When undertaking Equity Release work it has always been important to discuss the product in detail with our clients given the need to ensure they fully understand the implications of the borrowing and to rule out any financial pressures from others.
During the lockdown is has become much harder to undertake meetings in person, especially for vulnerable clients. Some of our clients have been self isolating due to their health or their age whilst others have simply been worried about how they stay safe whilst still moving forward with something which is really important and necessary for financial reasons.
At Clark Willis we have continued to support our equity release clients however we can. From face to face appointments in the garden (weather permitting!) to video conference appointments under the Equity Release Council’s ‘Stay at Home’ protocol. In all cases we have still been able to go from offer to completion in around 2 weeks.
Following the change in the government guidance for England from ‘Stay at Home’ to ‘Stay Alert’, we have now obtained up to date clarification from the Equity Release Council as to whether their Stay at Home Protocol should still be followed in all cases when solicitors provide legal advice to their clients.
The ERC have confirmed that if clients are happy to meet face to face, whilst still strictly following social distancing measures of course, the ERC have no objections.
If clients are not comfortable to have their solicitor visit them at home, then it may still be possible to complete the legal advice section of the equity release process by video conference, using the Stay at Home Protocol which can be viewed at https://www.equityreleasecouncil.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Stay-at-Home-Solicitor-Appointment-flowchart.pdf
It is not clear how long the protocol will be available as an option when giving legal advice. Whilst we have always protected vulnerable clients who want to enter into equity release, it seems to me that having another option available whilst there is a chance that clients could place themselves in danger by being forced to meet their solicitors face to face, is the right thing for all concerned.
If clients or professional advisors require any help with equity release, don’t hesitate to contact the Residential Property team at your local Clark Willis office Alister, email firstname.lastname@example.org. or visit our website www.clarkwillis.com