We all want the sale of our home to be as seamless as possible. However, a conveyancing chain can only ever progress as quickly as its slowest part.
Ultimately it is a buyer’s responsibility to ask questions and gather all necessary information about the property to make the informed decision to legally commit to buy. This can lead to sellers being reactive, rather than proactive, in that process.
Richard Wisnia, director and solicitor at Switalskis Solicitors, believes that sellers should be proactive with information to help speed up the process. The Law Society’s Conveyancing Protocol, which lays out principles for how buyers and sellers should transact with each other, also encourages a collaborative approach. As the Protocol doesn’t kick in until both sides have instructed their lawyers, here Richard addresses how sellers can prepare themselves in advance:
A common source of delay in the conveyancing process is the discovery, some way into the process, of missing consents for work carried out at the property. Whilst standard questionnaires ask sellers to confirm what works have been carried out, even the most comprehensive answers can result in delays if the supporting documentation hasn’t been thought about or gathered in advance.
The three most common types of consent are Planning Permission, Building Regulations Approval and “Covenant” Consent. One, some, all or none of these consents may be required.
Planning Permission and Building Regulations Approval are two different types of Council consent which are often confused as one and the same, but they are not. “Covenant” Consent is a written permission which the property title says is required from a named third party to, for example, building works or alterations. This third party may be, for example, the original builder of the house, or a previous landowner.
Works which may require Local Authority Planning Permission or Building Regulations Approval include extensions; conservatories; porches; roofing; dormer windows; loft conversions; garages; garage conversions; decking; driveways; or internal structural alterations.
Certain internal installations will require Building Regulations Approval, but the installers themselves provide the necessary certification. Works may include windows/doors (FENSA or CERTASS certificates); boilers and gas fires (Gas Safe Register certificates); electrical installations (NICEIC or NAPIT certificates); and cavity wall insulation (CIGA certificate).
What sellers can do
As a sensible rule of thumb when putting their property on the market in 2022, homeowners should have a good grasp of what alterations have been made to the property since the turn of the century.
For work done before the current owners bought it, information should have been provided by the conveyancer who represented them at the time of purchase. The current owners should also have been advised about any consents which would be required under the title covenants for future works. There is a misconception that these wouldn’t be relevant because they were done before the house was bought but this is not true, and often brings an expensive surprise and source of delay when discovered late on.
For alterations carried out during the seller’s ownership, reputable builders/installers should have provided the necessary advice and guidance and ensured that all relevant Council consents or certificates were obtained. It is therefore a good idea to pull together all of this information before you go to market and will help to save time and avoid delays caused by questions during the process.
Who you gonna call?
If you can’t find, or haven’t been given any consents, don’t panic. But also, don’t call the council or the third party named in the covenant looking for the consent – always speak to your solicitor first. There are solutions available to most conveyancing issues, but these solutions are unlikely to be available if the people who are supposed to give consent are made aware that work may have been done without it. This could cause much greater problems in homeowners being able to sell at all.