Law Society “risking revolt by members” over conveyancing forms

property sales

Conveyancing: Law Society looking into concerns

The Law Society’s failure to consult solicitors on key changes to conveyancing practice, most recently the revised TA6 form, risks a members “revolt”, it has been warned.

The Property Lawyers Action Group (PLAG), which describes itself as “an informal non-profit group of property lawyers”, called on Chancery Lane to suspend implementation of the form until a series of conditions were met.

The TA6 property information form includes upfront material information (MI) that the National Trading Standards’ estate and letting agency team says should be disclosed by estate agents on property listings.

We reported last week that PLAG was opposed to be the initiative and the new form, along with the TA7 for leasehold properties.

In an open letter to Law Society chief executive Ian Jeffrey yesterday, PLAG said Trading Standards needed to address questions about whether it had the power to issue its guidance.

The Law Society must also “fully consult with its members as well as the wider conveyancing sector and undertake not to make the new TA forms mandatory or take any further steps in connection with MI until that consultation has concluded”.

It continued that the Law Society needed to obtain advice on these issues and then provide comprehensive guidance to its members on how to avoid or minimise any additional liabilities posed.

“The Law Society must [also] confirm that it is satisfied there is no conflict of interests present in the members of the MI steering group and if it cannot give that confirmation it must withdraw from this group.”

The letter argued that the whole focus of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) has been to discourage the practice of “raising enquiries about every conceivable matter that could possibly affect a transaction, in favour of fewer targeted, relevant enquiries”.

The new forms “[fly] in the face of this policy, with no tangible benefits, only increased cost and complexity”.

PLAG asked why the Law Society did not consult with solicitors before implementing “such fundamental changes”.

It continued: “We have held concerns regarding the Law Society’s lack of consultation for some time. For example, in the case of climate change guidance, there was likewise no consultation.

“However, the implementation of the fifth edition of the TA6 appears to be the most flagrant disregard for the Law Society’s membership to date. This is a habit that must be broken, or else the Law Society risks a revolt by its members.”

The letter pointed too to concerns about the lack of consultation expressed last week by the Society of Licensed Conveyancers.

“Whilst licensed conveyancers are not obliged to use these forms, some do, and of course are presented with them by the counterparty conveyancer or insisted upon by CQS members,” said chair Simon Law.

“The addition of material information to these forms has drastically increased the size of the forms and information required. It is further disappointing to note that this was not used as an opportunity to review the wording for the forms.”

PLAG said the “lack of basic diplomacy on the part of the Law Society risks driving a wedge between conveyancing solicitors and licensed conveyancers, the latter of whom mostly adopt the CQS practices and standards out of courtesy to CQS members.

“From a practical standpoint, conveyancing relies heavily on firms adopting similar procedures and standards, and the changes announced by the Law Society therefore risk making transactions considerably more difficult for this reason alone.

“Indeed, we have already observed some non-CQS lawyers indicate that they may refuse to adopt the new edition, and we cannot fault them for this.”

A Law Society spokesman said: “We are aware of concerns that have been raised by some of our members. We are taking them seriously and have been looking into them.

“Once we have had the opportunity to examine those concerns, we will be in a position to consider what, if any, additional guidance, clarification or measures may be necessary.”

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