Do you believe that you had substandard or even negligent guidance from the solicitor or conveyancer you instructed to help you with the sale or purchase of your property? If so, you could be entitled to make a professional negligence claim against them.
The negligence lawyers at Bonallack & Bishop are compensation claim experts – and we are members of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association. Our team have have helped many clients recover compensation having been badly advised by professionals they thought they could trust.
And with the average UK house price now at £235,000 (according to Hometrack’s UK House Price Index in August 2021), conveyancing mistakes can prove very expensive indeed. So, if you are looking to claim compensation against a negligent conveyancer or property solicitor, get in touch with our professional negligence claims specialists.
Call us on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 or one of our four local office numbers for FREE initial phone advice – no strings attached.
What is conveyancing?
What is a conveyancer?
A conveyancer is essentially a property lawyer who specialises in property transactions and is fully trained and licensed to carry out all areas of property law. Many are Solicitors, some are Legal Executives and some are unqualified. There is however a fourth category – licensed conveyancers. These are lawyers with specific qualifications in conveyancing only – and they are regulated by the Council of Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), which is responsible for regulating thease lawyers and dealing with any misconduct claims against them.
The CLC also runs a compensation scheme which can pay out up to £5,000; however, in many cases this simply will not sufficiently compensate the victim for the considerable losses they have incurred due to the negligent advice received. The Solicitors Regulation Authority regulates firms of solicitors, including those who deal with conveyancing such as us here at Bonallack and Bishop – and it uses a different process for complaints and paying out damages.
However the vast majority of professional negligence claims against solicitors are dealt with in the courts – and compensation is paid by the conveyancers insurance. Solicitors in particular are forced to carry a significant amount of professional indemnity cover – currently with a minimum of £2 million, but often considerably more.
In the vast majority of cases, conveyancers perform to a very high standard but sometimes these standards will slip which can cause significant financial damage to the client.
Thankfully, our professional negligence claims lawyers can help to recover the financial losses incurred due to the bad advice received. Whether a failed transaction, inadequate skill, disorganisation or blatant errors on the part of the conveyancer are to blame, we can help.
Click here to read more about Professional Negligence Claims and how our team can help you.
What are the most common errors made by conveyancing solicitors?
Amongst the more common mistakes made by conveyancing solicitors are the following
- errors made with regard to the legal title of the property – and even failing to use clients’ correct full names
- not defining property boundaries accurately
- failing to spot that the property, or part of it, is not within the seller’s title
- failing to advise that part of the property did not form part of the sale, e.g. garage, garden, driveway or access road
- failing to spot the absence of critical documents e.g. planning permission, NHBC Guarantees or architect’s certificates
- not carrying out the right searches before exchanging contracts
- not making sufficient enquiries of the vendors
- failing to identify rights of way
- errors in advice on restrictive covenants – which limit the use or enjoyment of property
- failing to inform clients about planning issues and restrictions on the use of the property
- not advising on information received from the vendors or contained in Property Searches e.g. a requirement for maintenance of sewers and roads
- missing mistakes in leases
- failing to properly explain conditions and the lease – or the need for an urgent lease extension.
Click here to read more about lease extension
- failing to advise property on ground rent for leasehold property
- not registering a Mortgage or Charge at the Land Registry on time – or at all
- failing to remove a Registered Charge or Mortgage
- failing to advise adequately on a Survey Report – although in this case, there may also be grounds for a surveyor negligence claim.
Click here to find out how to sue your surveyor
- not advising correctly about the negligence of a previous conveyancing solicitor
- failures in carrying out proper checks to combat mortgage fraud, which was a particular issue with self-certified mortgages
- negligence involving the money laundering checks which have to be done when selling or buying property
Easily avoidable errors
Most of these sorts of mistakes could have been easily avoided if the conveyancer or solicitor took sufficient care – but this tough carelessness can and does cause huge financial damage.
Sometimes, negligence by a solicitor can allow criminals or other third parties to get their hands on your money or property. In these cases, a claim can be made against the solicitor for the loss.
Negligence claims resulting out of commercial property transactions
Claims against negligent conveyancing solicitors don’t just occur when buying residential property. Commercial property transactions are prone to negligence as well – and given the significant value of some commercial property, these cases can involve significant compensation.
