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New Year - new start
January is usually the month where people find themselves assessing their current living arrangements and relationships, and as a result, perhaps looking to make changes to their lives.
January is also the month for fresh starts and breaking old habits. This can have a positive or a negative effect on the individuals involved as sometimes this involves people breaking up, whether they decide to divorce, separate or go their separate ways as a co-habiting couple.
Most of the time these couples will have a jointly owned property to sell. We are normally instructed by both of the sellers to act in relation to the sale.
Selling a property under the usual circumstances can be stressful for any seller, however, when you are selling a property under difficult emotional circumstances, this can be extremely tough.
As lawyers, we usually act on behalf of both sellers in relation to the sale of the jointly owned property. We are bound by the regulations set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which means that we are under an obligation to act in the best interests of both sellers throughout the course of the sale.
Before we progress the sale in these circumstances, we have an initial conversation with both sellers which covers the following:
Are both parties in agreement?
We talk to each seller, to check they are both in agreement to the sale price, the transaction as a whole and how the matter will be progressed. We discuss time frames with the clients in order to check that they are in agreement with any proposed dates.
We discuss with the sellers their future plans in relation to where they will be living after the sale has taken place. This is to ensure that each of them is protected. Very often the sellers will have different plans. For example, one seller may be moving in with family or renting, whilst the other may be in the process of purchasing another property.
Is there a court order?
Sometimes a property is sold subject to a court order. The lawyer dealing with the sale will need to have a copy of the order, to check that this is fully complied with, in relation to the sale of the property.
How communication is managed?
If the sellers do not wish to communicate with each other in relation to the sale, then the lawyer may be asked to communicate with each seller separately, and sometimes send paperwork to different addresses. This is workable as long as both sellers agree to time frames and work with the lawyer in returning information quickly.
What happens if the parties cannot agree on the mechanics of the sale?
As lawyers, it is possible to act for both sellers in relation to the sale of a property, even if the seller’s relationship has broken down. We try to ensure that the transaction moves as smoothly as possible despite difficult circumstances. However, if the sellers disagree in relation to elements of the transaction, such as the sale price, time frames, refusal to complete information or are not contactable, then there is a risk we would need to ask the sellers to instruct separate lawyers.
This is because if the sellers cannot agree on the mechanics of the sale, there will be a conflict and the lawyer is in danger of not being able to act in the best interests of both.
The clients are warned of this at the outset, as we are extremely keen to ensure that both of the sellers’ interests are protected.