AmTrust-insured solicitors prepare for significant CML Handbook amendments

Legal risk experts Lexsure will be giving conveyancers with AmTrust PI insurance an exclusive sneak-preview of the most extensive set of Handbook changes in twelve years.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders have notified Lexsure that they intend to publish important amendments to the CML Lenders’ Handbook for England and Wales on 1 December. The changes represent the largest number of amendments made to part 1 of the Handbook since its latest edition was published in 2002. In all, 33 sections, more than 10 % of the Handbook will be amended.

Lexsure approached strategic partners AmTrust Europe Limited, an ‘A’ rated insurance company, to offer webinar sessions for firms with AmTrust professional indemnity insurance policies. AmTrust, together with its brokers Howden and JLT Specialty, reacted promptly, and a series of exclusive webinars will take place in late November for the insurer’s client law firms.

The live 40 minute webinars, including Q&A, will be hosted by Lexsure chief executive and experienced conveyancer Simon Seaton. They are designed to help law firms gain an insight into the forthcoming changes and enjoy the benefits of dedicated, expert training on the issues raised.

Russell Newell of AmTrust commented, “CML requirements are not guidelines; they are instructions from a conveyancer’s most important client – the lender who funds most purchases. With those instructions about to change in the lead-up to one of busiest times of the year for conveyancers, we wanted to help our law firms reduce the risk of missing these important changes. We are urging our firms to attend the webinars later this month.”


Places at the webinars are limited to firms who are insured with AmTrust and bookings can be made at or

Howden Windsor and Lexsure help firms save thousands on PII

Howden Windsor, the specialist Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) division of Howden Insurance Brokers Limited, has announced an exclusive arrangement with software provider Lexsure which could see law firms save thousands of pounds on their annual premium. 

Howden Windsor clients who are insured by A-rated insurer AmTrust Europe can save money on their Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) premium each and every time they use COMPLETIONmonitor, Lexsure’s bespoke conveyancing risk management tool. 

The online checklist has been designed specifically to reduce errors and omissions which may be made in conveyancing transactions. This risk mitigation software is the first of its kind to be directly linked to lower expenditure on PII premiums for law firms.

With the average 2013/14 PII premium for 4 to 10 partner law firms at well over £50,000 and often representing over 5% of firms’ gross fee income, PII is a significant expense to all firms, regardless of size or claims history. This has led Howden Windsor and AmTrust to seek innovative ways to help firms to make savings on their premium. 

In 2013, Howden Windsor announced its exclusive facility with AmTrust for 4 to 10 partner firms. With a broad risk appetite, straightforward approach to quotation and the option of policy periods in excess of 12 months, Howden Windsor and AmTrust listened to the needs of firms of this size and responded 

with a facility designed to meet them. 

Howden Windsor and AmTrust have now taken their commitment to clients one step further by offering firms a £10 saving on the following years’ premium for each and every conveyancing transaction that is carried out using COMPLETIONmonitor. 

CML supported software to save law firms “tens of thousands of pounds”

Legal risk software house Lexsure and AmTrust Europe Limited, an ‘A’ rated insurance company, have signed a groundbreaking agreement that for the first time links the use of risk mitigation software with lower expenditure on professional indemnity (PI) premiums for law firms, a move that could be worth tens of thousands of pounds for some firms.
Professional indemnity premiums are a great concern for law firms, as, particularly for smaller firms, they can constitute one of the largest costs to the business aside from salaries. Furthermore, a practice that is refused PI cover can be forced to go out of business, a fate that befell some firms in England and Wales last year.
Now, for the first time, law firms can evidence their lower risk profile for conveyancing transactions by using Lexsure’s COMPLETIONmonitor software, an online checklist, tailor-made for conveyancers to reduce and eliminate errors and omissions.
COMPLETIONmonitor has previously been recognised as a valuable risk mitigation tool but AmTrust have now taken an innovative step and will reward firms that reduce their risk profile by using COMPLETIONmonitor in the conveyancing process. Firms who insure with AmTrust can expect a per case savings on their PI renewals for each case completed with the software. Even for small firms with active conveyancing practices, this is likely to result in a saving of thousands of pounds.
Russell Newell, Head of Professional Indemnity at AmTrust Europe, said ‘We appreciate that the cost of PI insurance premiums has a great impact on law firms, particularly for firms that do a lot of conveyancing, due to the frequency and size of claims in that field. We believe it is right and fair to offer a financial reward to firms that empirically demonstrate risk mitigation by using COMPLETIONmonitor’.


