Friday, 28 February 2014

Average Conveyancing Fees to Reduce as Land Registry Fees Fall

Law firms need to start changing their conveyancing quotes and carefully consider completion statements as the new Land Registry Fee Order will come into force in two weeks time. A quick review of a number of conveyancing websites reveals that the new charges are not yet reflected.

As of the 17th March the Land Registry will be introducing:

  • flat fees for all ‘inspection of documents’ and ‘official copy of document’ (OC2) applications 
  • a reduction in the number of fee bands for scale 1 registrations
  • a reduction in the fee for scale 1 registrations of properties priced between £80,001 and £100,000
  • 50 per cent reduction in fees for the registration of transfers of the whole of a registered title, charges of the whole of a registered title and transfers of charges and some fixed fee applications if made electronically

Conveyancing lawyers who submit applications by post should note any postal applications submitted on or after Friday 14 March should include the new fee as these will arrive at the Land Registry on or after the new rate is introduced.

Information about the new fees can be found on the Land Registry website. 

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Required Reading, With Care...

If you do nothing else this weekend, take some time to read the full decision in the matter of Santander UK Appellant and R.A. Legal Solicitors

Pay particular attention to Lord Justice Briggs' comment relating to the assertion that it is common practice for conveyancers to submit an unqualified certificate of title when in fact investigations are outstanding.

"To my mind the pretence that the investigation of title has been completed when it has not is a method of dealing with that difficulty which borders on dishonesty. It is nothing to the point that, if subsequently revealed defects are properly addressed, it causes the lender no loss.  
“On the contrary, [RA Legal’s barrister’s] submission that unqualified certificates are frequently given prematurely involves the implicit admission that this is done deliberately, rather than by accident. If so, it simply makes the misconduct all the more serious.”
As strange as this may seem (and with no disrespect intended), the above quote reminded me of an interaction between Bart Simpson and Grandpa

Bart: I've got a story so scary you'll wet your pants.
Grandpa: Too late.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What if that SRA e-mail were REAL?

The SRA recently warned that solicitors report receiving scam e-mail messages purporting to be from the agency and referring to pending investigations.

But what if the e-mail were authentic and your firm was targeted for an investigation? Would you be ready?

In deference to solicitors' preferences, the SRA uses e-mail "to inform regulated individuals and organisations of regulatory news, time-sensitive regulatory requirements and other important information," according to its website. So, it's quite possible that it could be real. And, it could be painful.

With the launch of CLIENTCAREmonitor, solicitor firms have a tool to ensure compliance and identify the highest risk files in real time. The platform addresses the lengthy complexities of the new SRA Handbook, promoting the early identification of potential compliance failures to avoid the significant cost of interventions and other regulatory action.

While it can't help reduce the amount of spam coming into your inbox (and who of us doesn't love a good Nigerian banking scam?), it will help you meet your compliance requirements based on the new SRA regime.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Principality Building Society - Solar Panel Concerns are Conveyancing Panel Concerns

Principality Building Society, the largest building society in Wales and the sixth largest in the UK have today changed their requirements as set out in their CML Part 2 relating to leases of roof space for solar PV panels

The new Part 2 requirements confirm the following conditions:
1. The Lease must contain a valid mortgagee break right which is exercisable after no more than 2 months’ notice. The lease must also provide that the cost of removing the equipment and making good any damage to the property is the responsibility of the solar PV provider.
2. The Lease is no longer than 30 years
3. The Lease excludes sections 24 to 28 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.
4. Where the property is leasehold, the written consent of the landlord authorising the installation of the equipment.
5. Building Insurance confirmation that it has been notified of the installation of the equipment.

Solicitors on the Principality Building Society Conveyancing Panel must not submit their Certificate of Title to us unless they have issued confirmation of the above to the Society.

Post completion requests are subject to different criteria and should be referred separately to the Society.

Full details of changes can be found here

Monday, 24 February 2014

Tapping the Untapped Opportunity in Equity Release Conveyancing

Retirees are releasing more money from their properties than ever before, according to the Equity Release Council.

Since 2011, the market for equity release in England and Wales has grown 10% year-on-year. In Scotland 2013, it was a whopping 37% increase. Overall UK equity release lending to older homeowners is around £1 billion as over-55s seek to improve their retirement income, reduce other debts or avoid having to move to a smaller property. In conversations across the country, lawyers tell me they often receive a ‘double conveyancing instruction’ as part of the money is sometimes used to help a family member get on the property ladder.

