The Law Society is in the process of gathering input from solicitors in addition to the wider sector of residential conveyancing in order to try and discuss ways to improve the processes of property buying and selling, but will the changes work or just add longer forms and more frustration to the process ?
The proposed changes are to 2 of the most important forms which the seller is required to complete and for his/her/their solicitor to then forward to the buyers solicitors at the outset of the transaction.
The 2 forms are the TA10 Fittings and Contents form which is used to indicate what items are included in the sale
The TA6 Property Information Form asks number of questions regarding the property which is to be sold. These questions include any disputes that make the on-going with neighbours, building regulation control, planning consents and also boundaries of the property.
Making the problem worse ?
The problem with the TA6 form is that there will never be 1 set of questions which can adequately include all the nuances of property history and the different issues which arise. Making a longer form may simply result in an ever increasing number of answers coming back from the seller, on advice from the conveyance to answer :-
“not to the best of my knowledge and information”
The above answer is a typical response, and then often leads to a follow up question from the buyer’s solicitors, creating more correspondence because the buyers solicitor knows that the legal rule is “caveat emptor”, the latin for buyer beware. If the buyers lawyers are not seen to pursue questions through to an answer, they could be criticised or even sued by the buyer or the mortgage lender. This is what I often refer to as the “blame chain”.
As evidence of how more paperwork may just increase the delays and frustration instead of making things quicker and simpler, the standard enquiries before contract for commercial property, known as the CPSE enquiries, which can be viewed here, are a source of immense frustration. It is common for sellers to advise their lawyers that they can answer only a small proportion of the questions. This then starts the process of back and forth with no easy solution and immense frustration.
Frankly, there is no easy solution to this issue. The best way of dealing with it is :-
- Buyer lawyer needs to be efficient, read the paperwork carefully and ask relevant additional questions based on a thorough assessment of the paperwork and based on experience and common sense
- Seller and seller solicitor need to co-operate and not take a defensive, legalistic approach to reasonable questions asked
We retain an open mind about these consultations but are not expecting that any changes to the forms on conveyancing will inherently speed up or improve the process. If they do, we will be delighted, as will our clients.
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