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Thomas
Thomas, Solicitor
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 7602
Experience:  UK solicitor holding an England and Wales practising Certificate.
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Last year I made my first home purchase for a Victorian property.

Resolved Question:

Last year I made my first home purchase for a Victorian property. As part of the purchase process I had a HomeBuyer’s survey undertaken. The survey highlighted three potential issues of building control in section I ‘issues for your legal advisors’, which it said my legal advisors should check. One of these three points covered the removal of a chimney breast in the rear of the property from ground and first floor levels.

A copy of the report was sent on to my solicitors; I didn’t hear back from them on these three points and had assumed that there was nothing of interest for them to tell me.

During the heavy rain this winter a damp patch appeared in a first floor ceiling, followed by a collapse of plasterboard. The leak was due to damage to the top of the chimney, but what was immediately apparent was the chimney stack had been removed to the loft level, but was unsupported. Building control approval had not been granted for this work, either because the work predated current regulations or because the work had been carried out without approval.

To make good the chimney I have incurred costs for structural engineer calculations and designs, installation of a steel RSJ, building control approval and plaster work.

I am seeking advice as to grounds for a negligence claim against my solicitor. From what I have read online, I think my solicitor had a duty of care to check for building approvals and inform me of the missing records after I had sent them the HomeBuyer’s report. Had I have known of the missing approvals, I would have had grounds to either reduce my offer on the house, or to pull out of the purchase entirely. The work carried out to date has cost several thousand pounds and the two other points on the survey may involve more work to bring up to a reasonable standard.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Property Law
Expert:  Thomas replied 3 years ago.

Hi

Thank you for your question and patience, I’m Tom and I’ll try to help you.

If it is the case that you provided your solicitor with a copy of the HomeBuyer’s report then the solicitor would generally go through the report and highlight any areas which are noted as for the attention of the legal adviser.

They would then investigate the issues and ensure that they are satisfactory and, where they are not, report to you on them outlining the implications of proceeding or any options open to you.

If there was a chimney breast removal then they would normally check to see if there is building regulation approval or a building regulation completion certificate and report to you.

If neither are available then they would report to you on it outlining the potential problems with it. They would raise enquiries in this regard with the seller’s solicitors, if no such approval/certificate was available then they may consider obtaining a building regulation indemnity policy which would provide cover in the event of building enforcement by the local authority.

If the report mentions this as an issue and either no enquiries were raised with the Seller OR the solicitor did not report to you on their findings then you are likely to have a claim.

Basicallly, if there were no such approvals for the works then you should know about it before you exchange contracts.

My goal is to provide you with a good service. If you feel you have received anything less, please reply back as I am happy to address follow-up issues specifically relating to your question.


Kind regards,


Tom
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Tom,


 


Thank you for your quick reply; I do have some further questions.


 


What would be the usual process for making a claim against the solicitor? From your answer above it would appear I should be asking for evidence of enquiries made with the Sellers, searches relating to building control approvals and communication of the findings with myself. If none of these occurred, is this a matter to pursue through the courts or is there a complaints process I should follow? The solicitor in question is a member of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme if this makes any difference.


 


If I then make a claim, what costs should I be seeking to be reimbursed for? I’d assume it would be reasonable to claim for costs to bring each of the three points mentioned on the survey up to the standard required for current building regulation approval i.e. the standard that I believed the property was in at the time of purchase. Is there anything else that would be usual to ask for in a case such as this?


 


Thanks


 


Carl


Expert:  Thomas replied 3 years ago.
Hi Carl,

The Solicitors Regulation Authority gives good guidance on claiming from your solicitor:-
http://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems/report-solicitor.page

The process is complaint > Ombudsmen then issue a claim and litigate if unsatisfactory.

Yes, you will have to ask for a copy of your file, do some investigating yourself then complain if necessary, essentially you would be claiming for the matters you have referred to in order to put yourself in the position that you would have been in were it not for their negligence (if they were in fact negligent).

Kind regards,

Tom
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