A law firm in Suffolk has been rebuked by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for breaching an undertaking in a conveyancing transaction.
Gudgeons Prentice in Stowmarket accepted the penalty as part of a regulatory settlement agreement which means it will not be referred to a disciplinary tribunal.
The agreement recorded that the firm acted for a property developer on the sale of a new-build residential property and gave an undertaking to the buyers’ solicitor to provide a building regulation certificate and a structural defects insurance policy on or before completion.
Completion took place on 23 April 2018, but the firm did not provide the certificate until 10 January 2019 and did not provide the policy at all. Instead it handed over a certificate of completion from an architect, which gave less protection than the policy would have done.
This was in breach of the outcome 11.2 of previous SRA Code of Conduct – requiring solicitors to perform all undertakings “within an agreed timescale or within a reasonable amount of time” – and of principle 6, which means solicitors have to act in a way that maintains the trust the public places in them and in the provision of legal services.
In mitigation, Gudgeons Prentice said it has shown insight “and understands the important role undertakings play in the delivery of legal services”. Further, this was an isolated incident and the firm has co-operated “fully” with the SRA’s investigation.
The SRA said a written rebuke was the appropriate outcome because the firm had been “reckless as to the risk of harm to the purchasers”, while the remedial action of obtaining the architect’s certificate did not remove that harm entirely.
“A public sanction is required in order to uphold public confidence in the delivery of legal services,” the agreement added.