I've recently put down a reservation to buy a new-build flat in London, UK. This is one of the last flats available in the block and the builder is in a rush to complete and get the money as soon as possible. They set a deadline to complete the transaction of one month from the time we put down the reservation. This is much sooner than my partner and I would have liked, but we're accomodating their schedule, at a cost to ourselves: for example, my partner has taken time off work in order to attend an inconveniently scheduled appointment with the mortgage broker on a day's notice, and we will have to take a loss on a several weeks' rent as we were not able to find another person to take over our current lease in time.
As the scheduled completion date draws nearer, I'm beginning to worry that any minor setback will push us past the deadline. The dates that have been set by the builder are incredibly tight and don't allow any room for error. For example, the bank requested a reference letter from my employer, and the builder's schedule allowed 24 hours' notice to my employer to provide it. I work in a large corporation with a small and inefficient HR department, which has other priorities. It took a full day of emailing and calling to plead with them to get them to turn around the letter in that short period of time, and it very nearly didn't happen despite my best efforts.
According to the terms the builder set, if we fail to complete by the date they set, they have the right to cancel our reservation. The builder has been vaguely threatening about what will happen if we don't meet the deadline but has not said specifically what their plans are. I'm worried that even minor delays that are outside of my control could result in us going over the scheduled time and thus losing our reservation, the money we've put down, and the flat itself. As a first time buyer, I'd also like to make sure I have enough time to fully research and understand every step, rather than having to make important decisions under pressure.
My question is, what recourse do we have if we go over the deadline and the builder imposes a financial penalty and/or cancels our reservation? Does it matter that the deadline that they imposed in the first place was unreasonably tight and did not allow room for anything to go wrong?