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Glossary of Conveyancing Terms

Contract:  The document which sets out the terms you have agreed for your sale or purchase, it details the property, the buyer, the seller, the price, the completion date and any special terms that have been agreed. The contract will be prepared by the seller’s solicitor and sent to the buyer’s solicitor for approval. Once agreed one copy is signed by the buyer and one by the seller.

Exchange of contracts:   This is the process whereby the buyer and seller are bound to go ahead with the transaction. Both solicitors will speak to each other and agree that they hold a signed contract. They will agree that both copies of the contract are the same and check any amendments. They will write in the completion date and the amount of any deposit. They will then agree that they have exchanged and the parties are now bound. Each solicitor promises to send the copy of the contract signed by their client to the other solicitor. Sometimes the deposit is also paid over, but often the buyer promises to hold the deposit to the seller’s solicitor’s order.

Holding to order: When a solicitor holds something to order, it means that whilst the solicitor may have it in his possession, if the person to whose “order” it is held requests it, the solicitor must send it to them or wherever they direct.

Completion and Completion Date: The Completion Date is the date that all the money moves around and the buyer moves into their new home. “Completion” is the process by which this happens. The buyer’s solicitor will get the mortgage money in from the client’s lender and any balance they need from their client. They will send this to the buyer’s solicitor. When the seller’s solicitor receives it he will confirm receipt, pay off any mortgage on the property, pay the estate agents and tell them to release the keys, and then send any balance to the seller (or use it on the seller’s related purchase). Usually the seller will move out early in the day and leave the keys with the estate agents.

Office Copies and filed plan: Most land ownership in England and Wales is registered at the HM Land Registry. The Information at the Land Registry comprises the Property Register (which is a description of the property and any rights which benefit the property), the Proprietorship Register (which shows who is the current owner and any restrictions which may affect their ability to sell) and the Charges Register (which shows any rights which affect the property and any restrictive covenants). The filed plan is the official Land Registry plan of the property and usually shows the property boundaries edged in red on an extract of the Ordinance survey map. The boundaries are usually only indicative of the boundaries and should not be taken as definitive.

Title deeds: If a property is unregistered then the Land Registry will not have details of the ownership. In such cases the owner proves there are entitled to the land by producing the title deeds. These are old documents showing how the land has passed from one person to another over the years and usually set out any rights benefiting or affecting the property. Once a property becomes registered then the title deeds are no longer needed as there are effectively replaced by the entry at the Land Registry.

Registered Land: Land the ownership of which has been registered with the Land Registry.

Unregistered Land: This is the opposite of registered land. Ownership will not be registered at the Land Registry and ownership is proved by examining the title deeds. Any transaction involving unregistered land will now usually trigger first registration with the Land Registry and then the land will become registered land.

Restrictive covenant(s):  A restrictive covenant is a promise made by a previous owner that he or she will not do anything on the property or will only use it in a certain way. It is intended to benefit land owned by the person the promise was made to. The promise continues to bind subsequent owners and can be enforced by the person to whom the promise was made or any subsequent owner of their land. Common restrictions you might find are only to use the property as a residential dwelling and not to carry on any trade or occupation from a property.

Searches: When buying a property we will make a number of enquiries with third parties about the information their holds about the property. Some of the more commons one and the things they can reveal are:

Local Search:  This is intended to find out what information the local authority has about the property. Information revealed can include the planning and building regulations history. Whether the property is subject to any local land charges such as tree preservation orders, dangerous  structure notices, repayable grants or charges in respect of emergency repairs. It will also show whether any roads are adopted. An adopted road is one which is maintained by the local highways authority and which everyone has the right to use.

Drainage search:  this is information obtained from the local water company and will usually show whether the property has mains water and is connected up to the mains sewers for both foul and surface water drainage. We would usually also obtain a plan showing the nearest water mains and sewers. It is important to know if any sewers cross the property as you should not build over an adopted sewer without seeking the consent of the local water company.

Environmental search:  Since the industrial revolution industries have come and gone. Some of these were very polluting and can leave a legacy of contamination in the soil. When a property has been redeveloped it is not always easy to know by looking at the property now, that it might have been used for something nasty in the past. This search aims to show whether the property is built on potentially contaminated land or whether there may be any potentially contaminated land in the vicinity of the property. The search provider will also give an assessment of the risk to the property of contamination. They also give an indication of the likely flood risk.

Planning Search: This search reveals any planning permissions and applications around the property. The local search only shows the planning permissions and applications which relate to the property itself. This search gives a wider picture and allows you to see whether an application has been made on any nearby property which might impact your enjoyment of the property. It is however important to remember it only shows applications which have been made or submitted it won’t show any that haven’t yet been submitted. It sometimes pays to ask around in your chosen location to see if any plans are in the offing.

Fixtures and Fittings: These are things which are on the property such as the white goods in the kitchen, the carpets and curtains and even light fittings and switches. A seller will complete a fixtures and fittings form setting out what they are leaving behind (or taking with them), if you are buying you should expect to receive a copy so you can check what is included (or excluded) from the sale.

Chattels: Is another way of saying “fixtures and fittings” but it can also include furniture at the property. Sometimes a buyer may agree to pay extra for certain things to be included in the sale.

Redemption figure: the amount required to pay off a mortgage on a property. As a sale proceeds we will often ask for a redemption figure so that we can check the amount you owe on your mortgage and check that they will be enough to pay it off. When a completion date has been agreed we will ask for a redemption figure calculated to that date.

Easement: A right enjoyed by one property over someone else’s property. So a right of way over a private road would be a type of easement. Often, one house will have a right to use the pipes running over an adjoining property; this is another type of easement.

Private Road: A private road is one that is not adopted, consequently it is not maintained by the local highways authority. A person only has the right to use a private road if the property they are going to/coming from has the benefit of an easement. The maintenance of a private road is usually shared between all those who have a right to use it.

Right of way:  A type of easement.

Stamp Duty Land Tax: A tax levied by the government on certain property transactions. If stamp duty is payable on your purchase or transaction we will tell you the amount. You can also work out the amount for yourself by going to the government’s website.

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