‘So, what difference does it make?’

Music fans of a certain vintage will recognise these lyrics from one of The Smiths’ powerhouse singles of the 80s no doubt, and wonder why they headline this particular article on conveyancing.

Well, I start with this question, because it’s one we tend to get a lot from conveyancers when asking ‘what difference’ membership of the CA will make to them as individuals, their firms, but also the profession and the wider industry. Not forgetting ‘what difference’ it might make in terms of improving the home buying and selling process.

For some trade bodies, it is a question littered with difficulty. The reason being that, in many areas, the work of those self-same trade bodies goes on effectively behind closed doors.

Their influence is shrouded in mystery, where they are often unable to highlight their lobbying or the work they have done, the meetings they have held, the discussions undertaken, and where the results they achieve are much more likely to be in stopping policy/legislation/regulation ever coming to impact their member firms.

That, I think, is a difficult sell when it comes to outlining the benefits of being a member. It relies upon the trade body attempting to reassure its members that their work resulted in something not happening which would have been damaging, rather than being responsible for something happening that had a positive impact.

At the CA, we are fortunate enough not to be in such a position for the vast majority of our time. Of course, we will always put forward a compelling argument to those who would seek to introduce policy or measures which are likely to have a detrimental impact on our members, but much more of our work is on the other side of the trade body coin, coming up with solutions to improve the lot of our members, and the consumers who have to go through the home buying and selling process.

And this is not forgetting all manner of other issues that circle around this, but have a real impact on the working lives of our members, and their clients. One hugely relevant example here is Leasehold Reform, something the CA has spent a considerable amount of work on, has pushed for relentlessly, and with the support of our member firms, has provided a significant amount of data/information/advice in order to get the reform we believe is required and is fair for all.

Fairness has often seemed like it has been in short supply, particularly when it comes to the sale of leasehold houses, but also in terms of ground rent and service charge levels, the role of management companies, the lack of commonhold, the ability of individuals to sell those leasehold properties based on the above, as well as securing mortgage finance, legal and other costs – you name it.

As a major workstream of the CA’s, it has been a long slog to get to the point we are today, but with the backing of the Exec, our members and affiliate partners, we have been able – working with many others – to provide a compelling case for reform.

It is from our responses to consultations, collation and formal provision of data from our members to support our case, the delivery of tangible solutions to solve any problems, that we not just get our name in front of those who come up with policy and measures but we influence its direction and move the law in the direction we want it to travel.

It is through this commitment to keep on putting our head above the parapet, and by combining our resources with those others who are supportive of what we are trying to achieve and who want the same outcomes, that we find, for example, the work of the CA and the CA itself referenced numerous times in the Leasehold and Reform Bill Impact Assessment here.

Or invited to the Scrutiny Committee hearings to provide evidence on the Bill, as I was asked to do earlier this month (you can watch here) or being able to ask the Minister, Lee Rowley, questions about the regulation of property agents at the All-Party Parliamentary Group as I was able to do this month.

Of course, it is by no measure or means a perfect Bill – it misses some pretty crucial elements, and currently limits ground rent capping to leases over 150 years, when of course most onerous leases were granted with terms less than that – however it is far better for our members, and their impacted clients, that we are front and centre highlighting those omissions.

And as mentioned, the only way we get to do this is by being involved in this work in the first place, by continuing to push our message and provide evidence of wrongdoing, highlighting poor behaviour, showcasing the damage that has been done, the cost incurred, the rights infringed, and then providing our own responses, thoughts and positive practical and pragmatic solutions on how to right those wrongs.

This is why we continue to ask conveyancing firms not just for their support and membership, but their continued input, data, views, survey responses, so we can collate our response and get the outcome that is best for all.

I hope this all goes someway to showing the difference individual firms can, and are, making – and this is just one area. I’ve not even mentioned that many interactions firms have themselves with the CA – including attending meetings, reading our guidance, etc – count towards individual’s CPD.

There are of course other battles to be fought, and we need your help to keep on fighting them. If you were in any doubt of the difference this all makes, then be clear, it makes a lot and we couldn’t do any of it without you.

Please continue to be members, encourage others to join and continue to respond when invited, or if you never have before, then there is always a first time and it will always be appreciated.

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