Law firms agree to trial the efficiency of property logbooks

The assumption that a property with a logbook will improve the conveyancing part of the home buying process was challenged by nine law firms in a working group during the summer of 2023.

In response, The Home Buying & Selling Group’s (HBSG) Logbook Working Group agreed to run a new pilot to test the concerns of lawyers and conveyancers regarding the adoption and use of a logbook.

One major concern was defining what a logbook actually means and determining the agreed standard information that should be included in a logbook, before a property is listed for sale. The group reached a consensus on the need for consistent and standard information in all logbooks. This information includes the owner’s details, as reflected in the Title, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), a Title Plan, the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN), and the identity of the owner, which should be verified by a certified identity provider in alignment with planned Government legislation on digital identity. It was acknowledged that meeting this standard is a good starting point.

What’s more, the group agreed that guidance could also be provided to include information related to planning permissions, building regulation notices, neighbour agreements, and guarantees. There was a general consensus that for a logbook to be effective, widespread adoption across the industry is essential. The Logbook Working Group believes that the Government should play a stronger role in creating the conditions to drive development and adoption. Part of this effort should involve making Government-held data more easily and readily available to support the property market.

Lawyers expressed concerns about receiving information and data, digitally, and questioned its provenance. On average, conveyancers find themselves waiting for information from approximately 19 different sources, including official data. Government departments should prioritise the timely availability of their data to the legal sector, which would significantly expedite the conveyancing process. This proactive approach will help alleviate the legal sector’s worries regarding data provenance and liability concerns, while also reducing conveyancers’ burdensome administrative tasks of tracking down information and enabling quicker access to property-related information at earlier stages of the conveyancing process, they said.

Through the HBSG, the industry has already begun the process of adopting common data standards and created a way of representing the reliability of that data. As we continue to make progress with digitising the sources of property data, the Open Property Data Association (OPDA), in collaboration with key stakeholders, is addressing the issues of data provenance through the development of a Property Data Trust Framework (PDTF), as noted by Maria Harris, Chair of the OPDA.

The paper from this legal sector review has been produced and released through the Home Buying & Selling Group, which is available upon request. Stuart Young, who led this legal sector review for the HBSG Logbook Working Group, said:

“We are delighted that, having done this work, we are looking forward to running ‘test and learn’ pilots with these law firms, with some of the Logbook Working Group members.

In addition to this, the next steps involve the Logbook Working Group facilitating another session with surveyors to understand their requirements and estate agents to follow.”

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