More openness on referral fees and regulation of estate agents are among the solicitor profession’s proposals for speeding up the home buying process in England and Wales.
In a 32-page response to a government call for evidence, Chancery Lane points out that 'solicitors and licensed conveyancers are highly regulated, and we believe that the process would be improved if estate agents were subject to some increased regulation'. This would help enforce minimum standards requring 'all relevant information about a purchase' to be shared at the outset, the Society said.
Information to be disclosed would include referral fees, the Society says, calling for further action to enforce existing requirements for transparency.
Law Society president Joe Egan said. ’Home buyers and sellers should be aware of their rights, as well as the responsibilities of all stakeholders in the transaction. This should include an overview of the process and the potential costs and fees involved. We are calling on the government to ensure consumers have access to this information at the beginning of transactions.’
The recommendations appear in a response to a Department for Communities and Local Government call for evidence on improving the home buying process. The Society says it is ’broadly supportive’ of government proposals revealed in October. However it expresses scepticism at the suggestion that ‘innovative digital solutions’ could be the answer to delays. ’Technology can play a key role in improving the conveyancing process,’ the response states, ’but we do not see this as the “silver bullet” to remedy any weaknesses in the current system.’
On regulation for estate agents, it says that agents could be obliged to let the buyer know that: they act for the seller, not the buyer; how to complain about their service; the amount of any referral fees. They would also have to reveal ‘material information’ about any property the buyer is interested in viewing.
On referral fees, the Society stops short of calling for a ban but observes: 'If referral fees for conveyancing services were banned there could be scope for better service standards.'