The case of Suleman -v- Shahsavari  2 ALL ER 460 confirmed that a solicitor needs the client's express authority to sign the contract on their behalf.
Unless the solicitor holds a valid power of attorney, it is recommended that the client provides this authority writing. The client should have previously been informed of the legal consequences of giving this authority, including that the signature implies authority to proceed to exchange, and that exchange creates a binding contract. A solicitor should never sign a contract on behalf of a client without being certain the client accepts all the terms of the contract.
Particular care should be taken where there are joint purchasers or co-owners. It's recommended that express authority is obtained from each party and that the solicitor ensures each party understands the legal consequences of the authority and accepts the terms of the contract.
Failure to obtain authority may render the solicitor liable in damages for breach of warranty of authority.
Please see the Law Society's Conveyancing Handbook (23rd edition), available from the Law Society’s online bookshop.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.