Can I change my solicitors part-way through the purchase of my flat?
This article was first published by City AM, Friday 15 February 2019.
You do not say why you wish to change your solicitors, but among the most common reasons for doing so are dissatisfaction with the level of service being provided, where a conflict of interest has arisen, or the need for particular expertise.
If you have a complaint about your solicitor, this can often be resolved amicably by raising a complaint with the partner responsible and asking for the file to be delegated to another lawyer within the firm, if necessary. This should ensure a smooth transition and avoid the inevitable delay and potential duplication of costs involved in having to instruct alternative solicitors. They would need to review the file and familiarise themselves with the history of the transaction before being able to take the matter forward, which may result in a delay to completion.
Where a conflict of interest arises, for example, if solicitors are acting for both a buyer and their mortgage lender and the buyer is willing to take a view on something which the lender is not, such as unauthorised alterations or a very high ground rent in a lease, the firm could not act for both parties and one party would need to instruct alternative solicitors. A conflict check carried out by the solicitors at the outset of a transaction should reveal any foreseeable potential or actual conflicts of interest and thus avoid a situation where they would have to cease acting for a client part-way through a transaction, unless, of course, the conflict were to arise during the course of the transaction, for example, due to a change in circumstances.
Where, during the course of a transaction, the need arises for a lawyer with a particular expertise that your current solicitors are unable to provide in-house – for example, the flat you are buying has a short lease and your solicitor doesn’t know how to advise you – that does not necessarily mean that you would have to change your solicitors. Your current firm should be able to instruct another lawyer with the required expertise to act as their agent, which would provide you with the expertise that you need and avoid you having to change solicitors, with all the delay and cost that that is likely to entail.
In conclusion, it is possible to change your solicitors part-way through the purchase of your flat but doing so brings with it the potential for delay and additional costs, and it is always worth exploring other options that may be available to you.