Diary of a High Street Conveyancer; 31st August 2021
So what are the words or phrases that others (particularly estate agents) say which make your heart sink?
I have one; “could we take a view on it?”
In my experience, that does not mean “could we take a view on it?” It does in fact mean “let’s decide not to go down a particular route where we could end up making the transaction harder and longer for all those involved. Let’s agree that we will not do the job ‘properly’, but let us decide/pretend that everything is really ok and just crack on.”
I am sure that you all know what I mean!
One of the times when I was asked to “take a view” on a matter was in relation to a loft conversion. The lender had only done a desk top valuation. I could see that there was a loft conversion from the estate agents’ particulars of sale and my buyer clients confirmed this to be the case. A photograph of a room in the loft (slanted roof was a big of a giveaway!) with an en-suite bathroom.
The room was clearly being used as a bedroom as there was a bed in it, along with other bedroom items. The homebuyers’ survey confirmed that there was a loft conversion. The local search had no consents for any building works relating to a loft conversion. The sellers’ solicitor could not provide any consents…as there were none!
Now we all know what then tends to happen; a bit of dancing around when the work was actually done to establish whether it was before the sellers’ ownership. We then find out that there had been a previous sale (not disclosed to my client at the outset) and it becomes apparent that the reason that sale did not proceed was because there was no consent for the loft conversion. And guess what? Another set of previous buyers did not proceed because of this!
All of this being crucial information which should have been provided to my clients to enable them to make an informed decision at the point of sale as to whether they should proceed, but no! about £600 later (after searches and surveys), we discover what the estate agents knew at the initial stages.
So we get asked to take a view… what this really means is tell your client just to go ahead. But why would they?
This then led to a conversation between the estate agent and myself where I was accused of scaremongering the client and leading them to decide not to go ahead as it wasn’t really that big an issue. Their advice… get an indemnity policy!
Well, we all know (but I am not sure that all agents know this) that the indemnity policy is only for lack of certification; it does not cover any safety issue. It will not cover the damage and injury caused when a child jumps off the bed and comes through the ceiling. It will not cover the damage when there is a fire and there is no route of escape, and no fire door at the top of the stairs.
What follows is the stand off between me and the agent. The agent knows my clients really love and want the property; they tell my client I am being difficult and could take a view on it if I chose to do so. I tell my client that the agent does not want to have to re-advertise the property. The agent says that the room is not habitable and just for storage so any consent would not be required; I point out that their particulars would suggest otherwise.
Cue the killer question to the agent… “would you buy this house?”
We all know that it is ok when we are being asked to take a view for someone else and whilst spending some one elses money but agents would want the job done properly if they were buying the house. I could only laugh when the agent’s answer was “well of course not, but that is not the question.”
But this dear reader is precisely the point isn’t it… it is why should we be asked to “take a view” with not only someone else’s money but also their safety?
This is written by a real high street conveyancer who wishes to remain anonymous. Read more in Today’s Conveyancer every week.