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Lloyds uses search specialists to monitor conveyancing panel

Lloyds TSB, the biggest player in the mortgage market and owner of Halifax, is using property search specialists SearchFlow to help validate its conveyancing panel, it has emerged.

23 May 2012

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The Law Society and the HSBC announced last week that they had resolved their dispute over the bank’s decision to cut its panel membership to only 43 firms. Instead HSBC agreed to instruct the 1,400 law firms which have obtained the society’s CQS quality mark (see, 17 May 2012).

Richard Hinton, business development director of SearchFlow, said: “CQS is positive and useful adjunct, but it’s not the complete answer. We collect data which the lender individually applies its criteria to.”

Hinton said around a third of the Lloyds’ panel firms were visited in person by SearchFlow during the validation process, which is due to finish at the end of next month.

He said the checks, on both firms and individuals, would be carried out annually, but monitoring would be ongoing, if for example a conveyancer was disciplined by the SRA or a firm mentioned in the media for the wrong reasons.

Hinton said the validation process had been discussed with the Law Society, the Council for Mortgage Lenders and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.

“Our hope is to persuade other lenders to join the scheme, so a firm is validated only once and that can be used by a range of lenders.”

Hinton said HSBC’s decision to operate a panel with just 43 firms “always felt like a brave experiment” and removing the panel manager and their fee scale for firms with CQS was a logical step.

“But although the number of firms able to work for HSBC has now hugely increased, there remain between three and four thousand firms who are still excluded.

“To truly create a level playing field for conveyancers, manage risk for lenders and to give clients the fullest possible choice of conveyancers, a system that gives universal access to rigorous panel validation is needed.”

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