A specialist regulator will allow conveyancers to defer fee payments to help them cope with the coronavirus crisis, which has brought the property industry to a near standstill.
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers says it expects the home moving industry to bounce back in the longer term, but believes the short-term economic effects for conveyancers will be particularly difficult.
As a result, it is giving members the option to defer paying their practice fee and compensation fund contributions for April, May and June. Most CLC-regulated practices pay monthly by direct debit. They will be allowed to repay the sums over four or 12 months, starting in July.
Firms will need to apply to defer payments and provide financial information to support their application, as well as details of the steps they are taking to support their practice. They must still continue to pay professional indemnity insurance premiums.
The regulator has been surveying members on the impact of the pandemic and said many firms are furloughing staff under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, deferring VAT and income tax payments, and applying to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Some firms will temporarily close their offices with the CLC’s permission.
CLC chief executive Sheila Kumar said: ‘It is right that we act swiftly to support the firms we regulate. We want to ensure they can continue to operate and provide essential services to their clients in an appropriately regulated environment.'
Feedback from firms suggests that the move will be welcome, she said. 'Should the challenges for the sector continue past June, we will look at what further steps we can take.’
Fees for those regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority are collected at the start of the practising year, so there would be no payments to defer. An SRA spokesperson said: ‘We, like other organisations and law firms, will be considering the longer-term impacts of the pandemic in due course once they are properly understood.’
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.