In general terms, though the law involved is different, commercial property is no different from residential in terms of your solicitor’s responsibilities, although the problems involved can vary from those in private property law.
For example, when buying commercial property, your solicitor should ensure that the registered property usage is suitable for your intended business. Failing to do so can be catastrophic. You may be subject to enforcement orders preventing you from running your business as intended.
In some cases, the ‘use class’ of a property cannot be changed – which could practically limit the use of your building for a specific types of business. If your solicitor fails to inform you of this, for example, you may find that your local authority have the right to impose charges upon you or even to have your business closed down.
And it’s not just limited to buying business property. Negligence is also surprisingly common in advice from commercial lease agreement solicitors
The financial loss which can result from any of the aforementioned situations is potentially huge, which is why it’s vital that your solicitor or conveyancer acts in a professional and responsible manner. If they fail to do so, you may well have a strong claim for professional negligence
What is the difference between poor service and negligence?
There is a big difference between bad service and negligence.
If your conveyancer is rude, never returns phone calls or emails, or makes a simple error, you cannot make a negligence claim for compensation. You can, however leave a negative review online, complain to the Legal Ombudsman, or change your Solicitor.
Proving your negligence claim
To make a successful negligence claim, you will need to prove three things:
1. Your Solicitor owed you a duty of care,
2. They breached this duty, and
3. Their breach of duty caused you to suffer loss or damage.
Number 1 is usually not difficult to establish. As a professional advisor, a Solicitor owes their client a duty of care.
However, establishing 2 and 3 can be more challenging. To show a duty of care has been breached requires proof that your Solicitor’s standards fell below that of a reasonably competent practitioner, having regard to the standards normally adopted in their profession.
Establishing damage or loss means showing not only that the breach of duty caused you loss, usually financial, but also that the damage was not too remote from the Solicitor’s negligent act or omission.
For example, in 2018, a Court stated a Solicitor was negligent when he failed to write to a client confirming the many potential difficulties arising from the prospective purchase of a property with a defective title. When the purchaser died, her Executors found themselves unable to sell the property or rectify the title due to the negligence of the Solicitor
How is a conveyancing negligence claim valued?
Our Solicitors work with specialist surveyors and valuers when establishing the value of a professional negligence by a Conveyancer claim.
When it comes to awarding damages, the general principle in negligence is that the amount awarded should put the Claimant back in the position they would have been if the negligence had not occurred. For example, if your Conveyancer failed to mention that the dream home you have just purchased is sitting on contaminated land (a fact which would have been highlighted in the Environment Report), then the Conveyancer may be forced to pay you the difference between what you would have paid for the property had you known this fact, and the sum you actually paid.
They may also be liable for any remedial work on the land that a local authority may require you to undertake.
Are there other remedies besides damages?
In some cases, damages are not the appropriate remedy. For example, if necessary, you can ask the Conveyancer to remedy the title, rights of way, or covenants that you were not made aware of during the purchasing process. In any event, our Solicitors will advise you on the most appropriate remedy for your claim.
How can I fund my professional negligence claim?
The majority of compensation claims against negligent conveyancers are run under no win no fee agreements – so you don’t need to worry about paying legal costs.
Click here to learn more about no win no claims.
Don’t delay making your claim.
There are two good reasons for making enquiries about a possible claim as soon as possible.
- Firstly if you don’t make your claim within six years of the negligent act, you could lose your right to claim compensation entirely.
- Secondly, your memory of events is likely to be much better and more accurate the quicker you start your claim.
One problem is often that the solicitor’s negligence doesn’t become known until years later – often when you come to sell your property. That’s particularly the case with title issues. And it’s often the lawyers for a prospective purchaser who discovers the problem.
However the good news, is that if six years has passed, you you may not have lost your right to compensation – because that limitation period runs from when you became aware of your conveyancer’s negligence.
Professional negligence claims against your conveyancer? Call Us Now
Our dedicated team of professional negligence experts are perfectly placed to help you with your conveyancer negligence claim today.
Whether you’re based locally to our 4 offices in Wiltshire and Hampshire, or elsewhere in England and Wales, we can help.
To speak to us about how we can help with your professional negligence claim , call us today – and don’t forget we always offer free initial advice on the phone.
- Call one of our team on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544 or on (01722) 422300 OR
- E-mail us using the online enquiry form below: