Conveyancers

FAQs

Registering as a conveyancer
Who can act as a conveyancer?

To apply for a government bonus on behalf of your client, you must be an ‘eligible conveyancer’ as defined in the scheme rules (section 4.6). This can be found here.

How do I apply to be an eligible conveyancer in the Help to Buy: ISA scheme?

If you are an eligible conveyancer as defined in the scheme rules, you will have to register with the Help to Buy: ISA scheme and agree to adhere to the scheme rules and the conveyancer guidelines. These can be accessed here.

If you agree to abide by the scheme rules and conveyancer guidelines and wish to be part of the Help to Buy: ISA scheme, then you can proceed to registering your firm with the Conveyancer Portal by visiting here.

The timeframe to conduct assurance and to be accepted onto the Conveyancer Portal can vary and will depend on whether your firm is a pre-existing member of Lender Exchange.

If you are unclear on any part of registering with the Conveyancer Portal, you can refer to a step by step guide found here. If you encounter any difficulties during registration that cannot be resolved with the assistance of the user guide, you should contact the Scheme Administrator through the ‘Contact Us’ option on the Conveyancer Portal here.

What if I am not registered with Lender Exchange?

You can still apply for government bonuses if you are not registered with Lender Exchange, but please be aware that there may be a delay in processing your bonus. You can register through the Conveyancer Portal here.

How much can I charge my client to process their bonus application?

You can charge your client up to £50 + VAT for processing their bonus application.

Conveyancer Portal
I don’t know who the portal administrator is within my firm – what can I do?

Contact the Scheme Administrator through the ‘Contact Us’ option on the Conveyancer Portal here.

I can’t remember my password, what can I do?

Please refer to the Conveyancer Portal User Guide which will tell you how to reset your password. It can be viewed here.

I have forgotten my six memorable  questions – what can I do?

You will need to complete a Technical Contact Request via the ‘Contact Us’ section of the Conveyancer Portal, this can be accessed here. The scheme administrator will then send via email a link to enable you to reset your questions.

Eligibility
What is the definition of a first time buyer?

A first-time buyer is someone who does not own, and has never had an interest in a residential property anywhere in the UK or elsewhere. A full definition of this can be found here.

Is the Help to Buy: ISA bonus intended for exchange or completion?

The Help to Buy: ISA bonus must be claimed on your client’s behalf in anticipation of the completion date. The bonus must be included with the funds consolidated at the completion of the property transaction. The bonus cannot be used for the deposit due at the exchange of contracts, to pay for solicitor’s, estate agent’s fees or any other indirect costs associated with buying a home.

Will my client be able to use their Help to Buy: ISA bonus for the deposit at the exchange of contracts?

The government bonus is paid once it is certain the transaction will go ahead. This means that in most cases you will claim the bonus between exchange and completion. If your client is in the situation where they need the government bonus to make up the deposit on exchange of contracts then you should be able to agree a smaller deposit at exchange with the seller; with the promise of the government bonus to follow as part of the overall deposit.

Does the Help to Buy: ISA bonus contribute towards the deposit my client needs to buy their first home?

Yes. The government bonus contributes towards a first-time buyer’s overall deposit (sometimes referred to as the ‘mortgage deposit’) and therefore increases their savings for their first home. When calculating the size of a mortgage, banks, building societies and credit unions will seek evidence of the funds that a first-time buyer has available to put towards their first home. This will include the amount that has been saved into their Help to Buy: ISA account and banks, building societies and credit unions will factor in the amount of the government bonus into their calculation of how much needs to be borrowed.

What is the difference between an exchange deposit and a mortgage deposit?

A ‘mortgage deposit’ is the amount a first-time buyer contributes towards their first home upfront. For instance, a first-time buyer may pay 5% of the value of the property upfront and borrow the remaining 95% from a bank or building society.

An ‘exchange deposit’ is the money a conveyancer pays to the seller’s conveyancer at the point of exchanging signed copies of the contract.

Is the size of an exchange deposit negotiable?

Yes. An exchange deposit can be negotiable. If your client is in the situation where they need the government bonus to make up the deposit on exchange of contracts then you should be able to agree a smaller deposit at exchange with the seller; with the promise of the government bonus to follow as part of the overall deposit.

Can my client use the money saved in a Help to Buy: ISA for the deposit at exchange of contracts?

Yes. If your client plans to use the money they have in their Help to Buy: ISA to pay for the deposit at exchange of contacts they will need to let their ISA provider know. Their ISA manager will then close their account and provide them with a closing statement. They can then withdraw their savings from their account and use those savings towards the deposit at exchange. It is important that they don’t just withdraw their savings without getting a closing statement. The government bonus will be paid out just prior to completion and contribute to the overall deposit.

Can the Help to Buy: ISA be used with other Government housing schemes?

Yes. Your client can use the Help to Buy: ISA with other Government schemes, like the Help to Buy: mortgage guarantee and Equity Loan schemes (subject to meeting the eligibility requirements of the other scheme/s they wish to participate in).  Details of Government housing schemes can be found at ownyourownhome.gov.uk.

