It’s not often that a conveyancing-related story makes national news, however when I saw the images of the huge sinkhole which had opened up in a street in St. Albans, I couldn’t help wondering about the ground stability checks that may (or may not) have been carried out in that area recently. Part of me also wondered if there was a new resident or two, who having moved onto that street in the past couple of months, might be going back over their survey/conveyancing documentation in order to see if the potential for such an occurrence had been raised. Might there be a few law suits in the works if that information doesn’t exist?
Waking up to find most of your street collapsed into a hole probably due to previous chalk mining in the area, and some flooding, was probably not how the residents expected to rise that day. But, from an industry perspective, it does bring home the importance of ensuring all relevant searches are carried out by the conveyancer for your client, even if the risk appears minimal. When it comes to providing advice and making sure all documentation and checks are carried out, your client wouldn’t expect you to miss out on any of these when it comes to their finance/mortgage/loan needs. So, if you are providing conveyancing advice on top of this, should you be ensuing that the firms you recommend are providing all the necessary searches?
At the moment, it may seem like it’s not in the adviser’s job description however – and it’s been said many times before – if the recommendation does come from you, might not the blame also be laid at your door if something does go wrong? No-one is expecting you to be 100% au fait with all the conveyancing and search requirements that are necessary for an individual purchase but to be on terms with them would be a bonus, especially if your client does come looking for extra advice about what they may need to cover off and what might not be so necessary. Think of the first-time buyers going through this experience for the first time and the lack of knowledge that will probably exist here. Might not they come back to their recommending adviser if they are uncertain about what is and isn’t required?
Of course it’s not cut and dried in any part of the UK about what type of searches are going to be more relevant than others. However, given the often wild weather we can have in this country and the almighty impact of our river system, including the flash flooding that has been prevalent in many areas of the country recently, you might think that flood searches would be an integral part of the process. And yet Searches UK recently revealed that 15% of solicitors and conveyancers were not recommending flood searches to clients which again could leave them open, firstly, to a lack of information about the property they are purchasing, and secondly, with some potentially worrying developments further down the line when the heavens (as they will inevitably do) open.
This is clearly an important area for all concerned to get right – from the recommending adviser and certainly through to the conveyancing firm who secures the instruction and carries out the work. In all the excitement with regard to getting the purchase sorted, this aspect of conveyancing needs to be appropriate and also understood by the client. If we are all able to provide comfort and solace during the process and everyone makes sure that all bases are covered then the client should hopefully not come out of this staring down any literal or proverbial hole.
Harpal Singh is managing director of BrokerConveyancing.co.uk