Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 11 March 2015
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality
Conveyancing Survey Results January 2015: Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers
Apologies have been received from Deputy Anne Ferris.
The purpose of the meeting is to receive a briefing from the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers, IPAV, which has requested a meeting to brief the joint committee on the findings of its research entitled, Conveyancing Survey Results January 2015. Briefing material was circulated to members. I welcome Mr. Keith Anderson and Mr. Pat Davitt and thank them for being here on a damp morning and giving of their time and expertise. The format is that they will be asked for a brief outline of the issues they wish to raise in an opening statement of about five minutes. There will then be a question and answer session with members.
Please note that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they give to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members should also be aware that under the salient rulings of the Chair, members should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. Mr. Davitt will make the opening statement.
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
I thank the Chairman, Deputies and Senators for their invitation here today to present our findings on our recent research into the current conveyancing process in Ireland. I am Pat Davitt, the chief executive of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers, IPAV, and I am here with our National President, Mr. Keith Anderson, who is also a practising auctioneer.
Our institute is the representative body for almost 1,000 auctioneers throughout the country. It was set up in 1971 and it is the only institute catering solely for the professional and educational requirements of auctioneers and valuers throughout Ireland. IPAV places a strong focus on professional education and runs a series of higher level courses in collaboration with the Institute of Technology, Tallaght, which is approved by the National Property Services Regulatory Authority for auctioneering licence purposes. We also provide opportunities for auctioneers to develop their studies to degree level 7 and 8 in the College of Estate Management, Reading, in the United Kingdom.
The institute works with Government Departments and other arms of the State in advancing issues of policy relevant to the auctioneering profession. We have actively promoted throughout the years the European Valuation Standards, blue book, believing them to be the highest quality standards. They have now been accepted by the European Central Bank as its favoured valuation standards throughout Europe.
Given our reach into every town in Ireland our members form a central part of the local business community serving those buying and selling properties locally and also further afield.
The background to the research which the committee has kindly invited us to share with it today came about as a result of concerns expressed by our members about the growing length of time the conveyancing process was taking in Ireland. We surveyed members in January 2015 and more than 200 members responded to a series of ten questions. I believe all members of the committee have a copy of the study and no doubt they will have of questions for us. Therefore at this juncture I will not go through it line by line. Rather, IPAV President, Mr. Keith Anderson, who has played a lead role in the research, will take members through some of the highlights.
Mr. Keith Anderson:
I would like to say at the outset that solicitors, whom we work with on an ongoing basis, for the most part do a fine job for purchasers and sellers alike. However, there are severe inefficiencies within the system as currently operated. Our study was aimed at getting some measure of what is happening and from there to work with all interests to try to address deficiencies in the systems.
Our research found that over 60% of auctioneers said they were experiencing unwarranted delays from the time a sale is agreed to close of sale. Almost 37% said they had experienced such delays sometimes and a mere 3.7% said they were not experiencing unwarranted delays. Members were then asked the most common reasons for such delays. There are two main reasons. The major reason for such delays was solicitors' conveyancing procedures, and these were identified as a reason by an overwhelming 79% of respondents. Coming in second place was policy procedures at lending institutions, and these were identified as a reason by over 45% of respondents. When it came to the length of time from sale agreed to a close of sale it was on average almost four months in 2013, and that extended to four and a half months in 2014. Members were asked to give a view on whether delays were attributable to a reluctance on the part of solicitors to do business by e-mail or telephone, instead favouring the traditional method of letter writing. Over seven in every ten agreed that this was the case. The remaining 30% were asked for their views and the reasons they gave were greater caution in signing off documents in recent times, high levels of due diligence required, and inefficiencies.
There is no getting away from the fact that very serious consequences arise from delays in conveyancing. In our study, 68%, or seven in ten auctioneers, have lost sales, and over 27% have experienced banks withdrawing finance. What is happening here is that against a backdrop of financial pressure consumers are trying to make plans for the future. They research the market for a suitable property, and in many urban areas that is not easy to find at the moment. When they eventually find a property within their budget they make an offer. In many cases they wait in trepidation to see if they will be outbid. It is a moment of joy when they are told that their offer has been accepted and the property goes sale agreed. At this point it should be only a matter of a short few weeks before they take full possession and start a new phase in their lives but that is not how it happens for many. Purchasers and sellers are coming back to us week after week frustrated with a lack of progress after the sale is agreed. Many move on and try to buy another property, with the added time and expense involved. In a recovering property market some are worried that if they do not succeed in buying the home they want prices may rise beyond what they can afford. It is a very unsatisfactory situation for both buyers and sellers. Delays in conveyancing are not within the control of the auctioneering profession yet our members' reputations are being tarnished in their own communities as a result of delays in conveyancing which lead directly to gazumping.
