Conveyancing Defined

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RESOURCES - Conveyancing Definition:
We've all heard of conveyancing. Most of us have been or will be involved in it at one time or another, but what actually is it? What is a good conveyancing definition? In the most basic sense it is the process of transferring legal ownership of a piece of land from one person to another. That is fine as a conveyancing definition but it doesn't really tell us very much. It doesn't tell us what conveyancers actually do to achieve the goal of transferring legal ownership.
The aims of conveyancing could be split into three different goals, so a better conveyancing definition might be “the process of ensuring that the incoming owner's title can be registered, ensuring the property is legally fit for the use the incoming owner intends to put it to and protecting the buyer and seller from any future liability”. So what is the purpose of these three goals?
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Ensuring Title Can be Registered

All land in England and Wales must now be registered with the Land Registry, though the requirement to register is only triggered by a change of legal ownership or the creation of a mortgage. If the title to the land has not previously been registered this must be done on change of ownership and if it has, the transfer or new mortgage (or both) must be registered.

The Land Registry will only accept an application for registration if it is accurate and complete. If it is not, it will be rejected and the buyer will not be the legal owner of the property. Resolving issues that prevent registration can be much more difficult to resolve after completion that before, particularly where the seller's assistance is required because once he has his money there is no real incentive to assist. So the process of ensuring that legal title can be registered is one useful conveyancing definition.


Ensuring the Property is Fit for Purpose

People but property for different reasons and part of a conveyancer's duty is to ensure that the property, in legal rather than physical terms, is appropriate for the use his client intends to put it to. This is the second part of our conveyancing definition.

The conveyancer should ask his client what he intends to do with the property, i.e. does he intend to live there? Run a business from there? Both? He should also ask whether he intends to extend or alter the property and whether he intends to let it, either now or in the future. He can then advise on whether there are any restrictions or covenants which prevent him from doing any of this. It should never be assumed that the buyer will just be using the property for its current purpose.


Protecting the Buyer or Seller from Liability

The final part of our definition of conveyancing is “protecting the buyer or seller from future liability. This means things like ensuring any rent and maintenance charges are paid up to date where the property is leasehold, checking whether any covenants affecting the title have been breached and checking whether any planning or building regulations rules have been broken as well as ensuring that all financial interests secured on the property are dealt with by the seller.

When acting for a seller it means ensuring that he doesn't make any statements which he could be sued for in future, such as confirming that the boiler is in good working order when in fact all he should confirm is that he is not aware of any defects. It also means ensuring that the seller is aware of and able to comply with his obligations under the contract.

So as you can hopefully see from our conveyancing definition, the work of a conveyancer is much more than a simple form filling exercise!

RESOURCES - Conveyancing Definition:

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