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Conveyancing Solicitor - are they culpable?(15 Posts)
Are conveyancing solicitors responsible for noticing iffy info on land searches? Or is it the responsibility of the client/purchaser to read the land charges search and raise queries where necessary?
Bought our house over a year ago. A few months later the council write to say that a large chunk of what we thought was our garden is actually highways land. This piece of land is fenced off from the obvious highways land it is adjacent to and has been since the fence was erected by the last owners about 8 years ago.
When the council contacted us the man dealing with this case was very clear (on the phone) that he has better things to do than worry about claiming back our bit of garden, that we could contest in court if we wanted but would cost money and might make the whole situation unnecessarily obvious to the Powers That Be so let things lie etc.
However, obviously at some point they can claim this land back, or try to.
I raised this with our solicitors who have told me they don't think the council have a leg to stand on blah blah.
BUT, what I want to know is do I need to make a claim, or at least a notification of a possible future claim, against my solicitors? And/or the vendors? The land charges came back clearly saying the "the property shown edged red on your plan apples to include a segment of highway land". I read this and stupidly didn't question it as took it to mean a bit of the pavement verge and because it wasn't raised by our solicitor.
Are they culpable for not noticing this? Or is is my fault for reading it and not questioning it?
Having been through similar and then adverse possession. The solicitors indemnity insurance pointed out that a solicitor never sees the property nor measures the plot this is the client/ purchasers responsibility to check against land registry documents.
Saying that the solicitors involved did do a massively reduced rate to obtain the adverse possession order (£500 v. 4K).
The issue is the land the vendors thought they were selling us is exactly what we thought we were buying and is exactly what the plot looks like.
However the council seem to think that a section of our garden is actually theirs. This didn't come to light to us until a few months after we moved in. However, on closer inspection the council actually referenced this land dispute in the land searches. I saw it at the time but took it to mean something innocuous as it wasn't highlighted by the solicitor.
So whose responsibility was it to check the searches? Did the solicitor have a duty of care to notice the councils comments and point it out to us?
Do I notifying a claim about he solicitor, the vendors or both?
If it is in the local authority search the solicitor should have noticed and put in hand a highways search with the local county council.
The sellers should also have declared the dispute on the property information form they completed.
What do your conveyancing solicitors say about the issue now?
The vendors say there was no dispute and the solicitors say there is no claim to defend, council has offered no evidence. At the moment the council aren't pursuing the claim to the land, just letting us know. But very aware that it is a sizeable chunk next to a small but busy junction so they may very well want to pursue it further in the future.
Basically it looks as though historically the boundary was marked with hedging only and then someone has decided all the (large) hedging and shrubby area formed part of the house plot and so chopped it all down and put up a fence.
Solicitors should have done a highways search to check exactly where the highways land is, that's what i would have done.
They probably either didn't read it, or assumed (like you) that it was a small piece of pavement verge where the red line crosssd over it.
In your shoes I'd see a different solicitor for advice about bringing a claim against your previous solicitor.
Tricky. I know nothing about these matters btw, so feel free to ignore me... but I suspect you could get tied up in a whole load of stress and angst and expense if you pursue this.
Since the council has said "let it lie", I would do just this. I thought councils in general were OK with people 'adopting' stretches of land that is of no use to them because it saves them money and maintenance. A near neighbour has done just this.
What I would really like is for my solicitor to say "yep, our bad, we'll cover all costs in defending this in the future and we'll pursue the vendors for you" but I'm not sure that's going to happen. Which means I need to do as Monkey says.
Not a conveyancing solicitor, so apologies if I'm mistaken, but my understanding is that the service you pay for dies not include a site inspection. The solicitor normally sends you the title plan and asks you to check for yourself that what you think you're buying accords with the plan. Checking the plan against the physical boundary is your job.
The title plans are the same as the physical boundaries of the plot. So no one looking at the title deeds and the physical land would think there is any discrepancies.
The issue is that Highways believe the title plan is incorrect. This was noted on the searches but not raised by the solicitor as needing further investigation.
Your solicitor should have picked this up, there is no question.
You should email the managing partner and fill them in wth what's happened. Say that you believe it wasn't highlighted in the local search because 1/1000 prob have something like this in and the solicitor (or whoever, was it even a qualified who did the job for you?) overlooked it because it's rare.
Ask them how they propose to make it right?
Let them take it from there.
Any further issues complain to the legal ombudsman.
You shouldn't be left to deal with this.
Ps I'm a partner in a law firm - resi property is my bread and butter.
That is interesting. I always assumed the title plan would be accurate. My son's title plan (he bought last year) shows a weird bit of land at the side and a right to go across his top garden to get down the side. His solicitor spent a lot of time on that and it is all reported in the report and we know about it so it's all fine. Now that came about because the plan has different colours on it at the land registry so anyone (even us in the family before we even found the solicitor) noticed it.
We have neighbours a few streets away who tried to fence off local authority land. Another neighbour noticed, had some original papers, alerted the council and we got the man to take down his illegal fence and theft of local authority land. I suppose had no one noticed then it might or might not have shown on the title plan.
It sounds like this is a different issue here - in that the land registry plan is exactly how the property looks and indicates that house owns land that it does not?
If the council referenced the land dispute in the search then your solicitor should have read this. So should you really. I read even for my adult children as do they the full searches howeve rboring that is it pays off and raise with the solicitor any issues. My son's solicitor found a defect (not about the right of way but another issue on land ownership down the side of his garden) and pointed it out - everyone thought he was being very much too thorough (but he was not). He had a trainee find a very old deed to the property which i think was handwritten and they had it typed out and then my son paid something like £100 for title insurance in relation to that land - we think there was a mistake in the original deeds or something like that.
I wonder if your solution is to pay a small amount to insure against it so that when you come to sell you can show the buyer the policy as they will pick up on the issue. Also the local authority probably have to alert you to their claim otherwise you might get some kind of adverse possession right as time passes - I am not a property though.
Short answer - if the land registry search said dispute over who owns a chunk of your land - very basic issue the solicitor should have noticed so they should now try to sort it out eg may be the local council will sell the land to you for a small fee.
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