Thu 26 Oct 2017 by Lorraine Imhoff
Buying and selling property will soon be much faster when the Law Society’s conveyancing portal comes on stream. This will provide an online system to streamline conveyancing by improving communication between solicitors, clients and others involved in property transactions.
At present delays frequently arise because of poor communications between solicitors and others. The new portal will allow solicitors access to one secure deal-room allowing quick communication and the sharing of documents.
Buyers and sellers as well as mortgage lenders and estate agents will also be able to access the system to view the current progress of a transaction. It is intended that the Land Registry and HM Revenue & Customs will also be linked into the system to enable fast processing of property transfers and stamp duty payments.
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Although the majority of solicitors firms do now use computers and case-management systems there has until now been no way of linking up these various systems. There is still a great reliance on sending documents and correspondence by post in conveyancing transactions. Some solicitors do not bother to read emails themselves but wait for their secretary to print them out and then treat them like ordinary letters.
While present systems enable solicitors to prepare documents such as a contract or transfer on their own computer system they still have to be sent to the other solicitor – perhaps by email but often by post. The other solicitor will then have to check it and perhaps add some details or make amendments before it is sent back to the first solicitor. All this takes time and causes delay.
When the conveyancing portal is in operation a document can be prepared and uploaded so that the other solicitor will be able to look at it straightaway. Any amendments can then be added so that the first solicitor will be able to see them immediately.
Clients will be able to complete property information enquiries and similar forms directly. They will also be able to view documents so that they can check them – for instance to make sure that names are correctly spelled – without the need to post the document back and forth.
The portal will provide a quick link between everyone involved and cut down on delays in buying or selling a home. Clients will benefit as better communication will lead to faster completion times.
It is good that the Law Society has now taken up the challenge of developing this portal. They should be able to create something which will be usable by all solicitors.
Although attempts have been made to develop such systems in the past these have failed to produce a satisfactory result. The land registry was for many years trying to set up something called the matrix which would have provided an online method of completing transactions. However this would not have speeded up most of the work involved in conveyancing and there were considerable security issues so in the end it was abandoned.
The problem was that it was being developed by people who had no experience of ordinary conveyancing work. Because the Law Society is behind the new project its designers will have the benefit of input from lawyers carrying out conveyancing on a day-to-day basis. So the system should be designed to help them rather than being something impractical created by a software developer.
One major advantage of the portal is that it will provide a way to link up chain transactions – when A is buying from B who is buying another home from C who is buying from D and so on. At present the solicitors involved in such transactions often do not have a complete picture of the chain, while getting everyone involved to agree a completion date can take days.
The new system will provide much greater transparency for these conveyancing chains. The sort of delays which frequently arise when solicitors are unable to speak directly to another solicitor involved elsewhere in the chain will be avoided.
Any such system must not only be convenient to use but must also incorporate security measures to avoid information being read by anyone not entitled to it. It is understood that security will be an important factor in the design of the system. It will also incorporate methods to help prevent fraudulent transactions.
The conveyancing portal is still undergoing development and testing at present. Fridaysmove will keep abreast of further developments and post updates when more news is available.
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