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Buying reform backed by conveyancing chief but government 'must get it right'

One of the country’s leading conveyancing chiefs has given his support to reforms to the house buying process.

But Rob Hailstone - chief executive of the Bold Legal Group, a network of over 650 High Street law firms - insists that proposals must be thoroughly tested before introduction.

In an interview for Estate Agent Today, Hailstone gives broad support for reservation agreements which are currently being considered by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.


A model two page reservation agreement has been drawn up by a law firm as a possible way of reducing fall throughs and speeding up transactions.

Hailstone backs the idea in principle, saying: "Anything that can help improve the process has to be welcomed. However, it is important that the planned trial is thorough and meaningful. The last thing we want is an agreement that is not accepted widely and causes more issues than it solves.”

He adds: “One problem is that even if it is good, but not mandated its use might be random, and random probably won’t cut it. Never has the phrase, ‘the devil will be in the detail’ been more relevant.”

Hailstone also uses the interview to express general support for the idea of a Property Logbook - another measure under consideration by the government - and feels there is a strong case for the creation of a pre-sale pack to avoid duplication, reduce abortive costs by sellers and buyers, and to ease the currently stressful transaction process.

“It makes perfect sense for a property lawyer to get all of the sale documentation and information together whilst a property is being marketed. I think, over the next year or so, we will see more property lawyers working closely with estate agents in order to produce some kind of seller’s pack. 

“Couple that with the introduction of a Property Logbook (maybe the Property Logbook could become the seller’s pack?), which the government appears to be supportive of, and you will see fall through number and exchange times fall” he suggests.

Hailstone also advocates a cap on referral fees - another area where government action is likely in the near future - and making it obligatory for parties to make it clear to buyers and sellers how much of their charges are for referral and how much for the actual service.

The full interview can be seen in the Property Natter series, conducted by Angels Media chief executive Nat Daniels. You can find it here.

  • Matt Faizey

    Just so long as the reservation agreement truly has all the measures in place to benefit those that the efforts of all involved should be focussed on - the public.

    Given that it is an opportunity to destroy the scourge and stress of gazundering and people being forced to move with barely any notice hopefully this document will receive the type of attention the public would benefit from.

    That being to implement the desperately needed minimum period Inbetween exchange and completion. Ideally of no less than 10 calendar days.

    Up to half a million people/families every year are bounced into moving home with short notice and heaps of last minute stress due to the lack of mandated period.

    Plus of course those poor souls are then further punished when they pay out millions of pounds in extra conveyancing fees and other bills solely because of the lack of notice. Something that is not their fault.

    It would also contribute towards drastically lowering the fall through rate of transactions.

    IF the chance is taken.

    Hopefully those involved who profit from the measures currently in place and/or contribute to the angst will put self interests aside and place the public first.

    Credit to HSBG on this.

  • icon

    What question was asked to receive the answer 'how about reservation agreements?'
    What can reduce fall throughs and speed up conveyancing?

    That was the most popular answer!? The one taking prime attention? Asked of how many people!?

    I appreciate that there are vested interests starting in the Government working their way down, as massive profits/money is made from conveyancing but whoever is brave enough could really improve things:

    Fall throughs:

    1. Poor/no financial vetting of buyers - this has crept in badly over the last few years. Far more competition and desperation to take any buyer as commission is commission…but too many fall-throughs are happening because a mortgage cannot be obtained. That is more and more common. Why are buyers not financially vetted!!!

    Instead make MIPs mandatory before an offer can be accepted, or proof of cash in bank/cast iron proof of access to the purchase price on a max notice of 30 days

    2. Rid us of slow conveyancers - start by regulating who is permitted to be a conveyancer. At the moment, a legal office's cleaner can be badged as a conveyancer. Madness! That is why the standard among conveyancers is so low - legal errors continue, sluggish ‘I am not a confident conveyancer’ deals continue, etc

    Speed up conveyancing:

    1. same point above about conveyancers BUT also:
    a. conveyancers should be required to be called a mandated name to be allowed to handle the legal work for a home move, and based on experience, so the public can weed out outfits farming out non-experienced ‘conveyancers’ on the public e.g ‘Conveyancer' if above 7 years experience, 'Trainee Conveyancer' if below.
    b. law firms required to publish all residential conveyancing PII claims and Ombudsman upheld determinations (and self-insuring outfits to publish all complaints if they have no PII claims) against all existing staff at that business

    2. And to help mortgage lenders because they must be sitting on millions of properties with defects from poor conveyancing, the CML Handbook to radically change:
    a. Needs to be a Q&A section to explain typical scenarios so conveyancers have certainty what CML mean
    b. CML to state more situations when they do NOT need legal indemnity insurance so conveyancers need not get stuck on daft issues scared witless to use legal knowledge/common sense because they might be told by a conveyancing outfit (with neither) that they made a mistake and legal insurance is needed.
    c. More concise and helpful to the conveyancer

    3. The Government to clearly prescribe/re-egislate:
    a. planning and building control enforcement guidance to succinctly state when Councils can and cannot take action for breaches - none of this ‘well they could still take injunctions if..'
    b. after what time covenants cannot be enforced by the courts (and actually allowing removal by the Land Registry on proof of breach however defined)
    c. state when Chancel liability will now be enforceable against home owners, as the recent changes arguably did nothing “not being interests in land capable of being overriding interests anyway”
    d. a far more instant registration of a cast iron easement where title deeds are silent / where access has been had over a footpath/bridleway where deeds are silent
    e. who owns a boundary wall where deeds are silent (surprising there is no legal indemnity insurance for that….what out there soon will be)

    4.The three legal regulators to be required to agree a single mandatory Conveyancing Protocol, form of contract and Property Information Forms (the later of which seriously needs far more questions asked and answered)....and not allowing bulldozing to dumb things down (i.e conditional planning consents always produced by the seller, none of this 20 year nonsense)

    5. Ban contract packs by email/hosting. A full bundle in paper, sorry, but electronic so often means - as no one likes to looks at multiple pdfs online - it is not checked when completed by the seller, simply forwarded by the selling lawyer, corners cut by the buying lawyerwho can't face the hassle of reading it - and mistakes continue, or it is left to one side to have to find the time to print collate, and return it all for all the errors as it was not prooof read when sent out

    6. No one can offer conveyancing if they do not also offer a specialist in the areas the home moving process always impacts:
    a. wills
    c. Probate
    d. Family/matrimonial
    e. Litigation
    f. Company

    The public need all the raminfications - solutions when things go wrong - not 'conveyancing only'

    Some may seem unfair - but just get it done! Make England and Wales a continuing example of how property ownership should be recorded and transferred.


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