housing in england

Can’t see the risk for the fees?

A recent survey by Today’s Conveyancer suggested that the majority of solicitors feel that Conveyancing is becoming far too complex. The survey, of 192 conveyancers, saw 134 replying yes to the question “Are you concerned about the increasing complexity of conveyancing work?”

Though the sample size was small, the message is one worth taking seriously, especially when one digs down into the comments made by some of the respondents.

Bold Legal Group CEO Rob Hailstone accused the government of “sitting idly by” while ever-increasing responsibilities were placed on the shoulders of conveyancers, suggesting the Housing Minister should “spend a day or two in a conveyancing office” so that they might understand how the profession as a whole is “almost at a breaking point”.

Perhaps the most damning comments though, came from Angelo Picirillo, co-founder and conveyancing partner at AVRillo. These related to fees, and the way that these have halved while workloads have “doubled”. Picirillo goes on to blame an “Amazon” “want it now” culture in clients, which has forced conveyancers to work additional hours in order to keep up with demands.

It is certainly true that the advent of online conveyancing firms, mass conveyancing “farms” and “free” legal services offered in many mortgage packages have all combined with many other factors to drive down fees in a competitive market. It’s additionally true that over time, the legislation surrounding conveyancing and the requirements of solicitors have only become denser and more intricate.

The tendency of successive governments to treat the housing market as some sort of totemic indicator of the economic health of the nation and therefore the satisfaction of voters hasn’t helped. We all remember the debacle of Home Information Packs. We’ve sat and observed countless amendments to Stamp Duty Land Tax since its introduction in 2003 – at this moment, Parliament is still debating exactly when the latest set of changes will actually come to an end.

The message is loud and clear – firms cannot hope to continue to provide outstanding client service in an environment where the demands on them increase even as their fees reduce. There has to be some sort of release valve to ease the pressure on firms and enable them to survive in an uncertain market with a cost of living crisis hanging over the country.

Digital solutions abound to make the conveyancer’s life simpler – the Client Management System, the ability to sign documents online and email them, and the provision of live online update systems for clients which can help mitigate the demands of client communications. Compass is another tool in that digital arsenal.

The simplicity of Compass’ interface is matched by the sophistication of the software solution it provides, significantly reducing the time taken to calculate a client’s SDLT and even submit the completed return, while also providing the peace of mind that the calculation will be 100% accurate and the indemnification of your firm against any questions raised over SDLT in the future.

The risks highlighted by respondents to Today’s Conveyancer’s survey, and the figures interviewed in the subsequent article on the same, all add up to higher PII costs, with residential conveyancing the “area of practice which delivers the highest number of claims” according to Marc Rowson, senior VP at Locktons insurance brokerage. With that being the case, against a backdrop of higher operating costs and lower fees, maybe it’s time to think about a solution which could address both in the most efficient way.

This article was submitted to be published by SDLT Compass as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Conveyancer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Conveyancer.

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