Conveyancing Sector Law Changes and Regulation Roundup 2019-2020

It’s been a turbulent year, notwithstanding the Covid-19 pandemic, as the legal industry has been forced to rapidly adapt in order to maintain business continuity, while also adhering and adjusting to new laws and legislation over the past 12 months.

Prior to Covid-19, the legal landscape was already changing at a rapid pace. With the virus impacting on a global scale, it disrupted every workplace in every sector, causing the legal sector to pause dramatically and many suddenly found themselves in survival mode. This forced firms to reassess their business strategy, while adjusting and settling into a new way of working.

There has been a ‘mixed bag’ of new laws, some of which were prior to the pandemic and some ensued because of the pandemic, while others might have taken a long time to come to fruition or would never have reached Parliament in the first place.

Let’s take a look at the changes in laws and legislation which has been enforced in the last year…..

Eviction Ban

In reaction to the unprecedented situation the world was in, the Government brought about fundamental new measures to shield renters and landlords of the crippling effect of Covid-19 at the end of March this year. Emergency legislation ensured to protect renters while the national pandemic took place, which meant a complete ban on evictions from social or private rented accommodation.

The ban was due to end in England and Wales on Monday 24th August but the Government had a dramatic u-turn just days before it was to expire, announcing an extension of the Eviction Ban for a further 4 weeks.

It was officially announced the stay on evictions had been extended until 20 September 2020, and there will be a new six-month notice period on any eviction notices served by landlords, providing a reprieve for tenants.

Stamp Duty Land Tax

At the beginning of July this year, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the temporary cut to Stamp Duty, which meant the threshold was raised to £500,000 for all buyers with immediate effect. The Chancellor’s reasoning behind the move was to boost jobs in the sector and improve confidence of buyers and sellers.

Since the introduction of the holiday, the housing industry has reported a significant uplift, including an increased demand for conveyancers, including a increased interest from overseas buyers too.

With the Stamp duty holiday due to end on the 31 March 2021, one of the UK’s leading independent real estate consultancy, Knight Frank, has stated that the stamp duty holiday, which has raised the threshold in which stamp duty becomes payable, should be made permanent.

New SRA Standards and Regulations

In November 2019, law professionals and law firms were introduced to new standards following the release of the new SRA Standards and Regulations on the 25th November, replacing the 2011 SRA handbook.

The new standards were significantly reduced in length from 450 pages to 130 pages and allowed solicitors greater flexibility in how they work, with accounting rules simplified, shortening them to 13 considerations rather than 52 rules.

Updated Law Society Conveyancing Protocols Released

In July 2019, the 2019 edition of the Law Society Conveyancing Protocol was released.

The new protocols highlighted the best practice in residential conveyancing, highlighting how solicitors acting on behalf of buyers and sellers of leasehold and freehold properties can best advise their clients.

It was hoped the Conveyancing Protocol was another important piece of legislation which will standardise the residential conveyancing process, make a more transparent system and improve the home buying and selling experience for the all stakeholders, especially solicitors, lenders and consumers.

The updates were introduced as a way of reminding law firms of their obligations to reduce the risk of fraud and increase the efficiency of the home buying and selling process.

Money Laundering Regulations

The Fifth Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD) ensued at the beginning of 2020 as we entered a new decade, superseding the Money Laundering Regulations from 2017.

Professionals and firms had to ready themselves for 5AMLD coming into force on the 10th January 2020.

The pandemic continues to have a big impact on the legal landscape, with some firms faring better than others. The legal industry and many others are facing challenging times but hopefully there will be light at the end of the tunnel as we slowly recover. The sector has seen many changes, where health, wellness and safety has now become top priorities for every firm, the workplace itself is looking very different from 6 months ago and may not change for the foreseeable future. It seems the consensus is that some new ways of working, including working from home rather than in the office, are here to stay for the time being and will see a significant impact on the everyday workings and culture of all firms.

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