My East Borneo Diary

This was to be a column on the next stages of my equity release mortgage. I’ve written two earlier columns on the subject and met, last week, my solicitor to finalise the details.

Problem. The useless solicitor who was supposed to handle the sale of my London flat and purchase of a flat in Eastbourne has failed to convey the lease in Eastbourne to me. As a result, I do not own the lease and cannot borrow against it. I am, to use the legal term, screwed.

I e-mailed the errant solicitor, but she was on holiday. It’s the one thing she’s good at: not doing her job. Her automatic e-mail reply directed me to another partner at the firm, so I e-mailed him. He didn’t reply. Apparently, the word ‘professionalism’ is unknown at that firm. I might point out that I have already paid in full the fee for the work these legal beagles were supposed to do for me. In more than full: they owe me money, but won’t repay it.

My remedies are limited. I can appeal to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, but since they cannot spell, one doubts they can do more complicated work. (Solicitors’, in this context, requires an apostrophe.) The Law Society refers all complaints to a Government Ombudsman, because it plainly doesn’t care about the quality of the service its members offer.

Appealing to either body will not enable me to take out a mortgage before the offer expires. So the mortgage is probably a non-starter, but this legal inefficiency has graver consequences. Because I do not own the lease, I cannot be billed for the annual maintenance fees the leaseholder must pay. If the fees remain unpaid on January 14, I will be sued. If I can’t be billed, how can I be sued? You’d need a lawyer to answer that question. More to the point, I could lose the flat.

My manner, generally, is that of a tea-kettle. It makes no noise until it boils, and then it emits an ungodly racket until it is dealt with. Early next week, I will have to travel to London to obtain from my incompetent solicitor the documents she cannot be bothered to supply. (She told me once that she had more important clients than me to deal with.) I intend to ask nicely, and if still unsatisfied, to make an ungodly racket until the matter is dealt with.

I’m not a hater by nature, but I have come to hate the London solicitors for their unprofessional manner. I hate that they are presumed to be in the right, even when clearly in the wrong, and that no legal remedy is available to the man in the street (a.k.a. “the client”) who just has to suffer if an incompetent legal advisor has been taken on.

If it seems to you that all I do is complain here on Olderhood, you have misjudged me. I think of myself as the luckiest man in the world, and am aware that I do not have, and never have had, so much as a single problem, compared with so many others. I take great pleasure in the achievements of mankind and in anyone who approaches life with the correct attitude.

I know that being a conveyancing solicitor is thankless drudgery. But if you are a conveyancing solicitor, or have any other awful job that you hate, either do it to the best of your abilities, or do something else.

The true sadness of this tale, as my brother pointed out, is that this incompetent legal nitwit probably is doing the best that she can. God help all her other clients.

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