Can I sell my property during lockdown?
Written by Don Macleod, Partner, Turcan Connell
On 24 March 2020, the Land Register of Scotland (the “Land Register”) closed to all applications for registration. This meant that it was no longer possible to register transactions in the Land Register throwing uncertainty as to whether or not it was possible to settle property sales.
Interim measures were put in place allowing certain property transactions to settle, but these did not apply to all sales and in particular did not provide a suitable framework for settling more complex rural and/or commercial transactions.
From Monday this week, the Land Register is starting to accept applications for registration which can be submitted using its new electronic service. That is not to say that the Land Register has fully re-opened. To avoid a flood of applications after nearly five weeks of closure, the Land Register is tackling the backlog of applications using a phased approach.
From 27 April 2020, the Land Register will only accept applications for transactions in respect of which an “advance notice” (being a formal notification of a forthcoming transaction) was registered with them on or before 19 February 2020. This approach will be followed on a day to day basis, so that applications can be submitted for transactions in respect of which an advance notice was registered on or before 20 February 2020 and so on. The Land Register hopes that by adopting this approach the backlog of applications can be processed allowing it to then fully re-open to all settlements.
So what does this mean for the sale of my property?
For property owners who have experienced delays in settling the sale of their property, the introduction of the Land Register’s electronic application service is good news. However, it may mean waiting in the queue until the appropriate time. The Land Register may also consider accepting applications outwith the phased timetable for those who will face serious personal or financial hardship if they cannot settle on the required day.
It is also worth noting that transactions which also require to be recorded in the Sasine Register (being the older property register which remains closed) cannot be submitted using the electronic application service. This typically applies where new rights and obligations for services and accesses are being put in place where part of a larger property is being sold. We do not know yet when the Sasine Register will re-open but it is likely to be after the Land Register has fully re-opened and possibly once there has been some easing of lockdown restrictions. Other factors outside the Land Register might also affect whether or not a sale can settle, such as the availability of removal companies.
In short, things are moving in the right direction and we will start to see a number of more straightforward property sales settle. While there is still a degree of uncertainty as to how and when other sales might settle (particularly those which also require to be recorded in the older Sasine Register), there are steps which can be taken now in order to be in a position to settle when the Land Register fully re-opens to all transactions.
Thanks to Don Macleod, Partner, Turcan Connell