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Conveyancing refers to the transfer of property from one person to another, which can be a complex process. Many professionals are needed to help with the different stages of the conveyancing process, one of which is a solicitor, who looks to ensure all the legal considerations and potential issues are covered before the sale of the property goes ahead.
This is supposed to leave the seller and the purchaser with peace of mind that everything is in order with their transaction. As property is often our most valuable asset, we heavily rely on the expertise of solicitors to help ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible. This is why it is hugely distressing when mistakes are made that can lead to loss in relation to a property.
Right up to completion of the sale, there is the opportunity for things to go wrong or missed, which is why the work of a solicitor is key in avoiding mishaps which could have serious financial ramifications. For instance, when a negligent solicitor fails to uncover vital things about a property, it can leave the purchaser at a big loss. If this has happened to you, you may have a claim for conveyancing negligence against your solicitor.
There are many instances whereby a conveyancing solicitor may be negligent, including, but not limited to, the following:
Conveyancer missed restrictive covenants
When you purchase property, you may have plans to extend or renovate it, or even completely demolish it and start again. If there is an unknown restrictive covenant on the property, you may be unable to get planning permission to perform such desired changes. This is because restrictive covenants put in place an agreement which requires the buyer of the property to refrain from a specific action, such as making drastic alterations to the property. This might leave you with a property you would not have purchased had you previously been aware of such restrictions.
Property is usually sold on either a freehold or leasehold basis. If you own the freehold, you own the building and the land it stands on outright, as opposed to leasehold which means that you just have a lease from the freeholder (sometimes this is the landlord) to use the home for a set number of years. If your purchase is leasehold, it is important that your solicitor establishes both the length of the lease, and the exact terms of it. Failing to do this may result in vast additional cost to you to re-negotiate the terms of the lease.
Failure in investigation of a Good Title
The investigation of ‘good’ title involves establishing whether the seller of the property is legally able to transfer the property to the new owner, as well as looking into whether there are any defects in that title that would adversely impact the buyer’s interests. For example, the solicitor will need to examine each deed to the property to ensure that there are no hidden rights to the property that could affect the new owners.
No building regulation certificate
When a property has an extension, or any significant building work on it, the house owner should obtain a completion certificate from the local buildings council to confirm that it has been finished to the required standard of safety. If you inherit a property that does not have such a certificate, you may be required by law to remove or alter the building work which can be very expensive. If your conveyancing solicitor has failed to inform you there is no building regulation certificate on the property, they may have been negligent in their duties to you.
Conveyancer missed easements or rights
An easement refers to the existence of a right of way through a particular part of land. For example, someone may be granted the right to a pathway through the garden of a property, meaning that they have the right to use it when they please. Your solicitor should report to you any easements over the land you are buying. If they did not and you have discovered one, this may amount to negligence.
Planning or environmental issues
If the property is located in a particularly vulnerable area, such as a near a river, and your solicitor has not obtained an environmental report of the surrounding area, or not advised you on the same properly, you may end up living in a flood prone area without prior knowledge. This could seriously damage your home and its value. It is therefore vital that a solicitor makes you aware of the surrounding areas vulnerabilities. This is one example – land instability, the presence of chemicals and other unwelcome issues may be others.
Property or part not within the seller’s title
One of the core features of conveyancing is the inclusion of a title plan showing the extent of the land in question by ‘red edging’. When buying a property, it is important to make sure that the physical boundaries match the boundaries shown on the title plan, or you may not end up with what you thought you were buying.
Acting without authority including from one joint owner
If the property is jointly owned, it is a legal requirement that permission to sell the property comes from all owners. If one or more people were not consulted, this could have serious consequences, including court proceedings being issued and complications over who has rights to the house.
Conveyancer gave wrong or no advice about the meaning and effect of contract/transfer/deed
In helping you with all the legal formalities, a conveyancing solicitor should explain exactly what each of the legal documents are and the processes involved with each, as well as the effect it will have on you. For example, the deeds of a property relate to the chain of ownership for land and property and are vital for owning and later selling a property.
If you believe you have suffered negligence in any of the above categories, or in another way relating to conveyancing and property, then you should get in touch with us to see if you have a negligence case against your conveyancing solicitor.
What can I claim for negligent conveyancing?
Each claim is different depending on the circumstances of the conveyancing negligence. As a general rule, your compensation level will be to try and put you back in the position you should have been in had the negligence not happened.
- You buy a property but the solicitor has failed to advise on flood reports despite your instructions to. This is found to be negligent. But for that negligence you would not have bought the property and can show that on the balance of probabilities. You would then seek to claim the difference between what the property is worth against what you paid for it, with any fees you paid for negligent work. Experts would be involved to confirm valuations.
- You advise that you are buying property to develop further housing. Planning permission is expected. The conveyancer knows your plans. Restrictive covenants are not identified that scupper the plan. You go for this opportunity and pass on another. The claim would revolve around a loss of opportunity as you have missed the chance of planning permission and a successful development on the other option, in addition you would say you would not have bought the property you did had the proper advice been given on the restrictive covenants.
- A Deed of Trust is established with you and your partner to confirm the split that each would be entitled to in relation to a house purchase when it is disposed of (say where friends purchase but put in unequal amounts). Incorrect drafting leads to a dispute upon sale falling a fall out. If negligence is proved the Court would step in to correct so you receive the proper amount, if mitigation efforts between the parties themselves did not work
What time limits are in place?
To make a claim for solicitor or conveyancing professional negligence, you must be in time, which is known as the ‘professional negligence limitation period’.
Generally, if your solicitor has failed to perform to the professional standards required of them, and you have suffered damage or loss as a result, you have six years from the date of the negligence occurring.
There can be exceptions to this time limit, for example if you were not aware of the negligence until a later date. However it is important to seek legal advice as early as possible to avoid any issues with limitation dates.
How is the claim funded?
Our professional negligence lawyers are happy to discuss fee options and advise clients under a wide range of fee structures including working under:
- an existing legal expenses insurance,
- a fixed fee,
- traditional hourly rate retainers, or
- a “No Win, No Fee” basis
The Next Steps
If you have been let down by an expert and want to find out more about, or start, a professional negligence compensation claim please call our professional negligence lawyers on Freephone 0808 164 0808 or contact us online.