The CLC has issued the following advice to regulated firms. This has been circulated as a CLC Managers Newsletter.
Coronavirus – Impact on transactions
The CLC has received a number of queries about proposals to insert a Coronavirus clause into Contracts in conveyancing transactions. The CLC’s view is that so far as is consistent with the interests of the client you should continue to work within the Standard Conditions of Sale. There is a risk of unintended consequences if an untested Coronavirus clause is inserted into the Special Conditions. This may also put the underlying transaction and other transactions in the chain unnecessarily at risk.
We suggest that there is a discussion with the client well ahead of exchange of contracts of the likely consequences of delay and how these might be avoided or mitigated (eg if the client falls ill or has to self-isolate on the day of completion). Your standard Report on Title should already explain to the client the consequences (as set out in the Standard Conditions of Sale) of either party failing to complete. The Report should be updated to take account specifically of the risks associated with COVID 19 as discussed with the client.
The Law Society has published guidance COVID-19 and residential conveyancing transactions which aligns with the CLC’s approach.
Coronavirus – Business Preparedness
The CLC is testing its remote working arrangements as part of its business continuity plan if some or all members of staff are unable to attend the office as a result of the Coronavirus epidemic. Clearly, we want to do all we can to ensure that normal business can continue.
All practices should have in place their own business continuity plans for ensuring the continuing delivery of services to your clients. If you have not already done so we recommend that those are tested and reviewed in the light of Covid 19. This should take account of evolving guidance for business and individuals, the absence of any consensus as to how long the epidemic is likely to last, and when an effective vaccine will become widely available. It should also provide for contact to be made with an RSM at the CLC immediately there is a risk, or delay, to the delivery of services.
Please ensure that all managers and members of staff are aware of the latest guidance about Coronavirus which is regularly updated.
Please contact your RSM should you have any questions.”
Comment from the CA
We have been receiving questions from CA Members to clarify what we believe to be best practice for our Members as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. We add the following comments which should be read alongside the CLC and Law Society communications.
It must be acknowledged that each legal practice will have their own parameters of operation and may decide to act differently to suit their abilities.
Exchange of Contracts: Legal Practices should have adequate disaster recovery procedures in place to deal with the eventuality of exchanging contracts and completing transactions remotely in the event of an office closure. If they do not, they may need to consider simultaneous exchange and completion provisions in order to protect their positions and that of their clients.
Office Closure: All CA member practices should be working towards a remote working contingency, which will allow them to still process those transactions that require their urgent attention.
We wish all members well in dealing with these unprecedented times.