Your legal questions concerning house buying and selling answered by Philippa Rudd, of Cozens-Hardy solicitors.
What happens during a house move transaction if someone dies?
We are often asked by anxious clients to tell us what could go wrong during the course of a conveyancing transaction. We try not to alarm them but of course we have plenty of horror stories where something has gone badly wrong. One question we are often asked is what happens if there is an untimely death? If you are buying a house from a vendor who dies before exchange, then there is nothing you, as the purchaser, can do. You need to hope that the executors will wish to still sell the property to you once they have the grant of representation which is needed to make title. Should your vendor die in the period between exchange of contracts and completion, then the sale will be binding on his estate and his personal representatives are bound to complete the contract but they cannot actually do so until the grant of representation has been issued, and this could take several weeks. Completion will undoubtedly be delayed whilst waiting for the grant, and you will be entitled to damages. If you have a sale of your own, you may be forced to complete your sale and move into temporary accommodation until you can finally proceed with the purchase.
If you are selling your house to someone and once you have exchanged contracts, the buyer dies, the contract will be binding on the buyer’s estate and his personal representatives step into the shoes of the deceased. They will be bound to complete the contract. Again, there will be a delay whilst the personal representatives obtain the grant of representation. If the buyer was relying on mortgage finance, his mortgage offer will obviously be revoked and the personal representatives will have to try to find an alternative source of finance. You will be entitled to keep the deposit paid on exchange and to claim damages. You, as the vendor, may be prepared to negotiate a release of the personal representatives from the contract.
Philippa is at www.cozens-hardy.com