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Unrepresented seller in conveyancing transaction
Monday 30 July 2012
I am acting for a buyer in a residential conveyancing transaction. I have discovered that the seller is unrepresented and does not intend to instruct a legal representative. Has the Law Society issued any guidance on how to deal with an unqualified person?
A solicitor should refuse to have any dealings with an unqualified person unless he has clear evidence that no offence under the Legal Services Act 2007 will be committed.
Chapter A5 (dealing with non-solicitors) of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Handbook provides 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 Although the guidance refers to section 22 of the Solicitors’ Act 1974, this has been superseded and the relevant provisions are now contained in sections 12-14 and 19 (schedule 3) of the Legal Services Act 2007.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 Chapter 11 (Relations with third parties) of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2011. Outcome (11.1) states that:
You do not take unfair advantage of third parties in either your professional or personal capacity;
The following indicative behaviours may tend to show that you have not achieved the relevant outcomes and therefore not complied with the Principles:
Indicative behaviour (11.7):
- Taking unfair advantage of an opposing party’s lack of legal knowledge where they have not instructed a lawyer;
Indicative behaviour (11.9):
- Using your professional status or qualification to take unfair advantage of another person in order to advance your personal interests;
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 further information, please see Law Society’s Conveyancing Handbook (19th edition), which is available to purchase from the Law Society’s online bookshop.
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