Buying or selling a property can be a stressful process, which unfortunately, can be made worse if you need to change solicitors during the transaction.
You may wish to change solicitors for a number of reasons; perhaps the solicitor is no longer able to act on your behalf - in some cases the solicitor instructed may not be on the lenders panel (it is important to check this before instructing a solicitor). In other cases, the solicitors practice may have closed down or perhaps you have lost confidence in your solicitor.
But, how easy is it for you to change solicitors once the legal process has begun?
1.) Should I Stay with my Solicitor?
Before deciding to change solicitors and instruct another firm, speak to a senior member of the firm which is acting for you and see if you can sort things out with your current solicitor. Perhaps you will be able to resolve any issues you may have.
It may also be possible to change the solicitor within the firm, as another solicitor may be able to deal with your case. However, sometimes this may not be possible if you have lost confidence in your solicitor or in the firm.
If you feel you do need to change solicitors, you will need to instruct a firm which will be able to take over your case professionally and smoothly to prevent any unnecessary delays. Changing your solicitors after exchange is not recommended, as the completion date will have been set and failure to complete by the set date will incur financial penalties.
2.) Should I Switch Companies All Together?
Switching companies altogether is not always a simple process and can be stressful. The earlier you switch companies, the easier it will be. The newly instructed firm must be in a position to take on files and act without delay, as it may take time to sort these out. You should always inform your current instructed solicitor if you plan on changing solicitors or firms.
The new firm will also have a responsibility to yourself and any lender involved, so will have to review all of the paperwork and if purchasing on your behalf, may have to raise more enquiries or ask the sellers solicitor for more information.
How will I transfer my documents?
In some cases, solicitors acting for the other party may send the relevant documents to the new firm, however, some solicitor firms might not release paperwork if they have not been paid for the work they’ve already done. They are entitled to do this as they have a ‘lien’ over the documents.
To solve this problem, cases can be taken over without these documents, as long as the contracts have not been exchanged. If the case is a purchase, the new solicitors will be able to get copy of title direct from the land registry.
How will I transfer my documents if the law firm has closed down?
If the law firm has closed down or the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has intervened, another law firm will act as the Authority Agent. The files will be held by the agent until another firm is instructed; however, you may need to give written authority to send the files to the new firm.
If the Solicitors firm has closed down after a purchase completion, but before stamp duty has been payed, the buyer needs to appoint another solicitor to complete this.
How will I transfer my money?
If the solicitor is holding money, there is no problem getting this transferred to the new solicitors as it is held in a separate bank account. However, if the firm has closed down for any reason, this can take some time since the Authority agent will need to have access to the closed firm’s bank accounts before it can confirm who the money belongs to.
If the money being held is mortgage advance money, the money will belong to the lender until completion, meaning it will have to be returned to the lender.
Should I still pay my old solicitor if I switch to a new firm?
Whether you have to pay for the work your solicitor has already done and how much you have to pay depends on different solicitors. If your solicitor acts on a ‘no sale no fee’ basis, the firm won’t charge if the reason for you leaving is outside of your control, but may charge if completion hasn’t taken place.
You may also be liable for the payment of disbursements that are not covered in the firms ‘no sale no fee policy’. This information will be in the terms of the engagement which should have been given to you in writing.
If the firm can no longer act for you or has closed down, it doesn’t automatically mean you won’t have to pay; again this depends on terms of engagement.
Will I incur penalties for changing my solicitor?
It is unlikely that you will incur any penalties for changing solicitors until you have exchanged contracts. However, you will incur penalties after exchange if the completion is delayed by the change of solicitors. If the purchase fails to complete on the date set on exchange, the seller could rescind the contract and keep the deposit payed and could also sue for losses.
If the seller fails to complete, the buyer can deduct interest from the purchase price when completion does take place and may also rescind the contract and sue for losses and damages.
If a solicitor is no longer able to act on your behalf you may be able to claim compensation. In some cases, you can make a claim against the firm’s indemnity insurance. This can be a difficult, time-consuming process and further professional advice will be required.
How Can Howells Help?
Howells Solicitors is one of the leading conveyancing law firms in Wales and we pride ourselves on the high level of service that we provide our clients.
Our dedicated team of experts are on hand to make moving home as simple and as straightforward as possible, always ensuring that our clients receive the personal service that they deserve.
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If you have an issue that you wish to discuss this with our solicitors in South Wales, please telephone us on 02920 40 40 20 or you can fill in our online enquiry form below.