With the sudden closure of Reeve Fisher & Sands licensed conveyancers following an intervention by their regulator, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (the CLC) past and present clients of the firm may be concerned as to what steps they need to take to protect their interest.
Why were Reeve Fishers & Sands closed?
At this stage it is not clear. However from the CLC website it appears that some payments of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) due to Revenue and Customs should have been made by Reeves Fisher & Sands on behalf of clients, were not in fact made. These can add up to substantial sums over time because they can be 1%, 3%, 4%, 5%, 7% or even 15% of the purchase price.
Generally this money is collected from clients before completion of a purchase and retained in a ‘client account’ (separate from the firm’s own money). These funds should have been paid to the Revenue within 30 days of the completion date. A reminder is issued by the Revenue both to the firm and the client if this is not paid on time and penalties and interest may begin to be charged.
What should I do?
It will depend upon what stage you are in the transaction.
– I am at the early stages of my sale or purchase?
If your transaction has not progressed far and you have not paid substantial sums to Reeve Fisher & Sands you may simply wish to instruct an alternative lawyer or solicitor. Any monies paid on account of searches etc to RFS may be recovered from the CLC.
– My sale and/or purchase is well progressed?
If you are currently well progressed you may find that your file has been passed to another licensed conveyancer to deal with. Currently as we understand the position:
- If you matter was being dealt with by the Brentwood office they have been transferred to PCS Legal in Basildon. The contact is Stuart Forsdike 5 The Capricorn Centre, Cranes Farm Road, Basildon, Essex, SS14 3JA, Telephone: 01268 590003
- If your matter was being dealt with by the Billericay and Hornchurch offices the files are now with Hayward Moon Property Lawyers in Ipswich. The contact is Mark Hayward. 4 Chestnut Court, Wingfield Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AR, Tel: 01473 234730
If a deposit has been paid the above lawyers should be contacted immediately to confirm whether they have these funds. A compensation claim may be required.
You are not bound to accept this transfer to another licensed conveyancer – it may be that you will prefer to use another lawyer or indeed a solicitor of your choice.
Even if the file is lost or missing much information can be obtained from the seller and buyer’s solicitors involved in the matter. We are led to believe that local and other searches were obtained by Reeve Fisher and Sands through STL Property Searches (01483 715355) and if their bill has been paid they should be able to send you duplicates. Therefore even a switch of lawyer without the file should not unduly delay your transaction.
– I have just exchanged and I am due to complete.
Clearly this is a matter which requires the most urgent attention. The appointed firms above should treat your matter as urgent and if it is a purchase you should ensure that your mortgage lender will appoint these lawyers to act in place of Reeve Fisher Sands. If they cannot, for example they are not on the panel of that lender, then a new solicitor will need to be appointed quickly as you will be bound to complete on your purchase and penalties and possibly the loss of your deposit could follow.
– I completed my sale or purchase recently
Provided you completed and you received all the funds you were expecting from your solicitor then your only concern may be:
Sale – that your mortgage and agents were paid in full. A quick call to your mortgage lender/agent should confirm this.
Purchase – was the property registered correctly in your name. This should have been carried out at Land Registry so we recommend you download a copy of the title (it will cost £3) from the Land Registry website. This is quick and easy to do on line Land Registry Property Search
If your name does not appear as the registered proprietor you should contact us immediately to take action to protect your position (and that of your lender).
You may also be concerned to check that your Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) for has been submitted and the duty has been paid as this liability ultimately will fall upon you. The Revenue will generally send reminders if the stamp duty form has been submitted but the duty not paid to both you and the firm. The problem is that you do not know what address the revenue hold for you. In addition no reminder will be sent if the form was not submitted.
It might be worth calling the Stamp Taxes helpline at the Revenue on 0300 200 3510 as interest and penalties may run on the unpaid balance. If you have received a reminder you should contact the CLC.
If payments have not been made then you can claim this from the CLC’s Compensation Fund.
– I am an old client of Reeve Fisher & Sands and they hold my deeds
This may not be too much of a problem provided your property is registered land (you can check on the Land Registry link above) because your lawyer can simply obtain a further copy of the deeds from Land Registry. Sometimes your deeds packet may have other useful information in it such as NHBC certificate but in most cases duplicates can be obtained without too much trouble.
– I am an old client of Reeve Fisher & Sands and they hold my will
This is a concern. You will need to try and retrieve the original will and place it into storage. If this cannot be found you would need to make a new will which would automatically override the old will if it ever turned up again. This can also be organised quickly by this firm if required.
If you require further assistance regarding your sale, purchase or title deeds please contact either :
Mark Sadler firstname.lastname@example.org
David Farr email@example.com
Keith Darvill firstname.lastname@example.org
Fred Rylah email@example.com
on 01708 757575 or email us.
David and Keith can also assist with your will.