Is the property my client is buying eligible for the government bonus?

To qualify for the government bonus, the property your client is buying must: be in the UK, have a price of £250,000 or less (with a higher price limit of £450,000 in London), be the only home they will own, be where they intend to live and be purchased with a mortgage.

What is the maximum that the property can cost to qualify for a government bonus?

To qualify for a government bonus, the property being purchased must have a price of £250,000 or less (or a higher price limit of £450,000 in London) and your client must be a first time buyer.

How do I know if the property my client is buying is eligible for the London price cap?

A link to the London boroughs that are eligible for the £450,000 price cap can be found here.

Does my client have to live in the home they are buying?

Yes. It must be their only home, and be where they intend to live.

Are there any exceptions for members of the armed forces and their spouses or civil partners to rent out the property being purchased?

For members of the armed forces and their spouses or civil partners, if they intend to use the property as their main residence, then they will still be eligible for the scheme, even if they are unable to live in it as their main home when they first purchase it. When they first purchase the property, they will be able to rent it out until they are able to move in.

What if my client’s personal or professional circumstances change after they buy the property and need to rent it out?

The Government recognises that individual’s personal or professional circumstances may change at some point in the future, in which case they may need to rent out their property.

The Government is clear that it will not claim Help to Buy: ISA bonuses back from people whose personal or professional circumstances have changed and who need to make different arrangements for their property, for example if their employment status or family circumstance changed.

However, in accordance with the rules of the Help to Buy: ISA scheme, if a person claims a Help to Buy: ISA bonus and has no intention to make the property their sole residence, then the Government will seek a return of the bonus.

Are shared ownership properties eligible for a government bonus?

Yes, if all the other scheme eligibility criteria are met.

What is the property price cap for shared ownership schemes?

In the context of shared ownership properties the price cap applies to the full sale price of the property rather than the share you buy. For shared ownership properties the full sale price is a multiple of the equity share being purchased. This means that if your client is purchasing a 25% equity share of a property for £50,000, the full sale price is £200,000. Alternatively, you can calculate the full sale price based on the price paid for the equity share your client is buying plus the net present value of rental payments due over the term of the lease.

Based on this information you will be able to advise your client on whether the property they are purchasing is within the price limit and if it is eligible for a government bonus. It is important to point out that your client can use the funds they have saved into their Help to Buy: ISA towards their property purchase whether the property is eligible for a government bonus or not.

Are joint ownership property purchases (including tenants in common and joint tenant property purchases) eligible for a government bonus?

Yes, if all the other scheme eligibility criteria are met.

What is the property price cap for a joint ownership (including tenants in common and joint tenant) property purchase?

In the context of joint ownership (including tenants-in-common and joint tenants), the house price cap applies to the full sale price rather than the share being purchased.

Based on this information you will be able to advise your client on whether the property they are purchasing is within the price limit and if it is eligible for a government bonus. It is important to point out that your client can use the funds they have saved into their Help to Buy: ISA towards their property purchase whether the property is eligible for a government bonus or not.

Can my client use the Help to Buy: ISA bonus to buy land to build their first property on?

Assuming that your client meets all the other eligibility criteria, the government bonus can be used towards the purchase of the land for a self-build property.

My client already owns land. Can they use the Help to Buy: ISA bonus to fund the construction of a property?

No. The ownership of land precludes a person from participating in the Help to Buy: ISA scheme; where the land comprises a building that is used or is suitable for uses as a dwelling, or is in the process of being constructed or adapted for such use.

Can my client use the Help to Buy: ISA bonus to refinance a mortgage?

No

Does my client have to be named on the mortgage of the property they are buying?

In order to be eligible for a government bonus your client needs to be on the title deed of the property and the property must be purchased with the assistance of a mortgage. Under the Help to Buy: ISA Scheme Rules, an individual does not need to be named on the mortgage of the property, however their lender may require all individuals named on the title deed to also be named on the mortgage.

What is a legal mortgage?

As stated in the Scheme Rules, a legal mortgage is defined by reference to the Law of Property Act 1925.

Can my client buy a property without a mortgage and be eligible for a government bonus?

No. The property your client is buying must be mortgaged in order to be eligible for the government bonus.

Claiming a government bonus
When should my client close their Help to Buy: ISA?

If you are registered with the scheme, the end-to-end process can take up to 30 calendar days from the day your client closes their Help to Buy: ISA to receipt of their government bonus. It can take longer if you are not registered with the scheme.

From the point at which your client closes their Help to Buy: ISA, they will have 12 months within which to claim their bonus. The bonus must be claimed on your client’s behalf in anticipation of the completion date. The bonus must be included with the funds consolidated at the completion of the property transaction.

An individual will only be able to redeposit funds into a Help to Buy: ISA if their property purchase does not go ahead.

What is the time frame for claiming a bonus?

