Residential Newsletter: Summer 2020
Meet the team: Julie Sims, Senior Associate
I have worked at the firm now for almost two years, having left my previous firm where I worked for almost 13 years. Freeths has always had such a great reputation so, when the opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance.
Why did you choose to specialise in Residential Conveyancing?
My very first part time job was working as an office junior for a Conveyancing firm whilst at college, and I quickly grew to love the work and meeting different people. Moving house can be very stressful for people, and I enjoy making that process easier and smoother for them. No two jobs are ever the same, which keeps it interesting.
If you could have a meal with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Albeit potentially difficult at present as no one knows how he is, but I’d choose Michael Schumacher. I would be fascinated to listen to all of his stories and get an insight into the actual person, not just as a racer. Other than him, there are so many possible people to choose from I would have to give it some more thought!
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I met Princess Diana when I was a child and she spent a few minutes chatting to me. I will never forget that.
Stamp Duty holiday for residential property purchases
At least stamp duty is getting a holiday this summer…
In a bid to bolster the residential property market, the Chancellor used July’s Summer Statement to announce a temporary tax cut. As always the ‘devil is in the detail’, but it is safe to say that there will be a saving on all normal residential transactions.
Stamp duty land tax (SDLT), a tax which is paid when properties and land are bought, has been cut for residential buyers. The nil rate band of residential SDLT normally applies to the first £125,000 of a property’s purchase price, or £300,000 for first-time buyers who are buying a property worth less than £500,000.
Following the Summer Statement, most residential property buyers who purchase a house costing up to £500,000 before 31 March 2021 will not pay SDLT. Tax will be payable on any amount paid over £500,000 with the rate of SDLT for all buyers starting at 5% (8% for a second property).
The SDLT rates below apply for residential purchases from 8 July 2020 to 31 March 2021:
|SDL Rates||SDL Rates|
Additional residential property purchase
|Up to £500,000||
|The next £425,000 (the portion from £500,001 to £925,000)||5%||8%|
|The next £575,000 (the portion from £925,001 to £1.5 million)||10%||13%|
|The remaining amount (the portion above £1.5 million)||12%||15%|
The Treasury has estimated that the temporary rates will reduce the average SDLT bill by £4,500, with nearly 9 out of 10 people purchasing a home during this period paying no SDLT at all. From 1 April 2021, the rates of SDLT payable will revert to the rates before 8 July 2020.
Wales & Scotland
From 27 July 2020 until 31 March 2021, the nil rate band for Welsh Land Transaction Tax payable on normal residential transactions has been temporarily increased from the first £180,000 of the purchase price to £250,000. The rates of Scottish Land and Buildings Transaction Tax payable on residential property purchases have also been revised from 15 July 2020 until 31 March 2021. Again, the 0% band has been increased so it will apply to the first £250,000 of the purchase price, up from £145,000.
On certain high value purchases of residential property there is significant scope for large SDLT savings on top of those achieved by the temporary reduced rates. These are purchases which include an annex or other dwellings within the property, or where there is a significant non-residential element (e.g. agricultural land). The savings are simply achieved by carefully assessing the technical rules in order to apply the correct SDLT reliefs available for some residential purchases. As an example, for a recent property purchase which completed on 31 July (thus also benefiting from the temporary reduction in SDLT) we were able to achieve a saving of over £360,000 when the correct SDLT reliefs were applied.
Residential conveyancing during the COVID-19 pandemic
The residential property market was one of many areas severely impacted by lockdown measures introduced by the Government in March 2020 to manage the public health crisis. With the first phase of easing lockdown restrictions taking place from mid-May, those in England were able to move home in line with ongoing safety and social distancing guidelines. Below we speak to Rebecca Maeers, Director and Head of Residential Property (Nottingham), about her experience of a handling a residential conveyancing matter during this time.
Earlier this year I became involved in the sale of a fairly substantial residential property on behalf of a couple that had separated. The sale had been agreed several weeks before the UK-wide lockdown was introduced but, with one of the parties still living at the property with the teenage children, completion had been agreed to take place after one of the children had finished sitting their A Level exams in summer 2020. We were almost ready to exchange contracts (making the agreement to sell/buy legally binding and requiring the buyer pay the deposit) when lockdown was announced.
How did lockdown affect the transaction?
In the early days of lockdown, the proposals for exchange changed on an almost daily basis as the situation and implications of the restrictions changed. Whilst my clients were keen to have the security of exchange, the uncertainty caused by lockdown meant that the buyers ultimately did not want to exchange until this was lifted.
The effect of lockdown on residential conveyancing was a pretty unique situation to deal with. I worked with the Freeths Knowledge Management Lawyers to draft and approve various clauses and riders to contracts (additional provisions included in the original contract for sale) to counteract the uncertainty caused by lockdown, and felt very lucky to be at a firm which had this fantastic resource available. The spirit of the Conveyancing Protocol also meant that it was a relatively simple task to agree variations to contracts where necessary as (nearly!) all parties and lawyers were looking to achieve the same goals.
How did the transaction progress?
The realities of COVID-19 meant that the sellers’ circumstances had changed once the housing market was re-opened in mid-May as A Levels had been cancelled so the completion date could be brought forward. My clients still needed some time between exchange and completion to arrange removals (including some fairly large items) and to arrange a rental property, however, this was at odds with the risk to the buyers of having a lengthy period between exchange and completion. The parties agreed some safeguards in the event that further public health restrictions were introduced, such as a rider to the contract in the event that completion could not take place and a licence to store items in part of the property if all could not be removed.
What did you learn about residential conveyancing during this time?
Mainly that law firms, particularly ones with excellent IT systems such as Freeths, can continue to progress transactions even during the most restrictive of lockdowns!
The only real issues preventing completion during lockdown were the restriction on physical movement and absence of removal firms for health reasons. This meant that completions involving parties who were actually moving could only take place once restrictions were eased. Personally, I dealt with a number of transactions that were able to complete during the most restrictive part of lockdown where this was not the case, such as sales/purchases of investment properties and the sale of a property to tenants who were already physically living there under an assured shorthold tenancy agreement.
How do you think residential conveyancing will be affected in the future?
The market appears to have bounced back following the lifting of the lockdown, with the Residential Conveyancing team at Freeths receiving a higher level of new instructions and enquiries than pre- COVID-19. The recent amendment to Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) announced earlier this month has also had a positive impact.
There seems to be a significant appetite for both buyers and sellers to continue with residential property transactions currently – long may it continue!
Businesses and individuals across the UK are feeling the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak and finding straightforward answers to questions about the virus and how it affects people, both in their personal and working lives, can be tough. Don’t forget, Freeths can provide up to the minute, practical advice on the latest COVID-19 developments in a range of areas, including residential conveyancing, via our support hub. You can access this by visiting www.freeths.co.uk/coronavirus.
The Core Residential Team
If there is anything in this newsletter you would like to discuss, please feel free to contact our Residential Property team, who will gladly assist you.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
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