Skip to main content
« Back to Blog

Solicitors selling repossessed property

I find it very annoying that the solicitors acting on the sale of a repossessed property are quite so unhelpful.

It is fair enough that they and their client have no knowledge of the property and can not answer enquiries as a normal seller would. Obviously they have no title to and can not sell fixtures and fittings and the buyer must be told that an understand.

However to answer a request for a planning permission or for maintenance information with “we do not have it if you want it go and get it yourself” is unhelpful and causes delay.

They should know that the buyer’s solicitor often has a mortgage and must therefore ensure that they comply with the CML handbook in full. This means that we have to have certain information. It is information that can be obtained from third parties with little difficulty so why do the lenders solicitors not do it when the property is being marketed. This would save time but I expect that the reason for not doing it is cost driven. It also would enable buyers to exchange within the deadlines that the lenders themselves set.

Given that lenders have to act in the best interests of the defaulting borrower, this unhelpful attitude in my view breaches the obligations. Indeed I have on one occasion been sufficiently annoyed at the lenders solicitors’ stance that I have written to the relevant court and advised that the defaulting borrower should not be charged interest or costs as the delay was the sellers solicitors fault. I doubt it did any good but I felt better. Likewise, lenders outsourcing sales to some third party should be, from the defaulting borrower's point of view, questioned. After all they are doubtless being paid.

I feel that just as CML requires buyer’s solicitors to do certain things, the time has come for CML to require solicitors acting for its members to do certain things when selling a repossessed property.

As a minimum:

  1. Obtain a copy of all of the title documents
  2. Obtain management information and get answers to buyers questions of managing agents because we HAVE to have this information for us to satisfy CML.
  3. Obtain planning building regulations etc as per protocol (as an aside if the lenders still had documents they would have these)
  4. Deal with issues requiring indemnity insurance by agreeing to pay. Compared with the delay and cost of arguing it will be cheaper (also you can sue the solicitor who brought the place and acted for the lender, lets face it you will sue him anyway even if he had done everything right) In fact why not write to him and ask if he has any policies planning documents etc.
  5. Think about what a buyer’s solicitor has to do to meet CML requirements and try and help. It’s a novel idea I know but try it
  6. Do not charge for doing a transfer the sellers solicitor should do it anyway now under protocol and with your case management it takes 2 minutes to do. If you do not expect requests for remuneration certificates.
  7. Try and stick to the standard conditions the Law Society say they are fair and reasonable so stick with them.
  8. Give limited title guarantee – if not it will delay matters whilst the buyer’s solicitor tells the lender how ill doubtless insist on limited title anyway. I have had the ridiculous situation where a lender (as lender) would not accept that it (as seller) would give no title guarantee!
  9. The Lender is responsible for paying standing charges for services so why not be helpful and tell the buyer it saves them time.
  10. Do not phone up every other day to see how its going you should know how long searches take and continually phoning wastes costs that need not be spent.
  11. Get the transfer signed in advance we can not complete unless you hold a signed transfer and we can not accept you will send it 10 days later.

It is about time that the Law Society and other legal stakeholders approached CML and the BSA and demanded a charter from lenders on selling properties. Indeed there could be a CML handbook part IV to cover his.