Sign of the times?

No cycling or weight loss stuff today, I’m saying that straight off so you can click away if you want to. No, this is about the dealings I had with the solicitors who are facilitating our house move. A long story so if you want to read it, get comfortable.

To recap, we’d sold our house via an Estate Agent, who for the purposes of this story I’ll call, “Graham James”, had an offer accepted on the house we wanted to buy and were using “Graham James” in house solicitors to do the conveyancing.

Then if you recall, the bottom of the chain fell through with advice from Graham James Estate Agents saying it was doubtful in this climate that we’d find another buyer quickly enough to satisfy the folks who we were buying off.

Wifey then did some online research and discovered a company who appeared reputable who guaranteed they could sell our house very quickly, in fact they said they could get the whole thing done in 8 weeks!

Now here’s where it gets complicated. We instructed Graham James Estate Agents that we would no longer require their services although we would retain their solicitors as we had a new agent, let’s call them “Steven Gardener” .

Graham James then told us we had signed up for a 28 day notice period which meant that if Steven Gardener sold our property then we would have to pay not only Steven Gardener’s fees but Graham James’ too. I then went through the T&Cs and couldn’t find anything that said that. Indeed I found a line that said we could terminate the agreement immediately.

I took the T&Cs to the estate agents and showed them my copy. The agent who I shall call John, looked very crestfallen and said leave it with me.

The day after, I got a phone call saying that the T&Cs I had were in fact the solicitor’s T&Cs not the estate agents and we had in fact signed up for a 28 day notice period. I’m notoriously anal when it comes to paperwork and remembering what I sign, I couldn’t find the Estate Agents T&Cs anywhere in my file, only 2 copies of the alleged solicitors T&Cs.

I asked John for a copy of the T&Cs I’d signed. Through the post a day later a photocopied last sheet of the “Estate Agents T&Cs” dropped on my mat with what looked like my signature, but I did not recall seeing this document, further I had no copy. As a complication Steven Gardener would not start marketing my property while all this was going on. Time was a wasting!

On looking at the photo copy I telephoned Graham Jones and asked John for the original document, he blustered and said he’d have a word with the senior partner who I shall call Darren Walker to see if they could “do” anything for me as a favour as non of this situation with the sale was our fault after all. My antenna started twitching big style, had they forged this photocopy? He added, we won’t be able to sell your house in 28 days anyway, so I’ll have a chat with Darren. Later that day Darren called me and we had a very long chat which I won’t bore you with and he then said he’d talk to John and see what they could do. An hour later another call off John and he used these exact words. “We’ll let you go now Clive.” Job done, our property was off the “Right Move” web site and they took our for sale board down the same day. I phoned Steven Gardener and they started marketing the property and Lo and Behold they were as good as their word and they did indeed get my house sold within the time they said they would.

During all of this, the house we wanted fell through so we had to quickly get another house which we did. So the solicitors process started all over again.

Last Saturday our draught contract from Graham James for the sale of our house came through for approval and signing. I refer you to my anal attention to detail from earlier, they had made 2 mistakes on the contract, the purchase price was incorrect and they’d charged us for selling the house, which they hadn’t done as Steven Gardener had sold it and this charge was a good few thousand pounds!

2 things then happened very quickly, wifey went ballistic and I as usual tried to calm things down and put a positive spin on it. As this was on a Saturday the rest of last weekend was horrible in our house. I’d thought that this was just an admin cock up and they’d regurgitated the work they’d done last time they sold the house. Monday would tell.

Obviously I wanted this put to bed very quickly as it was playing on our every waking minute. I flew in to the office at 0900hrs yesterday and unfortunately non of the key members were in until 1200hrs. I explained the situation to a bemused looking admin assistant and said I wanted it sorted asap.

As always with Garaham James it was me that was left to do the chasing, not once have they ever called me back as I’d asked. Eventually after playing phone ping pong with the solicitor who said she was waiting for the Estate Agents to come in I got a call back from Darren Walker the senior partner, who if you recall I said I’d had a long chat with about the charges just before they said they’d let us go.

