If you can’t move because of snow, what happens?

If you can’t move because of snow, what happens?

Sue Shaw-Toomey of Toomey Legal explains:

If you have exchanged contracts and you cannot move because the removal men can’t get to you what do you do? This week a client was selling a house which was in a rural Northumberland setting. By a stroke of good luck, they had moved out a week before and were already cosy in their rented house when the Beast from the East hit.

On the completion date the removal men for their buyer refused to take their belongings to the new house as they said it was unsafe for them to drive there. So where does that leave my client the Seller?

The contract had a fixed completion date. There is nothing in the standard conditions to cover this and therefore the Seller was entitled to serve a Completion Notice on the Buyer. This means the Buyer is responsible for the costs of serving the Notice to Complete (around £150) and interest at 4% above base rate on the full purchase price. The full deposit of 10% of the purchase price has to be paid immediately. On exchange it had been agreed that there could be a 5% deposit held to order (which means not actually paid but held by solicitors by a chain of undertakings). Therefore, the Buyer would have to find this money immediately.

In case of long periods of bad weather, you should also note that the Notice to Complete gives the Buyer 2 weeks to complete otherwise the contract can be ended by the Seller. This means that the Buyer loses the 10% deposit (even if he goes on to buy the property) and is liable for any loss arising from the Seller having to resell the house. As well as extra mortgage interest, this includes estate agent’s fees (they are payable if exchange of contracts takes place) and any difference in the purchase price achieved on a second sale.

If the property is in a rural location, ask you lawyer to allow for delay on the completion date due to adverse weather conditions. Some places may be cut off for well over a week and that could mean you lose the 10% deposit and the house that you wanted.

So what happened here? My client accepted that the delay was for a genuine reason that was out of the control of the Buyer. Despite this Buyer behaving badly (reducing the purchase price and changing the completion date just before exchange) they instructed me not to serve a Notice to Complete. Everyone managed to move a day later.