Gowen & Stevens offers a specialised, personal and competitive service for all residential sales and purchases throughout England and Wales.

We pride ourselves on having good relations with estate agents, other property lawyers and professionals, so that we can all work together towards the satisfactory conclusion of your particular transaction. We are panel solicitors for most banks and building societies, so we are usually able to act for your mortgage lender without extra cost to you whether you are buying or selling.

Buying & selling your home

We are able to act on your behalf with regard to selling and buying property. Our established conveyancing department are available to assist in what sometimes can be a stressful time.

Our staff are trained to provide a personal, high quality and friendly service with a minimum of fuss. We guide you through the transaction as smoothly as possible and explain the process in plain terms thus avoiding legal jargon. As part of our service we will invite you to our office to explain in detail the documents relating to your transaction and deal with any queries face to face. This forms part of our fee at no additional cost.

We are able to give both verbal and written quotations setting out the costs in detail to avoid any unexpected financial surprises. We will set out clearly our fees together with the costs of searches, Stamp Duty Land Tax, Land Registry fees and any other legal related costs.

The majority of our business is obtained through personal recommendation from either existing clients or local estate agents.

“The conveyancing process”

The process can be relatively complex, however, to help you understand we detail below a general guide as to the stage of events:

“Sale”

Upon receiving your instructions we will obtain a copy of your title from the Land Registry. We will then request that you complete various property forms, which will relate to your individual type of transaction. If you have problems in completing these forms we will assist you.

If you have a mortgage on the property we will write to your lender to request a provisional redemption statement to ascertain approximately how much is outstanding on your mortgage.

If you are selling a leasehold property we will contact your freeholder/management company on your behalf to obtain vital information from them as to the situation with regarding to maintenance charges, buildings insurance and other related matters. The freeholder/management company will usually make a charge and we will advise you as soon as we have this information. We will ask you to provide us with the original lease if you have this, or alternatively we will obtain an office copy from the Land Registry. The Land Registry make a charge for providing this.

Once we have collated the information together we will prepare a contract in duplicate, which will be sent to the buyer’s legal representative for approval together with supporting documentation.

The legal representative for the buyer will peruse the documentation, carry out appropriate searches against your property and raise any enquiries that they feel necessary. We will answer the enquiries with your assistance.

It is usual that at around this time we will ask you to sign the contract in readiness for exchange of contracts. A completion date will be agreed between the parties. This is the date that you move house and has to take place on a weekday. Once contracts have been formally exchanged the contract becomes legal and binding.

Following exchange of contracts we will contact your lender to obtain a final redemption statement, prepare a cash statement detailing all of the costs including any estate agents fees and redemption fees and provide you with a copy. We will settle any costs on your behalf on completion out of the sale proceeds.

If you have a related purchase the sale and purchase, unless otherwise instructed, will be synchronised.

“Purchase”

The seller’s legal representative will provide us with a contract and evidence of title together with completed property forms, which will provide general information relating to the property together with a fixtures and fittings form, which will detail items to be left at the property.

We will carry out various searches against the property, check the title and peruse the property forms, and raise any questions necessary including any that you may wish us to raise on your behalf.

If the property you are purchasing is leasehold we will check the lease and raise specific enquiries relating to management costs, ground rent, buildings insurance and any major works which may be due in the future.

You will be responsible for arranging your mortgage, if required, and instructing a surveyor to inspect the property. You may not wish to merely rely on the inspection of the property by the lender and instruct your own surveyor.

Once the result of the searches, replies to enquiries and a satisfactory mortgage offer (if required) has been received, we will prepare for you a full written report relating to the property transaction generally. At this stage you will be invited to the office to discuss the matter generally and to sign the contract. You will be advised by us when you are required to provide the deposit.

Once you are fully satisfied and the rest of the chain (if appropriate) are ready to proceed formal exchange will take place. The completion date will be agreed and this will be a legally binding contract.

There is a period of time between exchange of contracts and completion to enable us to contact your lender (if required) to request your mortgage funds, carry out various Land Registry searches against the property to protect your interest and carry out final administration tasks.

On completion we will arrange for the funds to be telegraphically transferred through the banking system and we will notify you when you are able to collect your keys.

