It’s a sad fact that far too many solicitors use jargon, especially when it comes to conveyancing. Too often legal conveyancing terms simply aren’t explained properly. And that makes the whole process of buying your own home sound even more complicated than it actually is.
So what do all those technical terms solicitors use when it comes to buying and selling a house or flat actually mean?
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Here’s our A to Z conveyancing jargon busting guide. We hope it’s pretty comprehensive, but if there are any conveyancing terms to explain which we have missed – do let us we know.
Absent Freeholder – a missing landlord. This can cause problems for leasehold flat owners.but it can also raise opportunities for better value lease extension in freehold purchase.
Click here to read more about buying leasehold property with an absent freehold
Abstract of title – a chronological summary of relevant title deeds proving history of ownership
Adopted highway – a road or path which is maintained by the local authority at their expense. Distinct from an unadopted or private road which is not maintained at public expense
Advance – the mortgage money when it is paid by the lender.
Adverse possession – acquiring property through continuous occupation, without the permission of the legal owner. Often called “squatters rights”.
Click here to read more about adverse possession
Apportionments – when buying a leasehold flat, you will become responsible for ground rent and service charges. Apportionments cover the situation where the vendor has paid for some of these charges upfront and in advance. There will therefore will be a need for the buyer to reimburse the seller on completion for those costs that would be due for the post completion period
Assignment – the process of transferring a lease.
Assured shorthold tenancy – standard form of tenancy agreement – which allows the landlord to re-take possession of the property at the end of the tenancy term
Bankruptcy Search – a check your solicitor will carry out with the Land Charges Register to make sure that there are no existing or imminent bankruptcy proceedings against the vendor.
Boundaries – the legal definition of the limits of the property being bought or sold. Boundaries are usually hedges, walls or fences, and will be marked clearly on the deeds.
Click here to read more about boundary disputes
Bridging Loan – a loan taken over a short period to bridge a gap between the purchase of one property and the sale of another.
Building regulations – quite different from planning permission. These rules set standards for the design and construction of buildings to to safeguard the health and safety of occupiers or visitors to those buildings, and can cover other issues such as access for the disabled.
Buy to let – property usually bought by a person with the aim of renting it out rather than living in it.
Click here to read more about our buy to let conveyancing service
Capped Rate – a variable mortgage interest rate which has a maximum capped upper limit, and is usually only available for a limited period.
Capital Gains Tax – for landlords this means the tax paid when selling a property that is not your main home. It applies to any profit you have made on the increase in the property’s price. As at October, 2021, the rate currently stands at 28% for higher rate taxpayers and 18% for those paying basic rate income tax.
Certificate of title – the document the conveyancing solicitor gives to the lender to confirm certain statements about the property. It confirms to the lender:
- that the property has a “good and marketable title” i.e. that there are no legal problems with the property, so the lender can lend the mortgage monies safely
- who own the property after completion
- the completion date
Chain – a situation where one buyer can only make a purchase when his own sale goes through and so on down the chain. It is often the case that just a couple of links in the chain can make the process much more complicated.
Chancel repair liability – a financial obligation imposed on some property owners to pay for certain repairs to a church, often the local parish church
Charge – a sum of money for which the property is being used as security. Banks or Building Societies will register a charge against a property if you are buying it using mortgage funds.
Chattels – items of personal property left at a property after someone moves out and which are included in the purchase price. They are set out in the Fixtures, Fittings and Contents form. However there is a difference between chattels and fixtures. In general terms, chattels are movable, such as furniture. In contrast, fixtures are permanently attached to the land and cannot be moved.
Collateral – an item up as security when taking out a loan.
Commonhold – an alternative way of holding property and different from both freehold and leasehold. It only applies to flats or apartments. Commonhold provides a different way for flat owners to share ownership of their block.
Click here to read more about Commonhold ownership
Common Land Search – a search the conveyancer will carry out to establish whether there are rights of fishing or grazing affecting a property.
Common parts – those parts of the building enjoyed by everyone but which do not form an exclusive part of any individual’s flat e.g. communal gardens and stairs.
Completion date – the finishing post of the conveyancing process. At this point, full payment for a property has been made, and the title deeds have been transferred. Many people use this term to mean the day on which you get the keys and move into a new home.
Completion statement – a financial document detailing all the costs associated with the purchase of the property. This is usually sent out after contracts are exchanged, but before the sale completes. This document is particularly important as it sets out the costs due to the conveyancer, including VAT and disbursements.
