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Conveyancing solicitor issues

Jamiescott1

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22 Feb 2019
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464
Not sure if this is the correct forum but some advice needed.
I'm selling my house and in the middle of a chain.
All others in the chain are ready to exchange but my conveyancing solicitor is holding it up and I can't find out why (enquiries were replied to over 2 weeks ago).
I've had numerous issues with them losing documents, making errors, forgetting things etc.
They do not reply to emails from myself, the other solicitors in the chain or estate agents.
They don't respond to messages on the Halifax conveyancing portal
I've asked twice on twitter for contact details of a supervisor and they reply that someone will get back to me, no one gets back to me.
They don't answer the phone.

I've now raised a formal complaint but that takes 14 days for a response.

I'm not sure what the next step is now as their incompetence will push past the date when stamp duty increases.
They were instructed in April

Any ideas of what I can do
 
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Gloster

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I am not sure if there is anything you can do except continue poking the solicitor to get on with it. You may be able to make a claim later if their errors or dilatoriness cause you extra cost, but solicitors are very good at covering themselves. Although I have had problems in the past, including one solicitor having a nervous breakdown part way through, it still can take quite a time, with the speed that the searches, something that is out of the solicitors’ hands (if they fill the forms in correctly), a major factor. However, it can sometimes all come together quickly, so be ready to act when asked. Also there is the problem that a lot of people are trying to beat the deadline at the moment. I am lucky that, so far, this purchase has gone through quickly: offer on 4 June and exchange on 18 August. And this despite the sellers’ onward move falling through at the very last minute.
 

Jamiescott1

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Thanks.
Searches were all complete in May.
Enquiries have all been completed
Mortgage deeds all signed
Contracts all signed.
Land registry form signed
 

DerekC

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Write them a formal letter stating that you have done everything they asked, listing the things that have been done, setting out the times you have tried to contact them and making clear that you intend to recover from them any additional costs you incur as a result of any unreasonable delay in acting on your behalf. It may or may not work, but it would be good evidence to put in front of the complaints panel.
 

Farang

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Just be aware that they may interpret your formal complaint as an instruction to stop whatever work they were doing, as mine did when I complained about their slowness.

The personal finance section of the Guardian has advice on how to change solicitors in response to a recent letter from someone in your position.
 

eastdyke

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Is this a solicitor your found yourself or one that came via deal with your lender? if the latter more fool you
I do so hope not (a 'deal' I mean).
All my property transactions have employed a local solicitor with a local office. That way I can go in and make a fuss in these circumstances - even if I don't get to see the solicitor in person, the clerk can be just as useful in moving stuff along.
 

DarloRich

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All my property transactions have employed a local solicitor with a local office. That way I can go in and make a fuss in these circumstances - even if I don't get to see the solicitor in person, the clerk can be just as useful in moving stuff along.
Absolutely! Always use a solicitor you can actually visit - those conveyancing sweat shops are not worth the hassle imo. A local solicitor will know the properties, the area, the challenges etc much better than a non qualified drone miles away.
 

DelayRepay

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Absolutely! Always use a solicitor you can actually visit - those conveyancing sweat shops are not worth the hassle imo. A local solicitor will know the properties, the area, the challenges etc much better than a non qualified drone miles away.
Very good advice. The 'factories' may be cheaper but you get what you pay for IMO.

Ideally get a recommendation from someone who's recently moved. Don't trust the mortgage broker to recommend someone as they're likely influenced by some kind of kickback.
 

DarloRich

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Very good advice. The 'factories' may be cheaper but you get what you pay for IMO.

Ideally get a recommendation from someone who's recently moved. Don't trust the mortgage broker to recommend someone as they're likely influenced by some kind of kickback.
Agreed! I have only once used a conveyancing factory and that was as part of a straightforward remortgage package. It went well but communication was extremely limited. I would never use them for a purchase or sale.

Local recommendation is the best way of finding someone imo. You are always going to need a decent solicitor in your contacts. Conveyancing, divorce, wills, probate etc will all hit you at some point during your life. It is sadly all to easy find yourself needing criminal support and advice as well.
 

Jamiescott1

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22 Feb 2019
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Thanks.
They replied to my complaint and I now have the head of client relations dealingg with my case.
All issues have been dealt with this morning and we're now ready to exchange.

