Who is Responsible if a Transaction Fails?

Home buyers often have the unreasonable belief that their property transaction will go through smoothly. When it goes wrong, it’s often tempting to blame the conveyancing solicitor. There are a number of factors that may cause delays or be problematic that mean a property transaction doesn’t go through in time or not at all, and it’s not always the fault of the lawyer.

As the client, you also have a responsibility to inform your solicitor if there is a problem of which they may not be aware so that they can better deal with the issue. If requests are made for information or if something needs to be resolved by a certain time, you have to ensure you comply if you want your purchase to go through more smoothly. That doesn’t mean the solicitor isn’t sometimes responsible and making a complaint directly to them is usually the first port of call before you opt to go to court to recover lost expenses.

For example, in a recent case a customer of a particular solicitor received a penalty from HMRC for the late receipt of a stamp duty for a land transaction. The application was over 200 days late and the client blamed the solicitor for this after he had been assured the form would be completed. However, the client was expected to fill out the form before sending it to the HMRC. Clearly, the fault here was that the client didn’t, in fact, complete the form and return it. Indeed, legally, while a solicitor is often used in such transactions, it is still the clients legal responsibility to ensure the stamp duty form is filed and returned to HMRC before the due date.

There are a variety of reasons why a transaction might fail or be delayed, costing the client time and money. The purchaser may not pay the deposit on time. There may be problems with obtaining a mortgage or the bank does not settle in a timely manner. There can even be times when the purchaser or seller suddenly refuses to settle for one reason or another. All these factors can delay the conveyancing process and increase the likelihood that your transaction will not go through as expected.

For those using a conveyancing solicitor, it makes sense to ensure you are aware of everything you need to do on your side so that things run as smoothly as possible. It’s not always possible to ensure third parties who are involved in the transaction do their part in return, including your conveyancing solicitor. Regular contact with the relevant parties makes sense and you shouldn’t assume that something is going through without getting confirmation.

Conveyancing is a complex and sometimes difficult process to get through and it pays to use a solicitor who is qualified in this area and has a good deal of experience as well. If you do feel that your solicitor has got it wrong and they are to blame for the failure of the transaction or costing you more money because of late submissions, then the first step is to complain to them directly. As with most things, taking legal action should be a last resort.

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