People may not be aware that although the house they purchase may be in good condition, the land which it is built on may have problems associated with it. This is something that a local authority or water and drainage search will not uncover. The local search will not reveal any landfill sites, waste disposal sites or whether the land is at risk from contamination, toxic emissions, flooding, subsidence or radioactivity. It is currently estimated that there are 250,000 sites which have been filled, and that there are over 400,000 industrial sites, which are no longer being used and which may be contaminated land. Many of these sites may have already been built on but even so, as the current owner of the property, you may be liable to pay for the clean-up costs of the pollution created by former owners.
The Government requires that 60% of all new houses to be built over the next decade must be built on brownfield sites. It is estimated that 1% of all land in Britain is contaminated with pollutants. These are serious enough to warrant enquiry by anyone buying a new home. If you purchase a property without checking the environmental issues, it may prove very difficult to sell. An environmental search report provides data on a range of environmental issues within a 500 metre radius of the property and will contain information obtained from the Environment Agency, Coal Board, Ordnance Survey amongst other data providers. It will also provide a risk assessment as to nearby sites that may release contamination and whether the land is an area affected by Radon gas, flooding landslip coal mining or subsidence.
In view of the above, it would seem prudent to commission an environmental search bearing in mind the high costs that could arise from any unknown issues. The cost of such a report could be as little as £40 plus VAT, a cost surely worth paying.
In the current economic climate, it may be of interest to purchasers that the Land Registry are reducing their fees for registration of properties by an average of 10% from 22 October 2012. This will mean a significant saving to our clients.
The changes are a result of efficiency savings made over the last five years by the Land Registry as a result of a major restructuring programme. The new Land Registration Fee Order was laid on Friday 27 July. The Land Registry is passing on savings in a full year of £33 million in the form of lower fees.
For example, the fee for registration of an average-priced property in the range of £100,001 – £200,000 will fall from £200 to £190. The fees in all of the other bands will be reduced by £10 respectively, the resulting percentage savings being most in the lower price brackets.
In addition, an online copy of a register will be £3 instead of £4. This will be of benefit to our clients who are selling a property and for whom we need to obtain copies of all title documents from the Land Registry in compiling the sales package to be issued to the purchaser’s solicitors.
We at PLS Solicitors welcome these savings to our clients, which can only help the housing market and particularly those taking their first steps onto the housing ladder.
PLS Solicitors has recently invested in the Proclaim case management system. This is an important investment as it will result in several major benefits to the firm.
Firstly, it will be possible to track cases on the system as they develop. Each step in a transaction will be logged and will then be viewable to anybody in the firm logging onto Proclaim. This will improve the flow of information to clients as each fee earner’s assistant will be able to answer calls from clients, thus freeing them up to spend more time on core legal work. Reception staff will be able to respond to client queries by accessing the system, which will improve efficiency across the firm.
Secondly, reports on title will be made easier for fee earners to write as a sophisticated system of precedents has been devised which will save time in terms of manually typing up references to provisions from documents. Also, administrative time spent on scanning in attachments to reports on title will be saved as reports will refer to the relevant provisions within the body of each report and not on separate annexures.
When post and emails arrive each day, they will be logged onto the system and then diary reminders will be set up for fee earners to carry out routine tasks and to chase outstanding information. This will save time in terms of fee earners having to manually go through files and extensive email chains which are currently stored on their own individual hard drives in order to retrieve information and chase important deadlines.
Banks of precedents will be created which will be easily accessible for e.g. client care letters which will save significant amounts of time. Clients’ names and details will be pre-inserted into these documents, saving much time spent in copy-typing. Drafting of completion statements and bills will also be made much easier and less time-consuming due to both the standardisation of these documents across the firm and the pre-insertion of clients’ financial data. It is important to stress that the system will only be as good as the information that is entered into it, therefore the above time saving is dependent on the correct inputting of data in the first place.
An important aspect of the new case management system will be the linking in of our Accounts systems onto Proclaim, resulting in the firm being able to more easily view financial information in respect of each transaction on screen. This will result in more time savings as this data will be more readily accessible to fee earners and assistants, which will ease the progress of each transaction on completion day.
This is an exciting time for the firm as the new system beds in and the above time savings start to be realised. Time savings will start to filter through in the coming weeks and months as more of our clients reap the benefits of our powerful new system.
Please do get in touch if you have any queries on the operation of Proclaim or would like further detail on any aspect of the above.
Ted Kingsnorth joined the PLS Solicitors team in August this year and has since undertaken a mixture of both residential conveyancing and commercial property work. In the last few months, Ted has taken on an increasing number of commercial property transactions ranging from leases, acting for both landlord and tenant, option agreements and sales and acquisitions across the North of England. This demonstrates the firm’s ability to handle all of our clients’ property requirements, ranging from their residential conveyancing needs to more bespoke commercial property requirements. Ted produces a detailed lease report to accompany each lease when acting for tenants and this contains useful information summarising the main terms of the document.
It is vital that option agreements are properly drafted to reflect the desired aims of both the grantor and grantee of an option to purchase a particular property. This is something that Ted is experienced in and would be delighted to assist with. It is essential also that any commercial lease is properly checked and reviewed prior to completion to ensure that the agreed heads of terms between landlord and tenant are properly incorporated and that there are no onerous terms present. This is part of the PLS Solicitors service to ensure that our clients get off to the best possible start in their commercial premises, knowing that their lease has been professionally handled.
Please contact us today for further advice on your commercial property needs and we will be happy to provide you with a quote.