A member of a legal information and networking organisation says an online estate agency expects him to do some work in a transaction that the agent themselves should be doing.
In a newsletter from the Bold Legal Group (BLG) a legal firm member writes that he received the following email from an online agent:
Your above client is purchasing my vendors property at ……
Please can I request a copy of his certified photo ID, proof of address and proof of AIP/funds?
I have copied your client into the email so he can respond confirming that he agrees for you to do this.
This information is needed so that I am compliant with AML regulations set by HMRC.
To rub salt into the wound, perhaps, the conveyancer says he had already received a notification of sale on the property concerned “so the agent seems to have gone ahead regardless of not having dealt with the ID/money laundering requirements.”
So far there have been two responses to the issue, kindly shared with Estate Agent Today by the BLG.
One said: "I’m not sure that’s the right question: shouldn’t it be, “Should we help our clients”? Asked that way, I think the answer is obvious (subject to getting the client’s consent, of course)."
The other said: "On the one hand, I have arrangements with a couple of local agents … in which we tend to accept each other's certified copy ID (but only in exceptional/rare occasions). On the other hand, I am keen not to fall into any trap where our own due diligence exposes us to third-party liability where it is explicitly or implicitly relied upon by another firm, of any nature. On a separate issue, I have now been asked by two different online estate agents to take possession of seller's keys and hand over to a buyer at completion! My response has always been that we are not insured nor regulated to do so, so the answer is a polite ‘no’.”
This is not the first time that onliners have been accused of failing to perform the routine tasks normally expected of agents in a transaction.
Estate Agent Today has been made aware of bricks-and-mortar estate agents who have felt obliged to progress-chase conveyancers and sellers in different parts of a chain in order to ensure the transaction would proceed - they do not have confidence that an online agent would do it on their own vendor’s behalf.
Likewise, a buying agent has told EAT that “transaction times can double” if there is an online agent in a chain, because neither the vendor nor any other party to a transaction at that part of the chain is chased by the agent to progress the sale.
Ex conveyancer Rob Hailstone, chief executive and founder of the BLG, says that the majority of his members prefer dealing with bricks-and-mortar estate agents because they are more pro-active when it comes to resolving problems and chain chasing.