How to give your home’s paperwork a spring clean ready for selling
Before you sell your home, a key task is ensuring you have all your legal paperwork in order and up to date.
The coronavirus lockdown may have delayed your plans to sell but, alongside touching up the paintwork and finally shredding that pile of old papers, now could be a perfect time to tick another job off the list and get you ready for when current restrictions begin to ease.
On behalf of OnTheMarket, national law firm Stone King has put together the following practical tips on how to ‘spring clean’ your property’s legal paperwork while strict social distancing measures remain in place.
Locate and review your deeds
In order to sell your home, you will need to prove your ownership by producing your property’s title documents, or deeds. If you cannot locate them your solicitor can carry out a Land Registry search for you.
If the property is not registered at Land Registry, and the title deeds cannot be found, a solicitor can take statements and apply to Land Registry to create a registered title on the basis of those statements.
Once you have located your property’s title documents, it is important to check that all the details, such as names and address on the title document and the boundaries shown on the plan, are correct. Things to look out for include:
– that the boundaries are marked up correctly and that you have not, for example, been using additional land that is not part of your property
– that rights for any private drainage or water supply are noted
– that any rights of way used are noted.
What if corrections are required or you are not sure about a detail?
If you need to update or correct your title documents, we would always recommend checking with a lawyer first so they can advise on what is legally required. Once you are certain, an application can be made to the Land Registry to make necessary changes.
If you are uncertain about a right of way or a boundary, in the first instance you can speak to your neighbour – keeping the required two metre distance during lockdown of course – to ask them what is recorded on their deeds.
Gather papers relating to alterations
Depending how long you have lived at your property, you will almost certainly have made some changes. When you sell, you will be asked to produce all related legal paperwork and receipts, including relevant permissions and documentation from the local planning authority, for any extension, loft conversion or significant structural work.
If you own a flat, consent from the freeholder is usually necessary in addition to planning approvals.
Even relatively small changes, such as minor electrical installations or a new gas hob, may also need accompanying permissions and paperwork. If you did not seek or gather these at the time, now is the opportunity to tidy up these gaps.
New paving or decking in the garden
Depending on the area of new paving in relation to the property and the material used, planning permission may be required for paving added in front of your home.
In some cases, where decking and any extensions and outbuildings take up more than half the area of a garden, and the decking exceeds a certain height, planning permission may also be required. Even if you are outside of the time limit set for seeking permission, you may still need to arrange indemnity insurance.
Similarly, there are restrictions on the height of a garden fence which, if exceeded, may require additional permissions.
Special rules for paving and decking apply to flats and houses converted from other uses, such as office or retail use.
Inside your house, any major and many minor electrical works will require an installation certificate. As a general rule, if you carry out any work that involves rewiring, you will need a minor works installation certificate.
Home maintenance records
Electrical test certificates are necessary at all residential properties every five to 10 years and boilers should be serviced every 12 months, with relevant paperwork retained. Any alternative heating systems, such as oil or solar panels, will also require the related legal paperwork and maintenance records.
If your property has a septic tank, you should keep all service and emptying records and receipts, together with any required environmental permits and other permissions for its installation and discharge.
For all of the above, your lawyer will be able to advise what is required for your specific circumstances and help to ensure that you are in the best position to sell your house as quickly as possible once lockdown is eased.
Keep looking during lockdown
While the Government has advised against in person viewings of properties during lockdown, virtual viewings are available on many properties so you can still keep an eye on the market. A property that you previously viewed in person may well still be available.
If your property is already on the market, there is no need to take it down due to lockdown. If you keep it on the market, once restrictions are lifted you may have a number of viewing requests.
OnTheMarket has a dedicated page for coronavirus information and advice.
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