Buying and selling a property has long been regarded as one of the most stressful things you will ever do in life. After all, you are dealing with the most important and costly financial asset you are ever likely to own, and you want any such conveyancing transaction to go as smoothly as possible. Of course one hopes the instructed conveyance firm will be able to deal with the transaction as professionally and expeditiously as you deserve; however, according to the Legal Ombudsman, in an increasing number of cases this is not proving to be the reality.
The Legal Ombudsman has recently reported that it is having to deal with a growing number of complaints as a direct result of poor service being offered to clients in conveyancing cases. There are a plethora of different reasons behind these complaints, including a lack of communication with the client, delays, higher fees than originally quoted, an inability to follow instructions and poor advice.
The Legal Ombudsman service has identified a specific pattern: an increasing number of these complaints seem to be originating from what the service has labelled ‘factory conveyancing firms’. These are the types of companies that can be found readily on the Internet nowadays and are often simply licensed conveyancers who have nothing to do with an ordinary high street firm of solicitors.
With money being so tight in the current economy, clients are often drawn in by the promise of rock-bottom conveyancing fees that seem to beat, hands down, any quotes from local firms of solicitors. Unfortunately, though, many of these firms are disingenuous at best and fail to declare the full extent of disbursements that will be relevant in any such transaction.
It is not just problems with the fees, either; the Legal Ombudsman has received some very worrying complaints about other issues, such as the conveyancing firm missing the fact that an attic room, thought to belong to the flat being purchased, actually belonged to a neighbouring property. Other clients were under the misapprehension that their newly acquired property came with a large garden, only to discover later what the conveyancing firm missed: that in fact they owned only a tiny fraction of this land.
The factory conveyancing firms are not solely to blame for such complaints. There are many high street firms of solicitors who are not offering their clients the level of service being paid for, and this can often be a result of simply taking too many cases on their books – indeed, this is something I have had personal experience with in the past.
The Legal Ombudsman has highlighted the fact that being in receipt of poor service through your instructed conveyancer really will add to the stress of buying or selling a house. This is something that should never be tolerated. If you find yourself in such a position, you should bring the matter to the attention of the conveyancing firm in the first instance. Give the firm every opportunity to address your complaint. After pursuing the official complaints procedure set out through the firm, if you still feel the matter has not been resolved, you are then entitled to take the issue to the Legal Ombudsman.
Having to deal with such a complaint in the middle of a house sale or purchase is definitely not ideal, but alas, it can be absolutely imperative to ensure that there are no delays in the exchange of contracts, etc. At the end of the day, you need to remember that you have instructed a conveyancing firm to handle your transaction as professionally as possible. The firm is not simply doing you a favour – you have paid conveyancers to perform this task for you.