Finding a lawyer to do the conveyancing when you buy or sell a house can feel overwhelming – many people simply take a referral from their estate agent. But, as Stephen Ward from the Council for Licensed Conveyancers explains, a recent rule change means consumers can now access detailed information on law firms to enable them to make their own, more informed choice.
A survey recently carried out by YouGov found that three in five homebuyers who used a conveyancer recommended by their estate agent didn’t know if the lawyer was paying a fee for this recommendation.
At the Council for Licensed Conveyancer’s (CLC) Annual Conference recently, the housing minister, Heather Wheeler MP, announced that new guidance for estate agents, setting out how and when they should disclose referral fees, would be coming soon.
We are not saying that it is wrong for conveyancers to pay referral fees, but transparency is key and that is why CLC lawyers have always had to inform clients about them. However, it is important that you are aware of the payment of referral fees before deciding who to appoint. So, we welcome the government’s proposals that estate agents should be required to be transparent about referral fees they will receive if their client follows their recommendation.
It is in the interests of both the public and those we regulate that you have easy access to useful and easily comparable information to guide you in your choice of lawyer.
We want homebuyers to be in a position to make a more informed choice in choosing who they want as their property lawyer and you should already be seeing a positive difference in how much information is available to help you.
What information is available?
Thanks to new rules that came into effect in December 2018, all property lawyers are now required to publish price, service and quality information on their websites (or in alternative formats if requested), as part of an industry wide push to empower consumers and foster innovation and competition across the legal services market.
Homebuyers can expect all property lawyers to now display the following on their website:
- Cost information in a prominent place. Lawyers are required to provide examples of their fees that cover a broad range of services and transaction types.
- Service information. This might include information on conveyancing timescales and links to third party feedback platforms.
- Regulatory information. You should be able to easily identify who regulates the firm you are hiring. For lawyers regulated by the CLC, this includes displaying the CLC secure badge in a prominent place.
- Complaints process. All lawyers will have to display details of their complaints process, including access to the Legal Ombudsman and redress information.
- Referral details. While lawyers do not need to disclose specific details of referral arrangements on their website, they must say if they enter into such agreements and the average fee, or range of fees, they pay.
Even if your chosen property lawyer doesn’t have a website, it doesn’t mean they are exempt from the new rules, they must still provide ‘other reasonable means on request’ which could include email, post or leaflets.
We will be continually monitoring and evaluating how well the new rules are working to ensure they deliver a better experience for homebuyers.
The process of buying a home can be exciting and stressful in equal measure so these new rules should give all consumers added confidence when shopping around to find the conveyancer who will best suit your needs. Happy shopping!
You can see our tips for choosing a conveyancer here.
This article was first published on What Mortgage