Roundtable Discussion on environmental issues and the role of a conveyancer

Roundtable Discussion on environmental issues and the role of a conveyancer

Representatives from the UK’s most respected conveyancing firms, innovative suppliers to the sector, technology experts and industry commentators gathered on Tuesday to discuss the hot topics concerning the conveyancing sector.

Hosted by Chris Harris, Managing Director of Lawyer Checker and owner of the Practical Vision network, attendees included partners, directors and senior representatives from Law Firm Services, PM Law, Brethertons, Timms Law, MKP Conveyancing, Beaumont Legal, Third Fort, Future Climate Info, One Dome and The Move Exchange.

Among others, air pollution and environmental factors was a contentious topic of debate. The panel discussed a number of pertinent questions, including: What is the conveyancer’s responsibility in dealing with environmental factors that could affect a customer’s health and house price? Should conveyancers be advising customers of the implications of findings? Or, does the responsibility rest with the agent and surveyor?

Pollution is an ever present issue in the British psyche and with the increase in illegal air pollution in some areas of Britain considered out of control, it remains a fixed concern that will only proliferate.

The growth of Asthma related deaths has been attributed to increasing air pollution. Since 2016 there has been a 43% rise in deaths caused by Asthma for those aged between 55 and 64. In 2017 1,320 people died of Asthma induced injuries, this figure stood at 1,237 in 2016.

Shockingly, seventeen children in 2017 died of Asthma compared with 13 in 2016.

Another recent survey of 4,000 people that live by loud, busy roads has also found that, despite living in areas below the acceptable UK guidelines on pollution, they had larger hearts than those in less polluted areas.

The table debated the issue as to what the role of the conveyancer should be in educating people about issues that may affect a customer in the area they buy property and choose to live in.

David Kempster from Future Climate Info (FCI) initiated the discussion by commenting that historic contaminated land is now being opened up for development with the homebuyer completely unaware that it was contaminated or naïve to the implications of this.

They added that the local authorities do not necessarily keep up to date information on contaminated land which reduces the information a home buyer has access to.

Smaller scale developments on patches of brownfield in-fill land are increasingly being released to meet local housing demand.

Kempster insisted that it is essential that the homebuyer understands what remediation has been undertaken to the site, whether the developer undertook full land quality due diligence and what impact this may have on using the property and its value. They finished by highlighting the impacts on both insurability and lendability and how they affect a house sale. They argued that conveyancing reports help gain access to transparent information on a home for their client. FCI’s role is to provide solutions to help ensure transactions do not stop.

The room agreed that recent statistics into asthma deaths, contaminated land and increased pollution in placentas has exacerbated the situation and increased the levels of fear in the public consciousness.

Chris Harris, Managing Director of The Practical Vision network, questioned whether there was any evidence that people do not want to buy in air polluted areas. He identified that there will always be an increased risk of air pollution in inner city locations. However, he also highlighted the price variances between a house on a busy road and the price of a similar house two roads back should be an indicator to home buyers of the increased risk or reduced desirability in a particular area.

Helen Torresi , of Beaumont Legal, questioned whether raising awareness and educating the buyer formed part of the legal retainer for a conveyancer, insisting that it is not the responsibility of a conveyancer to comment on a health risk due to not being qualified.

Many in the room argued that the issue should be an important consideration for surveyors and the lines between a surveyor and conveyancer should not become blurred.

David Kempster, Owner of Clear Edge Communications Limited, insisted that these issues are within the top three considerations of the home buyer, questioning whether the information should be aimed at the estate agent, consumer or both.

Harvey Harding, Managing Director at PM Property, closed the discussion by insisting that conveyancers ought to be covering environmental risk.

Whilst all were in agreement that there needs to be a more transparent way to provide clear and understandable information to the consumer on serious issues that could impact on their health, the role of a conveyancer in this issue remains up for debate.

Do you think that the conveyancer has a responsibility to help fully inform the home buyer about environmental implications that could be attached to their home? 

Martin Parrin

Martin is a Senior Content Writer for Today’s Conveyancer, Today’s Wills and Probate, Today’s Legal Cyber Risk and Today's Family Lawyer

Having qualified as a teacher, Martin previously worked as a Secondary English Teacher that responsible for Head of Communications.

After recently returning to the North West from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, Martin has left teaching to start a career in writing and pursue his lifelong passion with the written word.

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