• Posted

By Caroline Jones

Solicitor Director

You may be aware from newspaper consumer guidance sections and consumer programmes that there is growing concern amongst those who fight for consumer rights that more and more purchasers of new flats, apartments and houses are being pressurised into using the preferred Solicitors of the developer.  Often undue pressure and financial incentives are offered.  There are dangers associated with this.

The first thing to note is that no one law firm can act for both a developer and the purchaser of the developer’s property.  There is an absolute conflict of interest in that scenario and under our professional rules no firm in the land should be doing that.

The way some developers seek to get around this is to have a chosen Solicitor who they argue is familiar with the paperwork and so much more capable of progressing the transaction quickly.   Is speed to the benefit of the developer though or the buyer?

Sometimes the legal team acting on plot purchases is not perhaps the most experienced.   There will undoubtedly be an experienced Solicitor in the background but we have seen a number of cases over the years where errors on sites have not been picked up by the developer’s chosen Solicitors.   It may be because if an issue is not spotted on a first reading of the documentation (which can be vast on an estate development) then since the paperwork is not properly re-examined when acting for subsequent purchasers, the error is perpetuated.  When an independent Solicitor reviews the paperwork, issues can sometimes   come to light which no one else seems to have noticed.  As a firm acting independently  we have found, for example, one case where a public footpath went through the middle of a development and recently a case where there was a restriction on building any more than 61 houses but 72 houses were planned.  This is not very popular with developers of course.   We can then be accused of raising problems “when all the other sales have gone through without difficulty”.

Developers often incentivise purchasers by offering to contribute towards their legal fees or indeed pay all of their legal fees if they use their preferred Solicitors.

All the advice in the press and in the consumer television programmes is that you should not use developer’s chosen Solicitors to act for you when you are buying a new build property, flat or apartment.  You should not take any notice of their hard sell and you should not take any notice of them suggesting that you have to use those Solicitors.

Any conveyancing Solicitor will be able to assist you with the acquisition of a new build property, whether it is a freehold house or a leasehold flat.  You need the detailed advice that independent Solicitors will give because they are not being paid by somebody else.

We at Chubb Bulleid pride ourselves in giving purely independent advice regardless of the consequences that may follow.   We may find ourselves occasionally at odds with the selling agents or with the Solicitors acting for the developer.  However, we would hope never to find ourselves at odds with the advice we have given to our clients.  They are the priority and that is the most important consideration.

If you need advice and guidance on purchasing a new build property, retirement apartment, flat or similar then we at Chubb Bulleid would be more than happy to assist you on a purely independent basis.    Sometimes trying to save money on these projects can come back and haunt you when you come to sell.   Do the job properly in the first place is our advice.