What are legal enquiries

4 min read
The legal enquiries stage is the technical phase of the conveyancing process and is undertaken by the buyer's solicitor.

In order to start raising enquiries the buyer's solicitor needs:

Legal enquiries are the most technical area of conveyancing and this article explains:

The objective of the buyer's solicitor when raising enquiries with the seller is for them to satisfy themselves that the property being purchased is both 'mortgagable' and 'sellable' on the open market (even if you aren't getting a mortgage). 

Imagine buying a property and finding out that there wasn't planning permission or building control sign off and now you own a property that you can't sell for what you bought it for! This is why you need a solicitor to review all of the legal paperwork to spot issues such as this.

The actual raising of enquiries is a lot like a 'Q&A' between the seller and the buyer. Some of the enquiries which get raised are from the solicitor and others may be from you. The solicitor looks through the draft contract for legal issues (such as we list below). 

However, you may be interested to find out other non-legal enquiries such as; can the sellers make repairs to the property before you exchange?

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You'll put yourself in the best position to advance through legal enquiries if you download and complete your Pre-Exchange Checklist.

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What type of legal enquiries get raised?

  • Review the local authority searches to check for any planning permissions , building control sign offs and rights of way (click to find out more about any of these subjects)
  • Review your mortgage offer and check for any specific requirements of the lender
  • Check for any charges registered over the title (property)
  • Highlight restrictions within your title deeds , particularly restrictive covenants e.g such as whether you are forbidden from developing your property*
  • Review the current ownership of the property
  • Check for any boiler maintenance / gas safety checks
  • Check the environmental report for contaminated land issues

You can read in more detail here - What does a solicitor do for a buyer?

*You may be able to remove or vary a restrictive covenant or restriction via a Deed of Variation (click to find out more) and our property lawyers can do this for you - call 0333 344 3234 to find out more.

What happens after all the enquiries are satisfied?

Once all of your questions are satisfied and the solicitor is happy from a legal perspective then they will report to you on all of the findings they have made. This is called 'the report on title' and is a factual report which advises you of all the information the solicitor is aware of. The report flags up issues and goes into detail on these points.

Many clients often think that at the end of the report it says - You should buy this property. Sadly this isn't the case and in fact the role of the buyer's solicitor is to advise you on whether the property is legally fit to purchase and not whether you should actually purchase it - that decision comes down to you.

Along with the report which would normally be sent to you via email or post, will be the legal documents required for signing to allow for exchange of contracts to take place. 

What if you can't satisfy the enquiries?

There are occasions where you are unable to satisfy a legal enquiry and whether or not you can proceed or not maybe outside of your control. 

Certain enquiries require the your mortgage lender will require and you won't be able to get a mortgage unless the enquiry is satisfied, or their is appropriate indemnity insurance in place to cover for any future liability.

One of the most common examples of this is where the seller has completed building works that required building control sign off, however they haven't had the works signed off. 

A mortgage lender won't give you a mortgage without the building control sign off, so you could be left waiting for the seller to either get retrospective building control sign off, or you can agree to get an indemnity policy to protect against future liabilities caused by not having building control sign off.

What do you need to do to exchange contracts?

Bullet Return your signed contract to your solicitor

Bullet Transfer your 10% deposit to your solicitor the day before exchange (if you are selling and buying the sale deposit is normally sufficient to fund the purchase deposit but check with your solicitor) 

Bullet Return your signed mortgage deed to your solicitor (not required if you are buying cash)

Bullet Return your signed transfer document (this is what a TR1 one looks like)

Bullet Show evidence of Building Insurance cover (buyers are liable to insure freehold properties from exchange, not completion) - Get a FREE Building Insurance Quote here

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