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Changing your Conveyancer

By: Liz Lennox - Updated: 8 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Transaction Complaints Procedure Terms

Unfortunately, and despite conveyancing being a lucrative trade, there are conveyancers who don’t deliver the standard of service you expect. From being obstructive and slow, all the way to blatantly negligent conveyancers suffer from the same faults as the rest of us – they are only human and sometimes mistakes can happen.

Let’s assume for the moment that it’s not because a mistake has been made that you want to change; let’s assume that you feel that the service is less than you expect.

What Makes a Good Conveyancer?

A good conveyancer will listen to you, return your calls and be efficient. They will endeavour to keep you are aware of everything and enable you to move as quickly as possible.

A bad conveyancer will be slow to the point of jeopardising the whole TRANSACTION, they won’t read the papers or report to you on the essential details. They won’t return your calls or even follow your instructions.

If your conveyancer falls into the latter category then you have my sympathy; I came across these people quite frequently and it was irritating enough from a conveyancer’s point of view!

Your First Step

As tempting as it may be, don’t march into the conveyancer’s office with a baseball bat. This will get you absolutely nowhere, expect perhaps the Police Station, and will give your useless conveyancer the opportunity to take the moral high ground. Don’t let them; keep your cool as much as possible. Be polite but firm when you tell them why you are unhappy and give them one opportunity to rectify the situation. Make sure you keep notes of every call, conversation and problem you have had.

If that Doesn’t Work

Every firm in England and Wales is required to have a complaints procedure, which you should have received with your terms of agreement. Read this through now and follow it. Again, be polite but firm and demand responses within an adequate period. If you feel that the problem is with an individual rather than the firm ask for your file to be transferred to another fee earner.

Still No Joy?

No matter what the estate agent, mortgage broker, or conveyancer tells you – you have the right to dis-instruct at any time. If you are truly unhappy then this is the only possible thing you can do. You don’t need what should be one of the most exciting times of your life being ruined by a moron!

But Don’t Tell the Conveyancer Yet!

To make absolutely sure that you do this right there are some golden rules that you will need to follow:

  • Do not tell your current conveyancer what you are doing until you are ready.
  • Phone around your local firms (without giving the name of your current firm or conveyancer) and explain to them what has happened – check their reaction.
  • If you are satisfied with their response, i.e. they aren’t either totally dismissive or too sympathetic, ask them if you can transfer your file to them.
  • If they say yes – tell your current conveyancer that he (or she) can go take a running jump!

A couple of things to bear in mind

Irrespective of any agreement for no sale no fee, the conveyancer will undoubtedly have a clause in your terms to say that if you pull out they are entitled to charge you. If you refuse then the conveyancer has the right to retain your file until their bill is paid (this is called a lien).

Don’t let this phase you, documents can be duplicated and mortgage offers re-issued. Where it could be expensive however is the searches; if they refuse to hand them over then you may have to get new ones. My advice on this point is to pay their abortive bill and tell them that you fully intend to put in a formal complaint to their governing body.

Once you have your old file with your new conveyancer; let them do their job. They are going to be playing catch-up so don’t tar them with the same brush as your old conveyancer. Give them a chance to show you just how good they are.

And finally…

Once you have moved and the dust has settled, send off your letter of complaint about your old conveyancer, this will either be to the law society or the council for licensed conveyors

This is a long and arduous process but it could result in you getting back the fees you paid to retrieve your file and could prevent someone else from going through the same hell!

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