Is Your Property Completion on the 19th of September?

Monday the 19th of September may have been a date to look forward to for many homebuyers who would have been moving into their newly purchased properties. However, that date will now welcome the Queen’s state funeral, with the country receiving a bank holiday as a result. The appointed monarch, King Charles III gave his approval to the Privy Council at St. James’ Palace last week. As a bank holiday will arise, offices, schools, banks, post offices, and estate agencies will be shut - homeowners will therefore need to wait a couple of days to obtain the keys for their oasis. 

Rob Hailstone, the CEO of the Bold Legal Group (BLG), said : As far as my memory can recollect, we have not had a sudden ‘bank holiday’ descend upon us at least at such short notice, if in fact ever. A bank holiday means banking institutions typically close for business on such holidays, as they once used to do on certain Saint’s days. That, in the home buying and selling world of course means that no completions can take place (cash is no longer an option!). That presents a problem, because exchanges will have already taken place for completions set on the 19th of September.’

He adds thatbanks will be closed as will most, if not all law firms and estate agents etc. Completions due to take place on the 19th will have to be moved. Ideally everyone involved will understand that the situation that has arisen could not be foreseen and will react in a cooperative and flexible way. Thankfully, I imagine that a Monday, three weeks into September will not be one of the busiest moving days of the year. However, there will be complications and some of those will be in chains, agreeing a new moving date that suits all parties, could be very complicated in some cases. Removal companies will no doubt be inundated with calls, and some might find it difficult to accommodate the requests that are being made. If you are at the bottom of the chain and can’t complete, will you be in breach of contract? If you are at the top of the chain selling an empty property, in theory you could still complete it if the purchase money reached you, but if you have a mortgage to redeem maybe you couldn’t actually complete it, because you will be unable to redeem that mortgage on the day of completion.

A few BLG members further exclaimed their opinion:

'If the parties can’t agree I think it would be quite easy to suggest the contract has been frustrated, as an unforeseen event has made performance of the contract for the contracted date impossible, and who could actually serve notice to complete in any event …’

‘Just circulate a single sided contract to re-exchange [signing it on behalf of your clients with their consent] and even offer it up to the chain to use.’
‘Common sense says all parties need to speak to one another to try and look at amending completion date as it is not just law firms and banks but agents and removal companies etc. common sense and calm needs to be had.’

John Shallcross, a Blake Morgan LLP associate, posted the following on the BLG forum last night:

Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 section 1
1 Bank holidays
(1) Subject to subsection (2) below, the days specified in Schedule 1 to this Act shall be bank holidays in England and Wales, in Scotland and in Northern Ireland as indicated in the Schedule.
(2) If it appears to Her Majesty that, in the special circumstances of any year, it is inexpedient that a day specified in Schedule 1 to this Act should be a bank holiday, Her Majesty may by proclamation declare that that day shall not in that year be a bank holiday and appoint another day in place of it; and the day appointed by the proclamation shall, in that year, be a bank holiday under this Act instead of the day specified in Schedule 1.
(3) Her Majesty may from time to time by proclamation appoint a special day to be, either throughout the United Kingdom or in any place or locality in the United Kingdom, a bank holiday under this Act.
(4) No person shall be compellable to make any payment or to do any act on a bank holiday under this Act which he would not be compellable to make or do on Christmas Day or Good Friday; and where a person would, apart from this subsection, be compellable to make any payment or to do any act on a bank holiday under this Act, his obligation to make the payment or to do the act shall be deemed to be complied with if he makes or does it on the next following day on which he is compellable to make or do it.
Does the last section mean that, even if there is no revised contract, move-in days scheduled on the 19th can now take place on the 20th without any penalty? We hope that now is the perfect time for agents, homebuyers, legal firms, and the general public to work closely together so that there is not a ‘completion date fiasco.