Conveyancing Uncovered Part 1

Conveyancing Uncovered Part 1
This month’s guest blog post is a two part series and is part of the #FeatureFri, a Martin & Co social media initiative whereby a different guest blog post will be shared with our community on the last Friday of the month. Search #FeatureFri on Twitter or check out all #FeatureFri guest blog posts on Martin and Co Today. This month's post is written and provided by Allan Hooper, solicitor and partner at J E Baring & Co Solicitors.  ConveyancingWhy are Conveyancing searches and enquiries steeped in mystery, what are they all about? This is a question frequently asked particularly by the younger generation whom are used to purchasing everyday items at the push of a button with a next day delivery service. This guest post aims to demystify conveyancing searches and enquiries. In this first post of the two part series, Allan will provide answers to all of your questions about forms – what they are for and why they are important. The second will outline the types of searches which must be carried out, and why they are needed - including the Environmental Search, Water And Drainage Search and  the Local Authority Search – and why each of them is important. Searches And Enquiries Why, Why And Why! Let’s start by a good old fashioned phrase and the root cause for requiring searches and pre contract enquiries “Caveat Emptor”which when translated into English means “let the buyer beware”. When we purchase pretty much most things there are a plethora of laws that govern the sale, the best known being the Sale of Good Act 1979 which amongst other provisions provides that what we buy must generally be of satisfactory quality and fit for its purpose.  It will come as a surprise to learn that the most expensive purchase that most people will ever make i.e. a house or a flat is not covered in the same way as the purchase of say a bag of potatoes at the supermarket except new or nearly new properties that come with new build guarantees. Unfortunately, in reality these make up just a very small percentage of transactions. It is for this reason that the conveyancing process is riddled with form filling, enquires and searches that simply must be carried out. In short it is the job of a Solicitor or Licensed Conveyancer to make sure that you are purchasing both what you think you are and that there are not some unexpected surprises. “Why Am I As A Seller Being Asked To Complete So Many Forms?”
  • Property Information Form,
  • Fittings and Contents Form and
  • If Leasehold, the Leasehold Information Form.
In short the answer is to provide enough relevant information to the purchaser about the property in order for them to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with the purchase. Property Information Form The Property Information form contains some 18 pages of questions including the following who owns the boundaries, are there any known disputes and complaints, has the property been altered and if so what was done. Copies of any Planning Permission and Building Regulation approvals are sought. Have any new windows and doors been fitted, is the property Listed, are there any guarantees, has insurance ever been a problem, are any environmental issues known, does anyone else have rights over the property, who occupies the property who are the service providers etc.? Why Is This Form Important? To enable a purchaser to understand what they are buying and whether there are any issues that could lead not only to disruption but also substantial cost in the future. For example, if planning permission and building regulation approval were required for an extension but were not obtained then there are a number of issues including:
  • The local council could serve an enforcement notice, which could ultimately result in you having to demolish it.
  • You may have to apply retrospectively for permission which may not be granted
  • If there is no building regulation approval and completion certificate then one does not know if the extension has been constructed to modern standards.
Fittings And Contents Form The Fittings and Contents form contains 8 pages of questions dealing with whether certain everyday fittings and contents at the property and if they are whether they are included in the sale or not, or if available at an additional price.  The form deals with a number of basic items such as the boiler, light switches, window fittings, burglar alarm and navigates from room to room. A buyer would know from the outset whether the kitchen has a hob, microwave, fridge etc. and if they included in the sale. What fittings are present in the bathroom and are included, are the carpets, light fittings and curtains being left behind? Is there a greenhouse, clothesline present and included? The list goes on. Why Is This Form Important? It allows both the seller and the buyer to be clear exactly what is being sold/purchased and allows both to budget accordingly. It would be a major shock and unexpected expense to open the front door on the day of completion expecting the carpets, curtains and kitchen appliances to have been left and discovering that the seller has taken them all. Leasehold Information Form The Leasehold Information Form contains 6 pages and asks for information relating to leasehold properties only. Questions include details of who is responsible for the management of the property, contact details of the landlord and managing agents, details of maintenance and service charges, notices, complaints and consents etc. Why Is This Form Important? Leasehold properties bring their own additional set of considerations and detail various issues, which do not occur at a freehold property such as landlord details. Again, the real issue is unexpected financial shocks. It is important for the seller to know exactly how much the service charge and maintenance costs at the property were as these are nationally set and apply specifically to that property. Without this knowledge it may come as a nasty surprise to a buyer when receiving their first bill from the managing agent. Conclusion The information via the documents and searches referred to above will allow your Conveyancer to raise what are known as Additional Enquiries which comprise a series of further questions designed to clarify any issue not dealt with in the standard enquiries or deal with any issues that may arise from the answers already provided. For example, if the seller has confirmed that new windows were installed last year, your Conveyancer will require the FENSA certificate and will want to know whether there is a guarantee in place, whether that guarantee is transferable to a purchaser and indeed whether it is insurance backed. I hope that this has answered some of your “whys” about the conveyancing process. At Martin & Co we know how stressful this time is for many people, and working with experts, we aim to reduce as much of the stress as possible, by answering all of your questions. Please note that this document is not designed to be a comprehensive guide to the conveyancing process. If you have a property to sell, contact your local Martin & Co branch or read our tips on how to get your house to sell.   Disclaimer: Guest blog posts on the Martin and Co blog are written by external companies. Martin and Co do not endorse the products or services of these companies.