Philippa Rudd - EDP Property column. When things go wrong...

When things go wrong...

I have exchanged contracts to buy a house. We are due to move in two weeks’ time. Could anything go wrong now?

It is unusual for a problem to arise between exchange and completion of your purchase (when you move). However, at the risk of causing you unnecessary anxiety, if the seller were to die or go bankrupt in the period between exchange and completion, then there would be a problem.

What would happen in those cases?

If the seller were to die, the contract will still be binding on his estate, but there will be a delay while probate is obtained. If the seller were to go bankrupt in that period, the Trustee in Bankruptcy should transfer the property over to you, unless for any reason he chose to refuse to complete. Again, there would be a delay. 

What if either of us (the seller or myself) was to change our minds? Or if one of us has a change in circumstances?

Once you have exchanged, the contract is binding on both of you. Neither of you can back out. However, if you were to lose your job, your mortgage offer may be revoked, and then you would not be able to complete. If one of you were to refuse to complete then the other party can sue for damages and the seller could keep the deposit paid on exchange by way of compensation.

What if the house suffers some type of damage?

It will depend what the contract provides. Most contracts provide for the seller to bear the risk until completion. If the property is substantially damaged between exchange and completion, you may be able to rescind (cancel the contract) and claim refund of your deposit.

What if the seller just disappears with my deposit?

The seller’s solicitors will normally hold the deposit, therefore this is very unlikely.

Now I know what can go wrong I am even more worried! So many things could go wrong?

In fact, it is very unusual for a problem to arise between exchange and completion.  Most solicitors handle large amounts of completions every week with problems arising only very rarely.


To find out more, call us on: 01603 625231