Following completion we will pay the Stamp Duty Land Tax (“SDLT”) on your behalf and prepare the appropriate forms for the property to be registered at the Land Registry. If the property is leasehold we will notify the freeholder/management company that you are the new owner of the property.

Once registration has been completed we will provide you with a copy of the new registered title showing you as the new owner.

YOU WILL APPRECIATE THAT THE ABOVE IS MERELY A GUIDE AS EACH TRANSACTION IS UNIQUE.

Please telephone our conveyancing department direct to discuss your needs.

We are also able to assist in the following land related matters:

  • Extending your lease
  • Leasehold enfranchisement
  • Remortgaging
  • Tenancy agreements and deposits
  • Transfer of equity

Letting your property

All the rules and regulations surrounding the letting of a property have made it a minefield for those people who are dealing with it for the first time or who are not professional landlords.

Almost all tenancy agreements are now given on the basis of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. However, if you take a rent deposit from the tenant then there are strict regulations relating to the time period (30 days from the date the deposit was received) within which you must arrange for the deposit to be protected in one of the schemes approved by the government for more information see www.mydeposits.co.uk or www.tds.gb.com.

The regulations also require that certain information (known as Prescribed Information) is given to the tenant within the same 30 day period.

We can help you by preparing the tenancy agreement (unless your letting agent has already prepared it) and advising you in relation to the protection of the deposit as well as the Prescribed Information that has to be given to the tenant.

If you do not protect the deposit and serve the Prescribed Information within the 30 day time period then this could make it difficult for you to evict the tenant. You could also be at risk of a court ordering a penalty against you of up to three times the amount of the deposit.

Remortgaging

We are on the panel of lawyers for most mortgage providers. This means that we can act on your behalf if you decide to change your mortgage from one bank, building society or other lending institution to another. There can be a number of reasons why you would wish to remortgage your property and amongst those could be for a better interest rate or different term. It is always wise to check with your existing mortgage provider as to whether there are any penalties attached to your existing mortgage.

Once your application to the mortgage provider has been completed then they will issue a mortgage offer to you and instruct us usually at the same time. It is our job to ensure that all of the conditions of the mortgage have been met and, as part of our service, we will carry out various tasks on behalf of the provider. These tasks will include checking the title of your property and in some instances carrying out various searches.

We will repay your existing mortgage on completion and apply for the funds from the new mortgage provider and then account to you for any balance of funds. Once completion has taken place we will arrange for the new mortgage to be registered at the Land Registry and provide you with a copy of the completed entry.

Transfer of equity

A transfer of equity means transferring land between parties. Example 1 - Mr Brown purchased a property and decided to transfer half or a share of that property to Miss Smith. Example 2 - Mr Brown and Miss Smith purchased a property together and they have agreed for Miss Smith to purchase Mr Brown’s share thus making her the sole owner.

We are able to prepare the appropriate documentation in arranging for a transfer to occur, including preparing a deed of trust, which would show the shares that have been transferred and what would happen if any arrangement set out in the first example failed between the parties. We will also consider at that point as to whether it would be necessary for one of the parties to seek separate legal representation.

On completion of the transfer we will arrange for the transfer document to be registered at the Land Registry and provide you with a copy of the completed Land Registry document.

There can be numerous issues surrounding a transfer of equity and we would advise you accordingly at the appropriate time, including Stamp Duty Land Tax implications. If there is an existing mortgage, the mortgage provider would have to provide their consent and in some instances the parties might consider it beneficial to obtain a new mortgage.

The above is, of course, merely an example; there can be various scenarios and we are happy to discuss each individual case personally.

Extending your lease

Did you know that if you have a lease of a flat, you will, in most cases, have a right to ask for your lease to be extended by a period of 90 years?

This is a right that was introduced by the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 which because of its rather long name is usually just known as the 1993 Act.

You do have to pay a premium to your landlord for extending the lease term. If you cannot reach an agreement with the other party then there is a procedure in place which allows the matter to be referred to the property tribunals. They will then decide the amount of any premium that should be paid.

If you have to serve a notice on the landlord under the 1993 Act then we can help you with the drafting of the notices or if you are a landlord then we can advise you what to do when you receive a notice and what needs to be done next.

We work with a number of surveyors’ firms who specialise in the valuations required under the 1993 Act.