With many people in the UK retiring asset-rich but cash-poor, tempting them to use the value of their property to supplement their income through specialist equity release lenders has proved an easy sell. Alternative lending options can be expensive, with lenders tightening remortgaging criteria for older borrowers.

The idea behind equity release schemes is that people borrow against the value of their houses. Usually the loan is not paid back until they sell the house or die, although a minority make interest payments. If you happen to specialise in wills, it’s also a perfect time to sell that legal service as well.

This opportunity has not been embraced  by many conveyancing solicitors, many of whom are unfamiliar with the conveyancing process involved. That’s unfortunate, since It is relatively straight forward.

Equity release has come a long way since the early 1990s when bad press scared lawyers away from taking on such work for fear of potential claims that the borrower was under duress or did not understand the nature of the loan. The image problem persists although 30,000 equity release conveyancing transactions were ‘up for grab’ last year. An additional benefit is that such conveyancing does not involve the emotional strains of a buyer and seller. Furthermore there is normally no other lawyer involved and certainly no estate agent.

Lenders who operate in this area include Aviva Equity Release, Skipton Building Society and Newcastle Building Society.  These lenders do not operate particularly restive approach to their conveyancing panel.Newcastle, for example,  published the following criteria for eligibility for its conveyancing panel:  

Conveyancing firms with 2 or more partners may apply to be considered for inclusion on the Society’s panel of Solicitors.
• An application form needs to be completed and returned with copies of the firm’s current indemnity insurance, conveyancer’s practising certificates and certificate of incorporation (if applicable).
• Copies of the application form can be obtained from, Mortgage Operations Department, Newcastle Building Society, Portland House, New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8AL

In a move that I assume is directly related to the increase volume of transactions Lexsure has recently been asked by a number of firms to build a specific checklist within COMPLETIONmonitor specifically for Equity Release. Any lawyers wishing to see a demo of the checklist which takes into account individual lender requirements for Equity Release should contact me directly.

HSBC's £100 billion Reversal: Time Proves Sensibility of Panel Change of Heart

HSBC shocked the conveyancing industry in 2012 by requiring mortgage borrowers to instruct one of just 43 firms it named on its approved panel of solicitors. Five months later, complaints from customers and lawyers forced the lender to ditch the controversial plan.

Two years on, that reversal is seen as a win for consumers and probably contributed to the bank's grabbing a 12% share of the UK mortgage market.

Following the change of heart in August 2012, HSBC allowed all members of the Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) to act for it and the borrower in the legal work needed to buy a property, increasing the number of firms that consumers can choose from by more than 2,500 lawyers.

Later today the City expects HSBC to declare profits of £14.8billion, built on the back of the booming housing market, exceeding the profits made before the credit crunch. According to asset manager Investec, HSBC increased its share of new mortgage lending, having lent £100 billion to UK  borrowers. In 2007 it had just a 2.5 per cent share. Last August HSBC said it had approved £7.1billion of new mortgages to 68,000 customers in the first six months of the year.

This begs the question as to how just 43 firms could have dealt with that many conveyancing transactions? 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

When it Comes to New Build Conveyancing ; Halifax Dominate

Data from COMPLETIONmonitor reveals that Halifax lead new home mortgages.

On the whole, lenders are still shying away from newbuild lending although, Santander, Nationwide BS, NatWest and Barclays (Woolwich) are still active in this area.

Brokers have been expressing concern for some time now that lenders still have a dual criteria for lending on a newly built house and lending on what we would class as second hand and the biggest variance is at the LTV calculations.

The problem is further reflected by latest version of Help to Buy. Notwithstanding that this product’s modus operandi is to allow buyers with as little as 5 per cent deposit to purchase a property, mortgage lenders supporting the scheme still restrict a new build property to their maximum published LTV criteria which is typically 80%.

Barclays Conveyancing Panel Frustrated by Restrictive Valuation Appeals Process

Barclays will no longer allow valuation appeals unless there is more than a 25% gap between the borrower's estimated value and the value provided by the surveyor. Under this new rule, for example, a surveyor could value a £200,000 house at £151,000 and no appeal can be made. Previously Barclays had no restrictions.

