Property transfer error results in solicitor being “severely reprimanded”

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have “severely reprimanded” a solicitor after he compounded a mistake involving a property transfer made by his firm over a decade ago.

The decision, published in a regulatory statement published on the SRA’s website, means that Paul Kininmonth will also have to pay costs, he will not be referred to a disciplinary tribunal.

Setting out the facts of the case, the agreement states that in 1991, Wakefield firm Catteralls received an instruction to transfer properties to Ms X and Mr Y, adhering to the wishes set out in the will of Ms X’s sibling. Failing to do this, the properties remained in the joint names of Ms X and her brother.

In August 2006, Catteralls was instructed by Ms X to act for her in creating a charge over her properties, in order to secure a loan for Mr Y. The firm acted for the bank, Ms X and Mr Y.

As he was out of the office, the work was carried out by a locum solicitor who did not provide Ms X with all the required advice regarding the possible risks and consequences of signing the charge.

Upon his return, the locum solicitor gave Kininmonth an un-dated charge deed which he had witnessed Ms X and Mr Y sign, as well as a certificate of execution. Signed by the locum, this confirmed to the bank that Ms X had been advised of the risks, understood the nature and consequences of the charge and had willingly entered into it.

The charge and the certificate of execution were dated by Kininmonth of 23 August 2006, with the bank releasing the loan funds to Mr Y between this date and the 25 of August. Kininmonth was then instructed by the bank to register the charge with HM Land Registry.

However, he then found that not all of the necessary steps had been taken by the locum and that the properties were actually still in the names of Ms X and her brother.

The statement then goes to say that in 2008, Kininmonth asked Ms X and Mr Y to sign a transfer of the properties into their joint names, which they did. Kininmonth then re-dated the charge signed almost two years previous, failing to obtain authority to do so. He also did not advise the pair that they should obtain independent legal advice, or warn Ms X about the possible adverse consequences of the transaction.

Admitting that he had compromised his independence and duty to act in his clients’ best interests, the statement read that he failed to advise Mrs X, Mr Y and the bank:

  • That they each had a potential claim for negligence against the firm
  • That the firm could no longer act in the matter due to a conflict of interest
  • That each client should take independent legal advice

In light of Kininmonth’s co-operation with the investigation and his formerly unblemished background, the SRA reached the decision to severely reprimand him. The time since the misconduct also was a factor which impacted the outcome.

He was ordered to pay costs of £1,350.

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