It may seem like many months away, but the current Stamp Duty Land Tax concession is due to expire on 31st March 2021, which will arrive quicker than you think.

Whilst solicitors across the country will endeavor to do everything they can to ensure that the property transactions they are instructed on completes by this Government deadline, it is extremely important that all clients fully understand and appreciate that there is no guarantee.

As you will know from the news, the housing market is experiencing a boom as buyers are taking advantage of the SDLT holiday and sellers are benefiting from increased property sale prices.

Many external factors beyond the client and solicitor’s control could prevent sales and purchases from proceeding or completing by the SDLT concession deadline, and some of those factors are highlighted below by way of example:

Covid related issues:

  • National lockdown, local lockdown and tiered restrictions
  • Delays as a result of buyers and sellers or other parties involved in the conveyancing transaction having to self-isolate or contracting Covid.
  • Waiting for valuers and surveyors to undertake and prepare valuations and survey reports resulting in a delay in lenders issuing mortgage offers
  • Backlog of local authority and other searches
  • Delays at the Land Registry in dealing with registrations resulting in a hold up of official copies of deeds
  • Delays in Management Companies issuing management packs for leasehold flats
  • Transactions collapsing because of buyers and sellers losing their jobs or being put on furlough
  • Lenders withdrawing mortgage products and mortgage offers
  • Long delays at the Probate Registry in them issuing Grants of Probate (without which a sale cannot complete where the vendor is selling as Personal Representative)

Other issues:

  • The 31st March 2021 is also the date when the Government’s Help to Buy Scheme, in its’ current form, comes to an end
  • The expiry of the SDLT holiday also ties in with Easter weekend which is traditionally a very busy weekend for completing property transactions.

Additional Points to consider:

  • whether or not your client or other parties in the chain would still want to proceed with the transactions if the SDLT concession is not available?
  • if your client, and the other parties in the chain do still want to go ahead, are the funds available to do so? If your client is in a chain, they need to understand that even if they want to continue without the concession, others in the chain may not, which may mean that they will not be able to proceed in any event.
  • that if exchange of contracts does take place but the client, or other parties in the chain do not complete on the completion date, the client may unwittingly become liable for SDLT if completion is delayed beyond 31st March 2021. There will be other financial implications too.
  • by exchanging contracts and completing the transaction simultaneously before the 31st March 2021 it means that the deadline date is met, however, this could result in other issues that your client will need to consider. For example, the uncertainty and unpredictability of knowing the completion date until the actual day, difficulties of achieving simultaneous exchange and completion where there is a long chain, or booking and paying for removals only to find that simultaneous exchange and completion does not happen as hoped

that lenders may revise the terms of the clients or your buyer’s mortgage offer if the transaction does not complete before the expiry of the SDLT holiday