Property Law: Legal Jargon explained


In this article, Paul Stone a member of the Property Team explains some of the more common terms encountered in the world of Property

When you decide to purchase or sell a property, it is common to encounter words and descriptions that seemingly appear to be in a different language. This may be seen as an obstacle and barrier to understanding a legal transaction, but in reality is entirely logical in its approach.

When someone not immersed in the world of Residential Conveyancing encounters words such as ‘Covenants’, a ‘Chain’ and even ‘Conveyancing’, terms such as these can seem perplexing and complex legal jargon. In this short article I will attempt to translate some of these words and phrases so you can enter your next transaction fully abreast and with your legal dictionary expanded!

To start, ‘conveyancing’ simply means a sale transfer of a legal title of a Property from one party, to another. Therefore, in Residential Conveyancing, we would act on your behalf to transfer the property to your buyer (as a seller) or your seller (as a purchase). Archaic, formal sounding words such as ‘purchaser’ for buyer and ‘vendor’ for seller are still used in Conveyancing circles.

When you come to sell or buy a property, you may become involved it what is known as a ‘chain’. This chain, as the name suggests, is the link from one transaction to the next e.g. when you sell or buy a new property, your buyer or seller may then have a related transaction where they are selling on or buying too. More often that not, this chain is dependent upon one transaction following another; that is to say, someone cannot buy a property without first gaining the money due to them from their sell. A chain can sometime be complex or sometimes it can just consist of a buyer and a seller; occasionally you will know of its length from the start of your transaction.

As a seller or as a buyer, you may come across the word ‘covenants’ being mentioned to you by your conveyancer.  A covenant is merely a rule that affects the property, in order to restrict what you can and cannot do at a property. Example of covenants can consist of historical ones such as restricting the sale of ‘intoxicating liquor’ to more pertinent ones restricting any development on the land without prior permission. It is very important to familiarise yourself with any covenants affecting the property so you can know its limitations.

Another common word you will encounter is boundaries. Boundaries define the extent of the property land you are purchasing and not just the extent of the physical property. The title should also confirm furthermore who has responsibility to maintain such boundary. This is usually determined by a ‘T’ mark on a boundary on a Title Plan, Conveyance or Transfer document; however a ‘T’ mark is not always necessarily shown on the said documents. It must be noted that a ‘T’ mark does not necessarily determine the owner and is not conclusive, as it also relates to boundary ownership over time insofar as if a neighbour builds and maintains a fence on a boundary, they are presumed to then have taken responsibility of said boundary. Your legal advisor can provide you with full details as to the ownership of the boundaries, if indeed it is evident from the documents provided.

It is the hope of this article that by being given a few keys phrases, you can arm yourself when encountering your next residential transaction, and be sure to understand the terminology used between conveyancers. This article of course not exhaustive, however by using a trusted Residential Conveyancing team such as the one at Pictons, you can be sure that any other wording or terms you are unsure about, you can receive a plain English definition that you will be sure you can trust.

@Paul Stone has been with Pictons Solicitors for 5 years and having originally worked in our Accounts and Data Department Paul made the transition to the Property Department two years ago and now handles all forms of conveyancing transactions from our Milton Keynes office.