Santander reopens conveyancing panel and charges for membership

Santander has taken a big step forward in managing the risk they face from conveyancers by seeking to put into place their own annual compliance checks for which they intend to charge a fee and therefore avoid the need to reduce the size of its panel further.
New firms seeking to join the Santander Conveyancing Panel will be charged a one off fee of £199 plus VAT and all existing firms will be charged £99 plus VAT per year for a compliance check.
A number of firms have received letters this week confirming that they have been asked to pay these costs and many solicitors have asked us where this leave the CQS process for solicitors, a process that they have paid for and been led to believe will be sufficient for lenders without additional checks.
In our opinion if this enables Santander to keep rogue firms off their panel and also maintain a wide panel of firms this should reduce the cost of the ARP to all firms but whether practitioners will see it that way will remain to be seen.
A Santander spokesperson said: “In August 2011, following the completion of our panel review and alignment programme, we will be re-opening Santander’s Residential Mortgage Conveyancing Panel to new members. New members can apply to join via a web based platform serviced through an external provider who will charge a fee of £199 for processing the panel application. Existing members will be required to pay an annual fee of £99 to cover the cost of an annual compliance check. We believe that our new approach to panel management will increase efficiencies and help us to manage a large panel more effectively thereby minimising the need to further reduce numbers.  Santander is making no profit from this arrangement nor is there scope for the fee to be passed on to the customer. We have kept the Law Society informed of this and our rationale for our move.” 
If other lenders follow this practice conveyancers could face a bill of £3000 per year for just being on lender panels.
What are your views?
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