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Policy work and how it benefits our member firms

Welcome to June, and it seems quite weird to think that we are already nearly half-way through a year which has been eventful to say the least – particularly in a wider economic/mortgage/housing market context.

This month I want to focus on what is often an ‘unseen’ part of our work here at the Conveyancing Association, and that is the huge variety of policy activity we have ongoing at any given time.

A considerable amount of resource and effort is put into any number of interactions and submissions to a whole host of stakeholders – particularly Government – which is designed to improve the work of our conveyancing firm members and to give them guidance, support and solutions to be able to carry out their work effectively.

Of course, no trade body is an island, and we work within wider structures to do this – the Home Buying & Selling Group, the Conveyancing Task Force, etc – however I want to stress the impact and influence we at the CA have had, and continue to have, which is not just driving change but delivering tangible solutions which are of direct benefit for firms.

For example, the CA and Beth Rudolf in particular has been heavily involved with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) recently on its Building Safety Act 2021, specifically how it impacts leaseholders and the protections it affords them.

You might have recently seen the update issued by DLUHC at the end of May which focused on the rights of leaseholders in those buildings impacted by the Act, and how it has worked with stakeholders such as the CA in order to ensure they can buy and sell such properties more freely.

Beth was, and will remain, instrumental in finding the right solutions and responding to how the Act is working at ground level. It was clear that, in terms of leaseholders, there were initial problems that needed rectifying and that the Government was/is going to need to act across a number of areas, notably lease extensions/variations, Landlord Certificates and simplifying them, how certificates are stored, digitised and completed, and how leaseholder protections interact with Islamic finance options.

All require industry dialogue and solutions which the CA works to deliver, and in other areas such as ongoing PI provision for conveyancing firms who take instructions on these impacted buildings, which I know has been raised by our members as a problem.

Firms have to not just feel confident that they can work on such cases, but they clearly need to know they are covered. At the moment, we know some of you feel nervous about taking on the complexities of some cases and we are working hard to ensure you have all the right assurances in place.

The CA will continue to work with firms and insurers, to help find a solution which works for member firms, particularly around the cost of such activities and how they can be relayed transparently to consumers.

Clearly, this is what a trade body should be doing and, on this subject alone, I would draw your attention to the Building Safety Act and Building Safety (Leaseholder Protection) guidance document for conveyancing firms that we published at the end of April, and which has been updated as a result of this further DLUHC work.

It details a range of FAQs that conveyancing firms should be asking themselves if they are working on such cases, plus a precis of the major parts of the Act which will be relevant to conveyancers. As mentioned, we are committed to updating this and members as the measures within the Act ‘hit’ the real world.

Overall, this is just one example of the policy work the CA is involved in. We strive to make our conveyancing firms working lives better and highlight to Government and regulators how their interventions will affect people on the ground, including shining a light on any potential unforeseen circumstances and how any laws/changes/measures can move from the theoretical to the practical.

Of course, the important time to do this is before those laws/changes/measures are written and enforced on the sector, which is why we continue to work closely with all of the above at the drafting stage, rather than waiting for implementation.

It is a huge part of the role of CA and not only do we want member firms to see the benefits of this work, we want them to lead us in the direction of where such work will have a positive impact.

Our meetings and forums, and communication channels, are always open for you to share what you are going through, what you anticipate is coming, and what we need to do as an industry to ensure the impact is a positive one.

Please keep telling us where your concerns lie, and we’ll keep working on the policy to mitigate the risks that may accompany this.

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


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