Conveyancing solicitors and their enquiries - 'third' time lucky?

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This week marks the launch of the third edition of the Property Information Form (TA6) which most home movers will recall is the general questionnaire which sellers complete to provide buyers with useful and practical answers to pertinent/standardised questions which may affect their decision to continue with their purchase or not (e.g. have there been disputes, building works, guarantees etc?).

Following a consultation by the Law Society, the third edition has been published, along with a third edition of the Fittings & Contents Form (TA10), which aim to take account of the previous shortcoming in the second edition, and to entrench the most common additional enquiries that were having to pass between conveyancers outside the second edition

As a result, the Law Society would hope that fewer, if any, additional enquiries now need to pass between conveyancers, which may prove a blessing as enquiries do play a large role in slowing down the legal process of buying and selling houses.

Indeed, this third edition now addresses the following areas:

  • Solar panels

  • Insurance claims

  • An expansion in the area of flooding

  • Chancel Repair liability and certain other ‘overriding interests’

  • Parking arrangements

  • Japanese knotweed

However, there are areas where continued enquires may nevertheless result from, and in spite of, the Form:

  • The notes on page 2 state ‘You should not expect the seller to have knowledge of, or give information about, matters prior to their ownership of the property’ but then question 1.3 immediately seeks it, as does 4.1, 5.1, 7.1, 7.4, 12.1 and 1.4 fatally misses the chance to finally ask for it

  • Question 1.2 is confusing as to the answer required

  • Question 4.2 seems to excuse the Seller from supply planning or building control consents if building works were not done during their ownership

  • Question 4.2(a) should have mentioned FENSA

  • Question 4.7 will perpetuate the "please provide a copy of the Listed Building Consent" overlooking websites such as here

  • Question 4.8 should have spelt out the need to supply the actual Tree Preservation Order itself

  • Question 6.1 is vague. "Insurance for what?" and if only buildings then the question seems superfluous and it will be curious who follows up a "no" answer on a freehold property

  • Questions 7.1 , 7.4 and 12.1 should have an optional ‘not known’

  • Question 7.6 will perpetuate conveyancers to still ask for EPCs despite a postcode register here

  • Question 7 does not tackle ‘renovations of the thermal element’

  • Question 14.3 remains superfluous, as conveyancers document their selling clients to sell free of financial charges and obtain redemption statements upfront so as to give post-exchange Undertakings to repay mortgages  

All firms in the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) have an obligation to use the new Forms and the Law Society are committed to this requirement which will continue to demonstrate that CQS Conveyancing Solicitors are focussed on the clients needs and are responding to a changing property environment.

However, despite the new Forms, a vast proportion of conveyancers are not within the CQS, which means many members of the public who do not secure such a conveyancer may find that their conveyancer continues to ask unnecessary enquiry after enquiry as a result.

Indeed, despite how comprehensive this new Form TA6 is, even those conveyancers who use this it, as happens now, may well fail to check their client’s answers (in the case of conveyancing solicitors this would be a breach of acting in the best interest of one’s client), and so store up delay weeks down the line when it is spotted by the buyer that documents that were meant to be enclosed were not, where too much information has been given by a seller where it need not have been (and it puts off a buyer unnecessarily) etc.

As a result, this fuller and more comprehensive Form that is promoted for use by conveyancing solicitors in the CQS means that choosing your conveyancer becomes even more crucial from this week, as in a volatile market, prompt action by expert conveyancers is essential.