A year to push the envelope

 

Last January I remember the CA’s Chairman, Eddie Goldsmith, saying that (amongst other priorities) 2017 would be ‘the year of leasehold reform’. Knowing full well that Eddie doesn’t moonlight as a clairvoyant in his spare time, I’d still have to say that his predictions on what might unfold over the course of the last 12 months were pretty spot on.

There’s really no need to go over the progress that was made on leasehold last year but, it will be clear to all conveyancing firms and stakeholders, that we are going to see a much-changed leasehold sector in the future and the direction of travel, particularly in terms of new-build leasehold houses which has now been banned, but also the fees charged and the work completed by Lease Administrators, will also undergo (we hope) much change. All good positive stuff and a huge leap forward on this time last year.

As an aside, we (in conjunction with HM Land Registry) have an ongoing survey open on landlord/management company restrictions used to enforce covenants in leases. We want members and stakeholders to complete this quick survey so we can provide information to Land Registry and inform their work. You can find the survey at: https://www.snapsurveys.com/wh/s.asp?k=151204961198

Moving on however the big question might be, not whether Eddie knows next week’s lottery numbers, but what will 2018 be the year of? Well, I don’t really have that crystal-ball gazing skill but (and this is a rather generalist punt) I think we’re going to see some huge progress in terms of the overall home purchase process.

Now you might well shout, ‘Tell us something we don’t know?’ but based on recent history how confident would we have been in such a prediction just 12-18 months ago? Certainly not as confident as I feel now about it. There have been some major political movements – resulting from last year’s General Election – that mean significant reform is now much more likely. Would the reform of the home-buying process have been such a priority for the Government, if it was currently holding a substantial majority? Again, I’m not so sure.

The important point for us as a trade body, our membership, and all those we work with in order to secure a better conveyancing process, is that we must not let this opportunity slip. The publication late last year of the ‘Call for Evidence’ is a big moment and we, like many of our peer group, have issued our response. Interestingly, it has been very positive to see the depth and breadth of agreement amongst those other bodies who have shared their responses – we may not be entirely singing from the same hymn sheet but at least we’re all singing along to the same music.

This type of industry agreement and collaboration is going to be vital in terms of our ability to influence what the Government does next, and again if we want 2018 to be the year of anything, then perhaps it should be ‘working together’ because positive change cannot be delivered by the CA, or in fact, any organisation and body alone.

In that regard, we do rely on our member firms to help us prove our (many) points by taking part in pilots and research that enable us to provide evidence to the powers that be. For example, our Code for Completion would not be worth the paper it’s written on if our firms didn’t use it. And that will be the same in the future – as a trade body if we’re calling for greater use of digital signatures, a digital home report, reservation agreements, standard post-valuation referral forms and the like, we need to have the practical evidence to back it up.

Politically at least, the quest for true, far-reaching and significant reform has been given a significant boost. Our hand has been strengthened by the fact Sajid Javid has been given the ‘Housing title’ and that the DCLG is now the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) and he will sit at the Cabinet table with an official housing hat on. Not forgetting the fact that we do also have a separate Housing Minister, Dominic Rabb, which should indicate a greater importance being attached to all things housing, not just increasing supply but making the consumer experience of purchasing much less stressful.

We await the feedback from the ‘Call for Evidence’ with great interest but we’re certainly not sitting back waiting for this. Indeed, our ongoing aims and ambitions to deliver on our Strategic Plan will always continue because we believe they are worth achieving and will provide a much better home-purchase experience for everyone involved. And that in a nutshell, is how we intend to go about our business throughout 2018 and beyond – if you feel we can help and support you, or if you feel you want to add your voice to what we do, then please get in contact. We work best when we work together.

Beth Rudolf is Director of Delivery at the Conveyancing Association

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