Condition of sale – the legal terms of the contract for the purchase of a property.
Conservation area – a geographical area where there are extra local planning restrictions meant to ensure the safety of the area’s architectural history
Contract – this is the agreement between a buyer and a seller which is legally binding.
Conveyancer – a catch all term for the solicitor or lawyer who is carrying out your conveyancing. Can also referred to Licenced Conveyancers – those lawyers qualified and regulated by the CLC – the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.
Conveyancing – The legal process when ownership of a property is transferred from the seller to the purchaser.
Click here to read more about the conveyancing process
Conveyancing protocol – The Law Society Conveyancing Protocol provides guidelines to follow when conveyancers act in the sale and/or purchase of a home for an owner-occupier. The Protocol aims to help standardise the conveyancing process, make that process more transparent and efficient as well as improve the experience for solicitors, lenders and client
Court Appointed Manager – All owners of leasehold flats have the right to apply to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) to appoint a new manager of their block.
Click here to read more about the Court Appointed Property Manager
Covenant – Any restrictions and obligations which are associated with the purchase of a property. An obligation means you are legally obliged to take responsibility for the upkeep of something on the property. A restriction means you are forbidden from erecting certain buildings or undertaking certain renovations.
Deed of Guarantee – a type of binding legal contract under which one person agrees to be responsible for another’s debt or mortgage obligations if that other person fails meet their own obligations. These type of agreements are common with loans and commercial finance, as they provide the lender with protection from a borrower failing to pay as agreed
Deed of Postponement – an agreement, normally between two lenders, where they agree that one loan should be “postponed” behind the other lender’s loan. Often this means that one mortgage will become a 2nd charge ranking behind the 1st charge registered at the Land Registry
Deeds – the legal paperwork setting out who owns a property. This is kept by the owner, or by the mortgage company if the property has been bought with a mortgage. The old system of relying on paper Title Deeds have now largely been replaced by land registration at HM Land Registry.
Delayed completion – when you agree a purchase price and exchange contracts with an agreed deposit in the usual way, but completion of the sale is delayed for a period – which can be years.
Deposit – the amount which is paid at the time contracts are exchanged. This confirms the buyers’ commitment to the purchase.
Disbursements – Expenses incurred by the conveyancer or solicitor when working for the buyer. The conveyancer will pass these costs along to the buyer, but might add an additional service charge.
Drainage search – one of a number of searches carried out by your solicitor – to check whether your property is connected to mains water and drainage
Easement – legal term for the right to use someone else’s property for a particular purpose. They include rights of way, which are easements that allow the holder the right to travel across another’s property.
Endowment Mortgage – a interest only mortgage where you also pay for an insurance premium on an endowment policy – in place to pay off the original loan amount at the end of the mortgage term
EPC – Energy Performance Certificate. A document containing information on a property’s energy use and typical energy costs, along with recommendations on how to reduce energy use and thus save money. In England and Wales, from 2020, all privately rented, domestic properties must have an EPC rating of E or better. Failure to provide an EPC for a property can result in a landlord being unable to evict a tenant.
Epitome of title – see abstract of title above
Enfranchisement – the process under which the owners of residential long leasehold flats come together to jointly buy the freehold of their block from the freeholder. Also applies to the freehold purchase of a house.
Click here to read more about lease enfranchisement.
Engrossment – the final version of a document which is the one all parties sign.
Environmental search – another of the searches carried out by your solicitor. It will reveal such issues as whether or not there is a flood risk or if the land your property is built on could be contaminated
Equity – the difference between the market value of a property, and the amount outstanding on a mortgage.
Click here to read about how equity release works
Exchange of Contracts – this is stage when solicitors acting for both the buyer and seller swap signed contracts and the deposit is paid over. At this point in the conveyancing process, the agreement between seller and buyer becomes legally binding.
First Tier Property Tribunal – the tribunal responsible for making decisions in a number of property disputes – ranging from setting the level of lease extension and enfranchisement premiums to service charge disputes. Previously known as the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal or LVT.
Click here to read more about First-Tier Tribunal Property Chamber Disputes
Fixtures and Fittings – items in the property which can sometimes be included or excluded from the property sale.
