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Leading lawyer warns property buyers must be warned of climate risks

Property buyers should be warned of the climate risks when purchasing a home, a leading lawyer has claimed.

Stephen Tromans QC, the leading practitioner in environmental law in the UK, has issued a legal opinion that says solicitors and licenced conveyancers owe a duty to clients to provide warning and advice on risks that may adversely affect a property being purchased.

His summary highlights two types of climate change risks that property purchasers should be made aware of, physical and transitional.


Physical risks are described as “future damage by surface water flooding from extreme storm events, sea level rise and coastal erosion, and subsidence from extreme heat.”

Tromans said: “These impacts are set to worsen in scale and frequency in the coming years, and may result in costs and damage to property, devaluation of property, and at worst complete loss of property and associated risk to life.

Transition risks are described as changes in regulations as part of the move to a low carbon economy that may alter market practices of insurers and lenders and ultimately the attitudes of more informed and risk averse purchasers “resulting in reduced market values.”

The advice states a conveyancer’s duty depends on the nature and sophistication of the client and that it will be higher for residential clients than experienced commercial clients.    

Given climate risks are much more likely to be apparent to a conveyancer than to a lay client, a conveyancer should be aware of these risks and should as part of their retainer take steps to warn their clients and advise on steps to respond to the risk, Tromans said.

He warns that failure by the conveyancer to follow these practices may result in damages claims for professional negligence, increased insurance premiums, and possible reputational damage.

Tromans also recommends conveyancers make use of commercial search tools to assess climate risk.

One such provider of climate risk data is Groundsure, which has been publicising the legal opinion.

Dan Montagnani, chief executive of Groundsure said: “Stephen Tromans is recognised as the leading practitioner in environmental law in the UK, so his words carry weight and should command the attention of property lawyers.  We all understand the realities of climate change — never more so than this summer — but this is a clear wake up call. 

“With greater scrutiny on climate litigation and increasing focus by lenders on the impact of climate on loan decisions, this legal opinion places greater weight on using available analysis to signpost potential issues as part of client advisory. 

"Given this clear opinion and the anticipated guidance updates from The Law Society and lenders,  it would be a very brave lawyer that chose to overlook this advice.”

  • Matt Faizey

    I think it would be hard to sue a conveyancer for their lack of advice many years previous for failing to predict unknown and unpredictable events in the future.

    Maybe conveyancers ought advise the clients on the risks of war? Or maybe the impact or contact with extra terrestrial life?

    To suggest conveyancers should offer advice regarding unknown, unquantified and unpredictable events into the future is an action that far from helps conveyancers in the present.

    Those conveyancers might find it more beneficial to spend the same amount of revision time reading 'Unsettled' by Stephen Koonin.

    Then they'd be in a less political, emotional not to mention financially motivated state to advise clients accordingly

  • Rob Hailstone

    Certainly conveyancers don't need more issues piled on their desks Matt, unless absolutely necessary.

    There is, of course, a new 'product/service' available to help them "predict unknown and unpredictable events in the future": Groundsure have recently announced the launch of their new climate data module. The module analyses and translates data concerning the risks that climate change might pose to a property in the future.

  • icon

    I believe this may have an air of advertising mixed with scare mongering, but could be wrong? I’m confident conveyancing firms have the correct searches in place and without government legislation to suggest otherwise, this article feels a bit miss guided. Perhaps an advertisement from the promoted company containing the respected opinion of the lawyer quoted, would be better placed? And even further, this ‘paid for statement’ would likely see a much better response when used for lobbying the government for change instead of yet again jumping down the throats of conveyancing professionals who endure the most challenging market conditions as of late. In my opinion, this article should be removed as it’s an advertisement and without merit despite the risks of climate change being serious. Keep up the good work conveyancers, no doubt climate change will impact residential conveyancing at some point it will therefore change the advice of the government / officials. Until then, choose your suppliers wisely. (This statement is my sole opinion and doesn’t reflect that of anyone else or companies, it is my personal opinion.)

  • Proper Estate Agent

    Scaremongering and stating the obvious... as if the enviro reports aren't scaremongering enough (unless you for pay the £250 extended report whereby the risk seems to become de minimis after an "in-depth investigation" (that involved what? a site visit...err nope).

    More importantly EA should look at the scaremongering tactics used by some of the enviro report companies to sell extended reports after quoting such like "the great flood of 1976" and pay £250 for the extra detail - which then turns out to be something like a water meadow getting wet for a week!!! (info they had to start with but deliberately didn't include in the first report!


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