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Changing Solicitor During a House Purchase or Sale

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by

19th Jul 2022 (Last updated on 19th Jul 2022) 6 minute read

If you’re unhappy with your current conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor, you have the option of changing solicitors.

Buying and selling a house is a rewarding but time-consuming and complicated event. It’s essential you have the right professionals for the job, otherwise the risk of delays increases. If you’re unhappy with the service your solicitor is providing, you might consider changing firms. Whilst this is possible, whether it's the right decision for you depends on a variety of factors.

In this article, we discuss what you need to consider when changing solicitors as well as how the process of switching actually works.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Can You Change Your Solicitor During the Conveyancing Process?
  2. Reasons for Changing Solicitors
  3. How to Find a New Conveyancing Solicitor
  4. How Does a Conveyancing Transfer Work?
  5. How Easy is it to Transfer Documents to Another Solicitor?
  6. Can You Change Solicitors After a Mortgage Offer?
  7. What if Your Solicitor is Holding Money For You?
  8. Do You Need to Pay for Changing Conveyancing Solicitors?
  9. What to Do if the Conveyancing Firm Has Closed Down

Can You Change Your Solicitor During the Conveyancing Process?

Yes, it is possible to change your solicitor. Whether you’re starting the conveyancing process or are halfway through buying a house, you have the option of switching law firms.

If you lose confidence in your solicitor or you’re unhappy with the service they’re providing, you can find a new conveyancer and switch firms.

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Reasons for Changing Solicitors

There are several reasons why people consider changing solicitors during a house sale or purchase. These include:

  • A loss of trust
  • Difficulty communicating or a slow response time
  • Lack of progress because the solicitor is too slow
  • Conveyancing costs are too high
  • A disagreement in advice
  • The firm has closed down

A report by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy revealed that buyers and sellers in 2017 experienced delays due to issues with the other party’s solicitors.

Around 47% of buyers blamed the seller’s solicitor, whilst 58% of sellers blamed the buyer’s solicitor. This proves that there are some cases where changing conveyancers may be the solution.

How to Find a New Conveyancing Solicitor

When changing solicitors, it’s essential that you’re confident in your new choice. The best way to find a new solicitor is to compare conveyancing quotes online.

When comparing companies, make sure you speak to the conveyancer who will be in charge of your case and ask them as many questions as possible. You’ll need to confirm they’re happy to take on an existing case and are comfortable continuing the process. You should also establish whether they will prioritise your case, reducing any further delays.

Here at Compare My Move, we only work with verified and experienced conveyancers who are regulated by the CLC, SRA, LSS, LSNI or CILEx. We cross-reference and monitor every partner, ensuring you only receive the highest quality services.

How Does a Conveyancing Transfer Work?

First, you need to find a new conveyancing solicitor to take your case. After this, your previous and new conveyancer will take care of the transfer process for you.

Your new solicitor will ask you to sign a form of authority which allows them to contact the previous firm and obtain your files. However, the paperwork will not be released until you’ve paid for the work already completed. This is why it’s essential your finances are sorted as soon as possible.

If you’re selling a property, your new conveyancer will also need to obtain a copy of your title from the Land Registry, as well as the additional paperwork.

If there are delays in the transfer, your new solicitor will chase the previous firm for you.

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How Easy is it to Transfer Documents to Another Solicitor?

You will need to request the transformation of papers in writing for the process to begin. If you’re changing solicitors before the exchange of contracts, then the transfer process should be simple. Changing solicitors after this step is more complicated.

Whilst transferring the paperwork is easy, a conveyancer cannot solely rely on the work carried out by another solicitor. They will also need to carry out their own investigations and searches, extending the timescale and potentially duplicating the work.

Once the contracts have been exchanged, the completion date has been agreed upon. This makes it difficult to change solicitors as delays could cause you to miss your completion date. This can lead to financial penalties.

Keep in mind that some conveyancing firms won’t transfer the documentation until you’ve paid for the work already carried out. This can, again, cause delays and result in you missing your completion date.

Can You Change Solicitors After a Mortgage Offer?

It’s possible to change solicitors halfway through buying a house and it shouldn’t affect your mortgage offer. But there will be a few extra steps to consider.

When comparing solicitors, you’ll need to tell them you’ve been provided with a mortgage offer and ask whether they can work with your lender. They will then confirm whether they can continue.

You will also need to contact your lender and let them know you’re changing conveyancers. You should provide them with the new name and contact details of the firm.

What if Your Solicitor is Holding Money For You?

When purchasing a property, you may find your solicitor is holding money or part of the purchase money on your behalf. When switching conveyancing firms, this should be a fairly straightforward transfer.

If your solicitor is holding money for you, they will be doing so in a separate bank account. They will need to liaise with the new solicitor and transfer the funds on your behalf.

If completion has not yet occurred but the solicitor has received a mortgage advance from the lender, then the lender will request that the money be returned.

The most difficult scenario will be if you’re transferring funds from a conveyancing firm that is closing down. This will often increase the length of the process as your new solicitor will need to access the account before the company closes. They will also need to verify who the money belongs to.

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Do You Need to Pay for Changing Conveyancing Solicitors?

Whilst it depends on the law firms’ specific policy, most conveyancers will require payment for work already completed before transferring your files to the new solicitor. Some companies will also ask for an additional fee for transferring the paperwork.

Some firms will only ask for payment when the transaction is completed. Others may only charge you a percentage of the overall conveyancing fee or the cost of any disbursements.

It’s advised you check your initial quote and read the terms of engagement before transferring solicitors.

What to Do if the Conveyancing Firm Has Closed Down

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) will be asked to intervene if a law firm closes down. Once the company has closed, the SRA or CLC will arrange for all clients’ documents and paperwork to be held safely by another firm. This is called an ‘intervention agent’.

This agent will then contact all the clients that have been impacted and ask them what they would like to do with the documents in question. If you have already instructed another solicitor, you can begin transferring the paperwork. All money held by the firm will be returned once the clients are verified.

You may encounter additional costs as a result of the company closing. Legal costs or penalties for late Stamp Duty Land Tax payments could be included in these expenses.

If the law firm is closing down and your solicitor is holding money on your behalf, it should be safe and the money should be transferred. If the money goes missing, you will be able to make a claim.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

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