by Howard Nulty

There appears to be a spate of complaints by homeowners about extortionate ground rents on leasehold properties.

They are victims of the cut-price conveyancers. For too long some law firms have either competed for work by charging low fees or by paying “referral fees” for work either to estate agents, financial advisors and even site agents on new developments. Very rarely are buyers told about these fees or at best they are hidden in small print

“So what” I hear you say. Serves those lawyers right.  Well most lawyers are no mugs when it comes to money. The result is that work is churned out by glorified clerks who know enough to buy you the house, but sometimes not enough to spot the odd legal wrinkle that shouldn’t be there.

I have seen quite a few of these files when advising about the rents to clients. Some have been told about the rents and have forgotten, and some were never told at all. They now find themselves looking at increasing rents and are unable to sell on, simply because they were a victim of the chase to have the cheapest Conveyancing.

Legal advice is a bit like everything else in life, in that you get what you pay for.

The firms that let the clerk loose on Conveyancing now are liable to the purchaser, if he was not told about the rents.

As well as the rental scandal, an example of victims falling foul of the cut-price conveyancer that I have seen, is where the law firm forgot to tell the purchaser that he only owned three of the four walls! Yes, hard to believe. In another case,  a house was bought where there was no planning consent at all for the property.

The people who have had their rents doubled and trebled should either have been told, or they have a right of action against their lawyers.

So, the moral of the story?  When buying a property, you are not just picking up a tin of beans from the supermarket.  Think hard about the benefits of getting the correct legal advice and the service of a conveyancer with experience and is able to spot the problems and advise you of them in advance of committing to a property that you may never be able to sell on.  A little extra money for the right expertise at the outset could save you a fortune in the long run.

Click here to watch the BBC’s piece on the pitfalls of leasehold homes.

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