Home buying hell - your rights
House sales have been on the increase as prices rise again. But things can go wrong when buying a home, so what can you do to help resolve any issues that may arise? As our biggest purchase is our home, it is also an emotional purchase and we often fall in love with our homes. What happens if it all goes wrong?
The process of buying a home can be long and complex. Once you have agreed on the price, you still have to exchange and complete contracts. After agreeing to purchase a house, you will need to employ a solicitor or conveyancer to act on your behalf.
You will not be able to speak with the other side’s legal representative and it often feels as if things are out of control when you are waiting for someone else to do something. I recommend that you keep talking to your estate agent and ensure that they push both sides’ legal representatives. Your estate agent will not get paid if the deal falls through so they should be as keen as you are to complete the house sale.
How do you complain about an estate agent?
Under the Consumers Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007, all estate agents must belong to an Ombudsman scheme. These schemes are in place for you to raise your case with if you cannot resolve it with the estate agent. You should first raise the issue with the estate agent and allow either 8 weeks or until the estate agent states that there are no further actions they can take and refers you to the Ombudsman.
You can complain about your estate agent if they fail to deliver in accordance with the following areas:
• A breach of law; or
• Failed to follow the rules and obligations set for agents under any code of practice to which they may subscribe; or
• Treated you unfairly; or
• Been guilty of maladministration (including inefficiency and undue delay)
The issues you encountered must have resulted in you losing money or suffering avoidable aggravation, distress and/or inconvenience. Therefore it is important that you keep a complete and accurate record of all of your issues so that you can effectively explain this to the Ombudsman.
There are two main Ombudsmen that you can approach. For estate agents, you should either ask the firm which Ombudsman they are a member of or contact the Property Ombudsman to check if the firm is a member.
The Ombudsman will not deal with your issue if you are taking legal action, 12 months has passed since you raised the issue or it has been over 6-months since the last communication from the estate agent.
Is your complaint about your home survey?
25% of homebuyers undertake a home survey as part of their home purchase. The survey should give the buyer confidence that they are not buying a home with issues. Therefore we rely on these reports as a sign of confidence. What happens if the report missed something or the information supplied was incorrect?
If you had a survey undertaken, a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) will have likely completed the survey. RICS members must adhere to a set of standards and if these are breached then you have the right to complain. If a surveyor has missed or incorrectly identified an issue then you have the right to complain and to receive compensation.
RICS members’ complaints are dealt with by Ombudsman Services. You can take your complaint to the Ombudsman for resolution if your complaint relates to any of the following:
An apparent breach of obligations;
Failure to follow proper procedures;
Rudeness or discourtesy;
Not explaining matters; and
Poor or incompetent service.
The service will help you if you cannot resolve the issue with the company but as with an estate agent, you will have had to first raise your case with the surveying company and have waited 8 weeks for an acceptable response.
What if I Am Not Satisfied with my Solicitor?
If you are not satisfied with your solicitor's services and have not experienced any financial loss, you may have the right to make a complaint to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) as long as the solicitor’s firm caused misconduct or breached the industry’s quality standards. The SRA has disciplinary powers and can order compensation or a refund of your fees up to £5,000. However, you will need to have first approached the firm and tried to resolve with them directly.
If you have suffered financially as a result of your solicitor's negligence, you can claim for compensation. Reasons could include, for example, steps not being taken to ensure the seller's mortgage is paid off on completion of the sale, or missing an important restriction or other information during the enquiries.
What if I Am Not Satisfied with my Conveyancer?
If you are dissatisfied but have not suffered financially, contact the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) who fulfil the same disciplinary role for licensed conveyancers as the SRA does for solicitors. If the issue relates to financial loss then you should contact the Legal Ombudsman to help deal with the issue.