No one is happy with the residential conveyancing system.
No one is happy with the residential conveyancing system. In fact, one could say that there is total dissatisfaction all round.
The clients, or should I call them customers now, are fed up. ‘We agreed to buy the house nine weeks ago; we don’t need a mortgage and have nothing to sell. What on earth is going on?’ Estate agents are frustrated. ‘Mrs Jones, cash buyer, no chain, but six weeks have passed and still nowhere near an exchange. Does anyone know what is happening?’
Conveyancers are bogged down in a plethora of enquiries unrelated to their job of approving the contract and providing or investigating the title and agreeing the transfer – normally about 30 minutes on each side, but still nothing binding between the frustrated parties. From this, it is clear that the system is not fit for purpose in the 21st century and must be replaced by one that is.
We need to get back to the situation of 50 years ago when contracts were exchanged no more than 14 days after estate agents sold the property and notified the conveyancer of the details. Even 14 days is too long and I believe that a rapid exchange is easily achievable.
Rather than cherry-picking individual indemnity policies, what is required is a block policy covering all searches, planning, title defects and other extraneous matters – and this should be provided by the seller with the contract. This block policy should be in standard form, and agreed between the relevant insurance company representative, the Law Society, and the CML on behalf of the lenders. No doubt reference to the policy can be incorporated into the Standard Conditions of Sale.
Once these arrangements are in place, it should be possible to exchange contracts without delay, provided an appropriate mortgage offer is in place.
Owen Wellbelove, solicitor, Hayling Island