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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Coyle-Dowling

Decode the Conveyancing Process with Our Ultimate A-Z Guide

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

Conveyancing Guide

If you're new to conveyancing, remortgaging or moving home, it can be a confusing and overwhelming process. With so much legal terminology and jargon to contend with, it's easy to feel lost. From covenants to leaseholds, it's not expected that you'll have all of these terms memorized. That's where our A-Z guide comes in, to provide you with a clear and concise understanding of the legal terminology and processes involved in conveyancing and property law.

Our guide is designed to help you navigate the world of conveyancing, remortgaging, and moving home with ease. Whether you're a first-time buyer or a seasoned property owner, our guide provides valuable insights and explanations to help you understand the legal jargon and terminology used in property law.

So, if you're looking to expand your understanding of conveyancing and legal terminology or simply want to make the process of moving home less daunting, the A-Z guide from Coyle Dowling Real Estate should help .

Absent Freeholder: A missing landlord that can cause issues for leasehold flat owners, but it can also mean better value lease extension in freehold purchase.

Abstract of Title: A chronological summary of relevant title deeds proving the history of ownership.

Adopted Highway: A road or path maintained by the local authority at their expense, distinct from a private road.

Advance: The mortgage money paid by the lender.

Adverse Possession: Acquiring property through continuous occupation without the permission of the legal owner, often called "squatters' rights."

Apportionments: Reimbursing the seller for ground rent and service charges paid upfront and in advance when buying a leasehold flat.

Assignment: The process of transferring a lease.

Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST): A standard form of tenancy agreement allowing the landlord to retake possession of the property at the end of the tenancy term.

Balance Outstanding: The total amount of a loan outstanding at any one time.

Bankruptcy Search: A check with the Land Charges Register to ensure there are no existing or imminent bankruptcy proceedings against the vendor.

BMV: Sale price of a property believed to be "below market value."

Boundaries: Legal definition of the property's limits being bought or sold, usually hedges, walls, or fences, clearly marked on the deeds.

Breach: Failure to keep an obligation in a legal document, often related to a lease.

Bridging Loan: A short-term loan bridging the gap between the purchase of one property and the sale of another.

Building Regulations: Set standards for the design and construction of buildings to safeguard the health and safety of occupiers or visitors and cover issues such as access for the disabled.

Buying off Plan: Purchasing a property before it is built.

Buy to Let: Property bought with the aim of renting it out rather than living in it.

Capped Rate: A variable mortgage interest rate with a maximum capped upper limit, usually available for a limited period.

Capital Gains Tax: Tax paid by landlords when selling a property that is not their main home, applying to any profit made on the increase in the property's price.

Certificate of Title: A document given to the lender to confirm certain statements about the property, including legal problems, ownership, and completion date.

Chain: A situation where one buyer can only purchase when their sale goes through and so on down the chain.

Chancel Repair Liability: A financial obligation imposed on some property owners to pay for certain repairs to a church.

Charge: A sum of money for which the property is being used as security, registered against the property if using mortgage funds.

Chattels: Items of personal property left at a property after someone moves out and included in the purchase price, movable such as furniture, unlike fixtures permanently attached to the land.

Collateral: An item used as security when taking out a loan.

Commonhold: A type of ownership structure for flats and apartments, allowing individual ownership while jointly owning the building and shared spaces.

Completion: The final step in the conveyancing process, where the property becomes legally owned by the buyer.

Contract: The legally binding agreement between the buyer and seller.

Conveyancing: The legal process of transferring property ownership.

Covenant: An obligation or promise contained in a deed or lease.

Deposit: The upfront payment made by the buyer to the seller when the sale is agreed.

Disbursements: Additional costs paid to third parties

Gazundering: A term used in the UK to describe a situation where a buyer lowers their offer just prior to the exchange of contracts, often citing issues uncovered in the survey or market conditions. This puts the seller in a difficult position, as they must either accept the lower offer or try to find a new buyer in a market where demand may have already been reduced.

Ground rent: The annual fee payable by the leaseholder to the freeholder for the use of the land on which the property is built. This is usually a nominal amount for long leases, but can increase over time for shorter leases or properties with less favorable terms.

HM Land Registry: The government organization responsible for maintaining a register of land and property ownership in England and Wales. The registry keeps track of changes in ownership, mortgages, and other legal interests in land and property.

Homebuyers Report: A survey of the property commissioned by the buyer, which provides a detailed report on the condition of the property, including any defects, issues, or repairs that may be needed. This is usually less detailed than a full building survey, but can be a useful tool for identifying potential problems before completion.

