Moving home is widely regarded as the most stressful thing you can do in this chaotic world we live in and it’s not surprising when you read some of these horrifying stories.

Moving home is widely regarded as the most stressful thing you can do in this chaotic world we live in and it’s not surprising when you read some of these horrifying stories.

1. The nightmare before Christmas 

Mrs A’s dream of Christmas in a new family nest seemed to be coming true after she instructed her lawyer to go ahead and finalise the purchase of a house. However, her dream soon turned into a horrible nightmare, which would see her family end up in a caravan on Christmas day. 

After completing the sale of her former home and handing the keys over to its new owners, Mrs A transferred funds required to complete the purchase of her new home into her lawyer’s account and gave them the thumbs up to finalise the purchase. 

She then excitedly booked a removal van and had all of her family’s belongings loaded up ready to be taken to the new address. They packed up everything and set off for what should’ve been the next happy chapter in their lives. 

Unfortunately – and unknown to Mrs A – her lawyer hadn’t completed the house purchase and the people she was buying the house from hadn’t received any money. So, unsurprisingly, they weren’t prepared to hand over the keys. 

After desperately chasing the firm, Mrs A eventually discovered that its accounts had been frozen since it was being investigated for a number of major service failures. It was Christmas Eve, Mrs A’s money was stuck in limbo and she and her three children, one of whom was disabled, had nowhere to live. 

Thinking on her feet Mrs A drove the family to a local caravan site and checked them in as a last act of desperation. They spent Christmas Day in a caravan – a far cry from the dream surroundings she’d envisaged for her family only days before. The incident ended up costing Mrs A even more money over subsequent days and weeks as she moved her family into a cottage until the house purchase had completed. 

After complaining to the law firm and getting an unsatisfactory response, Mrs A took her complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. They investigated and awarded Mrs A around £14,000 to cover losses and for the distress and inconvenience she had experienced. 

2. Disastrous delays 

Miss B had instructed a lawyer to undertake a part- exchange on her property. She was purchasing a new build house and exchanging her old flat as part of the deal. 

After receiving instruction, the lawyer promptly sent Miss B a client care pack which said the transaction would take just six weeks to complete. However, when Miss B emailed the firm some weeks later to arrange payment of her deposit to the construction company she received no response, and the phone simply rang out. 

This went on for some time. Even the construction firm couldn’t get hold of the lawyer. Eventually, some months later, the construction firm finally lost patience and pulled out of the deal. 

Miss B lost out on her new home because of the lawyer’s constant delays in making payments on her behalf. 

To make things worse, when the lawyer did finally get in touch it was to chase costs from Miss B. She had instructed the firm under a ‘fixed fee’ agreement but wasn’t made aware by the lawyer that she would have to pay if the transaction failed. Miss B had also lost money in survey fees and her deposit. 

She couldn’t resolve her dispute with the firm directly and was left with no option but to take her complaint to the legal Ombudsman.

They ordered the firm to reduce their bill from £600 to £300. 

3. Surprise fees 

Ms C instructed a firm to oversee the sale of her home under a ‘fixed fee’ agreement. It was important for Ms C to establish costs up front as she had a very tight budget. 

Unfortunately, the sale of her house didn’t happen. However,
the firm pursued Ms C for costs of almost £10,000. This was a complete surprise to Ms C since the lawyer hadn’t explained she would be liable for any costs if the sale didn’t go through. Ms C also felt that the costs were in excess of what she had originally been quoted. 

Ms C offered to pay some of the costs, based on her estimation of the work they had actually carried out, but was simply told to pay the full £10,000 or risk being pursued by the same firm’s litigation department. The firm refused to meet with Ms C to consider her complaint. 

Ms C finally went to the Legal Ombudsman. They investigated and found that the firm had been misleading about its costs – particularly about how the fixed fee model worked in the event
of the house sale not going through. The investigator was able to arrange an informal resolution between Ms C and the firm, where they agreed to reduce the costs to around £4,000. 

4. Calamitous costs 

Mr and Mrs D were looking for someone to handle the sale and purchase of their property. They went online to obtain quotes for the work and then appointed the firm. They signed the firm’s client care letter and returned it but then nothing happened for three weeks. 

It turned out that their lawyer had left the firm and a new one had taken over the case. Then when this lawyer went on holiday, no one was assigned the case in their absence. This almost caused the sale of the property to fall through. Fortunately, the sale progressed to completion, although it took two weeks for the firm to forward the money due to Mr and Mrs D. 

The firm initially quoted £200 for dealing with the sale and £300 for the purchase. When the final invoice arrived, Mr and Mrs D were shocked to find the firm had charged them a total of £1,400. There were additional items that had been added to the invoice that the couple were never made aware of. 

The firm had assured them that they would be made aware of any increase in fees when they originally signed the client care letter, however, they were not made aware of any increases until the final invoice. Mr and Mrs D wanted the firm to restrict the fees to the amount they had originally quoted and to pay compensation for the emotional impact and disruption they had caused. 

