New Conveyancing Task Force launched to ‘reform’ property transfer process

Leading professional bodies in the conveyancing profession have joined forces to form a new taskforce that will agree and lead changes to the homebuying and selling process.

The ‘Conveyancing Task Force’, which has been two years in the making and has formal terms of reference, comprises Chancery Lane, Society of Licensed Conveyancers, Conveyancing Association, CILEx and Bold Legal Group.

The task force will push for “reform and enhancement” of the property transfer process for the benefit of consumers and lawyers alike.

Members of the task force have already released three documents to its members relating to working practices during the pandemic and the end of the stamp duty holiday at the end of March.

These documents provide clarity and a consistent approach for conveyancers and their clients in these unusual times, and in particular in the event that matters do not complete in time to benefit from the SDLT holiday.

Simon Law, chair of the Society of Licensed Conveyancers, has been appointed chair of the new taskforce.

Law said: “These are challenging times for the conveyancing profession, with the ongoing effects of Covid and an increasing move to working electronically. Conveyancing Task Force members have worked well together within the conveyancing profession for many years and it makes eminent sense that all five organisations come together under the Conveyancing Task Force banner to help the profession manage the transition into the digital future and identify opportunities for improving the process.

“Whilst working together to formulate and agree proposals, new procedures and due diligence under our agreed terms of reference, Task Force members still remain independent and accountable to their respective organisations and memberships.

“We look forward to working constructively with all other parties involved in the home buying and selling process and in particular the Home Buying and Selling Group in which all Conveyancing Task Force members currently participate.”

The taskforce will soon have a dedicated website, which will be unveiled this spring.

David Greene

Law Society of England and Wales president David Greene commented: “The combination of the stamp duty land tax holiday and working from home has put conveyancing and those who practise it under enormous strain and we do not know what will happen in the market once the concession ends on 31 March.

“We do know that the pandemic and the need for social distancing has accelerated the appetite for using digital solutions in parts of the transaction process, particularly for ID and execution and electronic and/or digital signing.

“Institutional members of what is now the Conveyancing Task Force have been working informally together for some time where there are areas of shared interest to help consumers and practitioners both in the pandemic and for the future.

“The new arrangements for the Task Force will help formalise joint working to enable co-operation to take place effectively without compromising the independence of each organisation.

“Chains of transactions mean that it is obviously helpful for all parties to be working in a similar fashion as we move forward into the digital future.

“We look forward to continuing to work constructively with other members of the Task Force and inputting our views to the Home Buying and Selling Group.”

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5 Comments

  1. Andrew Stanton Proptech Real Estate Strategist

    With new technology in the mix, the next generation of problem solvers are using tools that can interpret our world in a profoundly different way.
    Case in point, 100,000 properties exchange in the UK each month (well 1.2M complete in 12 months and there are peaks and troughs – but for ease lets us ay the number is 100,000 a month). Everyone is moaning about a bottleneck due to a SDLT ticking time bomb; everyone is pointing the finger of blame, but nothing changes. And yet in 1988 2M properties were completed, go – figure.
    If we ask a 22-year-old data scientist how would he digitally re-plumb the whole estate agency/solicitor/mortgagee ecosystem, do you think they would start with a paper led model?
    Would they think option A: –  
    – Amazon an E-commerce platform, which digitally never sleeps, seems to read your mind, and delivers your every whim in a cardboard box the next day, is a proto-type worth consideration?
    Or would they imagine that the defining model is B: –
    -Have the conveyancing element done Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, with an hour for lunch and a couple of biscuits to eat whilst you put a new roll of paper inside the Fax machine.
    Well my money is on the fact that the 22-year-old would probably not ‘know’ what a Fax machine is, given it was cutting edge in 1843 when it was invented. So it would be option A – the Amazon 24/7 solution.
    Maybe the old guard, the gatekeepers in the legal, financial, and real estate sectors, could all do with listening to more of John Lennon and his Imagine, a little more. They could even use a gramophone that would be a start as that was invented in 1887, so by their standards a piece of modern tech.
    Personally, I cannot wait to see their faces when radar technology enhances 5G, they are in for a treat, maybe they will break out the chocolate biscuits when that happens. The point being it is mindsets that need to change, the tech is already here, and I am not even talking about bespoke Conveyancing Tech products, just the normal tech that 95% of businesses in the UK use daily.       

