Glossary

We have created this conveyancing glossary as we realise that some of the terminology used when buying or selling a property may be confusing. 

Bankruptcy Search

This search is carried out by a buyer's lawyer to protect a proposed lender's position. If the buyer is found to be bankrupt, any offer of mortgage from a bank or building society will be revoked.  

Buyer or 'Purchaser'

The person buying the property. The Law Society's 'TransAction' scheme uses the simpler word 'Buyer'.

Completion

This is the date upon which the balance of the purchase money will change hands from the buyer to the seller and the buyer takes possession of the property. The date for completion will become a term of the contract on exchange of contracts. The seller will have to move out of the property on or before completion in order that the buyer can move in.

Chancel Repairs

The potential liability to contribute to the cost of repairing a church chancel is an historical anomaly. If a property is in a parish with a vicar of a medieval church, then there is a potential liability to contribute to the cost of repairs to the chancel of that church. A chancel is the part of a church containing the altar, sanctuary and choir, usually separated from the nave and transepts by a screen. It is possible to carry out a search which will indicate whether there is any potential for chancel repair liability and take out an indemnity policy to protect the homeowner if the need arises. The Law Society's view on chancel repair liability is expressed here.

Contract

The agreement, usually prepared by the seller's lawyer in duplicate, which sets out the terms upon which the seller will sell the land. This is subject to scrutiny and amendment by the buyer's lawyer. When the buyer's lawyer is happy with the document, one copy is returned to the seller's lawyer to obtain the seller's signature to it.

Deposit

The contract will set out the amount of the deposit that the buyer will pay on exchange of contracts. This is usually 10% of the price of the property; however it may be possible to negotiate this and pay a reduced amount.

Exchange of Contracts

When the lawyers for both parties are satisfied that all of the information necessary to proceed has been provided, they will exchange contracts. Usually, a binding contract is made by agreement on the telephone. The signed copies of the contract are then exchanged by post afterwards.

Freehold Title

A type of land ownership which means that the land can be held for an unspecified length of time. 

Land Certificate/Charge Certificate

These documents used to be issued by the Land Registry as evidence of ownership of land. The issue of a land certificate by the Land Registry indicated that there was no existing loan outstanding; a charge certificate had loan details attached. They were commonly referred to as 'title deeds'. A change in the law has made them obsolete as a means of providing evidence of ownership of land.

Land Registry Fees

After completion, the buyer's lawyer makes an application to the Land Registry to register the transfer and any legal charge(s). The Land Registry charge an administrative fee for altering the information relating to the property.

Land Registry Search

This search is carried out by the buyer's lawyer to check whether there has been any change to the information held at the Land Registry since the Official Copies were obtained. The search protects the buyer's position until their lawyer is able to make to application to change the information to show the buyer as the owner and change the details of any lender.

Leasehold Title

This differs from freehold in that it allows possession for a limited time e.g. 99 years. Leasehold titles are frequently created where a building is divided into multiple units. The lease for each unit sets out the rights and responsibilities of the parties to it.

Local Search

A search made by the buyer's lawyer of the local council's records. It reveals, among other things, details of planning decisions, proposed road changes, conservation areas and smoke control orders.

Mortgage or 'Legal Charge'

Many people arrange to borrow a proportion of the purchase price of a property in order to be able to afford it. This mortgage gives the lender a right to repossess the property if the payments specified by the mortgage are not kept up. The document evidencing the arrangement is usually called a 'Legal Charge'. It will be sent to the Land Registry by the buyer's lawyer and will subsequently be shown on any Official Copies applied for by an interested party.

Official Copies

Ownership of land is proved by obtaining these from the Land Registry. A seller's lawyer will obtain them from the Land Registry to prove ownership of land to a buyer's lawyer.

Property Information Forms/Fixtures Fittings and Contents Form

These forms are completed by the seller in order to provide background information about the property. They are usually sent with the contract to the buyer's lawyer. The information contained in them will form part of the contract so extreme care must be taken to give correct information if you are asked to complete them.

Seller or 'Vendor'

The person selling the property. The Law Society's 'TransAction' scheme uses the simpler word 'Seller'.

Stamp Duty Land Tax

This is a tax imposed by the government on land transfers.  It is paid by the buyer who has to complete a Land Transaction Return.  Stamp Duty Land Tax is payable at various rates on a sliding scale and depends on the purchase price of the property.  Current rates and thresholds can be found on the Government's website here.

Buyers should note that where they are purchasing at prices around the thresholds, the Inland Revenue may investigate any attempt to reduce the liability for tax by apportioning the price between the property and items left by the seller. The investigation can take place at any time up to nine months after completion and result in an assessment requiring payment of the tax previously avoided.

Telegraphic Transfer

The buyer's lawyer will transfer the balance of the purchase money by a 'CHAPS' (Clearing House Automated Payments System) transfer on the day of completion. When the money has been received by the seller's bank they will notify the seller's lawyer who will make arrangements for any keys to the property to be released to the buyer.

TransAction

The Law Society's National Conveyancing Protocol was introduced in March 1990. This scheme was designed to help speed up the process of house buying and selling. It standardises documentation and the procedures carried by the parties' lawyers.

Transfer

This is a document usually drafted by the buyer which will be used to change the ownership of the property at the Land Registry. It is important that the seller's lawyer has arranged for this document to be signed by the seller before completion.