Monday, 23 April 2018

Maple syrup with your lender update, sir?




The Lexsure Academy has seen a ten-fold increase in bookings for their in-house ‘power hour’ training in the last in the last year. And there’s a rising trend for mixing things up by scheduling a morning course.

Nutritionists often say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but how many of your conveyancers routinely skip breakfast in an attempt to get some productive work in ahead of the influx of emails and calls?

It’s a self-defeating manoeuvre that saves a small amount of time but can reduce efficiency all day, making it harder to focus and remember. Not only is everyone’s brain more alert and receptive in the morning, evidence suggests that people are also more likely to retain what they learn.

So, next time you’re considering an efficient mealtime session to add value to your firm, don’t just fall back on the ever-popular ‘lunch and learn’. Set the tone and offer your lawyers in-house training over breakfast one day: with food for stomach and the brain, you may want to make it a cereal occurrence.

Whilst it’s generally true that there is no such thing as a free lunch, Searches UK are sponsoring the cost of Lexsure’s training sessions for the remainder of 2018. At whatever mealtime you choose.

Pick a FREE one hour ‘in-house’ session from Lexsure Academy’s latest menu:

A) Lenders' Handbook updates - do you know what you've missed?

B) Have you let the rot set in? Time to review your ROT

C) The evolution of the pre-completion checklist

D) Leasehold is under attack - are you preparing your clients?

E) Deep dive analysis of file audit on lender compliance


For more information about FREE Lexsure in-house training at your offices, to discuss your à la carte requirements or to book a one hour training session, please contact Searches UK directly on 0800 043 1815 or email info@searchesuk.co.uk to speak to one of their dedicated team today.

Terms and conditions
  • Strictly subject to availability, please book early to avoid disappointment
  • Only available for firms with minimum 15 attendees
  • If you are a small firm and would like to participate, let Searches UK know and they will try to consolidate a session with other local firms
  • Food to be supplied by the firm. Lexsure will make sure the training isn’t flat as a pancake.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

What is a 'Reasonable' Leasehold Event Fee?

Skipton Building Society is the latest lender to change their Handbook requirements introducing a reasonableness test when it comes to leasehold event fees.

The new instruction at section 5.14.9 reads ‘....event fees must remain at a reasonable level at all times during the lease term’

This begs a couple of questions: “What is an ‘event fee’?” and, “What is ‘a reasonable level’ when it comes to an event fee?”

Ordinarily, the reference to a leasehold event fee is within the context of a retirement property leases. Nevertheless I am yet to find a single lender who, in their Part 2 Handbook instructions, narrowly limits the definition of event fees solely to retirement properties.

In the absence of such a limitation I expect lenders to assert that an event fee would cover fees referenced in a lease such as Transfer Fees, Subletting Fees*, Management Fees and Consent Fees. These are all examples of ‘events’ where a fee is applied.

If there are unreasonable fees specified in the lease, or, even if you are on notice of excessive fees outside lease (e.g. management fees), you must make a disclosure to the lender.

The Conveyancing Association in 2016 estimated that up to 75% of leasehold home movers were being charged unreasonable fees. If that is true then that should result in a significant amount of disclosures based on Handbook requirements.

When it comes to the ‘reasonableness’ test, unless it’s obviously a low event fee, I suggest that you disclose the details to the both clients (lender and borrower) and deflect the responsibility on them to make the decision whether to move forward.  



*The Upper Chamber (Lands Tribunal) back in 2012 determined that Sub-letting fees should not be more than £40. Therefore any subletting fee that is higher is unreasonable and should be referred to the lender.  Sub-letting charges of £100 – £135 are of course very common

Monday, 16 April 2018

Are you [in-] house trained?


Part I: Pros and cons from the pros


When sourcing conveyancing training, the traditional training option used to be  external courses. More recently, e-learning (such as webinars) has become popular, but what about training’s rising star: in-house training?

The Lexsure Academy is seeing increasing numbers of law firms considering in-house training courses but is this the perfect solution? Does it suit all types of firms? Is it better for firms of one size or another? What other factors should be taken into account?

In this post, we give you the benefit of our experience of training hundreds of conveyancers a year. We’ll lay out the advantages, disadvantages and other considerations you might like to have in mind when considering in-house training, so you know if it’s the right path for you and your firm and we’ll give you some useful hints and tips along the way.

 

The advantages of in-house

E-learning’s drawbacks – For some needs, e-learning can be a good option but its drawbacks are fairly obvious and none apply to in-house. It’s pretty easy for lawyers to be distracted by calls and emails etc without a ‘real person’ in front of them. It’s an impersonal setting that doesn’t lend itself to a quality return on your training budget.

Training costs – In-house usually carries a lower cost per delegate than external  scheduled courses due to the fact the training company only has to send a trainer to you rather than pay for a suitable professional environment themselves. Of course, this only works if there are enough attendees. We generally find that 4 lawyers is the break-even point - and if you have more attendees, the savings can be significant. As can be seen towards the end of this blog some service providers are offering free in-house training.

