Tips for First Time Buyers: the Conveyancing Process Explained

Lauren Powell has joined the Residential Conveyancing and Private Client team here at CJCH and wanted to share these tips for first-time home buyers:

As a first time buyer, the legal process of purchasing a property (known as conveyancing) can be a confusing and stressful time.

At CJCH Solicitors, our dedicated team of solicitors are here to make the process as straight forward and stress-free as possible. We have created a brief guide to the steps of the conveyancing process and some of the terminology that is often used to give first-time buyers an initial understanding of the process.

For further information or for a competitive quote for our legal services, please contact a member of our team.

  • Step One: your offer is accepted

Congratulations! You have found your property and agreed on a purchase price with the seller.

It is at this stage that the estate agents, seller or developer (in the case of new build properties[1]) may ask for the details of the solicitor you have decided to instruct to act on your behalf.

At CJCH Solicitors, we pride ourselves on providing prompt service. We ensure that once we have provided a quote and agreed our fixed fee[2] with you, we send confirmation of our instruction to you as soon as possible. As this is likely to be the most important financial transaction of your life, it is vital to ensure you choose the right solicitor. A cheap service can often mean a poorer quality service!

Our quote will include information on whether any stamp duty land tax (which applies to properties in England) or land transaction tax (which from April 2018 applies to properties in Wales) is likely to be payable.  The rules can be complex, so a chat with one of our team is advised to ensure you know upfront what the costs are likely to be.

At this stage, we also request the contract pack[3] from the seller’s solicitor.

  • Step Two: apply for a mortgage/funding your purchase

If you require a mortgage to purchase the property and you have not already made arrangements, it is important to make an application for a mortgage to help fund the purchase and ensure you obtain your agreement in principle[4] as soon as possible.

For new build properties, a Help to Buy Equity Loan[5] in addition to your mortgage could also be a possibility for you. It is best to seek financial advice before agreeing to any mortgage or loan, to ensure you choose the best option for you.

Your lender will request the details of your solicitor. You should receive a copy of your mortgage offer and your solicitor will also be sent a copy by your lender. Your solicitor will normally also represent your lender during the process.

  • Step Three: survey and searches

It is always advisable that you commission a survey to ensure a detailed physical inspection of the property is carried out by a professional surveyor to highlight any potential issues. Although this is an extra cost to you, it can save you discovering any nasty surprises in the future!

Please note that if you are purchasing with a mortgage, it will not be enough to rely on your lender’s valuation report as this is done to satisfy your lender that the property is sufficient security for their loan.

Your solicitor will also order search reports[6]. Searches are normally carried out with the local authority, water and drainage provider and an environmental search is usually done (some additional searches can be required depending on the property itself).

Your solicitor raises any enquiries they feel necessary with the seller’s solicitor based on the information provided in the contract pack at the beginning of the process, the search reports received your survey report and any questions you may have for the seller from your physical inspection of the property. When the seller answers the enquiries satisfactorily, it is the time to agree a completion date[7] with all parties involved.

  • Step Four: exchange of contracts

Before the day of completion, a process known as ‘exchange of contracts’[8] will take place. The time in between exchange of contracts and the day of completion does vary depending on the circumstances of both the seller and the purchaser (and whether there is a chain[9] involved).

Exchange of contracts is a process that takes place over the phone between the seller’s solicitor and purchaser’s solicitor. Exchange of contracts is the point whereby you become legally bound to purchase and is designed to provide security that completion goes ahead on the agreed date. It is at this stage that you forward your deposit, normally 10% of the purchase price. If you withdrew from the purchase after the exchange of contracts, the deposit is forfeited to the seller. The seller can also face penalties if they withdrew from the sale after the exchange of contracts. Although, parties withdrawing after the exchange of contracts is very rare.

Before exchange of contracts can take place, you will normally meet with your solicitor to sign the necessary documents. You will also be given information on how to transfer the deposit funds to your solicitor, which your solicitor needs to receive before exchange of contracts. Your solicitor will also request your mortgage funds directly from your lender to ensure they arrive in time for the agreed completion date.

  • Step Five: completion

On the day of completion, the seller vacates the property (if they have not already done so).

Your solicitor will send the purchase funds to the seller’s solicitors and, on receipt of the funds, the seller’s solicitor will notify your solicitor that the keys can be collected.

The keys are normally collected from the acting estate agents’ office and completion usually takes place around lunchtime, though it will depend on when the funds are received by the seller’s solicitor.

