The Law Society expresses concern over ‘unrealistic’ conveyancing expectations

The Law Society is once again urging people wanting to buy or sell a home during the temporary stamp duty holiday to have realistic expectations about completing before the 31 March deadline.

Solicitors’ leaders have warned that for fresh instructions given now, the possibility of completing before the 31 March deadline are ever slimmer and that clients’ expectations should be discussed to avoid people losing money and being left disappointed.

Analysis by Rightmove suggests that around 100,000 buyers will miss out on the stamp duty saving.

“While the conveyancing market continues to operate despite the lockdown, it has no doubt complicated the situation further for solicitors who are already over worked and under pressure ahead of the stamp duty relief deadline,” said Law Society of England and Wales president David Greene.

David Greene

He continued: “The Law Society has suggested that clients’ expectations of completing before the deadline should be discussed. Solicitors are there to help and can do that by speaking with clients about what they want to do if they cannot complete before 31 March.

“Many factors limiting the speed of a move – delays in the issuing of search results, delays in mortgage offers being issued, problems in the chain and with dependent transactions – are usually outside the control of the conveyancer and they cannot guarantee transactions will complete before the end of March.

“The volume of transactions already waiting to go through mean people should not have unrealistic hopes about the prospects of starting a new transaction now and completing before 31 March.

“It will simply result in a lot of people wasting money if they only want to buy if they can complete before the deadline.”

The end of the stamp duty land tax holiday in England and land transaction tax holiday in Wales coincides with the busy Easter holidays period – a popular time to move – and the end of the Help to Buy scheme in its current format.

Greene added: “We again urge government to ameliorate the 31 March deadline.

“Options to achieve that could include extending the deadline or introducing appropriate transitional arrangements in order to help release the growing pressure on the conveyancing system, on buyers and sellers and on solicitors.”





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  1. Typhoon

    Stamp duty deadline is not the issue!

  2. Rob Hailstone

    Managing client expectations would be sensible. However, every transaction should be looked at carefully and individually, there will still be a number that can make that timescale. Is there a chain, how long is it and is it complete? Mortgage or no mortgage for all parties? Have the mortgage applications been submitted? Which local authorities are involved, and what are their turnaround times?
    Make sure everyone in the chain (clients, conveyancers, agents, brokers, surveyors etc) knows the urgency, make sure there is a willingness from all to progress matters as quickly as possible. Make sure everyone sees a complete chain sheet. If the same conveyancer is in the chain more than once, it would help to know that.
    Communication and assistance between the parties could be key.

  3. iainwhite87

    Estate agents express concern over such low expectations the law society has of what is acceptable levels of expediency and cooperation they expect from their members .


  4. JimBob73

    Can I ask, from a solicitors and conveyancing point of view, are your offices working overtime to work through the overload and aim to push the majority of pipeline through?  If there is such congestion, people to make happy and financial rewards in doing so why are agents finding 5.00pm/6.00pm still a cut off time to contact solicitors?

    1. Rob Hailstone

      Most conveyancers have been (and still are) working evenings and weekends. The so called ‘cut off’ time allows them to work behind the scenes, productively, without interruption.
      I called my doctor last week, the recorded message made it clear that they were inundated, and that I should not call and interrupt them unless absolutely necessary.

    2. devonlady

      As a residential conveyancing locum I can assure the poster that every single firm and conveyancer I personally know is doing what I regard as “silly” hours to try and push matters through!  I have seen conveyancers “in the office” working at 3.30 a.m. having not finished work until the late hours the evening before, working weekends, etc.
      A lot of pressure could be taken off them if (a) Agents would stop asking for updates and wait to be advised when there is an area that they could actually help with (b) Clients realising that the more calls/emails they send in actually pushes everyone’s matters back even more (c) Everyone realising that there is a lot that is outside our control e.g. Search results being returned, Mortgage Instructions being received etc and not asking us WHY these items are yet with us, etc.

      As a locum, in normal times I would NEVER do additional hours, and yet this year, I actually worked when the office was officially closed, between Christmas and New Year, as did many colleagues, beavering away when they should have been enjoying quality time with their families and loved ones, just to try and keep everyone’s transactions moving as much as they could.  The first time in some 20 years I have worked through, as well as doing additional hours beyond normal office hours most weeks – such is the workload everyone has at the moment.

      What can our clients do to help us – return their documents promptly, read the letters and emails they receive thoroughly and try to understand them before coming back with questions.  Yes, we want you to fully understand what is being said/written, but quite a few times I have been asked questions the answers to which are actually contained within the documents sent to the clients.  Every call, every email, every letter, all has to be read and the majority answered, so the more that other individuals related to the transaction can do for themselves, the more it will ease the process.

      1. aSalesAgent

        A lot of pressure could be taken off them if (a) Agents would stop asking for updates and wait to be advised when there is an area that they could actually help with […]”

        I phone because I feel I must, to ensure my files are worked on.

        As an example, the first working week of January a conveyancer acting for one of our buyers copied me in when raising initial enquiries. Within an hour I had forwarded the enquiries to the seller and explained that his conveyancer will be in contact with him in good time, but please read the attached and prepare responses. Two weeks later I find the seller is still waiting to hear from his conveyancer. It’s atrocious service like this that gives me reason to keep chasing.

  5. aSalesAgent

    Has the Law Society responded to the letter from the Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO), prescribing their code for the use of Local Authority Search Indemnity Insurance? This would tackle the issue of delays with searches.

    Search Acumen has just launched a report that includes insurance protecting the lender and buyer from losses up to £5million incurred as a result of adverse entries that would have been revealed by an official Local Authority search. I am still waiting to hear from SearchFlow on whether or not they offer, or plan to offer, something similar.

  6. #ImpressiveConveyancing

    Sadly, post April we shall see a lot of PII claims against law firms who took on too much and then rushed and missed things.That will just be a fact, sadly. In many cases it will be career ending – being the constant issue for conveyancers anyway – as every purchase file has 100 things that can cost a law firm big sums if overlooked.
    So it remains crucial not to take on too much that you then fail to service it. Everyone loses if that happens, especially your colleagues who are doing a great job only to see a colleague overworked getting complaints and hurting the firm as a whole.
    Conveyancers have progressed conveyancing through every lock-down, getting people into houses, their own time paid for, and agents paid too. That continues.
    But absolutely – buyers and sellers need to know now that with all parts of the moving process working at home – in whole or part – that 1 April is certainly not guaranteed, and lawyers will not of course accept being rushed into making career ending errors.
    If there is time to achieve it then great. And most conveyancers are working more hours to help do their part where tlockdown allows.


  7. letstalk

    Personally, as someone whose house should have been built by August 2020 and is now having to reside with family (as my buyers needed to complete and I didn’t want to lose the sale) since June 2020 with a pending completion date of 8 April 2021 I can truly say that my mortgage broker has been on hand at all hours to push through my mortgage and my conveyancing solicitor has been readily available at all hours and weekends to facilitate the purchase, they have not been the issue, but COVID firmly has!


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