Travel cost savings – You don’t have to pay travel costs to get your lawyers from home / the office to the training centre. Depending on circumstances (how far, whether taxis are required, how many delegates) this could also save you a meaningful sum.

Travel time – Feedback to Lexsure suggests that in larger firms, travel cost savings are not particularly valued, but by contrast, firms of all sizes appreciate fee-earners’ time and bringing the trainer to your office is a huge time-saver, which, of course, makes a big impact on bottom line.

Personalised approach – In-house training is, by definition, just for your firm, unlike external or e-learning, where your team may be in a room (or virtual room) with delegates from any number of firms. So instead of a generic approach, when the in-house trainer is skilled and from a reputable company, you can expect them to focus the training on the specific topics that are pertinent to your firm or the ones your attendees are most interested in delving into.  

Real world examplesTraining in-house means the courses can be prepared to fix issues your firm has actually faced, using real life cases without fear of breaching confidentiality or commercial sensitivities. This can be very powerful. Lexsure has found that lawyers are keen to discuss examples of problematic current or historic cases and review them in an open and non-judgemental forum. This is much more valuable than talking about  generic, fictional examples, which can fall into the opposing camps of being either too mundane or too ‘wacky’ for the attendees to feel they are truly benefiting.

Convenience – Organising training for a group of conveyancers all with their own deadlines and pressures can be a very difficult task. However, having in-house training courses in your own building can make working around lawyers’ schedules a lot easier as you are cutting out logistical issues (no travel time, no contingencies for delays on transport etc) as well as the fact that replacement delegates can be easily accessed in case something arises that needs to be addressed quickly, or perhaps to provide an additional perspective on a topic that arises.

Team building – Having a room full of conveyancers, especially from different offices or floors, can encourage teamwork. This is a fantastic result as it is often in this social learning that the best learning is done, when ideas are bounced off each other. This will also likely lead to increased awareness and understanding of each other’s roles as well as staff morale. A friendly workplace is always a good thing!

Lawyer retention – Conveyancing firms struggle with keeping their best people and staffing merry-go-rounds are disruptive and expensive. Bringing in trainers is a statement by a law firm that they believe in investing in lawyers and your fee-earners will feel that you care about their career development, not just box-ticking for ‘points’. An edge in this arena is valuable as this is a very real business concern for most firms.

The disadvantages

Extra administration – Although you save money by lessening the organisation needed by the training company, you do take on this burden yourself. Someone needs to find a suitable room and whatever refreshments you think suitable. It’s not onerous, but it does need to be done.

Delegates stay on site – As much as this is a benefit, it is also a disadvantage to in-house training. It’s easier to withdraw the attendees from  the training if they’re not 45 minutes away, which makes it tempting when there’s an urgent exchange or completion. Interruptions disturb everyone in the room, so your firm needs to be very disciplined about this. Helpfully, the time commitment is shorter because of the lack of travel time, which does make it easier.

Networking – Your staff will not meet anyone from other companies if the training course is done in-house. They miss out on networking and learning from the different ethos and style of another company.

Searches UK and free in-house training
The Lexsure Academy offers a range of one hour in-house training sessions, which cost £750+VAT. However, for a limited period, your firm’s session can be sponsored by Searches UK, meaning you receive expert training for conveyancers for free. To take advantage of this offer, simply contact Searches UK on 0800 043 1815 or email info@searchesuk.co.uk to speak to one of their dedicated team today.

Terms and conditions
Strictly subject to availability, please book early to avoid disappointment
Only available for firms with minimum 15 attendees
If you are a small firm and would like to participate, let Searches UK know and they will try to consolidate a session with other local firms


Monday, 12 March 2018

NatWest Reminds Conveyancing Clients To Check Bank Details Following £600,000 Fraud

The latest conveyancing scam reported in the Telegraph this weekend has seen a victim feeling “utterly alone” following the theft of almost £600,000.
The victim, whose mortgage had yet to come through, said he felt under immense pressure to make the transfer. He borrowed from his company and made a bank transfer of £593,055.20 to an Ulster Bank account, the Irish arm of Royal Bank of Scotland, on Jan 18, as per the fake solicitor’s instructions.
The fraud only came to light on Feb 9 when the victim found out the real solicitor had no knowledge of the transfer. The crime was reported immediately to NatWest, Ulster Bank and Action Fraud. The reader also tried to report the scam to various London police stations but was referred back to Action Fraud or told to call 101.
“No one seemed to have any record of my name, reference number and the case. And I’ve no idea what to do,” he said.
The article in the Telegraph quotes NatWest as saying that it was “aware” of the case and was currently investigating.  It said it was “supporting” its customer in the recovery of his funds on a “best endeavours basis” and would “continue to support him through this undoubtedly distressing situation”.
It said it wanted to remind customers to always confirm bank details with their solicitor in person or over the phone before sending any money.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Searching for the Right Paragraphs for your Report on Title

More than 400 lawyers used Lexsure’s Report on Title paragraph database last month seeking assistance in drafting this crucial document in the conveyancing process.


