How Has COVID-19 Impacted Conveyancing?

COVID-19 has certainly thrown the whole world into chaos this year, with every person, household, business and industry affected in some way. Like many industries, the real estate market has continued to operate, albeit with a few significant changes. Robert Wood and Associates is home to an expert team of conveyancing lawyers in Melbourne, who are continuing to provide an end-to-end conveyancing service throughout the pandemic. In Victoria, the use of e-conveyancing has been mandatory for most standard transactions involving real property for some time and this meant conveyancing has been able to seamlessly continue. However, we have been asked a few questions in recent months about the effect of Coronavirus on certain property sale and conveyancing matters.

Will Settlement Be Affected?

At a paper settlement, representatives of all parties attend a specified venue and exchange documents and bank cheques. Fortunately, in Victoria, paper settlements are now a rarity with e-conveyancing systems mandatory for most property transactions. E-conveyancing enable parties to complete all of the necessary steps to complete the transaction without leaving their workplace or home, ensuring a smooth settlement regardless of social distancing restrictions.

Do Conveyancing Documents Still Need to Be Witnessed?

There are strict obligations on the person who witnesses your transfer and other conveyancing documents to check that you are who you say you are. This is to minimise the possibility of fraudulent transactions. Documents which must continue to be signed in the presence of a qualified witness (solicitor or justice of the peace) include:

  • PEXA (e-conveyancing) authorisation declaration. This form authorises your conveyancing lawyers to undertake the electronic conveyancing process on your behalf.
  • Transfer duty (previously stamp duty) declaration forms (for first home buyers). These confirm how you are purchasing your property and allow for an assessment of how much transfer duty you need to pay on your transaction.

These documents will still require an in-person appointment with your conveyancing lawyers to verify your identity and obtain a signature, however these are generally the only times where you will need to be seen in person. Legal firms are prepared for these engagements and will practice the required social distancing and cleaning procedures and will send other documents to be signed electronically wherever possible.

Do Sellers Have to Clean Properties to A COVID-19 Standard?

A seller must provide the property in a condition consistent with when the contract was signed. There is no obligation to clean the property to a particular standard, however sellers should consider following the advice from authorities in relation to cleanliness and sanitising. Buyers might like to consider inserting a special condition in the contracts before they sign if they want a property to be cleaned to a certain standard.

Can a Contract Be Cancelled Due to COVID-19?

A party cannot cancel a contract specifically due to Coronavirus. Both the buyer and seller must continue to comply with their obligations under the contract. It is expected that some buyers or sellers may use other terms or conditions of the contract to cancel or terminate COVID-19 concerns or issues. If you have any concerns about your contract seek professional legal advice as soon as possible.

At Robert Wood and Associates, our preferred approach for conveyancing transactions is through an electronic conveyancing platform. The benefits in using this platform is that the process is more streamlined, making it a quicker and easier process for all parties involved. If you are looking for experienced conveyancing lawyers in Melbourne to assist with your property transaction during COVID-19, call us today on (03) 9762 3877 or contact us online.

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