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Society updates best-practice guide for conveyancers

By Monidipa Fouzder

The Law Society has updated a guide outlining conveyancers’ obligations to reflect changes in the property sector such as the Court of Appeal’s decision in Dreamvar, as well as proposed leasehold reforms and transparency rules.

The 2019 protocol, which comes into force on 19 August, replaces the 2011 edition. It must be followed by members accredited under the Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme.

Chancery Lane says it has reduced the number of steps that make up the following stages: instructions; submitting a contract; prior to exchange of contracts; exchange of contracts; completion; and post-completion.

The steps that need to be taken at each stage when acting for the seller or buyer are outlined alongside each other.

Under regulatory requirements, the protocol states that the seller’s solicitor must provide an estimate of fees and disbursements, client care/retainer information, terms and conditions, make clients aware of fraud risks and the methods for avoiding them, and consider whether other tax advice may be relevant. The buyer’s solicitor must also quantify and explain non-optional disbursements such as Land Registry fees and stamp duty, and explain other disbursements and provide estimates, such as environmental reports.

On client identity and verification, the buyer’s solicitor must be satisfied that the seller’s conveyancer will give the undertakings for completion in the Law Society Code for Completion by Post.

Contract bundles can be emailed but each document must be a separately identifiable attachment or uploaded individually. On leasehold properties, the buyer’s solicitor is told to ensure that the client is aware of the difference between freehold and leasehold ownership.

Buyers’ solicitors are told to raise only specific additional enquiries required to clarify issues arising from submitted documents or that are relevant to the title. Indiscriminate use of ‘standard’ additional enquiries could breach the protocol. Sellers’ solicitors are told to beware how bank details are submitted.

Simon Davis, Law Society president, said: ‘The protocol is a tool which helps conveyancing solicitors to achieve most effectively the transfer of residential property. It aims to provide consistency across transactions and improve efficiency. It has been adapted to ensure continued relevance for practitioners. This includes the new Law Society Code for Completion prepared following the Court of Appeal decision in Dreamvar.’

(Courtesy: Law Society Gazette)