Does updated CON29 show good form?
Following revision from the Law Society, the new CON29 forms were released on 4th July this year. The intention behind the changes was to improve the quality of information provided by the local authorities in order to make it easier for buyers, sellers and lenders alike to understand.
Whether these benefits will be reflected in practice however is yet to be seen, as the local authorities are responsible for implementing and responding to the changes and were said to have been ill-prepared.
CON29 forms are enquiries made to the local authority and are used in relation to property transactions. In conjunction with a LLC1 form – which serves as a search of the land charges register – it completes the Local Authority Land Charges search in regards to a property.
The consultation on proposed changes to the forms took place from 26th June to 1st August 2013. The main aim was to inform the CON29 and CON29O form production. New issues such as community infrastructure levy and assets of community value made up one the of the proposed changes, whilst others aimed to account for recent legislative amendments.
From enquiry 3 onwards, the CON29 form is specifically designed to expose any issues affecting or due to affect the area around the property as well as those which would not necessarily be visible through superficial inspection. However, schemes that have been or are in the process of being implemented are not to be revealed in a CON29 enquiry response; these include bridge building or parking restrictions, for example.
A CON29O form may also be sent along with the CON29. This may however be submitted independently as it is designed as a stand-alone document. They should therefore be accepted by local authorities with a payment of the relevant fee.
The changes implemented include 30 additional questions in comparison with the old form. There are also a standardised set of responses designed to assist legal professionals in filling in the forms concisely.
The updated forms allow potential buyers and lessees to attain detailed information on a specific property, one they may wish to purchase for example.
Where the efficiency of filling in the forms may have improved, there may be much left to be desired in regards to processing time.
The forms’ changes may increase the speed of them being completed, generating an even greater volume of work for individual local authorities who are pressed even further following funding cuts. Also, the updated form release coincides with that of the CON29DW forms, increasing the levels of pressure even more.
In acknowledgement of this, the HMRC have deferred their proposed changes for a second time. Scheduled to be introduced originally in February 2016, VAT on the CON29 forms was postponed until the launch of the forms themselves (4th July). They have since announced that the VAT introduction has been postponed once again, on a date yet to be released.
The change which both the VAT committee, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) and the Law Society are opposed to would mean the CON29 and CON 29O search components would face 20% VAT. At a time where many firms are seeking to cut conveyancing costs, the VAT introduction may see consumers paying more for searches due to local authorities simply raising their prices instead of absorbing the extra cost.