Glossary of Conveyancing Terms

Don’t be confused by jargon when buying or selling a home. Bookmark our glossary of terms to find out all you need to know:

Abstract or Epitome of Title
A summary or list of relevant title deeds proving the history of ownership of a property

Adopted Highway
A road (and ancillary paths and sometimes verges) maintained by the local authority at public expense

When you are buying a flat or Leasehold house, the seller will often have paid for Ground Rent and Service Charge up-front. If that is the case, you are likely to be asked to pay the seller a sum of money to cover your share of the Ground Rent and/or the Service Charge which the seller has paid for up-front. To take a simple example, your seller has paid £30 Ground Rent up-front, which covers the period 1 June to 30 June. Your purchase completes on 15 June. You are likely to be asked to pay the seller an ‘apportionment’ of £15 to cover your share of the Service Charge from 15 June to 30 June.

The name given to a transfer document by which the representatives of a deceased owner transfer the property to the person entitled

Assured Shorthold Tenancy
A form of tenancy agreement which permits the landlord to secure possession of the property at the end of the agreed tenancy period

A person appointed to act on behalf of another person and sign documents on their behalf

Base Rate
The rate of interest set by the Bank of England upon which most other interest rates are based

Brine Search
A search to find out if a property might be affected by old brine (salt) workings near the property

Building Regulation Consent
Approval by the local authority to the method of construction and materials used in building work

A sum of money received from the Mortgage Lender on completion of a mortgage (but only if this arrangement formed part of the mortgage offer)

A position in which Seller 1 sells to Buyer 1 and Buyer 1 sells to Buyer 2 etc thus creating a chain of connected transactions

Chancel Repair Liability
An ancient law which means that some homeowners can be obliged to contribute towards the cost of repairs  of  the chancel of the parish church.

Commons Registration Search
A search to ensure the property is not registered as common land or part of a village green. If it is, then other people may have rights over the land concerned.

Final completion of the transaction when the Seller receives the money and the Buyer receives the keys.

Conservation Area
An area where there are some extra planning controls and considerations in place to protect the historic and architectural elements of the area.

The written legal agreement prepared in duplicate for respective signature by the Seller and the Buyer setting out all the legal rights and obligations agreed between them

A document or deed used to transfer ownership of an unregistered property from the Seller to the Buyer

The legal process used to buy and sell land and property

Conveyancing Protocol
The Law Society Conveyancing Protocol is a guide which sets out the Law Society’s preferred practice for property transactions. Many firms  follow the protocol, but not all firms do.

An obligation affecting a homeowner which is found within the title to a property. A Covenant can restrict the owner of a property from doing something (e.g. using the property for business/trade purposes) or oblige the owner of a property to do something (e.g. maintain a particular boundary).

Deed of Covenant
A document or deed containing an agreement to pay or do something

Deed of Gift
A document or deed used to transfer ownership of property from one person to another without any payment being made

Deed of Guarantee
A document used where one person agrees to be responsible for someone else’s debt or mortgage obligations should that person fail to carry out his/her own obligations

Deed of Postponement or Priority
Where a Lender agrees that its mortgage will rank or take effect in priority after another lender’s mortgage

Declaration of Trust
Also known as a Deed of Trust. A document signed by the owners of a property that records who will get the sale proceeds and in what proportions when the property is sold. Your solicitor should be able to draft a Declaration of Trust for you, if you ask them to do so.

Documents which establish ownership and confirm the Owner’s title to the property

The sum of money payable by the buyer to the seller on Exchange of Contracts. The deposit is usually 10% of the purchase price but can be less if the seller agrees to this. Your solicitor will ask you to transfer your deposit to them shortly before Contracts are exchanged.

Expenses that your solicitor must pay out on your behalf, for example, Land Registry fees, or search fees. 

Early Repayment Charge
A penalty payment charged by a Lender if a loan is repaid within a period specified in the mortgage offer

A right enjoyed by one property over another, most typically a right of way

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
A document which confirms how energy-efficient (or inefficient) a property is, and gives information on areas for potential improvement.  It is a legal requirement that a property is sold with valid EPC

Environmental Search
A search to see whether there is any indication that the property may be affected by Environmental issues such as contamination, ground stability, radiation and flooding etc

When talking of property and mortgages this normally means the difference between the value of a property and the amount owed on mortgage(s)

Exchange of Contracts
The formal exchange of the two identical copies of the Contract when the Seller and Buyer become legally bound to complete the transaction on an agreed date

Fixtures, Fittings and Contents Form
A standard form in which the Seller specifies items in or affixed to the property which are included in the sale at the agreed price

Flying Freehold
If at least a part of one property is built on top of part of another property (and the upper property owner does not own the whole building or land underneath the “flying” part) and the legal structure of the block is not leasehold, then a flying freehold will arise. This can prove to be a problem.

