Dealing with property while social distancing


As we come to grips with a health and social reality unlike anything we have ever known, there are important things we can do.  Most critically of course is the need to conscientiously follow Government directives and do everything we can to contribute to the safety of our community. As property lawyers, our team’s responsibility is to ensure you can continue your property dealings as seamlessly as possible.  Property matters need to, and will, continue. Sunset dates and completion dates will need to be complied with.  People will need to sell land, renegotiate leases and finalise developments.  This article explains how we will ensure your property dealings can continue in a time of social distancing.

Electronic leasing and conveyancing

Since August 2017, New South Wales has been transitioning to electronic leasing and conveyancing. This means you can attend to most conveyances, leases and many other dealings without attending our offices.

At SWS Lawyers, we facilitate this securely by using the following technologies:

  • We verify that you are who say you are through the WebVOI platform.  This requires you to have a passport and drivers’ licence or other specified forms of identity available.
  • We deliver your draft contract or lease electronically to you, the agent and the other party’s lawyer (when appropriate).
  • We advise you on the contract or lease by phone or Skype as well as by email.
  • We arrange execution of the contract or lease and any other required documents via DocuSign technology.
  • We stamp contracts internally via Electronic Duties Return or eDuties.
  • We register leases, and settle contracts for sale, electronically via PEXA.  You or your agent can even follow progress online.

We are constantly reviewing new ways of making property transactions easier for our clients and technology is a crucial investment to ensure we can offer the most convenient options for our clients.

Land Registry Services

In light of our use of online platforms, very few of our matters require registration of paper documents at Land Registry Services.  Most can be lodged electronically through PEXA.

There are some dealings, however, which are currently lodged in person at NSW Land Registry Services.  For example, a Variation of Lease, Change of Name, Positive Covenant and Transfer Severing a Joint Tenancy.  The NSW Land Registry Services has announced that these can be lodged by a “drop and go” service.

Court actions

We regularly advise clients on actual or possible litigation on a range of land related matters including:

  • development applications;
  • easements;
  • notices to complete or other disputes arising from contracts for sale; and
  • make good or other leasing disputes.

This week, the Land & Environment Court announced a COVID-19 pandemic Arrangements Policy.  Directions hearings and lists will be held via telephone or decisions made via Online Court or email.  As this Court specialises in land matters, site visits tend to be involved in many conciliations and hearings.  Going forward, parties will need to consider whether site inspections are crucial and, if the Court deems them to be, social distancing measures must be complied with.  Hearings will continue in person with limits around numbers in the court and a new emphasis on requiring written evidence and submissions.

We will continue to update this article as the COVID-19 policies of the NSW Government and LRS develop.

About us

Elizabeth McDonald, Principal leads the Property and Planning Team at SWS Lawyers.