Solicitors have duty to explain conveyancing searches
A recently reported case, (involving whether or not solicitors should charge VAT on fees for electronic searches), has thrown up a reminder for all solicitors that conveyancing searches have to be thoroughly explained to clients.
In the case of Brabners v The Commissioners for Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, the judge said: 'Simple common sense dictates that clients engage [a solicitor] ... since the [solicitor] knows what it is doing, knows what a search is, knows what searches to obtain, knows how to get them quickly and conveniently, and knows what to do with them when it gets them ... [the solicitor's retainer] does not say "We will get the searches, but then what you do with them is down to you - you are on your own"'.
Searches can throw up all sorts of issues with properties - there might be issues with building work which has been done at the property, problems with drainage, mining in the area, or even toxic gases. It is no good for a solicitor to obtain the searches and simply send them on to a client with no explanation. The conveyancing solicitor has a duty to flag up any issues revealed by the searches, so that their client can make an informed decision about whether to proceed with their purchase, or to re-assess whether the purchase price is correct.
Gillian Hibbard, conveyancing solicitor at Samuels Solicitors in Devon, says: "This decision is a useful reminder to all solicitors of their duty to clients. At Samuels we have rigorous procedures in place to ensure that our clients receive the best advice possible, at every stage of their conveyancing transaction."
If a solicitor fails to properly explain the results of searches to a client, the client could possibly have a claim against their conveyancing solicitor for professional negligence. Samuels Solicitors regularly deals with claims against conveyancing solicitors, who have failed to advise clients properly during a property purchase.
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