In an uncertain property market and with ‘once-bitten, twice-shy’ valuers, one might expect down-valuations to be on the increase. In fact, down-valuations, where the surveyor values a property at a lower level than the borrower, have fallen significantly since the financial crisis due to improvements in the economy and an increase in the availability of higher loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages. However, they remain a sensitive issue among estate agents, brokers and their customers.

So why does the Barclays Conveyancing Panel Care? 

Taking away the opportunity to appeal will increase the chance of the buyer pulling out due to the low LTV. With many conveyancing law firms on the Barclays solicitors panel working on a no-sale, no-fee basis, this could result in a fair amount of legal work being written off. In theory, where a lawyer is
on notice that the purchase is to be funded with a Barclays' mortgage, they could wait until the valuation is back before conducting the more-expensive elements of the conveyancing process.

Putting matters in perspective, E.surv business development director Richard Sexton suggests that very few valuations get changed on appeal, so Barclays are simply cutting down on unnecessary administration.

 “What Woolwich is trying to do is reduce the unnecessary admin and the frustration that the broker and the customer who think that the valuation will get changed on challenge. That is not a great customer
experience,” he commented to Mortgage Strategy.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Women’s Work

A maths problem to start the day: When is 70% equal to 11%?

That stumped me, too. 

Hint: it isn’t. 

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers September 2013 survey shows that 70% of the U.K.’s licensed conveyancers solicitors are women. It is presumably a fair representation of conveyancers within solicitor practices as well. 

The Law Society’s annual roundtable of “thought leaders” on conveyancing are overwhelmingly men. (8 to 1 this year, 9 to 2 last year, roughly the 11%). 

My colleague has asked the Law Society about the disparity and they’ve promised to get back to us.

In the meantime, I  suggest having a look around your own office. Diversity in operations and leadership needs to be addressed in our industry.  Women and people of color are well-represented in the working ranks and certainly amongst our clientele. They should be included amongst our thought leaders, too.

Lloyds Conveyancing Panel Portal Providers Hit Back at the Law Society

The relationship between Decision First and the Law Society is becoming increasingly strained as the adoption of the Lender Exchange by lenders such as Lloyds undermines the value of CQS. 

The Lender Exchange is a web portal which aims to address the issue of multiple lenders seeking similar information from solicitors in order to better manage their panel systems. The aim is to reduce costs and the administrative burden on solicitor firms, while also helping the lenders minimise fraud and negligence through due diligence. The Lloyds Conveyancing Panel will have to use the system. CQS will clearly no longer be the only game in town. 

The Law Society maintain that important issue is the level of detail of the information sought by lenders. At present, some lenders require a minimal verification of ID prior to granting membership of their solicitor panel. Others require detailed information including criminal record checks. The Law Society have also expressed concerns about the role that Decision First will have as a ‘gatekeeper.’  

The PR machines are kicking  into gear. Speaking to Legal Futures, Decision First’s managing director, Justin Parkinson, said he had written to Mr Hudson offering to share the proposed terms and conditions “in a consultative manner” as long as discussions were kept confidential. He said he had been talking to the Law Society “for over 12 months” about the scheme. “My frustration is that that seems to be ignored by the Law Society and they pick and choose what information to pass out to their members.”

In an attempt to alleviate concerns over a private business running the exchange Parkinson pointed out that Decision First had won the contract in open competition, in which the Law Society also participated. In a comment that brings into question the value of CQS he argued that the status quo was “untenable”. He explained: “If nothing was to happen, then I could guarantee that lenders would take their own course of action and every law firm in the country would be effectively penalised as a result”.

A Law Society spokesman said: “The Law Society continues to have reservations about Lender Exchange and the impact it could have on members. We offered to provide a service free to lenders and that offer still stands. We are organising a meeting with Decision First to go through their terms and conditions and assess what ramifications they could have for our members.”

The new Lloyds conveyancing panel portal is expected to go live by the end of March.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Should Free Legals by Lenders be Banned by the FCA?

Treating customers fairly (TCF) is central to the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) expectations of a lender’s conduct. Banks must put the well-being of customers at the heart of how they run their businesses.

After years of licking their mostly self-inflicted wounds, banks are now starting to compete for borrowers with ‘free legals’ reemerging as the preferred incentive to lure borrowers.

