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Can I change solicitors?

If you’re buying or selling a house and you’re not happy with your conveyancing solicitor, you may be asking ‘can I change solicitors?’ While the simple answer is yes. Whether it’s right for you to change solicitors depends on a number of factors. Here's what to consider and how the process of switching solicitors works.

can i change solicitors

Can I change my property solicitor?

In short, yes, you can change solicitors. If you’re unhappy, for whatever reason with the solicitor handling your property purchase or sale, you can switch firms.

And the process to change solicitors is quite simple. You just need to find a new solicitor to take over your case. Your new solicitor will ask you to sign a form of authority. This allows them to contact your previous solicitor to obtain your files. However, the first firm is not likely to release your files until you have paid for work already carried out on your case. Read on for further details.

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Should I change my conveyancing solicitor?

Buying or selling a property can be a tense time. If you feel your solicitor’s actions – or lack of – could jeopardise the transaction it’s natural to want to explore the option of moving elsewhere.

But switching your conveyancing solicitor is not a decision to take lightly. Depending on how far along in the conveyancing process you are, you may find changing solicitors means you encounter more delays due to work needing to be redone.

If you have exchanged, we recommended that you do not change solicitors in case any delays mean you miss your completion date which can lead to financial penalties being incurred. Depending on the terms you signed, you may be liable to pay two sets of solicitors’ fees. So it’s important to look at the pros and cons of changing solicitors carefully before you make your decision.

Do I have to pay if I switch my conveyancing solicitor?

Before you change your solicitor, you need to find out if you owe your current solicitor any money for work they have done so far. This depends on the terms of your agreement which should have been given to you in writing at the start. For example, your property solicitor may have ordered local searches and undertaken other legal work. So your first step should be to dig out your paperwork.

Once the legal costs have been established, you should also ask your current solicitor if they will pass on all the paperwork to a new firm and whether there will be a fee for doing so. In most cases, they are unlikely to release this paperwork until you have paid for the work they have done on your behalf.

And bear in mind that while many firms work on a ‘no sale, no fee’ basis for conveyancing work, this usually means they won’t charge you if your purchase or sale doesn’t complete for a reason outside your control. However, if you choose to move to another firm, you may need to pay the original firm for the work done even though completion hasn’t taken place.

You could argue, given the terrible service, that you won’t be paying and will start again with another firm. But, you’ll need their written agreement to this to avoid the potential of being handed a bill for fees owed at a later date.

Also, if a solicitor decides they can no longer act for you or has shut down, this doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t need to pay for work that has been carried out. This will depend on the terms of engagement you signed up to.

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What are the main reasons for changing solicitors?

There are many reasons why people may wish to change their conveyancing solicitor. These include:

  • Lack of progress with the case because your solicitor is too slow;
  • Difficulty reaching your solicitor by telephone;
  • Because your solicitor doesn’t respond to emails or letters;
  • Being charged too much by your solicitor;
  • You no longer trust your solicitor;
  • Disagreeing with the advice your solicitor has given you; or
  • Because the firm has closed down

There are more extreme reasons why people may switch their solicitor too. In November 2021, Simplify Group, a major UK independent conveyancing and property services group, suffered a major IT systems outage due to a ‘security incident’. This caused great concern for clients of Simplify who were at various stages of the home buying and selling process. At the time, Simplify advised clients they must ‘consider whether to wait to progress their transactions when Simplify’s systems were running again or whether to instruct a different conveyancer’. Simplify also said it would not charge for work completed to date should clients wish to move to another conveyancer.

What else can I do if I’m not happy with my solicitor?

If you’re unhappy with your solicitor, there are steps you can take to try to resolve problems before switching.

If your solicitor is part of a firm, you could ask to speak to a senior partner to complain about the current level of service.

Assuming you can get through to them and manage to explain the situation, you then need reassurance that your solicitor will provide a greater or faster level of service. Alternatively, if you’ve already lost confidence in that person, you should ask to be transferred to another solicitor in the firm.

This usually unblocks the problem and you should receive a better level of service. Agree with your conveyancing solicitor what you want to see improved. But if things don’t improve, you do have the option of switching to a new firm.

Looking for a new conveyancer to take over the purchase or sale of your house? Compare quotes from our panel of qualified conveyancing solicitors to find the best rated, cheapest or nearest firms to you

Is it easy to change conveyancing solicitors?

