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Conveyancing

Enquiries – ‘not so far as we are aware’

It is not uncommon, especially with commercial pre-contract enquiries, for a seller to respond ‘not so far as we are aware’. But, such an answer should not be given as a lazy way of trying to avoid liability – there may be liability for misrepresentation if reasonable checks have not been taken to ensure that the reply is accurate.

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Property fraud – seller’s solicitor

While the Mishcon de Reya case has created great uncertainty about the liability of a buyer’s solicitors when there is a property fraud, so another case has raised uncertainties about the liability of the seller’s solicitors.

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Japanese knotweed – private nuisance

In an important case, a county court has held Network Rail liable after Japanese knotweed got into the foundations of homes adjoining railway land. The owners of the properties had been ‘trapped’ by knowledge of knotweed, and could not sell because banks and mortgagees would not grant mortgages on affected properties. After a four-day county court hearing, it was held that there was private nuisance, with Network Rail having to pay damages.

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Fraud – who is insured?!

Frankly, it is difficult to know what to make of the latest High Court decision on conveyancing fraud. The facts were fairly typical, with a fraudster using false ID to sell someone else’s property. The seller’s solicitors admitted that they had not carried out full ID checks; despite that, however, it was the buyer’s solicitors who were held to be liable. They had not been negligent, and had acted both reasonably and honestly – but since they were better placed to bear the loss (ie they were insured) they were held to be liable. It does seem a nonsense approach.

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Official searches – withdrawal

  It is now possible to withdraw an official search via the portal

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Local searches – VAT

  It goes without saying that the decision by HMRC that VAT should be charged on local authority searches could have been handled far better.

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First registration – copies

An application for first registration can now be based entirely on certified copy deeds and documents.

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Cybercrime – Friday pm

According to the SRA, three-quarters or all cybercrime occurs on a Friday afternoon (usually by e-mail modification – hacking into the e-mail of a client, so that, typically, bank details can be changed). The Law Society says that one quarter of firms had been targeted by cyber criminals, with nearly one attack in ten resulting in money being stolen.

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Registration gap – pitfalls

The registration gap is the period between the date when a client completes a purchase, and the date when the client is actually registered as proprietor at the LR. During that ‘registration gap’ the buyer will merely be an equitable owner – not a legal owner.

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Property – fraud

We all know the risks of property fraud, when a fraudster impersonates a property owner and sells (or mortgages) the property.

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