In conjunction with our study we asked our colleagues in the European Real Estate Confederation, CEI, and the European Council of Real Estate Professions, CEPI, about their experiences. The results which are set out at the back of the document that the committee has contrast sharply with the Irish experience. Across Europe lawyers conduct a great deal of real estate business via e-mail and telephone and the majority of sales are closed within 30 to 60 days. As our CEO, Mr. Pat Davitt, said, I am a practising auctioneer and I see these problems first-hand every week. I have to deal with frustrated consumers who are trying to do nothing more than secure a home for themselves and their families.
At this point I will hand back briefly to our chief executive, Mr. Pat Davitt, who will outline our proposals to the committee for addressing the issues identified in our research.
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
Auctioneers, like solicitors, are represented in every town in Ireland and they, like us, are an important part of that community. These serious delays in conveyancing are not good for property buyers and sellers, and commonly lead to gazumping. They are not good for auctioneers and ultimately they are not good for solicitors either. Our President, Mr. Anderson, has outlined some of the impediments for solicitors. We also appreciate that many solicitors' offices are under pressure arising from the fallout of the financial crisis. Some will have been forced to let staff go and some are not in a position yet to ramp up again.
In residential investment property sales there is now an added layer of legal involved. The buyer, if purchasing with a mortgage, now has to pay for the bank's solicitor as well as their own. The seller pays their own solicitor. So there are now three different solicitors involved in this transaction. This is a far cry from the practices operated and enjoyed by our European neighbours, as our survey points out. We ask this committee to look into this with a view to changing this practice. If banks are not happy with using the purchaser's solicitor to certify title we propose that they set up a panel of solicitors from which purchasers could choose one. This would dispense with the need for an additional solicitor and would cut weeks off the timeframe from sale agreed to close of sale. This is done very successfully with valuation panels; the valuation on the property is a very important part of the transaction. We fail to see why this would not work. After all, while consumers pay the bills and the mortgage, the bank holds the deeds and it is in their interest to make sure that the job is done correctly.
Interestingly, section 7(3) of the new SI 47 of 2015 from the Central Bank, Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013 (Section 48) (Housing Loan Requirements) Regulations 2015, which deals with the new loan-to-value, LTV, and loan-to-income ratios, LTI, states: "A lender shall ensure that the appraiser appointed by that lender shall undertake a market valuation of a residential property which is required under these Regulations not earlier than a period of two months before the date on which the advance under the housing loan is made by the lender." Therefore, if conveyancing goes beyond that two-month deadline a new valuation will have to be sought by the financial institution. If the new valuation comes in lower than the original one, and the loan is for the maximum of 80% LTV allowed under the Central Bank new rules this will throw all the bank loan documents out of sync. New loan documents will have to be drafted, further delaying the process.
In Construction 2020, recommendation 73 states: "In collaboration with key stakeholders (the legal profession and the banking sector) we will review and report on the steps required to deliver a system of e-conveyancing in Ireland, including the resource implications and timeframes for delivery." At a recent meeting with the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland it confirmed that it is very supportive of an e-conveyancing system. We have sought a meeting with the Law Society with a view to attaining its assistance in addressing the situation.
As public representatives we ask the members of the committee to support a fast-tracking of State plans for the e-conveyancing system. The Property Registration Authority has been set up and it has recently indicated that e-conveyancing could be up and running in two and a half years. This, in our view, is far too long and far too far away. With banks increasingly offloading more properties the current situation is likely to be exacerbated.
The property price register sales figures for 2014 show that 40,000 properties changed hands. This is a turnover of between 2% and 2.5%. However, a normal functioning property market would be expected to turn over 4% of all possible stock. If this number of properties had to be conveyed it would most likely exacerbate the current problems. The electronic stamping system was set up in 2009 by the Revenue Commissioners with great success. Its success could be replicated with e-conveyancing. We would ask that the committee would do everything within its powers to speed it up.