How to square the TCF outcomes the FSA wants to see mortgage lenders deliver with the use of free legals? Banks are desperate for us to believe they have turned over a new leaf but are the old ploys returning?

Whilst I am not an advocate for separate representation, my view is that changes over the last few years have made it is increasingly harder to act for a borrower and a lender without there being a conflict. That conflict is brought into sharper focus where free legals are in play because the solicitor is not acting for borrower but acting on behalf of the lender paying for the services.

Outcome-focused regulations dictates that TCF includes the fair treatment of consumers, as well as products and services designed to meet the needs of identified consumer groups.  Individuals
must be kept appropriately informed of the progress of their cases. It is hard to argue that you would find these fundamentals in play with any client recommendation to take the free legals route.

One only needs to look at the forums such as MoneySavingExpert and other online venues to see a picture that clients can find themselves anguishing in the slow lane, with no motivation for their solicitor to progress the matter timeously.

I am fairly confident that the SRA would not tolerate an analogous situation in the legal industry. Consider a scenario where large conveyancing law firms were offering free wills by a separate will-writing company with every conveyancing transaction. The likelihood is that any such company -- for obvious commercial reasons -- would then farm out the work to the cheapest will writer. What sort of quality could be expected from the arrangement? If the SRA would not tolerate this, shouldn't the FCA be taking a closer look at ‘Free Legals’?

Monday, 17 February 2014

Law Society Revises Local Authority Content in Line with New Risks

Just over six months ago the Law Society consulted on proposed changes to the CON 29 and CON 29O forms, also know as ‘Local Authority Searches’ and ‘Conveyancing Searches’. Local authority searches are a vital part of the conveyancing process and are used by conveyancing solicitors to request information about matters affecting a property, such as pending planning or building applications, nearby transport schemes and rights of way.
Preliminary negotiations about the proposed changes took  place between the Law Society,the Local Land Charges Institute and the Local Government Association. After a consultation,  feedback has now brought about changes to the forms that are due to be launched later this year.

The consultation paper provides interesting insight as to current issues and risks.  I maintain that there is a disconnect between what is included in the new search and the newly imposed obligations within the CML Handbook. Please note that I do not comment on all changes or elements of the consultation.

Inclusion of new enquiries 1.1(i) to (l) on CON 29 relating to : certificates of lawfulness of proposed works; heritage partnership agreements; listed building consent orders; local listed building consent orders.  

The inclusion of these new categories was agreed to by the legal authorities. The reference to certificates of lawfulness is to be further defined to apply to listed buildings.                
Inclusion of enquiry 1.2 (Green Deal) on CON 29

The Law Society faced a hard decision here.  Some respondents to the consultation felt the information provided in answer to a new enquiry about the existence of a green deal could be valuable to buyers. A small number thought this enquiry should be widened to include all 'green' technologies e.g. solar panels. Given the new CML Requirements introduced in these areas over the last two years, having the information on the search would have been a benefit to conveyancing lawyers and arguably would have reduced the chances of failure to comply with the Handbook, thus resulting in fewer claims.

Given the Law Society’s interest in protecting its members, it is surprising that the Law Society opted not to include any question relating to Green Deals.

Many local authorities were concerned about how they would find out whether a property had a Green Deal. Several said that their answers would be only as good as the information supplied to them.  The Green Deal would not always be linked to a planning or building application, and most applications in enquiry 1.1 would not show the existence of a Green Deal. Search companies were also concerned about whether local authorities could answer this enquiry satisfactorily. I would have preferred the onus to rest  with the Local Authority.

The Law Society took the view that buyers should rely on the EPC as the main source of information about Green Deal improvements at a property. How many conveyancers are currently checking EPC’s for this risk.?                             
Inclusion of enquiry about assets of community value on CON 29

The following questions are now to be included:                     
(a)  Has the property been nominated as an asset of community value? If so:-
  (i)  Is it listed as an asset of community value and with effect from what date?
  (ii)  Was it excluded and placed on the “nominated but not listed” list?
  (iii)  Was it listed but the listing has expired and if so for what reason?
  (iv)  Is the Council reviewing or proposing to review the listing?
  (v)  Are there any subsisting appeals against the listing?
(b)  If the property is listed:
  (i)  Has the Council decided to apply to the Land Registry for an entry or cancellation of a    restriction in respect of listed land affecting the property?
  (ii)  Has the Council received a notice of disposal and if so when?
  (iii)  Has any community interest group requested to be treated as a bidder?
Drainage agreements and consents no longer be included on CON 29

There was overwhelming support for these enquiries to be deleted because local authorities no longer provide information about drainage agreements or consents, or have very little information about them. Of course, water companies are a more appropriate source for this information.

