If upfront information isn’t the answer, what are you doing to solve the archaic conveyancing process?

The introduction of Material Information Parts B and C towards the back end of last year has thrust conveyancing into the spotlight, giving us as professionals a new standard to uphold. But as the sector digests the implications, it is apparent that there are mixed views as to whether or not it will benefit the conveyancing profession.

Certain corners of the industry are close to openly mocking those of us who have taken a stance of advocacy for the introduction of more rigorous up-front information provision. My question is why? And what is to be gained by resisting change?

In light of this strange atmosphere in conveyancing, I feel like it might be helpful for me, as both a highly experienced conveyancing solicitor and the co-founder of an up-front information platform, to explain why I believe in up-front information so much that I have invested time, effort, and money into creating a new up-front information platform.

As a qualified solicitor, I have been practising conveyancing since 2003. In that time, I have been involved in the creation of two law firms, successfully built residential property departments from the ground up in no less than four firms, and even worked for a leading property auction firm. Today, I remain a Director of HS Conveyancing (formerly Savage Silk) and am very much involved in the day-to-day running of the firm.

My longevity in this industry means that I, along with many of you, was around all those years ago when Home Information Packs (HIPs) were floated and then quickly scrapped in the years between 2007-2010.

I for one was excited by the concept of HIPs. My time in the auction sector where ‘auction packs’ are the absolute norm left me wondering when such a collection of information would start being utilised in property sales on the open market.

This thought process led me to quickly believe that up-front information would facilitate a major improvement in the conveyancing process which, I’m sure we can all agree, is no longer fit for purpose – an archaic practice that needs overhauling and brought into the modern age.

However, despite being a supported of the idea of up-front information, I am also the first to admit that when HIPs were on the government agenda in the early-mid 2000s, there was very little chance they would work from a conveyancing point of view because the supporting technology just wasn’t sophisticated enough. Today, however, that has changed and I now completely disagree with the way in which some corners of our industry are lambasting up-front information because of conceptual flaws that existed twenty years ago.

Today, we have access to a feast of technological innovations that we didn’t back then. We’ve got electronic signatures, digital ID verification, and, of course, astonishingly sophisticated AI tools.

All of this means that, alongside the general digitalisation that society has undergone in the past two decades means that HIPs or up-front information can absolutely benefit the conveyancing process by giving full transparency at the very start of the buying journey by giving prospective buyers everything they need to know when making an offer, thus slashing the time taken to complete which, at its current levels, is frankly embarrassing for our profession.

At Home Sale Pack, we have taken this ability even further. Not only do we collate the necessary documents, but with the aid of machine learning we have also built a programme that can read and highlight key legal terms which will identify restrictive covenants and rights. We are also able to advise if it’s likely that a deed of variation will be required during the conveyancing process. And so on.

Up-front information is here to assist sellers, buyers, conveyancers, and agents. It’s building a better system for all and should be embraced, not feared or maligned by legal professionals who should be prioritising the client over everything else.

I’ll finish on a question. To any conveyancers who do not agree that up-front information is an important and overdue tool with which to improve the conveyancing process, what alternative solutions or ideas would you propose instead? And what action are you taking to actively improve the service we deliver to our clients?

 

Ruth Beeton is a Director at HS Conveyancing and Co-Founder of Home Sale Pack

7 Responses

  1. Is ‘home sale pack’ the same company as ‘hs Conveyancing’?

    If not then is home sale pack regulated by the SRA or CLC to be able to provide advice on deeds of variation ?

  2. To answer your question, ideas to improve the conveyancing process? eradicate referral fees and conditional selling by estate agents, ensure conveyancing is only conducted by qualified people, not large teams of unqualified people “supervised” by a single knowledgeable, experienced qualified person.
    Use of AI to detect restrictive covenants is an unnecessary gimmick. Detecting where a deed of variation “may” be required is a task best left to the buyer’s lawyer. Why set hares running at the outset? You are making work for yourself.

  3. It’s the driver NOT the car that wins the race. You can have the shiniest piece of tech (e.g. a Ferrari) but you can still get beaten by a Ford – it’s the driver NOT the car. All the tech in the world is not going to make up for the incompetence of a conveyancer and technology is only as good as its user.

    What needs to be done is to actually resolve the legal issues which in the last 20 – 30 years has stemmed from more and more complicated provisions and legal structures being imposed on freeholds and leaseholds. e.g. new developments almost inevitably come with a management company (sometimes 2), the transfers read like they have been lifted out of a lease. Leaseholds with rising ground rents, complex service charge provisions and blatant disrespect by the developers to the people buying these homes where warranties are not worth the paper they are written on and consumer protection tied up into fluffy ‘codes’ which are not legally binding (so they can pay lip service and look the other way).

    As Julie West says – why are seller’s solicitors having to spot the errors in the title? Surely this is the buyer’s solicitors job. Some things may be resolved with an indemnity policy rather than a Deed of Variation. Sellers will be saying that this wasn’t an issue when they purchased, why are they having to pay to fix it now? Delays are caused by third parties not providing information in a timely manner – much of this process is now reliant on third parties.

    You haven’t addressed the information going out of date – leaseholds are taking more than 6 months to sell, especially those affected by the Building Safety Act.

    Good luck providing these Bundle Of Legal Documents to the public. They won’t have a clue what it means. It’s not going to make any difference as to whether or not they want to buy.

    Delays are caused by complex titles and the progressive overload dumped on conveyancers. Raise your fees and do a proper job.

  4. Because of “the progressive overload dumped on conveyancers”, in order to do a proper job it will require fees to be raised to such an extent that there will be considerable consumer resistance to the increases, and resentment towards solicitors from clients who will not understand the reason for the increased fees and will perceive conveyancers as profiteering.

  5. Christine Minty – this needs to be explained to clients (not consumers) – it’s not profiteering. Don’t know about you – but you spend £000s on educating yourself as a lawyer and Joe Bloggs off the street expects to pay you Lidl wages? Where’s the respect for qualified lawyers now? By dragging prices to the bottom shows how much we value ourselves.

    If you spent £000s on a Ferrari you’re more likely to look after it/respect it/treat it with care than a cheaper car.

  6. A Register D “a chronology of events” in the Official Copy of the registered title to record data specific to the Property, such as: 1. boundary ownership, 2. warranties (NHBC etc or Architect), and guarantees (statutory certificates for heating and lighting and drainage work), 3. Council Tax Band, 4. Planning and Building Regulation decisions/permissions from local authorities or third parties, insurance indemnity certificates.

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