Unfortunately many are suffering the consequence of bad administration on behalf of a solicitor that has been paid do a certain job, but it has not been done properly or the correct information was not given at a crucial time in a operation which has given place to disastrous consequences which at time it is almost imposable to remedy.
A typical example of this is the case of purchasing a property in which the solicitor in all his or her wisdom does the searches but does not inform the client buying the property that it was built without planning permission. The consequences of such negligence:- No right to electricity or water supply, difficulty in reselling such a property. Possibility that the property is not registered with the rates office and subsequence fines being issued by the rates office. This is the type of issue that is facing hundreds of expats in the Alicante area and in most of the rest of Spain.
You can not make compensation claim against your solicitor if he/she has done the work properly, if they have advised you accordingly or if you have lost the case for which hired them or if you have purchased a property against their advice. But when you can prove they acted without due diligence or were misleading with any other of their obligations as a lawyer, then you may have a case by which you can be compensated.
Listed here are some of the obligations that Spanish solicitors are professionally bound to perform:-
- Inform you of the gravity of the situation and whether or not to go to court or proceed with a purchase as well as the chances of success or failure.
- Inform you of the procedure, means and stages of the process and of the costs of the operation for which they have been contracted.
- Inform you about the legal rules applicable to the process and jurisprudence.
- To be diligent with regard to professionalism in the contracted performance, being discreet in client relationship.
- To be diligent in maintaining the documentation generated & requested during the process, retuning it to the customer on completion of the contracted task.
Among the many discrepancies committed by some solicitors one frequent one is lack of information given to the client creating false expectations leading to wrong decisions being made with the consequences that follow.
So what are the steps to be taken if you have suffered loss because of the misconduct of a solicitor.
First you need to quantify the damage. How much have you lost. You need to look at the different aspects of your case, economic, emotional and health issues.
The value of a property is easy to work out but when the damage is moral it is more complicated to value because, how much is the anxiety or frustration suffered by the customer to understand that has not had access to justice worth? Or if you have suffered so much stress because you have been left in a property without electricity or water supply that your health is in demise it is more difficult to put a monetary value to this. Indeed if the case does come to court it is the judge that that will decide the economic reach of the compensation in each case. Although the ideal is to solve the claim without a trial.
Start the case at the School of Solicitors.
According the Spanish consumers and users organization (www.ocu.org) the best is first to make a claim in the School of Solicitors(Ilustre Colegio de Abogados). Each area has one. For the Vega Baja area of Alicante there is one in Orihuela. The solicitor of the area will be enrolled at a school and is subject the rules and laws dictated by the school. A claim for compensation can be made at the school of Solicitors and I am informed that many solicitors would rather resolve the case outside of court. The School of Solicitors can also execute disciplinary action against the offending solicitor such as stopping them from working as solicitors during a determined length of time or even have them struck off the list so they are no longer able to act as solicitors. In the case that the school of Solicitors does not resolve the case that does not stop you taking the case further in the courts.
To claim through the courts, in principle, is expensive, and usually involves
hiring another lawyer. Now if you have a multi-risk home insurance it is possible that it could cover this. There is also free legal aid offered by the Spanish state for those who would struggle with the costs. If you have less than 15,000€ in your bank account then it is most likely that you could receive free legal aid to represent you through the whole process.
If the judge eventually sentences the solicitor from whom compensation is being claimed, the amount of compensation depends on the chances of a different outcome if the solicitor had acted and advised properly. (would you have purchased an illegal property with no possibility for water & electricity connection if you were advised by your solicitor not to purchase?). It is also important to seek compensation for moral & emotional damages.
Many people who have purchased illegal property feel so fed up that they are no longer willing to take any more action. The more action take against builders, solicitors, architects that have acted illegally then they will be more mindful to be careful in the future. Taking action will make Spain a better place to live in. If we all sit back and do nothing then the fraudulent criminals will be left to take advantage again and again.
At least take the step of getting informed at the school of solicitors as what can be done.