Terms of Engagement

FEES, DISBURSEMENTS & OTHER COSTS

1. We are registered for value added tax so all fees and taxable payments will have VAT added.  It will be applied at the rate current at the tax point.  (The tax point will normally be the date of our invoice for professional fees, or the date of legal completion if this is earlier).

2. We will provide you with a written estimate of the fees, disbursements and any other costs, and, if applicable, VAT, that are expected to apply to each transaction in which we act for you.

3. Fee estimates usually refer to disbursements.  These are payments we expect to make on your behalf during a transaction.  They may be significant expenses, such as stamp duty, land registry fees, local and other search fees; or smaller costs such as bank charges, telephone calls, fax, photocopying or legal stationery.  We can usually forsee at the outset all the disbursements that will be needed, but will inform you in writing of any significant additional disbursements when they arise.  Our fee invoice or statement will set out disbursements separately from the professional fees.

4. Our fees, or basis of charge, may change from the fee first estimated in certain circumstances.  In particular, it may vary if:

  1. the value of a transaction or the nature of the work differs from that upon which the estimate was based; or
  2. the amount of time, work or skill required to carry out a transaction is significantly more than initially expected; or
  3. it needs to be done more quickly than normal.

5. We will ask you to provide a payment on account of fees and disbursements, usually at the outset (to cover such expenses as local search fees), but sometimes during a transaction, especially if it is, or is likely to be, unusually lengthy or complicated.

6.

  1. If for any reason, a transaction does not continue to completion, we will tell you in writing of the charge made for work done and disbursements paid out.  The charge will reflect the amount of work done and time taken, and will be based either on the notified rate of charge or a proportion (corresponding to how much work was done) of the estimated fee.  If the work done is more than we originally estimated for, the charge will reflect its nature and complexity and the time it took.
  2. Our fee invoice is intended for payment when you receive it.  If not paid after a week, it may attract interest, as in term 13b.

7. If asked to give a professional undertaking to help your transaction proceed (other than an undertaking given as standard practice) we may make a reasonable charge for providing this personal commitment.  Such an undertaking is a binding pledge, which we are liable to fulfil.  It is usually a promise to another lawyer to take a particular action – often to pay money.  We will require appropriate security from you before giving such an undertaking and will tell you in writing beforehand of any such charge and of any security required.

8. We will inform you in writing if we expect to receive a commission or other benefit due to your introduction to us, or from introducing you to another person with whom you do business, and what that commission will be.  In accepting these terms, you give consent for us to retain such commission or benefit.

9. We are not required to open any special deposit account, or to account to you for any interest that accrues, or ought to accrue, on money received for you or on your behalf.  In accepting these terms, you agree in writing to this arrangement.

MORTGAGE LENDERS

10. If you need a mortgage, you will have to sign a mortgage deed and possibly other lender’s documents.  We will explain these to you and your liabilities under them and/or provide you with a Mortgage Conditions sheet detailing these.  However, it is your responsibility to comply with the terms and conditions in the mortgage lender’s letter of offer.  In particular, you should be aware of how much money may be deducted, withheld or due in penalties or interest on early repayment.

11. If your mortgage lender chooses a different firm to deal with its legal work, it is standard practice for the lender to require you to pay the firm’s charges.  These charges will be separate from those of ours, and you will be informed of the charges as soon as they are known.

CLEARED FUNDS & PAYMENT OF BILLS

12. Conveyancing transactions can only be financed using funds cleared by our bank.  You must ensure that any money you need to finance the transaction is paid to us so that it can be cleared by the date it is needed.  We must receive this money by a specified time, date and method of payment.  If payment is made by cheque, this will normally mean by noon on the sixth working day (that is, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, bank holidays and statutory holidays) before the cleared funds are required.  If clearance is delayed because you make the payment later than agreed, or by inappropriate means, we will not be liable for any further delay or loss that arises from this, for as long as your funds remain uncleared.

13.

  1. It is standard legal practice for the fees and disbursements due to us to be paid and cleared before the date of completion.  If we hold funds belonging to you, we will deduct payment of our bill after sending you a financial statement.  You agree to this practice by accepting these terms.  If we do not hold your money, or not enough of it to pay our bill, then you should provide the required sum as cleared funds before the date of completion, in accordance with paragraph 13.
  2. If you delay paying us the sum shown on the statement as due from you by seven days or more, then daily interest may be charged.  This will be at the rate of 2% per calendar month or part month (compounded monthly), from the date of the financial statement until the date we receive the outstanding sum as cleared funds.

CLIENT ACCOUNT DETAILS

14. Our client account details will not change, so please note should you subsequently receive any email which appears to have come from us and is asking you to send funds to a different account, then please assume that this email is not genuine and contact us immediately.

BANKING FAILURE

15. We cannot be held liable for or to repay monies lost through default of our bank or as a result of banking failure.  We are not liable for any losses you suffer as a result of any such banking institution being unable to repay depositors in full.  You may, however be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).  The FSCS is the UK’s statutory fund of last resort for customers or banking institutions.  The FSCS can pay compensation up to £75,000.00 if a banking institution is unable, or likely to be unable, to pay claims against it.

