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Solicitors vote against change to housebuying rules

23 September 2013 | tagged News release

Lawyers have voted against a proposed change in rules which would end the practice of having one solicitor represent housebuyers and their mortgage lenders.

The vote at the Law Society of Scotland's special general meeting today, Monday, 23 September, indicated a wish by solicitors to maintain the status quo, which allows a solicitor to act for a buyer and lender.

847 were against a rule change to the conflict of interest rules while 671 were in favour. There was one abstention.

Today's vote followed an earlier decision at the Society's annual general meeting in March when members voted for the principle of a move towards mandatory separate representation. The Society consulted widely with members, mortgage lenders and consumer groups over the summer.

Bruce Beveridge, President of the Law Society, said: "There has been a mood change within the profession since the vote at the annual general meeting in March this year. The majority of solicitors at today's meeting clearly believe that the current practice works for their clients, although there remains a significant number of solicitors who have concerns.

"For most of us, buying a home is the biggest purchase we will ever make and it's essential that people get the legal advice they need, that their interests are protected and that solicitors are not compromised in representing their clients.

"The issues around separate representation were originally raised by solicitors who had concerns about the requirements placed on them by the banks and building societies, and which they believed were increasingly onerous and could compromise their relationship with the buyer client.

"That led to a vote in March this year for the Society to bring forward a specific rule change to the special general meeting. There has been a huge amount of work done in the interim and we have consulted widely with solicitors, the banks and their representative body the Council of Mortgage Lenders, and consumer interest organisations.

"The responses to our consultation revealed the strength of feeling within the profession, whether for or against the proposed rule change, and have highlighted the sensitivities and complexities of such a proposed change.

"It remains the case that homebuyers are generally unaware that their solicitor also has to provide specific legal advice to the lender and we will have to consider what we should do to ensure that all clients are clear about the duties and responsibilities of solicitors to both the housebuyer and the lender."

Today's vote and the views highlighted during the consultation will now be considered by the Regulatory Committee who will consider what further work there should be on the issue.

ENDS                                                                                         23 SEPTEMBER 2013

Note to editors

Solicitors voted in March this year for the principle of changing the current practice whereby a solicitor can represent both the buyer and the lender and agreed that the Law Society should bring forward a specific change to the solicitor practice rules to require mandatory separate representation to today's special general meeting.

SGM Motion:

Draft Practice Rules for consideration - one motion

Motion to members at the Special General Meeting 2013 -

"That this meeting agrees that the draft practice rule B2: conflict of interest;

a) Adequately deals with the issues arising from the report of the Society's working party on separate representation and the responses made to the Society's consultation on separate representation in conveyancing and;

b) Should now proceed to consultation with the Society's Regulatory Committee."

For further information, please see the 'sep rep' background paper:

Draft Practice Rule on Conflict of Interest

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Please contact Val McEwan on 0131 226 8884 / 07824 206468

23 September 2013

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