Getting Legal Advice

Whether you are buying or selling property, it is important to get independent legal advice.

You might be tempted to do your own legal work, encouraged by the multitude of internet sites and do-it-yourself kits available and the prospect of saving money.

However if you choose not to engage a solicitor you may make mistakes that could cost you both financially and emotionally.

Solicitors can guide you through the potential pitfalls of the law in Queensland. They understand the complexities and consequences of the law and can often find better alternatives which you may not have considered.

Using a solicitor will give you the added protection and peace of mind of knowing they must carry professional indemnity insurance. This protects you if something goes wrong because of action taken, or not taken, by your solicitor.

Choosing a Solicitor

When choosing a solicitor, shop around and compare different solicitors' experience, service and costs. It is always in your best interest to employ a solicitor who is experienced in the area of law you require. If engaging a solicitor to help you buy or sell your home, it is best to choose a legal firm that specialises in conveyancing.

When looking for a solicitor, consider solicitors you or your family or friends have used in the past, preferably to help buy or sell a home. When a solicitor is recommended, take the time to ask about the level and style of service you can expect to receive.

It's also important to ensure your solicitor is independent of any other party you're dealing with in the property transaction.

Remember, you do not have to use the services of solicitors recommended to you by an agent, property developer, or other party involved in the property transaction. It is wise to seek your own independant legal advice.

The Queensland Law Society (www.qls.com.au or (07) 3842 5842) has an online and phone referral service which lists solicitors in your area. Solicitors and legal firms also advertise their services in many places such as the Yellow Pages and your local paper.

What they can do for you

If buying, you can ask your solicitor to:

  • check the Contract for Sale before you sign, whether for residential investment, "off the plan", timeshare properties, etc;
  • check disclosure documents, such as PAMD Form 27c, Selling Agents Disclosure to Buyer, which reveal financial or other benefits your agent receives from people they refer to you;
  • advise on the finance contract;
  • check and explain the results of title searches that may be undertaken, mortgage insurance and other documentation;
  • assist in negotiations about fixing problems identified in pre-settlement inspections;
  • handle final payment on settlement day with the seller's legal and/or financial representatives; and
  • convey your property transaction (legally transfer the property's title from the seller to you).

If you wish to shorten or forego your 5 day cooling-off period, your solicitor can issue you with a certificate, Lawyers Certification PAMD Form 32a to do this. However, it is not recommended that you in any way reduce your cooling-off period.

This form disclosing the solicitor's beneficial interest must be provided to you unless you are buying residential property sold at auction.

If selling, you can ask your solicitor to:

  • draft the Contract for Sale or check over what you have prepared if you are selling privately (not engaging a real estate agent) to make sure it contains conditions of sale that are appropriate for your needs; and
  • check the Contract for Sale to sell your property if an agent has drafted it. Remember the agent is not qualified to give legal advice on the contract or to modify or vary it. Discuss any changes with your solicitor.

Fees

Get a detailed quote for the legal work you want done before you appoint a solicitor.

For some routine legal work, such as conveyancing, solicitors will probably provide a set price. The costs for conveyancing work can vary widely, so it is best to shop around.

For other matters, however, it is often difficult for a solicitor to accurately estimate how much it will cost and they may charge on an hourly rate.

It is important that you discuss costs with your solicitor and understand them. If the work is estimated at more than $750 or is not urgent, your solicitor will ask you to sign a client agreement which ensures both you and your solicitor have agreed on the terms of employment.

Contact the Queensland Law Society for further detail about how to contact a qualified solicitor.

For advice regarding resolving complaints about solicitors, see the Resolving complaints section.

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