CLC View on Lender Panels

The CLC expressed some interesting views concerning conveyancing panels

The webinar hosted by CLC chair Anna Bradley but it was it’s Sheila Kumar as its Chief Executive Sheila Kumar who had the most to say about lender panels.

Applying get onto or removal from lenders panels is a concern for every conveyancing professional.

Ms Kumar acknowledged having spoken to very many practices who have lost work because of a lenders decision, not to include them on their panel and clearly that’s something and therefore the CLC is taking the issue very seriously.

The CLC took the opportunity to make it clear about what the role of the CLC is in this, because as a regulatory body rather than as a representative body.

Kumar asked delegated to get in touch with any issues as the CLC want make sure that there are no issues that are with lenders at the moment, which often may just be misinformation that may prevent licensed conveyancers getting into panels.  She wnt on to say “..where we think that there are, perhaps, some systemic issues, perhaps some overhang from previous practices, we are dealing with those things.  We’re in strong conversations with the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the Building Societies Association, and indeed lenders specifically to raise awareness of what licensed conveyances are, but also to address some of the issues that sometimes have existed.  And those sometimes just fall into the category of people being asked to provide a solicitor’s role number which is clearly not something that a licensed conveyancer was ever able to do”

The CLC sought to clarify that as a regulator  what they can not do is to intervene on specific issues that are, in a sense, the, the, more of the representative side for any particular practices having a difficulty.


Law Society Advertises Jobs to Assist in evolution of Conveyancing Portal

The Law Society is currently developing an online conveyancing portal to streamline the process and improve communication between solicitors, conveyancers, clients and stakeholders including Land Registry and HMRC. It is expected to go live this year.

The Law Society is seeking to identify a group of subject matter experts to advise on the incorporation of practitioner best practice processes into the development of the conveyancing portal from early design phases, through testing to the launch of the product, and also post-launch.

The adverts explains that the job represents  an opportunity to be right at the “heart” of this new service for conveyancers. The importance of practitioner input in the design and build phase cannot be over-estimated. The intention is that this portal should be a resource for all professionals involved in residential property matters. At a later stage when addressing service for clients the Law Society  will also seek to involve consumers and other stakeholders.

To apply click here

C. Hoare & Co becomes a member of the CML

C.Hoare and Co has become the 117th member of the CML  but as yet has not published any CML Handbook requirements.

Founded in 1672, C. Hoare & Co is the UK’s oldest, independently owned private bank. Its board comprises seven shareholding partners, all descendants of the bank’s founder, along with five other directors.

CML Warns Practitioners to be Aware of Potential Impact of MMR on Conveyancing Transactions

The CML have now published a note on the CML Handbook landing page advising that on 26th April 2014, new mortgage market rules come into force.

The CML have advised that there may be some impacts on individual conveyancing transactions as a result.

The three main points to be aware of are as follows:

 1. Where no formal mortgage offer has been issued, in effect where the application has not been fully underwritten by the lender, as at 26th April 2014 (e.g., the case has only been given an Agreement In Principle/Decision In Principle by the lender) then the case will have to be underwritten using the new responsible lending rules ( some lenders such as Virgin Money may have already implemented these rules prior to formal MMR implementation). Theoretically this could delay the issuing of offers as the the case would have to be looked at through the new lending rules.

