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Is conveyancer negligent?

(8 Posts)
vcl00e Tue 24-Oct-17 02:15:42

Hi Everyone!

I've bought a flat 2 years ago (2015) and just discovered (from the freeholder) that there is a periodic rent review clause in the lease.

When I was purchasing the flat, I told my conveyancer via email that I wasn't able to find a figure for the ground rent when reviewing the lease. (I read the lease seriously and genuinely missed it)

My conveyancer reached out to the buyer’s solicitor about the ground rent, and after over a month of chasing my conveyancer forwarded me a letter from the buyer’s solicitor that said it has never been collected but they could offer me £300 which was the ground rent for 3 years in case they started collecting.

Today in 2017, (as someone in building was enquiring about lease extension) the freeholder wrote to me about a clause in the lease that states they could review the ground rent in 2013 based on the market value at the time. They retrospectively valued my property and demanded a ground rent of £500 per year back dated to when I purchased and going forward until the next review period.

Is my conveyancer negligent? If so, what should my plan of action be?

Many thanks for reading, sorry if it was a bit long!

MonkeyJumping Tue 24-Oct-17 02:38:08

First step is check your lease - is the review clause actually there? Don't just rely on what the freeholder says.

If it's there, contact your solicitor and say you were surprised to note there is a rent review clause as you do not believe you were advised about this when purchasing the flat.

They may forward you a copy of their advice showing that they did mention it, and you've just forgotten (no offence but I'm a former conveyancer and this happened pretty often - clients all outraged that they weren't advised about something because they've just forgotten about it).

If you don't get a satisfactory response, go through the law firms complaints procedure (they have to tell you what it is if you ask). If you're still not happy you can complain to the solicitors regulatory authority or seeanother solicitor about brining a claim for professional negligence about the first solicitor.

If they genuinely didn't tell you there was any rent review clause, then yes they may be negligent.

vcl00e Wed 25-Oct-17 10:44:17

Hi MonkeyJumping thanks for the lightning fast response!

Yes, your points are fair. I did check the contract and it does contain the rent review clause.

The reason I haven't gone back to the solicitors about the problem yet is because being a layman I am trying to get myself informed/educated best I can before I do so - I am concerned that being professionals doing this day in day out, they could put me in an unfair situation quite easily even if they were regulated.

I also think it's likely they may have missed something since the actual ground rent stated in the lease was £75/year and they didn't ask for clarification when the seller came back and said it was £100/year but never collected.

With regards to a satisfactory response, in your experience, (lets for arguments sake say they genuinely missed the clause) what sort of responses are they likely to come back with?

My gripe is that I delayed the exchange waiting for this information and would have changed my offer if I had known about this. Probably a 10-20k difference. Because not only is it an extra £500 a year until they next review in 20 years, it will proportionally increase the cost of lease renewal when the time comes - quite a lot of money. sad

Larsitter Thu 26-Oct-17 13:21:14

I agree with Monkey. The solicitor's report on title would usually be very clear in relation to a lease of what on going financial obligations there (in the lease, not just based on a letter from the other side) are such as ground rent. Did they send you a written report on the property which includes a clause about what is said about service charges and ground rent?

vcl00e Mon 30-Oct-17 22:16:40

Thanks Larsitter, I dug out my file and went over the set of documents we received via post from our solicitors when we purchased the property.

In it, was a detailed contract and property report which covers topics from contract, to property, to tenure, to searches, and even Chancel Repair Liability insurance.. but there is no mention of the ground rent review clause.

There was even a cover letter for the full contract and property report that draws our attention to a clause concerning arrangement of our deposit, but again no mention of the ground rent review clause.

I am quite nervous about going back to them - Thinking about it more - could they in theory just spin up a new document and claim that it was sent to be at the time of the sale?

NeverTwerkNaked Mon 30-Oct-17 22:22:46

Sounds like negligence to me. It’s pretty obvious that ground rent is a key issue in a long lease.

I wouldn’t go and see your original conveyancer- go and see a new and totally independent solicitor. Ideally a property/litigation specialist.

NeverTwerkNaked Mon 30-Oct-17 22:23:41

Re coming up with a new document - this would be a serious offence ! I hope there are few solicitors out there who would stoop that low

namechangedtoday15 Mon 30-Oct-17 22:32:32

No solicitor (unless they risk serious repercussions like being struck off) would fabricate a document like that.

So there was a section in the lease that said the ground rent was £75 a year and also a clause which set out (presumably in some detail) that there were review provisions - it would have set out the frequency of the review, market rate and usually what the process was in the event that it could not be agreed (usually referral to a surveyor). The report on title should have referred to these provisions.

You need to set out to the solicitor that you've since been informed of these provisions and as a pp suggests, go through their complaints procedure and request a full copy of their file. It will show what advice you received.

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