What is a Conveyancing Solicitor and What do Their Services Cover?
You know that you need a conveyancing solicitor and know the basics of why you need one. But what are all the services that are included?
Conveyancing solicitors don’t just write legal contracts, nor do they just arrange the title transfer and registration with the Land Registry. They also provide a comprehensive service to homebuyers which includes legal advice regarding the contract, any issues that have been highlighted by the property surveyors and the mortgage offer. In addition to this, they also perform a myriad of different searches through the relevant local authorities which can reveal detailed information that relates to the property that you intend on buying. These searches could include –
- Local authority questions such as public paths, common land, pipelines, building plans and noise abatement zones.
- Checking environmental flood risks which can be done at the land registry.
- Water authority research to determine how your water would be supplied and if there are any public drains on the property that will potentially affect any prospective building work or extensions in the future.
- Checking the title register and title plan which are legal documents that prove the seller’s ownership of the property. Both of these checks are legal requirement in order to sell a property.
- Additional and location specific research. For example, if the buyer is concerned about fracking in Yorkshire or tin mining in Cornwall.
What Are the Different Types of Conveyancers?
Licensed conveyancers do not have the same level of training or law experience as conveyancing solicitors, but they are qualified and deal exclusively with property law. They can work anywhere that deals with the title transfer of a property or piece of land. Their scope of work isn’t just limited to a law firm. They can undertake work within anything from property development companies, housing associations, building societies and with local authorities. In 2017 it became a requirement that licenced conveyancers have a badge placed on their website to show that they are regulated by the Council of Licensed Conveyancers within the UK.
Conveyancing solicitors are fully qualified practitioners who can undertake all aspects of the conveyancing process on your behalf and generally have a wider scope of experience in the other aspects of law surrounding the property spectrum. This wider range of experience can often prove useful if you are dealing with additional legal matters at the same as buying your new home.
Conveyancing solicitors within England and Wales are required to be registered with the Law Society which is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The SRA regulates more 180,000 solicitors including single practising solicitors to corporate companies that have a global presence. All practising solicitors are required to adhere to the same code of conduct and principles, and the SRA provide them with professional advice to enable them to do so. The current standards and regulations can be found in the SRA Handbook here.
Both conveyancing solicitors and licensed conveyancers are capable of undertaking the conveyancing process when you are buying a new property, and there is little distinction between the two. However, you are best seeking a conveyancing solicitor if you are looking for any additional advice apart from buying the property itself.
It may come as a surprise that anyone can act as a conveyancer and in the UK, there is no existing law that prevents anyone taking on the process themselves. However, we do not recommend taking on this process yourself as it is complicated and there is a high risk of making mistakes, and when dealing with property, the risks are too high. Most people recognise this risk which is why the majority of conveyancing is undertaken by fully qualified solicitors.
What Does the Process Involve and What Should I Expect When Buying a Property?
Once a purchase price has been agreed and accepted by the buyer then that’s when you begin working with a conveyancer. However, it is important to remember that an offer on its own isn’t a legally binding agreement until the contracts are exchanged and that the conveyancing process takes up to twelve weeks to complete. However, the types of process do differ depending on whether you are selling or buying a property, or both.
Firstly, your conveyancer will draft a contract for you to agree and sign which will outline the conditions of sale, particulars of sale and the agreed completion date. At this point, it is important for you the check the tenure of your new property to determine whether it is freehold or leasehold. Leases that are under 80 years can often be problematic and expensive to extend, and you also need to have owned the property for at least 2 years before you qualify to do so. In general leases under 60 years are best avoided.
The drafted contract will then be sent to your seller’s conveyancer. Once the draft has been approved by both parties, then a standard contract will be drawn up. One this final contract has been agreed and signed, the conveyancers will then exchange the contracts at which point the deposit will be transferred.
The date of completion in which the property is legally transferred to your name. By this stage, the seller must have removed the last of their belongings in the property and given the keys to the estate agent who will then release them to you.