Property centres wait on vote

Plans to launch a national network of solicitors' property centres are in the balance this week as the Law Society meets to decide how far to go in deregulating property selling.

Nearly 50 firms have signed up to join Solicitors' Property Centres' proposed national network of property shops, but the scheme's backers will not cash their £750 cheques until the result of Thursday's council meeting is known.

The council is expected to go against the advice of its property and commercial services committee and not change regulations that prevent conveyancing firms or solicitors from acting for seller and buyer or offering financial advice.

Fearing that full deregulation may spark more claims on the Solicitors Indemnity Fund, council members are instead poised to back minimal deregulation. This compromise would permit firms to open an estate agency as part of a multidisciplinary partnership.

SPC marketing director Richard Berenson said that SPC had an alternative strategy if deregulation was completely ruled out, but he warned that the society would be flying in the face of the profession's wishes if it voted that way.

Solicitors' Property Group executive officer Leslie Dubow, whose organisation represents about 160 firms and has been at the forefront of calling for change, is outraged that full deregulation is likely to be thrown out by the council.

“We think it is a complete sell out,” he said.

Dubow's organisation has refused to endorse Berenson's SPC network and is instead planning a number of conferences to offer property selling advice to solicitors.