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Conveyancers Push for Leasehold Reform

Conveyancers Push for Leasehold Reform

Buckinghamshire property solicitors

The Queen’s Speech last month saw leasehold reform put back on the government’s agenda, apparently heeding the calls of an alliance of conveyancing bodies for a meaningful revamp. Page 72 of the document states: “We will consult and look to take action to promote transparency and fairness for leaseholders. We will look at the sale of leasehold houses and onerous ground rents, working with property developers, the Competition and Markets Authority and others as outlined in the Housing White Paper”.

The Legal Sector Group (LSG), a coalition comprised of the Conveyancing Association, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Bold Legal Group, and the Society of Licensed Conveyancers, had published an eight-point plan to bring the leasehold process “into the 21st century” – reducing the potential for leasehold abuse, speeding up the conveyancing process, increasing consumer certainty, and removing unreasonable costs.

LSG calls for meeting with housing minister

The LSG has written to the new housing minister, Alok Sharma, requesting a meeting to discuss the proposals, which include action on unfair lease terms such as escalating ground rents, a review of commonhold regulations, and simplification of the process to extend leases and convert to freehold, and will present them to the Law Commission as well, for its 13th Programme of Law Reform. Additionally, the LSG would like to see a tariff of fees for the administrative activities carried out by management companies, time limits on the provision of information and, on enforcement, a mandatory requirement on management companies to be part of a redress scheme.

Simon Law, chairman of the Society of Licensed Conveyancers, said: “The SLC has been advocating for many years that the serious shortcomings associated with leasehold title, and the process for buying and selling leasehold properties, are addressed for the benefit of homeowners”.

Martin Callan, President of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, said: “CILEx hopes that the proposals will ensure fairness to consumers, speed up the sale and purchase of residential leasehold properties and lead to less abortive transactions and loss of fees. We, and the Group, have been working towards this for some time and it is encouraging that lawyers are presenting proposals to the Law Commission that if implemented will have a major benefit for all”.

Law Society reprimanded over conveyance quality scheme

Meanwhile, a Competition Appeal Tribunal has ruled that the Law Society must allow solicitors to use open market course providers when meeting requirements for membership of a property conveyancing quality scheme. The tribunal ordered the Law Society to operate “in a non-discriminatory and transparent manner” after a claim was brought by Bernard George, the solicitor-director of online training business Socrates.

The tribunal found that the Law Society unfairly forced solicitors seeking accreditation to buy its training course modules, and said it should have permitted third-party trainers to offer qualifying courses. Robert Bourns, president of the Law Society, said: “For the vast bulk of the time CQS training has been available it has been compliant with competition rules. I am certain that… the Law Society acted in good faith and in the public interest”.

Separately, the Advertising Standards Agency has decided not to uphold a complaint made against the Law Society, which alleged that a page on the Society’s website carried misleading details about the organisation’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme accreditation.

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