TIME NEEDED FOR LEGAL COMPLETION

16. If you are purchasing with a mortgage, we will normally tell you to allow at least ten working days between exchange of contracts and legal completion.  This is the shortest time it takes without special arrangements to deal with all the pre-completion searches and formalities (which include obtaining cleared funds from the mortgage lender and, if necessary, from you) and to make sure that all parties are fully protected at completion.  The lender will require us to hold all necessary stamp duty and land registry fees as cleared funds by the proposed completion date, or to delay completion until they are held.

17. We will charge a fee, and inform you in writing beforehand, for expediting your transaction (taking special steps to act with speed and to co-ordinate with others to do so) if you request a completion date less than seven days after exchange of contracts.  In such circumstances, we will not be liable for any loss arising from a delay in completion beyond the specified date.

BREAKDOWN OF TRUST

18. If the relationship of trust and mutual respect that needs to exist between a lawyer and a client irretrievably breaks down, and we cannot reasonably obtain instructions, then we can ask you to appoint alternative legal representatives and act no further for you, provided that in doing so your transaction is not seriously prejudiced.  If we cease to act, term 6 applies.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

19. This practice may act for you and for the other party (which includes any mortgage lender) to the proposed transaction, but only if – in the conveyancer’s professional opinion – there is not (or is not likely to be) a conflict between the interests of the two (or more) parties.

NON-LEGAL ADVICE

20. We are property lawyers, qualified to advise on conveyancing law.  You should consult appropriately qualified professionals for advice on non-legal matters, such as the physical condition of a property and its connected services, or its market value, or on investment and financial matters.  Before exchanging contracts to buy or lease premises, you should have a structural survey (of an appropriate type) by a qualified surveyor, and obtain any further information recommended by the survey report.  It is not part of our work to consider or comment on any non-legal aspects of survey or valuation reports.

YOUR HELP

21. To help the transaction go smoothly and to keep down costs, you agree:

  1. to inform us in writing of your requirements and of any significant change in them;
  2. to respond promptly in writing to any request for instructions you may receive from us;
  3. to us communicating with you or third parties by whatever method (including e-mail) is most efficient;
  4. to authorise us to incur the costs and search fees (including repeat searches) which, in our professional judgement, are necessary to protect your interest or that of your mortgage lender;
  5. to authorise disclosure of your information and instructions to any mortgage lender to which you have applied and which also uses us;
  6. to provide evidence of your identity by passport and proof of residency before work can commence;
  7. to do whatever we ask you so as to comply with the money laundering regulations;
  8. not to contact us to request progress reports more frequently than is necessary;
  9. that any money due to you will be transferred electronically to your nominated bank account for which you will need to provide us with a recent bank statement as confirmation and evidence of the account details.  Any alternative arrangement must be requested in writing and signed by you, and may involve additional work and hence cost;
  10. generally to co-operate with us.

DESTRUCTION OF FILES

22. Please note that in accordance with the Council of Licensed Conveyancers Code of Conduct all sale files will be destroyed after a period of 6 years and purchase files after 15 years and the signing of this document gives your consent for such destruction.

COMPLAINTS OR DIFFICULTIES

If you wish to complain about a licensed conveyancer’s professional services, you may refer to the Legal Ombudsman of PO Box 6806 Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ – Telephone 0300 555 0333. The Legal Ombudsman is administered by the Office for Legal Complaints under the Legal Services Act 2007.  However, it is suggested you should first write to the partner concerned with details of the complaint and then the partner not acting on your behalf.

Unless it agrees there are good reasons not to do so, the Legal Ombudsman will expect you to allow us to consider and respond to your complaint in accordance with the procedure set out above in the first instance. You can refer your complaint up to six months after you have received our final written response to your complaint. You can also use the Ombudsman service if we have not resolved your complaint within eight weeks of us receiving it.  A complaint can be referred to the Legal Ombudsman up to six years from the date of the act or omission or up to three years after discovering a problem. The ombudsman deals with service-related complaints; any conduct-related complaints will be referred to the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.  Further information regarding the Legal Ombudsman can be found on its website http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/.

If you make a valid claim against us for a loss arising out of work for which we are legally responsible, and we are unable to meet our liability in full, you may be entitled to claim from the Compensation Fund administered by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (from whom details can be obtained).

PREVENTION OF MONEY LAUNDERING & TERRORIST FINANCING

We must by law obtain satisfactory evidence of your identity and address. Please help us to do so by giving us the information and documentation we ask for.  We are unable to proceed with your transaction and will not be able to exchange contracts until this has been provided.

As lawyers, we are under a general professional and legal obligation to keep your affairs private.  However, we are required, by current legislation, to make a report to the national Crime Agency (NCA) where we know or suspect that a transaction involved Money Laundering or Terrorist Financing.  By instructing us to act on your behalf in accordance with these Terms of Engagement you give us irrevocable authority to make a disclosure to NCA if we consider it appropriate.

You agree that this authority overrides any confidentiality or entitlement to legal professional privilege.  We shall be unable to tell you if we have made a report.