Call for urgent action ahead of stamp duty holiday deadline

Solicitors’ leaders are calling for urgent action to be taken to ease growing pressure in the residential property market ahead of the stamp duty land tax (SDLT) holiday deadline on 31 March 2021.

The Law Society is among key players in the home moving process who have written to the government asking for changes to be made to enable people to take advantage of the SDLT relief and to reduce the immense burden faced by solicitors and others working in the conveyancing process.

“We welcomed the stamp duty land tax relief when it was announced by the government in July* as an important support and stimulus for the residential conveyancing market at a very difficult time,” said Law Society of England and Wales president David Greene.

“The SDLT holiday helped increase transactions and, despite two months of lockdown, overall 2020 volumes are expected to end the year higher than last year, which is a positive result for the economy.

“However, this surge in demand, together with operational constraints as a result of COVID-19, mean average property transaction times are lengthening. In that context, the way the current relatively short holiday window ends abruptly based on completion dates poses significant risks for consumers as well as businesses in the market.

“The government needs to take urgent action as soon as possible to ameliorate the 31 March deadline.

“Promoting and supporting good mental health and wellbeing for solicitors is a key priority for the Law Society,” he added.

“Solicitors are doing an incredible job in extremely challenging circumstances, with our members – who are working until the early hours, often remotely, with colleagues on furlough, and under great strain to facilitate moves ahead of the deadline – telling us they have never known a time like this.

“Many factors limiting the speed of a move – delays in the issues of searches, delays in mortgage offers, problems in the chain and with dependent transactions – are usually out of the control of the conveyancer.

“An extension to the deadline, or introducing appropriate transitional arrangements, would help release the growing pressure on the conveyancing system, including that on solicitors.

“We are keen to work with the government to ensure buyers are able to complete their desired moves and to ensure the right balance of stability, fairness and confidence in the market is in place when the stamp duty holiday ends.”

Notes to editors

*The government announced the stamp duty land tax holiday in July. It ends on 31 March 2021.

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