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Conveyancing - not much change in 400 years

1 January 04

The work of the Society's Conveyancing Committee

by Stewart Brymer

Unfortunately, such comments are not uncommon. There are many changes facing the profession at the moment. These changes are very well summarised by Professor Robert Rennie in his excellent article in the November issue of the Journal. As Robert concluded, however, there are also great opportunities for the conveyancer/ property lawyer.

To many, I am sure, the Conveyancing Committee is just another committee of the Society. What does it do, however, and where does it fit into the scheme of things?

The Committee is one of the standing committees of the Council of the Society. It meets formally every six to eight weeks and the members correspond by email and telephone regularly. Over the past two years, we have run a series of roadshows around the country which have been very successful. These roadshows consist of a few short talks on selected subjects followed by a question and answer session which provides much-needed feedback on many issues as well as offering some free CPD. We are currently working on our programme for 2004 and are open to offers!

One of the main tasks of the Committee has been our involvement with the new legislation affecting property law emanating from the Scottish Parliament. Members of the Committee have been involved on advisory groups to the Scottish Law Commission; given evidence to Holyrood committees and participated in numerous seminars on subjects ranging from abolition of the feudal system, reform of real burdens, reform of the law of tenement and stamp duty land tax. Much of this work will continue in 2004 as we move towards the appointed day in November.

As well as considering matters raised by the profession, the Committee is also working on a number of projects, including certificates on title; standard missive conditions; builders’ missives; the Single Survey Steering Group; and e-conveyancing initiatives. Regular meetings are also held with representatives of the Scottish Executive, the Council of Mortgage Lenders, RICS, the Coal Authority and a range of other bodies. There is a lot happening just now that affects conveyancing practitioners.

In November, the House of Lords heard the appeal in the case of Burnett’s Trustee v Grainger and a decision is awaited. Much hinges on the outcome of this important case. Above all, conveyancers need certainty and it is really quite unacceptable that purchasers in Scotland do not have the same protection against insolvency of the seller, as is the case in England and Wales, where the priority of search provisions act as a safeguard. This should be rectified as soon as possible and it is hoped that the Scottish Law Commission’s proposals for reform (Discussion Paper no 114) are enacted.

There will be many challenges ahead of us in the coming year but I firmly believe that these challenges bring exciting opportunities.

We really do appreciate hearing from members of the profession and are pleased to try and help as best we can. We need to know what you want from your Committee otherwise we will have failed in our central purpose. If you have views on a particular matter, please contact us. You never know, you might end up on the Committee!

Stewart Brymer, Convenor