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LeO publishes new guidance to clarify lawyers’ role in conveyancing process

Home buyer's £20,000 bill hits headlines as conveyancing complaints take centre stage

19 January 2016

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The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) has taken the step of issuing new guidance for first-time buyers outlining the responsibilities a lawyer has during the conveyancing process.

According to the LeO, almost one quarter of the 7,500 complaints it receives each year relate to conveyancing.

A failure to advise clients appropriately, delays, and poor costs information are usually the main driver of complaints.

'We've published a new guide today to help clarify what people can expect from their lawyer, and what they don't usually take care of,' said Kathryn King, interim chief ombudsman.

'If clients still experience problems they should contact us to see if we can help,'

To demonstrate its point, the LeO highlighted the case of a first-time buyer forced to pay £20,000 after her conveyancer failed to inform her of outstanding repairs on a newly purchased flat.

The firm, which has not been named, received information about the repairs prior to completion but failed to inform Hajnalka Semsei before the signing of contracts.

Despite accepting that a mistake had been made, the firm only offered an £800 refund to the Londoner. An investigation by the ombudsman recommended the firm pay their client the £20,000, plus compensation.

'Since my former landlord was telling nightmare stories about ex-council flats and major repair works, during the purchase process I constantly asked my solicitor to clarify and disclose any outstanding bills,' said Semsei.

'Sometimes I felt stupid to raise the issue but I had to explain my concerns. Despite everything, I ended up with this bill, which was almost 20 per cent of the purchase price. I was so frightened by the amount I was being asked to pay, I couldn't sleep.'

King said the case demonstrated how daunting the world of first-time buying can be.

'There are lots of things to sort out when buying a house, such as surveys, checking boundary responsibilities, and exchanging contracts, which you should expect your conveyancing lawyer to take care of. However, as we have seen, sometimes things can go wrong.'

The LeO advised the public to complain to their lawyer in the first instance before applying to the watchdog.

Categorised in:

Risk & Compliance Conveyancing