Row intensifies at Law Society over changes to ‘Material Information’ forms

The row between the Property Lawyers Action Group (PLAG) and the Law Society over property information forms which have been redesigned to support NTS guidance on ‘Material Information’ in property sale listings intensified this week.

PLAG said that the changes, which had been made by the Law Society without consultation, should have been discussed with licenced conveyancers.

“The whole focus of CQS [the Society’s accredited conveyancing quality scheme] for many years has been to discourage the practice of raising enquiries about every conceivable matter that could possibly affect a transaction, in favour of fewer targeted, relevant enquiries. In the interests of streamlining conveyancing and reducing the time and cost of transferring title to land CQS has strongly discouraged solicitors from raising numerous enquiries that may not be relevant. The new TA6 and TA7 forms flies in the face of this policy, with no tangible benefits, only increased cost and complexity.

“Whilst licensed conveyancers are not members of LS [Law Society], this lack of basic diplomacy on the part of the LS risks driving a wedge between conveyancing solicitors and licensed conveyancers, the latter of whom mostly adopt the LS (CQS) practices and standards out of courtesy to CQS members. From a practical standpoint, conveyancing relies heavily on firms adopting similar procedures and standards, and the changes announced by the LS therefore risk making transactions considerably more difficult for this reason alone.”

A Law Society spokesperson was reported as responding: ‘We are aware of concerns that have been raised by some of our members. We are taking them seriously and have been looking into them. Once we have had the opportunity to examine those concerns, we will be in a position to consider what, if any, additional guidance, clarification or measures may be necessary.’

Last month the PLAG wrote an open letter to James Munro who heads up the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT).

Among its list of criticisms of Material Information was the view that, “MI is simply a reinvention of the ill-fated HIPs project that was rightly scrapped in 2010 due to being “expensive and unnecessary” and causing “cost and hassle” for consumers and “stifling a fragile housing market”.”

They went on, “It is our opinion that MI of itself will not achieve its stated goals of reducing transaction times or fall-throughs. Nor, in most cases, will it encourage buyers and sellers to instruct lawyers earlier in the transaction.”

The letter ended with, “If NTS wishes to help buyers and sellers, it should focus its attention and resources on rooting out exploitative practices such as referral fees, conditional selling, ‘dodgy’ developers and so on.

“We appreciate that this would be far more challenging than the present course, however, it would bring the most benefit to consumers and, unlike MI, conveniently falls within NTS’s existing remit.

“Mr. Munro, we are therefore strongly encouraging NTS to change course and scrap the current version of the guidance as soon as possible.”

In a statement to the Law Society Gazette, James Munro said research by National Trading Standards found that 87% of people who recently moved or were looking to move soon agreed that property portals should include all key information about a home in their property listing and 41% assumed missing information meant something was wrong with the property.

Munro said: ‘This guidance is good news for the industry, which is demonstrated by the evidence we received from agents who expressed support for the mandatory disclosure of material information. Benefits agents cited included a reduction in unnecessary enquiries, swifter sales and fewer transaction fall-throughs. These improvements – for consumers and agents – are why successive governments have continued to back the programme.’

National Trading Standards worked closely with the legal profession to develop and refine the guidance, Munro said, but ‘always welcome any new information, evidence and ideas that continue to improve compliance and raise standards in the sector’.

He said he had received the PLAG letter ‘and will provide a comprehensive response’.


Material information included in new property form




Email the story to a friend!


  1. Rob Hailstone

    Let’s not make a drama out of a crisis. At the moment, this appears to be a one-sided row. As far as I am aware The Law Society (TLS) has yet to respond in any detail. The new forms are not even compulsory yet, in the meantime, TLS has invited feedback from conveyancers, so, they might not even see the light of day in their present format.

    Some of the main participants in the PLAG are, in my opinion, prone to hysteria and developing conspiracy theories, particularly when it comes to various groups and individuals who are trying (rightly or wrongly, but with honesty integrity) to improve the home buying and selling process. I hope that these various groups and individuals do respond in due course, if for no other reason than to add some accuracy to certain insinuations made by the PLAG recently.

    It would be good to hear if any agents and conveyancers are working together, and trying out the new forms. And if so, with what results.

    The Bold Legal Group and many of its members will be passing on their views on the new forms, to TLS, in a calm, thoughtful, and rational way over the next month or two having had time to consider them (and maybe test them) carefully. We will also be discussing the forms with both estate agents and conveyancers at our conference in June.

    I am now putting my OOO on as I am on holiday, and Mrs H is giving me daggers!

  2. Ric

    The letter ended with, “If NTS wishes to help buyers and sellers, it should focus its attention and resources on rooting out exploitative practices such as referral fees, conditional selling, ‘dodgy’ developers and so on.


    Get solicitors to start being proactive. Still we chase for updates to hear: “I wrote to them a week ago, heard nothing” or “I didn’t get the email” and then later “oh we had a tech issue it was in my pile” or we chase and just hear NOTHING ever.

    To help buyers and sellers…

    Solicitors / Conveyancers should be on No Sale No Fee for starters… perhaps then they will see the importance the deal reaching completion and then chuck in a time related fee penalty! 6 week exchange = full fee, 8 week exchange 85% or something.

    Stamp duty holiday showed us, they were getting deals through in 4 to 8 weeks consistently as the later sales were agreed closer to the cut off… everyone was motivated by a financial gain (bar perhaps the solicitor still) but the clients pushed and the solicitors delivered… what changed?

    1. EstasLoco

      Well you go to work, and don’t get paid – how would you like it? Especially if you have mouths to feed.

      Transactions going through during the stamp duty holiday will have had tons of corners cut and people won’t realise until they come to sell or re-mortgage. Legal advice should not be free – we’ve worked our touches off to get the qualification. You agents can carry on without qualifications and tell people what they want to hear all you want. Still not going to make a change to process. If you haven’t realised the manipulation and deception (i.e. “this will all be made better by HIPs”) is coming from higher up, and people with more money than you.

    2. ColinMcWilliams

      Many conveyancers were forced to work flat out 10+ hour days during the SDLT “holiday”. We also lost many experienced conveyancers in the process just simply due to the stress we were subjected to. To even imply that this is sustainable is absurd. The Land Registry still hasn’t recovered from it, either.

      I’m assuming that you’re an estate agent. I imagine conveyancers would be much more “pro-active” if they were paid even close to what most agents make per sale.

  3. Anna Naemis

    I would seriously dount Mr Munro will respond for two reasons:-

    1. There is no need as, for whatever reason, he has already implemented the policy
    2. He can’t as he does not have the answers to the points raised.

    Just one further observation. The Conveyancing Association (an unelected Body who do not represent the majority of Conveyancers) were heavily involved in the MI process so clearly worked closely with NTELSAT. That Body also represent the worst of our profession, the conveyancing factories who rely solely on referral fees for their work. Yet Mr Munro refuses to look into the policy of referral fees paid for work which clearly penalises clients and have led to the rise of the very firms that cause delays in transactions which MI will in the circumstances probably do little to improve. We will have to make our own guesses on why that is.

    Maybe people should also find an article written by Russell Quirk on this very site with his thoughts about James Munro when considering all this furore.


You must be logged in to report this comment!

Comments are closed.

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter, we have sent you an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Additionally if you would like to create a free EYE account which allows you to comment on news stories and manage your email subscriptions please enter a password below.