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Lawyers Cutting Corners

Stamp Duty Land Tax Complaints – Lawyers to Blame?

The legal ombudsman is receiving a large number of complaints related to conveyancing. In 2013-14, 1500 complaints were received, 300 more than the previous year, with more than £800,000 recovered for aggrieved homeowners.

The housing rush may be forcing lawyers to hurry through the purchase process, without paying enough attention to the nitty-gritties and opening themselves up to future complaints. The huge surge in demand may be encouraging lawyers to sacrifice quality for quantity.

Most of the complaints are related to the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) which has to be paid during purchases of residential properties valued above £125,000. To help consumers, the ombudsman has published a free consumer guide to stamp duty.

According to Chief legal ombudsman, Adam Sampson, there are complaints about procedural issues within conveyancing firms, and sometimes even fraudulent activity. This issue highlights the importance of using a reliable conveyancer for property transactions. Homebuyers must necessarily seek confirmation of all payments  that they have entrusted to their lawyer, before they assume that all formalities have been completed.

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) is working on regulatory partners and the HMRC to bring about system-wide changes which may help ensure compliance with the SDLT payment. Though only a small percentage of transactions every year give rise to any complaints, the impact that these cases have on the individual homebuyers is tremendous.

CLC has reassured consumers by putting ‘rigorous standards’ in place to strictly monitor transactions to identify and deal with any SDLT non-payment issues.

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