HIDDEN fees are being unfairly charged to homebuyers and sellers, according to a managing partner at Bevirs Law.

Stuart McNeil, managing partner at Bevirs Law, which has on office in central Swindon and Royal Wootton Bassett, is speaking out about the lack of transparency with conveyancing referral fees.

The fee is the amount solicitors providing conveyancing services charge to estate agents to transfer the legal title of a property from one person to another.

But many firms are continuing to hide the actual cost to homebuyers because it often gets buried away in the terms and conditions, according to the partner, even though new rules were introduced in November by the regulatory body to make them more transparent.

“For years our fellow professionals and estate agents have ignored the rules about disclosing the fees paid to agents by conveyancers for referred work,” he said. “This is usually about £100 - 150 per job but can be as much as £300.

“The agents are supposed to tell the client before referring but don’t. They leave it to the conveyancer who, in practice either doesn’t, or hides it somewhere in the T&Cs and then often refers to it in a completion statement as an admin fee or something less than clear.”

The Solicitors Regulation Authority last year imposed new transparency rules on solicitors who must publish fees for conveyancing on their websites, including details of referral fees.

However after browsing other firms sites to see if they had posted their fees Mr MacNeil couldn’t find any evidence, meaning hundreds of pounds could be going unaccounted for.

The senior lawyer pointed to a recent survey which suggested that 60 per cent of people were unaware a fee had been paid in their transaction.

“Looking at the site of at least one prominent local firm there is no mention on their website,” he said.

“The housing minister is talking about banning referral fees if agents and solicitors don’t get their act together. This has been talked about for years with nothing being done. The problem is that the payment of fees means that many people get put with out of town conveyancing factories because they are told they are the best and cheapest – without any mention of the real fees.

“And they end up with a much poorer service in many cases. It can actually more expensive as the fee gets added into the cost in some way.”