Hidden house price fees to be banned from next month – what you need to know

A new crackdown on hidden legal fees will force firms to be more transparent about their charges from next month.

As of 1 December, all regulated companies will be required to publish information on the prices they charge for their services – or face a sanction.

Under the new guidelines, solicitors in eight sectors, including property, debt recovery and probate, will be required to display detailed information on their websites about price, services and regulatory matters.

It follows an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority in December 2016 which warned the market is failing thousands of people.

In particular, it said that consumers need to be given access to more information to help them navigate the industry and make informed decisions and choices when accessing legal services, including house purchases.

In implementing the recommendations, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said that it is seeking to ensure that consumers have the information they need about firms, the services they offer, the prices they charge and the protections they have in place.

It means companies will, by law, have to publish information on costs and what these cover, across a number of common services including conveyancing, probate, motoring offences, employment tribunals and immigration (excluding asylum).

In addition to prices, firms will also have to outline typical timescales for the quoted services and provide details of the experience and qualifications of staff who work in these areas.

It comes as figures show consumers are forking out as much as £8,113 in unexpected fees on house purchases.

Comparison website, When You Move, said six million of buyers will have to turn to friends and family to cover such charges, while one in four said they felt their solicitor misled them in relation to the true extent of their legal expenses.

‘£4,800 more than I was quoted’

Sally Roden, a primary school teacher from East London, paid £4,800 in unexpected fees on her house purchase.

The first time buyer said she was originally quoted an all-inclusive legal fee of £800, however this rose to £2,200 on completion.

As well as the above, Sally’s conveyancer billed her for addittional charges for property searches, valuations, surveys and transaction fees, which she says were never brought to her attention.

This totalled £3,400 and included £800 in survey costs, which she says her solicitor had previously advised would not apply to her new build purchase. Further costs include £1,000 worth of valuation fees, an electronic transfer fee of £150, which wasn’t included in her initial quote plus a £300 bill for wet signatures on original documents.

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"We always knew that buying and moving into a property was going to be stressful, but never did we imagine the hike up on costs to be this much," Sally explained.

"We had a base-level of knowledge, but as a first-time buyer, once you add up solicitor, developer and mortgage costs – it’s just so confusing.

"Next time round, I am doing what two of my friends have done that meant they could save more efficiently."

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: "Publishing information on price, services and protections will not only benefit the public, but will also help those who deliver these services win business and connect with their customers.

"We are providing guidance and support for firms to assist with meeting the new requirements and making the most of the opportunities they bring."

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