What are ‘conveyancing enquiries’?
Published: 20th April 2023
When buying a home, it is important to complete due diligence and investigate any potential risks before the purchase. A key part of this process is what’s commonly known as ‘conveyancing enquiries’ – but what exactly do they involve?
When a conveyancing solicitor acting for a buyer says that they are ‘raising enquiries’, they simply mean that they are asking questions of the seller to make sure the title is correct.
A buyer’s solicitor will look through all of the property paperwork including the title documents/deeds and Property Information Form. They will then ask questions of the seller, via the seller’s solicitor, to make sure everything is in order.
Common questions include checking that no restrictive covenants have been breached, checking that the property has all rights it requires and asking about planning permission and building regulations on any installations or alterations.
A firm who is signed up to the Conveyancing Quality Scheme, such as Liddy’s Solicitors, must stick to the rules surrounding enquiries. That means that we will not ask unnecessary questions. Our questions will also be specific to the property you are purchasing and we will not produce a pre-populated ‘one size fits all’ sheet. This would not be useful to you or us and would be overly time consuming for the seller and their solicitor. In certain circumstances, fact sheets may be used, but these accompany specific enquiries, such as to find out whether a conservatory needed planning permission or building regulations certification.
The rules also mean that we cannot ask questions whose answers could be found by looking at public records or ordering searches. This is why it is important you have all searches carried out you feel necessary to make you comfortable if you are purchasing. Questions also cannot be asked about physical aspects of the property such as whether it has subsided or whether there are any structural defects. This is because these answers can be found by the buyer in a survey. Solicitors and sellers are not assumed to have special structural knowledge. If you have a survey carried out and a problem is found, at this stage, direct questions can be raised on it to find out the extent of a potential problem. In other words, we cannot go on a fishing trip for structural issues.
It is important to note at this point that your conveyancing solicitor will not have visited the property you are purchasing and is unlikely to do so. They ask their questions based on what can be seen on paper and from the searches. You will have visited the property. If you have noticed anything such as building works, or something doesn’t quite add up for you, this can be raised as an enquiry. It is important that you tell your solicitor of any questions you would like to be asked. If your solicitor says that question can’t be asked due to the rules, they should be able to point you in the direction of where that information is. This may be an additional search, or for you to instruct a surveyor/structural engineer for example.
If you are buying a property with a mortgage, it is more than likely that the lender will require satisfactory responses to all questions prior to being able to release the monies. This can often be frustrating for buyers who just want to move, but it protects yours and their investments. Cash buyers do not need to have satisfactory enquiries and in some circumstances, may not want any questions asked. However, this is high risk and you purchase the property without knowing all of the basic facts about it. You could be hit with a legal problem in the near or distant future, which you would or could have avoided had the question been asked. We always recommend enquiries are raised and satisfactorily answered prior to a buyer proceeding.
FAQs – Conveyancing enquiries
Q. What searches should I have carried out before purchasing a property?
A. It is important to have all searches that you feel necessary to make you comfortable before purchasing a property. Typical searches include environmental and local authority searches, as well as checking for matters such as restrictive covenants or planning permission requirements. A conveyancing solicitor can provide advice on which searches are most appropriate for your individual circumstances.
Q. What questions will my conveyancing solicitor ask about the property I’m buying?
A. Your conveyancing solicitor will ask questions specific to the property you are purchasing, such as whether any restrictive covenants have been breached or if the property has all rights it requires. Questions may also be asked about planning permission and building regulations on any installations or alterations that may have been done on the property.
Q. Can my conveyancing solicitor ask questions related to physical aspects of the property?
A. No, your conveyancing solicitor cannot ask questions related to physical aspects of the property such as whether it has subsided or whether there are any structural defects. This is because these answers can be found by the buyer in a survey, so it is important that you instruct one before purchasing a property if possible.
Q. Is it necessary for all enquiries to be satisfied prior to releasing funds from a mortgage lender?
A. Yes, if you are buying a property with a mortgage then it is more than likely that the lender will require satisfactory responses to all questions prior to being able to release the monies. This serves both yours and their investments so it is important that all enquiries are satisfactorily answered prior to proceeding with purchase of a property.
Q. Do cash buyers need enquiries answered prior to purchase?
A. Although not required, we still recommend enquiries are raised and satisfactorily answered prior to cash buyers proceeding with purchase of a property, even though this process may not be necessary in some circumstances. Without doing this you could potentially miss out on key information which could lead to unforeseen legal problems in the near or distant future which could have otherwise been avoided had they questioned been asked beforehand.