Indemnity insurance: A type of insurance policy that protects against a specific risk, such as defects in title, lack of planning permission, or missing building regulations certificates. This is often taken out by the buyer to protect against potential future claims that may arise after completion.

Joint tenancy: A form of property ownership in which each owner holds an equal share of the property, with the right of survivorship. This means that if one owner dies, their share of the property passes to the surviving owner(s) automatically, without the need for probate or a will.

Land registry fees: The fees charged by the HM Land Registry for registering changes in land and property ownership, mortgages, and other legal interests. The fees can vary depending on the value of the property and the type of transaction being registered.

Land registry searches: A series of checks conducted by a conveyancer or solicitor to ensure that the property being purchased is legally owned by the seller, and that there are no legal restrictions or liabilities attached to the property. This includes searches for any outstanding mortgages, liens, or other claims on the property.

Leasehold: A form of property ownership in which the buyer owns the property for a fixed term, usually between 99 and 999 years, but not the land on which it is built. The land is owned by the freeholder, who charges an annual ground rent and may also charge for other services, such as maintenance or insurance.

Lender’s valuation: A survey of the property commissioned by the mortgage lender to assess the value of the property, and to identify any potential issues or risks that may affect the security of the loan. This is usually less detailed than a full building survey, and is used primarily to inform the lender’s decision on whether to approve the mortgage application.

Listed building: A building that is listed on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) or the equivalent registers for Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. These buildings are considered to be of special historical or architectural interest, and are subject to special regulations and restrictions on alterations, repairs, or renovations.

Local authority search: A search conducted by the local council to provide information about the property and the surrounding area, including planning permissions, building regulations, environmental

Mortgage: A loan that is secured against a property, typically used to buy a property. The loan is repaid in regular instalments over a set period of time. If the borrower fails to keep up with the repayments, the lender can take possession of the property and sell it to recover their money.

Mortgage Broker: A specialist intermediary who can help you to find the best mortgage deal for your individual needs. They will usually charge a fee for their services.

Mortgage Deed: The legal document that sets out the terms and conditions of a mortgage agreement. It is signed by the borrower and the lender and is registered with the Land Registry.

Mortgagee: The lender who provides the mortgage loan.

Mortgage Offer: The formal written offer made by a lender to a borrower to provide a mortgage loan. It will set out the terms and conditions of the loan, including the interest rate, the repayment period and any special conditions.

Mortgagor: The borrower who takes out the mortgage loan.

Negative Equity: When the value of a property falls below the amount still owed on the mortgage secured against it. This can be a problem if the borrower needs to sell the property, as they may still owe money to the lender even after the sale.

NHBC (National House Building Council): A private organisation which provides warranties and insurance for new-build properties. Builders can choose to become registered with the NHBC in order to offer these guarantees to their customers.

Notice of Assignment: A legal document that is used to transfer the ownership of a leasehold property from one owner to another. It is usually signed by the seller and the buyer and is registered with the Land Registry.

Notice of Charge: A legal document that is used to register a mortgage or other charge against a property with the Land Registry. It sets out the details of the mortgage, including the name of the lender, the amount of the loan and the interest rate.

Occupier’s Consent: This is a legal document that people living in a property, but who are not legal owners, sign. It is often required by mortgage companies and assures the lender that they can claim vacant possession provided that all occupants sign the document.

Off Plan: This refers to buying a property before it has been built, based on plans.

Office Copies: This is the document that sets out ownership of a property, which is filed at the Land Registry. When conveyancing begins, solicitors will ask for office copies to be sent to them.

Open Market Value: The estimated price that a property would sell for if it were sold on the open market.

Overage: Also known as ‘clawback’, this is a legal agreement that is sometimes used when a developer buys a piece of land. It means that if the developer makes a profit on the sale of any properties built on the land, they will have to pay a percentage of that profit back to the original landowner.

Park Homes: These homes are constructed off-site and transported to mobile home parks. The buyer owns the home itself and usually rents the pitch on which it is based. As a result, the process of buying a park home is quite different from conveyancing.

Part Exchange: A scheme offered by some property developers and housebuilders, whereby they agree to buy a buyer’s existing property in order to facilitate the purchase of a new property. The value of the existing property is usually offset against the price of the new property.

Party Wall: A wall that separates two properties, often found in semi-detached and terraced houses. The Party Wall Act 1996 sets out the rights and responsibilities of property owners with regard to party walls.

Preliminary Enquiries: A series of questions that a buyer’s solicitor will ask the seller’s solicitor at the start of the conveyancing process. They are designed to clarify information about the property and to identify any potential issues that may need to be addressed.

