Sales and Purchases of Houses and Flats

Residential Property Solicitors In Canterbury

Sales and purchases of houses and flats constitute the vast majority of transactions requires particular attention but, fortunately our residential property solicitors team is only made up of qualified lawyers who are conversant in this area.

Meet The Team

Tim Townsend

Position: Partner
Work Area: Property Serv...
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Helen Knowles

Position: Senior Conveyancer
Work Area: Property Serv...
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Lesley Saunders

Position: Licensed Conveyancer
Work Area: Property Serv...
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Frequently Asked Questions

Can my Solicitor act for my mortgage lender as well as me?

In the majority of cases we can act for both you and your mortgage lender. The exception to this is where we act for the buyer and seller or where your lender is a private or non high street lender and we are not on their panel of solicitors. Gardner Croft are on the majority of high street lenders panels and are also panel solicitors for some less popular and specialist lenders such as those specialising in buy to let properties only. Again the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Law Society have strict rules in place to avoid what they call ‘conflicts of interest’ with lenders and clients. This tends to happen where a client may have not fully disclosed their personal circumstances to their lender and ask the solicitor not to disclose those. Common examples include where the lender is not aware you are borrowing money from a third party for the deposit or the deposit is being gifted to you by parents, grandparents etc or where you have been declared bankrupt. The solicitor is under an obligation to your lender to disclose to them anything which they feel may have impact on the lenders willingness to grant the loan and any request to withhold potentially relevant information will create a conflict of interest for the solicitor and they will have to cease to act for both you and the lender.

Can my Solicitor act for the Buyer and the seller at the same time?

The general answer is no. The Solicitors Regulation Authority and Law Society have strict rules in place to avoid what they call ‘conflicts of interest’. This is to ensure that the solicitor acting for you always acts in your best interests and puts you first. In very exceptional circumstances however the solicitor will be permitted to act for the buyer and seller but only when this will be for the benefit of both parties. This tends to be where the buyer does not need a mortgage and where the solicitor can show that both parties are aware of the potential conflict but will agree that they wish the firm to act for them both. The regulations require that this can only be considered where the seller and buyer are already long standing existing clients of the firm and where it can be clear that both parties are aware of the risks. The same solicitor will not be permitted to act for both parties and each solicitor will have to be separately supervised to ensure that they are not privy to personal information about the other client which they would not normally have access to if the client was represented by a solicitor outside of the firm. In addition the solicitors are not permitted to negotiate on behalf of their clients. Therefore any issues regarding price, surveys, fittings and contents, completion dates and timescales etc must be dealt with by the estate agents and the agents must be aware of the potential conflict of interest. Conflicts can also occur where clients ask their solicitor to withhold information which may have a detrimental effect on the transaction. In the event that a conflict occurs the solicitors for both parties will have to cease acting and new solicitors will have to be found.

Do I need all searches recommended by my solicitor?

As the law stands it is for the buyer of a property to ensure that they make full investigation of all records at their disposal and of all matters which may affect the property. By not carrying out searches you are leaving yourself open to the risk that there may be matters contained within a search (were it to be carried out) which would have an impact on your decision to buy the property and also on the value and marketability of the property in the future. The most common searches and those which will be required by your lender if you are using a mortgage to fund your purchase are: • Drainage Search – This shows the location of the main public sewer (but not necessarily the shared and lateral drains which might form part of the public sewer) and confirms that the necessary legal rights to mains drainage are in place. In the case of a property which has been extended it is particularly important that we ascertain that the extension has not been built over the mains sewers, where this runs directly behind the property. If it has then specific building over agreement would have needed to have been sought from the drainage authority and the search will confirm whether this is the case. If not then the breach can have a detrimental effect on the market value of the property because if the authority cannot gain access to the sewer pipe then they have the power to demolish any part of the un-consented building to do so and they are not obliged by law to replace it. In fact they can order that it be demolished at your cost and it is unlikely that further agreement to reinstate the building would be granted. • Environmental Search – This is a search of various historical land usage environmental records carried out on our behalf by a search agency. This confirms whether here are any environmental matters of concern particularly if notices have been served to clean up contaminated land. Clean up costs can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and are borne by the current owner of the land regardless of whether they were the cause of the contamination or not. • Local Authority Search – This is a questionnaire that is submitted to the Local Authority to enable us to ascertain if there are any matters that may adversely affect the property that are revealed in Local Authority records e.g. breaches of planning permissions and any breaches of regulations which may incur costs for you as the future owner to rectify. This search relates only to the property itself and not to adjoining properties..

Do I need a survey?

You are not obliged to get a survey though it is always prudent to do so. Properties in England are purchased under the edict of Buyer Beware. This means that if you find anything wrong with a property once exchange of contracts has taken place, the seller is not liable and you will have to pay for any necessary repairs. It is therefore advisable to have some form of survey completed on a property you wish to purchase. There are 3 types of survey: 1. A Lenders Valuation Report - If you are using a mortgage to fund your purchase then the Lender will always carry out a valuation of the property. This is for your mortgage lenders purposes only and merely confirms that the property you are purchasing is worth what you are paying for it. It is unusual for the surveyor to advise you on the condition of the property and it is inadvisable to rely only on the terms of this report particularly because if a matter later comes to light that could have been revealed by the report you will have no recourse to the surveyor as they are employed by the lender only, not you, despite you having paid for the report! 2. A Homebuyers Report- This is a more detailed survey and will look at some structural issues. However this report has limitations as the surveyor may have limited access to the property. The limitations will be detailed at the beginning of the report. This is the most common survey report and is likely to highlight issues where further investigation may be needed. If repairs are required the report will point this out and this can then be used to negotiate further terms of the transaction i.e. that the seller carries out the repairs or reduces the price of the property to cover the cost (the latter is the most common outcome) 3. A Full Structural Survey Report – This is the most expensive of the surveys and will be a very detailed report focusing on all aspects both structural and non-structural. These reports tend to be advisable for older properties and those where it is obvious that works of repair are required. A survey might seem expensive, but you may regret not having one if you have to pay out thousands of pounds later on for major repairs of faults you didn't know about when you bought the property. If major defects are uncovered you might even think again about your purchase, or you could be in a position to renegotiate the price. A home is a massive investment and it is worth paying a few hundred pounds for a survey at this stage as it could save you much bigger sums, and lots of hassle, later on. If problems do appear later on which the surveyor did not point out, you may be able to claim compensation from them.

What is freehold and leasehold?

Freehold means that you own the property and the land upon which it is built outright. There is no time limit as to your ownership. The property remains yours until you sell it or transfer it to someone else. Leasehold means that you own the property but not the land upon which it is built. The land is owned by the Landlord or freeholder. You will be granted a lease of the property for a set period of time after which time the property reverts to the Landlord. Leases vary in length but are usually 99 years or 125 years from the date they are granted. They can be transferred from person to person (this is called assignment) and can also be extended either by agreement or by law.

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