Conveyancing Glossary

Abstract of title – a document which, in unregistered land, shows the history of the ownership of a property.

Adopted highway – a road that is maintained by the local council.

Agreement – another word for the contract.

Assent – a document which is required to transfer ownership of a property to the person entitled to it after the owner dies.

Bankruptcy search – it is an offence for someone who has been bankrupt to obtain credit when a mortgage is required. This search is made against the names of the purchasers by their solicitors to check their previous financial status.

Brine search – this search discovers whether a property is affected by disused workings.

Boundaries – these define the extent of the property and are usually marked with a fence or walls. They are usually shown on the deeds plan, marked in red.

Building insurance – when contracts have been exchanged, you must buy building insurance if you have a mortgage. It must cover the cost of rebuilding the property if it is destroyed. Cash buyers are also advised to put building insurance in place.

Building regulations – approval by the local council on the design and materials of works.

Caveat emptor – this translates as ‘buyer beware’ and means the purchaser is responsible for discovering the condition of a property.

Chain – this is where there are several properties being sold and the completion of one purchase is dependent on the sale and purchase of another.

Chattels – these are items of personal property included in the purchase price, such as furniture. They are often more fully documented in the fixtures, fittings and contents form.

Client care letter – solicitors will provide this correspondence at the beginning of a conveyancing transaction. It will introduce the firm, describe the work that will be carried out and detail the costs.

Coal mining search – if a property is situated in a coal mining area, this search is required to discover if coal mining activities have affected the property in the past or might affect the property in the future.

Commons registration search – a search carried out by the local council to discover if a property is registered as common land or connected to a village green, resulting in certain rights over the property.

Completion date – often this is the actual moving date and is formally the legal end of the conveyancing process. On this day, funds are paid as appropriate and keys are handed over.

Completion statement – this document provides the financial breakdown for the purchase or sale and will set out the solicitor’s full fees including VAT and disbursements.

Conservation area – if a property lies in a conservation area protected by a local council, it may be subject to certain planning restrictions to preserve the appearance of the area.

Contract – a legal document containing details of a property purchase or sale, including information about the property, the buyers’ and sellers’ names and the price.

Conveyance – the name for a legal document that formally confirms the purchase or sale of a property or piece of land.

Conveyancing – the process of transferring a property title from one person to another. This is usually carried out by solicitors or licensed conveyancers.

Conveyancer – a specialist who assists in the conveyancing process, usually a solicitor or licenced conveyancer.

Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) – this is the governing body that licenses and regulates conveyancers. Always ensure that your licensed conveyancer is member.

Covenant – the obligations and restrictions that can be attached to a property. Some obligations require you to maintain something, for example a wall. Restrictions prevent you from doing something, for example carrying out building works without certain permission.

Deed of gift – a document transferring the ownership of a property or land from one person to another without any payment being made.

Deeds – the official documents which detail the owner of a property.

Deposit – this is the amount of money paid to a seller, usually via the solicitor or licensed conveyancer, on exchange of contracts. It is normally 10% of the purchase price, although this can be negotiated.

Disbursements – fixed costs incurred in the conveyancing process which are paid by the purchaser, such as a local search, mining search, water search, bankruptcy search and the Land Registry fee.

Drainage search – a search that ensures a property is connected to both fresh and foul water sewers. It often also shows whether the water is charged at a rateable value or on a meter.

Easement – a right of way over another piece of land.

Equity – the difference between the value of a property and the amount owed on a mortgage.

Exchange of contracts – at this point the conveyancing is legally binding. After this time, neither the purchaser nor the seller can pull out of the transaction without financial consequences.

Fixtures, fittings and contents form – this sets out which items (such as curtains and carpets) are included in a sale and which are not.

Flying freehold – this describes a section of a freehold property which extends above a neighbouring property or land that they don’t own. This is often seen in terrace houses where there is an alley between them.

Freehold – this type of property involves the permanent ownership of land or a building which will not revert back to another owner after a certain length of time.

Full title guarantee – this is a seller confirming they have the authority to sell a property, and that it is free from charges or adverse rights (other than those that have been previously disclosed).

Ground rent – this is paid to the owner of the land (the freeholder) by the person who holds the leasehold (usually the person who bought the house on their land).

HM Land Registry – the government body that deals with the ownership of property and land in England and Wales.

Indemnity insurance – insurance to cover a defect in the title of a property or missing/lack of building or planning documents.

Identification – as of 1st March 2004, to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations, solicitors and licensed conveyancers must obtain identification from a prospective client. This is usually a copy of a passport or driving licence and a recent utility bill.

Index map search – a search undertaken at the Land Registry to discover if a property or piece of land is registered or unregistered.

Joint tenants – a form of ownership of a property where on the death of one of the co-owners, the remaining co-owner(s) is (are) entitled to the whole ownership of the property.

Law Society – the representative body for solicitors in England and Wales.

