A sorry tale of two conveyances

By Rebecca Rose, Director of and Mrs Legal Futures

Lawyers celebrate National Conveyancing Week

All the lawyers in this blog have been named after Teletubbies, partly for privacy but mostly for petty revenge.

It was time for my elderly parents to downsize and move closer to me. Having accepted an offer on their house and found a lovely little bungalow in a retirement village, it all seemed plain sailing. Two-step chain, all cash buyers, no mortgage lenders, no surveyors. “This will be the simplest conveyance in history, Dad” I said confidently. “You’ll be moving in 12 weeks.”

Day 1: Tinky-Winky introduces herself as the paralegal who will be handling the transactions. “What? Not a solicitor?” splutters Dad. “Don’t worry,” I reply, before launching into an enthusiastic explanation of the different grades of lawyers in the legal system of England and Wales.

“Solicitor is just one type, there can be barristers, licensed conveyancers, chartered legal executives, patent attorneys…” My father’s eyes are closed. I assume it’s his nap time.

Day 4: Tinky-Winky’s rather dour assistant, Po, informs us that my parents need to carry out identity checks. These can all be done online, via a portal which is very easy to use. I am doubtful. The last technology my parents mastered was a fax machine in 1986, and they have a daily battle with the remote control for their new telly.

I ask if I can be added to the portal to upload the documents for them. Po is evasive: “I don’t think we can add an additional person once the log-in details have been sent.” I interpret this as “I have 100 other cases and you are being a pain”.

Day 6: After no success with my dad even finding the log-in details, let alone downloading the app, Po suggests they do the ID checks face-to-face. That’s great, I reply, but explain my dad is recovering from a stroke and can’t drive, and my mum is in a wheelchair.

But good news! They are literally down the road from Po’s office, so could she or a colleague nip down and do the paperwork? “That’s not a service we offer,” replies Po tersely.

Day 11: I drive two hours to my parents, bundle them into the back of the car with passports and gas bill, stick the wheelchair in the boot and drive 10 minutes – yes, 10 minutes – to see Tinky-Winky.

My chatty dad enjoys getting out of the house and meeting new people. He decides to tell Tinky-Winky about all his recent medical problems, especially his difficulties with a catheter. She looks horrified. I decide to let her sit through it.

Day 20: Mr Legal Futures bumps into Laa-Laa, a marketing bod from Tinky-Winky’s firm at a conveyancing conference. “My wife’s not very happy with your lot,” he bellows in front of bemused industry networkers. LaLa’s face pales.

Day 21: Laa-Laa dutifully calls me. I ask what the firm’s policy is with regards to elderly and vulnerable clients. I can hear his sphincter tighten over the phone. As well as a small discount on the fees, he promises a member of the team will visit my parents at home, if required. Which, to their credit, they do.

Day 36: Emails to Tinky-Winky appear not to be arriving in her inbox. Maybe they are going to spam? I phone up and Po informs me Tinky-Winky is unavailable and will respond to my emails in due course.

Day 42. Still nothing.

Day 45: I wonder what happens if you die of old age whilst waiting for a conveyance to complete.

Day 50: I Google “how to become a licensed conveyancer” in case it would be quicker to train and do the job myself.

Day 55: Still no substantive response from Tinky-Winky and the buyers are getting fidgety. I request an urgent phone call and am told that all the searches are “out” and it will be just another week or so until the last one comes back.

Day 63: Tinky-Winky is ignoring my emails. Well, two can play at that game. I am not going to email her and will instead conduct an experiment to see if a conveyance with zero pressure will actually complete in the same century. I am fully resolved to see this through.

Day 64: I cave and email Tinky-Winky and receive an out-of-office directing me to Po.

Day 71: Tinky-Winky has emailed me! My excitement turns to dismay, as I find 17 PDF files attached, including an original conveyance on the property that was presumably written by Chaucer. I forward it to Mr Legal Futures on the basis he received a law degree in 1991.

Day 80: The buyers are getting a bit snarky and tell me they are ready to exchange and can we exchange and complete in the next three weeks. Tinky-Winky says there is still paperwork outstanding on the purchase and she is waiting for the results of a radon search for the bungalow.

Day 81: I Google radon, worried I am sending mum and dad to live in a toxic waste dump. I discover that there is no radon in the area. This takes me 90 seconds to ascertain. I wonder why Tinky-Winky has to wait so long. Perhaps I should email her the results.

Day 82: No, it turns out lawyers don’t like you doing their job for them.

Day 91: Tinky-Winky’s emails sound a little tetchy and I wonder if my picture is on the office dart board.

Day 110: The buyers forward me an email from their paralegal, Dipsy, who says they are ready to exchange contracts and the delay is all due to my lawyers. I decide to look up Dipsy on LinkedIn. Looks like she is a one-woman band. On further investigation, her business appears to be closed. But she is working under the name of a different firm of solicitors. SRA registered but with an iffy-one page website with no contact details. But I conclude if the buyers want to use Eh-Oh LLP, that’s their choice.

Day 122: The buyers enthusiastically suggest some dates for exchange and completion. Tinky-Winky listens but remains non-committal.

Day 145: Finally! Tinky-Winky agrees we are now ready to discuss dates for exchange.

Day 146: Tinky-Winky forwards me an out-of-office notification from Dipsy, who has just gone on holiday for two weeks.

Day 152: Tinky-Winky has found someone at Eh-Oh LLP to complete the exchange and we are all set for next week.

Day 153: I book the house clearance, removal company and begin decluttering 40 years of tat from my parents’ house. I drop off my mother’s prized collection of wall plates to the hesitant-looking lady at the charity shop.

Day 159: I wait nervously for Tinky-Winky’s email confirming we’ve exchanged.

Day 160: WHAT THE ACTUAL F@**!! Tinky-Winky forwards an email from Eh-Oh LLP, saying they cannot exchange as their client has not completed the source of funds checks.

I hurl a stapler across the office. “Isn’t that violating some basic code of conduct?!” I bellow at Mr Legal Futures “I am going to report these crooks to the SRA.”

Mr Legal Futures, cowering under his desk, whispers: “You can’t. You’re not their client.”

Day 166: Still seething, I make a mental list of all the pointless enquiries Dipsy made while failing to check her clients were not a drug cartel/arms dealers/human traffickers. This includes:

  • Enquiring three times about a drain cover on the patio;
  • Demanding proof that a silver birch blown over in a storm six years ago was notified to the council; and
  • Insisting we take out an indemnity policy for payments to an estate management company that ceased to exist in the 1960s.

Day 180: Finally. Finally. It is now completion day. Having been unable to cancel the house clearance, my poor parents have been living with a few pieces of small furniture they are taking to the bungalow. “It’s alright,” says Mum cheerily, “It’s like when we were first married. We didn’t have any furniture then either.”

Bless the Silent Generation.

Conveyance Number 2

About a year before this debacle, I bought an apartment in Spain.

Day 1: Offer accepted.

Day 31: Picked up the keys.

PS: I received a client feedback form for Tinky-Winky, whom I rated as 7/10 on the basis that she massively outperformed Dipsy; that, sadly, no other conveyancing firm in the country would probably have delivered a better service; and, finally, because she had to sit through my dad talking about his prostate operation. Credit where it’s due.

    Readers Comments

  • Sarah Keegan says:

    Best thing I have read for yonks! Well done, Mrs Legal Futures…

  • Jennifer Woodyard says:

    Sorry you and your parents had to go through that. Actually, I work for a small high street firm which would have done a much better job and I wonder how you selected eh oh LLP. However, your writing did make me smile, thank you.

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