The rise in property sales over the last year has led to an increase in the number of complaints being received by the Legal Ombudsman (or LeO for short).
According to a report just published LeO has seen an overall increase in residential conveyancing complaints from 1189 in 2012-13 to 1476 in 2013-14.
One in five complaints about lawyers now made to the Ombudsman is about residential conveyancing; a recent increase which makes it the most complained-about area of law.
Conveyancing complaints only arise in a very small number of cases
While these figures are a cause for concern, they should be seen against the substantial rise in the total volume of conveyancing transactions during 2013-14.
Some 2 million residential conveyancing cases were completed in this period – so just 0. 07 cases resulted in a complaint to LeO.
Not all the complaints received by LeO relate to the work of solicitors. LeO also handles complaints against licensed conveyancers and others who handle conveyancing work. Unfortunately their report does not give any detailed figures so it is not possible to know the proportion of complaints received against each type of lawyer in relation to the total volume of residential conveyancing work.
The report suggests that the increase in demand for conveyancing services “is placing pressure on firms’ resources and being manifest in mistakes and poor service. ” This could be caused by a shortage of suitably skilled staff in some firms, as conveyancing lawyers were laid off or turned to other work during the recession.
Make sure that your solicitor is fully competent to handle conveyancing
Obviously any firm of solicitors which undertakes conveyancing work should be competent to do so and have properly qualified staff for the job. But clients won't know about that when looking for quotes.
One guide is to look for a firm which is accredited to the Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS. ) Such firms ensure their clients receive a high level of service based upon:
- the integrity of the Senior Responsible Officer and other key conveyancing staff
- the firm's adherence to good practice management standards
- adherence to prudent and efficient conveyancing procedures through the scheme protocol
At Fridaysmove we only work with Solicitors who have substantial experience of all aspects of conveyancing and are accredited CQS members. These are firms which we consider can provide our customers with the high level of service that both we and they should expect.
What to do if you have a complaint about your conveyancing
Buying or selling a home is for most people one of the most important transactions they will ever undertake, so any complaints about conveyancing work must always be taken seriously.
If you are not satisfied about the work of your solicitor then you should raise it with the solicitor handling your case straight away.
CQS solicitors must have a procedure in place for handling complaints, and you should be able to refer any complaint to a senior solicitor within the firm. In most cases your complaint can then be amicably resolved without the need to take matters further.
Sometimes the problem appears to lie not with your own solicitor but with the solicitor or other conveyancer acting for the other party. Perhaps your solicitor tells you that he or she is waiting to receive a copy document or some information from the other conveyancer, or can't get any response to letters or phone calls.
Clients often get frustrated when this happens because there seems little they can do about it. They won't be able to speak to the other party's lawyer direct, because that is prohibited by professional conduct rules.
Nevertheless it is also unprofessional for a firm to ignore communications from another lawyer. In this day and age there is little excuse not to send a quick email explaining the reason – perhaps they are waiting for instructions from their own client, or for the Land Registry to supply a copy document.
If it does appear that the delay is being caused by another person's solicitor the problem can sometimes be sorted out through the seller's agents. They will usually be anxious for the sale to be completed – they don't get paid until then – and can speak to other solicitors involved in the transaction.
Remember that we are also here to help – if you instruct a solicitor through us then we will be happy to try and sort out any complaints which arise in the course of the conveyancing.
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