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A to Z of common legal terms

Thu 12 May 2022

A to Z of common legal terms

If you’re a first time buyer, you’ll no doubt come across many unfamiliar legal terms during the purchase process. Our guide to some of the more common terms will help make things a little clearer.

If you’re thinking of putting your property on the market, give Marcus or Andrew a call, email or drop in to see us and we’ll be happy to discuss your needs.


Often used to mean contract.

Basic fee 

The fee you’ll pay to your conveyancer or solicitor for their services. This is either calculated as a fixed fee, priced per hour or charged as a percentage of the sale price.

Breach of Contract 

Once you’ve exchanged contracts, your sale becomes legally binding. If either party pulls out at his stage or fails to complete, the other party are entitled to seek reparations. 


Boundaries are the outer limits of a property. They are shown on the deeds and will usually be marked by a fence, wall or hedge. 

Building insurance 

Once contracts have been exchanged, you will be required by your mortgage provider to obtain buildings insurance. In most cases, this will cover the cost of rebuilding the property if it is destroyed. 

Caveat Emptor 

This means that as the buyer, you are responsible for investigating the condition of your chosen property, by engaging the services of a surveyor.


The completion of one purchase very often depends on the sale and purchase of another. Several ‘links’ can exist in one chain. If one transaction fails to complete, the chain can break down and cause delays for the other parties or ‘links’ in the chain.

Coal mining search

If the property you plan to buy is in a coal mining area, you’ll need a specialist search to find out if the mining activities have had any effect on the property, or may do in the future.


A conveyancer is legal professional who specialises in property transactions. They work on behalf of their clients to complete their transactions and ensure their clients meet all legal obligations in the process.

Completion date 

This is the end point of the transaction. On this date, payment is made in full and the title deeds are transferred. You’ll also receive the keys to your new property.

Conservation area 

If you plan to buy a property in a conservation area, this means it is protected by the local authority, and will likely be subject to planning restrictions.


The legal document which sets out the full details of your property purchase.


Covenants are either restrictions or obligations that relate to ownership of a particular property. For example, restrictions may cover certain changes to the property’s exterior, while an obligation could mean that you’re required to maintain some aspect of the property or its grounds.


The official document showing ownership of a property.  


When you exchange contracts, you’ll be required to put a deposit down on a property. Your conveyancer will manage this payment, which usually equates to 10% of the purchase price. 


Disbursements are costs that are incurred during the conveyancing process, such as searches. These costs are passed on to the buyer.  


If your property is worth more than the amount you owe to your mortgage provider then you are said to have equity in your property.  

Exchange of contracts 

This is the point when both parties sign contracts through their conveyancers and the transaction becomes legally binding.

Fixture & Fittings form 

This form clearly states what items, contents, fixtures and fittings are to be included in a property’s sale. It is provided by the seller and must be agreed by the buyer before completion.


Freehold means that you own your property, including the grounds it is built on. Most houses in the UK are freehold.


This practice involves a seller verbally accepting an offer on their property from one buyer, but subsequently deciding to accept a higher offer from another buyer.

Ground rent 

If your property is leasehold, you will usually have to pay ground rent to the ‘landlord’, usually once a year.

HM Land Registry 

The government body responsible for issues relating to ownership of property and land in England and Wales.

Land Buildings and Transaction Tax (LBBT) 

This tax replaced Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) in Scotland in April 2015. 


If your property is leasehold, you are buying the right to occupy the property for the duration of the lease, but the land itself is owned by another party. You may have to pay them ground rent. Most flats in England and Wales are leasehold.

The Legal Ombudsman

An independent and impartial complaints service for people who are dissatisfied with their legal professional.

Local authority searches

These searches are carried during the early stages of the conveyancing process. They highlight any council plans that can affect your property after you’ve moved in.


A loan from a bank or other lender, which you use to finance the purchase of a property.

Negative equity 

Negative equity occurs when the amount outstanding on your mortgage is greater than the value of your property. 


Stands for the National House Builders Council. If you are purchasing a new-build property, the NHBC provide a 10 year warranty on the works.

Pre-completion searches 

These are basic fact checks which are carried out by your conveyancer prior to exchange of contracts.  

Property Information Form 

Sellers are required to complete this form early in the sale process. It contains information about boundaries, neighbour disputes, restrictions and other key information.  in and return it to their conveyancing provider. Failure to disclose the correct information is an offence.

Redemption settlement

The sum of money you’re required to pay to your mortgage lender, if you decide to pay off your loan early. It usually comprises the outstanding loan amount, plus early redemption penalties.


Compensation payable in the event of a breach of contract.

Stamp Duty

Stamp duty is a tax payable to the government when you purchase a property. The amount varies, depending on the value of the property you’re buying.  


Sold Subject to Contract.


Movement of a property caused by unstable foundations.


Freehold or leasehold property ownership.

Title deeds 

Title deeds are proof of property ownership.

Transfer deed 

A legal document showing the transfer of a property into the name of the buyer.

If you have a property to sell, then our dedicated professional team is here for you. We’ve been selling properties in the North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire area for over 150 years. Our service has evolved over the years, but our determination to help you sell your property remains the same. We have a wealth of modern marketing tools at our disposal to help you find your dream buyer.

From negotiating the best possible price on your property, to guiding you through the legal conveyancing process, our expert team will make sure everything runs smoothly.

If you’re thinking of putting your property on the market, give Marcus or Andrew a call, email or drop in to see us and we’ll be happy to discuss your needs.