Stay polite and manage expectations, Law Society tells conveyancers

Boyce: No work-life balance for conveyancers of late

The Law Society has urged under-pressure conveyancers stay civil as they manage the risk that transactions will not complete by the stamp duty deadline at the end of this month.

It thanked solicitors “for all of your efforts so far” and pleaded: “Please keep it going for a short while longer.”

In a guidance note published yesterday, the society said: “We appreciate that everyone is trying to do their best for their clients in unparalleled circumstances, but it would help if everyone tries to maintain a professional manner even though they are feeling very stressed.

“Try to remember that everyone is working to the same end and make sure that you operate fairly and kindly to everybody you deal with in the process in accordance with the Conveyancing Protocol.”

The £500,000 nil-rate band ends on 30 June, after which it will be £250,000, double its standard level, until the end of September.

The guidance acknowledged that “many of you are under terrific pressure now ahead of the 30 June deadline and that some of you have been under this pressure for some time.

“It’s key at this stage to take steps to manage your clients’ expectations in the lead-up to 30 June.”

The note recommended taking “detailed instructions” about what the client would want to do if the deadline was not met.

With some lenders requesting at least a week’s notice when solicitors send in certificates of title and requests for money, the Law Society suggested not agreeing completion dates of later than 20 June.

“Be extremely cautious about whether or not to make ‘time of the essence’. Rights to terminate in certain circumstances need to be discussed and incorporated in the contract…

“We understand that fallback, price changes and penalty clauses are all being discussed and negotiated at present. Discuss the effects of these with clients if these are being considered.”

A similar land transaction tax concession in Wales also ends on 30 June but there will be no tapering thereafter.

Law Society president I Stephanie Boyce said: “Stressed and under-pressure solicitors have been working late into the night and over weekends, with little or no work-life balance, to ensure their clients’ transactions are able to complete according to their wishes.

“It is key at this stage for conveyancing solicitors to take steps to manage their clients’ expectations about completing in time to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday.”

The guidance note also told conveyancers to bear in mind the potential impact of the Leasehold Reform Bill on new leases.

The bill – which aims to stop onerous and rising ground rents – is currently going through Parliament and could become law from 2023.

“You should consider the advent of this bill when advising clients buying new leases,” the society said.

“We understand that five large developers say they have already removed ground rents from their leases. You may wish to consider informing your clients about the potential legislation.”

We reported yesterday that professional indemnity insurers were concerned about the risk of claims rising as a result of conveyancers being overworked ahead of the 30 June deadline.

The society said that firms that have seen “a significant uptick in the number of transactions (perhaps an increase of 15% or more)” ought to notify it to their insurer.

Looking ahead to insurance renewal this autumn, it also suggested that providing a “concise note” of the steps taken to manage risks could give firms “an edge”.

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