Our seller can’t be contacted and is holding up the transaction. What can we do?

Q: We're buying a property and have found out the transaction is being held up because one of the owners (they are separated) lives abroad and cannot be contacted. What can we do?

 

This is a thorny problem.

The Land Registry will not be able to deal with the title without either:

– A Transfer signed by all registered owners or their representative under a power of attorney or probate/letters of administration (if they have died)

– A Transfer signed by Court on behalf of the absent owner

The Land Registry obviously have to be extremely careful because of the risk of fraud.

The ideal solution would be for the seller to locate the absent owner and arrange for them to sign the document themselves (it could easily be emailed anywhere in the world) or to grant a power of attorney to someone in the UK to deal with the sale on their behalf. In my experience, there is usually a parent or sibling who will have contact details for someone who has gone away so further investigation by the seller may well help. If they can provide the last known address it may even be that the estate agent could on neighbours to see if they have the contact details. People rarely go away without leaving an emergency contact.

If the absent owner is completely untraceable then in very restricted circumstances, where it can be proved that all other avenues have been exhausted and that the purpose for which the property was originally bought no longer exists (e.g. the provision of a marital home) then the Court may grant an order allowing the Court to sign the Transfer on behalf of the absent owner. The absent owner’s share would then be held by the Court until they returned to claim it.

Answered by Beth Rudolf, Conveyancing Association

 

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