The dangers of DIY Conveyancing

A common question which arises around conveyancing is whether it is possible to go it alone and complete the transaction without the help of a solicitor. The short answer is “Yes, you can…” as long as you understand what you are getting yourself into. Although the agreement could be negotiated and carried out solely between buyer and seller, this is rarely the wisest road to take. Completing even simple conveyancing agreements can be fraught with difficulty when the correct procedures are not adhered to. It is for this reason that it usually makes sense to employ a solicitor to ensure that the correct standards and protocol are met.

Buying and Selling Land: The Basics

Section 2 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 sets out the rules which must be followed to complete a legitimate purchase and/or sale of land. In a nutshell, these rules are as follows:

Written Agreement is vital

  1. It is essential in English and Welsh law that transaction is put down in writing. If the parties fail to do this the contract will not be legally binding. For example, buying a piece of land via a verbal conversation with the seller will not be enough to form a legal contract.

All the terms and conditions must be in the agreement

  1. The written contract must include all the terms and conditions that are to form parts of the purchase/sale of the land. This must form one single document.

The buyer and the seller must sign

  1. This document must be signed by both the seller and the purchaser. It is also possible for the contract to be signed by someone on behalf of each of the parties.

A Recent Example

This example serves as a warning to anyone who is thinking about entering into a DIY conveyancing agreement. It shows how things can go drastically wrong when the rules set out above are not followed and specialist legal advice is not sought or followed.

The case involved the sale and purchase of a piece of land used to pitch a caravan. A man paid £3000 for the land and, as you might expect, believed that as a result, the land now belonged to him. This state of affairs continued for the next 8 years.

The caravan pitch had (in theory) changed hands a couple of times before the £3000 transaction took place. However, neither of these previous arrangements had been put down in writing at any point and were therefore not legally binding. As well as this, the correct procedures were not followed to legally transfer the titles of the land to the new owners. Because the legal formalities had not be adhered to, the original owner of the land remained as the legal title holder of the caravan pitch.   

The original owner then sold the land again. This time a formal contract was put into writing and signed. Not only this but a legal transfer of title also took place. This meant that a legal purchase and transfer of land had actually occurred on this occasion and there was now a new owner of the pitch.

The man who had paid £3000 for this caravan pitch found himself having spent an awful lot of money and nothing to show for it. He did not enter into a legally binding contract with the seller, neither could it be said that she was holding the land on trust for him. He applied for a restriction on the title of the land, but the first-tier tribunal found that he had no rights to the piece of land (neither a legal nor beneficial interest)..

Don’t make the same conveyancing mistakes!

It is important to be extremely cautious when considering and/or entering into a conveyancing agreement without legal advice. The whole process is full of risk and, as seen above, you can be left in a very vulnerable position and suffer financial loss. The risk in situations similar to the one outlined in the example can be eradicated by taking the advice of a legal professional. Solicitors and licensed conveyancers will have the required knowledge to ensure all procedures and documents meet the correct standards to ensure the sale/purchase is legally binding. In this case, acknowledge the mistakes of others, don’t wait to have to learn from your own!