The Task Force has been formed jointly by the Law Society, The Society of Licensed Conveyancers (SLC), The Conveyancing Association (CA), CILEx and Bold Legal Group.
Though its creation has been welcomed across the conveyancing industry, the legal regulators had not yet been approached (at the time of writing) because the Task Force has been agreeing terms of reference and workstreams. But it has stated its intention to work with regulators, as well as stakeholders such as the Home Buying and Selling Group.
The Task Force – a formal working group - says its aim is to reform and enhance the conveyancing process and provide clarity and consistency for both conveyancers and clients.
Changes to modernise and improve the conveyancing process would be a long time coming but there are already moves towards much-needed change. The covid-19 pandemic has been the catalyst for more immediate change in some respects (out of necessity), for instance, digital signatures and witnessing of transfers, leases and mortgage deeds for the purposes of land registration
Smart contracts are also now legally enforceable in England and Wales, though it could be years before they can be used widely and as a matter of course in the house buying and selling process. The government has, for example, previously expressed support for property logbooks, which both the Law Society and the CA have called for.
The Task Force was nearly two years in the making and formal terms of reference have now been agreed between its members. Its stated intentions include helping the conveyancing profession manage the transition into the digital future and identify opportunities for improving the process.
All the group members have recently sent three documents to their own members providing clarity about both the pandemic situation and the implications of the impending expiry of the stamp duty land tax (SDLT) holiday (still scheduled for 31 March though there are rumours of a further three-month extension).
Notably, when the launch was announced, president of the Law Society David Greene said the pandemic and social distancing requirements have “accelerated the appetite for using digital solutions in parts of the transaction process, particularly for ID and execution and electronic and/or digital signing”.
More specifically, focus will be on a set of conveyancing workstreams with a view to defining what the Task Force calls “the future digital conveyancing blueprint”. These include proof of identity, universal protocols, buyers and sellers property information forms, codes of practice, electronic signatures, lenders’ handbook requirement and review, property log books, fraud prevention protocols, property search review, vendor disclosure and client communications.
More information on the Task Force will be available on a dedicated website, due to launch in the Spring. As with most things, the devil will be in the detail: it is hoped the website will flesh out the vision of the Task Force further.