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Buyer sues conveyancer for £4.6m eight years after purchase

A woman who bought a London house in 2012 is now suing the conveyancers that worked for her at the time for £4.6m.

The Evening Standard newspaper reports that Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring bought the mews house in Kensington eight years ago with plans to convert it from office use to residential, with additional features including a double basement and swimming pool.

The local authority rejected some of the planning applications at the time, prompting her to make a vivid protest by painting the property with broad red and white vertical stripes - an act that led to international publicity. 


She eventually won consent to make the property residential in 2018, but only with some of her anticipated basement plans; she is now suing her former legal representatives, Charles Russell Speechlys, saying the firm should have warned her she stood no chance of getting consent at the time that she purchased. 

Charles Russell Speechlys denies negligence, saying the buyer knew it was a “big gamble” buying a property without residential consent.

“The claimant is a wealthy and intelligent woman, possessed of fierce independence of mind, extraordinary determination and considerable experience both of the English planning system and of litigation” a lawyer representing the legal firm tells the newspaper. 

Meanwhile Lisle-Mainwaring’s barrister, in a written submission to the court, says: “Had [she] been properly advised by the firm, she would either have aborted her purchase of the property straight away or she would have obtained specialist planning advice and then aborted her purchase of the property.”

Lisle-Mainwaring claims she is £4.6 million out of pocket due to increased building costs, legal fees and the fact she could not build a double basement.

  • Peter Ambrose

    This is a very useful story to illustrate the issues that lawyers face everyday.
    The risks involved in conveyancing are considerable and claims can come out of the woodwork from seemingly any angle.
    On the face of it this is an open and shut case ... however ...in reality it's just a spin on a roulette wheel ...

  • icon

    I agree with Peter.

    This is a wake up call for all those individuals in the sector who keep saying "conveyancing is easy" or "its just form filling"

    Solicitors will generally try to limit their retainer by spelling out to the client what is included in, or excluded from their retainer, using language which complies both with their professional obligations and consumer protection legislation.

    But unfortunately the problem sometimes arises of "mission creep", where an additional retainer can arise by implication.

    So the moral of the story is to allow the lawyers more time when necessary, to do their jobs properly, especially when they are dealing with a demanding client, buying high value real estate.

  • icon

    Strikes me that at the moment it is open season on conveyancers. Everywhere I read at the moment people are having a pop at fees, delays etc. There are a lot of things wrong with the profession at the moment but there are far worse things going on in the wider world. People need to get some perspective.


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