The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent public health orders have undoubtedly caused concern and disruption in the property market. However, with existing technology and the right legal advice, it is possible to significantly reduce the risks of buying and selling property during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are fortunate that in recent years New South Wales has moved to an electronic conveyancing platform known as PEXA for almost all property transactions. This coupled with the ability for solicitors to verify a client’s identity remotely and for contracts and other documents to be signed electronically, it is now possible to buy and sell property without actually leaving the comfort of your home.
However, there is still the risk of being subject to a self-isolation order, Government imposed lockdown or becoming ill from the COVID-19 virus which could impact on someone’s ability to fulfill their obligations under a contract for the sale of land. For example, it may be difficult to provide vacant possession on the sale of a property if the vendor or a member of their immediate family is directed to self-isolate in the property being sold.
There are generally no provisions in a typical contract for the sale of land that permit a party to delay settlement due to unforeseen circumstances such as those we have experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore important that your solicitor considers these issues carefully and an appropriate condition is included in the contract. Delay in the completion of a sale or purchase may result in interest being payable by the defaulting party, and could even result in a party being entitled to terminate the contract, forfeit the deposit and sue for damages.
While there is no doubt we are living in difficult and uncertain times at the moment, with the right legal advice you can rest assured that your interests are protected when buying and selling property.