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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Finding a solicitor or conveyancer

If you're buying or selling a home, there is a certain amount of legal work that needs to be done. This is called conveyancing. Find out how to choose an experienced professional to do this for you, and what the advantages and disadvantages are of doing the conveyancing yourself.

Hiring a solicitor or conveyancer

Conveyancing is the process of legally transferring ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer. It includes the various searches and checks and any final tasks following the sale.

You can hire a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to do the conveyancing for you and give you advice. Telling the solicitor or licensed conveyancer that you want them to work for you on the transaction is called ‘instructing’ them.

Before you decide to instruct anyone, you should ask how they will charge you and what the total is likely to be. Different firms have different ways of charging for conveyancing, so it’s a good idea to compare several.

To find out more about what conveyancing involves, see the links below.

When to hire someone to do the conveyancing

If you're buying a home, contact the solicitor or conveyancer you’ve chosen once you have found a property to buy.

If you're selling a home, it may be useful to identify a solicitor or licensed conveyancer as soon as you know you want to sell. However, you won’t normally need to instruct them until you've found a buyer.

Using a licensed conveyancer

Licensed conveyancers are lawyers who specialise in property law, and are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) in England and Wales.

A licensed conveyancer can only deal with conveyancing. If problems arise that are outside property law, you'll need to employ a solicitor to deal with these or give you advice. However, this isn’t a common occurrence, and conveyancers usually deal with the process from beginning to end. 

To find a licensed conveyancer follow the link below.

Using a solicitor

A solicitor is able to carry out all the conveyancing for buying a property. In addition, a solicitor is licensed in other areas of the law, so can deal with problems that aren’t directly related to property law. Because of this, using a solicitor may be more expensive than using a licensed conveyancer.

If you choose a solicitor, use one who specialises in conveyancing. All solicitors must be a member of the Law Society. You can find a solicitor who specialises in conveyancing on the Law Society website.

Doing the conveyancing yourself

Legally, you don’t have to use a licensed conveyancer or solicitor, so you could do the work yourself. If you do choose to do the conveyancing yourself, it will save you paying fees to a professional. However:

  • if you don’t have any experience in this area, there is more chance of missing important details, like where boundaries lie 
  • you won’t receive any legal advice, for instance on other people’s rights over the property or the meaning of terms in a lease
  • if something goes wrong, you’ll be personally responsible, and may have to pay compensation to the other party and their legal costs
  • you will have to pay for your lender to hire a conveyancer (lenders usually agree to use your conveyancer to save money) 
  • the other party may not want to buy or sell if they aren’t confident of your conveyancing experience
  • you won’t be able to give 'undertakings' (professional promises) that solicitors and licensed conveyancers use, which may cause you difficulties

Making a complaint

If you aren’t happy with the service you receive from your licensed conveyancer or solicitor, you should complain to them first. Give them a fair chance to sort out the problem before taking it any further.

If you feel your solicitor has failed to deal with the problem, contact the Legal Ombudsman. The Legal Ombudsman will try to solve the disagreement or may refer the complaint to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Conveyancers who are not also solicitors must be a member of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). If you have a complaint, contact the CLC.

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