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Climate Change – do conveyancers owe a duty to clients to advise on the related risks?

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By Tessa Rook & Alex Erdmanis


Published 24 November 2022


Climate change and its impact on our environment continues to be at the forefront of the minds of the general public through its continuous media coverage. Commercial clients too are increasingly conscious of their impact on the environment with the implementation of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) plans influencing business practices. Given the current state of affairs, would a conveyancer have a duty to advise its clients on climate change risks?

A conveyancer’s duty of care in advising its client derives from its predominant role to ensure that the purchaser is protected against future risks arising from the transaction. A conveyancer would be expected to make appropriate enquiries and searches and advise their client on the results. In addition they should forewarn their client on any risks which should be apparent to a conveyancer (and may be less obvious to a lay client) and ensure the client has understood such advice.

Climate change is plainly starting to impact on the risks involved in purchasing a property. Firstly, the physical impact through for example, flooding and extreme storm events and the resultant damage and devaluation of the property. Secondly, the changing attitudes of financial institutions to the risks of climate change, such as lenders and insurers and the resulting impact on the ability to re-mortgage or sell the property and possible increase in home and building insurance premiums (or the availability of cover at all).

Some practical steps conveyancers could take to ensure they discharge their obligations to their client are: 

  • to research the relevant search services available relating to climate change risks and recommend such a search to their client. If the client does not want to pay for the search the conveyancer should state (in writing) the risks of proceeding without it.
  • on receipt of the report the conveyancer should advise on its content and also put into context the risks involved. For example, if there is a future risk of flooding, the conveyancer may need to explain that current flood defences may not be maintained and that there could be a resulting impact on insurance premiums, the ability to re-mortgage etc.
  • as always, any advice should be set out in writing (for example in the Report on Title) and if issues arise which fall outside of the conveyancer’s remit then if necessary, the conveyancer should put forward recommendations to obtain further professional advice.