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Delays in the Conveyancing Process Guide

The conveyancing process can be delayed by many things and it’s important to note that often these are out of the control of your conveyancer or estate agent. Typically, delays in the conveyancing process are caused further down the property chain when waiting for information from other parties involved in the transaction. The longer the chain, the longer the delay could be.

To help you further understand the conveyancing process we have put together this guide on the typical causes of delays in a property transaction.

What causes delays in the conveyancing process?

  • Not instructing a conveyancer as soon as the property is put on the market/an offer is placed:

As soon as an offer has been accepted on a property, the estate agent needs to know your conveyancer’s details. This is the case for both buyers and sellers. It’s therefore important to get quotes and select a conveyancing firm early on in your search for a property to avoid delays once an offer has been accepted.

  • Obtaining a management pack for leasehold properties:

With a leasehold property, the conveyancer will have to obtain the ‘memorandum and articles of association’ of the management company and the accounts of the management company over the past three years. This can often delay the process depending on how responsive the management company is.

If you are purchasing a leasehold property you should inform your conveyancer of this at the outset so they can request this information early on.

  • Lack of planning permission:

When acting for a mortgage lender, conveyancers have a duty to ensure that all necessary planning permission and building regulations approval have been obtained in respect of making changes to a property. Likewise, for any changes which have already taken place, a conveyancer must ensure that the correct permission/regulations were in place.

Even when no lender is involved there is a duty to the purchaser to ensure that any previous changes to a property were carried out correctly and meet the applicable standards and regulations.

If no planning permission or building regulations approval was in place, it may be possible for the seller’s to take out an indemnity insurance policy to cover the work. Obtaining this insurance may cause a delay in the conveyancing process, however, a conveyancer would not be able to proceed with the transaction unless this was in place.

  • Receiving responses and legal documents from other conveyancers in the chain:

Throughout the conveyancing chain there are a number of documents and Q&As sent between the buyer’s and seller’s conveyancers. This occurs up and down the full conveyancing chain. If one conveyancer is slower to response than others a delay is likely to be caused.

Delays caused by any party in a chain of buyers and sellers, including those involving poor communication, will have a knock-on effect and can slow down the process significantly.

  • Not signing or returning required legal documents on time:

When purchasing a property, regardless of whether a mortgage lender is involved, there are numerous documents that need to be signed by both buyers and sellers, some of which need to be witnessed. Arranging to have this done can sometimes cause delays.

To ensure that you don’t hold up the conveyancing process for yourselves or other parties in your chain, be sure to make yourself available to sign contracts and always return documents as quickly as possible.

  • Gifted deposits:

If your house deposit is a gift from your parents or another friend/relative, a further step in the conveyancing process is needed. This can be quite time consuming and it’s vital that you declare this to your mortgage provider or any broker that you may be using, and to your conveyancer at the outset.

Most lenders/brokers will require a signature from the source confirming that the money does not need to be repaid. It is also likely that they will then follow the paper trail behind the amount to rule out any money laundering. Waiting for this check to be carried out can often cause delays.

  • Longer mortgage affordability interviews:

In April 2014, new rules came into force to ensure that borrowers are not offered loans they cannot afford. In order to assess a borrower’s ability to pay their mortgage (and continue to do so should interest rates rise) tougher mortgage affordability tests have been put into place. These interviews can take up to three hours and passing them can be difficult. To give yourself the best chance of doing so you should prepare by budgeting, and sticking to your budget, for several months in advance of the mortgage application being sent off. This will help to build a clear, consistent record of positive money management.

  • Time taken to complete mortgage valuation and surveys:

Whilst mortgage valuations aren’t in depth surveys and don’t take long to complete (around 15-20 mins) it can take time for your mortgage provider to arrange for one to be carried out. In addition, any further in-depth surveys that you may wish to have can also cause delays. Once valuations and surveys have been carried out the surveyor needs to write up their findings so, it’s important to consider this time when calculating how long the process will take.

To avoid delays, if you do wish to have a surveyor carry out a structural survey, you should start looking into this as soon as you’ve had an offer accepted.

  • Incorrect information on mortgage application forms:

Mistakes on a mortgage application can affect their processing and sometimes completely disqualify them. Please ensure that you provide full details to your broker and lender. If we receive a mortgage offer with a mistake, the offer would have to be cancelled and a new one produced.

Some of the typical errors we find include:

Incorrect full names (e.g. a middle name is missing)

National Insurance Number

Financial background

Misstating income

Incorrect references

To avoid having your application returned to you, take care when filling in your form and double check that all the information you have supplied is correct.

  • Transferring funds to the conveyancer:

Your conveyancer will be responsible for collecting and transferring money during the sale of a property. Most banks will not allow the transfer of sums over £10,000 without the use of CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System) but this service comes with a charge. Some people decide to transfer money over a series of days to avoid this charge, or will write a cheque, but either of these methods will slow the process.

  • Mortgage offer expiring:

Mortgage offers usually last between three and six months, if they expire before all necessary legalities are complete then a new mortgage will need to be applied for. Remember, sometimes delays are out of the hands of your conveyancer.

At SAS Daniels, we do everything we can to ensure that the conveyancing process is completed as quickly as possible and we regularly achieve the fastest completion times.

  • Parties being on holiday:

At certain times of year (e.g. during summer or over the Easter or Christmas holidays) it’s likely that one or more parties in a conveyancing chain will be on holiday, and the conveyancers may also be closed over certain holidays. If you’re looking for a speedy buying/selling process, it’s important to consider the time of year when you’re planning to move.

  • Loss of title deeds:

Title deeds are the paper documents that show the chain of ownership for a property. As the Land Registry’s records are now digital they don’t store original paper title deeds, so this is becoming less of a problem. However, if your property is not on their digital register, you will need to apply for first registration. It can take some months to register at property so this is likely to slow down the conveyancing process if selling a property which is not yet registered at the Land Registry.

  • Local authority searches:

Searches are a legal requirement of the conveyancing process. Conveyancers must make local authority searches to obtain details of who owns or is responsible for the roads or sewers surrounding the property, and whether there are any road-widening proposals in place. In addition to this, separate enquiries may have to be made to the relevant water company.

This stage of the conveyancing process often meets delays due to the time it takes the relevant local authority to respond. Some local authorities return the searches within two days, others can take up to eight weeks.

  • Obtaining FENSA certificates:

When buying a property, the purchaser’s conveyancer will ask for evidence that any replacement glazing, installed since April 2002, complies with the Building Regulations. In order to do this, they will need to obtain a certificate proving that the work was done by an installer who is registered with FENSA or a similar body.

Also, if the property is 10 years old or under, NHBC documents will be required.

  • Obtaining gas/electric certificates:

Many buyers will wish to see gas/electricity safety certificates when purchasing a property. Whilst it is not a legal requirement to provide these certificates, a purchaser can request them and we often find that delays can arise, particularly if any issues are pointed out.

  • Someone changing their mind and removing themselves from the chain:

Perhaps most importantly, it’s vital for us to reiterate that when buying a property, all of the above possible delays will apply to each person in your property’s chain. Should any of the parties change their mind on the property they are selling/purchasing they will subsequently pull out of the process and the entire chain can collapse.

For further advice on what causes delays in the conveyancing process, please contact our Residential Property team on 0161 475 7676.