Thank you, Chairman. We would be happy to take any questions you may wish to put to us.
I thank the witness for his presentation. He may not be aware that we have had a presentation on e-conveyancing from the Law Society and I believe we share the view that e-conveyancing is the future. Something that could take two months could be done in two weeks electronically. Has the IPAV set up a working group with the Law Society in a formal way to progress the whole principle of e-conveyancing? I agree that two and a half years is too long.
We might get an answer to that and come back to you Senator. The witness did note in his presentation that a meeting with the Law Society had been sought. Following on from the Senator's question, did that happen, is there a working group?
If I may be so cheeky as to give the witness some advice. From my limited experience, and the Chairman is around a lot longer than I am, I suggest that the witness set up a formalised working group and put together various sectoral interests campaigning for e-conveyancing. It has a far better chance of progressing with the auctioneers and the Law Society and others involved. I believe it requires this because while the Government would agree with the principle, it has a lot of other more pressing priorities. If the Government was dealing with an umbrella group of sectoral interests the campaign would have a better chance of progressing quicker.
My other point concerns the area of gazumping. No disrespect to the two witnesses, but auctioneers have been as responsible as anybody else for gazumping and for some of the behaviour which ended up creating and causing gazumping, particularly during the Celtic tiger period. Would it be the view of witnesses that gazumping should be illegal and that legislation should be introduced to prevent it, as exists in other countries?
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
Of course as an auctioneers' representative I am going to tell you that auctioneers never take part in gazumping. It is quite easy to see why we do not take part. Gazumping happens when a purchaser who did not get to buy a property, makes a further higher offer on the property. Since 2012 it is against the law to not pass a bid on to a vendor if it is made after the property goes sale agreed and before the actual contracts are signed. If I sell a property today, it goes sale agreed. If someone else then makes a higher offer the next day or a week later, I have to go back to the vendor. If I do not go back to the vendor, that vendor can complain to the regulatory authority and I could lose my licence. The moral of the story is that auctioneers do not like gazumping, it is not good for us and we do not want it to be practised.
I was on the 2004 committee when the Property Services Regulatory Authority started. I proposed there should be a sales contract for auctioneers so when we do a sale we should be able to take out a sales contract, complete it with the vendor and the purchaser and then sign it with both parties so there could be no gazumping after that. That sales contract would put a stop to it but it would be subject to a contract completed by the Law Society or by a solicitor, a formal contract completed after that sales contract was done. We do not like the practice, but we have to take part in it because it is the law. We cannot do anything else only take part in it if someone makes us an offer. Everyone is entitled to buy a property until such time as the contracts are signed.
There are rogue auctioneers the same as there are rogue solicitors and everything else, but I do admire the tenacity of the witnesses' defence of his profession. In terms of local authority development plans and zoning land, does the IPAV engage in lobbying or consulting with local authorities about zoning of land? Would the witnesses see a role for themselves in the whole area of informing development plans at local authority level?
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
Our research shows it takes between three and four and a half months to complete the transaction. If a property goes sale agreed today, a further offer can come to the auctioneer on that property any time until the contracts are signed, even though it is sale agreed. By law, the auctioneer has to pass that offer on to the vendor. At the end of the day it is the vendor's decision to accept or reject it.
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
The time period in a rising market is different than in a falling market because the opposite happens - gazundering. The gazumping happens in a rising market, so if a property is still not completed for sale in four months, as opposed to being one month, obviously there is a chance someone will come and make a further offer because the property price has probably gone up.
Mr. Keith Anderson:
In my own business in Donegal if we have a sale that goes on for four or five months and another offer comes in, we recommend to the owner that they hold back and go back to the person later on. We do not gazump in Donegal, we recommend they take the initial bid. We want it back to two months. Two months is time for the Central Bank evaluations and two months is sufficient time for a sale to go through. Everyone is in good humour, people have a chance to transact and then move on.
I thank the witnesses for their presentations. They mention in the survey the two primary reasons for delays seen by IPAV members. The role of solicitors is a primary cause of delay and it would seem that it is in this area that you make a recommendation for change. The second area concerns policy procedures by lending institutions. In my personal experience that side caused delays more than solicitors. The establishment of an e-conveyancing system and the use of e-mails, as distinct from what is being done now, seems like a reasonable suggestion. I wonder do the witnesses have any reasons for resistance by solicitors to using modern methods of communication?