  • Stage six: post-completion

Your solicitor will see to the filing of a stamp duty land tax return to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) or a land transaction tax return to the Welsh Revenue Authority (WRA) and the payment of any tax that is due on your behalf.[10]

Your solicitor will also register the property in your name with HM Land Registry[11]. When registration is completed, your solicitor will send you an updated version of the title to the property, showing you as the registered owner. If you are purchasing a leasehold property[12], the lease will be registered in your name.

This is often also an important time to consider whether you should make a Will to ensure your property, along with any other assets, would pass in accordance with your wishes. For more information on our Will drafting services and fees, please contact a member of our Private Client department.

Notes:

[1] New build properties are properties that are to be, are in the process of, or have just been built by a developer. The conveyancing process is slightly different when you are purchasing a new build property. Please contact our team for further information.

[2] At CJCH Solicitors, we offer a fixed fee service for conveyancing with no hidden costs. This means that the quote for our legal fees will be for a fixed amount and will not increase, provided no unforeseen work is required (if it is, we agree any further costs with you beforehand).  

[3] This will include information on the title to the property, the sale agreement, and forms completed by the seller providing details about the property and its fixtures and fittings, together with supporting documents.

[4] An agreement by your lender to lend a certain amount to you based on the information you have supplied at that stage. A formal application will need to follow to the lender before they formally grant you the loan.

[5] This is a government scheme which could help fund up to 20% of your new build home, leaving you with a 5% deposit to pay (rather than a 10% deposit which is normally required) and a 75% mortgage. There are different rules that apply to properties in England and properties in Wales (Help to Buy and Help to Buy Wales are separate organisations). Please contact us for further information.

[6] Search reports are carried out through an independent search provider. The searches can provide essential information on issues such as the property’s highways, connections to the sewage and water drainage systems, flood/contamination/subsidence risks and planning permission and building regulation documents relating to the property, to name just a few.

[7] The completion date is the date that you finalise the purchase and are able to collect the keys to the property.

[8] You will need to ensure you have a buildings insurance policy in place for the property for this date.

[9] This is where there are a number of linked sales and purchases that are all reliant on one another to complete. Naturally, the longer the chain, the longer the conveyancing process tends to take.

[10] For most purchases, there is a duty to inform HMRC or the WRA of the purchase via a return, even if no tax is payable.

[11] An organisation that registers ownership of property and land in England and Wales.

[12] This is where you have an agreement with a landlord called a lease that, amongst other things, will state how long you will have ownership of a property. The landlord is often the person/organisation that owns the freehold title to the property. At the end of the lease, ownership returns back to the landlord. If you own a freehold title to a property, you basically own the property outright.

CJCH Solicitors partner named one of Wales’ 30 young lawyers to watch!

The senior partners of CJCH Solicitors are proud to congratulate Amy Roberts-Rees, our firm’s partner in charge of the Mental Health Law and Court of Protection practice, for being named one of the 30 young lawyers to watch in the Wales Online publication.

Amy joined CJCH in 2013 as a partner and has been instrumental in expanding the great work we do in Legal Aid to represent those in need of assistance with Mental Health Law. Amy has also developed and grown our Court of Protection practice, and built a high performing, client-centric department of dedicated specialists.

Congratulations on a well-deserved accolade and recognition of your continuous growth.

Find the full Wales Online feature here.

 

CJCH History Month: Wales’ oldest law firm, Gaskell and Walker, joins CJCH

By Myles Thomas

As Wales’ oldest law firm, the acquisition of Gaskell & Walker is a matter of pride for those working at CJCH Solicitors. Given the continued growth and success of the tech-centric Consulting side of CJCH’s business, it is also apparent that the firm still holds true to the values and ethos of a community based high street practice.

E.W. Miles Solicitor on record for a probate matter, 1921

The origins of Gaskell and Walker go back to Ebenezer William Miles, who practiced as E W Miles & Co. in Cowbridge. Ebenezer was born on 8th June 1852 to Thomas Miles of Cowbridge, where he was later educated and admitted as a Solicitor in 1878. He practiced alone from 1878 until 1932 and was succeeded by Mr Morgan, who was admitted in 1900 and died in 1934.

At this point, the practice was taken over by Francis (Frank) Gerald Walker who was born in 1881, admitted as a Solicitor in November 1929, and practised in partnership with John Clare Gaskell. At the end of the Second World War, Frank handed the practice on to John Thornley Taylor, who acted as a sole practitioner until he was joined in partnership by Ian Jewell, Ray Nicholson and Anthony.

Following the unfortunate demise of Mr Jewell, Gwyn Davies joined Ray and Anthony in partnership in 1988 and upon Ray’s retirement in 1999 they were joined by Mel Butler. Up until the point where CJCH acquired Gaskell and Walker, astonishingly, that had only been a total of nine partners in over one hundred and thirty years.