Insead, a new question will appear in relation to sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS).     
SUDS include a range of structures and techniques aimed at draining surface water efficiently and sustainably.

Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 establishes SUDS Approval Bodies (SABs) in county or unitary local authorities, and gives those bodies statutory responsibility for approving the drainage aspect of construction work, with some exceptions. SABs must also adopt and maintain drainage systems that they approve where those systems serve more than one property. They can also voluntarily adopt drainage systems in other circumstances
SABs will be able to levy a maintenance charge on occupiers of premises and properties that are served by an adopted SUDS. It is likely that SUDS will become increasingly prevalent, particularly on new housing developments. Owners and occupiers of properties served by SUDS should be aware of any SUDS features within the boundary of their property so that they do not damage or build over those features. Moreover, owners and occupiers should find out who is responsible for collecting the maintenance charges so that they can find out the amount of the charge.
Proposed amendments to enquiry 3.5 (nearby railway schemes) on CON 29       
The suggested new question read as follows:      
Is the property (or will it be) within:
(a) 200 metres of the centre line of a proposed railway, tramway, light railway or monorail?
(b) 400 metres of the centre line of High Speed 1 or High Speed 2?
The specific reference to HS2 would set a precedent for the forms and could blight properties. The HS2 route is still subject to consultation and, as such, there was some suggestion that  the enquiry should say 'currently proposed route' or 'proposed centre line' of HS2 instead.

Another concern was  that the proposed question was not sufficiently 'futureproof'; referring specifically to HS1 and HS2 would mean that other major rail projects, such as Crossrail in London, should be specifically referred to.

The Law Society has re-drafted this enquiry. It no longer specifically refers to HS1 or to HS2, but instead asks whether there are any proposals for a railway, tramway, light railway or monorail within the local authority's boundary. The obvious objection that I have here arises when dealing with properties that are very close to a boundary. The Law Society address this concern (not wholly satisfactorily, in my opinion) by arguing that the accompanying guidance notes will refer to the need for conveyancing solicitors and/or buyers to make enquiries of other local authorities where necessary.

Inclusion of enquiry 3.7(g) (flood and coastal erosion risk management notices) on CON 29

In some quarters there was a suggestion that coastal erosion risk management should be an optional enquiry since not all local authorities are coastal,  but the Law Society decided to include this enquiry on the revised CON 29 form. Local authorities did not want this question included.  I suspect that future results to this question will say that enquiries should be made of other bodies.

Inclusion of enquiry 3.10 Re Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) on CON 29

Although CIL is currently having the biggest impact on local authorities in London, it is applicable to England and Wales and is to be included in the new search format.
Inclusion of enquiry 20 relating to flood defence and land drainage consents on CON 29O
The proposed new question was : Has any flood defence or land drainage consent relating to the property been given or refused, or (if applicable) is it the subject of a pending application?
The responses to this question were similar to those provided in answer to the issue of flood and coastal erosion risk management notices. The outcome was the same in that the question is to be included, although, as stated previously, the answers may not be of any value if they simply direct you to contact the Environmental Agency.

Seeing Opportunity in the Conveyancing Skill Gap

The concerns raised in my post last week on the risks of a hot market are reinforced by a survey in the Law Gazette showing the conveyancing boom exposes a skills gap.

What's clear from the survey is that either solicitors are faced with too much to do and not enough manpower, OR have manpower that doesn't have enough experience, potentially raising their risk profile. Both present a clear opportunity for change.

The long period of retrenchment that has left solicitors and their firms with a need to " start the conveyor belt all over again" with hiring should instead be seen as an opportunity to find new tools and processes for the conveyancing process. Working smarter is the future, not working more or with more people.

When the Flood Waters Recede, Will Conveyancing Lawyers Face a Deluge of Claims?

While debate in the last couple of years has centered on availability of flood insurance, that conversation will soon turn to the impact of flooding on property values and what solicitors advised clients on flood risk and the availability of flood searches.