Mr. Keith Anderson:
We work with solicitors every day so we do not want to fall out with them. We try to work together and make it better for everybody. Solicitors have laid off staff this past few years, probably more so in the country areas. The juniors had looked after conveyancing and the senior partner looked after litigation and different aspects. They have less staff now so they are trying to do the conveyancing themselves. Alexander Graham Bell introduced the telephone in 1876 and to this day solicitors will not use the telephone, nor will they use e-mail. They will write to clients. It takes a week to write a letter and week to come back. That is the most frustrating aspect. There is a need to get around the table and sort things out in plain language. E-mail is as good as letters nowadays. It is frustrating that time goes on, which opens up more problems. Where there is a problem there is always a solution but when letters are written back and forward for weeks on end things drag on.
The Law Society tried to introduce e-conveyancing in 2002 and 2008 and there is still nothing done. It is now 2015 and we are pushing this because at the end of the day, people will not respect auctioneers. We have our own profession and do what we want. We are looking for people buying a house for the first time because those are the people we are dealing with. In the last six years when things were quiet, I was out showing houses to first-time buyers every day from 2007 straight through to 2014 - and people thought I was a busy fool. Although I kept showing properties to people, young couples were cautious because they were afraid of what was happening and who would blame them? Everybody just sat back and watched. This year those same young people are back trying to buy houses. They are trying to get on the ladder but it is taking months and months and they get frustrated and so do we. I am pushing to get this moved on to the next step.
I suppose that e-conveyancing could also support the momentum towards the use of modern communication. What Mr. Anderson is talking about is changing solicitors' behavioural practices and how to go about that. Does he have any recommendations on the policy procedures at lending institutions? As I read them, his recommendations primarily relate to what to do about the solicitors' practices in order to reduce the time.
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
We have had plenty of discussions with banks about changing the way they do business as regards loan approvals. That part of this survey is about how people get loan approval to close a sale. We have made representations to the banks. One of the big issues is how long it takes to get the cheque when people go to draw down money. While the banks say they have the money to pay out, other individuals such as the purchasers and people like that, who are getting this money, would say that from time to time, the banks do not have the money to pay the cheques out. We have asked the banks to put a timeframe in place within which these cheques would have to be issued. We have asked that there be a complete timeframe on contracts so that a contract would have to be issued and the sale would have to close within a certain amount of time. However, the banks say it is not their fault as they only give the money and do not do the legals. They say the money is there any time people want it. It goes from Billy to Jack and back to Billy again. It is difficult to figure out what is happening but the people who took part in this survey see the banks as being part of the problem. There is definitely a problem there.
There is definitely a big problem there. I would hope that if there is some movement on e-conveyancing or the movement into the modern world in terms of communications, that would make a difference, but I am not convinced it would sort the issue. I am sure we have all gone through some of the banks' procedures, and they could be integral to solving the problem, as Mr. Davitt has identified. They could create even bigger barriers than what he has identified here.
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
The one good thing we hope will happen with e-conveyancing is that it will entail timeframes. Time is what we are talking about. If people know that conveyancing is going to take, for instance, two months, they know they have to have all their ducks in a row inside two months and that the sale is going to happen. At the moment, the attitude is, "If it goes on another week, what about it? Sure, it will close next week or the week after or whatever." We believe e-conveyancing would put strict timeframes into place, which would help the whole situation.
I thank the witnesses for coming in. I hate to admit it, but it is so long since I bought a house that I did not realise the buyer pays for their own solicitor and for the bank's solicitor. I am shocked. Then there is the solicitor for the seller, so there are three solicitors. When did that originate and can the witnesses elaborate on the panel they have suggested might work?
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
It is important to understand that the third solicitor only comes into play when someone is buying a residential investment property, for which there is a third layer of legal. The normal person who is buying a house for the first time will not be affected. As far as we can make out, this only came in over the last eight months. It seems to have followed on from the crash. There was such a thing in Ireland before the crash which was done away with but it has now come back again. The purchaser has to pay for both solicitors.
We think the panel would work as follows: A purchaser buying a property would look at a panel, provided by the bank, of five or ten solicitors in the purchaser's town. The purchaser would engage a solicitor from the panel to buy and convey the property, and the bank would use the same solicitor to certify the title. The purchaser would pay the one solicitor and both sides would be done in-house as opposed to going from A to B with letters and whatever. It would keep the process very tight. From a finance point of view, it would also cost less.
