Legislation needed to improve home-buying process, says CILEX

Davies: Harmonisation and cohesion is much needed

CILEX, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, has called for legislation to reform the home-buying and selling process instead of relying on voluntary initiatives.

Backing upfront information as well, it said the government should consider introducing “an auction-style pack… where potential buyers can view and search title and accompanying documents when viewing the property”.

CILEX made the comments in its submission to the levelling up, housing and communities committee inquiry into buying and selling homes.

A key topic for the review is whether the reliance on voluntary initiatives is adequate to improve the process or if improvements should be made mandatory through legislation.

There have been repeated calls for mandation but the government’s current position seems set against this.

CILEX said the government should introduce new legislation, rather than allowing for voluntary change across the industry, as this “provides the best opportunity to create improvements to the home buying and selling process”.

Relying on voluntary initiatives risked the piecemeal adoption of digitalisation, “resulting in inconsistencies and confusion across the industry, and for consumers”.

A third of CILEX’s 17,500 members work in conveyancing, with at least 20% of all members working in residential property. A survey of members for the submission found that 53% thought the current process inefficient.

Further, 81% said the amount of work that went into buying or selling a house has increased over the past two years.

CILEX said that having sellers provide material information early was “crucial”, and only 26% of members believed buyers have the right information at the right time during transactions.

CILEX accused the government of failing to deliver its pledge in the 2017 ‘Levelling Up’ white paper to “ensure the critical information buyers need to know is available digitally wherever possible”.

Regulating managing agents in the leasehold process, or changing the process for accessing leasehold information would also improve the process, it recommended, while supporting mandatory qualifications for, and regulation of, estate agents.

CILEX acknowledged that upfront information would mean more upfront costs for the seller, possibly passed onto the buyer, but said these were “likely to be outweighed by the substantial savings in other elements of the transactions – e.g. the reduction in the number of withdrawals”.

CILEX president Emma Davies said: “Aside from material information, our members would also like to see a codified system for the digitisation of information. Harmonisation and cohesion across the industry regarding digital changes and adoption is much needed…

“A lack of mandatory measures for a digital ID framework or qualified e-signatures in the home buying and selling process has been a major barrier to its adoption across the industry. This is therefore an example and aspect of the home buying and selling process where digitisation would make a difference but has not been driven through mandatory measures.”

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