Conveyancing Glossary

Read our extensive conveyancing glossary designed to help both first time buyers & experienced movers alike.

Conveyancing Glossary

Agreement – often used as a word for contract.

Assent – the formal document required to transfer ownership of a property to a person entitled following the death of the owner.

Basic fee – the fee charged by the solicitor for their time and skills. This is most often calculated as a percentage of the property’s sale price, although it can also be calculated as a fixed-fee or on a per-hour basis.

Breach of Contract – once contracts have been exchanged, if either party pulls out and does not complete the conveyancing process they are in breach of contract and the non-defaulting party can legally seek reparations.

Brine search – carried out to establish if a property is affected by disused workings in close proximity.

Boundaries – boundaries define the extent of the property in question and are usually marked with fencing, hedging or walls. They are usually shown explicitly on the deeds plan.

Building insurance – once contracts have been exchanged, you will in most cases become responsible for the new property’s building insurance. This must cover the cost of rebuilding the entire property if it is destroyed. Your mortgage lender may want to see proof of this insurance.

Caveat Emptor – this literally translates to ‘let the buyer beware’ and means the buyer is responsible for finding out the condition of a property using a surveyor.

Chain – where the success of one purchase depends on the sale and purchase of another. Several ‘links’ in the chain can make the conveyancing process particularly complicated.

Chattels – items of personal property left over at a house and included in the purchase price, such as furniture. These are described on the Fixtures, Fittings and Contents form.

Client care letter – solicitors will send a client care letter for you to sign and return. This is a formal contract and should be read thoroughly. It will detail what services will be provided and a breakdown of the cost, in addition to the solicitor’s complaints procedure.

Coal mining search – if the property is situated in a coal mining area this search will be conducted by the property lawyer to find out if coal mining activities will affect the property in the future.

Commons Registration Search – a search carried out by the local authorities to ensure a property is not registered as common land or connected to a village green, resulting in third party rights over the property.

Completion date – the legal end of the conveyancing process – the point at which full payment has been made and the title deeds transfer from one party to another. In everyday usage it refers to handing over keys and physically moving into the new property.

Completion statement – a documented financial breakdown of the property purchase normally sent after exchange but before completion. This important letter details the conveyancer’s full fees including disbursements and VAT.

Conservation area – if the property to be bought lies in a conservation area protected by a local authority, it may be subject to exterior planning restrictions to preserve the look of the area.

Contract – a legal document that sets out all details regarding a property purchase including information on the property itself, the buyer and the seller.

Conveyance – a common name for the legal document that officially confirms the sale or purchase of a property or piece of land. Nowadays the transfer is conducted using a Transfer deed/document although in some cases a conveyance may be used.

Conveyancing – the legal and administrative process of transferring property title from one party to another. This is most often undertaken by solicitors or licensed specialists and is a necessity for most property sales taking place within the United Kingdom.

Conveyancer – conveyancers are those who have undertaken the conveyancing process. Traditionally they are solicitors, but in recent years specialists have appeared who solely offer conveyancing as a dedicated service. These may be solicitors who have decided to specialise, or licensed and regulated firms that are not qualified as solicitors.

Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) – the governing body that licenses and regulates conveyancers. You should always ensure your conveyancer is a full member. See Law Society.

Covenant – obligations and restrictions, known as ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ covenants respectively, that can be attached to a property. Obligations require you to maintain something within your boundaries whilst restrictions prevent the construction of specific structures.

Deeds – official documentation outlining the owner of a property which is in possession of the owner or mortgagees in the event the property is mortgaged.

Deposit – a deposit is paid to the seller, usually via the conveyancer, on exchange of contracts: this is normally 10% of the purchase price although is negotiable subject to agreement from the seller.

Disbursements – disbursements are fixed costs incurred by a conveyancing provider undertaking the conveyancing process on your behalf, which are then passed on to you. Examples include local authority and bankruptcy searches.

DIY conveyancing most people appoint a solicitor or conveyancer when buying or selling a property but some choose to undertake the process themselves. This can be very risky in some cases, such as when dealing with leasehold properties.

Drainage search – a check carried out during the conveyancing process that ensures a property is connected to both fresh and foul water sewers.

Easement – the right of way over another person’s piece of land.

Equity – the difference between the value of a property and the figure owed to the mortgagee.

