I’m writing this on the longest day of the year – the Summer Solstice –…
The Conveyancing Association (CA), the leading trade body for the conveyancing industry, has today issued its formal response to the DCLG’s ‘Call for Evidence’ on ‘Improving the home buying and selling process’ and is urging both its membership and all industry stakeholders to make their own responses before the deadline of 11:45pm on the 17th December.
The CA’s response contains many of the ideas and ongoing work streams from its own 10-point Strategic Plan aimed at delivering tangible improvements to the home buying process.
The Plan was published at the start of the year and this response details evidence from ongoing pilots taking place through its membership, home mover surveys plus roundtable discussions designed to establish the impact of, and deliver where possible, these proposals.
Key suggestions and proposals within the CA’s response include amongst others:
- Greater levels of information to be supplied to consumers about the work of conveyancers in order to increase their knowledge of the service and help them understand what they should be looking for in a firm; plus the establishment of a Government-controlled website where consumers are exposed to the relevant information, explaining their options and the process.
- Digitally-available search data in order to populate a property’s information forms on marketing; reducing the number of questions within search requests to ensure they are relevant; digitising local authority data sets and making other sets such as title, covenants, leases, etc, digitally accessible.
- Moving to a digital-focused conveyancing process allowing the home mover to access information when it suits them; enabling quicker collation of data in order to advise the client; developing blockchain solutions to further secure transactions and protect client money through the disintermediated distribution of funds on completion and verification of data which can then be accessed upon the next dealing with the property; introducing machine-readable, digital and intelligent transaction forms.
- Government encouragement for the provision of a digital signature of deeds in conjunction with the Land Registry making the digital signature of deeds a simple and user-friendly process for the conveyancer and the consumer utilising biometric data to avoid fraud. This will lead to simpler registration formalities and more robust proof of identity procedures utilising a central register of client ID at the Land Registry.
- The Government should support and authorise the Land Registry digitisation programmes for greater digitisation of the registers and the creation of the Local Land Charge Register.
- Biometric ID verification and anti-money laundering checks to be introduced in order to identify not only the person being transacted with but also their relationship (or lack of it) to the property and the bank account to which proceeds are being sent, thus avoiding fraud and money laundering.
- The establishment of a property log book for each individual property in the UK detailing all required information which would save wasted time in collating the same data on each transaction.
- Ensuring clients have a mortgage decision-in-principle before making an offer on a property and that they have been property vetted financially. The creation of legally-binding offers – such as reservation agreements as in the new-build sector – would increase confidence and certainty that a transaction would complete, and financial penalties should be introduced for any party who then withdraws from the transaction.
- Sellers should be encouraged to provide much greater upfront provision of data before marketing their property including (when such information is available digitally): title data; a comprehensive conveyancing property information form; search data; and structural information. This information would then become part of the property log book.
- A series of changes for Lease Administrators in order to ensure costs and delays are kept to an absolute minimum with a reasonable fee structure set by the Secretary of State.
- The licensing of estate agents and the requirement of agents to pass a fit and proper person test in order to trade. The CA is generally supportive of the use of referral fees as they often provide transparency and deliver enhanced service levels due to the agreements in place.
The CA’s full response to the DCLG’s ‘Call for Evidence’ can be viewed at its website by visiting: https://conassocstage.wpengine.com/campaigns/dclg-ca-call-for-evidence-response/
The CA also recently responded to a further DCLG consultation covering letting and managing agents, including Lease Administrators, setting out a series of measures it believes should be undertaken. Full details on the CA’s response can be found here: conassocstage.wpengine.com/conveyancing-association-respond-to-dclgs-protecting-consumers-in-the-letting-and-managing-agent-market-call-for-evidence/
Beth Rudolf, Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association, commented:
“Our focus in producing this response to the ‘Call for Evidence’ has been all about ‘thinking big’ and not being constrained by the home buying process as it currently exists, or by what has happened in the past. We feel this is a real opportunity to secure a process that works not just now but in the future and our response offers up advice and tangible solutions that we believe, if introduced, will secure a much smoother process but also significantly cut down on the 30% of transactions that currently fail each year. Failures which cost the consumer many millions of pounds.
“This response is all about delivering increased certainty for all parties and this is achievable if we improve the use of digital services and seek to use new and existing technology in order to cut down on duplication, to improve consumer understanding, to reduce wasted time, to guard against fraud, to cut out unnecessary costs and delays, the list goes on. Technology can help change the process for the better and it’s important that the conveyancing industry engages with it, and adapts to it, in order to ensure it is a real positive for our member firms.
“At our recent Annual Conference, the DCLG itself highlighted some of its initial thinking on the ‘Call for Evidence’ and the initial responses it has received. We are clearly on the same page in a number of areas and believe this response not only sets the scene for what is achievable, but provides real evidence via the work we have already carried out with members, particularly when it comes to the upfront provision of information, ID checks, reservation agreements, completion certainty, and others.
“We believe this is a crucial point in the evolution of the home buying process – indeed we might say this is the start of the revolution – and it’s therefore vitally important that all stakeholders make their voice heard, either via using our response or by making sure they send in theirs. The results of this ‘Call for Evidence’ will determine how the process evolves and we are looking forward to working with the DCLG, and all other stakeholders, to ensure we get a process fit for purpose now and in the future.”