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Home Buying Guide: Making Complaints

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Introduction

During the course of buying your home, you have to deal with a number of professionals, including surveyors, solicitors and mortgage lenders. It is possible that you will not be happy with their services, and may even lose out financially or in other ways due to negligence on their part. This section suggests what action you may take if you find yourself in such a position.

With all complaints, you should first of all write to the professional or company in question stating what exactly you are not happy with, how it has affected you, and what kind of response you are wanting - do you want a refund, compensation, or some other result? Remember to keep a copy of this letter. If they refuse to accept your complaint, you can pursue the matter further with the relevant professional body. Surveyors, solicitors and licensed conveyancers all have bodies regulating their profession.

What if I Am Not Satisfied with my Estate Agent?

Remember, estate agents act for the seller and not the buyer, but if you are concerned that some unethical practice has taken place during the transaction you can complain to the Property Ombudsman or to the Office of Fair Trading.

What if I Am Not Satisfied with my Surveyor?

If your surveyor has shown negligence, by not pointing out defects which cost you money later on, you may be able to claim back the financial costs incurred by you as a result. You have a right to sue in court. Just remember that a surveyor can't always find every fault as some parts of every building are inaccessible - they will not, for example, drill holes in walls, pull up carpets and floorboards, or take any personal risks.

If your surveyor has refused to compensate you after you have complained as advised at the beginning of this section, you have the right to take the matter further. All companies who are members of one of the surveyors' professional trade associations have to follow standard complaints procedures. These associations' members all have access to a professional arbitration scheme set up in 1998 whose findings they, and you, are obliged to accept. If the company is not a member of either of these bodies, the case will have to be heard in court. For more details, contact The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

If your surveyor has not caused you any financial loss, but you are dissatisfied for some other reason, you may still be able to make a complaint. Contact the RICS Professional Conduct Department.

What if I Am Not Satisfied with my Solicitor?

If you are not satisfied with your solicitor's services but this has caused you no financial loss, you may have the right to make a complaint to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA). The SRA has disciplinary powers and can order compensation or a refund of your fees up to £5,000. When you write your initial letter of complaint to the solicitor, try threatening to contact the SRA if they do not satisfactorily respond to your complaint - this in itself may achieve the desired result.

If, in turn, you are not happy with the way the SRA has dealt with your complaint, you can complain to the Legal Services Ombudsman.

If you have suffered financially as a result of your solicitor's negligence, you can claim for compensation. Reasons for this happening could include, for example, steps not being taking to ensure the seller's mortgage is paid off on completion of the sale, or missing an important restriction or other information during the inquiries. Solicitors are legally obliged to hold negligence insurance; contact a different solicitor if you need to make a claim on this insurance as the SRA will not deal with negligence claims.

Remember to contact your solicitor before notifying the regulatory bodies, as described in the introduction to this section.

What if I Am Not Satisfied with my Conveyancer?

If you are dissatisfied but have not suffered financially, contact the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) who fulfil the same disciplinary role for licensed conveyancers as the SRA does for solicitors. Remember, if a conveyancer is not licensed it is illegal for them to charge for their services.

If you have suffered financial loss as a result of your conveyancer's negligence, you can claim for compensation. As in the case of solicitors, conveyancers are legally obliged to hold negligence insurance; contact a different solicitor if you need to make a claim on this insurance as the CLC will not deal with negligence claims.

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