Are Conveyancers Regulated?
Conveyancing is a complex legal process underpinning property transactions. Given how much rides on the validity of transfers and contracts, regulation of conveyancers is vital to uphold standards. But with numerous professionals involved, buyers and sellers often wonder – are conveyancers regulated like solicitors?
This article examines the regulatory landscape governing UK conveyancers. We outline the bodies overseeing training, registration, and conduct to assure quality and consumer protection. Understanding conveyancer regulation also provides a useful perspective when evaluating houses up for auction or private sales.
Conveyancing involves the legal work to transfer ownership and register title when property changes hands, covering:
- Reviewing title deeds, planning issues, restrictions like covenants
- Conducting necessary searches
- Preparing the draft contract and other paperwork
- Arranging surveys and mortgage formalities
- Facilitating the exchange of contracts
- Completing the sale and registering the new owner
This complex process requires specialist legal knowledge to ensure transactions occur validly and securely. Conveyancers are property law experts who handle conveyancing work either directly or under solicitor supervision.
Conveyancer Licencing and Qualification
Unlike general legal services, conveyancing is a regulated activity under the Legal Services Act 2007. Only legally recognised professionals can provide conveyancing.
Licenced conveyancers regulated by the Council of Licenced Conveyancers (CLC) are the largest regulated group undertaking conveyancing work. To gain certification, they must:
- Hold recognised conveyancing qualifications set by the CLC
- Pass exams testing knowledge of conveyancing law and practice
- Maintain professional indemnity insurance
- Prove character and suitability standards
- Abide by CLC conduct accounts rules and processes
Licences must be renewed annually with evidence of continuing professional development. This robust, audited accreditation assures conveyancers’ competence and accountability.
Solicitors who offer conveyancing services alongside their general legal work are regulated separately by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). They must:
- Hold law degrees and complete vocational courses
- Qualify for general legal practice after training contracts
- Register with the SRA and follow their code of conduct
- Hold necessary professional indemnity insurance
- Submit to SRA compliance inspections and disciplinary procedures
So while not ‘licenced conveyancers’ per se, solicitors doing conveyancing operate under the SRA’s regulatory framework enforcing adequate standards.
Other Conveyancing Providers
Licenced conveyancers and solicitor-conveyancers conduct most residential transactions. However, other groups can also provide conveyancing services:
- Licenced probate practitioners – can handle conveyancing if the property forms part of an estate
- Bar Council-registered barristers
- CILEx registered chartered legal executives
These professionals require specialist property law qualifications to undertake conveyancing work under their respective regulatory regimes.
Some may offer conveyancing without recognised qualifications or regulatory oversight. Known risks of using unaccredited providers include:
- Lower legal knowledge and experience
- No professional indemnity insurance, leaving clients unprotected if errors occur
- No recourse to regulators if substandard work or misconduct arises
- Shortcuts are taken around property searches or contract checks
While usually cheaper, cost savings often prove a false economy due to the serious pitfalls posed.
Why Regulation Matters
Robust regulation fundamentally protects the public when engaging conveyancers by upholding:
- Minimum standards of legal knowledge, ethics and skills
- Compulsory insurance to cover negligence costs
- Ongoing training and development requirements
- Monitoring of service levels and client accounts
- Disciplinary action and banning of rogue operators
This provides vital quality assurance and accountability in high-value, high-risk transactions.
Regulation Benefits for Consumers
Choosing a regulated conveyancer gives clients:
- Confidence in the adviser’s competence and expertise
- Channel for recourse if dissatisfied with service
- Protection of errors requires compensation claims
- Assurance of fair practices and treatment
- Security that client accounts are properly audited
Knowing conveyancers operate under regulatory oversight therefore allows clients to proceed with appropriate confidence.
Checking Conveyancer Credentials
Consumers can verify advisors’ credentials through:
- Searching the CLC’s online Find a Conveyancer tool
- Checking the SRA’s online Register for solicitors
- Requesting the advisor’s licence/registration details
- Asking for certificates of qualification and insurance
Undertaking checks provides peace of mind around regulation.
Using Unregulated Advisers
While conveyancing without regulation carries risks, consumers may accept these if:
- They have personal trust from past dealings
- The practitioner has substantial experience
- The case is very low-risk and uncomplicated
- Professional indemnity insurance is confirmed
- Savings make unregulated advice affordable if issues arise
But thorough due diligence is still advisable before proceeding sans regulation.
In summary, reputable conveyancers operate within clear regulatory frameworks upholding standards that benefit professionals and clients alike. While alternative advisers exist, buyers and sellers should exercise caution in engaging unaccredited providers when so much depends on the conveyancing process. For “houses up for auction” or private sales, conveyancing regulation matters just as much as for mainstream transactions and warrants due diligence. However, with appropriate precautions, regulated and unregulated services can both facilitate secure, validated transfers of property ownership and title.