John Gaskell record of Admission, 1902

When CJCH took over Gaskell and Walker in late 2014/early 2015, the two firms practiced from their offices in Caroline Street and Park street, respectively. Speaking with current members of CJCH Solicitors in Bridgend (the majority of whom worked for Gaskell and Walker previously) at their relatively new office in Dunraven Place, they indicate the new premises are just one of the many welcome changes they have seen since joining the CJCH family.

Rebecca May, Solicitor at CJCH, originally began her training with Gaskell and Walker under Gwyn Davies, who, despite his retirement remains a mentor to her. Originally, she had trepidations of CJCH’s takeover as she was only four months into her training contract and was worried for her future. Her fears were calmed by Nick Wootton, CJCH’s Chief Financial Officer who informed her she would remain a trainee with the practice. A few years on, Rebecca has flourished with CJCH and says that the takeover benefited her greatly, allowing her more opportunity.

Original Gaskell & Walker letter head on a conveyancing matter, 1946

The rest of the team who also worked for Gaskell and Walker collectively have almost one hundred years of service between them. Nigel Daniel, now Head of Employment at CJCH commented that the team is built on “good old-fashioned loyalty” and they are “incredibly tight-knit”. It is apparent that this is true, with stalwarts Hollie Wood, Louise Watts, Cathy Leyden and a more recent appointment, Caroline Jones regaling and laughing over their experiences in the office together. They insist that they are friends before anything else, there are no secrets between them and they love coming to work every morning.

One of Gaskell and Walker’s main focuses was their client-centric approach, aiming to provide full transparency with ‘friendly, professional and approachable advisers’. Their historic advertisements speak of not being just a ‘faceless law firm’ which they would be proud to see is still apparent today. The Bridgend Office oozes friendliness, charm and personality whilst remaining successful, efficient and professional.

Misconceptions we hear about Divorce

Much like politics, the topic of divorce is often widely discussed but not always fully understood. As specialists in family law, the CJCH team of expert solicitors are often faced with the many myths and misconceptions surrounding matters of relationship breakdown and divorce. Jodi Winter (Family Law Partner) and Sarah Perkins (Family Law Solicitor) address some of the common issues raised by new clients, who might have benefited from seeking assistance sooner, if they had the correct information.

Jodi Winter: People sometimes assume that what they see on TV or in the news is how things actually work. It is important to note that media representations are often dramatised. For example, there is no such thing as a “quickie” separation or divorce. In non-contentious divorces, the judge’s ruling and the Court process might be concluded quickly, but there is a requirement for specific criteria and processes to be satisfied and completed before it gets to that point. On the other hand, some people assume a divorce will take years and be ridiculously expensive so are put off starting the process. A divorce could be processed in as little as 4 months, but it will often take far longer to negotiate, agree and conclude the financial settlements. You need to consider a divorce from two perspectives, the first being the legal attachment to one another, and the second being the financial attachment.

 

Sarah Perkins: Aside from the timeline, there are other questions raised which can be misunderstood. Who gets the house? Who gets the kids? What if my spouse won’t agree to a divorce? Can’t we just list irreconcilable difference as our reason? The short answer to these questions are that they are case specific. The best way to ensure you have the correct information is to seek advice at the earliest opportunity and give your solicitor all the information they need.  You will then receive expert advice on your own particular circumstances.  The notion of irreconcilable differences (i.e. no-fault) is not currently a part of the law in England and Wales. You would need to show that your relationships have irretrievably broken down, with specific facts of proving such.

 

Jodi Winter: The financial aspects of the matter are what often take the most time to negotiate, which is often why it is best to get advice on a pre-nuptial agreement before you get married. Again, pre-nuptial agreements can be misconstrued but they provide a fair and considered starting point which is often upheld by the court if constructed properly. The same goes for agreeing child contact once the divorce is underway. Address the matter as early as possible and come to an agreement that you are both happy with, otherwise the court will decide for you.

The CJCH Solicitors Family Law team specialise in supporting and navigating the difficult situations that arise at the end of a relationship. You’re not alone, Jodi and Sarah are here for you. For more information and contact, please see here.

Need to recover debt from an individual or sole trader? New protocol in place from October 2017.

By Nerys Thomas – Solicitor (Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution)

From 1st October 2017 a new Pre-Action Protocol will be introduced which sets out the steps needed to be taken when looking to pursue a debt claim (The Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims). 

All businesses (including public bodies and sole traders) seeking to recover a debt from an individual will need to comply with the Protocol.   

The Protocol will not apply to business-to-business debts unless the Potential Defendant/debtor is a sole trader. 

