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The National Conveyancing Protocol

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 10 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Conveyancing Protocol National Buyer

The National Conveyancing Protocol is a set of rules and guidelines which were introduced to speed up and streamline the process of conveyancing for residential properties.

What is the Purpose of the National Conveyancing Protocol?

The National Conveyancing Protocol was introduced by the UK’s Law Society in 1990. By introducing a set of guidelines for residential conveyancing it was hoped that the system of conveyancing would become more efficient. The intention behind the Protocol is that all conveyancers would follow a similar conveyancing timetable.

Part of the National Conveyancing Protocol is a set of standardised forms – known as TransAction forms – which are available for use at every stage of the conveyance. Use of the TransAction forms should speed up the process, as the conveyancers will not have to spend time agreeing a format for the conveyancing documents.

In 2007 a new version of the National Conveyancing Protocol was released to take into account the introduction of the new requirement for Home Information Packs. In May 2010 the UK’s new coalition government halted the use of Home Information Packs so this aspect of the Protocol will no longer be applicable to residential conveyancing.

Is the National Conveyancing Protocol Binding?

The National Conveyancing Protocol is not binding law. The Protocol is intended to be there for guidance and conveyancers do not have to follow it. Professional conveyancers or conveyancing solicitors should make an active decision on whether or not they intend to follow the Protocol but there is no obligation on them to use it.

When both the buyer and the seller in a residential property sale have professional conveyancers acting for them, the conveyancers should reach an agreement at the outset on whether or not they will be using the Protocol. The conveyancers may choose to follow the Protocol in its entirety, to use a different process or to use an adapted version of the Protocol.

What is the Effect of the National Conveyancing Protocol?

Legal and technological advances mean that the conveyancing market is opening up. More individuals are deciding to do their own conveyancing and commercial organizations, other than law firms, may offer conveyancing services. The professionals who have traditionally offered these services, and who previously had a virtual monopoly on them, may want to find ways of “adding value” to the service they provide. Therefore, conveyancing solicitors may increasingly seek to set themselves apart from other commercial conveyancers offering similar services. By adopting the National Conveyancing Protocol, conveyancing lawyers may seek to instil greater confidence in the services they provide.

The National Conveyancing Protocol may provide for compensation to be payable if one side breaches its terms. However, in its current form, it could be said that the Protocol offers little protection – particularly if a decision was made not to adopt it in the first place. Some interested parties believe that conveyancing practitioners should have to make an active decision to opt out of the Protocol. Further, some conveyancing lawyers – as well as other organizations involved in the conveyancing process – believe that it requires updating.

Towards the end of 2009, the Law Society carried out a consultation process during which lawyers and other parties with interests in the conveyancing process – such as mortgage lenders – could air their views on current conveyancing procedures. Potential amendments or revisions to the Protocol were amongst the topics discussed.

Can the National Conveyancing Protocol be Used by DIY Conveyancers?

Specimens of many of the standardised forms used by professional conveyancers who choose to follow the National Conveyancing Protocol are available from the Law Society’s website. (Full, usable, copies of the forms are available for purchase from a number of different sources.) Even if the Protocol is not being followed, these forms may give a DIY conveyancer some guidance through the process. The forms could also be a good place to start when deciding whether or not DIY conveyancing is the right choice for a particular sale.

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