Woolwich £125 administration panel fee condemned by property lawyers' groups

PROPERTY lawyers have condemned the introduction of a £125 charge for those seeking to join the solicitors panel of Woolwich Building Society.

The Law Society and the Solicitors Property Group both claim the fee is unfair.

But Woolwich senior solicitor Michael Webber said no lawyer had yet complained about the charge and the building society was perfectly entitled to impose it.

Under a series of changes, Woolwich will allow all solicitors, whether sole practitioners or in partnership, to join the panel after the one-off fee has been paid, office systems checked and, on occasions, references asked for.

The society will also charge panel solicitors who fail to heed three warnings and return deeds after a sale is complete.

Woolwich has a full-time employee to deal with solicitor panel matters and Webber maintains it has the right as a client to vet solicitors and recoup administration costs.

But Law Society Property and Commercial Services Committee chairman Richard Hegarty said any solicitor holding a full practising certificate should be eligible for automatic memberships of banks and building societies' panels.

“This further fee will put up the ultimate costs of conveyancing services to the consumer,” said Hegarty, who is concerned the move will set a precedent.

“It is another example of lenders passing on their running costs. Where will it end?”

Solicitors Property Group chair Leslie Dubow said: “It's an understatement to say we are not amused. You can't get much of an audit for £125.”