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CONVEYANCING - (buying... as in 1994)

(selling is a cinch: ONLY when you’ve got the MONEY do you hand over the DEEDS - simple)


Conveyancing is a lot simpler than it might seem from the many books that spell it out rather exhaustively and in unnecessary detail. But it's all in the books, or almost all, even if they’re a bit old. When you obtain a set of forms (ie, from the Oyez bookshop near Fleet St – or indeed from many sources) some will be in duplicate and you may get some you don't need. As explained in the books, it is normal procedure to send two of some forms to the seller or their solicitor so (s)he can keep one for her/his records before returning the other completed.

First you can write to the seller (or solicitor if he/she is employing one) and tell them that you intend to buy the property at whatever price. It is probable that you will hear from them first with a copy of the Contract (in duplicate), a set of Office Copies (copy of the deeds) dated and obtained from the Land Registry, and any other documents relating to the property. It's worth reading them through, but don't be daunted by the wealth of jargon and so on. If the price and any added special conditions seem OK then you can return one copy of the Contract, approved (simply state in your covering letter that you approve the contract, or state what you don't like about it and would like to alter before you can approve it), together with your Inquiries Before Contract in duplicate (just a lot of standard ready-made questions you should ask when buying a house), and any other inquiries such as what's being left and what's being taken. You can only photocopy completed forms otherwise you are in breach of copyright, but you can create any form you like for yourself from scratch and the seller (or their solicitor), if they want to sell, has to respond to them appropriately.

At the same time as that you send the local authority enquiries and search forms, a blue form (Conveyancing 29) and a white form (L LCI), both in duplicate to the local authority in whose area the property is situated. This tells you things that you may know already, but also about proposed road schemes etc, whether the road is adopted, who is responsible for drains and so on. I didn't do the local authority searches when I moved here. I guess I took a slight chance, but it didn’t look as if a bypass was likely to suddenly appear behind the back fence. A search probably costs about £100 these days. If you're getting a mortgage the lender will insist on it. When you have agreed a completion date and have all your replies and are happy with them, especially the office copies - the important part of which tells you the name of the registered proprietor who should be the person who's selling unless the former is deceased in which case you will need a grant of probate which the seller (or his/her Solicitor) should automatically provide - then you can sign and return your part of the contract and a deposit, usually 10 per cent of the purchase price. Gawd, that was a long sentence!

Now you are pretty well committed. You should receive the other Contract signed by the seller by return of post. Next you send your Requisitions on Title form - more standard questions - and a draft Transfer in duplicate for approval, and a week before completion send the Land Registry search form that checks that no change has taken place in the register since the date the copy you have was issued. THIS IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT regarding the charges register - the part of the Office Copies that states whether there is any charge on the property and if so the name of the lender. No other charge should have been added since the copy you have was made; if one has been added you have to insist that an undertaking by the seller's solicitor is given that this new charge as well as the original one will be paid off on or before Completion. The Requisitions on Title form will cover for this in the usual case of someone just having a mortgage that will be paid off at completion. (Any charge that isn’t cleared by completion becomes your liability).

Meanwhile, your Land Registry Search form (which costs maybe a fiver to have enacted) freezes the register so only you, the prospective owner, can register the property in your name or have a charge registered. The freeze lasts six weeks, so after completion when you hand over the cash in exchange for the deeds, you also have to have an undertaking (assuming the seller has had a mortgage) that form 53, the discharge certificate, will be issued to you within a reasonable time. You need form 53, and the deeds (also sometimes called the Charge Certificate), and the Transfer, in order to register the property in your name.


And that’s it… except there may be some weird negative equity check on you. Some of the above requirements should be unnecessary nowadays, so one would hope - or at least will have been combined or simplified or both. Just keep a sharp eye on the Charges Register: if Completion is delayed, re-Search the Register to prevent some crook sneaking in a late unnoticed charge – and NEVER take anyone or anything on trust, unless it's in a solicitor’s letter. Always get to the nub of anything that strikes you as weird - better to appear ignorant than to be it and get duped. Good Luck.