What Can Conveyancers Expect In 2020?

If recent pronouncements from various stakeholders in the property sector are anything to go by, 2020 may be something of a busy year for Conveyancers.

ollowing the recent election, the number of agreed sales between mid-December 2019 and mid-January 2020 increased 7.5% on the same period in the previous year. Rightmove now believes that we are on the cusp of a property boom. Whether this “Boris bounce” eventuates remains to be seen but given the pent-up demand in the market as a result of years of huge uncertainty, Covenyancers in-trays are likely to be full. 2020 won’t just be notable for its increase in transaction volumes; a number of other significant changes are on the horizon which property professionals should be aware of.

The new RICS Home Survey Standard

The way in which home surveys are undertaken will see a radical shake-up from 1st June 2020. At present, prospective purchasers have a choice of one of four survey options; a valuation by the buyer’s lender, a RICS Condition Report, a RICS Home Buyer’s Report, or a RICS Building Survey.
The Home Survey Standard (HSS) will replace the existing guidance, practice notes and professional statements for the RICS options with a new set of mandatory requirements for RICS accredited members (people and businesses) providing condition-based residential property surveys. The idea is to ensure that consumers have a clearer understanding of the differences in the range of surveys available.

The new standard will introduce three levels of survey:

  • Survey level 1 – a visual inspection but no testing of the building fabric or services. The survey report is brief and does not give advice on repairs or ongoing maintenance.
  • Survey level 2 – a more extensive visual inspection than level 1, but still involves no testing of the building fabric or services. The report is brief but includes advice on repairs and maintenance.
  • Survey level 3 – a detailed assessment, including the inspection of concealed areas (e.g. roof spaces). Testing of services is included and the report is more comprehensive, including the scope, priority and timescale of any repairs.

For Conveyancers, the challenge will be getting familiar with the differences in the reports, learning which report will be appropriate for their client, and how to review and interpret each report.

New national shared ownership model

As we outlined in September 2019, the Government signalled its intention for a new national model for shared ownership, allowing homeowners to increase their ownership share with smaller increments. This was recently confirmed in the Queen’s Speech in December 2019 following a consultation period which ended on 29th September 2019.
It is likely the new model will gain traction in 2020, and will allow buyers of shared ownership property to more easily:

  • Increase their share of a property and in smaller increments.
  • Sell their homes – potentially by replacing the “pre-emption” clause (which affords landlords the exclusive right to market a property for the first eight weeks) with a time-limited ‘right of first refusal’ to repurchase the property and to re-sell it as shared ownership (where local demand allows).
  • Secure a mortgage – it is hoped a new national model for shared ownership will remove overall transaction complexity, thereby encouraging competitive lending and new entrants to construct and operate shared ownership schemes.

It is hoped the new move will assist many prospective young buyers to enter and work their way up the property ladder.

New Welsh guidance on development in flood risk and coastal erosion areas

In a move, which given recent events, is extremely timely, the Welsh Government has now completed its consultation on new ‘technical planning guidance – Technical Advice Note (TAN) 15’ for development, flooding, and coastal erosion. The proposals include:

  • The replacement of the development advice map with a new Wales flood map. This will consist of three flood zones (zone 1 – very low risk, zone 2 – low risk, and zone 3 – medium and high-risk), based on the relative risk of flooding.
  • Integrating and updating the guidance on coastal erosion.
  • Making it clear that planning authorities should not consider highly vulnerable developments in high and medium risk areas.
  • New advice on flood-resistant development.

While this guidance is intended for development purposes, once in place, it will be important for Conveyancers in Wales to understand the new flood zoning strategy and measures which have been put in place to mitigate against flooding in accordance with the new planning guidance.

New redress options for purchasers of new-build homes

In mid-2019, the Government consulted on the role of the New Homes Ombudsman and the redress available for new-build homeowners who encounter problems with their building. In the December 2019 Queen’s speech, the Government stated, “we will also legislate to require that developers of new build homes must belong to a New Homes Ombudsman”. Towards the end of February, Robert Jenrick announced that the New Homes Ombudsman will mandate new-build developers to sign up and it may be necessary for Conveyancers to validate this fact and alert purchasers of any problems. Not doing so may result in new-build homeowners believing they have recourse for future issues with their property when they do not.

Final words

One way or another, 2020 promises to be a busy year for Conveyancing professionals. The challenge for many will be fitting in the professional development time needed to better understand new developments in the sector while coping with high volumes of transactions. We will continue to play our role in keeping you abreast of key events and changes in our industry.

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