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Buying or selling residential property during COVID-19

13 September 2021
by Canterbury Legal

Does COVID-19 need to put a stop to your residential property dreams? Not necessarily.

While COVID and lockdowns can stop plenty of things, they don’t stop property sales and purchases.

However, they can limit things. For example:

  • At level 4, you’re unable to move house, except under extreme circumstances. Conveyancing and real estate work can only happen remotely.
  • At level 3, viewings and inspections can only happen in certain conditions. Conveyancing work can only happen remotely.
  • At level 2, open homes and auctions are subject to physical distancing requirements.

For a full rundown of limitations and other issues, see the Ministry of Justice’s Guidance for property sales and settlements during COVID 19.

Because of these limitations, we recommend you take extra care with agreements for sale and purchase. If, for example, you sign one during level 2 and we move to level 4 before the settlement date, it might affect your ability to inspect the property, or to move on time.

So we recommend that your real estate agent includes text like that below in any agreement for sale and purchase. It means that should alert levels change during the buying or selling process, settlement will be deferred until five working days after we move into an alert level where settlement can take place safely.

[2?.0] COVID-19 Alert System Settlements 

[2?.1] As at the date of this agreement, New Zealand is at Alert Level 2 of the Covid-19 Alert System (the Alert Level) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic (the Pandemic). Under Alert Level 2, personal movement associated with the settlement of property transaction is permitted to occur. 

[2?.2] The parties acknowledge that the Government may change the Alert Level if there is a change to the public health risks in New Zealand as a result of the Pandemic. Any change to the Alert Level may apply nationally or in specified regions.

[2?.3] The parties agree that in a circumstance where:

(a) the Alert Level is increased, either nationally or in the region in which the property is located; and 

(b) the relevant order made by the Director-General of Health under the Health Act 1956 (or other legislative instrument, if applicable) which gives effect to the Alert Level provides that it would be unlawful for the personal movement associated with settlement to occur then; 

the date of settlement under this agreement will be deferred to the date that is 5 (five) working days after New Zealand (or, in the case of a regional Alert Level change, the region in which the property is located) enters into an Alert Level where the personal movement associated with settlement is permitted, or to such other date as may be agreed between the parties in writing. 

[2?.4] Neither pay will have any claim against the other in relation to the deferral of settlement in accordance with this clause. 

[2?.0] COVID-19 working day clause 

[2?.1] The parties agree that any period within the NZ Government COVID-19 Alert Level 3 or above shall not constitute a “working day” and the definition of “working day” at clause 1.1(37) of this agreement shall be read accordingly.

Need more guidance on how to go about buying or selling residential property during COVID-19, or anything else to help you on our property journey? Our property team is here to help. Feel free to get in touch with any questions.

And if you're thinking or buying or selling residential property before Christmas, make sure you register for our conveyancing deal and receive 20% off your conveyancing fees.

Protecting what matters to you is important to us. Please reach out to us if we can assist with your legal needs.

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