When you’re asking ‘can I change my conveyancing solicitor?’ you’ll probably want to know how easy the process is. How easy it is to switch, usually depends on how far along in the process you are. If you want to switch solicitors, we suggest you to do it sooner rather than later. A conveyancer cannot rely on the work undertaken by another solicitor. They must carry out their own investigations to satisfy themselves that all is in order. This can create a duplication of work, cost and extend the timescale of the move.

And once contracts have been exchanged, it is much harder to change solicitors because a completion date will have been agreed. If there is any delay that causes you to miss the completion date, this can lead to financial penalties being incurred. So, it’s not recommended to change your solicitor after exchange. And if you require another solicitor as the original one can no longer act for you, you may also require advice on getting compensation.

How to find a new conveyancing solicitor and transfer your case

When you’re selecting a new firm, you’ll want to be confident that your new conveyancing solicitor will do a better job than the old firm. Read our guide on finding the right conveyancing solicitor and things to consider, as well as, questions to ask your conveyancing solicitor.

Always speak to the property lawyer that will be taking over your case to ensure you feel confident in their abilities. You’ll need to ask whether they are happy to take on an existing case and how quickly they can pick things up. You should explain you’re looking for someone to prioritise you in their workload, given that you’ve been neglected to date and have lost a few weeks in the conveyancing process. You should also ask if they are able to handle the transfer of documents, or whether you need to organise this.

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Changing solicitors: what about my mortgage?

When it comes to your mortgage, you can change solicitor, or conveyancer, either before or after a purchase or remortgage offer has been issued. However, before taking any steps, you will need to make sure that your new conveyancer is on the lender’s panel. Especially, if you are benefiting from a fees assisted remortgage package. The new conveyancing firm should be able to confirm this but check with your lender or mortgage broker.

If the mortgage offer has already been issued, the lender will then reissue the offer to the new conveyancing solicitor. So, normally, in terms of your mortgage, it’s not difficult to change solicitors. It is usually just a case of your broker or you informing the lender of the change. The main reason for informing the lender is to guard against the risk of fraud.

Get fee-free mortgage advice from our partners at L&C. Start online or call today.

What is the procedure for changing solicitors?

Once you’ve found a new solicitor to take over your case, your new solicitor will ask you to sign a form of authority. This allows them to contact your previous solicitor to obtain your files. As explained, the first firm often will not release files until they have been paid for work carried out.

If you’re selling a property, your new solicitor can obtain a copy of your title from the Land Registry. If your title is unregistered with the Land Registry and the original firm has possession of the deeds, you will need them to pass them onto your new solicitor. This may incur an additional cost.

What happens if a solicitor is holding money for me?

If your current conveyancing solicitor is holding any money on your behalf or part of the purchase money, it should be straightforward to have these funds transferred to your new solicitor. This is because, when solicitors hold money on your behalf, they must hold it in a separate bank account. So, it should just be a case of the solicitor transferring the funds they are holding upon request. When it comes to transferring money, see our guide  protecting yourself from property fraud.

If the conveyancer has already received the mortgage advance from the lender and completion has not taken place, the lender’s instructions to the conveyancer requires those funds to be returned to the lender immediately, or as soon as possible.

In the event that your solicitor is holding money for you and then the firm shuts down, arrangements need to be made for it to be sent to you or your new solicitor. However, the process of doing this can take some time.

And if the firm shuts down after completion but before stamp duty has been paid or a transfer registered, as a buyer, you will need to choose another solicitor to look after this. Again, this can take some time.

What if my firm of conveyancing solicitors is closed down?

In the event that a solicitor or conveyancing firm is insolvent and closes down, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) intervenes.  They will close the practice and the SRA or CLC will arrange for all client papers to be held safely by another firm, called an intervention agent. Next, this agent will contact impacted clients and ask them what they would like to do with the documents. And all the money held by the firm will be returned to clients providing they can be traced.

In the majority of cases, the agents will only hold the file until the client chooses to instruct another conveyancing solicitor. If this happens to you, instruct a new solicitor as soon as possible who is prepared to take over your case at short notice. However, it’s likely there will be some delays.

Looking for a new conveyancer to take over the purchase or sale of your house? Compare quotes & rating from our quality assured panel

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