Firms struggle to find the time to create a firm-wide index of newly created paragraphs to be made available for future use. Lawyers readily admit to me that notwithstanding the constant moving landscape of conveyancing risk, their precedent Report on Title is updated no more than once or twice a year.


Here is a list of the most common search terms used by lawyers seeking assistance:
  1. Ground Rent
  2. Source of Funds
  3. Lease Term
  4. Minimum Lease Term
  5. Unexpired
  6. Headlease
  7. Article 4
  8. Septic
  9. Solar
  10. Chancel
The e-ROT search tool can be found here.

Almost one thousand firms registered for last year’s webinar series on Reports on Title by Lexsure. Three more webinars entitled 'How and Why Technology is Changing the way Conveyancers Report to Clients' have been added for 2018. At the time of writing this blog I understand that there are only a few spaces left. Bookings can be made here.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Top 5 Conveyancing Webinars in 2017

So what were the hot conveyancing topics in 2017? Fraud, Leasehold Changes, Lender Compliance and The fourth Anti Money Laundering Directive were all front of mind at various points of the year. The Lexsure Academy hosted on 26 webinars in 2017, many of which were sponsored by Searches UK, covering a range of topics.
The popularity of certain webinars may be viewed as an interesting measure as to the issues that conveyancers are most concerned with. Here are the figures relating to the five most attended webinar subjects:
  1. Leasehold is Changing - Updating Your Documents (997 Registrants)
  2. The Lenders’ Handbook - How to Stay on Top of Changes (721 Registrants)
  3. Pre-Completion Checklists - Do You Know What You Are Missing (690 Registrants) 
  4. Building Reports on Title/How Technology is Changing the ROT (662 Registrants)
  5. Lender Handbook Updates 2017 - An Overview (540 Registrants)
The head of training at Lexsure anticipates that the three most popular sessions for 2018 will be focused on Mortgage Lender File Reviews, Reports on Title and Additional Enquiries.
The three most popular subjects in 2017 for Lexsure’s ‘Free In-House Training’ and seminars for local law societies were:
  1. Conveyancing Fraud - Joining up the Dots
  2. Future of UK Legal Practice - A Technology Perspective
  3. Auditing Conveyancing Files: Lifting up the Carpet
Details of future webinars plus the ability to order slides or recording for previous topics can be found here.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Handbook Changes - Top Lenders Start 2018 with Updates

It has been a busy start to 2018 when it comes to lenders changing their Handbook instructions.

Three weeks into to the new year eleven lenders have updated their instructions via Part 2 of the UK Finance Mortgage Lenders' Handbook for conveyancers. Twenty six sections have been changed.

Examples of top lenders who have made updated their Part 2’s in 2018 include:
  • Halifax 
  • Bank of Scotland 
  • Lloyds Bank 
  • Santander 
  • The Mortgage Business 
  • Atom Bank 
LENDERmonitor provides protection to conveyancers from the risk of missing updates to Part 2 of the UK Finance Mortgage Lenders' Handbook. With the LENDERmonitor alert service, solicitors and conveyancers receive an email notification any time lenders of interest make changes to their policies.

Staying abreast of policy changes is particularly important at a time when lenders are making a significant number of changes and solicitors and conveyancers are at greater risk of being sued for non-compliance with lender requirements.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Top Ten Important Changes to Reports on Title 2017

In the last twelve months the conveyancing fraternity witnessed significant changes to Part 2 of the UK Finance Mortgage Lenders' Handbook. This, combined with the press and government focusing a spotlight on leasehold, resulted in firms considering how they should upgraded their Report on Title .    


In response to lender changes and in anticipation of legislative action many new paragraphs were added as optional precedent text to the Lexsure’s Report on Title in 2017 by the  network of lawyers using the software.


Here is a list of what I consider to be the Top Ten areas where new paragraphs were indexed in 2017 for future use :


  1. Ground Rent Escalation 
  2. Remaining Lease Term Less than 90 Years 
  3. High Ground Rent 
  4. Original Lease Term Less than 125
  5. Source of Funds 
  6. Contributors Towards Purchase Price
  7. New Build - Long Term Completion Date
  8. Statutory Matters Concerning Leasehold 
  9. EPC Result - F/G Rating 
  10. Limitation of Enquiries based on Protocol 


Firms wishing to be alerted as to new suggested paragraphs should subscribe to the e-ROT Notification Service.


Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Land Registry Applications - Room for Improvement

I sometimes come across lawyers complaining about how long it takes the Land Registry to register title.

According to Andrew Robertson, Head of Customer Policy at the Land Registry responding to a comment on a blog entitled ‘Opening our conveyancer data’ commented  ‘... we aren't able to process in the region of 40% of the applications we have pending because we're waiting for something else to be provided or done before they can proceed’.

The top 5 reasons for requisition are as follows:

1. Restrictions (20%) - consents or certificates needed to satisfy the terms of restrictions on the register
2. Discharges (13%) - discharge of charge evidence needed
3. Variations and discrepancies in names (11%)
4. Signing and witnessing of deeds (6%)

5. Identity verification issues (3%)