Where the ownership of the property is absolute both the property and the land it sits on.

The person who owns the freehold

Full Title Guarantee
The standard guarantee given by an absolute owner to the Buyer

Further Advance
An additional amount loaned to an Owner after completion on broadly the terms of the original mortgage

Ground Rent
This is the rent paid by a lessee to a lessor where a property is leasehold. It is often paid yearly

HM Revenue & Customs
The department of government responsible for the collective of taxes. In the vast majority of property purchases a Stamp Duty Land Tax return will need to be submitted to H M Revenue & Customs.

Indemnity Policy
An insurance policy usually taken out to offer protection to a buyer or their mortgage lender. Indemnity policies cover a wide range of issues/problems, for example, a property not having necessary rights of way contained within the deeds, or where works have been carried out on the property without the necessary planning permission or building regulations approval. The insurance premium only needs to be paid on a one off basis, usually on completion of the transaction.

Index Map Search
A search at the Land Registry to see if a property is registered or unregistered.

Joint Tenants
A form of joint ownership, not to be confused with Tenants in Common. With a Joint Tenancy, the co-owners do not own separate, distinct shares in the property. If one of the co-owners passes away, their share in the property automatically passes to the other co-owners, irrespective of the terms of their Will.

Land Charges Search
A search against a person’s name at the Land Registry to see if that person has been the subject of any bankruptcy proceedings and (if the property is unregistered) to see if there are any mortgages or other adverse interests registered against the property

Land Registry
An organisation controlled by central government which maintains a register of properties and their ownership in England and Wales. It now covers approximately 90 – 95 percent of residential dwellings

Land Registry Fee
The fee payable to the Land Registry to register any change in the property details including a change of ownership

Land Registry Search
A search at the Land Registry to check that nothing new has been registered against the property since the date the registers were last inspected

Landlord / Lessor
Usually (but not necessarily) the Freeholder but certainly the person entitled to receive the ground rent from the Lessee or Tenant

A document setting out the rights and obligations of the Landlord and Tenant (Lessor and Lessee) in the leasehold arrangements

Where the ownership of property is for a limited period only.  For example 99 years or 999 years.  It will normally involve payment of an annual ground rent.  You own the property but not the land it sits on

Legal Charge
See Mortgage

A Bank, Building Society or other person or company who lends money to an Owner

The present owner of the leasehold property. This contrasts with the freeholder or landlord whose interest is subject to the lessee’s rights under the lease until the lease term has come to an end

Another word for “Landlord”

Limited Title Guarantee
A title guarantee given by a Seller who has limited knowledge of the property and cannot give a full title guarantee such as someone selling on behalf of a deceased owner

Listed Building
A property which is included on a list of buildings which are of architectural or historic interest. Listed building status may restrict any alterations to the building.

Management Company
A company which is set up to manage and maintain the common parts of a building/area (usually a block of flats). The management company will collect Service Charge to fund this.

Managing Agents
A person or company appointed by the Landlord, or the Management Company, to manage and maintain the common parts of a building/area.

Mining Search
A search to check whether the property may be affected by past or present coal mining and, in particular, the risk of subsidence

Mortgage Advance
The original amount of loan from Mortgage Lender

Mortgage Deed
A document used when a Lender lends money to a Buyer or existing Owner. The document is registered against the property at the Land Registry and secures repayment to the Lender

Mortgage Offer
This specifies the terms upon which the Lender is prepared to make the loan including the specific financial details and period of repayment

Mortgage Term
The length of time agreed for the repayment of the loan

The Lender person or Company who benefits from the Mortgage security (e.g. Bank or Building Society)

The Property Owner (i.e. the Borrower) who enters into a mortgage deed in favour of a Lender

National House Builder’s Council. This is a body that provides a 10 year warranty on the majority of new-build properties.

Occupier’s Consent
Any person who lives at the property who is not an owner (and so will not be signing the mortgage deed) will be asked to consent to the mortgage being taken out and agree to move out if the mortgagee lender takes possession by reason of default of the owner

Official Copies
Copies of the entries held by H M Land Registry which show the ownership of a property, and any matters affecting the property. Under the Land Registry’s system of registering land, Official Copies have now largely superseded the old paper deeds to properties.

