Property Surveys and the Changing Role of Solicitors

Increasing competition between mortgage lenders could lead to solicitors leaving their clients exposed when conducting their conveyancing, so what do you need to know about your changing role in advising on property surveys?

Joe Arnold, Managing Director of Arnold & Baldwin, gives Lawyer Monthly the lowdown.

The competitive pressures of mortgage lending are driving a growing number of lenders to streamline their service by decoupling a valuation from a survey, and many lenders are now removing the option for customers to upgrade from a valuation to a Homebuyer Report or Building Survey. This has traditionally been the main route by which homebuyers have accessed these more detailed surveys and without being presented this option, they could be left exposed.

Both the Law Society and UK Finance (formerly the CML) state solicitors should recommend that a survey is undertaken, and The Conveyancing Association says that solicitors should not raise any questions about a property unless they have already been raised by the surveyor.

It’s worth remembering that a mortgage valuation is for the protection of the lender and is not a survey for the protection the borrower. The type of valuation undertaken depends on that lender’s risk appetite and commercial demands and lenders are increasingly using automated valuations on transactions they consider to be lower risk.

It’s worth remembering that a mortgage valuation is for the protection of the lender and is not a survey for the protection the borrower.

In order to meet their requirement to recommend a survey is undertaken, many solicitors ensure they are compliant through wording in their terms of engagement, that are acknowledged and agreed by the client. However, with so many lenders withdrawing the option to upgrade to a survey, there is a strong argument to say that solicitors should be more proactive in telling customers they need to get a survey, rather than covering their backs in the small print.

A more proactive approach to recommending your client carries out a survey on the property they are purchasing will ensure that you comply with your responsibilities, both in the letter and the spirit of your requirements. But it will do more than that.

Conveyancing is a process, but it is also a service that you provide to your clients to ensure they are legally protected when they buy a property. If you can help provide them with the peace of mind that the property is structurally sound as well as legally protected, you’ll be offering a service that could lead to better client outcomes and an improved customer experience.

At Arnold & Baldwin, we can provide national coverage, with surveyors across the UK, and we can help to point you in the right direction with our Compliance Pack, which includes information on your obligations and options.

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