2. Where a formal mortgage offer has been issued as at 26th April 2014, i.e. the application has been fully underwritten, the case can proceed to completion provided no material change occurs in relation to affordability between offer and completion. The case proceeds as normal.

3. Should a material change occur in relation to affordability between mortgage offer and completion the lender will have to reassess the case using the new MMR responsible lending rules and decide if they wish to continue with the offer, amend it or withdraw it. There are some specific instances of what constitutes a material change in the MMR rules, however, outside of these; lenders will have differing policies about what constitutes a material change in terms of their lending policies.

Lenders will be managing their pipeline cases in different ways and will have individual requirements/materiality thresholds in relation to processing changes to mortgage applications.

 As well as the above, there will be a more detailed and prescribed advice process for lenders when advising potential borrowers. Under the new rules, the majority of sales will be advised – in particular, interactive sales where there is a spoken or interactive dialogue with the consumer during the sale will be deemed to be advised.

It remains to be seen if there will be any CML Part 2 changes in light of the new MMR rules.

Further information can be found here.

Birmingham Midshires Conveyancing Panel Portal Different to CQS

In addressing various concerns voiced by solicitors about the Lender Exchange, Decision First director Justin Parkinson has clarified the destination between the Lender Exchange (soon to be adopted by Llyods Banking Group) and CQS.

Parkinson admitted that CQS had been “a huge step in the right direction” but that it did not cover non-SRA regulated firms. By this he means licensed conveyancers regulated by the CLC.

He added: “Some lenders also say CQS doesn’t go far enough, so some CQS firms don’t make it onto panels.”

Parkinson did not delve into where he, or lender such as Birmingham Midshires  believe that there are deficiencies in CQS. Furthermore, he confirmed that criteria to be on panels such as the Birmingham Midshires Conveyancing panel are unlikely to be changed as a result of the lender exchange portal.

“Lender Exchange will not change anything about the decisions that lenders make today on panel appointments. Lenders will make their decisions independently of each other and Lender Exchange will not facilitate the sharing of these decisions – each lender’s view of the system and firms on their panel is theirs and theirs alone,” Parkinson said.




Halifax Conveyancing Panel To Help Lawyers Not Just Lenders

The creators of the Lender Exchange, the platform behind the proposed Halifax Conveyancing Panel Portal have declared that the technology “will benefit law firms”,

In response to vocalised and ongoing suspicion on the part of property solicitors  that the new scheme has been set up solely in the interest of lenders, Decision First have said “There is no doubt that lenders will see benefits in their panel management activities, but what we’re launching is more about delivering benefits to law firms than to lenders,”.

Talking to Solicitors Journal, Decision First director Justin Parkinson said that the original launch date of 31 March had been pushed back by four weeks to late April as the company was still testing processes and migrating data held by law firms on the Santander conveyancing panel, one of the main three lenders that have signed up to the scheme at launch. No dates have yet been announced for the Halifax (or Lloyds group) portal.


BSA comments on the Budget

Commenting on the Budget, BSA Chief Executive, Robin Fieth said:
“The BSA has campaigned for years for the reformation of the ISA rules.  Finally the Chancellor has listened and we are delighted that he has done exactly what we have been calling for:  Increased the limit; delivered a single allowance which no longer penalises savers who want to invest in cash and allowed the transfer of funds in either direction between cash and stocks & shares ISAs.  This will benefit many mid and lower income savers, especially those nearing retirement.  We are also pleased that he has accepted the need to reform the 10p tax rate on savings, this new 0% rate must be simple for savers to claim.
“We also welcome the Chancellor’s proposals to boost house building, particularly  the extension of Help to Buy: equity loan and the support for self-builders.  Care is needed here that incoming regulation from Europe does not undo this welcome boost for self-build.
“Once again, however, the opportunity to reform the slab structure of Stamp Duty, which distorts the housing market has been missed.   Changes are already planned to move to a progressive stamp duty land tax in Scotland in 2015 and we’d encourage the Chancellor to ensure that England does not trail behind.”