Many people across New Zealand have agreed to purchase and sell property with settlement scheduled during the COVID-19 lockdown period (level 4). This poses several issues that need to be taken into consideration:
- Pre-Settlement Inspections
If you are purchasing property, you will not be able to complete a pre-settlement inspection in person. You could however agree to do one via video-call.
- Signing Documentation
The usual process is that you would meet with your lawyer in person to sign your settlement documentation. This is no longer possible due to the lockdown restrictions which means that clients will be needing to meet with their lawyers via videoconferencing to sign their documents.
- Issues with moving house
While you may be able to complete settlement in the monetary sense and title to the property can still be transferred, you will not be able to physically move into the house. Further, vendors may not be able to move out of the house which means that they cannot give vacant possession upon settlement.
In some instances this won’t be an issue, such as where the property is tenanted and the tenants are staying on or you are purchasing or selling bare land.
What can you do?
We would suggest that you get in contact with your lawyer to discuss your particular situation. You may need to negotiate a delay in the settlement date. It has been suggested that both parties could agree to defer settlement to the 10th working day after the Government reduces the COVID-19 level to level 2 or below. Ultimately, however, it will depend on your particular situation.
As noted above, there will be situations where it will be fine for settlement to go ahead during the level 4 lockdown period.
It was noted by the New Zealand Law Society that, “Lawyers need to counsel clients accordingly. Admittedly that will be difficult for some to understand and accept, but it is the reality in which we find ourselves”.
This article is not a substitute for legal advice and you should consult your lawyer about your specific situation. If you need any assistance with a purchase, sale or other property matters please feel free to contact Paul Owens – firstname.lastname@example.org, Luke Hayward – email@example.com or Judith Bullin – firstname.lastname@example.org at Parry Field Lawyers.