Philippa Rudd, a partner at Cozens-Hardy solicitors in Norwich, explains the legal code of ethics and conflict of interest.
I have just had my offer accepted on a house and I am trying to find a local solicitor to do the conveyancing for me. I asked the estate agent if I could use the same firm as the person selling the house but they said they did not think that this would be possible. Wouldn’t this speed up the process?
The same firm of solicitors can only act for seller and buyer if both are existing clients, if both parties consent in writing and no conflict of interest arises – and providing that neither party is a property developer.
I have spoken to the solicitor recommended to me by the estate agents and he said that he would also act for my mortgage company providing he is on their panel. What does this mean?
Mortgage companies have panels of approved solicitors. The mortgage company will normally use the same solicitor as the buyer. They need the solicitor to check that the title and search results are in order and that it is safe for them to lend.
What if I wish to withhold information from my mortgage company such as the fact that I have already have a mortgage on a house I can’t sell? I think this situation could also be a possible conflict of interest?
Solicitors have a duty of confidentiality to their clients, but this does not affect their duty to act in the best interests of each client. Therefore any relevant information should be forwarded to the mortgage company with your consent. If you, as the buyer, will not agree to the information being given to your lender, then there will be a conflict between the solicitor’s duty of confidentiality to you and the duty to act in the best interests of the lender. Your solicitor would then have to cease acting for the lender and he may not be able to continue acting for you, so do bear in mind that anything you tell your solicitor may have to be disclosed to your lender.
*Philippa’s on 01603 625231.