Baroness Thatcher’s conveyancing legacy

Baroness Thatcher’s conveyancing legacy

Today many will remember different aspects of Margaret Thatcher’s politics. It seems appropriate for us to consider the impact that she had on the conveyancing profession.

Whatever you think of her politics, Margaret Thatcher’s policies of home ownership and economic liberalism shaped the conveyancing market in which we all work today.

Right from her early months in office Margaret Thatcher put privatisation of social housing at the top of her agenda. She believed that reliance upon social housing was painted as state dependency and removal of personal responsibility and initiative.

The 1980 Housing Act brought in significant discounts for council house tenants in the “right to buy” expansion that happened throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Over one and a half million publicly owned homes were transferred into private ownership during this period.

As well as generating work for generations of conveyancers this culminated in some of the group litigation that now hangs over many firms that conducted hundreds of right to buy cases via intermediaries.

The deregulation of the City and continual attention to monetary policy revolutionised the mortgage market. Many American mortgage lenders entered the market and existing lenders were able to securitise their mortgage assets rather than lend against deposits.

As well as funding the growth in home ownership these changes helped cause the crash of 1989. The crash led to suffering for many conveyancers who experienced a dramatic drop in demand. Repossessions peaked at 192,000 in 1992.

Thatcherism wasn’t good for all conveyancers. Initially solicitor conveyancers benefitted from Section 22 (1) of the Solicitors Act 1974 which stated only solicitors and certain lawyers could prepare conveyancing documents for a fee.

The Thatcherite belief that markets needed to be liberalised to create competition resulted in the Administration of Justice Act in 1985. This enabled a new regulated service profession to emerge and the first licensed conveyancers to be approved in 1987.

Property professions were used politically by Margaret Thatcher to pursue the doctrines, she shared with Keith Joseph and Milton Friedman, that private property rights encouraged appropriate economic behaviour from individuals.

Conveyancers in the 1980s were used as instruments to shape a vision of a society.

The competition that this market faces must be considered to be a product of Margaret Thatcher’s policies and our reaction to them.

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