Land Registry fee – the fee payable to the Land Registry to register any change which affects a property, such as a change of ownership.

Lease – if a property is leasehold, this is the document that gives the current owner rights to possession of the property for the term of the lease. It also details any obligations.

Leasehold – a leasehold property is where a person purchases the right to occupy a property or land for a certain length of time.

Leasehold property information form – a property information form that is used when dealing with leasehold properties.

Lender – someone who provides a mortgage, such as a bank or building society.

Lessee – if a property is leasehold, the lessee is the current owner.

Lessor – if a property is leasehold, the lessor is the landlord or freeholder who owns the freehold title. They are entitled to ground rent.

Limited title guarantee – this is the title guarantee given by a seller when, due to their limited knowledge of the property, the full title guarantee cannot be given. For example, when given to a representative of a deceased owner.

Local search – a search carried out at the relevant local council. For example, to discover whether there are any planning permissions or building regulations that affect the property, or whether the road the property is situated on is maintainable at the public expense.

Mining search – a search to discover whether a property is affected by coal mining activity which could result in subsidence.

Mortgage – a loan enabling a person to buy a property/land. This is a ‘secured’ loan requiring collateral, which means if you stop making payments, your lender can take possession of your home.

Mortgagee – the lender providing a mortgage, such as a bank or building society.

Mortgage deed – a document signed by the borrower to create a legal charge which can be registered at the Land Registry.

Mortgage offer – the document that details the terms upon which the lender is prepared to make a loan.

Mortgage term – the length of time agreed for the repayment of a loan.

Mortgagor – a person who takes out a mortgage, also known as a borrower.

Negative equity – where the amount of money that is owed, usually through a mortgage, is greater than the value of the property.

Occupier’s consent – this is required when a person lives at a property but does not sign the mortgage deed. They consent to moving out if the mortgage company has to repossess.

Official copies – the legal document which formally records the owner of a property. This is held by the Land Registry.

Party wall – a wall that is owned jointly with a neighbour and maintained and repaired at a shared expense.

Planning permission – approval by the local council for building works or a change of use of a property.

Power of attorney – this document gives consent for a person to act on behalf of someone else. They are often used to protect the financial interests of people who are unable to manage their legal affairs, for example if they are ill or elderly.

Pre-completion searches – these searches are carried out before contracts are exchanged. They confirm whether a buyer has previously been bankrupt, and that the property being bought is legally owned by the seller.

Property information form – the seller is required to complete this form. It provides information about boundaries, disputes, building works, legal rights, restrictions, etc.

Purchase – the buying of a property or land.

Purchaser – a person or entity that buys a property or land.

Quote – an estimated cost of the conveyancing process, to include the solicitor’s or licensed conveyancer’s fees, VAT and disbursements.

Redemption figure – the amount required to pay back a mortgage early. It includes any relevant penalty fees.

Redemption penalty – a fee charged by the lender if you pay back a mortgage early.

Registered title – property or land which has been registered at the Land Registry.

Reservation fee – a fee paid to a builder or property developer to reserve a new property.

Sale – the selling of a property or land.

Seller – a person or entity who sells a property or land.

Service charge – a payment to a landlord/freeholder or managing agent for maintaining and running a development, for example, gardening, decorating or insuring a block of flats.

Smoke control order – when a local council designates an area in which only smokeless fuels can be burnt.

Solicitor – a conveyancing transaction is often undertaken by a solicitor who acts on the behalf of a seller or purchaser. Always check on the Law Society website that your solicitor has a practising certificate.

Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) – the independent body of the Law Society of England and Wales that regulates all solicitors.

Stamp duty – the amount all buyers must pay to HMRC (based on a percentage of the price) for purchases of property over a set amount of money, with this limit lower for second properties.

Subsidence – where a property moves due to inadequate foundations or a significant change in the underlying ground.

Survey – a report assessing the physical state of a property, usually done by a surveyor.

Tenants in common – a form of co-ownership where on the death of a co-owner, the remaining owner(s) is (are) not automatically entitled to the deceased’s share in the property. The deceased’s share will pass in accordance with their will.

Third party rights – when a person other than the legal owner of a property has a right to use or control land or a property they do not formally own.

Title deed – a legal document detailing ownership of a property.

Transfer deed – a legal document transferring a property into the name of a purchaser.

Transfer of equity – where a share or interest in a property is transferred from one person to another.

Tree preservation order – where the local council protects a tree or group of trees, requiring their permission to cut or fell them.

Unregistered title – where the title to a property/land has not been registered at the Land Registry and ownership is proven by other documents.

Vacant possession – ownership of a property free from the presence of any people, possessions or rubbish.

Valuation – a survey to establish the market value of a property.

Wayleave agreement – a legal agreement with the owner of a property which enables a service provider (such as an electricity company, telephone company or water company) to install piping or cabling through or over the property.