Exchange of contracts – contracts are signed and exchanged through your property lawyers. At this point the process becomes legally binding. Past this point neither buyer nor seller can pull out of the transaction without possible legal consequences.

Fixture, Fittings and Contents form – provided by the seller’s property lawyer, this form sets out what parts of the property are included in the sale and must be completed and signed off by the buyer before purchase.

Freehold a freehold property involves a permanent change in ownership of land or a building that is not time-sensitive and will not revert to another owner unless a new sale is agreed. Compare with leasehold.

Ground rent – Paid by a lessee to a lessor in the event a property is leasehold, usually in yearly amounts.

HM Land Registry – the government body that deals with ownership of property and land throughout England and Wales, but not Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Index map search – a search undertaken at the Land Registry to determine whether a premises is registered or unregistered.

Land certificate – the official certificate issued by the Land Registry when a property is registered detailing ownership and interest in the property without any legal charge.

Land Registry office copies – the legally permissible document outlining who owns your property, held by HM Land Registry. It is requested by your conveyancing provider during the conveyancing process.

The Law Society The Law Society is the representative body for solicitors in England and Wales.

Leasehold in contrast to a freehold property, a leasehold property is one where a party buys the right to occupy land or a building for a given length of time, which may extend into hundreds of years. Compare with freehold.

Leasehold property information form – an alternative version of the Property Information Form (SPIF) that is used when dealing with leasehold properties.

Local authority searches – these searches are conducted during the early stages of the conveyancing process and are designed to protect you from council plans that may affect the state of your property once you’ve moved in. Note that this only refers to things affecting the land up to the legal boundaries of your property: for a more comprehensive check you’ll need to ask your solicitor to perform a ‘planning search,’ which will cost approximately £25 more.

Negative equity – an issue where the amount of money you owe on the property, usually via a mortgage, is more than the sale value of the property.

Occupier’s consent – required when a person lives at a property but will not be signing the mortgage deed. Consent is asked to allow the mortgage being taken out by the owner, agreeing to move out if the mortgagee takes possession due to the default of the mortgage.

Power of attorney – this document allows a person to act as a legal representative of somebody else with their consent. These are often used to protect the financial interests of the ill or the elderly.

Pre-completion searches – these are searches undertaken by your conveyancing provider before contracts are exchanged. They check to see if you have been bankrupt and that the property in question is legally owned by the seller. Also known as priority searches.

Priority searches – see pre-completion searches.

Property Information Form – sellers are required to fill this form in and return it to their conveyancing provider. It asks questions regarding boundaries, disputes, services, relationships with neighbours, legal rights, restrictions and other important information. Failure to provide correct information is an offence; in cases where you’re unsure your solicitor should be able to help.

Redemption settlement – this is the sum of money transferred to a lender if you decide to pay back your mortgage early, consisting of the outstanding lump sum balance in addition to a penalty fee charged to cover the interest the lender will subsequently lose out on.

Reparations – the compensation or remuneration required in the event of a breach of contract.

Reservation fee – an administration fee charged to cover the cost of reserving a mortgagor’s entitlement to a loan on certain terms or a fee paid to a builder or property developer to reserve a new property.

Solicitor – the legal conveyancing process is traditionally undertaken by a solicitor who acts on your behalf once instruction has been received. In this instance conveyancing is one of the services the solicitor offers. See conveyancer.

Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) – the independent regulating body of the Law Society of England and Wales, the SRA can be called upon to deal with disputes if you have received an unsatisfactory service from your solicitor.

Stamp duty all buyers pay stamp duty based on the purchase price of the property in question. The money accrues to HMRC. Please see our complete guide to stamp duty for further information.

Subsidence – where a property moves due to inadequate foundations or significant change in underlying ground resulting in the instability of a building structure.

Third party rights – when someone other than the legal owner of a property has the right to use or control the land of which they have no ownership.

Title deeds – title deeds provide proof of ownership on a particular property. Mortgage lenders will hold onto title deeds as they legally own the property until the mortgage is paid back. Once you have instructed a solicitor they will arrange to obtain the title deeds from the lender, which may take up to 3 weeks.

Transfer deed – a document that legally transfers your property into the name of the buyer. It must be signed by you in the presence of a witness.

Transfer of equity – the document transferring the ownership of a share or interest in a particular property from one person to another.

Wayleave agreement – a formal agreement with a property owner enabling a service provider (electricity or telephone company) to install piping or cabling through or over the property.

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