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‘Conveyancing process requires substantial overhaul’

A legal body has hit out at the conveyancing process in England, labelling it “inefficient and ineffective” and saying it requires “substantial reform”.

The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX), a professional body representing over 17,500 members, said sellers should have to provide ‘material information’ about their properties “at the earliest possible stage” and that the government should consider introducing “an auction-style pack… where potential buyers can view and search title and accompanying documents when viewing the property”.

CILEX was responding to the call for evidence by the Levelling up, Housing and Communities Committee inquiry into buying and selling homes.

The body said relying on voluntary initiatives to digitise is “resulting in inconsistencies and confusion across the industry, and for consumers”.

CILEX surveyed its members, 20% of which work in residential property.

Over half (53) said the current process is inefficient, while four in five (81%) said the amount of work that goes into buying or selling a house had increased over the past two years.

CILEX said: “This is founded on the notion that the property sector largely agrees that more upfront information is better for the home buying and selling process and that it supports the necessary consumer protection requirements.

“Given that upfront information is not yet required, or policed, it cannot be guaranteed that buyers will benefit from having this information at an early stage of the process.”

Only 26% of members believe that buyers have the right information at the right time during transactions.

CILEX stated that the government has failed in its pledge in the 2017 ‘Levelling Up’ white paper to “ensure the critical information buyers need to know is available digitally wherever possible”.

To help with the swift flow of information between parties during a transaction, CILEX says, “a codified system for the digitisation of information” should be introduced across the industry to ensure “harmonisation and cohesion”.

Regulating managing agents in the leasehold process, or changing the process for accessing leasehold information would also improve the process, it recommended, while supporting mandatory qualifications for, and regulation of, estate agents.

CILEX added however that requiring sellers to provide more information will increase the amount of work estate agents do before a property is marketed and that lawyers would need to be instructed earlier, raising costs.

But CILEX added: “However, these financial negatives borne by the seller, and in some cases passed onto the buyer, are likely to be outweighed by the substantial savings in other elements of the transactions – e.g. the reduction in the number of withdrawals, and also the conveyancing process.

“Ultimately it will also allow the buyer to make more informed choices about properties and to purchase the correct property for them.”

Emma Davies, president of CILEX, said: “Aside from material information, our members would also like to see a codified system for the digitisation of information. Harmonisation and cohesion across the industry regarding digital changes and adoption is much needed.

“The sector needs to collaborate to ensure clients, conveyancers, lenders, surveyors, property agents and estate agents work as part of this harmonisation and cohesion to improve the process and this needs to be complemented by government mandating this where appropriate.

“A lack of mandatory measures for a digital ID framework or qualified e-signatures in the home buying and selling process has been a major barrier to its adoption across the industry. This is therefore an example and aspect of the home buying and selling process where digitisation would make a difference but has not been driven through mandatory measures.”