Home Buyers should opt for Law Society mark of quality


As house-buying gathers pace, those seeking to get onto the ladder are increasingly looking for a bargain to save on fees. But doing so could ultimately prove a costly move, and experts are urging buyers not to be swayed by rates that seem too good to be true.

Conveyancing AccreditationAccording to Dusty Blackburn who heads up national law firm Simpson Millar's Manchester -based conveyancing department, home-buyers should beware of 'cheap headline fees', and choose a firm that is a member of the Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS).

"The CQS requires practices to undergo a strict evaluation," says conveyancing manager Dusty. "For instance, it looks at the integrity of key staff, the firm's adherence to sound practice management standards and evidence that prudent and efficient conveyancing procedures are followed. People who choose a firm accredited by the Law Society can be confident that they are in good hands."

Law Society President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff says that the Law Society introduced CQS to promote high standards in the home buying process.

"CQS has established itself as the quality mark of the home-buying sector and enables consumers to identify practices that provide a quality residential conveyancing service. With so many different conveyancing service providers out there CQS helps home-buyers and sellers seek out those that can provide a safe and efficient level of service."

Simpson Millar LLP gained CQS status earlier this month, joining a select but growing community of law firms to have been accredited under the scheme which aims to deter fraud and to promote best practice.

"It was a challenging and fairly time-consuming process to attain CQS status because of the meticulous attention to detail required across different aspects of the business. But of course that's why the CQS is becoming widely recognised as the mark of excellence for the home buying process," says Dusty.

CQS is open only to members of the Law Society who meet the scheme's demanding standards and has the support of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the Building Societies Association, the Legal Ombudsman and the Association of British Insurers. Several leading high street banks such as Yorkshire Bank, HSBC and Santander are now insisting that buyers seeking mortgages use only CQS practices when it comes to the transfer of ownership.

"Regulators, lenders and insurers know CQS status equates to a high level of service and trust in the residential conveyancing process," explains Dusty. "Lenders rely on the Law Society to carry out this rigid assessment of law firms; they know that CQS membership means a significantly reduced potential for fraud, as well as the assurance that the overall quality of service will meet high standards."

"It's so important for consumers to understand the significance of CQS membership, too. Buying and selling a home is one of life's most stressful events but knowing the transaction will be handled in an efficient manner and that your money is safe, can take away some of the strain."

Scheme members and accreditations are listed in the Law Society's public directories for members of the public to easily identify legal practitioners with proven competency.

"Choosing an accredited law firm establishes a level of credibility from the outset, so you know you will receive a reliable service as recognised by the CQS standard," she says.

To ensure the highest standards are maintained, relevant persons within accredited law firms are required to carry out mandatory training each year. As well as compulsory training, there is the requirement for self reporting, random audits and annual reviews in order to maintain CQS status. Ongoing annual training includes reviewing Law Society conveyancing protocol and developments in law and practice, and gaining deeper understanding of money laundering and mortgage fraud.

"For us, it's a case of ensuring we continue to do what we have always done but the scheme underlines in a very visible way Simpson Millar LLP's commitment to meeting exacting standards," Dusty says. "We are delighted to be part of a trusted community which is helping to deter fraud and drive up standards industry-wide".

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