Probate: The legal process of dealing with the estate of someone who has died. It involves collecting and valuing the deceased’s assets, paying off any debts and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in their will, or under the laws of intestacy if there is no will.

Property Information Form: A standard Law Society form used by sellers to provide information about their property to potential buyers. It covers a range of topics, including boundaries, rights of way, utilities and planning permissions.

Possessory Title: This is a category of ownership where the owner is unable to provide documentary evidence of their title to the land or where someone has claimed ownership through adverse possession.

Purchase Lease Option: This is a property investment strategy that provides investors with the opportunity of leasing a house or flat and generating income from a sublease, with the additional right, but not necessarily the obligation, to purchase the property at a later stage at a pre-agreed price.

Purchaser: This refers to someone who buys a property.

Quiet Enjoyment: This is a covenant that provides a tenant or landowner with the right to the undisturbed use and enjoyment of property.

Redemption: This refers to the act of paying off a mortgage.

Redemption Penalty: This is a penalty payment charged under some loan agreements by a lender if a loan is paid off before the end of the term.

Registered Land: This refers to any piece of land for which the Land Registry holds details about its ownership.

Remortgaging: This is the process of clearing one mortgage with the proceeds from a fresh mortgage with the same or a different lender and using the same property as security.

Rent charge: This is a sum paid, usually annually, by a freehold homeowner to a third party who has no other legal interest in the land or property.

Repayment Mortgage: This is a loan where a share of both interest and capital debt is repaid by monthly installments.

Report on Title: A summary prepared by your conveyancing solicitor after investigating the legal title of the property you plan to buy. It is crucial that you read and understand this report, and ask your solicitor to clarify anything that you find difficult to understand.

Repossession: The process by which a mortgage company takes over possession of your property if you fail to keep up with your mortgage payments. This can lead to eviction and forced sale of the property by the mortgage company. Read more about repossessed property conveyancing by clicking the link.

Requisition on title: Questions that the conveyancer might ask about the legal ownership of the property and how it should be transferred.

Residents' Management Company (RMC): A company formed by residents to manage a block of flats on behalf of the freeholder under the terms of the lease. Each leaseholder is usually a shareholder, and the RMC company is often a party to the lease. Read about the difference between an RMC and a Right to Manage Company by clicking the link.

Residents' Association: An informal representative body of flat owners and sometimes their tenants. It is fundamentally different from a Residents' Management Company, although its membership could be the same.

Reservation fee: A deposit paid to a builder to reserve a property that is not yet built.

Retention: Any money that is held back when buying a new property until that property is fully completed.

Right of way: The legal right, established by use or grant, to travel over someone else's land to get from one point to another.

Right to Buy: A government scheme that allows most council tenants to buy their council house or flat at a discount.

Right to manage: The process by which the owners of residential long leasehold flats are legally entitled to jointly take over responsibility for managing their block from their freeholder. This is carried out under an RTM or Right to Manage Company.

Sealed bids: A process in which potential purchasers submit their offer for the property in a sealed envelope by a particular date. Each bidder has no idea how much other participants have bid, and the highest bidder wins.

Searches: A set of checks conducted by a conveyancer in relation to a property, including local authority searches, environmental searches, and water and drainage searches.

SDLT: Stamp Duty Land Tax is a tax paid by buyers of property in England and Northern Ireland. The amount of SDLT you pay depends on the purchase price of the property and whether you’re a first-time buyer.

Service charge: An amount paid by a leaseholder to a freeholder or a management company for services provided to the building, such as maintenance and repairs.

Sole agent: When a seller appoints only one estate agent to market their property for sale.

Sole occupancy: When only one person or family is allowed to live in a property, usually stipulated in a lease.

Standard variable rate (SVR): The default interest rate a mortgage lender charges borrowers once their initial fixed, tracker or discount mortgage deal ends.

Subject to contract: A phrase used to indicate that an agreement has not yet been reached and that the terms of the deal are not yet legally binding.

Snagging: Refers to the process of identifying minor faults in a new build property that require correction. This is often documented in a "snagging list."

Staircasing: Is the act of increasing ownership of a shared ownership property, typically through purchasing additional shares. More information can be found here: [insert hyperlink].

Stamp Duty: Is a government tax levied on property purchases, also known as SDLT (Stamp Duty Land Tax).

Statutory Lease Extension: Is the legal right of leaseholders to force their freeholder to extend the lease on their property by 90 years under S42 of the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993. This is different from a voluntary or informal lease extension.

STC: Is an acronym for "Sold Subject to Contract." This means that the agreement is not yet legally binding until contracts are exchanged.

