The specialist regulator for conveyancers plans to cut regulatory fees for all firms by a fifth, it was announced today.
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers said it intends to apply an ‘across the board’ cut of 20% to practice fee rates from 1 November. Rates have been frozen for the past four years. Rates for contribution to the body's compensation fund ‘will remain flat’.
CLC chief executive Sheila Kumar said savings to the regulator’s cost base would ‘begin to be realised’ this year and ‘can be built into our planning for the coming years’.
She said: ‘Alongside the review of the CLC’s handbook that is now underway, these changes demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that specialist regulation of specialist property lawyers is as tailored and proportionate as possible so that we continue to support innovation and growth in the sector.’
The CLC is expected to consult on fee details in the next few weeks.
The announcement comes a month after the CLC’s business plan stated that there would be a review of the regulatory fees framework ‘on the back of reductions in staff numbers and streamlining of CLC activity’ in 2015.
After relocating from Chelmsford to London in August, the CLC’s 2015 annual report showed that it realised over £1m from the sales of its Chelmsford office and a nearby storage unit.
However, there was also bad news for conveyancers today, after research by search provider SearchFlow showed that only a third of practitioners carry out electronic anti-money laundering checks for all transactions.
According to SearchFlow’s conveyancing sentiment survey, 38% of conveyancers never carry out electronic identity checks to verify the customer’s identity; 29% ‘sometimes’ carry out electronic checks.
The findings showed sole practitioners were most vulnerable to fraud, with 5% carrying out electronic checks compared to half of larger firms (15 or more partners).
SearchFlow managing director Greg Bryce warned that money laundering schemes were ‘continually’ adapting, but that many conveyancers are ‘still merely asking to see their clients with their documentation’.
He said: ‘Conveyancers are leaving themselves open to criminal activity that can seriously impact their careers and reputations.’