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Can I Change Solicitors During a Home Sale or Purchase?

Adele MacGregor

Written by

19th Jul 2022 (Last updated on 28th Oct 2022) 7 minute read

If you’re unhappy with your conveyancer, you have the option of changing solicitors. Buying and selling a home can be a challenging process, so you'll want to have the right professionals on board. As a result, if you’re unhappy with your solicitor, 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 look at what you need to consider when changing solicitors. We'll also look at how the process works and what it means for your transaction.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Can You Change Solicitors Halfway Through the Process?
  2. Should You Change Conveyancers?
  3. Do You Need to Pay When Changing Conveyancing Solicitors?
  4. Reasons for Changing Solicitors
  5. How Does a Conveyancing Transfer Work?
  6. What Happens With Your Mortgage Offer?
  7. When is it Too Late to Change Solicitors?
  8. What Other Options Do You Have if You're Unhappy With Your Solicitor?
  9. What if Your Solicitor is Holding Money For You?
  10. What to Do If the Conveyancing Firm Has Closed Down
  11. How to Find a New Conveyancing Solicitor

Can You Change Solicitors Halfway Through the Process?

Yes, it is possible to change your solicitor during the property transaction. Whether you’re starting the conveyancing process or halfway through, you have the option of switching firms.

If you've lost confidence in your solicitor or are unhappy with their service, you may want to look elsewhere. Regardless of your reasons, you are able to select a new conveyancer who can take over your case. Your new solicitor will contact the firm previously handling your conveyancing to get what they need. Be aware, however, you will likely need to pay your previous conveyancer first.

Keep in mind that it will be more complicated if you switch conveyancers after the exchange of contracts. As a result, your completion date may be delayed. In the event that it is, you may be subject to financial penalties.

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Should You Change Conveyancers?

Buying or selling a property can be a challenging time. As exciting as the prospect of a new home can be, delays or mishaps in the process can be frustrating. Before deciding to switch conveyancers, it's recommended that you think carefully about what this entails.

It is almost certain that changing conveyancers will delay the transaction. It may also cost you more, as you will have to pay your previous solicitor for the time they have already spent on your case.

Changing your conveyancer should not be taken lightly and is not recommended once contracts have been exchanged. Delays at this point in the process can result in financial penalties and problems with completion.

Do You Need to Pay When Changing Conveyancing Solicitors?

Most conveyancers will require payment for work already completed. This will need to be paid before transferring your files to the new solicitor. Some companies will also ask for an additional fee for transferring the paperwork. We recommend reviewing your initial quote and terms of engagement with your solicitor.

Some law firms will only ask for payment when the transaction is complete. Others may only charge you a percentage of the overall conveyancing fee. You will need to pay any fees already paid to third parties on your behalf.

Keep in mind that if you have opted for a No Sale No Fee Conveyancer, it's likely you will still be liable for paying fees if you choose to change conveyancers. No Sale No Fee applies when the transaction fails to complete due to factors outside of your control.

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Reasons for Changing Solicitors

There are several reasons why people consider changing solicitors. 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
  • Disagreeing with the advice provided
  • The firm has closed down
  • External factors have impacted the firm (e.g. a security breach)

According to the Legal Ombudsman, conveyancing is one of the most complained about areas of law. They can step in if you have an issue with your conveyancer which cannot be resolved between the client and the firm. Failing resolution with the Legal Ombudsman, changing conveyancers is an option for unhappy clients.

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.

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, the transfer should be simple. Changing solicitors after this step is more complicated and can cause delays, sometimes resulting in financial penalties.

Your new solicitor will ask you to sign a form of authority. This allows them to contact the previous firm and obtain your files. Be aware that paperwork will not be released until you’ve paid for the work already completed.

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

Although they will have the required paperwork, a conveyancer cannot rely on the work carried out by another solicitor. They will need to carry out their own investigations and searches. As a result, this will extend the timescale of the sale.

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What Happens With Your Mortgage Offer?

Changing solicitors shouldn’t affect your mortgage offer. However, when comparing solicitors, you must:

  • Ask whether they can work with your mortgage lender
  • Contact your lender and let them know in advance, including the new name and contact details of the firm

When is it Too Late to Change Solicitors?

You can change solicitors at any point in the process. However, it will be more complicated if you switch conveyancers after the exchange of contracts.

This is because changing solicitor takes time. As a result, your completion date may be delayed. In the event that it is, you may be subject to financial penalties.

You will also need to determine that your new conveyancer is on your mortgage lender’s panel before switching.

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What Other Options Do You Have if You're Unhappy With Your Solicitor?

If your chosen conveyancing solicitor is part of a law firm, you can request to speak to a senior partner to complain about the service. It is recommended that you try to resolve the issue before opting to switch.

If you decide to take this form of action, you can ask for reassurance that your solicitor will provide a better level of service. Alternatively, you could ask to be transferred to another solicitor in the firm.

If you want to make an official complaint, you should go through the law firm's official complaints procedure. Your other option is to contact the overseeing regulatory body or the Legal Ombudsman.

What if Your Solicitor is Holding Money For You?

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. This should be a fairly straightforward transfer.

If completion has not taken place but the solicitor has received a mortgage advance from the lender, 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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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've 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.

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. It is recommended that you 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. This can reduce any further delays.

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

Adele MacGregor

Having worked at Compare My Move for over four years, Adele covers topics such as the conveyancing process across the UK, property surveys, home moves and storage.

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