This article applies to England & Wales only.
Conveyancing is the process of transferring the ownership of property from one person to another. It involves a mixture of administrative and legal work, none of which is exceptionally complex. Conveyancing for the buyer of a property is a more involved than it is for the seller.
It’s possible to do this work yourself, but it is time-consuming, detail-oriented and the price for mistakes is potentially very high, so understandably the majority of people instruct a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to carry out the work on their behalf. Also if there is a mortgage involved the mortgagee is unlikely to be happy with a layperson carrying out the work and will insist on a professional.
This post-offer process tends to be the most frustrating time for home movers, with complaints about having to regularly chase conveyancers to get them to do anything being at the forefront of their issues. The public perception of harassed conveyancers with a phone on each ear, their desk groaning under the weight of files needing their attention, was not that far from the truth. Solicitors in our experience are loathe to turn down work even if they are busy, leading to backlogs and bottlenecks. Modern systems have made it harder for them to miss something and mark milestones in the process that are outstanding, meaning you shouldn’t have to chase them anywhere near as much.
So what is the process?
After being instructed your conveyancer will give you questionnaires to fill out. These go into a fair amount of detail regarding the property, the land it’s on, anything that will be included in the sale and any relevant issues (i.e. disputes with neighbours, a proposed bypass at the end of the garden etc.) The information you supply will be used to draw up the draft contract for the sale of the property, so it’s important that you answer the questions in the forms honestly or you could find yourself in trouble later on.
Your conveyancer will send copies of the questionnaire forms that the seller has completed for you to check that you agree with the content and see if the information that the seller has supplied raises any issues for you.
He or she will then carry out due diligence work. This consists of:
Local Authority Searches:
Local Land Charges Register
Part 1 - General Financial Charges
This part will contain any financial charges, for example if the council passes a resolution to adopt a private road a charge may be registered against the properties which front on to it to cover any works required to bring it up to standard.
Part 2 - Specific Financial Charges
If the authority has carried out chargeable works, such as the boarding up of a window, and the cost is actually known, a specific financial charge may be registered.
Part 3 - Planning Charges
Lists any planning applications (and their statuses), planning enforcement notices or tree preservation orders.
Part 4 - Miscellaneous Charges
This is self-explanatory.
Part 5 - Fenland Way Maintenance Charges
The is self-explanatory and is clearly a rare occurrence.
Part 6 - Land Compensation Charges
These relate to prospective compensation claims under the Land Compensation Act 1973, where land has been acquired under compulsory purchase procedures.
Part 7 - New Towns Charges
This relates to those charges covered by the New Towns Act 1981.
Part 8 - Civil Aviation Charges
This relates to those charges covered by the Civil Aviation Act 1982.
Part 9 - Opencast Coal Charges
This relates to those charges covered by the Opencast Coal Act 1958.
Part 10 - Listed Buildings
If the property has been declared a listed building it will be revealed here.
Part 11 - Light Obstruction Notices
This relates to those charges covered by the Rights of Light Act 1959. Such a notice might be registered where something on the property, such as a building or a tree, obstructs light from neighbouring land.
Part 12 - Land Drainage Schemes
This covers land drainage schemes made by the Environment Agency or the local authority for the drainage of a small area. The expenses incurred in implementing the scheme are recoverable from the various owners of the land covered by the scheme.
Enquiries of Local Authority
1.1 relates to Planning and Building Regulations
Points 1.1a - d are covered by part 3 of the LLC1. Points 1.1e - g will reveal whether any applications for building regulations approval for any work done to the property have been granted or refused. Point g deals specifically with certificates of compliance relating to replacement windows, roof lights or glazed doors.
1.2 relates to Planning Designations and Proposals
The local council will often have a development plan for their area. This section will reveal the existence of such a plan, where it can be inspected and how, if at all, any proposals will affect the land searched.
On the search application form the roads giving access to the property should be listed. Where none are listed the highway fronting the property will be automatically searched. The information revealed will be as follows:-
a) - Highways maintainable at public expense.
b) - Highways subject to an agreement for adoption
c) - Roads to be adopted at the cost of the frontagers
d) - Roads to be adopted without cost to the frontagers
3. Other Matters:
3.01 - 3.08 are self-explanatory.
3.09 relates to notices served against the property, such as planning and building regulations enforcement notices, notices of breaches of planning and building regulations and stop notices (which prevent the property from being used).
3.10 states whether the property is in a conservation area.
3.11 asks whether the property is the subject of a Compulsory Purchase Order.
3.12 relates to Contaminated Land. Each local authority is now under a duty to survey land within its district or borough and compile a register of sites which are classed as contaminated
3.13 states if the property is in a Radon Affected Area
Radon gas is a potentially deadly gas which rises through the ground and can enter a property.