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Homeowners hit by 'sloppy' legal work make up 1 in 5 of Ombudsman complaints

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Homeowners hit by 'sloppy' legal work make up 1 in 5 of Ombudsman complaints

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Finance, Legal

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Homeowners are increasingly turning to the Legal Ombudsman as 'sloppy' legal work leads to delays, poor advice and letters from HMRC demanding unpaid stamp duty.

One in five legal complaints now made to the Ombudsman is about residential conveyancing - a recent increase which makes it the most complained about area of law.

In the last year, the Ombudsman has helped consumers recover around £800,000 to put things right.

And the Chief Legal Ombudsman, Adam Sampson, is worried that an emerging housing bubble may be at least partly responsible, by putting pressure on lawyers to rush through house purchases to keep up with demand while sacrificing quality of service.

Business secretary Vince Cable has warned of a “raging housing boom” in London and the South East and Ombudsman figures support the idea that it is affecting complaint levels: 22% of the residential conveyancing complaints it has seen in the last year came from London and 17% from the South East – a 24% increase on last year.

The Ombudsman has singled out problems with unpaid stamp duty as requiring particular attention in its latest case study report.

A number of distressed consumers made contact after receiving demands for thousands of pounds in unpaid fees plus interest because their lawyer hadn’t made the necessary payments.

The problem has prompted the Ombudsman, which resolves around 8,000 disputes each year, to warn homeowners that their house purchase isn’t necessarily complete when they get the keys, while urging lawyers to sort it out.

Mr Sampson said: “It is concerning to see complaints from house buyers on the rise again. An improved housing market will inevitably be partly responsible – creating pressure through higher volumes of work – but I suspect there are a number of causes including procedural issues within firms and in some cases even fraudulent activity. Unfortunately, it is consumers who are paying the price.

“People deserve better and I want lawyers to ensure they aren’t leaving clients in the lurch. In the meantime anyone buying a house should seek confirmation of any payments entrusted to their lawyer before considering it a done deal.”

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