Modernisation of the Conveyancing process

‘Modernising the home moving process’ is the title of the recently released whitepaper by the Conveyancing Association (“The CA”). The paper sets out the results of the The CA’s research and consultations with key stakeholders across the property industry.

From the outset the ideas proposed in the paper may appear to be "pie in the sky" thinking; however they bid readers to focus on the fact that no one could have predicted 20 years ago that routine communication in the Conveyancing process would be via email.

The issues raised in the whitepaper focus on the main points which are deemed to slow down, or even, jeopardise a slick home-moving process, they are as follows:

Fraud and money laundering

Homebuyers can be extremely vulnerable to interception of emails by fraudsters who have been seen to advise buyers to transfer money to a fraudulent account instead of their solicitor.

The CA's proposal is to create a "secure portal for communication to protect the solicitor, estate agents and the home buyers from fraud."

They believe that ID verification should be centralised by providing a secure portal accessible only to a registered and verified user – thus creating a safe environment and trusted e-community.

Local Authority Searches

The turnaround time for returning Local Authority Searches varies across the country. Although a buyer at the bottom of the chain may only need to wait 5 working days for the results to be returned, a buyer further up the chain could have to wait 6 weeks! This inevitably slows the process down for all parties involved and could cause intense pressure on the chain.

The CA's whitepaper suggests that an independent body should be appointed to monitor the performance of all Local Authorities. The proposed body would be in charge of reviewing those authorities which fall behind on their delivery and establish what resources would increase the efficiency to bring them up to standard – this reduces the "post code lottery" often experienced across the country.

By completely digitalising the land charges system, the risk of delays may be solved...! Scotland is already ahead of the game, with searches returned within 24 hours and at set fees of around £60.00.

Transparency and Certainty

The home moving process is often cited as one of the most stressful events in a person's life. Therefore lack of transparency and certainty need not contribute towards this increasingly stressful experience.

The recently extended CHAPS hours (i.e. how late payments can be sent) have meant that some transactions have not completed until late in the day. Therefore The CA's whitepaper proposes that amendments are made to the standard conditions of sale to require completion funds to be sent the day before completion thus increasing the certainty on the day of completion, especially in a long-chain transaction.

To improve transparency, the use of the aforementioned online portal for all communication would reduce the requirement of estate agents to chase solicitors and provide a digital paper-trail of the transaction and all documentation. This will inevitably allow parties to project potential completion dates at a much earlier stage in the transaction.

Currently, there are varying degrees of electronic Conveyancing – the majority simply being the use of emails. By creating a secure software for all parties, not only offers a security but also eliminates human error, time delays and protects customers from the threat of fraud.

However, several attempts have been made to establish an e-conveyancing infrastructure over the past decade and a half. The Land Registry abandoned a programme to create an end-to-end system in 2009. The baton was later picked up by the Law Society in its Veyo partnership, but the project was cancelled in 2015.

The CA discussed its White Paper, the solutions it offers, and how the home moving process can be improved for all, with stakeholders at its 'Modernising Conveyancing' conference which took place on 1st December 2016. The results of the feedback of the CA's whitepaper are currently being assessed and they will shortly provide an update on what the future might hold in terms of its vision for a data-sharing, collaborative, digital home moving service to bring Conveyancing into the 21st Century.

For further information please contact Sophie Upton at [email protected]