I’m acting for a buyer and the seller is unrepresented. Can I deal with an unqualified person?
I’m acting for a buyer in a residential conveyancing transaction. The seller is unrepresented and does not intend to instruct a legal representative. Has the Law Society issued guidance on how to deal with an unqualified person?
A solicitor should refuse to have any dealings with an unqualified person unless they have clear evidence that no offence under the Legal Services Act 2007 will be committed.
Chapter A5 (Dealing with non-solicitors) of the Conveyancing Handbook refers to guidance on how to deal with unqualified conveyancers which was originally published in the Guide to the Professional Conduct of Solicitors 1999.
The guidance addresses some of the issues that may arise when dealing with an unqualified conveyancer.
Although the guidance refers to section 22 of the Solicitors’ Act 1974, this has been superseded and the relevant provisions are now contained in sections 12 to 14 and 19 (schedule 3) of the Legal Services Act 2007.
If you decide you can deal with an unqualified person, you will also need to consider paragraph 1.2 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors 2019 and SRA Code of Conduct for Firms 2019, which states: “You do not abuse your position by taking unfair advantage of clients or others”.
If you’re acting for the lender, you should check part two of the UK Finance Mortgage Lenders' Handbook for Conveyancers to establish whether you need to inform the lender that the seller is unrepresented. Some lenders will not be happy to proceed where that is the case.
You should take care that any assistance given to an unqualified person does not inadvertently create a contractual relationship with that party.
You should always recommend that they take independent legal advice.
For more information, see the Conveyancing Handbook (28th edition), which is available to purchase from our online bookshop.
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.
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