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Sometimes claims arise where a practitioner acts for both the vendor and purchaser in a conveyancing transaction.

In one claim at the request of a long-standing client purchasing real estate a practitioner prepared the contract of sale and section 32 statement. The vendor also instructed the practitioner in relation to the sale.

The matter proceeded to settlement as an ‘ordinary’ conveyance. Following settlement the practitioner arranged for the transfer to be stamped and registered and sent the usual notice of acquisition to the local council.

The local council then wrote to the practitioner noting that the property address in the notice of acquisition did not match the volume and folio details.

The correct address had been inserted in the contract and section 32 statement but unfortunately the title was incorrect. The vendor owned two adjoining parcels of land and the wrong one had been transferred to the purchaser.

Proceedings were issued and the matter eventually settled on the basis that the correct land would be transferred to the purchaser. The practitioner paid the expenses incurred by the purchaser.

The practitioner stated that he usually wrote to purchaser clients advising them to check the land to ensure it matched with the title but failed to do so for this matter. He may have let his guard down because he was acting for both parties and was not as objective as if only acting for one party and he had known the purchaser client for more than 30 years and perhaps subconsciously thought he was really only doing favour for a friend.

The lessons from this claim are:

  • Only act for one party in any conveyance
  • If acting for friends treat the file as seriously and objectively as any other matter
  • always check and double check with the client that the title description in the sale documents is correct. This is best done by giving the client a copy of the title and a copy of the title diagram marking the land to be transferred with a highlighter pen.