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Conveyancers urged to be transparent over fees as stamp duty deadline looms

By Monidipa Fouzder >>

(26 May 2021)

An estate agent has urged conveyancers who have increased fees due to stamp duty pressures to be more transparent after seeing different solicitors quote £6,500 and £2,500 for conveying the same £1.27m property.

Jeremy Leaf, principal of north London estate agency Jeremy Leaf & Co, told Estate Agent Today this week that certain solicitors were charging exorbitant fees to take on work while others were working evenings and weekends as they neared the 30 June stamp duty ‘holiday’ deadline.

Speaking to the Gazette, Leaf said he was aware of a case where a solicitor was charging £6,500 [fee for conveyance and other charges] for a £1.27m property in north London. ‘They were doubling what they normally charge because they had so much work. Yet someone else I know locally quoted £2,500 for apparently the same work,’ he said.

Leaf, a former RICS residential chairman, said some solicitors have told him they will only take on new work if it is a freehold.

‘It is clear some conveyancers are working under extreme pressure to meet the deadline working their socks off whereas others are doubling their fees,’ he said. ‘If solicitors are overcharging, without justification, then bad word soon goes around. If they have no choice but to put charges up, they should explain why that’s the case as well as what their rates would revert to after this rush is over.’

He added: ‘To say “My charges are going to be £6,500 now because we’re working under tremendous pressure” isn’t good enough as far as I’m concerned. “As soon as the deadline has passed, we will revert to our normal fees” is preferable.

‘Justify your fees, be transparent, say “This is just a one-off in order to meet an intense deadline and to pay our staff extra to work evenings and weekends to get the job done – although of course we are still depending at least one other firm of conveyancers to perform as efficiently as we are and for relevant paperwork to arrive for us to get this transaction over the line. We can only try to do our best”.

One solicitor, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Gazette that they had increased fees to deter clients. ‘It is important to make sure that we can handle the workload. There is no point in taking on more and more work and not being able to filter it,’ they said.

‘Some firms have chosen to put fees up, some have decided that they will not do new build work – it is for each firm to manage the work load, especially in a boom as we have never seen before.’

They added that in the current boom estate agents are making sales before they have even prepared the marketing material or conducted viewings.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)