Should I switch solicitors half way through buying a house? My current one doesn't answer my calls

20 February 2019

Q

I am in buying a house and am worried the sale may fall through because my solicitor is not answering my calls and doesn’t seem very proactive. Would I be mad to switch now as the local searches have already been completed?

A

There is nothing more frustrating than appointing a solicitor to process your home move only to be faced with radio silence. Not returning your phone calls is not acceptable. You need to have open channels of communication and be responded to promptly.

If your solicitor is not working alone, your next step is to speak to a senior partner at the firm to complain about the current level of service.

Assuming you can get through to them and manage to explain why you are complaining, you then need reassurance that your solicitor will respond to your phone calls from now on. 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 solicitor what timeframe you should expect for a response. But if things don’t improve, you do need to think about switching to a new firm.

Before doing so, establish how much you owe your current solicitor for undertaking local searches and any legal work they have carried out to date. 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 being handed a bill for fees owed at a later date.

You also need to ask 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.

In selecting a new firm, you need to ask whether they are happy to take on an existing case and how quickly they can pick things up. 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. It will all depend on their current workload. And ask if they are able to handle the transfer of documents, or whether you need to organise this.

You also need to find a solicitor who is on your mortgage lender’s panel. If a conveyancing or solicitor's firm is not on its panel, your new solicitor or conveyancer cannot act for that lender.

Remember to tell the solicitors you speak to which lender your mortgage is with. You can get quotes from our panel of over 100 quality assured conveyancing firms. In doing so, you can select the mortgage lender you are with to ensure you are only served quotes and contact details of firms that can deal with your lender.

For more information check out the HomeOwners Alliance guide on How much do conveyancing fees cost?