Conveyancers must shout louder – and together – if we are to see change

If you were in any doubt about the importance of the housing and mortgage markets to the UK economy, then recent weeks should have disavowed you of that notion.

Currently, the heat has been turned up significantly as the rise in interest rates meets the cost of living crisis, and borrowers come to terms with a mortgage product environment which will seem like a world away from what we have had over the last decade or so.

Understandably, there is a lot of concern about the rising cost of mortgage finance and what this might mean for household budgets, particularly those borrowers coming off much lower rates in the months and indeed years ahead.

My own perspective is that the Government is likely to face increasing pressure over what it plans to do in this area, and there are already calls for a Covid/pandemic-style “furlough-esque” intervention in order to support borrowers.

How this might play with “Generation Rent” is another matter entirely, given there has been no hint of Government support for renters as their monthly rents have risen – again due to a combination of lack of supply, the rising cost of buy-to-let finance, the need for landlords to increase yield in order to meet higher affordability measures in order to secure finance, etc.

This is a tricky situation for the Government, seemingly caught between the proverbial rock and hard place of homeowners (and landlords) struggling to deal with higher rates, and tenants struggling to deal with higher rents.

In a sense, this also feels like the tip of the iceberg in terms of the combination of housing-related issues facing the Government at this present time, and it certainly feels important – from a conveyancing firm point of view – that we continue to lobby for what we would like to see and what would improve the situation for firms, especially in a very “noisy” political environment where there are many voices all “shouting” at once.

Hence why we must continue to work together in larger groups in order to escalate our own presence, but also shout louder with a unified voice about those issues which remain important to us and can deliver real benefits right across the piece.

So, for example, the Conveyancing Association – like many trade bodies and other institutions and organisations – is a member of the Conveyancing Task Force (CTF), the Home Buying & Selling Group, and the Land Registry Advisory Council, amongst others, and we must continue to use these platforms effectively in order to draw attention to the change required, and to hold the Government to account for change which it might have committed to, but has yet to follow through on.

These issues are numerous, but they do tend to focus on improving the process for all stakeholders – and we shouldn’t shy away from the fact that conveyancers are a crucial part of this, need to be recognised, and need to have their voice heard.

In recent months, for example, we’ve been working on the fallout from the Building Safety Act, specifically the issues conveyancers are finding and the difficulty many firms are having in getting to a place where they can accept work on these cases.

At present, firms are understandably reticent to get involved because of a lack of practical clarity around the impact of the Act, identifying the height of buildings and whether they are impacted or not, lender instructions, plus PI concerns, not forgetting the cost and resource required to take on such cases.

As part of the CTF we have written to the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, asking – as a first step – for an authoritative Register of all properties impacted by the Act to be produced, as a means to provide clarity to conveyancers and therefore reduce the risk. Plus, we’d like the Leaseholder Deed of Certificate and Landlord Certificate and Safety Case Report to be recorded on the register, as confirmation they can be relied upon by future purchasers of the property.

In other areas too, we must continue to raise our collective voice in order to get a significant improvement in process times and to cut down on the costly waste of time, money and resources that come with every single aborted transaction, and the progression of transactions over the average 22-week period from sale agreed to exchange of contracts.

Again, there is a danger that what is an incredibly important campaign might lose some of its momentum, particularly as we get closer to a General Election and other issues take up more of the political dialogue.

There has been a considerable amount of lobbying work and conversation between ourselves and the Government/Land Registry etc. in order to highlight the improvement that could be delivered by greater use of upfront information, for example, or digital solutions in areas like ID or property logbooks, plus how all stakeholders can benefit from joined-up thinking that cuts down on duplication of work in such areas.

We must continue to push strongly in this direction and use our collective voice in order to do so. At our Conference this year, it was noticeable how many different stakeholders all presented similar viewpoints in terms of how we improve the homebuying and selling process, and as representatives of the conveyancing industry, we should continue to seek consensus from within and outside. This will allow us to make sure the Government is not distracted and we continue to push them to help mandate the solutions we need to create a positive home moving process for all.

Beth Rudolf is Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA)

One Response

  1. I agree we need to speak up more but from my own experience the government and departments like DLUHC seemingly only want to engage with a limited range of voices within our profession, especially bigger organisations like the CA. Yet those voices should ideally be genuinely representative of a range of views across the varied and diverse grassroots of our profession, not the same people over and over again. (That is NOT a criticism of organisations like CA or anyone in the organisation, I hasten to add.)

    My own recent experience with DLUHC over the BSA has been bittersweet (putting it mildly), with their customary rudeness and lack of responsiveness tantamount to a stone wall, yet they have been willing to pinch some of my ideas without giving any credit or acknowledgement to the source whatsoever.

    If I were a Conveyancer, I would be thinking that those in government aren’t interested in what I have to say, so I might as well get on with my day to day work. And that is not how life should be, is it?

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