Law firm fined £12,400 for not making good on undertakings

Land Registry: Property was registered 17 months late

A law firm in Nottingham that failed to perform undertakings it gave on two property transactions – allowing another party to register a charge on one of them – has been fined £12,400.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) reduced the original £16,558 fine it had calculated by 25% because Robert Barber & Sons co-operated with its investigation and admitted its errors.

According to a notice published this week, the firm acted for a client who sought a loan facility and gave the lender a charge over two properties as consideration.

It provided two signed undertakings in September 2021 to register the lender’s mortgage charge over the properties with Companies House, and at HM Land Registry as a first legal mortgage, within five working days of completion of the loan.

Robert Barber & Sons only registered the charges at HM Land Registry in April 2023. The loan was redeemed in May 2023 prior the other undertaking being fulfilled.

The firm accepted that it was reckless and failed to uphold public trust and confidence in the profession.

The SRA took into account mitigation that the firm “experienced difficulties in rectifying issues as it was no longer instructed by its client”, that it was an isolated incident, and that it did not financially benefit from the misconduct.

The notice said: “Undertakings play a significant part in legal practice. A member of the public is reasonably entitled to expect that any solicitor or firm providing an undertaking will appreciate the importance of the obligation it creates and ensure it is fulfilled.

“The firm created a risk of harm that continued for 18 months… Due to the firm’s failure to complete its undertaking, another party was able to register a charge on one of the properties. This risked compromising the lender’s security. It was only because the loan was redeemed that this risk did not fully materialise.

“The conduct also impacted on the firm’s client as it had to instruct alternative solicitors to conclude the transaction.”

The SRA said a fine would deter the firm and others from similar conduct in the future, and uphold public confidence.

Robert Barber & Sons also agreed to pay the SRA costs of £1,350.

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