Borrowers need choice on free legals: Bob Hunt

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There are arguments for and against free legals but better communication would help clients make an informed choice

The letters page of this publication is not often the scene of mass agreement on an issue. But the recent adviser views proffered on the use of free legals and the performance of certain conveyancing firms provided such an occasion.

When you have service issues and poor communication between conveyancers, advisers and their clients, there will be an expression of the frustration being felt.

As many have suggested, perhaps it is time to look at the delivery of offers of free legals to remortgage borrowers, especially when business levels are high and the conveyancers concerned are clearly struggling to deal with the number of cases.

I do not wish to play the blame game here but, at some point, those involved will need to raise their hand and admit that pushing more business towards certain conveyancers, and the acceptance by those conveyancers of more cases, is not helping anyone.

Already, I sense certain lenders are acknowledging this. In the past few days, a number of building societies, for example, have been offering cashback to borrowers rather than free legals. This has to be the way forward, at least until those conveyancers can get back to the service levels required.

There are arguments for and against free legals. When the system works, it works well. However, as we are seeing at the moment, it can be crippling for all concerned when it does not.

One would hope that we move to a position where lenders are able to offer a choice between free legals and cashback, and can communicate the current service levels of the conveyancing firms they are using.

With this level of transparency, advisers and clients at least will be able to make an informed choice about the route they go down, and we can put an end to the frustration and delay that are blighting the sector at the moment.

Bob Hunt is chief executive of Paradigm Mortgage Services