Solicitors’ leaders are urging consumers to have realistic expectations about achieving their dream move before the looming stamp duty holiday deadline.
Many people are keen to conclude their sales and purchases prior to Christmas, while others entering the housing market in the New Year will still be hoping to take advantage of the stamp duty land tax (SDLT) and land transaction tax (LTT) holidays which end on 31 March 2021.*
The end of the tax holidays also coincides with the busy Easter holidays period – a popular time to move – and the end of the Help to Buy scheme in its current format.
“Solicitors are working under pressure around the clock to help their clients move – both in time for Christmas and ahead of the SDLT deadline,” said Law Society of England and Wales president David Greene.
“The next few weeks are going to be very busy with people wanting to complete their desired move before Christmas and our members know an even busier and more stressful time awaits them up to the end of March.
“Consumers must recognise that it is increasingly unlikely that if they sell/buy their house now, they will complete by the 31 March deadline.
“The solicitor is often the last link in the move, and it is only when the solicitor has all the pieces, which they are dependent on obtaining from others, that buyers and sellers can move.
“Many factors limiting the speed of a move – delays in the issuing of search results, delays in mortgage offers being issued, problems in the chain and with dependent transactions – are usually outside the control of the conveyancer and they cannot guarantee that transactions will complete before the end of March.”
Buyers and sellers can take some steps themselves to help matters to progress in a timely fashion, as outlined in the Home Buying and Selling Pledge**.
“It is important that law firms prepare in advance for the avalanche of work that conveyancers are likely to face as the deadline approaches,” added David Greene.
“Firms should manage the expectations of new clients hoping to move before the SDLT holiday ends and support must also be provided to solicitors whose mental health is under strain as they work long, unsociable hours.
“Solicitors are struggling to cope with the large volume of emails and telephone calls from clients and estate agents all of whom are understandably anxious to know the current position, but the time spent dealing with such enquiries prevents solicitors from progressing matters.”
“We raised this issue with the UK government in October and again in November urging them to ameliorate the 31 March deadline,” concluded David Greene.
“Options to achieve that could include extending the deadline or introducing appropriate transitional arrangements in order to help release the growing pressure on the conveyancing system, on buyers and sellers and on solicitors.”
Credit: Nick Mayo | The Law Society