How To Use The Same Solicitor For Both Buying & Selling

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In property transactions, a conveyancer or solicitor provides a very important service. They’re meant to protect your interests and ensure the process proceeds in adherence with all applicable legalities and technicalities. In many ways, they serve to protect you as you move forward. With this in mind, then, can the same professional represent both buyer and seller? How does this work? Is it a conflict?

In this guide, we will answer the question, “Can a solicitor act for buyer and seller?” As well, we will provide some guidance as to what a conveyance lawyer does throughout the process and how you can best protect your interests.

Can the Same Solicitor Act for Buyer and Seller UK?

It makes sense on the surface: If you need a lawyer for buying a house and the other party needs a lawyer for selling a house, why not simply use the same person? This would certainly accelerate the process, streamline document preparation and review, save untold time and, ideally, save both the buyer and the seller on legal costs. Right?

It’s not as clear-cut as it may seem. Generally, the answer to the question, “Can the same solicitor act for buyer and seller?” is no. It is usually not allowed – unless certain criteria are met.

Let’s back up a moment to understand why. What does a solicitor do when buying a house and when selling? Conveyancing refers to transferring the ownership of a property from one party to another. The conveyancing professional will: provide legal advice and guidance, handle contracts, conduct local council searches, meet Land Registry requirements and transfer the money from buyer to seller upon completion (if representing the buyer).

Conveyancer vs Solicitor UK

Buying and selling property is a legal process, and you need to ensure that it is done correctly. Solicitors and conveyancers help facilitate this by providing legally required documents and guiding you through the transaction. While similar, there are some key differences of which to be aware.

Conveyancers specialise solely in conveyancing (no surprise there!). Solicitors can specialise in other areas of the law as well (e.g., criminal law, personal injury, estate law and planning, etc.) and typically have more intensive training. As such, solicitors usually charge higher rates.

If you have a transaction that is more complex than typical (e.g. it involves wills, litigation, etc.) or if you have an existing relationship with a solicitor, it may be best to go that route. Solicitors act as an invaluable safeguard. In many cases, though, a conveyancer will do just fine.

How to Get a Solicitor for Buying a House

Ask for recommendations from friends/family who have gone through the process and from professionals like your lender and estate agent. Conduct online searches, scour their websites, read reviews and speak with them to ask any questions on your mind. When you find a professional you trust, you can breathe a little easier!

There is no law saying that you must have a conveyor or solicitor when buying or selling a property. It is, however, highly recommended. This keeps the process on track and streamlined. If you go the DIY route, you may make a mistake that ends up costing you significantly. You can be held personally – and financially – responsible.

As you can see, a conveyance lawyer plays an essential role in property transactions. This is why the Law Society and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have rigorous rules and standards to which these professionals must adhere.

SRA Conflict of Interest

When it comes to conflict of interest, SRA provides strong guidelines. When the same professional represents both buyer and seller, there is a greater chance that a solicitor conflict of interest will arise. So can a law firm represent both parties in the UK? They can if:

  • Both parties have given consent and are fully aware of the risks of solicitor conflict of interest
  • The buyer and seller do not have “substantially common interest” and are not in competition
  • Both parties have been clients of the firm for some time

The firm will assign different solicitors for buyer and seller, and these will be supervised separately to minimise the risk of conflict. Be aware that when using the same firm, your solicitor is not allowed to negotiate for you. If there are issues related to price, completion date, survey results, searches, fixtures, fittings and contents and the like, the estate agents must deal with this. If there is a solicitor’s conflict of interest, both parties must stop acting immediately. They must tell their clients to instruct new solicitors for house sales. This will result in delays and higher costs.

As you can see the question, “What do solicitors do when buying a house UK?” is important in determining just how crucial it is to have a professional who represents you and your best interests. Your transaction is at risk, as is your financial security now and in the future.

Are there any situations in which it is acceptable and advantageous for buyers and sellers to use the same solicitor? There is always an exception to the rule. One such instance may be if your parent is selling you their house. You agree on price, completion date and other terms, and you simply need someone to conduct searches, and surveys and handle the myriad legalities involved in the process. If, on the other hand, your relationship is strained or tense, there may be other family members who will put up a fuss if you buy the house, there are issues with wills and inheritances… you may want to just keep it clean and use separate conveyancers or solicitors (in this case, it is recommended you opt for a more specialised solicitor).

As you buy or sell your property, keep your goals and rights top of mind. Your conveyance or solicitor can ensure this happens.

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