Flying freehold – where part of the property either overhangs or lies beneath another person’s property – which gives rise to the ‘flying’ part of the name. It does not apply where a block is owned on a leasehold basis
Freehold – a type of property ownership in which not only the property is owned, but also the land on which it stands. The freehold title owner will be registered at the Land Registry, and the freehold can be bought and sold.
Click here to read more about the difference between Freehold and Leasehold
Freeholder – person or persons owning a freehold property
Freehold Company – a company that owns the freehold, usually of a block of flats, following the process of enfranchisement. One share is normally owned by each individual leaseholder who participated in the freehold purchase. Members are often described as ‘having a share of the freehold’.
Freehold Purchase – an alternative phrase describing the process of Enfranchisement (see above)
Further advance – taking on more borrowing from your existing mortgage lender. This may be at a different interest rate to your main mortgage.
Gazumping – what happens when you accept an offer on your property but then agree to accept a better offer from a different buyer. Provided the price changes before exchange (when a legal contract is created), this is perfectly legal. It was very common in the 1980s but largely died out. It tends to creep back in whenever house prices start rising rapidly.
Ground rent – a sum of money which has to be paid by a leaseholder to their landlord each year. The amount of ground rent will be stated in the lease. It could however be subject to change at certain intervals. Ground rent only applies if you have a leasehold property.
Help to Buy – a government scheme to assist first time buyers
HMO – House of Multiple Occupation. A single property with at least three people living together who are not from the same household and share certain facilities (a family counts as one household).
Indemnity Insurance – a policy taken out to give the owner insurance cover if problems should be discovered with the legal title e.g. a breach of covenant or there’s not enough evidence to confirm the building regulations approval.
Index Map Search – a search of the Land Registry records to identify if a particular piece of land is registered or unregistered.
Japanese Knotweed – described by the Environmental Agency as “indisputably the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant”. It can cause significant damage to property and is difficult and expensive to eradicate.
Click here to read more about Japanese Knotweed
Joint tenants – If a property is owned by two people who are “joint tenants”, this means that if one of them dies, their share in the property will pass to the surviving tenant. A joint tenancy trumps anything that is stated in a will.
Click here to read more about joint home ownership or joint property ownership disputes.
Land charges search – a check carried out by purchaser’s solicitor to make sure that the vendor is actually the legal owner of the property you are buying. It involves checking the ‘Title Register’ and ‘Title Plan’ at the Land Registry.
Land Registry – the official body which keeps records of property ownership in England and Wales.
Land transaction tax – the equivalent of stamp duty in Wales
Lease – an agreement between a tenant and freeholder, setting out the deal for the occupation of a property, often for a specific duration or term.
Lease extension – the process by which owners of residential long leasehold flats can individually compel or negotiate an extension of their lease term with the freeholder.
Click here to read more about lease extension
Leasehold – the owner has the right to live in a property for the term given on the lease, but never becomes the owner of the land where their property stands. Click here to read more about buying a leasehold flat
Leaseholder – person or persons owning a leasehold property
Leasehold information form – a standard Law Society form used where the property involved is leasehold. Form TA7 asks a serious of questions specific to leasehold properties. The seller needs to complete this form in addition to the Property Information Form.
Legal charge – see mortgage
Legal pack – the set of documents prepared by the vendor’s solicitor if the property is to be sold at auction.
Click here to read more about auction conveyancing
Lender – the person or company lending money to a purchaser or owner. Usually a building society or bank
Lessor – also known as a landlord – i.e. someone who grants a lease to another, who is known as the lessee
Licence to assign – this is the formal permission granted by the landlord to the leaseholder to buy the property’s leasehold.
Limited Title Guarantee – used where the seller of the property has no personal knowledge of the property – as is often the case when the sale is being made by the executor of an estate. The vendor is not guaranteeing whether or not there are any rights or covenants over the property because of their lack of knowledge.
Listed building – a property included on a list of buildings which are considered to have historic or architectural interest. Listed status can limit alterations to the building
Local Searches – your conveyancer will conduct searches at your local Council covering services and planning. This is done early on in the property purchase, and is designed to make you aware of any plans the Council might have which could affect your property once you’ve moved.
Managing Agents – a company appointed to manage the block of flats and collect service charges – and appointed by the freeholder, residents management company or right to manage company.
Mining search -a search carried out by your solicitor to check if there is any chance of mining activity having been carried out underneath the property you are looking to buy or in the nearby area. Most important in areas where there is current, or has been historic, coal mining. Intended to deal with the risk of subsidence
Modern Method of Auction – a variation on the traditional property auction, held online.
