Glossary of terms

  • Agreement: The agreement (also known as the contract) between the buyer and seller including the purchase price, terms, and conditions necessary to both parties to convey the title to the buyer. You will be asked to sign this and return it to your Solicitor (lawyer).
  • Acting for the Lender: This phrase simply refers to the solicitors (lawyers) who are speaking on behalf of the mortgage provider or lender in any transaction, whether a sale or purchase.
  • Bankruptcy search: This search is legally required to be carried out to ensure that the purchaser is not/has not been bankrupt.
  • Breach of contract: On exchange of contracts if either party does not complete the conveyancing transaction they are deemed to be breaking the contract and the non-defaulting party may legally seek compensation.
  • Brine search: This search, carried out through the LA or personal search company, shows if the property is affected by disused workings.
  • Caveat Emptor: Translated means “let the buyer beware”.
  • Chain:Where a purchase is dependent on the sale and purchase of another property by a different owner.
  • Chancel search: This search is normally carried out to find out whether the property is bound with chancel repair obligations to the Church.
  • Chattels: Items of personal property left over at a property which have been agreed to be included in the purchase price.
  • Client Care Letter: Issued by the solicitor and once signed this enables your solicitor to act on your behalf. Solicitors are required to be compliant and it should include a complete breakdown of costs and your solicitors’ complaints procedure.
  • Client Service Charter: The Charter that sets out the client service standards to which CQS member practices must adhere, which is published at: www.lawsociety.org.uk/cqs
  • Completion Date: The point at which full payment is made for the purchase of a property and the title deeds transfer. This is when you get keys and access to the property.
  • Completion Statement :This financial breakdown of a property purchase including your solicitors costs.
  • Contract: A legal document which sets out the full details regarding the property purchase. It is issued by the sellers’ solicitors to the buyers’ solicitors.
  • Conveyancer: The solicitors or licensed conveyancing company who are undertaking the conveyancing process.
  • Conveyancing: The legal and administrative process of transferring property title from one owner to another. Usually carried out by solicitors or licensed conveyancers.
  • Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS): A quality standard that Solicitors can attain. Many mortgage lenders insist on a solicitor having this quality standard when acting for both you and them.
  • Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC): The governing body who licenses and regulates licensed conveyancers. The Solicitors Regulatory Authority is the governing body who licenses and regulates Solicitors.
  • Covenants: These are legally binding promises made in the title deeds. For example a covenant may impose conditions, duties or restrictions on the use of land. Some covenants apply to that land regardless of the owner.
  • Deed of Covenants: the document which is signed or sealed and refers to the legal ownership of property. Your solicitor can explain this in more detail.
  • Deed of Postponement: A Deed of Postponement is an agreement between two lenders to agree to change or regulate the distribution of profits of enforcement of security granted by the debtor in their favour.
  • Disbursements: Standard costs paid on your behalf by your solicitor or licensed conveyancer as part of the conveyancing process. Example : land registry fees.
  • Drainage search: This search indicates that the property being purchased is connected to mains water.
  • Enquiries: Before a buyer signs a contract, their Solicitor will usually put together a collection of detailed questions about the property – and these will need to be answered by the other side. They are also known as preliminary (or initial) enquiries.
  • Environmental search: This search surveys past uses of the land to see whether there’s a chance that Contaminated Land may be an issue.
  • Equity: Usually expressed as a percentage the difference between the amounts owed to a mortgage lender and the value of the property.
  • Estate: This has two meanings a) all property and assets owned by a person at the time of death and b) when related to land it refers to ownership of that land.
  • Exchange of Contracts: Usually carried out verbally between solicitors or licensed conveyancers.  This is the point when contracts are signed and exchanged and the purchase of the property becomes legally binding.
  • Execute: To sign a document.
  • Fixtures, fittings and contents form: This form is completed by the seller and states what items are included in the sale. Example carpets and curtains.
  • Freehold: If the property is freehold, you have the full legal ownership of the building and the land it stands on. It also means you have full responsibility for the maintenance and repairs to the property. (alternative to leasehold, see below).
  • Gazumping: Where the seller increases the price at the later stages before exchange, or if gazumped accepts a higher offer.
  • Gazundering: Where the buyer submits a lower offer at the later stages prior to exchange.
  • Ground rent: This is a regular payment by the leaseholder to the landlord or freeholder under the terms of a lease.  If you do not pay the Ground Rent then you can be taken to court by your landlord.
  • Head of Conveyancing: A qualified conveyancer who is the head of conveyancing work conducted at the practice.
  • HM Land Registry: Government body responsible for the recording of the ownership of property and land in England and Wales.
  • Identification: A check against national records to confirm that the client exists. Not to be confused with the money laundering ID requirements and other checks carried out by your lawyer. Your lawyer will also ask you to provide certified copies of ID documentation (Passport/driving licence) and proof of your current address (utility bill/bank statement).
  • Joint Tenant: More than one person owns the property/land. If one of them were to die then the surviving ownership rights would pass to the other partners.
  • Land Registry Charge: The fee payable to HM Land Registry for the registration of the change of ownership of the property. A sliding scale of fees applies depending on the property value.
