Posted by Angela Gordon-Lennox, senior product manager – legal, at Legal Futures Associate Landmark Information Group
With all residential and commercial property transactions, limiting clients’ exposure to contractual or other legal risks relating to the purchase is a key goal.
This includes the consideration of any possible environmental risks or damage relating to the property or site, such that they can be managed appropriately both at point of transaction and in future, in order to maximise the value of the investment.
From a solicitor’s standpoint, analysis of this nature is vital in order to demonstrate that full and thorough due diligence has taken place. Should an environmental issue be identified at a later stage, it can prove costly for all involved, and therefore applying a rigorous process to undertake environmental analysis at the outset is vital.
Today, as more services, data and process become available electronically, the way in which we research environmental risk is evolving. For legal practices, the pace of change is underway and the digital delivery of legal services is a topic that is gathering pace as more firms introduce web ordering and other similar services.
Environmental searches were originally brought to market to help solicitors comply with the Law Society’s warning card on contaminated land (part IIa of the Environmental Protection Act 1990). With the digital era now upon us, we now we have greater access to a wider range of environmental data than ever before, which although outside of the part IIa, could still impact the purchaser’s decision to proceed with the transaction.
Typically, legal professionals should consider contamination risk or pollution, including radon, as well as analysing multiple categories of flood risk, ground stability and subsidence, not to mention any large-scale infrastructure projects taking place or planned within the vicinity of the property in question.
One noteworthy change is the ability to access ‘all-in-one’ environmental search reports. Today, lawyers have access to reports that combine traditional PDF analysis and maps pinpointing risks, along with interactive online portals, which display all of the required data more clearly than ever, helping to ensure efficient workflow and properly informed decisions.
This saves a great deal of time from having to manually collect data relating to the individual areas of risk, to build a picture for the client. Having the ability to assess multiple risks from one report not only offers peace of mind, but it also provides consistency for practices who wish to apply standardised due diligence on all residential and commercial transactions, via one fixed-price environmental assessment service.
On top of this, having access to the results via interactive maps offers a completely new level of data interrogation than has ever been in place before.
The digital evolution continues to move forward at a pace and, as clients’ expectations of accessing and using information online become ever more ‘the norm’, it is important for legal professionals to deliver next-generation client service and care that consumers have come to expect in today’s fast-paced world.