Party Wall
A wall owned jointly with a neighbour and repairable at joint (and normally equal) expense

Planning Permission
Approval by the planning authority to the construction (and extension/alteration) of a property or a change of its use

Power of Attorney
A document by which someone appoints another person, to act as their attorney

Private Road
A road which is not an adopted highway and accordingly not maintained at public expense. Property owners need to have particular (and preferably documented) rights over it as it is not necessarily a road which offers public access

Property Information Form (PIF or SPIF)
A standard questionnaire completed by a Seller to give information about the property to the Buyer (e.g. who maintains boundaries and whether there have been any disputes)

The repayment of an existing mortgage or loan

Registered Land
Property which has been registered at Land Registry

Paying off one mortgage loan and taking out another with a different lender

Some freehold properties are required to pay a modest rent (despite being freeholds). It is sometimes created simply for profit but may be used as a legal device to ensure estate covenants are enforceable.

Reservation Fee
An initial payment to a Builder / Developer (or its agent) to reserve a new property

Enquiries your solicitor makes to various authorities to obtain more information about the property you are purchasing. The searches provide information which is in the public domain but would not be shown on the title. For example, the Environmental Search should flag up if the property has been built on land which was potentially contaminated, or if there is a flood risk. The Drainage Search will reveal whether the property is connected to mains water supply and mains drainage. It will also let you know if there are any drains or sewers within the boundaries of the property. The Local Search will provide a wide range of information, including details of any Planning Permissions, and Building Regulations Approvals granted in respect of the property.  The Coal Mining Search reveals if the land beneath the property has been affected by past mining or if a license for future mining has been granted.  If you are purchasing with a mortgage the searches are mandatory however if you are a cash buyer they are optional however we would always recommend that you have the searches carried out to obtain the maximum amount of information possible

Service Charge
A payment required by a Landlord (or managing agent) to cover the costs of insuring and/or maintaining a development or block of which the property forms part of

Shared Ownership
A system by which a buyer can buy a share of the equity in a property, usually from a social housing provider e.g. Housing Association, and then pay rent on the share that they do not own. The buyer can then buy additional shares in the property: this is known as “staircasing”

Stamp Duty Land Tax
A tax which must be paid to HM Revenue and Customs when purchasing a property in England, unless a relief applies, e.g. first time buyer relief. You can check the current SDLT threshold and reliefs on the Gov website at

Where a property moves due to poor construction or ground movement for geological reasons

A report carried out for a buyer by a surveyor to give them an insight into the physical condition of a property.

A form of joint ownership, which differs from Joint Tenancy. With a Tenancy in Common, the co-owners own distinct shares in the property – this can be 50/50, 60/40, or whatever split to co-owners decide upon. If one of the co-owners passes away, their share of the property will not automatically pass to the other co-owner, it will pass in accordance with the terms of the deceased owners will (or the ‘rules of intestacy’ if they did not have a Will).

For most purposes this is the same as “Lessee” (See above)

Title Plan
A plan held by H M Land Registry which shows the physical extent of a registered property.  The Title plans  are not exact measurement  they are just a general position of boundaries.

Tin Search
A search to see if the property may be affected by past or present tin mining

An owner’s actual right of ownership (whether or not the owner is in occupation)

A dealing with property (e.g. sale or purchase or remortgage)

A document which actually transfers ownership of a property from one person to another (as opposed to a Contract which may include an obligation to effect a transfer at a later date)

Transfer of Equity
A document transferring ownership of a part share or interest in a property from one person to another

Tree Preservation Order
An order made by the planning authority specifying a tree or group of trees as protected and requiring that authority’s permission to cut branches or fell them

Unregistered Title
A title to a property which has not been registered at the Land Registry. The title will consist of old style conveyances and other documents

Vacant Possession
A Seller required to give vacant possession must (on completion) leave the property (including the garden and outhouses) empty of people, possessions and rubbish

A very simple form of survey designed to establish what the property is worth and nothing more

An older word for Seller

Wayleave Agreement
A written agreement entered into with an owner to give a service provider (e.g. Electricity or Telephone company) a right for their cables to pass under or over their property


Our conveyancing quotes are transparent, and all services that could reasonably be expected to be included in the price are listed.  Where we are not aware of an issue, for example, if we do not know that the property you are buying or selling is leasehold at the time you are enquiring, we will amend our quote and provide a new quote to you once we are aware of that circumstance, and ensure that you are happy with that additional quote before we go any further with your transaction.  If you have any questions regarding your quote and wish to discuss then we encourage you to contact our office to discuss.  Every quote is individually provided to you depending upon your unique transaction.

“St Helens Law do not accept service by electronic means.”


Please note: The word meanings in this glossary are basic and are subject to exceptions. They are not nor are intended to be legal definitions of these words. If you are unsure of any terms used on correspondence or documents we send to you please contact us.

To contact our Residential Property team, please call 01744 742360, or click here to email >