  • Land Registry Search: This is a search for the title deeds to a property carried out at the Land Registry. It is often carried out by the buyer’s lawyer before completion to check that nothing has changed with regard to the title of the property.
  • Landlord: A landlord is the person who owns the freehold on a property and collects ground rent from tenants.
  • Law Society: The representative body for Solicitors in England and Wales.
  • Law Society Conveyancing Protocol: The Law Society’s guide to best practice in residential conveyancing transactions of freehold and leasehold property.
  • Lease: A contract signed by tenants when property or land is rented out.
  • Leasehold: Where a property is owned subject to a lease provided by the freeholder. Rent is payable by the leaseholder to the owner of the freehold. Most flats and apartments are leasehold.
  • Lease Term: Specifies the length of time that a lease is valid.
  • Legal Charge: Is a legal term sometimes used in place of ‘mortgage’.
  • Legal Fees: The professional fees and charges to be paid to the lawyer for legal services provided by them.
  • Lender: The company providing the mortgage / money to make the purchase possible, usually a bank or building society.
  • Local Authority Searches: These searches are carried out by the local authority and show the legal boundaries of a property in addition to any plans which may directly affect the property. The same search can be carried out by a personal search provider.
  • Member Practice, CQS: Practices which have gained membership of CQS.
  • Mining search: This is a search that’s often required in areas where coal mining used to take place. It can also tell you if there’s any current mining activity or any plan for coal mining in the future which is likely to affect your property.
  • Negative Equity: Where the amount of money owed on a property to a mortgage lender exceeds the value of the property.
  • Occupier’s Consent: Consent is asked through completion of a form when a person 17 years or older will be living at the property but will not be on the mortgage.
  • Office Copy Entries: This search is undertaken at the Land Registry and shows whether a property is registered with the Land Registry or has not yet been registered.
  • Particulars of Sale: A description of the property that is for sale and the Terms and Conditions under which the sale will proceed.
  • Power of Attorney: Document which exists which allows a person who does not own the property to make legal decisions on their behalf. Often drawn up as part of a will or where the owner is ill or elderly.
  • Practice: A Practice regulated by the SRA, including any SRA regulated partnership, company, sole practitioner, Limited Liability Partnership recognised under section 9 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985 (LLP), and Legal Disciplinary Partnership recognised under section 9A of the Administration of Justice Act 1985 (LDP).
  • Practice rules: Solicitors Code of Conduct 2011.
  • Probate: Probate is the legal process of administering an Estate by valuing and selling the deceased’s assets, paying any debts and transferring the remaining money and possessions to the beneficiaries in accordance with the Will.
  • Property Information Form: The seller will complete this standard form which includes details of the property including boundaries, relationships with neighbours etc.
  • Redemption Statement: A financial statement issued by the existing mortgage lender showing how much is owed on the property should the mortgage be paid off and includes any charges made by the mortgage lender.
  • Register: Refers to HM Land Registry who record property ownership details in England and Wales.
  • Residential conveyancing: The process by which residential properties in England and Wales (whether freehold or leasehold) are legally transferred between parties (excluding re-mortgages).
  • Retention: Monies held back by a mortgage lender until specified work is carried out on the property.
  • Sale Subject to Contract: Either party can withdraw from a property purchase and not be liable.
  • SRA: Solicitors Regulation Authority. The regulatory body for Solicitors in England and Wales.
  • Stamp Duty: Tiered charges based on the value of the property, payable on residential properties over £125,000. Different rules apply to first time buyers and non-residential property purchases.
  • Stamp Duty Exemption: Certain areas of England and Wales are excluded from Stamp Duty as they are deemed as degeneration areas.
  • Subsidence: Property which is moving due to instability of the underlying land.
  • Telegraphic Transfer: A telegraphic transfer (TT) is an electronic means of transferring funds.   If you are purchasing your funds will be transferred by telegraphic transfer to the seller’s solicitor or if you are selling a telegraphic transfer will be used to transfer funds to clear your mortgage.
  • Tenancy: Possession of land or property owned by someone else.
  • Tenant: Person who lives in a property or on land not owned by them.
  • Tenants in Common: Where two or more people buy a house and each owns a fixed share of the property.   Unlike joint tenants, the tenant in common is also free to dispose of his/her share without restrictions.  Also, tenancy in common has no right of survivorship. This means that the property does not automatically transfer to the other tenant in common if one tenant dies.  The property goes to the deceased’s heirs in line with their Will.
  • Tenure: Land is held on specified terms – usually freehold or leasehold.
  • Title Deeds: Proof of ownership of a property.
  • Transfer of Equity: Legal process of adding, or removing a person to the ownership of a property.
  • Trust: Property is given to a person to be used for a particular purpose – in the case of death a house may be passed to a spouse on condition that it is held in trust for any surviving children.
  • Unregistered Title: Any land in England and Wales not recorded at Land Registry is considered ‘unregistered’.  It is now compulsory to register any land or property which changes ownership or has a mortgage taken out against it for the first time.
  • Vendor: Person selling the property.