Four Cumbria law firms have declared their practices to be ‘no-go areas’ for referral fees to estate agents.

Wigton firm Beaty & Co; Penrith, Keswick and Carlisle firm Scott Duff; Carlisle and Wigton firm Atkinson Ritson; and Carlisle, Penrith and Brampton firm Cartmell Shepherd said that they are taking a stand against legal but ‘unethical’ fees paid to estate agents in order to win conveyancing work.

The firms, which process ‘many millions of pounds’ worth’ of local property transactions every month, said they will use alternative marketing practices.

Solicitors Regulation Authority and National Association of Estate Agents guidelines state that homebuyers should be told if their estate agents have received referral fees from solicitors, but John Hawks, senior partner at Beaty & Co, said that many homebuyers are ‘kept in the dark’ about the practice.

‘We hope that our collective action will help to focus national attention on the dubious ethics of referral fees,’ he said. ‘Putting cash in estate agents’ pockets in return for work compromises the integrity of our profession.’

The firms said they would be ‘no-go areas’ for ‘backhanders’ to estate agents.