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    1. Conveyancer21

      Missing the point STILL… if the transaction process was faster when we used fax machines and ate biscuits ask yourselves … why is it slower now? By your account, we should be doing it at exactly the same pace surely…. Tech is a facilitator. It enables us to do things, differently. It enables part of the process to be automated. It’s not always quicker. Ask yourselves what has actually changed in Conveyancing. Aside from the growing abuse, which means we have a depleted skilled work force, you need to look to the complex bit. We have to check more : EPC; compliance certificates; conservatories; decking; septic tanks; estate rent charges; doubling ground rents; cladding; solar panels; help to buy; flooding; fracking; stamp duty variations and reliefs; ID; verifying source of funds; anti money laundering checks; verifying solicitors; avoiding cyber crime  – all very new additions to add complexity to the transaction. All take time to read, administer and often fix. Can tech will fix all of that? Mulling it over with a cup of tea and a biscuit will be a good start. Agents don’t always send sales particulars. Lenders decided to stop sending valuations. Clients rarely have surveys. The customer has become more complex and wants to know more. We have to raise enquiries to find all this stuff out. Lenders can’t even tell us how much money we are getting on completion day. You would have thought they would say that on their 12 page mortgage offers. No. We have to usually call them, hold for an hour, to ask. That’s on top of the other hour we have to hold to see if they have received our drawdown request, because they don’t accept emails!!!! Sorry – I digress, this conversation was meant to be about Conveyancers and not everyone else who impacts on our lives. We do an incredibly risky job and run the risk of being sued at every turn. One missed planning issue can cost thousands. The devil in our world is in the detail and every time something new comes along, it’s added to the pile of stuff we have to verify. Even things like digital signatures – being sold as the next big thing.. results in more enquiries and validation checks and extra documents having to be prepared by the conveyancers to accompany our applications – add a further 20mins to our job why don’t you…. If everyone else could do their bit, even down to getting clients full names on a Memorandum of Sale … it would help. But why worry about that when the thick skinned Conveyancers can sort it out over a cup of tea and biscuits …

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  2. iainwhite87

    I wish this task force good luck , be radical , be bold and lose any thought of protectionism towards the existing process and yes be quick. Bring in outside assistance on the tech and knowledge side including senior estate agency figures , listen don’t defend , find real resolutions not excuses . Don’t overlook some of the existing solutions. Make the market bigger don’t focus on existing market shares.

     

     

     

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  3. David Jabbari Solicitor CEO Muve

    Well as they always say, if you have no idea what to do, create a Committee.  I am happy to give this new initiative the benefit of the doubt but I am sceptical. That there has been no significant progress on anything electronic about the conveyancing process is perhaps shown most dramatically by the fact that e-signatures were made possible by the Land Registration Act 2002! 19 years has passed and yet the sector still sees e-signatures at the cutting edge of progress today, having only just established the framework for them!  My view is that a central Portal for the registration of all transactions which modify Title should be established and be run by the Land Registry or a third party private company or quango. This would be nothing like the over-ambitious and spectacular failure that was Veyo but more like the MOJ Portal for PI claims. The Portal would incorporate Land Registry and other government data for things like client identification (using HMRC’s verify system for ID) and Title registration. There is little point in this Portal attempting to provide any form of case management beyond the requirement for connection through APIs to law firms or submission of data in an approved form. To do this would stifle efficiency improvement in the parts of the conveyancing process that are not tied directly to official data, e.g., (a) the identification and collation of wider transactional information and enquiries, and (b) the legal evaluation of official data and replies to enquiries etc. The one exception to this is perhaps a ‘chain view’, since such a view can only be obtained by the universal use of a single central system.  Do we really need a Task Force to make progress on this?

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  4. #ImpressiveConveyancing

    If the latest I.T is a main focus then the task force will fail. Instant fixes must include:

    – revamping the Property Information Form (and abandoning the Leasehold Information Form) making it clear that other enquiries are to be avoided unless directly arising from the property itself, Council search or title

    – banning referral fees or any financial or consideration in kind passing to estate agents or mortgage advisers

    – disbanding existing accreditations and mortgage panels and requiring retrospective repayment

    – ban personal searches

    – agree with CML the need to dispense with title indemnity insurance in as many situations as possible with ‘we will accept title’ – i.e building control (especially FENSA and GasSafe/OFTEC) after X years, covenants after X years, planning after X years

    – requiring a minimum ‘attend a test centre’ qualification for any person every two years who wants to touch  a conveyancing file with a declaration backed with a £100,000 fine signed by every legal business each year to say no one touched any file who did not have the qualification

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