I am relieved to know that someone would not have to do that for a family home. It is hard enough on a buyer buying a family home. I would love to see this brought down from four and a half months to two. Quite often, I meet families and young couples who are in the process of trying to buy. They always have the dilemma of whether to pay next month's rent. They worry the sale will come through when they have just paid the month's rent. It is a very hard time for couples trying to balance their finances.
In 2009, Revenue brought in the electronic stamping system. It seems that has worked. Can the witnesses tell me how it worked so well, in their opinion? Would the same effect be achieved for conveyancing if e-conveyancing came in as quickly?
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
Normally, before e-stamping, solicitors would have to send the document to the Land Registry and on to Revenue to get it stamped. They put it online and now anybody who has an account with Revenue can file the document and look for it to be e-stamped. It can be done over a matter of days. One's account pays for the stamping and that is the end of it, the documents do not have to pass from one party to another.
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
It could have taken months because one had to post the documents, the documents would have to be stamped and posted back, and it was a matter of whenever they came in line for processing in the office they were going to. I do not know how they worked their system, whether it was on a name basis or by the date of postage. Now it is just done on the Internet and that is it.
My questions concern the solicitors' conveyancing procedures. Many of the people in my constituency who bought property in Priory Hall felt that the conveyancing system let them down in that the legal conveyancing procedures should have discovered that the fire certificates and compliance certificates were not in order and the building control methods were not properly enforced. Do the witnesses have a view on that? Do they come across those kinds of problems frequently?
Mr. Keith Anderson:
I do not. I am very sympathetic - whatever happened with Priory Hall, it should have been done that time, but I do not find that problem with ourselves. One has to check everything between architects and solicitors but there are a lot of lessons to be learned. Some people may be learning lessons from that. I do not think that is the reason for the delays we are talking about at the moment. I see the Deputy's point.
Mr. Keith Anderson:
Yes, they should be done right but there is a quicker procedure for doing that. The documents that have to be lodged with the Land Registry, like all the planning documents, maps, any judgements on the property, even the BER certificate, should all be posted to the registry and then electronically passed on for other solicitors and everybody to see, buyers and sellers.
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
If I may add something to that, in question eight on our survey sheet in the centre of the booklet, sample response five is one of the most common answers from auctioneers. It says there is a lot of paper gathering involved in conveyancing - BER certificates, local property tax receipts and all that type of stuff. Solicitors now have to get all that documentation that the Deputy is talking about in order.
I am not stating they were not obliged to get it in order at the time. Regardless of whether they did or did not do so, some of what was required was not done. We would like to think all of the documentation required would be provided and that the regulations would be both retained and maintained. We would like to ensure this would happen.
I apologise for my late arrival. I welcome our guests and thank them for their most interesting presentation.
Other members touched on the issue of e-conveyancing. This is a matter of concern for the committee. Representatives of the Law Society of Ireland came before us to discuss it and, like our guests, we are all very supportive of the move towards e-conveyancing. I am interested in the timeframe involved. Mr. Davitt has stated he understands a system of e-conveyancing could be up and running within two and a half years. In the light of our most recent engagement with the Law Society of Ireland, I was of the view that it would not take so long because, as I understood it, the process was already well in train. If it is the case that it will take two and a half years for it to come into operation, what precisely can the Oireachtas do to fast-track the process? From our engagement with the Law Society of Ireland, I did not gain a sense that there was anything specific which needed to be done from a legislative point of view; rather, I gained the impression that the matter was in hand and that the process was in train. However, perhaps I missed something.
At our initial meeting on this matter there was concern that the banks were not actually engaging with the Law Society of Ireland. The Law Society of Ireland is actually very anxious for e-conveyancing to come into play as quickly as possible. When representatives of the Irish Banking Federation came before us, they were very supportive of the proposal and we had very positive engagement with them. These two bodies seem to be very anxious to move the process forward, as is the organisation which our guests represent. At this stage it is a matter of getting on with it.
