Up to 1,000 firms risk being removed from Santander’s conveyancing panel at the end of March unless they obtain the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme accreditation, the Society will warn this week.

In September last year, the bank changed the terms of its residential conveyancing panel to require all existing, as well as new, member firms to gain accreditation. Existing firms were given until 31 March to become part of the Law Society’s scheme.

However as the deadline approaches, the Gazette has learned that hundreds of panel firms have yet to apply for CQS and risk removal from the panel.

Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said the CQS process is ‘unashamedly rigorous, with thorough checking of applications’, with a turnaround time for properly submitted applications of between 12 and 15 weeks. He encouraged firms to get their applications in swiftly.

Hudson said: ‘While many banks are responding to regulatory pressure by reducing the number of firms which they will accept for conveyancing work, Santander is among those who have recognised the benefits of maintaining a broad list.’

A Santander spokesman said: ‘As part of the bank’s efforts to manage risks associated with mortgage lending, we are committed to managing our panel of conveyancing providers. CQS provides a means of maintaining choice and high standards for our customers while addressing those risks,’ he said.

Last July the Society criticised Santander, which has 13% of the mortgage market, claiming that a quarterly review by the lender had resulted in hundreds of firms being removed form its panel, even after they had paid a panel review fee.