Legislation to open up the conveyancing market seems set to be implemented following an Office of Fair Trading report, Competition in Professions, and a Government consultation paper, In the Public Interest, from the Lord Chancellor’s department.
The period of consultation closed last week, and suggestions to implement existing legislation to allow practitioners out with the solicitors’ market to provide conveyancing have been well received.
In its response to the consultation paper, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) commented: ‘We support the proposal to implement sections 34 to 52 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 enabling authorised non-lawyers to provide conveyancing services. This proposal will allow banks and building societies to enter the conveyancing market. We agree that this will have a positive effect on competition in the market which will, in turn, lead to an improvement in service standards.’
Richard Hurst, communications manager for Future Mortgages, commented: ‘This will provide the opportunity to link-up with other partners and provide conveyancing as part of the overall service.’ Whether banks and building societies establish their own in-house departments remains to be seen, but Hurst felt the current panels and agreements in place would be developed, and the conveyancing proposition pushed up the supply chain. He said this would give lenders greater control, and ultimately provide better service. The CML said: ‘Our members have expressed an interest in entering the market, but it is impossible at this stage to provide any firm indication of level of demand.’ It added: ‘A relaxation of restrictions on solicitors would be welcomed as it would give lenders greater flexibility and another avenue to offer conveyancing services through.’
A spokesman for Natwest Mortgage Services would not comment until specific prop- osals had been drawn up, but welcomed the opportunity to discuss possible changes to the provision of conveyancing.
Before the Lord Chancellor’s Department can make any policy proposals, it has to produce a report on the consultation responses. A spokeswoman for the Lord Chancellor’s Department was unable to give any indication when this would be finished and when policy proposals would be drawn up.