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Legal Tips and Help

Buying or selling a property can be an emotional roller coaster and lawyers use a lot of technical terms, so much so that it can be difficult to follow what they mean and at a time when you are trying to deal with the ups and downs of buying or selling a property, this is not a good recipe for keeping calm.

To bring clarity to the puzzle of conveyancing “speak” we at Bowling & Co try our level best not to bombard you with lots of confusing legal terminology. However, sometimes certain phrases or words will appear in communications with you.

Don’t worry though, help is at hand to assist you in deciphering the most commonly used phrases and words used by lawyers when you buy and sell property.

See our top 20 A to Z glossary below:

1. Chain
Refers to the number of property sales linked together by onward purchases, reliant on the proceeds of sale, to complete on that purchase.

2. Client Care Letter
You will be sent a full written description of (called the “scope of retainer”), and a breakdown of costs for,  the service you are being provided with. This is known as the Client Care Letter and you become committed to the firm once you have signed and returned this letter.

3. Completion Date
Whether you are the buyer or the seller, you will agree a specific day when ownership of the property is to be transferred. This is known as the Completion Date and is not guaranteed until contracts have been exchanged. On the Completion Date, the seller receives the full payment from the buyer, and must hand over the keys and vacate the property. We cannot specify a time when monies will be received by the sellers’ solicitors, as we are in the hands of the banking system and how quickly  payment is transmitted by them.

4. Completion Statement
Your Completion Statement shows the financial breakdown of your transaction and will either specify an amount owed to you on completion of your sale or an amount due to our firm prior to completion.

5. Contract
The legal agreement concerning the sale and purchase of the property or properties. It sets out all the necessary terms and conditions.

6. Conveyancing
The legal process of transferring ownership of property from one person to another is known as Conveyancing.

7. Deposit
This is usually around 10% of the full purchase price and is payable to the seller when contracts are exchanged.

8. Disbursements
Your solicitor will need to pay others on your behalf during the course of the transaction i.e. search providers and these expenses are known as ‘disbursements’, payable by you once your sale or purchase has completed. You will normally be asked to provide an ‘on account’ payment for search fees at the start of your transaction.

9. Exchange of Contracts
The sale is confirmed on the day when the contract legally binding the buyer and the seller are swapped by the solicitors. If either party wants to turn back after exchange of contracts then compensation would be payable to the other and if you are the buyer, you would lose the deposit paid on exchange of Contracts.

10. Fixtures & Fittings Form
This clarifies exactly what items in the property you are paying for if you are the buyer. If you are the seller, you must ensure that what you are saying you are going to leave, you do leave as this forms part of the contract.

11. Freehold / Leasehold
Freehold is the more common type of property and means full ownership. Leasehold means the property is held on a lease and such transactions are usually more complex involving more work. In addition, a Leasehold often involves a management company. This means that extra fees such as notice fees will be payable when buying one of these types of property. You must also take into consideration that you will pay annual service charges and ground rent in addition to all your other outgoings.

12. H.M. Land Registry
The central governing body that records the ownership of land and property throughout England & Wales.

13. Land Registry Office Copies
The official copy, accepted in a Court of Law, of your property’s record held by H.M. Land Registry, which usually consists of a Property Register and Title Plan.

14. Land Registry Search Fee
This fee is payable to cover the priority search of the title register. After the exchange of contracts, it is vital that the register is checked to make sure that it has not changed – i.e. that the property still belongs to the seller – and to ensure that the buyer has priority over any other application to change the register for a period of 30 working days.

15. Local Authority Search Fee
Your conveyancer will check with the local council to see if anything of significance has been recorded against the property. These could be Planning Permissions, Road Proposals, Tree Preservation Orders, Compulsory Purchase Orders and Highway adoption for example but do not include any current planning applications. They do this using many probing questions and this work is sometimes contracted out to a third party search company so the fees can vary significantly.

16. Property Information Form (SPIF)
The vendor fills this in to fulfil a legal obligation to inform the buyer about issues such as boundaries, guarantees, occupiers, planning and anything else that could have repercussions for the new owners of the property.

17. Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)
This is a tax payable to the government calculated on the value of the property to be purchased.

18. Survey
A detailed survey can be carried out on the property to check for any potential problems, including structural issues such as subsidence. This helps to protect the buyer and is paid for by the buyer.

19. Title Deeds
These documents provide proof of ownership for a property and also spell out any rights or obligations affecting the property.

20. Vendor
Term used to describe the owner of the property being sold; also referred to as the “seller”.

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