Tick box blockages

One of the problems we experience with residential conveyancing is the “tick box approach” of so many other firms

It comes down to cost

Because their business model is to do the work down to a (low) price, rather than up to a (high) standard, they delegate the work to the lowest grade (and therefore lowest paid) person who can deal with it: probably not legally qualified at all, but para-legals at most: staff who have been trained to run a process. This often means that they cannot cope with unusual transactions; more often, it means that the process has been set up by a lawyer to be fool-proof, but relies on the para-legal checking the boxes in the process with no real understanding of why.

As a simple example, take the FENSA certificate: when replacement windows are installed in homes, they are subject to the Building Regulations relating to energy conservation. An installer who is a member of the FENSA trade association can self-certify that the Building Regulations have been complied with, issuing a “FENSA certificate” to that effect – all this certificate says is that on such-and-such a date, X replacement windows and Y replacement doors were installed by Z company and complied with the Building Regulations. Often, that certificate is lost, but that’s not a problem, as the FENSA website helpfully allows you to search by postcode and property number or name to see whether a FENSA certificate was issued. If it was, it gives the number of replacement windows and doors installed and the date of installation. True, it does not give the name of the installer, but the point is that it proves a FENSA certificate was issued and that the Building Regulations were complied with. However, with many conveyancers, that is not enough – they insist on us buying a replacement copy of the certificate, despite the fact that it will not tell them any more than they already know – presumably because the box they have to tick says “FENSA certificate seen”, rather than “FENSA certificate issued”.  Still, it must be a good passive source of income for FENSA.

Instead, it could come up to service

We try hard to make sure that (a) when we act for buyers, we only ask for information or documentation that is actually relevant, and (b) when we supply information or documentation we supply it in full and with any useful extra information that is available; in other words, we try to put ourselves in the other conveyancer’s shoes and supply what we would want in their position.  Sometimes, it gets difficult, as in the many, many cases where buyers’ conveyancers ask a large number of questions that are either irrelevant (has the property – a second floor flat – suffered from ground water flooding?) or have already been answered in the draft contract papers already supplied; then, our patience does wear thin. But it’s due to the same reason: the person on the other side does not have the authority – or, probably, the skill – to edit the standard questions that have been sent down from on high.

As ever, the conveyancing chain is the problem

The real problems come when, further down a chain of transactions involving our clients, two “tick box firms” are dealing with each other, and have reached deadlock: one firm insisting on something the other firm will not provide. That can result in lengthy delays for everyone in the chain. If we can find out what the problem is, we can often suggest ways to overcome it, but often those involved do not know the underlying details of the problem – only that the box must be ticked. Asking “Why?” seems to be the great taboo in those cases, as the answer is so often, “Because!”



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