25-point plan for better buying and selling | Feature

One Gazette reader recently posted a comment (anonymously) saying ‘the law (particularly conveyancing) has simplified’. I disagree wholeheartedly. 

Rob Hailstone

Back in my conveyancing days (up until 2005) there were no ID checks or anti-money laundering issues. The basic process was: to take instructions, obtain contract and title documents, raise a set of standard enquiries (asking maybe two or three additional ones), submit a couple of searches, await a mortgage offer, provide your client with a concise but useful post-exchange report, collect the deposit, get the contract signed and exchange, with a personal completion two weeks or more after that.

I admit that there were many more unregistered titles to check then – a specialist and useful skill that is sadly dying out, but a skill that will be required in fewer and fewer transactions anyway.

The crux of the matter now is that the amount of work a conveyancer has to do, the tasks they have to carry out and responsibilities they have to assume, have at least doubled, while of course, the fees being charged have not. Conveyancers now have complex SDLT, AML, ID, Source of Funds, Japanese knotweed and numerous searches to deal with. Logic dictates that the more tasks you have to complete (relying on third parties in order to complete them), the longer will be transaction times. As well as these additional tasks, consider that we are living in the 21st century where instant responses, results and delivery are expected by most people, and we have, for the time being at least, an insoluble conundrum. Speed versus thoroughness.

In a recent survey, I asked the following question: do you enjoy being a conveyancer as much as you did in the past? A staggering 86% of those who responded said no. And a worrying one-third of respondents surveyed by another stakeholder said they intend to leave conveyancing within the next five years, with a significant percentage looking to leave within the next 12 months.

I also asked several frontline conveyancers to provide me with a five-to-10-point wishlist of things that would help improve the home buying and selling process and make their day-to-day jobs more enjoyable. That list, set out below, now has 25 suggestions on it. The question is, where do we go from here?

  • Reduce the backlog at HMLR.
  • Simplify SDLT.
  • Ban completely, or limit, the amount allowed to be paid by way of a referral fee.
  • Shut down, or improve, the conveyancing firms that are continuously slow and inefficient, and are either often connected to paying referral fees, or just considered to be conveyancing ‘dabblers’.
  • Agents and conveyancers to provide more information up front.
  • Get conveyancers involved earlier in the process.
  • Make owning a Property Logbook compulsory.
  • No longer let caveat emptor be the principle that sellers have to adhere to.
  • More policing and enforcement of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.
  • A unification of instructions and requirements from all lenders.
  • Chain sheets to be provided by estate agents.
  • Make ID and anti-money laundering checks more practical.
  • Deeds of Variation are required more and more often now regarding section 121 of The Law of Property Act 1925 – government should legislate.
  • Tackle the issues with regard to leasehold, managing agents and the completion and return of LPE1s.
  • Target to improve their process on completion of redemption of H2B charges and removal of their charge at the Land Registry.
  • Improve the way completion money is transferred on completion.
  • Greater use of electronic signatures.
  • More use of standard protocol documents as not everyone uses the Law Society versions.
  • Reduce the number of additional searches being marketed as essential – especially environmental and planning searches. The more you ask, the more you must advise and act on the results.
  • Reduce the ridiculous demands from new-build developers for urgent action in every transaction.
  • Reduce the number of interruptions conveyancers receive throughout the working day.
  • Ensure estate agents have a basic understanding of the conveyancing process.
  • Lenders to advise when the mortgage advance has been released and is on its way.
  • Do not ask conveyancers to advise on climate change.
  • Provide clear guidance as soon as possible on how conveyancers should deal with the Building Safety Act 2022.

Add to the above the fact that some firms relying on conveyancing for a significant amount of their income can now pay as much as 20% of their turnover for PII cover and you have a sector of the legal profession that is being hit from all angles.


Rob Hailstone is CEO of Bold Legal Group

Source link

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *