Considerations for moving or selling your home following separation or divorce during the Covid-19 pandemic

Senior Solicitor Bindu Malkan shares some considerations for those thinking of moving home or selling during COVID-19, following divorce or separation.

Anyone going through divorce (or even contemplating divorce) knows it can be a difficult time. There is already a degree of uncertainty involved regarding what the process is, how it will be, what will be the outcome and how will that outcome be implemented. However, with Covid-19, there are even more ambiguities to contend with.

For most people, their main resource is the family home. When separating, one has to consider what will happen to this:

  • Will the home be retained after divorce/separation until a certain life event happens?
  • Will the home be transferred to the other person on payment of a lump sum (buy-out)?
  • Will the home be sold, and the proceeds divided between the individuals?

In the event one needs to move home or sell their home, it is possible to do this during the pandemic, providing the guidance is strictly followed: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

During Covid-19, you might wonder whether it is best to put things on hold and perhaps delay the separation. However, time, money, personal safety, or mental well-being may make it difficult to postpone matters. In this situation, there are some aspects to consider, depending on whether you are in the process of discussing/negotiating an agreement or have reached a final agreement.

What to consider if you are selling your home and negotiating an agreement:


Time limits

  • Factor in extended timeframes and allow some flexibility to change the timetable

Valuations

  • It is important that valuations are up-to-date as possible and reflective of the current market to avoid any shortfall in the settlement.
  • Consider agreeing different valuations to allow for different eventualities

Third parties

  • Consider alternatives in the event the removal firm, estate agency or solicitors’ firm cannot meet your requirements within a particular time or if for some unfortunate reason (may be Covid-19), the firm/company close
  • Rather than naming a particular third party, consider leaving the name generic, to be agreed later

Renovations/Repair

  • Consider whether the relevant builder/tradesmen, will be available to do the work, again within the time needed
  • Consider any potential increases in the cost of the works and how those will be funded

Viewings

  • Consider how best to facilitate these and if virtual viewings will suffice
  • Consider what happens if there is a delay in viewings taking place
  • Consider if one person does not/cannot allow viewings

Payment of outgoings

  • Consider who will pay for what and for how long
  • Factor in any delays with the home selling
  • Consider what happens in the event of non-payment by one person (for whatever reason)

Mortgage (if buying another property at the same time)

  • Consider the terms of any mortgage offers and whether it might be necessary to seek extensions and any associated charges with those extensions
  • Consider the term of any fixed-rate mortgage
  • Consider any potential changes in interest rates and the impact on monthly repayments.

What to consider if you have already reached an agreement/have a court order


Time limits

  • Consider if time-limits need to be extended in order to comply with a court order
  • Perhaps agree to vary the timetable or consider a court application

Valuations

  • It may be impossible to agree different valuations once there is an agreement/order, therefore careful consideration during the discussion/negotiation stage is key

Third parties

  • Consider if third parties need to be replaced in order to comply with a court order
  • Perhaps agree the replacement by consent or consider a court application

Renovations / Repair

  • Consider if third parties need to be replaced in order to comply with a court order.
  • Perhaps agree the replacement by consent or consider a court application
  • Consider whether agreement for payment of repairs/renovation is varied by consent or if a court application needs to be made for non-payment

Viewings

  • Most of the same provisions that are listed above are likely to apply

  • Perhaps agree any changes to viewings by consent or consider a court application

Payment of outgoings

  • Consider whether agreement is varied by consent or if a court application needs to be made for non-payment

Mortgage (if buying another property at the same time)

  • Most of the same provisions that are listed above are likely to apply.

Next steps

The above are just some aspects to consider, there may be other points, but it is always advisable to consider what you are agreeing and what could happen if matters do not proceed as planned. Always seek advice from a solicitor and preferably, before an agreement is reached and even prior to discussing/negotiating such an agreement so that issues that you might not have considered, can be discussed/negotiated.

Separation/divorce is hard enough but add to that the difficulty of moving or selling your home can heighten stress and emotion. When you then ‘throw in’ these unprecedented times (COVID-19), having clear, concise, and practical advice from a solicitor can be invaluable now and in the longer term.

CONTACT BINDU

If you would like more information or advice relating to this article or a Family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Bindu Malkan on 020 7183 5683.

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© SA LAW 2020

Every care is taken in the preparation of our articles. However, no responsibility can be accepted to any person who acts on the basis of information contained in them alone. You are recommended to obtain specific advice in respect of individual cases.