Nearly five years after the Law Society successfully campaigned for HSBC to expand its conveyancing panel to include all firms accredited under Chancery Lane’s specialist kitemark, the High Street lender has raised the mortgage threshold for sole practitioners who can act for the bank and borrowers.
HSBC has announced that it will increase the loan threshold imposed on sole practitioners registered under the Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) from £150,000 to £350,000.
HSBC’s head of secured lending, Tracie Pearce, said the bank’s decision would provider ‘greater choice and flexibility’ for customers and cut homebuying costs.
The Society welcomed the change, which came into force today. Robert Bourns, president, said: ‘The CQS accreditation marks a solicitor’s commitment to maintaining the highest standard of skill and service, and the value solicitors bring to an often complex deal.
‘HSBC’s decision shows that those dealing with conveyancers know that when a solicitor is CQS-accredited they can be relied upon to be at the top of their game. It is a welcome change that will benefit both solicitors and their clients.’
In 2012 HSBC agreed to amend its conveyancing approach to enable all CQS-accredited solicitors to act for HSBC and its mortgage customers, following a four-month campaign by the Society. CQS-accredited sole practitioners were able to handle all cases with mortgage values up to £150,000.
Previously only firms on HSBC’s managed panel of conveyancers were able to act for the borrower and lender, with all other firms able to act for the borrower only.
Under HSBC’s conveyancing system, those applying for a HSBC mortgage have three options when seeking a solicitor or licensed conveyancer. They can choose:
- A solicitor firm or licensed conveyancer on its managed panel;
- A CQS-accredited solicitor firm or licensed conveyancer who can act for the homebuyer and the lender; or
- A solicitor or licensed conveyancer who is able to act for the mortgagor but not HSBC, which would cost £295 including VAT in addition to the chosen firm’s fees.
The Sole Practitioners Group was 'delighted' with HSBC's announcement. Chair Kemi Mosaku said: 'Everyone should have access to independent legal advice from a solicitor of their choice and, of course, we welcome any initiative on the part of lenders which widens consumer choice.
'Obtaining CQS accreditation requires solicitors to have stringent procedures in place and the public and indeed banks can thus rest assured that they are getting advice from experts.'
Mosaku urged other lenders to follow suit by increasing mortgage lending limits in the same way.