Philippa Rudd - EDP Property Column. Ethics

I am buying a house and, the seller’s solicitor is being hopelessly slow. My solicitor says I can’t phone the other solicitor and chase him. Is this correct?

The other solicitor cannot talk to you for ethical reasons. He has a duty of confidentiality to his client and he can’t give you advice so you can only talk to your own solicitor.

I have told my solicitor that I was planning on giving the seller some cash direct to keep the price below the stamp duty threshold. She said this would not be possible, why is this?

You will be committing fraud on the Inland Revenue if you fail to disclose the total sums you pay to the seller. Your solicitor will refuse to assist you with this type of proposal. 

I obviously don’t want the mortgage company to know this, but I may be made redundant soon. My solicitor said if I do lose my job she would have to tell my mortgage company. Surely that is not right?

Your solicitor will also be acting for your mortgage company and she will have a duty to tell them anything that may affect their security. If you are made redundant then you may not be able to pay the mortgage and the mortgage company need to know this.

I am raising funds for the purchase from my business, which is very much ‘cash in hand’.  My solicitor says they can’t take cash from me, which is fair enough, but now she is asking me lots of probing questions about my money. Is she just being nosey? 

Solicitors have obligations under the money laundering laws to report any incidences of money laundering or other criminal activities. Solicitors will therefore ask you questions if they have any suspicions about your funds. These rules can override their duty to you of confidentiality.

I thought solicitors just carried out the job we appoint them for.  Where do all these duties arise from?

Solicitors are obliged to act with integrity and in your best interests at all times.  These duties are set out in their code of conduct.

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