Hundreds of solicitor firms continue to apply for the Law Society quality standard the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) which promotes their good practice management standards and adherence to prudent and efficient conveyancing procedures. The scheme has a documented set of requirements and rules (called the ‘protocol’) intended to regularise relationships between the buyer and seller’s conveyancing solicitor, which all members of the scheme must adhere to.
Among the requirements is a welcome requirement for conveyancing solicitors to “raise only those specific enquiries required to clarify issues arising out of the documents submitted … Indiscriminate use of “standard” additional enquiries may constitute a breach of this protocol.” The aim is to reduce the time consuming nature of enquiries which can often enquire about matters more relevant to the buyer’s survey, or are simply superfluous, vague, or a duplication of what is already in the legal papers.
Many home movers will already be familiar with an enquiry form, called the Property Information Form, which is universally traded between selling and buying conveyancers. This in fact is a form prescribed by the protocol itself, the aim of which is to contain all the practical information which a buyer should need to know from a seller, and the only information that a seller should be contractually responsible for accurately disclosing.
Unfortunately, many conveyancing solicitors have in fact used their own produced forms of enquiries on top of the standard form. Many exposing the seller to pages and pages of additional contractual warranties. The problem here lies in the fact that they automatically introduce huge delays over tedious irrelevant questions, and many conveyancers send these forms out without even considering if the legal papers already supplied to them have the answers, or whether their standard questions are even relevant to the specific property (i.e an automatic mindset for the need to raise enquiries for the sake of it, when in fact, good conveyancing can often achieved without raising any enquiries).
The good news is that the CQS requires its members firms to sign an undertaking to actually comply with the protocol, and therefore the obligation not to use indiscriminate standard enquiries. Indeed, Jonathan Smithers new Chair of the Law Society Conveyancing and Land Law Committee is reported as saying “If there are instances of non-compliance, the CQS office will want to hear about them so that they can be monitored. Enforcement of the scheme rules is an important part of the CQS scheme design.”
The bad news for home movers is that CQS accreditation is only open to solicitor firms (see here for a postcode check of members) and so a vast number of conveyancers are not so bound, and can easily continue to use delaying, superfluous and often ‘deal-breakingly’ slow standard enquiry forms.
Choose your conveyancer carefully.