Thursday, 25 March 2010

When is a first-time buyer ( FTB ) not a first-time buyer?

Whist the Chancellor's plan to scrap the stamp duty below £250,000 for first-time buyers will give the housing market a new boost, the extent of the boost will be determined by the definition of “ Fist Time Borrower”.

According to HMRC in order to qualify for the stamp duty relief a buyer must not have acquired a major interest in residential property, not have acquired foreign property and the purchase must not involve a company, partnership or trustees . It is unclear whether those who have inherited property in the past would qualify.

In the case of joint purchasers both buyers have to be “ First Time Buyers”.

The rules themselves are very restrictive, very confusing ( even for conveyancing solicitors ) and will almost certainly delay the number of first-time buyers actually receiving the relief. I suspect that purchasers who define themselves as FTBs will be asked by their Conveyancing Solicitors to sign a statutory declaration confirming that they meet the Revenue’s requirements.

Conveyancers offering on line quotations should be careful about allowing buyers to define themselves as FTB’s and receive a quote stating that no stamp duty is payable.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

MDA make move in commercial conveyancing

Macdonald Dettwiler & Associates (MDA) have made a move in the arena of commercial conveyancing as they are about to offer a Hosted Land Referencing Solution. The new conveyancing technology will allow all interested stakeholders access to open-ended, client-driven set of data layers, overlaid on an OS map using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to provide a shareable view of the development site.
Possible data layers may include HMLR title information, Local Authority Searches, flood, contaminated land and utility information, highways and water searches.

MDA SearchFlow are partnering with the Land Registry as an intermediary on behalf of the England & Wales legal marketplace, with a specific focus on land information for commercial property development. The first contract for the new service, already in place, will provide data intelligence for a leading UK law firm and its client for a large-scale urban redevelopment project.

MDA SearchFlow is the UK’s is a leading search information provider used by many conveyancing solicitors in the UK. The Company provides a one-stop shop for sending and receiving property searches and Home Information Pack (HIP) content for legal professionals, estate agents, and HIP providers who conduct property and other financial transactions.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Land Registry launches consultation on e-conveyancing

Following the previous two consultation papers on e-conveyancing published in 2007, Land Registry has launched the third consultation on today.

The stated aim of Land Registry’s e-conveyancing programme is to make conveyancing easier for everyone, with an electronic system that makes buying and selling property less stressful for the public, conveyancing professionals and the other parties involved.

The consultation contains the Land registry’s proposals for The Land Registration (Electronic Conveyancing) Rules 2011.

These rules will introduce a proposed new electronic transfer (e-transfer),complete with electronic signatures (e-signature), and revoke the Land Registration (Electronic Conveyancing) Rules 2008, which related solely to electronic charges (e-charges). An updated version of the 2008 rules will be incorporated into these new rules so that not only “stand alone” e-charges will be possible, but also e-charges accompanying a TR1. It will be possible to combine the electronic transfer with a new e-charge so that, when also associated with an electronic discharge, conveyancing solicitors will be able to complete the formal documentation for standard transactions electronically.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Is it time for the conveyancing industry to be unionised ?

How much longer can conveyancing solicitors accept being at the bottom of the legal food chain, with all the responsibility and risk involved.

Conveyancers would be forgiven for having a persecution complex having recently come under attack from insurers and lenders. Add to the mix the threat of “ “Tesco Law”. Whilst there has not been any serious suggestion that Tesco will consider launching conveyancing in the near future, it is the supermarket giant’s brand which has become the unofficial moniker for the Legal Services Act .

Most conveyancers believe that Tesco conducting conveyancing is a bad thing. Such an opinion is fine if conveyancers have market power, but they don't. The Beatles were not able to stop iTunes from changing the record business by abstaining from the platform, and there's no book publisher who can stop Amazon’s Kindle. The market waits for no one.

The alternative to embracing the changes that the Legal Services Act will bring is to sit out the game loudly. Don't just hold back your support, organize your peers or unionise conveyancing. Create a coordinated effort to stop innovation. I for one would not bet my house on your efforts, but it will certainly outperform a solo effort.

Conveyanacers Beware - Property Fraud likely to top £1b in 2010

Approximately £1 billion a year is predicted by the National Fraud Association to be lost through mortgage fraud.

Since the onset of the recession, mortgage lenders have gone to greater lengths to combat fraud and protect their businesses (partly driven by their insurers). For example, with sub-prime, buy to let and self-certified mortgages proving to be the primary target of fraudsters, banks have sought to reduce the number of products available in these niches. Similarly with the economy forcing more and more lenders to reduce their costs, there has been a greater emphasis from banks for fraud prevention, detection and recovery of losses.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has called for closer scrutiny of conveyancing solicitors firms to crack down on mortgage fraud committed by solicitors, and a comprehensive review of the way solicitors are regulated.

The CML said the principles-based approach of the SRA is not adequate to help restore lender confidence, and out of touch with the more intrusive style of regulation being championed by the Financial Services Authority.

Are the CML right ?

I would contend that the correct response is to insist that conveyancers to be prohibited from acting for both the Lender and the Borrower. There is huge potential conflicts of interest between them. This can only be provided by independent conveyancing solicitors or conveyancers .

Conveyancing Explained - The Evolution of Defective Title Insurance

In today’s conveyancing market, Defective Title indemnity insurance policies are increasingly being used to enable conveyancing to proceed where the defect threatens the transaction. Title Insurance responds to the issues created by defective title in a number of ways, including

• Underwriting the legal cost of responding to a challenge over the owner/mortgagee /insured’s right to use the property
• Indemnifying the fees for rectifying a challenge including legal fees
• Covering the insured against a loss including having to give up ownership of the property or not being able to use the property in the way that they envisaged

In the past, the process of obtaining a quotation for Indemnity Insurance and subsequently arranging cover was a lengthy and complicated process for conveyancing solicitors, in the submission of complicated risk details and underwriting information. Today various companies offer online applications and quotes as well as archiving of the policy itself