Santander V RA Legal highlights urgent need for conveyancers to prove compliance with lender requirements
In light of the recent overturning of a ruling by the Appeals Court, it has never been more important for conveyancers to be able to prove that they have complied with the requirements of mortgage lenders.
In Santander UK plc v RA Legal Solicitors  EWCA Civ 183, RA Legal, acting for the purchaser of a property in London, transferred a sum of money to Sovereign solicitors whom it emerged were not actually representing the seller of the property.
The sum of £200,000, of which £150,000 was supplied by Abbey (now Santander), was lost and, although RA Legal were subsequently found to have acted in breach of trust in releasing the funds without having obtained a legal charge, they were initially relieved of liability in June 2013 by Mr Justice Andrew Smith.
However, in February 2014 upon appeal by Santander, RA Legal, who were forced to close in 2009 after failing to obtain Public Indemnity Insurance (PII), were found by Lord Justice Briggs to be undeserving of pardon from liability owing to “failings of RA Legal [that] formed part of a larger picture of the shoddy performance of a conveyancing transaction from start to finish.”
In truth, residential conveyancing is the riskiest area for both law firms and PII companies, with around 45% of negligence claims originating in residential cases and around half of these claims having been driven by the lender. This demonstrates that it is vital that firms have mechanisms in place to not only comply with lender requirements, but also prove that they have done so.
Jet Flight is a unique & fully integrated compliance tool that makes the Council of Mortgage Lenders’ handbook an automated part of the conveyancing process, helping to quickly identify individual lender requirements and providing the conveyancer with an audit trail of the process.
Within the last year, more than 90% of lenders have changed their CML criteria which means that it can be difficult for solicitors to keep up to date with various lenders’ constraints. Not having a process in place or relying on potentially obsolete knowledge of the handbook is no longer a viable option.
Ben Harris, Sales and Marketing Director of TM Group, explains: “Not only is it important for firms to prove to lenders that they have complied with their requirements but, as with the case of RA Legal, it can have a major impact on their ability to secure PII.”
Rulings such as these should also be seen as having a positive effect on the residential conveyancing sector with the emphasis firmly placed on maintaining high standards within the profession as well as helping guard against fraudulent activity from occurring.
“TM Group are proud of the fact that we have the only fully integrated instance of Jet Flight available to solicitors today,” Harris continued. “We recognised early on that it was important for us to support law firms in tackling fraud and meeting the SRA requirements on compliance. This recent case reinforces the need to be able to provide an audit trail, even for historic cases.”
The TM Group compliance range includes LawyerChecker, Anti-Money Laundering (AML) for both UK and International persons, and Jet Flight.
Jet Flight is available from www.tmgroup.co.uk