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Conveyancing

SDLT 3% – companies

Modified rules apply when residential property is bought through a company. The starting point is that the company will pay the additional 3% if it buys a residential property (even if does not own another residential property). But, the additional 3% will not apply to a purchase by a company of a ‘higher threshold interest’ which is subject to the 15% flat rate charge (in other words, the SDLT rate remains at 15% – not 18%).
 

SDLT 3% – investment property

   If H and W both individually own a residential property, but live together in one of them, there is a potential SDLT 3% trap. In that situation, it is easy to envisage the couple deciding to buy a new main residence but selling the one property they are not living in (eg to finance the purchase), and then retaining the other current home as an investment property.

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SDLT 3% – joint names

The additional 3% can apply if H and W decide to put their main residence – currently owned by one of them – into joint names, if one or other of them already owns another dwelling.
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Replies to enquiries – accuracy

An inaccurate reply to pre-contract enquiries will amount to a misrepresentation. In the right circumstances that could entitle the buyer to terminate the contract, and also recover damages for deceit.
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Bankruptcy search – pre-completion?

An article from Hardwicke Chambers argues that ‘a reasonably competent conveyancing solicitor’ should be doing a bankruptcy search against the seller prior to              completion.
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H and W – one authorised to sign?

Suppose H signs a purchase contract on behalf of himself and W, but does not have W’s authority to do so. Is there a binding contract?

The starting point is Suleman [1988] which involved a sale by joint owners H and W. W had given the solicitor authority to both sign and exchange on behalf of herself and H. However, W did not have H’s authority to exchange. The court decided that authority from both sellers was needed to validly exchange, and accordingly there was no binding contract (and the buyer’s claim for specific performance failed).

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Boundaries – FTT powers

Does the First-Tier Tribunal have jurisdiction to resolve boundary disputes? There have recently been two conflicting Upper Tribunal decisions on this point:

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Law firm ID – online checks

Many firms use the online Law Society database to check on the ID of the other side. But, what happens if the Law Society database is inaccurate?
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Caveat emptor – consumer transactions

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regs 2008 have been in force for almost eight years. But, they have only applied to real estate since October 2014. For conveyancers, the important point to note is that these Consumer Protection Regs undermine the principle ofcaveat emptor (‘let the buyer beware’). Traditionally, this meant that a seller did not have to disclose adverse information (subject to an exception for latent defects in title, or a contract induced by fraud).
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Fraud – both sides liable!

This is a case that will make every conveyancer sit up and take notice. The case involved ID fraud (ie a fraudster selling someone else’s property to an innocent buyer), with the end result that both sets of lawyers – the buyer’s and the seller’s – were 50/50 liable, even though neither had been dishonest or involved in the fraud.
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