HSBC Panel in Scotland remains unchanged despite changes in England and Wales

The HSBC has retained its restricted panel of approved solicitors in Scotland, despite making concessions to firms in England and Wales, the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland reports.  
In January the bank cut its panel to 43 firms across the UK, of which four were in Scotland.  Under this system any borrower who wishes to use their own solicitor has to pay for HSBC to have separate representation.  The cost of this is £192.
In May the HSBC announced that in England and Wales, any firm that has been accredited with the CQS scheme will be able to act for the bank on a joint representation basis from August.  Sole practitioners will be able to act on transactions with a mortgage value of up to £150,000 although this limit may be changed.
The Law Society of Scotland does not have an equivalent to the CQS scheme, and so the situation for those practicing in Scotland will remain largely unchanged by the announcement.  
John Scott, secretary of the Law Society of Scotland Property Law Committee commented to the Journal:
“Without an equivalent of CQS it is difficult to see on exactly what basis we could argue that the panel should be widened in Scotland.”   
The Law Society of Scotland continues to oppose the restrictions to the lender panel imposed by HSBC.  It has recently gained concessions from the bank in the terms of the documentation issued to non-panel solicitors.  The Society had advised that these terms were unacceptable in Scottish practice.  
Mr Scott said the Society and Property Law Committee had considered the possibility of introducing a scheme similar to CQS in Scotland, but had decided that the additional costs and bureaucracy would not be welcomed when accreditation would not guarantee membership of all lenders panels.
Since its launch in January 2011 1458 firms, with 875 branches have been accredited, with a total of 2333 outlets. The fee for a sole practitioner is currently £420 for the first year and £252 thereafter. 
As more lenders make accreditation of CQS a requirement for lenders panels, the scheme is becoming more important for those firms who practice residential conveyancing.  It remains to be seen if the success of the scheme in England and Wales will lead to a similar initiative in the future in Scotland.  
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