Enquiries after enquiries: a conveyancing solicitor’s nightmare

22 Mar 2013

How many conveyancers will raise their hands to say that they face deal breaking delay over excessive enquiries raised by over cautious conveyancers? Or those who have been sued and so are covering themselves, or who simply throw out standard enquiry forms because that is what they have always done? Or just those whose training in conveyancing leaves a lot to be desired?

The Law Society’s Protocol aims to raise standards and to rid conveyancers of this problem. As a result they hope that conveancing transactions can proceed more smoothly. The Protocol is the Law Society's 'preferred practice' for conveyancing transactions of freehold and leasehold residential property. Most conveyancers adopt it to some extent. However, those solicitor firms (and only solicitor firms) who stand out with the new Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme accreditation (CQS) MUST adopt it.

The Protocol states that conveyancing solicitors should "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."

To assist, the Protocol prescribes the use of the Law Society’s Property Information Form (TA6), which is now on it’s second edition, and which aims to reduce the need for additional enquiries and to offer enough upfront information to placate a buyer. Anyone who has moved home will recall this form which gives general information about boundaries, disputes, guarantee, building works, and utilities. Form aims to strike a balance between providing buyers with relevant practical information, or protecting the seller from a multitude of tedious contract warranties, the information for which could be obtained independently.

However, the Form is not without its critics due to it’s continuing brevity. In addition, so many conveyancing businesses are not CQS accredited and so are not limited to just using this Form and are so continue to be unchecked in their enquiries.

As a result a new TA6 Form is due in May 2013 following the Law Society’s consultation exercise last year. This Form will command almost universal adoption, as did the previous editions, whatever status the conveyancer using it is.

Expected changes include:

  • New questions on the Green Deal, Japanese knotweed, flooding, and parking;
  • More "general" questions about keys and making sure the property is reasonably clean and tidy;
  • More space to expand on details, such as building works;
  • Under the section "guarantees" there will be a note to buyers that the existence of a guarantee does not mean that it will be enforceable so they will need to check themselves.

However, a choice does exists to the public – a CQS Firm, or at least a fuller Property Information Form.