Click here to read more about the modern method of auction
Mortgage – money given to you to buy a property, using that property are security. If you don’t pay, the lender usually has the right to sell the property.
Mortgage Indemnity Policy – A lender will take out this sort of policy to cover their losses if a property has to be repossessed. The insurer providing the policy usually has the right to try to recover any losses from the person taking out the mortgage.
Mortgage offer – this sets out the terms on which your mortgage lender is prepared to loan to you – will include the sum to be borrowed, the interest rate and the period of repayment
Mortgagee – the institution lender the money, which is usually a bank or building society. A mortgage is secured against the property.
Mortgagor – the person borrowing the money.
Negative equity – a situation where the amount of your mortgage or other loan on the house is more than the house is currently worth on the property market.
NHBC – abbreviation of National House Builders Council. They give a ten year guarantee and insurance protection on new build properties. Other similar insurance policies are available – but NHBC is probably the best known.
New build – where the property being bought or sold is a brand-new property
Click here to read more about new build conveyancing
Occupier’s Consent -a legal document signed by someone living in a property but not being the legal owner. Often required by a mortgage company, it provides the mortgage lender with an assurance that they can claim vacant possession – provided that all of those living in the house but not legal owner sign such a document.
Off plan – buying a property, based on plans, before it’s been built.
Office copies – this is the legal document which sets out ownership of your property. It is kept filed at the Land Registry. When conveyancing starts, your solicitor will ask for office copies to be sent to him or her.
Overage – an additional sum which may be due to the vendor after completion if a specified condition is satisfied e.g. grant of planning permission, or sale of properties subsequent built on that sold land
Park Homes – Park homes are constructed off-site and transported to mobile home parks. You don’t own the freehold to a park home – you own the home itself and usually rent the pitch on which it is based. As a result the process of buying a park home is quite different from conveyancing
Participation Agreement – a formal document used in the enfranchisement process committing those involved to jointly buying the freehold of their block.
Click here to read more about the enfranchisement participation agreement
Party wall – a wall built on the property boundary which gives support to the structures on both sides of the boundary. can be the because of disputes between neighbours.
Click here to read more about party wall boundary disputes
Property Information Form (PIF) – officially known as form TA6, this is a series of questions which the seller must complete. It is part of the contract pack, and the purchaser is entitled to rely on the information contained in it. That means it must be accurately completed. It covers issues such as boundaries, any existing guarantees and information about work completed at the property.
Possessory title – a category of ownership where an owner is unable to provide documentary evidence of their title to the land or where someone has claimed ownership through adverse possession .
Click here to read about Selling Land With Possessory Title
Purchaser – someone who buys a property
Quiet enjoyment – A covenant that provides a tenant or landowner with the right to the undisturbed use and enjoyment of property. Please note that courts routinely accept that any tenant has the right to quiet enjoyment of the leased premises regardless of whether the tenancy agreement contains such a covenant.
Redemption – the act of paying off your mortgage.
Redemption penalty – a penalty payment charged under some loan agreements by a lender if a loan is paid off before the end of the term
Registered land – any piece of land for which the Land Registry holds details about its ownership.
Remortgaging – the process of clearing one mortgage with the proceeds from a fresh mortgage with the same or a different lender and using the same property as security.
Click here to read more about remortgage conveyancing
Repossession – the process whereby a mortgage company will take over possession of your property if you fail to keep up with your mortgage payments. This can lead to eviction and the subsequent forced sale of the property by the mortgage company
Click here to read more about repossessed property conveyancing
Requisition on title – questions which the conveyancer might about the legal ownership of the property, and how that should be transferred.
Residents’ Management Company (or RMC) – a company set up by residents to manage a block of flats on behalf of the freeholder under the terms of the lease. Each leaseholder is usually a shareholder, with the RMC company often a party to the lease.
Click here to read about the Difference Between An RMC And Right To Manage Company
Residents’ Association – an informal representative body of flat owners and sometimes their tenants). It is fundamentally different from an Residents’ Management Company, even though its membership could be the same.
Reservation fee – a payment to a builder as deposit to reserve a property not yet built
Retention – any money which is held back when buying a new property until that property is fully completed.
Right of way – the legal right, established by use or grant, to travel over someone else’s land to get from one point to another.