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
The Property Registration Authority has responsibility for setting up the system and has indicated that the process in this regard will take two and a half years to complete. We believe this to be the case on the basis of statements made. We met representatives of the Irish Banking Federation which, as the Chairman indicated, is very supportive of both e-conveyancing and moves to make it happen as quickly as possible. It previously indicated its support for the concept but withdrew it when nothing happened. However, it is back on board because it believes the Law Society of Ireland is serious about taking action on this occasion. We also believe this to be the case. The Oireachtas could push the Property Registration Authority into committing to a reasonable timeframe that would be a lot less than two and a half years. In that context, introduction might be possible within one year. We hope the Oireachtas will be able to do as we suggest. We accept that it is not possible for it to wave a magic wand to facilitate the introduction of e-conveyancing tomorrow. However, we would like it to exert pressure on the authority because its influence would be much greater than ours.
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
We are not actually sure about that. We are trying to organise a round of meetings to facilitate the creation of an overarching committee that would allow all of those involved to have their say, but we are not finding it easy to achieve this. However, we will ultimately reach that stage.
I cannot recall any of those who have come before us stating legislative change would be required. We might write to the Minister and inquire as to whether it might be required. Legislative change probably would be needed, particularly in the light of the fact that what is proposed would constitute a major change.
Mr. Davitt referred to sales contracts when replying to the questions posed by Senator Martin Conway and indicated the need for change in this regard. Has the IPAV ever proposed a legislative change to facilitate this?
I invite our guests to give the matter some thought and if they draw up proposals in respect of it, perhaps they might send them to the clerk for distribution to members. If Mr. Davitt and Mr. Anderson want to draft a proposal, we might consider it and then take matters a step further.
On the reluctance of solicitors to do business by e-mail or telephone, is it the case that, for legal reasons, they are obliged to work with a hard copy? If a matter ends up in court, it might be the case that e-mails and telephone records might not constitute sufficient evidence.
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
There is no doubt that certain documents are required in written format. However, a great deal of work can be done over the telephone or by means of e-mail or fax. I am not referring to the legalistic aspects such as requisitions on title and matters of that nature; rather, I am talking about arranging closing dates. When such dates pass, a solicitor could contact his or her counterpart on the other side or the auctioneer to make them aware of this. Matters of this nature can be done by e-mail or over the telephone. It is just a matter of a solicitor calling an agent, informing him or her that there is a problem and asking what he or she can do to help. If this is not done, the agent will only discover that there is a difficulty when the sale is about to fall asunder rather than when the problem actually arises.
The cynic in me would actually inquire as to whether solicitors received payment for each letter written. I do not know whether they do and it is probably not the case. Perhaps the Law Society of Ireland might also offer a comment on that point.
They may have very good reasons for not doing so and I am sure they will inform us if that is the case. The main point our guests are trying to get across is that we should move forward with e-conveyancing by introducing the necessary procedures, legislative measures or whatever might be required. As they are aware, the Valuation Office, Ordnance Survey Ireland and the Property Registration Authority are going to be merged into a new entity, Tailte Éireann. The Law Society of Ireland has an engagement with a company called Teranet which is its preferred partner in the context of e-conveyancing. Has the IPAV had any involvement with this company? I am aware that other companies are also interested in becoming involved in this area.
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
We have not had any involvement with Teranet which is a Canadian company. We are about to write to it to discover if we might meet its representatives. Ultimately, auctioneers will have little say in the development of the e-conveyancing process because it is really going to come down to what solicitors want to do. We will meet representatives of Teranet to discover what is going to happen.
The representatives of the Law Society of Ireland indicated that not only would e-conveyancing speed up the sales procedure and so forth, it would also result in considerably reduced costs for everybody involved. Will the members of the IPAV be affected by this?
Mr. Patrick Davitt:
It will not affect our members. The representatives of the Law Society of Ireland referred to fees for searches, etc., but I do not know if they mentioned solicitors' fees being reduced. We are not asking solicitors to reduce their fees because it is completely up to them to decide what to charge their clients. Obviously, we would be delighted if the fees related to conveyancing and the carrying out of searches were reduced. Many of the inferred costs of this process relate to the carrying out of transactions and many of them are quite high. We would be very happy if the fees in question were reduced.
I thank our guests for taking the time to attend and giving of their expertise. The committee has done some work on this issue and if colleagues are in agreement, we will write to the Minister and her Department to try to obtain an update on the current position and discover whether legislative change will be required. We will also contact the Property Registration Authority to obtain an update from it in order that we might try to progress matters.