Two years ago I wrote about the Catch-22 Mukesh Patel found himself in when he set out to sell his south-east London store.
The first obstacle was the lease. The buyer’s bank required a longer lease which the landlord agreed to only if it remained in Mukesh’s name.
Throughout the negotiations the landlord’s solicitor took such a long time that the buyer pulled out. Mukesh had to pay £1,000 for his own solicitor and £1,200 for the landlord’s. He finally got a buyer and got out, but was determined to seek redress for the loss of goodwill (£35K) he suffered due to the delays.
He has now sent me a head-throbbing account of what he has been up to since leaving the trade. He started a complaint process against a third party - ie the solicitor. He first complained to the solicitor’s firm, then the Legal Ombudsman and then the Solicitors Regulation Authority, who all replied that he was not a client of the firm so they couldn’t help. Although they did see that Mukesh had a point.
An investigator for the Legal Ombudsman replied: “The Legal Ombudsman formed a working party to consider these issues. We spoke with the Legal Services Consumer Panel, and the matter was considered by the Office for Legal Complaints Board and the Legal Ombudsman over a couple of years. Eventually the decision was taken that we would not be extending our jurisdiction regarding third party complaints - partially on the basis that this would require legislative change, for which there is very little appetite in Parliament.”
While they were debating, Mukesh got his MP to write to the Ministry of Justice, which replied that the legal profession is independent of government and had its own regulators.
Mukesh sums it up in three points. “One: the Justice Ministry says that the Legal Services Board (LSB) is responsible for the legal profession, but LSB replied that they have no policy view on third-party complaints and it is a matter for the Office of Legal Complaints.
“Two: the Legal Service Consumer Panel agrees that provision should be for third-party complaints, but it only has remit to advise. No one listens.
“Three: the Legal Ombudsman agrees for a need for third-party complaints, but thinks parliament has no appetite to change the law.”
Mukesh feels bitter about the experience. But he hasn’t given up. He says: “I know I will not win under present rules, but will keep on fighting in the hope that someone will listen and make change so others may not suffer. My next stop is Office of Legal Complaints and then back to Justice Ministry through my MP.”
We should all root for him: someone is accountable.