As is the case with all Protocols, the intention is for the procedure to provide a way of filtering through potential claims, possibly facilitating a resolution where possible, or if the matter could not be resolved the parties will hopefully be in a position where the issues have been narrowed and/or a clearer understanding of the issues in dispute will be known.    

It is the intention that the Protocol will complement any regulatory regime to which the Potential Claimant/creditor is subject and should any conflict arise between the regulatory obligation and the Protocol, the former will take precedence.   

The likely impact upon the Potential Claimant/creditor in complying with the Protocol is the cost of preparing the required correspondence and responding to queries, should any be raised. 

Furthermore, the Protocol specifies deadlines, of mostly 30 days, which become relevant at various stages of the procedure, hindering the Potential Claimant/creditor from being able to issue the claim at their own discretion.

From a Potential Defendant/debtor’s perspective, a Letter of Claim requires a Reply Form being completed and possibly, depending upon the response being given in the Reply Form, a Standard Financial Statement which requests a great deal of personal information surrounding the person’s/sole trader’s finances, something a great deal of people/sole traders are likely to be uncomfortable with due to the imbalance this presents between parties.  

As with all Protocols, unless there is a justified reason for not using it, there may be cost consequences for failing to comply with the process.

Should you have any queries in relation to the above or any other dispute matters, please contact Nerys Thomas and the rest of the Commercial Law team on commercial@cjch.co.uk

Planning for tomorrow – Introduction to Lasting Power of Attorney

By John Moore, Solicitor

We live in a time of better healthcare and advances in science where we are able to enjoy life for longer than previous generations.  We never know what is around the corner, however, with many people experiencing challenges with their mental health in their later years or are incapacitated through accident, injury or illness.

Here at CJCH, we regularly meet people of all ages who come to us for advice and who are concerned about safeguarding their personal affairs in the future.  Where appropriate, we try and assist by arranging a Lasting Power of Attorney for our clients in respect of their property and financial affairs.

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document which allows individuals to appoint someone of their choosing to act on their behalf (as their attorney) if they are no longer able to manage things themselves for whatever reason. An attorney would be able to access a person’s property and finances to help pay bills, manage investments and pay care home fees. An attorney is legally under a duty, however, to act in the person’s best interest at all times.

Sadly, however, many people that we meet have loved ones who have not set up a Lasting Power of Attorney and no longer have the mental capacity, whether by illness or accident, to be able to do so.  We often find that family members hit a brick wall when dealing with banks and buildings societies who will of course only deal with the account holder themselves.  As there is no one legally able to act for the person it means that there are often situations where bills and care fees cannot be paid. This causes a great deal of stress for everyone involved because a person’s finances cannot be accessed or their property cannot be managed or sold.

In order to resolve this our team of experienced lawyers represent families in making applications to the Court of Protection so that family members can be appointed as Deputies to manage a person’s property and financial affairs.  Once the Court has approved an application the family members who have applied will be able to access a person’s finances and manage the sale of a property under a Court Order.  The Majority of applications to the Court are straightforward and dealt with on paper and do not require any attendance at Court.

If you would like to speak with us for a free consultation on better preparing for your future to ensure those things that are so important to you can be managed property should you no longer be able to do so yourself, you can contact Mr John Moore (solicitor) in our Private Clients department:

Telephone number0333 231 6405, or email privateclients@cjch.co.uk.

You can engage with CJCH Solicitors on Facebook, twitter or LinkedIn.

 

Managing IP Infringements for small to medium enterprises

A word from Tony (Senior Compliance & Investigator Consultant)

At CJCH Solicitors we look to the future of commerce to tackle the questions facing international compliance and governance head-on. Through our ongoing efforts to combat software licencing infringements and anti-piracy on behalf of our clients we have identified potential gaps in the capabilities of small to medium enterprises (SME’s), in particular, in protecting their intellectual property (IP) rights. As a result of the sheer volume of web-based IP infringements it is impractical for many SME’s to identify, monitor and control incidents on their own. The skills and resources to combat the risks associated with this commercially damaging crime are simply not readily available to all SME’s or, in some instances, even larger organisations.

Over time we at CJCH have expanded our offering to address these pain points and support our clients where they need it most – a sturdier and more robust solution than that which they can provide for themselves.

Our services include an automated IT capability which can:

  • detect the scale at which your assets are being infringed
  • actively seek their de-listing from host sites
  • track that the delisting has actually taken place

Our process, including the intervention of our law enforcement trained investigators, is proven to achieve results swiftly and accurately, while being scalable to suit individual demand. With our ability to proactively monitor our clients IP assets and, if required, seamlessly transition the matter for legal action, CJCH are at the forefront of IP protective services.