Click here to read more about rights of way
Right to manage – the process under which the owners of residential long leasehold flats are legally entitled to come together to jointly take over responsibility for managing their block from their freeholder. This is carried out under an RTM or Right to Manage Company
Click here to read more about the right to manage
Searches – standard questions carried out at the beginning of the conveyancing process for buyers by your solicitor to find out important information about the property. They include a local authority search, environmental search and drainage search. In some parts of the country there will also include more specialist searches – such as mining or radon gas searches
Service Charge – money payable to a freeholder to cover maintenance and repairs to a property.
Shared driveway – either a drive owned equally by all those who use it or, alternatively, a private access road owned by one person with permission for others who need access to use it.
Shared ownership – a unique type of home ownership where you own part of the property and rent the rest. The other party is normally a Housing Association, and there is usually the option to increase your ownership share or by your property outright. It sometimes known as Shared equity” or“Part rent, part buy”
Click here to read more about Shared Ownership Conveyancing
Sinking Funds – monies collected from the leaseholders towards maintenance of the building, including “future major works”. These monies are held in trust, on behalf of the building, so that cash is available when any work is needed. Also known as Reserve Funds
Staircasing – the process of increasing your ownership of the shared ownership property(see above) – usually through buying extra shares
Click here to read more about Staircasing
Stamp Duty – the government tax on the purchase of property. Sometimes referred to as SDLT (stamp duty land tax)
Statutory Lease Extension – the legal right of leaseholders to compel their freeholder to extend the lease on their property by an extra 90 years, under S42 of theLeasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 . This formal route is quite different from an informal or voluntary lease extension.
Click here to find out more about Statutory Lease Extensions
STC – Sold Subject to Contract ( see below).
Structural survey – a report giving details about the essential structure of a property.
Subject to Contract – An agreement which has not yet become legally binding. In terms of property purchase, the deal is “subject to contract” until contracts are exchanged.
Survey – when you are buying a house or flat there are a number of different surveys you might consider – some are more detailed than others. The main surveys you will need to consider are the following:
- RICS Condition Report
- RICS HomeBuyer Report
- RICS Building Survey
- New-build snagging report
Term – can refer to a lease term, which is the unexpired length of the lease. Can also refer to a mortgage term – the period of time agreed for repayment of the loan
Tenant – someone living in a property owned by a landlord.
Tenants in common – An arrangement made by two or more people who own a property. If one of them dies, their share of the property is passed on according to what their will says. If they haven’t made a will, the normal laws of intestacy apply.
Click here to read more about the difference between joint tenancy and tenants in common
Tenure – this refers to how property is held – freehold or leasehold.
Term – any specified period of time, such as the length of time a mortgage is held for, or the length of the lease.
Title – the ownership of a property.
Title deeds – the documents which prove your legal right or title to your property. They include conveyances, contracts for sale, mortgages and leases. You no longer need these title deeds to prove ownership if the property has been registered with the Land Registry.
Title plan – a plan held by the Land Registry showing the physical extent of any registered land
Transfer – the legal document for the exchange of ownership of the property.
Transfer of equity – where one or more of the existing legal owners agrees to transfer ownership of a part share in the property to another person. Commonly used for a transfer of the former matrimonial home following divorce
Tree Preservation Order – often referred to as a TPO, these are usually made by the local council to protect a specific tree or trees from any deliberate damage and destruction. This makes it a criminal offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, or wilfully damage any specified trees without prior written consent from local council.
Unadopted highway – a private road or path. It is not necessarily a road offering public access
Underlease – a lease which is not held directly from the freeholder, but from a tenant. This often arises when a tenant create a lease below their own existing lease. Many leases will not allow an underlease
Unexpired term – the remaining term on a lease e.g. a lease originally granted for 125 years, will have an unexpired term of 100 years after 25 years
Unregistered land – land or property that is not yet been registered for the 1st time with the Land Registry. The title deeds (see above) will be required to prove ownership
Utilities – services provided to any property, including gas, electric, water, phone land line and internet.
Vacant possession – where a property is sold without any occupiers – and without any possessions belonging to the previous owner being left in the property
Valuation Survey – a mortgage lender will require this sort of survey to be done to assess the value of the property they are lending on.
Vendor – someone who sells a property
Wayleaves – a personal contract under which the owner or occupier of land allows another to access their privately owned land to carry out specified activities in exchange for some form of compensation
Click here to find out more about the conveyancing process timeline