Structural Survey: Is a report that provides details about the essential structure of a property.

Subject to Contract refers to an agreement that has not yet become legally binding. In the case of property purchases, the deal is considered "subject to contract" until contracts are exchanged.

Subject to Planning Permission (STPP): Refers to a situation where a contract has been exchanged for the sale of land or property, but only subject to the grant of planning permission. If planning permission is not granted, the purchaser is not required to buy.

Survey: When purchasing a property, there are several surveys to consider, ranging from basic to comprehensive. These include

  • RICS Condition Report,

  • RICS HomeBuyer Report,

  • RICS Building Survey,

  • New-build snagging report.

Telegraphic transfer (or TT) fee: Is a fee charged by banks for electronic transfer of money, such as when redeeming a current mortgage and sending the purchase monies to the seller. It is often referred to as CHAPS.

Tenants in Common: Is an arrangement where two or more people own a property. If one person dies, their share of the property is passed on according to their will. If they do not have a will, normal laws of intestacy apply. More information can be found here: [insert hyperlink].

Tenure: The type of ownership you have over a property, such as freehold or leasehold.

Term: Refers to any specified period of time, such as the length of a mortgage repayment or the lease of a property.

Title: Refers to the ownership of a property.

Tenancy agreement: A legally binding document signed by the landlord and the tenant, which sets out the terms of the tenancy, such as the rent, the length of the tenancy and any special conditions.

Tenant: Someone who rents a property from a landlord.

Title deeds: A set of legal documents that prove ownership of a property.

Transfer deed: A legal document that transfers the ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer.

Title deeds: Refer to the legal documents that prove ownership or title to a property, such as conveyances, contracts for sale, mortgages, and leases. However, if a property is registered with the Land Registry, these documents are not necessary to prove ownership. The Land Registry holds a title plan that shows the physical extent of the registered land. Title splits can refer to the physical splitting of the title deeds for a property or the division of a freehold building into separate leasehold units.

Tracker mortgage: Is a loan with a rate that moves up or down in line with the lender's or the Bank of England's base interest rate.

Title splits: Refer to the division of the title deeds of a building or land into two or more separate properties. However, in the context of property investing, title splits often refer to the division of a freehold building into several separate leasehold units.

Tracker mortgage: Is a type of loan that has an interest rate that fluctuates in line with either the lender's or the Bank of England's base interest rate.

Transfer: Also known as form TR1, is a legal document that transfers the ownership of a property.

Transfer of equity: Occurs when one or more existing legal owners transfer ownership of a part share of the property to another person, often used in the transfer of the former matrimonial home following a divorce.

Tree Preservation Order: Also known as a TPO, is a legal designation made by a local council to protect a specific tree or trees from any deliberate damage or destruction.

Under offer: A phrase used to indicate that a seller has accepted an offer from a buyer, but the sale has not yet been completed.

Unadopted highway: Is a private road or path that does not necessarily offer public access.

Underlease is a lease that is not held directly from the freeholder but from a tenant, typically created when a tenant creates a lease below their existing one.

Under Offer: When an offer has been accepted but exchange of contracts has not yet taken place, it is said to be "under offer."

Unexpired term: Refers to the remaining term on a lease, e.g., a lease originally granted for 125 years will have an unexpired term of 100 years after 25 years.

Unregistered land: Refers to land or property that has not yet been registered for the first time with the Land Registry, and the title deeds will be required to prove ownership.

Utilities: Refer to services provided to a property, including gas, electric, water, phone landline, and internet.

Valuation: An assessment of the value of a property, carried out by a qualified surveyor or valuer.

Vendor: Is someone who sells a property, while a verbal offer is an offer made verbally by the potential buyer and not yet confirmed in writing.

Void period: The time during which a rental property is unoccupied and not generating rental income.

Yield: The income generated by a rental property as a percentage of its value or purchase price.

Vacant possession: Refers to the sale of a property without any occupants or possessions belonging to the previous owner left behind.

Valuation survey: Is a type of survey that mortgage lenders require to assess the value of the property they are lending on.

Variable interest rate: Is a rate of interest on a loan that is liable to change over time in line with general interest rates.

Variation of a lease: Occurs when both landlord and tenant agree to adjust the terms of the lease to suit them both, typically used when a lease is outdated and doesn't accurately reflect the current situation. It is possible to apply to the First-Tier Property Tribunal to vary any specific clause in the lease if they are completely impractical.

Wayleaves: Are personal contracts under which the owner or occupier of land allows another to access their privately-owned land to carry out specified activities in exchange for some form of compensation.

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