Because a serious flood event typically drives down the value of a property, the inevitable knock-on effect will be an increase in claims against solicitors who may not have advised their clients to consider the risk of flooding or carry out appropriate searches. Flood searches are now more common but what about the millions of house purchases that took place in the last six years?

PI Insurers will be asking whether solicitors have been negligent about fully considering flood risk and whether this has left an exposure.
Solicitors are not qualified to give advice on flood risk but there are a number of checks that can be undertaken on a buyer’s behalf which will give them a better understanding of the risks. Many solicitors have been lax at asking the right questions and banks have been lamentable at considering the appropriate risk to their security. 

The CML Handbook, for example, makes no direct mention of flood risk (other than requiring it to be an insured risk). The absence of legal enquirers has somewhat been addressed by the Conveyancing Protocol forms which now ask the vendor to disclose if the property has been flooded in the past, but is this the case of locking the gate after the horse has bolted?

Lawyers can expect a question coming soon on their PI Renewal forms along the following lines: 

Over the last five years what processes has the Firm (and any Prior Practice) had in place to ensure that clients were advised about flood risk and the availability of flood searches ? If there has been a material change in your procedures, please provide dates as appropriate.

And, while you may think I am scaremongering, ask yourself a simple question: 

Would you want to live in a home where there is real chance that you and your family would have to shovel out sludge and sewage? 

The answer is likely either ‘No’ or ‘only if it is very, very cheap’.

The housing market seems already to adjusting pricing for flood risk. Between 2008 and 2012 property prices rose in four out of the five Lincolnshire postcodes with the lowest flood risk. They fell in four out of the five areas of highest risk (see chart).  That's not just coincidence.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Buy-to-Let Conveyancing on the Increase and Set to Continue

Following on from a very active fourth quarter, 160,900 buy-to-let conveyancing purchases involving a mortgage took place in 2013, a jump of 23% compared to 2012. The increase has been fuelled by Buy-to-let landlords benefiting from record low mortgage rates. Competition amongst lenders has seen fixed interest deals at a new low, brokers say. Mortgage Works, part of the Nationwide Building Society, now offers the lowest two-year fixed rate at just 2.49 per cent for borrowers with a 40 per cent deposit.
The trend is set to continue as The Post Office has re-entered the buy-to-let market, nearly two and a half years after pulling out of the sector. The deals, which start tomorrow, offer a selection of two, three and five-year mortgages at 60 per cent and 75 per cent, with rates starting at 2.98 per cent. It’s mortgages are funded by Bank of Ireland and as a result I expect to see some changes to the CML Handbook requirements for this lender in the near future.

Kensington Mortgage Conveyancing Panel and Broker Panel Witness Changes

Kensington Mortgages have changed their policy when it comes to lending on new build properties where the property does not have the benefit of a new home warranty scheme. Up until today the lender would not lend on new build properties not subject to an acceptable scheme.

Kensington have changed their CML Handbook requirements which now advises their conveyancing panel that they will lend if the building work has the benefit of a Professional Consultant's Certificate. The building work must have been monitored by a qualified architect and/ or surveyor ("relevant professional") with adequate professional indemnity insurance and the requirements specified in 6.7.4, 6.7.5 and 6.7.6 of Part 1 of the CML Handbook must be met. Kensington Mortgages will require the Professional Consultant's certificate which appears at Appendix 1 of the CML Handbook together to be completed and signed by the Relevant Professional prior to Completion.

To see the change in full click here

In the meantime, mortgage brokers have reacted with shock to the level of detail required in Kensington Mortgages’ new household expenditure form, which has been added to the specialist lender’s application process ahead of the Mortgage Market Review in April.

Kensington Mortgages emailed brokers earlier this month with details of its new mortgage application process, which includes an additional data requirements form and household monthly living expenditure form.

Now that lenders will be responsible for affordability under the rules of MMR instead of the broker it will be interesting to see how other lenders react with their own affordability criteria.​ now that Kensington have shown their hand. Brokers warn that the new requirements as laid out by Kensington may be difficult for borrowers to deal with.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

2013 Purchase and Remortgage Conveyancing Numbers Revealed

The CML have today issued a press release relating to information to First Time Buyers. I stumbled across the following information data which reveals the number of purchase and remortgage  conveyancing transactions in 2013.