The Legal Ombudsman found that the firm provided poor service by not providing Mr and Mrs D with proper costs information and by not assigning a new lawyer to the case. The firm didn’t respond to the complaint or to the investigation and so were referred to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The ombudsman decided that the firm should refund £900 and pay an additional £100 for the emotional impact on Mr and Mrs D. Mr and Mrs D accepted the decision. 

5. Mystery charges 

Mrs E instructed a lawyer to help purchase her new home but things didn’t work out – the seller pulled out at the last minute and to make things worse she had issues with the law firm. 

At the outset of the instruction, they sent her a breakdown of costs, estimating that it would cost £700. However, she’d used the firm’s ‘no move, no fee’ deal, which would ensure she didn’t have to pay for her legal fees if the sale fell through. 

Despite this agreement Mrs E was charged £800 and within that fee they had charged her £450 for a mysterious undisclosed ‘product’.

Mrs E complained to the firm but got nowhere; then she took her complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. 

During the investigation they discovered that the undisclosed product was in fact legal insurance. This contradicted the ‘no move, no fee’ deal. If the firm had made these charges clear at the instruction stage Mrs E may well have chosen not to use them. 

They agreed that the firm had charged excessive and unnecessary fees. Mrs E was happy to resolve the issue informally if the firm were willing to waive their outstanding bill, which they duly did. 

6. No cash in the attic 

Miss F instructed a firm to help her purchase the leasehold on a converted apartment building. 

Sometime later Miss F decided to sell the property, only to uncover some serious issues. Miss F discovered that the lease did not include a converted ‘attic room’ at the top of the property. So, in effect, she was trying to sell an apartment containing a room over which she had no ownership. 

Miss F realised this meant she had also grossly overpaid for the property in the first place and would need to reduce the sale price, meaning further loss. A retrospective valuation confirmed she had in fact lost £25,000. 

In addition, she had to pay the freeholder £10,000 plus legal fees for her unauthorised use of the attic space while also incurring further expenses including the cost of converting the attic back to its former state and her own legal fees. 

Miss F complained to the law firm to no avail, so she took the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. 

An ombudsman decided that the firm had failed to advise Miss F that the lease was clearly at odds with the sales particulars when she bought the property. They therefore ordered the firm to pay compensation for Miss F’s losses. 

In this case, they were unable to make the firm compensate the total amount of money she lost – namely £50,000. This is because the scheme rules at the time only allowed them to compensate up to a maximum of £30,000 – which is what Miss F was awarded. 

7. An extensive education 

Ms G bought a new home in a fairly busy street. When she bought the property she knew that there was a primary school next door but it was quite small and she thought she would be able to cope with it. 

After several months Ms G had settled into the property and her new area. She was then distressed to receive a letter from the construction company just before the school holidays with details of a large extension that was due to be built over the summer. Ms G was upset because it would mean that her view at the back of the property would be restricted, but more importantly she thought it might affect the value of the property and her ability to sell it in the future. 

She complained to the firm that they should have told her about the work that was going to happen at the school, but she wasn’t happy with the response. 

However, The Legal Ombudsman looked at the case and agreed that the service from the firm had been reasonable. They told Ms G that the searches they’d undertaken only related to her property and not the surrounding area and she had not made them aware of any concerns about living next to a school; therefore, they didn’t investigate further. 

This case helps to show that sometimes customers have expectations over and above what they have actually instructed the lawyer to do. This may be because they misunderstand the conveyancing process and/or what they need to tell the lawyer. 

8. Fault of the earth 

Mr H had always wanted a property with a large garden so when he moved to the countryside it was top of his wish list. 

He found the property and garden that he wanted and bought the property straightaway. A few years later when Mr H went to sell the property he discovered that there were problems with the land and he had not actually bought all the land he thought he had. 

In fact, about a third of the garden was not registered to him. This meant that when he sold the property he lost about £10,000 on the sale price. 

Mr H was understandably upset. He complained to the firm as he felt they hadn’t taken him through all the documents in enough detail to ensure he understood what he was buying. 

When the complaint went to the Legal Ombudsman they decided that the firm had acted reasonably. The firm had sent Mr H the Land Registry plan with a clearly defined boundary and asked him to check that it was an accurate representation of the property he had seen. The firm had also met with Mr H a few days later to go through everything. They told Mr H that as this was a repossessed property it was being sold by the bank who would only have limited knowledge of the property. They asked Mr H if he wanted to proceed and he said yes, and confirmed the plans by signing them. 

It just goes to show that conveyancing is a tough detail orientated job and like any industry you get the good and the bad!

About Wayne Gallant

Wayne is the director of Get Me Moving and the company focus is to ensure our technology makes your conveyancing organised, efficient and more profitable.

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