First-time Buyers

Scottish borrowers could see solicitor fees double

Julia Rampen
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Julia Rampen

Scottish home buyers could face hundreds more pounds in legal costs and possible delays if proposals to separate lender and buyer representation go head.

Solicitors will vote on Friday over whether to move forward on a recommendation to introduce separate representation in all conveyancing transactions in order to address conflict of interest, lender panel and fraud issues. If the vote is in favour, a second vote to make separate lawyers mandatory will take place in September.

Law Society of Scotland president Austin Lafferty said changes in bank and building society practices had resulted in increased pressure and risk to solicitors representing both parties: “In recent months the ‘sep rep’ movement has grown, and increasing numbers of solicitors, although by no means all, are in favour of removing the exemption, meaning lenders would have to appoint their own solicitors, which immediately removes the risk to the buyers’ solicitors.

“While there would be clear benefits to introducing this change, as might be expected there are some potential downsides to having separate representation, such as the possibility of increased costs and paperwork.

“However given the increased pressures imposed by lenders on solicitors up and down the country, this is a crucial debate to have and it will be for our members to decide what they want to see happen.”

Should the proposals go ahead, Goldsmith Williams partner Eddie Goldsmith said they were likely to cost Scottish borrowers more as they would be paying for two solicitors: “When you have any lawyer involved it is expensive but if you have two it is likely to be potentially double as expensive.

While the proposals would not affect England and Wales, they were likely to spark a debate, he said.