Profiting from truly poor practice

Scandalous‘, and ‘ripped-off‘ are two terms I personally feel are appropriate for the conduct described below.

Interesting development this week. Surprised I hadn’t wondered about this before, but, even as somebody renowned for not having a high opinion of the conveyancing process and the way in which the public get stitched up, even I never imagined such self serving profiteering would exist.

All my own personal opinion of course.

So, yesterday a friend of a friend sent me the ‘completion statement’ from their conveyancer. In this instance a Solihull based firm who are apparently quality solicitors are acting for them. They simply wanted me to cast an eye over it. One particular entry left me absolutely stunned.

Charging this is fair?

Our office staff, many, many movers, a Government review panel of some sort, industry professionals, including BAR, amongst many more have for decades been asking the simple question;

‘Why on earth can’t conveyancers and solicitors exchange in good time?’

Plus of course many wondering why so, so many members of the public end up exasperated as to why on earth they can’t have a sensible stress free notice period and hey, guess what, the very people in control of the timescales, whilst many nod along in fake empathy and make supportive noises over the publics stress are profiting from it!

An extra charge for exchanging and completing within five days. It’s almost comical. The very people who effectively decide if this happens then charge for it as though it’s the clients fault. A situation is now acceptable amongst many conveyancers that they seek to profit from their own poor conduct, and profit from the very people who are lending them their emotional trust not to stitch them up and increase stress for them, by doing exactly that!

Will this government review please finally enact what those of us have been calling for, for decades and mandate a fixed, sensible (2 week) period inbetween exchange and completion.

You wanted to fix gazundering and gazumping and make the process less stressful? Here is where to start, and this post shows graphically why. The very people most oft being consulted are actually contributing to the circumstances whereby gazundering and the stress of last minute notice is allowed to exist, and, as this blog post concentrates on are profiting from it.

But, hold up. Lets be fair about this, maybe I am too quick to bash and berate. Maybe I should reality check this? Therefore, yesterday I emailed the completion statement to the Conveyancing Solicitor Sarah Dwight (her credentials are beyond question), well known I’ve no doubt to certain people reading this. It wasn’t long before she called me.

That is outrageous‘ < No ‘Hi Matt’, no pleasantries the second I answered. Nope, Sarah was as ‘surprised’ as I was. She and I spoke at length about how she too had wondered over time why so many firms suffer last minute delays that leads to exchange going so ridiculously close to the now agreed completion date for daft reasons. She went on to say she did know of another firm doing the same thing but considered it might be a one-off.

Sarah Dwight also pointed out that not only is this fee being charged but also funds draw down fee’s are applied where with a longer timeframe this fee wouldn’t be needed. In fact just with these two charges, in this instance, after VAT this client has paid out £138 that I would argue is unnecessary. Purely in relation to bad practice under the control of the conveyancer, and not the client herself.

If this is happening for just 1/10 of all completions then that means last year the public would have forked out £12m in totally avoidable charges to what I would call unscrupulous practice. TWELVE MILLION POUNDS! Wasted.

It is a fact that this is actual profiteering from truly bad practice that is completely contrary to the publics best interests. Plus, let us not forget directly contributing to the stress and cash-flow issues both moving companies and estate agents can suffer, and even those other, more honourable solicitors and conveyancers for whom over stressed clients and a lack of predictability means dissatisfied customers (blaming them) and an inability to forecast ahead with accuracy.

An extra charge for messing the client about. Maybe we should start something similar, say we put in our T&C’s that if we turn up late we’ll bill the customer for us having a longer day? Maybe we could ask Estate Agents to charge separately clients for every viewing performed on their home whereby no offer was made by the people looking round?

Or maybe the public response would be to tell us very very clearly, ‘err, no, you’re ripping us off.’

It’ll come as no surprise to know that for myself, who for twenty years has battled against poor timescales in this system, working for a company which has lost over time hundreds of thousands of pounds in revenue as a result, and for whom our office staff often act like agony aunts every day listening to exasperated customers fed up with the stress of not knowing what, or when, and even on occasion to customers literally crying on the phone, I’m disgusted to discover this type of practice.

To any public reading this – spread the word.


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