Don’t forget – your conveyancer is also a party to your home move

15 Jun 2015

Really? They do not own your house, they are not contributing money to the purchase. So why are they a party when it comes to you moving home?

They are, that is the point. You employed them to become just that.

In the case of a sale, you have employed them to perform a job – to make sure they promptly, and correctly make sure your buyer receives the necessary legal papers in return for the money they are willing to pay you for your property, yet ensuring you are not exposed to being sued by the buyer after you sell.

In the case of a purchase, you have employed your conveyancer to perform a similar job – to make sure they promptly, and ensure you receive the necessary legal paperwork to enjoy your home in all its glory, defect and error free, causing no problems if you come to resell, or worse still avoiding a knock on the door after you move in because they overlooked a legal defect, resulting in a legal dispute.

Unfortunately, in the heat and emotion of a home move, sellers and buyers can overlook the conveyancer’s role. The excitement, or desperation of moving, even the panic of not losing the buyer/seller, can lead to rushing and the “I am happy with everything” or “I must exchange next week” or even “I do not understand why the lawyers are taking so long”. Even some estate agents can overlook the conveyancer’s crucial role, saying “Oh, they are just covering their back.’

The problem, of course, is that while you are moving home, and the estate agent rightly wants the buyer to commit to an exchange as they will receive their commission, the conveyancer is there to guarantee the paperwork is error free. They are employed to assume that huge risk on your behalf. Massive risk in fact, and in return for one of the lowest fees in the whole moving process (versus estate agents, mortgage brokers, surveyors and even removal companies).

Indeed, the moment you exchange contracts on a sale or purchase, the conveyancer exposes themselves to risk, and it stays with them for as long as you will own the property.

Conveyancers therefore need to get things right, for your benefit and their own.

Examples of mistakes:

–  missing the fact that an alteration did not have Local Authority consent (planning/building control) meaning you are exposed to enforcement action (e.g to take down the extension/conservatory) – e.g £20,000+ claim against the lawyer

–  overlooking that access to your property is over third party land, who approach you after you buy, and stop you trespassing – e.g £50,000+ claim against the lawyer

–  overlooking that building works (for example) were carried out at the property in breach of a restriction in the deeds preventing it, and you receive a knock on the door and the dispute starts – e.g £20,000+ claim against the lawyer

–  overlooking that some of the property was former agricultural land, and it is being used as garden without Council consent – e.g £10,000+ claim against the lawyer

–  overlooking the absence of any legal ownership of the garage, or parking space, or a necessary right of way actually documented in the deeds – e.g £20,000+ claim against the lawyer

Conveyancers should proceed promptly, but they are also balancing that with the risk in making a mistake.