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Navigating the 2024 Election: What Housing Policies Mean for Conveyancers

With the 2024 General Election campaign in full swing, I hope you had time to look at the document we sent out to all member firms with a rundown of what the major political parties are promising, especially regarding housing and our sector.

If you’ve yet to have a read-through, you can find it here; I’ve also included below some of the key understandings of what the main parties might be looking to do, particularly around leasehold and improving the process.

For everyone active in the conveyancing world, it’s not just about who gets into Number 10, but about how the party policies will directly impact on daily work and the home buying and selling process. In some of our key workstreams there are a number of different policies being presented.

Labour has been vocal about its commitment to tackling leasehold issues. The manifesto promises to abolish leasehold and replace it with commonhold and give existing leaseholders the right to buy the freehold at a fair price. It also wants to cap ground rents for existing leaseholders and introduce a simple and transparent process for leaseholders to claim their freeholds.

The Conservatives, while also recognising the problems within the leasehold system, have been somewhat less radical in their approach. The manifesto includes plans to limit ground rents to zero for new leases and simplify the process for leaseholders to extend their leases or purchase their freeholds. They also want to ensure any new leaseholds created are fair and affordable.

The Liberal Democrats have also thrown their hat into the ring with ambitious leasehold reform plans. They propose to end the routine use of leasehold for new houses, provide leaseholders with the right to enfranchise cheaply, and establish a new Leasehold Reform Act to give tenants more power over managing agents and the maintenance of their properties.

Membership of the CA is invaluable here. Our campaign work on leasehold reform has been at the forefront, pushing for exactly these kinds of changes. By being a part of the CA, firms have the opportunity to influence policy directly and ensure these reforms are implemented in a way that benefits both them and their clients.

The manifestos also focus on other parts of the housing market. Labour has outlined a series of measures aimed at making the home buying and selling process more transparent and efficient. It wants to introduce a more robust regulation of property agents and a new consumer rights body specifically for homeowners and renters.

The Conservatives have also set their sights on improving the home buying and selling process. Their proposals include a commitment to digitalising the conveyancing process to make it quicker and more efficient.

The Liberal Democrats propose significant changes to streamline the home buying and selling process. They support the introduction of a standardized seller’s pack to ensure that crucial information is available from the start of the process, reducing delays and uncertainties. They also advocate for better regulation of estate agents and support the adoption of digital conveyancing tools.

For conveyancers, Labour’s push for regulation and mandatory qualifications for property agents could mean working with more knowledgeable and reliable partners, which should make transactions smoother. The Conservatives’ focus on digitalisation is something we should all welcome given we have been lobbying strongly for this. Faster, more efficient processes mean we can handle more transactions with greater ease.

Here again, the CA has been proactive. Our efforts to promote upfront information and digital ID solutions are directly aligned with all these goals, and you might well argue that without our input they wouldn’t have come to these policies at all. By standardising upfront information, we can reduce delays and uncertainties, ensuring a smoother transaction process. Our work on digital ID is also crucial, making verification faster and more secure, which benefits everyone involved in the property market.

While all parties have made commendable pledges we can support, there’s still a sense that more could be done. No manifesto has provided a detailed roadmap for how they will ensure the delivery of these targets. As the CA we need to advocate for clear, actionable plans that address not just the symptoms but the root causes of the housing crisis.

No matter who wins, change is coming, and we need to be ready. This means staying informed about policy developments and understanding how they will affect the work. It also means investing in technology and training to keep up with new regulations and processes.

Being a member of the CA offers a strategic advantage. We provide a platform to engage with policymakers, ensuring the voices of conveyancers are heard in the corridors of power. Our collective efforts can shape the future of conveyancing, making it more efficient and aligned with the needs of member firms and modern home buyers and sellers.

A final couple of things. We recently launched our Guide to Digital/Electronic signatures which you can access from the download section of this website here. It has been written to help members understand and utilise digital and electronic signatures and e-signature platforms.

Plus, this week we start a series of online webinars for firms, in association with our Affliate members. You can sign up to join them, and all the events listed, by visiting the events section of the website.

Enjoy the sun which appears to be back in the sky and I will catch up with you all again next month when we’ll have a new Government and be much more clued up about what might be coming over the horizon.

Nicky Heathcote is Non-Executive Chair at the Conveyancing Association (CA)

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