Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus (COVID-19)


Buying, selling and coronavirus

In this section you'll find information and updates related to coronavirus that are relevant to the law on buying and selling.

The UK's response to coronavirus is changing regularly and often very quickly. While we'll continue to make every effort to keep this page up to date, there may be short periods where what you read here is not the latest information available. Where possible we've tried to provide links to official sources, so you can check the current situation.

Complaints, disputes and your consumer rights

See the Coronavirus (COVID-19) section in our Complaints and disputes guide for information on your consumer rights, travel disruption, rogue advertising and court action during the pandemic.

Signing contracts with electronic signatures

Due to social distancing restriction, signing contracts has become more difficult during the pandemic. This has put new focus on electronic signatures and their validity.

Electronic signatures include all signatures where the person signing does not use a pen (or other writing instrument) by hand to write directly on paper. In English law, electronic signatures are not a new concept. In 2019 the Law Commission published a report confirming that electronic signatures could be used to execute (i.e. formally sign) documents and deeds.

The report did not consider the execution of wills, or deeds that need to be submitted to HM Land Registry for registration. However, HM Land Registry issued updated guidance on 27 July 2020, confirming that it will, until further notice, accept certain deeds for registration that have been signed electronically if:

  • both parties to the agreement agree that electronic signatures should be used;
  • both parties have conveyancers controlling the signing process;
  • a 6-step signing and dating process has been followed; and
  • the conveyancer certifies that the correct procedures were followed.

If the person signing the contract using an electronic signature intends to be bound by the document they're signing, and all other legal requirements such as witnessing are complied with, e-signed contracts will be just as enforceable as one signed by hand.

You have to be careful, though, when the signature is on behalf of a corporation. Ask the signatory to confirm that they have authority to sign and bind the corporation by electronic means and check the corporation's articles for any indication that electronic signatures are restricted.

Home buying: ADS reclaim extension (Scotland)

In Scotland, home buyers normally have 18 months in which to sell their previous home in order to reclaim the Additional Dwelling Supplement. This period has now been extended to 36 months for those who made purchases between 24 September 2018 and 24 March 2020 (inclusive). See Revenue Scotland for full details.

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