Can Conveyancers Really Be from Mars and Clients Venus?

Paul Hajek | 8 Apr 2016


conveyancing complaintsYou remember that book about men and women coexisting and behaving as if they were from different planets, don’t you.

The list of usual suspects, as it were; no proper communication, inability to mind-read each other, that sort of thing.

Well, it occurred to me reading various published reports and guides issued by the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) – the port of last resort for legal complaints- that some Conveyancers ( men and women) and some clients ( men and women) could indeed inhabit those distant planets.

Conveyancing Related Complaints Still Dominate

Conveyancing complaints, although a small fraction compared with the million or so completed matters each year are still top of the League table for the LeO, accounting for nearly a quarter (23%) of all complaints to the LeO in 2015.

The main gripes and causes for concern are about fees ( i.e. clients charged more than original estimate or quote) communication issues ( the “Mars and Venus” effect, if you will) and delays.

The LeO rejects one-third of complaints and most awards for compensation are relatively low at around £250.

I would hope that it is not beyond the wit of those law firms to resolve most of those issues without clients resorting to the LeO.

Buying a House is “often a deeply emotional experience.”

The LeO published a report in 2014 entitled “Losing the Plot: Residential Conveyancing complaints and their causes.” You can read the full report here

It’s rather fitting perhaps that emotional intelligence should be at the forefront in a Conveyancing transaction. The LeO report acknowledges that buying a house is a “deeply emotional experience.” And “given the emotions involved it isn’t always easy to resolve these complaints.”

The LeO emphasises that:

“Conveyancing is a specialism, but this means consumers don’t always understand or appreciate what their lawyer should reasonably be expected to do.”

Apart from preferring the word “client” to “consumer” we would agree with the LeO.

Lawyers are not always good at explaining legal processes in everyday language.

New Guidance for First-Time Buyers

The LeO published new guidance for first-time buyers in January 2016. You can read the Guide here.

Although expressly for first-time buyers the sentiments and advice covers any one buying a new house or flat.

You can help yourself have a better or more successful and fulfilled relationship with your lawyers by carrying out a few ‘common sense’ steps.

The Guide recommends five straightforward tips:

• Going back to the property a few times to look for any practical issues which might not be apparent from the paperwork; such as a shared drive or a right of way/footpath passing through the garden etc.

• Look out for any obvious signs of problems with walls, roofs or windows, which you may want to discuss with your surveyor.

• When you are looking at the house, remember that the lawyer doesn’t personally visit the house, so he might not know about things like a bus stop outside or overhead power lines, for example. Keep an eye out for these things when you look around and think about whether they cause any issue for you.

• If you are thinking about extending the house at some point in the future, a quick call to the local planning department might highlight any concerns or put your mind at rest about possible future plans. • It can be a good idea to have a look at the street at different times and on different days. What looks like a nice quiet street on a Sunday afternoon might be very busy with parked cars from local workers at 9 am on a Monday morning, for example.

• Ask your lawyer to explain their fees and disbursements.

By the way, and if I would make one criticism – please avoid the word “disbursements” ( we do) and use the more readily understandable “third party fees.”

What does it all mean for you when buying a house?

First, and most importantly the likelihood of you needing to make a complaint against your Conveyancer will be low.

Many recent studies continue to show that Conveyancing Solicitors retain high public satisfaction with their service and role in the house buying and selling process.

But, you can make sure you do sufficient research before appointing your Conveyancer. We have written about what to look for many times before (here and here)

Don’t accept estimates for your Conveyancing and only rely ( as we do) on a guaranteed fixed fee with no hidden extra charges.

We have written some useful Conveyancing Guides of our own to try and demystify the process and make it more accessible.

Try our Conveyancing jargon-buster “What’s the Name of that Legal Thingy.” or our latest guide to the Conveyancing process “Shiver Me Timbers – Whatever Will My Conveyancer Do Next?”

And to prove we are seasoned intergalactic travellers between Mars and Venus and happy to inhabit both worlds read our how to get the best out of us guide: 36 Things You Won’t Get From Another Conveyancing Law Firm When You Move House

Happy House Buying

            What's The Name of That Legal Thingy?           Ahoy There! House Buyers Grab Yourself a Conveyancing Guide          36 Things You Won't Get From Another Conveyancing Law Firm When You Move House

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