Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lawyer bungles house sale in Banff, ruins client of £90k

Property sales in Scotland are just as problematic as any other service the legal profession offers these days .. it seem to be just a question of time as to when the client finds out they have been fleeced …

The Sunday Mail reports on one such property sale which like many others went horrendously wrong :

Bungling lawyer leaves 80-year-old homeless and £90k Poorer

Feb 8 2009 Additional Reporting By Marion Scott

A DISABLED 80-year-old and her OAP daughter have been left homeless and £90,000 out of pocket after a property sale went wrong.

Inge Hopkinson and Mary Smith, 62, were turfed on to the street in the dark by sheriff officers in one of the most shocking cases I've come across.

The pair blame their lawyer Edward Acton - who unknown to them did not have a practising certificate - and the buyer Alexander "Zander" Currie, a debt and loan adviser.

After her house was repossessed by the Kensington mortgage firm, Mary called me in.

She said: "We were thrown out into the night with nothing but the clothes on our backs."

The Sunday Mail captured the shocking moment when they were forced to leave their house as a workman changed the locks. Mary's problems began after she split from husband John and appointed Acton to deal with the £340,000 sale of Burngrains Farm in Alvah, near Banff. But Acton was already in hot water with the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal.

He was fined £850 in July 2006 for conflict of interest and delaying the purchase of a property.

In May 2007 he was fined £2000 for failing to reply to a solicitor or the Law Society in relation to a title defect involving two properties.

In April last year he was fined £3000 for not replying to letters from his client or the Law Society after being appointed to deal with an estate and a house sale.

Currie offered Mary the full £340,000 asking price but said he only had £247,000 and would get a loan on the property to pay her the rest once it was officially his.

Mary agreed to the sale.

She said: "Acton transferred the title to the house before any IOU was drawn up. He told me everything would be sorted within three weeks."

But Currie did not come up with the balance.

Mary said: "He had the cheek to suggest I owed him rent and tried to sell the place from under us."

Currie then defaulted on his mortgage, resulting in Mary and Inge being evicted from their home over his debt.

When I collared Acton, he admitted: "I ceased to be a solicitor two or three years ago."

He blamed Mary for her own misfortune and said: "The buyer persuaded her to allow him to pay so much and said, 'If you can transfer the title to me, I can get my first loan in and everything will be OK'.

"The very least we could do was to get him to sign an undertaking in regard to payment of the balance. She was a very trusting person but I think she probably feels different about it now."

When I tracked Currie down, he said: "I just wasn't able to conclude the deal because money wasn't available to me. It's been impossible to get bridging loans.

"I told the Smiths it would take three to six months to complete the transaction."

Mary has taken her case against Acton to the Law Society of Scotland who told me: "It is a breach of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 for someone to hold themselves out as a solicitor when they are not."

Sunday Mail lawyer David McKie said: "No solicitor worth his salt would conclude missives and transfer title on a property without full payment of the asking price."

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