The time frame for applying for the bonus  means you have  12 months after closure of your client's Help to Buy: ISA to claim the Help to Buy: ISA bonus. The bonus must still be applied towards the acquisition of the property to satisfy the Scheme Rules and therefore a bonus request must be submitted before completion of the property .

If the ISA holder closed their account more than 12 months ago they will not be eligible for a Help to Buy: ISA bonus, even if their claim is made prior to completion of the property purchase

When should I make my bonus claim?

You should make your application for a bonus when you are confident that you are near completion. If you are registered with the Help to Buy: ISA scheme, it can take up to 5 business days for this application to be processed and for funds to be transferred to your client account. If you are not registered with the Help to Buy: ISA scheme, it will take up to 15 business days for funds to be transferred.

How do I calculate my client's bonus entitlement?

Your client’s bonus will be 25% of the closing balance in their Help to Buy: ISA – this includes both the money they have saved into their account and any interest accrued. You will not need to apply for a specific bonus amount – when you enter your client’s closing balance, the online application form will calculate their bonus entitlement.

Note that minimum government bonus is £400, meaning that your client will need to have saved at least £1,600 into their Help to Buy: ISA before you can claim their bonus. The maximum government bonus your client can receive is £3,000 – to receive that, they will need to have saved £12,000.

What information will I need to make a bonus request?

You will have to confirm the eligibility of your client, the property they are purchasing, and their bonus entitlement.
You will need to submit:

  • Your client's closing statement: this will include details of your client and their Help to Buy: ISA, including closing balance and account number.
  • First-time buyer declaration: your client will need to sign this, confirming that they do not own, and have never had an interest in a residential property anywhere in the UK or elsewhere. You can download a first-time buyer declaration here.
  • Details of the property your client is purchasing: this will include the full sale price and address of the property, to ensure it meets the scheme eligibility criteria.
My client is exchanging and completing on the same day – what should I do?

You should follow the standard bonus application process, ensuring that you leave sufficient time to ensure that the funds are transferred prior to exchange and completion. You may also be interested that there is a faster bonus application process for when a bonus request is urgent – see “What if the bonus request is urgent?”.

What if the bonus request is urgent?

You can make an urgent bonus application and payment request via the online portal. If the closing documents are not yet available, the Help to Buy: ISA holder can use an up-to-date account statement. This must detail the following:

  • Current balance
  • Name
  • Account number
  • Product name

You must submit the interim documentation detailed above via the online portal, confirming via the ‘yes/no’ option that it is not the final closing statement.

When the final closing statement becomes available, this should be submitted to the administrator when you submit the completion documents.

If your bonus request is urgent please allow 24 hours ensuring that the box marking the request is urgent is ticked.

If a bonus application is rejected or referred due to incorrect information being submitted, can I resubmit the form?

Yes. You can resubmit the form with the correct information.

Why have I received a bonus rejection or referral notice?

A bonus request can be rejected or referred for various reasons. You can review the status of your bonus request on the portal which will highlight the specific details – please refer to the Conveyancer Portal User Guide here. Additionally, an email notification will be sent to you that will outline what corrective action you must take.

I need to return a bonus, how do I do that?

Please refer to the Conveyancer Portal User Guide which will guide you through the process for returning a bonus. This can be accessed here.

Once the bonus return request has been submitted you have 10 business days to return the funds to the Scheme Administrator.

Will I be held liable if a client turns out to be ineligible for the Help to Buy: ISA scheme?

You will not be liable for any fraud carried out by your client if you were unaware that they were acting fraudulently.

Once you have signed the conveyancer adherence agreement, you must act within the bounds of the scheme rules and the conveyancer guidelines at all times. All members of this panel are subject to audit and compliance procedures, and will be liable for any breaches of the scheme rules or conveyancer guidelines.

How long do I need to retain customer documents?

You should keep documents relating to your client’s bonus application as set out in the scheme rules.

How do I make a complaint?

If your complaint is about a Help to Buy: ISA provider, or anything to do with the management of an account then the complaint should be made directly to the ISA provider. If you are not satisfied with your ISA provider’s response to your complaint, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service. You can email them: complaint.info@financial-ombudsman.org.uk or call them on 0300 123 9123.

If your complaint is about a solicitor or conveyancer, or to do with the handling of a bonus application then the complaint should be made directly to the solicitor or conveyancer. If you are not satisfied with your solicitor’s or conveyancer’s response to your complaint, you can contact the Legal Ombudsman. You can call them on 0300 555 0333 or complain directly via their website.

If the conveyancer is not a registered solicitor then a complaint should be made to the Council of Licensed Conveyancers. Details on how to do this can be found by contacting them by email at clc@clc-uk.org, or by telephone 0207 250 8465.

If your complaint is about the Help to Buy: ISA scheme or the processing of a bonus application, please use the ’Contact Us’ function on the Conveyancer Portal. You will need to enter some details for verification purposes and then select the appropriate topic from the drop down menu.

Alternatively, you can contact the Scheme Administrator via email by clicking here.