The chief Legal Ombudsman, Adam Sampson, said in a recent interview that he had concerns about clients being “caught by surprise about the way their legal expenses were charged”.
The Legal Ombudsman's office was established last year as an independent body to look at complaints against Solicitors, Licensed Conveyancers and other legal professionals. It has already found that one-fifth of the complaints they receive relate to Hidden Conveyancing Fees, especially where the final bill was much higher than the amount originally quoted.
Are Hidden Conveyancing Fees a widespread problem?
There is no doubt that many Conveyancing Solicitors and other Property Lawyers are guilty of the practice of giving apparently Cheap Conveyancing Quotes and then inflating bills by adding on further charges for all sorts of so-called additional work.
It usually turns out that this work would be part of any normal Conveyancing transaction, so is not 'additional' at all.
Firms frequently claim that they are entitled to add these charges because they are referred to in the firm's 'terms of engagement'. Such terms often run to several pages of small print, and have been drawn up by canny lawyers in the first place, so the chances are that most people would have difficulty understanding them and don't even bother trying to.
These are just a few of the additional charges commonly uncovered:
- completing stamp duty return form
- checking client ID
- acting for mortgage lender
- handling redemption of an existing mortgage
- less than 14 days between exchange and completion
- administration charges (presumably for setting up the file!)
- copying and postage
Charges of this sort are quite unjustified because Conveyancers will have to carry out this work as part of any house purchase or sale.
Are all Hidden Conveyancing Fees unjustified?
There may be circumstances where additional charges would be justified, but in such cases Conveyancing Solicitors should discuss these with clients first.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority code of conduct requires that Solicitors:
“must give (a) client the best information possible about the likely overall cost of a matter both at the outset and, when appropriate, as the matter progresses”.
Mr Sampson said some firms were failing to abide by the rules. He called for an overhaul of their practices, which had left some consumers facing overinflated bills:
“Many times, how much people were quoted and how much they were eventually charged is very different”
Fridaysmove is dedicated to ensuring that our cheap Conveyancing Quotes will be the amount you pay at the end of your Conveyancing process. We give fixed-price quotes, not estimates disguised as quotes.
Don't be bamboozled by offers of ridiculously low charges - these are very rarely genuine.
We undertake frequent surveys of Fridaysmove clients, and those who have not chosen our service, and we hear too many stories about people thinking they will be paying £150, getting a poor service often provided by people who aren't qualified lawyers, and then getting a huge bill on the day of completion!
This can all be avoided by reading the small print, and, if you have any doubt, speaking to one of our team on 0330 660 0286.