The standard terms and condition of sale (fourth edition) as published by the Law Society say:
5. Pending Completion 5.1 Responsibility for property 5.1.1 The seller will transfer the property in the same physical state as it was at the date of the contract (except for fair wear and tear), which means that the seller retains the risk until completion. 5.1.2 If at any time before completion the physical state of the property makes it sustainable for its purpose at the date of the contract: a) the buyer may rescind the contract b) the seller may rescind the contract where the property has become unusable for that purpose as a result of damage against which the seller could not reasonably have insured, or which it is not legally possible for the seller to make good.
Our contract for buying our house says it incorporates these standard terms and conditions, but adds:
3) The Standard Conditions of Sale shall be amended as follows: i) Standard conditions 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 shall not apply and the following condition shall be substituted: if the Property is destroyed or damaged prior to actual completion and the proceeds of any insurance policy effected by the Buyer are reduced by reason of the existence of any policy of effected by the Seller the purchase price of the Property shall be abated by the amount of the reduction but this special condition shall not apply if the proceeds of the Seller's policy are applied towards the reinstatement of the Property pursuant to any statutory or contractual obligation
The latter means that if the house were to burn down between exchange and completion, and our insurance refused to pay out because their insurance existed, they'd reduce the price of the burning hole in the ground from 200K to 125K. But we'd still be obliged to buy it at this new price, and somehow persuade our mortgage company they still wanted to not only lend us the money to buy the wreck but also the money to rebuild the house on it. Our solicitor being sceptical of the generosity of mortgage companies suggested that we insist that they remove this clause, and that if the wouldn't do so we will exchange and complete instead on the same day.
We expected to exchange today, if they'd remove the clause, and hadn't heard anything until a letter in today's post setting out the amount we need to transfer to the solicitor on the 22nd for exchange and completion on the 23rd. Which means we have to make all the remaining preparations for the move in the full knowledge that there's still no binding contract on us to buy or the seller to sell. Which is incredibly frustrating given our landlord wants to be able to advertise the place, and a potential new tenant who was keen to move in pretty immediately after we move out is left without any guarantee the place is going to be available. Argh.
And the stupid thing is I should have really expected it, and not be so bowled over by it today at all, but somehow I'd let myself assume all would go according to the most convenient plan. Sometimes I could do to be a bit less optimistic. I just wish the solicitor had rung or mailed us to confirm that the earlier exchange date definitely wasn't on.