Conveyancers face 'scope creep' pressures – CA

Trade body says increased responsibilities extended transaction times to over 22 weeks

Conveyancers face 'scope creep' pressures – CA

The growing responsibilities for conveyancers in recent years have resulted in substantial ‘scope creep’ within the sector, pressuring firms and staff to complete transactions promptly.

Beth Rudolf (pictured), director of delivery at the Conveyancing Association (CA), shared these concerns during her presentation to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee inquiry into improving the home buying and selling process.

Rudolf, a qualified licenced conveyancer and legal executive, highlighted the extended transaction times, now averaging over 22 weeks, as a key issue. She identified several areas adding to conveyancers’ workloads, including onerous leasehold terms, estate rent charges, managed freehold issues, and the Building Safety Act.

She also noted problems stemming from the dematerialisation of deed packs post-2002, where crucial documents were sent back to owners who often misplaced them.

“Scope creep has grown hugely in recent years, and it presents conveyancers with a huge amount of work to go through,” Rudolf said. “This has been made even more difficult by that dematerialisation of deed packs, and it needs solutions such as digital packs and digital logbooks to be able to bring all that information back together to cut down on the times that conveyancers have to spend trying to find this.

“In years gone by, that information was kept together and could be readily used by conveyancers in future transactions. Without the digital version of this, we can’t deliver the improvements we need.”

In her evidence, Rudolf pointed out that the time needed for transactions has increased significantly, adding that previously, a sale transaction took about seven working hours, and a purchase took 10. Now, manual updates and extended transaction times result in at least 11 hours spent merely informing clients about delays.

Rudolf advocated for greater upfront information about properties to enhance transparency and reduce the likelihood of buyers pulling out due to unforeseen issues or financial constraints. She argued that early provision of information would benefit both buyers and sellers, with sellers more willing to complete necessary forms at the start of the process.

The CA director also called for mandatory collection and review of upfront information by conveyancers to identify material information relevant to the property. She emphasised the importance of digital solutions like digital ID and signatures and the creation of digital logbooks for properties.

The panel, including representatives from the Home Buying & Selling Group, the HomeOwners’ Alliance, the Open Property Data Association, RICS, and Propertymark, agreed on the need for regulation of property agents to ensure compliance with relevant laws and standards.

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