To cut to the chase from a very angry phone call, he out and out lied to me and said they’d never agreed to let us go and that they’d only agreed to remove the for sale board and remove our property from their web site and that the 28 days notice period still stood. He also denied ever having the very long phone conversation with me originally! What can you say? I actually said that Iwas coming to his office immediately to look into his eyes and get him to repeat his assertions to my face, but he conveniantly stated that he was leaving straight away for an appointment and he would not be there, with that he hung up. In hindsight that was probably a good thing.

I’m not going into what we’re going to do about it just on the off chance someone in their office reads this blog.

I guess I needed to unload, sorry for the boring story, but what is the world coming too? I cannot believe that these people are so disregarding of people’s lives, the hell we’ve gone through during this process is nearly unendurable, it’s put wifey in hospital, my chest pains have started again, both of which is stress related I don’t doubt.

You have no recourse either, if you go onto the Solicitors Association page, (any solicitors regulatory pages in fact) there are no areas for complaint usually and the one we did find with an area for complaint the email link was dead and the phone number was non existent, try ringing any of these organisations main numbers and they’ll direct you to various dead ends!

During our research also we found that Solicitor mal practice appeared to be endemic and on one independant website for under performing solicitors guess who we found? Yep, “Graham James”. Their offences ranged from charging for work not carried out, not returning phone calls, slow to deliver and to errors in contracts. Never! Maybe I’m naive in expecting honesty, integrity and good service.

I also get the feeling some one is telling us that we’re meant to be staying where we are!

Anyway, moving on…

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7 responses to “Sign of the times?

  1. All I can say is I feel for you Clive, been there done that and still have a very bad taste in my mouth from it……………

  2. Clive, I have moved house 5 times and in my opinion estate agents and solicitors cant lie straight in bed, it must be the most dis-hounarable profession I have ever come across. Best of luck pal

  3. Clive, estate agents and solicitors often have a telephone call recording system that sits on the phone lines, at least, all the ones we sell to. Unfortunately, these work on landlines and most don’t have mobile recording as yet.

    Might be worth finding out (I’ll leave that to your imagination) and seeing if you can get a copy of the recordings if they exist. Hint – junior members of staff are very helpful and not always on the ball.

    Either which way, if they have a call recording system the calls are evidence

  4. hi Clive

    what a nightmare for you and your wife.

    You need to write to the solicitors and tell them that you are making a formal complaint regarding their standard of service and unethical behaviour. Address your letter to the Senior Partner.
    Only when you have given the solicitors an opportunity to resolve your complaint through their own internal complaints procedure (which they are required to have) will the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (“SRA”) get involved.
    However, be assured that the SRA will get involved, and they will investigate your complaint. Do a Google search under Solicitors Regulatory Authority and follow the procedure. But you need to formally complain to the solicitors first and give them the opportunity to respond. The way the solicitors deal with your complaint will be one of the matters that the SRA will investigate. The SRA has disciplinary powers against the solicitors and the power to award compensation. Put your complaints in a factual, neutral manner, with dates of events, dates of conversations, names etc and provide them with copies of all relevant documents. Most important of all is the “letter of engagement” that the solicitors should have sent to you, setting out what they were going to do for you, the basis of their charges, and their complaints procedure if you were dissatisfied. Please do not assume that the SRA is there to protect the solicitors profession or that your complaint will not be properly investigated. Don’t let this go. You do us all a service by following through.
    regards
    Richard

  5. What Richard G said Clive.

    There are good Solicitors and Estate Agents and there are bad Solicitors and Estate Agents. The bad really screw it up for the good.

    Make ‘Graham James’ sorry you were ever born Clive.

  6. Hi Clive

    all that I said in my first post stands, but there is now a new free service with very strong powers to deal with complaints against solicitors. It is the Legal Ombudsman. Contact details are:

    Phone us on 0300 555 0333 (Please note all calls will be recorded)

    Email us at enquiries@legalombudsman.org.uk

    Write to us, our address is The Legal Ombudsman, PO Box 15870, Birmingham B30 9EB.

    You can get more information from their web site http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk

    regards

    Richard

  7. I’m with Fuzzy. I’d make it my goal in life to take as much business away from Graham James as I possibly could. I would make it my hobby. I would fail as many complaints with as many people as I possibly could. I would file as many law suits as I could manage. I would make as many posts on as many internet sites as my fingers would allow. I would get petitions signed and politicians notified. And that would just be a good start.

    Good luck with your new hobby.

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