Lenders warn of latest risks

Speaking at the Bold Legal Group (BLG) conference, last week, Lloyds Banking Group and Santander warned BLG members of the current issues that are concerning lenders.

Nick Larkins of Lloyds Banking Group, Sam Cherry of CLS, Chris Harris of Lawyer Checker, Rob Carling of Landmark and Tracey Carr of Santander all spoke at last Thursday’s conveyancing conference in London.

Nick Larkins informed conveyancers of the reasoning behind the changes they have made to their conveyancing panel.

He emphasised that the Lloyds Banking approach was not to exclude smaller firms as some people seemed to believe.

Their risk base approach considered many factors. They have completed a review of their panel and 61% of their panel firms are four partner or less firms.

Whilst Lloyds have made significant strides in reducing their losses caused by conveyancing, Nick Larkins stressed that new areas of concern are emerging.

These include distressed property sales, disguised deposits and hidden representation.

He also suggested that conveyancers should think carefully when employing staff, ensure they really know their customers and sources of deposits and when receiving referred business really understanding the original source of business.

Later in the day Tracey Carr from Santander made similar points, her concerns revolved around below market value transactions (BMV) where the true purchase price is not disclosed to the lender.

She also has concerns around distressed sales particularly around the sale to rent back market with unenforceable tenancy agreements.

Property clubs were also a concern where novice landlords were being duped into taking out mortgages.

Other issues included non-transparency of transactions i.e. source of deposit, closet BTL or BTL as residential, and a growing trend of impersonation fraud particularly on remortgages of unencumbered properties.

Both lenders discussed the portal that they are building to help conveyancers not having to make repeated panel applications to many lenders in the future.

Another area that was highlighted by both Nick Larkins and Tracey Carr was the issue of vendor “conveyancer” fraud.

Chris Harris presented his new product Lawyer Checker (www.lawyerchecker.co.uk) to help conveyancers check the validity of the client account to which they are sending purchase funds and the regulated conveyancer that purported to run the account.

Rob Hailstone the founder of the Bold Legal Group explained his plans to steadily build a consumer brand and how he had asked himself four questions about legal brands.

These being whether legal brands are the way forward, whether he wanted to create a legal brand, whether he could create a legal brand and how he will do it.

He discussed why legal brands were the way forward citing Graham Lang. He drew analogies between the way Direct Line and technology caused the decline of the insurance broker market and how Cooperative Legal Services or Quality Solicitors may disrupt the conveyancing market.

Mr Hailstone said: “Yes I do want to create a legal brand, because I believe that by doing so is one way to continue to help high street firms survive and thrive and I want the public to be able to instruct a local laywer when they require professional face to face legal advice.”

He concluded “If becoming part of a national brand is something you are considering and you want to become one of our founding members (we now have ten) please let me know as soon as possible.”

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