- Alex McKay
Conveyancing, the Environment and Climate Change
Conveyancers really can’t catch a break. Whether it’s legislative changes (looking at you Overseas Entities and the Building Safety Act), a volatile market (mortgage rates), a fiercely competitive market for clients leading to ridiculously low fees and high turnover, or constant chasing from agents, clients, lenders, and developers, it’s all part of the job.
What wasn’t part of the job was advising on whether in 5, 10, 30 years whether the property might be underwater. However, with lenders desperate to protect their investments and clients near rivers and coastal areas keeping a watchful eye on rising water levels, it seems almost inevitable that this too will also become the conveyancer’s responsibility. In 2022 there were rumblings in the industry that there is a duty of care for conveyancers to disclose and discuss the impact of climate change on properties with clients and lenders.
Certainly, some of the environmental search providers are already adding climate change information to their reports and climate change clauses for client reports exist. The question is, how much of the environmental information should be relayed to the client and how much again should be relayed to the lender? In the case of the lender, is this just an exercise in frustration where the information is provided, instructions requested and a generic “please take a view but we’ll sue you” response is received 4 weeks later? Or even better a complete failure by the lender to respond to the request for instructions at all, while the estate agents and clients are screaming for exchange and completion.
Also, just how accurate are these climate change evaluations, because between you and me who knows what’s happening in conveyancing 2023 let alone in 2053? And how on earth are you going to explain to the buyer that despite the fact there is a river within 500 m of the property (which may of course be a perk to certain buyers) might mean that the lender may refuse to lend on it because of a possible risk of flooding in 30 years?
To say it’s a mine field would be putting it lightly (and possibly include another environmental issue to report on, because what if it’s a coal mining field…)
Many conveyancers have argued that climate change is outside of the remit of their legal retainer, which has an element of truth it feels. We can only comment on what is and has been in respect of the property, i.e., is it near a river, has the river flooded and was the property affected? Except the day-to-day conveyancer knows that often they are called upon to look at the future of the property, specifically as to what does the client have planned for the property and whether there is a restriction (whether on the title or through requiring planning use change applications and Local Plans) as to their proposed use, which may not be the same as the current usage.
This means that environmental searches are getting longer, more involved. Yet more work for the swamped conveyancer. While ntitle can’t help you with lenders requirements, mortgage rates, or whether the property will indeed flood within 30 years, we can help you with your searches and your titles.
ntitle checks searches and title, for both registered, unregistered, leasehold or freehold land. New builds are no trouble at all. You upload the contract pack and the searches to our secure online hub and in 48 hours we produce the snapshot, the report, and the enquiries online. It is just that easy.
In the clear and easy to read snapshot we include the key information for the conveyancer to take action on. The report and the enquiries are submitted to you ready to be sent out to clients and sellers as necessary.
Conveyancing in the modern world is a battle of keeping your head above water, ntitle helps to keep you sailing on.