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Will proposed Civil Service strikes affect house purchases and sales?

The Land Registry has issued a statement regarding the strike action planned by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCSU) on 30th June 2011. The Land Registry is a government agency, and many of its staff are members of the PCSU, so anyone involved in a property transaction will want to know if strike action will affect them.

The Land Registry states that they will be endeavouring to ensure that any disruption is kept to a minimum. They have also stated that their business e-services should not be affected by any strike. The majority of Conveyancing Solicitors are registered users of business e-services, and so should be able to obtain all the usual services they require from the Registry without interruption.

The most time-sensitive requirement on a property purchase is the pre-completion title search which has to be carried out by the buyer’s Conveyancing Solicitors just prior to completion. This is to check that there have not been any changes to the register since an official copy of the title was issued before exchange of contracts. It also protects buyers by ‘freezing’ the register and giving them a priority period in which the purchase transfer can be registered. Any other applications to change the register received during the priority period will be deferred until the transfer is received. Providing that Conveyancing Solicitors can make these searches without any difficulty there should not be a problem, although buyers Solicitors would be advised to order any searches before the strike day to be on the safe side.

Apart from the Land Registry, the only government department involved in most Conveyancing transactions is HM Revenue and Customs, which collects stamp duty land tax. However stamp duty returns are normally now returned online, and that facility would be unlikely to be affected by any strike action. Even if it was, stamp duty only becomes payable after a purchase has been completed, so it would not affect completions.

Providing that the strike action does not go on for any longer than one day, there should be little interruption or delay in most property transactions. However, if more strikes take place, Conveyancing Solicitors will need to consider what action they need to take to protect their clients.

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