My daughter has been in the process of buying a house, but suddenly the seller has taken the house off the market. Will my daughter have to pay solicitors' fees, even though the deal has fallen through and it's not her fault?

This is a much asked question, as the unfairness of having to pay solicitor's fees when a chain falls through, is particularly harsh when there is no fault on your daughter's part at all. The conveyancing system at present is that each party has a right to seek and receive independent legal advice, for which you are solely financially responsible. If the matter does not proceed to completion you have still contracted with your solicitor that you are going to pay on a basis initially agreed on with your solicitor, whether the matter does complete or not.

The fee your daughter will have to pay the solicitor must be agreed at the outset of the transaction. It is crucial that, when your daughter instructs her solicitor, she has read the terms and conditions under which her solicitor will be acting for her, to be certain of the fees and disbursements, and what happens if the matter does not proceed through her fault, her seller's fault, or the chain in general.

Some conveyancing firms do not charge if the matter does not proceed to completion, similar to a "no win no fee" basis. The conveyancing firm's risk is usually then factored into the fee that is charged, and again it is imperative that the terms and conditions of a system like this, are thoroughly read and understood before instructing the conveyancing firm.

Unfortunately your daughter cannot sue the seller for the abortive legal fees and disbursements as there is no legal basis for this. The system that deals with the buying and selling of houses does not provide for "fault" of any one party, and the onus for the payment of legal fees and disbursements remains solely on the person who has entered into the contractual relationship with the solicitor/conveyancer. It is simply bad luck, which makes it even harder to accept, but there is nothing your daughter can do to avoid this risk.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.