Legal enquiries are the last phase of the conveyancing process, undertaken by the buyer’s solicitor before a potential exchange date is agreed.
As a general rule, a buyer’s solicitor will need the following in order to raise enquiries:
- Draft contracts from the seller’s solicitor
- Mortgage offer (from the buyer)
- Property searches (ordered by the buyer)
- (If leasehold) Leasehold information pack (from the seller)
The buyer’s solicitor will raise enquiries in order to be satisfied that the property their client is buying is both mortgageable and sellable on the open market. Solicitors will review all legal paperwork to spot any potential issues and although this can often seem like the most time consuming part of the legal process, enquiries raised can usually be dealt with fairly quickly, depending on the type of property.
Raising enquiries is a bit like a question and answer session between the buyer and homeowner and any issues that arise can be queried by either the buyer or their solicitor.
Different types of legal enquiries
- Checking the local authority searches to review any planning permissions, building control sign offs and rights of way
- Reviewing restrictive covenants
- Checking for any charges registered over the property title
- Reviewing the mortgage offer and checking for any requirements the lender may have
- Reviewing at the boiler maintenance and gas safety checks
- Checking the environmental report for any issues such as contamination
- Pinpointing restrictions within the title deeds, e.g. building development limitations
Great! This means that the solicitor is satisfied from a legal standpoint and will report all of their findings to you. Also known as ‘the report on title’, this factual review will advise you of all information that the solicitor has been made aware of. If there are any issues then these will be highlighted in the report.
Along with the report, which can be sent via post or email, will be the legal documents required for signing in order to permit the exchange of contracts. Before exchanging contracts a completion date will be agreed between the buyer and seller. As you know, exchange of contracts means the sale is legally binding.
There can often be situations where you are unable to satisfy a legal enquiry and, therefore, proceeding with the property maybe out of your hands. If a mortgage lender deems a reply to an enquiry to be unsatisfactory then your mortgage won’t be approved unless a resolution is found or there is appropriate indemnity insurance in place to cover any possible liability in the future.
This situation could occur if, for example, a seller completed building work which required building control sign-off which wasn’t obtained. In short, a lender would be unlikely to approve your mortgage and the homeowner would either have to arrange retrospective building control sign-off or an indemnity policy could be sought out to protect you against future liabilities in order for the purchase to proceed.
Once enquiries are sorted, here are the next steps to get to exchange of contracts:
- Return your signed contract to the solicitor
- Transfer your deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price) to your solicitor the day before exchange (if you are selling and buying, the sale deposit is normally enough to fund the purchase deposit, but double check this with your solicitor)
- Return your signed mortgage deed to your solicitor (not applicable if you are a cash buyer)
- Return your signed transfer document (TR1)
- Show evidence of building insurance cover (from the point of exchange, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to insure freehold properties)
- Give your solicitor confirmation (verbal, written or via email) that you are happy to exchange
Then hey presto, you’re set for completion!