That's nearly one million transactions where a CML Part 2 or BSA requirements applied.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The 'Selfie' That Requires a Good Conveyancing Solicitor

In an article today in the Financial Times on how to sell a house without an agent, journalist Lucy Warwick-Ching suggest that you pick your lawyer carefully. 
The reason is that if a dispute arises with a buyer, you will probably have to handle it yourself, although some online agents may step in. A good conveyancing solicitor may have to take on some of the work that an agent would have done in holding the deal together.

Some lawyers may well be pleased not to have an agent involved but should be careful what they wish for.

Penrith Building Society Conveyancing Panel Required to Supply Evidence of PI Insurance

Penrith Building Society yesterday changed their conveyancing panel requirements to require confirmation of professional indemnity insurance. It could be a coincidence but this comes hot on the heals of 136 firms being listed by the SRA as uninsured as well as the SRA withdrawing a practicing certificate for a lawyer who continued with conveyancing work after having been suspended.

The change to the Society's BSA Mortgage Instructions do not make it clear whether existing firms on the conveyancing panel need to send in a copy of their PI policy. The team at Lexsure are advising their firms to send a copy to the Society just in case.

Other requirements to be on the Penrith Conveyancing Panel include the fact that the firm must have a minimum of 3 partners as well as supplying a copy of the practicing certificates.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Clydesdale Bank Conveyancing Panel Review Due in 2014

Clydesdale Bank currently has 14 firms on the panel, which also covers legal work for Yorkshire Bank, both of which are  subsidiaries of parent National Australia Bank.

The firms previously appointed in May 2011 are Addleshaw Goddard, Brodies, CMS Cameron McKenna, DLA Piper, Dundas & Wilson, Eversheds, Harper Macleod, Gatelely, Hogan Lovells, Mcclure Naismith, Morton Fraser, Norton Rose, Thomas Eggar, Optima Legal.

At the time of appointment, Clydesdale Bank head of legal Michael Webber said: "As a matter of course we regularly review our key suppliers, and as a result we have consolidated the number of firms on our national legal panel." revealed back in 2011 that the bank reviews the national panel every three years, which if correct, and assuming there has been no policy change, the review will shortly take place.

The review of it’s legal panel is different to the consolidation or changes to the Clydesdale conveyancing panel which may also take place in 2014. Just a few months ago the CML revealed that Clydesdale are interested in joining the ‘Lender Exchange’ scheme.

The Lender Exchange is a secure web portal. The portal addresses the issue of multiple lenders seeking similar information from law firms in order to manage their conveyancing panels. Lender Exchange will allow law firms to submit their data through a single, secure system which those lenders, who are part of the scheme, will be able to access data that allows them to independently manage their conveyancing panel.

Will the Paragon Conveyancing Panel Portal Become a Reality?

Nearly 2000 firms are waiting to see whether the cost and requirements of being on the Paragon Conveyancing Panel will change 2014 given the CML’s indication that Paragon have expressed interest in the ‘Lender Exchange’ platform.

Lender Exchange has been developed by Decision First, in collaboration with a working group of lenders.

The announcement by the Council of Mortgage Lenders in the middle of November 2013 of the plans by a number of large lenders to use a new, single panel management data and application process will have inspired little confidence that life will become any easier in 2014.

The scheme will cover Lloyds Banking Group, Santander and Royal Bank of Scotland Group and expressions of interest have also been made by the Paragon Group.

The basis upon which lenders such as Paragon, should the join, will make a decision as to who remains on their panel and who does not remains a closely guarded secret. It is stated that each individual lender will make their own panel management decision based on the data collected.

Lease Extension Reform Debated in House of Lords

Peers took part in a second reading debate on the Leasehold Reform (Amendment) Bill.

This private members' bill, was introduced to the House of Commons by Conservative MP Philip Hollobone.  The bill received cross-party support.

The bill amends the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 in relation to the permitted signatories of notices.

Opening the debate, Baroness Williams of Trafford, who is sponsoring the bill in the House of Lords, said that the bill would correct an anomaly that currently exists in the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993.

Currently, leaseholders of flats who wish to extend their leases have to personally sign these notices. The bill would allow these notices to be signed on a leaseholders' behalf.

Conservative peer Baroness Gardner of Parkes, a long-term campaigner on the rights of leaseholders, welcomed the bill, but expressed surprise that it had taken so long. "Perhaps it gives us hope that someone is now looking at the problem of leasehold, which is crying out for reform."