Common Conveyancing Questions

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The conveyancing process is something that most of us will be subjected to at some time in our lives, but usually no more than a handful of times (and over the years things will change) so we are bound to have questions. The list of possibilities is almost limitless but there are some conveyancing questions that recur repeatedly and we'll look at a few of those here.
Whatever your conveyancing questions, don't be afraid to ask. Most conveyancers prefer a client who asks lots of questions beforehand as it reduces the risk that they will go away disappointed afterward, since a dissatisfied customer is bad news for their business.
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How Long Will the Conveyancing Take?

This is probably the most dreaded of conveyancing questions. The honest answer is it is impossible to say. A seller or a buyer will often agree to complete by a particular date but that does not mean it will be practically possible. To make matters worse estate agents will often endorse a seller/buyer's promise to secure a sale despite knowing that in practice they are not in a position to offer any guarantee.

The problem is that while the basic process of conveyancing is the same in every case, the details vary greatly. If the property has a straightforward title and searches are returned promptly and are clear then a transaction could go through in less than a month. On the other hand a complex transaction with a long chain can take several months. The best time to ask conveyancing questions like “how long will it take” or “when can I move” is therefore once the title investigations have been satisfactorily completed. This will be several weeks at least after the start of the process.

Why Do You Need My Identity Documents?

This is one of the regular conveyancing questions. Solicitors, like most organisations which regularly handle large amounts of client money, are regulated by the Proceeds of Crime Act for money laundering purposes. This means they have an obligation to take reasonable care to ensure that the purpose of a client's transaction is not to launder money and the penalties for a solicitor not taking due care are severe, up to 14 years imprisonment.

Conveyancers are particularly at risk because they regularly deal with transactions where hundreds of thousands of pounds change hands. Part of the obligation, and the reason why requests for ID are standard conveyancing questions, is to verify that your client is who he says he is. This means examining some photographic ID and some evidence that he resides at the correspondence address provided. A conveyancer may also ask for proof as to how a client has acquired the money being used to purchase a property.

I'm Currently Renting, When Should I Hand My Notice In?

As conveyancing questions go this is a pretty important one. Hand in your notice too early and you are left with nowhere to live. Hand it in too late and you will end up paying a mortgage and rent at the same time, not something that most buyers can afford to do.

The correct conveyancing answer should always be “on exchange of contracts”. Although the parties can agree to work toward a particular completion date, it is only on exchange that the date becomes binding and cannot (with penalties for the defaulting party) change. It is possible, though these days quite unusual, to have 4 weeks between exchange and completion (this is the usual notice period under a tenancy agreement). If this is required it should be discussed with the seller at the outset. If the seller will not agree then at the very least, notice should not be handed in until your conveyancer has checked the title and a mortgage offer is received.

Can You Act For Both the Seller and the Buyer?

In a word, no. This is a conveyancing question which comes up because buyers and sellers hope it will be cheaper and quicker for a conveyancer to act for both parties but the Solicitors Code of Conduct rules on conflicts of interest do not permit it, except in a small number of exceptional cases. The reason is that there is a reasonable likelihood that a conflict will arise, for example there is some issue with the title which might cause the buyer to withdraw from the purchase. You have a duty to tell the buyer but if you are also acting for the seller, you have a duty not to disclose it. This is of course an impossible dilemma to resolve.

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