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What should you do if you need to complain about your conveyancer?

13 November, 2018

Stephen Ward, from the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) looks at some common reasons for conveyancing complaints and where consumers can turn to for help if things don’t quite go to plan

Purchasing a property is often mentioned as one of the most stressful life events a person faces. Sitting alongside such life-changing events as death and divorce it’s no wonder that emotions run high.

The process can often seem complicated, it involves large sums of money, and the time taken can seem to stretch out – this can set the stage for fraught conversations with your conveyancer.

The good news is the very great majority of purchases do conclude smoothly to the satisfaction of all parties involved, and it is rare that things go wrong. But if it does who do you turn to?

If you think that something might be going wrong speak to your conveyancer. And don’t wait until you feel things have gone irretrievably wrong – speak up early and it is nearly always possible to resolve the issue between you.

What’s the issue?

Complaints tend to fall into one of four broad areas, namely:

  • Communication
  • Advice
  • Behaviour
  • Legal costs

Not communicating about delays and poor communication in general is a common area of complaint that leads to the feeling that no one is progressing your matter. It’s certainly true to say that good communication goes a long way and can avert most complaints, so we encourage our practices to do this.

What should I do if I need to complain?

If you have a complaint the very first thing to do is to speak to your conveyancer to explain what’s worrying you and try and resolve the issue. Make clear that you are raising a complaint so that the firm treats it correctly.

If speaking to the conveyancer does not resolve your concerns, set those concerns out in writing, head the letter or email ‘Complaint’ and ask for confirmation that it has been received.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of that complaint, what you do depends on the nature of the complaint.

If your complaint is related to the service you have received (e.g. delay or the costs charged are more than you expected), you should complain to the Legal Ombudsman.  They have the power to award you compensation which your conveyancer must pay to you.

If you believe the firm has made a mistake or there is a dispute about the quality of the work they have provided, you should make this to the practice. You may at this stage also wish to get advice about your complaint from another firm of lawyers, a law centre or Citizens Advice about the nature of your case.

All CLC practices, as a condition of being licensed, have in place professional indemnity insurance. Most of these disputes are quickly resolved at this stage by the parties.

If your complaint is related to the conveyancers’ professional conduct, you should contact the lawyer’s regulator directly (the Legal Ombudsman will pass onto the regulator any conduct complaint they receive), and if it is conveyancing related this will most likely be either be to the CLC or the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The sorts of things that might be a conduct complaint include:

  • Dishonesty
  • Deliberately overcharging clients
  • Mismanaging client money
  • Being convicted of a criminal offence
  • Treating a client unfairly because of age, disability, gender, race, sexuality or other protected characteristic

CLC practices are required to make their complaints processes clear and to try to resolve any complaints they receive as quickly as possible.

As a consumer, the most important thing to remember is not to suffer in silence. If you are unfortunate enough to need to complain, your conveyancer should be able to resolve the situation. If not, be reassured that you can refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman and if necessary the CLC.

This article was first published by What Mortgage