Following my diary entry last week, Today’s Conveyancer ran a poll in which they asked:
“What has been the biggest source of delay in conveyancing transactions with which you’ve been involved of late?”
I was pleased that my diary gets those doing conveyancing work at the coal face talking about the day-to-day issues we experience. The results of the poll, as someone who does conveyancing day in and day out, do not surprise me!
The winning item was “irrelevant enquiries”, closely followed in second place by “dealing with estate agents”. I have to say that I believe that the two are linked to some extent:
- Sellers’ solicitor sends contract documents.
- Buyers’ solicitor raises unnecessary additional enquiries.
- Estate agent asks sellers’ solicitor about enquiries and asks when they will be answered.
- Sellers’ solicitor explains to agent that enquiries are unnecessary.
- Estate agent tells buyers’ solicitor that sellers’ solicitor has said enquiries are unnecessary.
- Buyers’ solicitor tells estate agents that they are not unnecessary and they expect replies.
- Estate agent tells sellers’ solicitor that buyers‘ solicitor is insisting on replies.
- Sellers’ solicitor tells estate agent that replies to the questions asked are not necessary but in order to keep things moving, they will answer them.
- Estate agent tells buyers’ solicitor that sellers’ solicitor will answer them.
And so the conversation continues… How many times are buyers’ solicitors, sellers’ solicitors and estate agents having this conversation? And on how many transactions?
What is the answer? Is it just that we should follow the Protocol?
Just as a reminder… Step 15 of the Protocol states:
Raise only specific additional enquiries required to clarify issues arising out of the documents submitted, or which are relevant to the title, existing or planned use, nature or location of the property or which the buyer has expressly requested. Do not raise any additional enquiries about the state and condition of the building unless arising out of your conveyancing search results, your buyer’s own enquiries, inspection or their surveyor’s report. Indiscriminate use of ‘standard’ additional enquiries may constitute a breach of this Protocol. If such enquiries are submitted, they are not required to be dealt with by the seller/seller’s conveyancer. The seller’s conveyancer does not need to obtain the seller’s answer to any enquiry which seeks opinion rather than fact.
It strikes me that many firms are taking that part of the Protocol and adapting it (or loosely following it) to be able to ask standard queries. But when we get pages of “indiscriminate enquiries” which we have received on other matters with the same firm, it has to be a breach of the Protocol. And, as I have mentioned before, we should not be asking questions about the other party’s identity, whether the plan is correct, and so on.
We all know this… and note the use of the word “clarify” in relation to the contract documents.
But meanwhile, as conveyancers and estate agents continue in this circle, the poor client is stuck in the middle, not knowing whether or not these enquiries are needed and not really caring. They just want to move into their new home!
So, how about this? The next time you receive unnecessary enquiries, call the person on the other end of those enquiries. Tell them your concerns about the never-ending maelstrom of enquiries and how if we all worked together we would cut down on these enquiries and the chasing from agents. If they continue to insist on answers being given, maybe speak to the SRO of the firm or the Head of Conveyancing. I know that this sounds dramatic but if we can stop this happening, it will lead to an easier transaction. And surely that is good for all involved and most importantly, the client.
The full results of the poll are here:
- Clients needing reassurance – 22%
- Irrelevant enquiries – 36%
- Solicitors’ other requests – 6%
- Dealings with estate agents – 34%
- Other – 2%
I am interested in the “Other”… let me know what you think these could be in the comments below!!