Are Conveyancers Solicitors?

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When buying, selling or remortgaging a property in the UK, engaging a conveyancer is vital to handle the legal work. But confusion often arises around the professional titles involved – are conveyancers also qualified solicitors, or are they distinctly different specialists?

This article explains the relationship between these crucial roles. We clarify what conveyancing and solicitor services involve, compare their training and regulation, and outline when each professional should be instructed during property transactions. For those asking “When looking for a house to sell, do we need a conveyancer or solicitor?”, understanding these distinctions is key.

Defining Conveyancers

A conveyancer is a specialist dealing exclusively with the legal aspects of property transactions like:

  • Land and property ownership transfers
  • Registration of title deeds
  • Property and land rights and obligations
  • Preparing contracts for house sales
  • Managing the exchange of contracts and completion
  • Reviewing planning permissions
  • Checking for issues like covenants or zoning restrictions

Conveyancers focus solely on property sale and purchase work, not other legal services. Their in-depth expertise facilitates efficient due diligence and contract work to progress transactions and transfers of ownership.

Defining Solicitors

Solicitors are general practice lawyers trained across various legal fields including:

  • Property law
  • Family law
  • Employment law
  • Wills and probate
  • Litigation and dispute resolution
  • Commercial and corporate law
  • Criminal law

While qualified in property law, solicitors work across this spectrum of legal areas. They may personally handle conveyancing within their firm or outsource to a specialist conveyancer. Their broader scope contrasts conveyancers’ specific property remit.

Comparing Training and Regulation

Conveyancers usually hold qualifications accredited by the Council for Licenced Conveyancers (CLC), the industry regulatory body. Common credentials include:

  • CLC Level 3 and Level 6 Diplomas in Conveyancing Law and Practice
  • BA Degree in Conveyancing Law and Practice
  • Graduate Diploma in Conveyancing Law and Practice

Solicitors must complete academic study plus vocational training, overseen by the Solicitors Regulation Authority:

  • Undergraduate law degree or Graduate Diploma in Law
  • Legal Practice Course – vocational stage
  • Two-year training contract under the supervision of a qualified solicitor

Both roles necessitate continuing professional development to maintain certification. Conveyancers can specialise earlier by focusing solely on property transactions, while solicitors follow a broader path to general practice encompassing conveyancing.

When to Instruct a Conveyancer vs. Solicitor

While their training differs, conveyancers and solicitors, both handle residential and commercial conveyancing. Choosing between them often depends on:

  • Complexity – Solicitors may be better placed for complex cases involving trusts, legacy issues, disputes etc requiring wider legal expertise.
  • Specialism – For straightforward transactions, a conveyancer’s focused expertise may expedite the process.
  • Commercial work – Solicitors commonly handle commercial conveyancing, while conveyancers focus on residential.
  • Individual preference – Familiarity, recommendation and availability may dictate choices.
  • Budget – Conveyancers can cost less than solicitor’s hourly rates.

Either can fully manage standard conveyancing, but more complicated cases benefit from solicitors’ broader legal reach. Conveyancers offer streamlined services for lower fees, while solicitors provide wider oversight.

Conveyancing Process Overview

Conveyancing follows a typical framework of key stages:

  • Take instructions from the buyer/seller
  • Request title documents from the Land Registry
  • Prepare contract pack – draft contract, fixtures and fittings forms etc
  • Negotiate terms and conditions
  • Conduct local searches for planning issues
  • Verify finances are in place
  • Agree on completion date and exchange contracts
  • Arrange transfer of funds
  • Complete sale and transfer deeds/keys to the new owner

Both conveyancers and solicitors will undertake these steps, leveraging their professional knowledge to expedite the process and pinpoint any issues.

Why Conveyancing Expertise Matters

Regardless of title, the conveyancer or solicitor must demonstrate:

  • Excellent understanding of property law and regulations
  • Meticulous checking of deeds, contracts and paperwork
  • Sharp eyes to identify any gaps, risks or issues
  • Smooth liaison between all parties – buyer, seller, agents, lender
  • Clear communication and transparency throughout
  • Proven ability to progress transactions swiftly

This reduces the risks of delays or disputes derailing transactions. While buyers and sellers handle viewings, offers and negotiations, the legal work needs specialist oversight.

Pitfalls of Non-Expert Conveyancing

Without a qualified conveyancing professional, property deals risk:

  • Vital issues in deeds or contracts being overlooked
  • Documentation errors create disputes
  • Inability to answer legal questions that arise
  • Missing registration deadlines for transfers and tax
  • Transactions stalling or collapsing without expertise to resolve
  • Litigation if unnoticed defects lead to later disputes

Savings from DIY conveyancing rarely outweigh the dangers posed. The conveyancer/solicitor’s role in verifying and executing contracts gives transactions legal validity and protection.

Working With Your Conveyancer or Solicitor

To ensure the conveyancing process flows smoothly:

  • Provide all documentation promptly when requested
  • Keep communication open on any changes or queries arising
  • Understand key dates for searches, surveys and completion
  • Clarify fees and anticipate extra costs if complications arise
  • Don’t amend contracts or deeds without guidance
  • Follow their instructions carefully to avoid issues

A productive relationship based on trust and responsiveness prevents undue delays or stress.

Conclusion

In summary, conveyancers and solicitors offer the expertise required to handle property sales and transfers of ownership. While their training differs, with appropriately complex cases benefitting from a solicitor’s wider legal knowledge, they fundamentally share the same conveyancing skills and standards.

Choosing between them depends on factors like case complexity, types of property, and personal budget and preference. By understanding their similarities and distinctions, buyers and sellers can determine the appropriate conveyancing professional to engage for their transaction. With the right expertise guiding the process, conveyancing ensures property deals proceed securely, efficiently and legally.

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