St Albans mother blasts disgraced solicitors after catalogue of errors over daughter’s move

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith - Credit: Archant

A mother has hit out at a disgraced firm of solicitors whom she claims turned her desire to help her depressed daughter onto the housing ladder into a farce.

Sandra Smith, 51, from St Albans, said that what should have been ‘a simple exchange of documents’ resulted in her nearly losing the house, being caused ‘untold stress’ and left with no hope of getting any money back.

Sandra re-mortgaged part of her home to buy a property for her daughter and fiance three years ago. The couple lived there as paying tenants until they were able to save up for a deposit and secure a mortgage which meant they could then buy the property from Sandra.

After the mortgage had been approved by Hanley Building Society, Sandra chose now disgraced firm Blavo & Co in St Albans as her solicitors to complete the legalities in May last year.

With Sandra’s daughter getting married in August, the family wanted completion before then and asked the solicitor to speed things up. But despite communication with Blavo on several occasions, it was clear that was not going to happen.

Sandra said: “At that point it went from bad to much worse. Because of the lack of action from Blavo, nothing could then be done until after the wedding, which I was organising myself as well as running my business.

“Weddings can be stressful at the best of times and as my daughter suffers from depression, she took a downward spiral at a time which should be one of the happiest.

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“My daughter’s solicitors had got the sale price of the property wrong in its documents which meant the contract had to be drawn up all over again.

“Because of this, Hanley’s had to withdraw the mortgage offer so we were on the brink of losing the house but we managed to scrape just one week’s extension.”

Sandra then received a phone call from Blavo saying completion would be on the last deadline day for the extension and no further information was required to complete the sale.

But when she called her lender, Nat West, to confirm exchange was going ahead, they said they knew nothing about it and had not received any documentation.

Despite Sandra’s request to Blavo to confirm receipt of the mortgage redemption details nothing was received and Blavo did not respond to Nat West’s enquiry.

Hanley allowed the purchasers to complete their side, but Sandra found out her mortgage had not been redeemed, despite having the proof that Blavo had received the monies on the Friday morning. She was therefore still being charged interest by Nat West on a mortgage she no longer needed.

In light of everything that had happened, Sandra refused to pay Blavo’s fees which she made clear in an email in September. She also refused to sign Blavo’s terms of business.

Blavo was shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in October. John Blavo was suspended and the firm prevented from operating while an investigation into suspected dishonesty takes place.

Sandra has received no completion statement and then found out the fees had been taken anyway.

Even though Bravo are being investigated for fraud on several fronts, neither the SRA and Ombudsman are prepared to investigate Sandra’s case citing lack of evidence.

But Gary Minkin, a St Albans-based independent financial adviser, who has helped Sandra with her case believes they are not taking the issue seriously.

He maintained that Blavo would have had a Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) policy to cover any compensation claim.

He added: “In effect, Sandra could claim off Blavo’s PII and from what I can see the SRA is also not doing its job properly and is letting her down. The Ombudsman in my opinion doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing either.”