By Jo Eccles
Q. I’m selling my flat and my estate agent and solicitor have been fantastic but my buyer’s solicitor is a conveyancing factory and has been diabolical. We’re entering week 14, have no chains involved and have still not exchanged, what can I do?
A: I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had such a bad experience and you’re facing such a frustrating situation. A poor solicitor can have a huge impact on the speed of a transaction and, if they’re really unresponsive, it can cause frustrations to build and goodwill to evaporate fast.
I have battled a lot of poor solicitors over the years and unfortunately if the solicitor is on the other side of the transaction to you, you don’t have as much control. Whoever has appointed the poor solicitor should be pressurised. In the scenario you described and, if the hold-up is genuinely due to slow response times rather than outstanding paperwork, then your buyer should make a formal complaint to the firm. Some cheap conveyancing firms are almost a call centre and you don’t have a specific point of contact, so chasing can be really difficult.
If you get the sense in your transaction that one solicitor is not performing as quickly as they should, make sure that pressure is applied early on; don’t wait until you are many weeks into the transaction. I acted for one client years ago who was using her flat mate’s father as her solicitor and he refused to communicate via email, only post. The transaction was dragging to the point where the seller was on the verge of putting the property back on the market. So I had the awkward conversation with our client to say that she needed to appoint a different solicitor, regardless of how this would affect her relationship with her flat mate. If she didn’t, she would lose the property. This is a good lesson to learn that it’s probably better not to use a friend or family member as your solicitor as it’s hard to make demands if you’re on mate’s rates – and because you are paying less than other clients, you may be bumped down the priority list.
If your buyer’s complain to the firm does not produce an immediate turnaround in their service, then you could also make a complaint to the Law Society, if you think there are sufficient grounds for this
If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet her @joeccles.