Lesson learnt to not go with a factory
 
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DarloRich

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Lesson learnt to not go with a factory
Sensible - honestly the issue often is that these places only employ a handful ( at most) of legally qualified people who have to sign off on enquires and searches and deal with the legalities. I can imagine that has been made harder with COVID.

Also don't forget your solicitor acts for both you and your lender so while your side may be easily dealt with any issues with the lender may not be.

Finally I wouldn't like to suggest that "tied" conveyancers might be more interested in keeping the developers/mortgage companies sweet over the buyer ;)
 

Gloster

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As said, always use a solicitor which someone has recommended, even if that is only, “Didn’t have any problems.” They may cost slightly more, but considering it is going to be the biggest purchase that most people make in their life, a couple of hundred pounds extra to be assured it goes OK is worth it.

Good luck with it: you now enter a period of worrying whether you have made a ghastly mistake, which lasts until completion, after which all the minor niggles seem trivial. They say that buying a house is the most traumatic experience in life for a man; for a woman it is giving birth.
 
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DarloRich

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The say that buying a house is the most traumatic experience in life for a man
the men they ask must have much going on in thier lives! Buying a house is only stressful if you allow emotion into the process. it is a financial transaction.
 

seagull

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the men they ask must have much going on in thier lives! Buying a house is only stressful if you allow emotion into the process. it is a financial transaction.

Balderdash, I'm afraid.

Being in a property where we are two weeks away from having to complete the sale (due to buyers mortgage offer expiring plus the stamp duty deadline), yet with a seller who refuses to return documents to the solicitor despite chasing constantly - there is absolutely no way not to be stressed.
Do we have to arrange storage? Rented accommodation? Or not? Juggling these unknowns with a full time job is not simply a financial transaction.
 

eastdyke

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Balderdash, I'm afraid.

Being in a property where we are two weeks away from having to complete the sale (due to buyers mortgage offer expiring plus the stamp duty deadline), yet with a seller who refuses to return documents to the solicitor despite chasing constantly - there is absolutely no way not to be stressed.
Do we have to arrange storage? Rented accommodation? Or not? Juggling these unknowns with a full time job is not simply a financial transaction.
My daughter/son-in-law will testify to all of that. Throw in new schools for 2 children as well ....
 
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C J Snarzell

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Jamie

Buying and selling property is probably one of the most stressful things a person will endure during their life time.

My brother is presently waiting to move. He accepted an offer on his town house at the end of June and he is moving into a trendy apartment. He has had little communication from his conveyancing solicitor in the last six weeks, so he is tempted to ring them as he has ordered new furniture for the apartment and the furniture people are eager to deliver as soon as possible (obviously they have limited storage capacity).

An older couple who presently live with their daughter, are buying his old house, while the people who own the apartment are simply moving into a second property they already own. Therefore, there is no big chain as such.

I have moved house twice in ten years - on both occasions it took roughly 11/12 weeks from accepting the offer and the date of completion.

I always find moving house is not dissimilar to applying for a job - everything goes quite for X number of weeks/months without an update then bang! - everything seems to happen at once.

From my own experience and conversations with other people - conveyancing solicitors are not great at keeping you updated during the transition period.

From reading your own circumstances - I would maintain regular contact with the estate agent, mortgage people and the other vendors (if you have their contact numbers). Just make it clear you are doing everything you can to speed things along.

My brother and I use the same conveyancing solicitor who is a partner in the firm they work for. Because their offices are close by, I used to hand deliver my correspondence and maybe have a quick chat with his secretary if she wasn't too busy.

Unfortunately, it is a long drawn out process that cannot be speeded up. Regarding the issue of Stamp Duty - this is sadly one of those issues that you will have to take on the chin I'm afraid.

I remember a former colleague of mine purchased a house years ago, when there was a stamp duty freeze (I think around 2009/10) and she only exchanged contracts on the property five days after the stamp duty holiday ended. She was hit with a £1500 tax (the property was £150k so its 1% stamp duty). I do recall she was climbing the walls about it and blaming the solicitors ineptitude for having to pay the extra cost, but ultimately she had to pay it and that was that!!!!

I'm sure you will get there in the end. At least if/when the time comes to move again in the future, you will know which solicitors to avoid!

CJ
 

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