It is an offence for any unqualified person who draws or prepares any legal proceedings to do so for a fee, gain or reward pursuant to section 22 of the Solicitors Act 1974.
The said unqualified person shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50.00. Any fee they have charged can also be recovered by the paying party.
We are often asked by agents whether they can sign a claim form on behalf of their clients, the landlords. The answer to this is strictly yes, but not for a fee. It is also something that we would not advise as it makes the Court process unduly complex. Some agents within their full management package offer the service of completing and filing claim forms for possession. The problem with this is that the fee for the service is included in the full management price and therefore it appears as though a fee is charged for the service in breach of the 1974 Act above.
The solution that we recommend for this is that the service is not provided within the full management package and not advertised. Agents should agree to complete and file these forms for clients on an individual basis for those clients that need this assistance. This should be done without charge as a discretionary courtesy to particular clients only.
Where agents have fallen foul of the 1974 Act we advise that any fees charged should be refunded, as the landlord is entitled to claim these back anyway, and a letter is obtained from the landlord confirming that the proceedings were signed by the agent on the landlord’s behalf and that no fee has been charged for the completing and filing of the proceedings.
Whilst it is recognised that the fine is minimal, agents are warned about the stigma of a criminal conviction.