Conveyancing appears particularly vulnerable to fraud at the moment. Unscrupulous solicitors, valuers and brokers are using sophisticated methods to hijack property titles so it is vital to know your supplier and that maxim especially applies to conveyancers.
Under the joint representation model lenders allow borrowers’ chosen conveyancer to act for them as well. But the legal profession has more bad apples than ever.
Rather than telling the borrower to instruct their own conveyancer at extra expense under the separate representation model, some lenders are establishing restricted panels which allow them to instruct a solicitor to act for it. But those same conveyancers can act for the borrower at little or no extra cost.
If the borrower takes up the offer, it helps cut the risk of fraud as the solicitor has been vetted.
And if the borrower had to complete an identity questionnaire in front of their solicitor or other professional it would really discourage impersonation of an innocent borrower.
There is an enshrined principle that a person should be able to choose their own solicitor, but involving three different lawyers – the seller’s, the borrower’s and the lender’s – presents an opportunity for the system to be abused.
Rather than being obstructive, joint representation through a restricted panel should be seen as a fraud prevention tool. It isn’t going to be appropriate in all cases, but in the right circumstances why wouldn’t a lender consider it?