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Lenders and Sole Practitioners
I used to be in practice as a Sole Practitioner (SP). That means that I did not have a partner. It meant nothing more. Being an SP does not mean that I had spots, or was stupid, or dishonest, or incompetent. It just means, I hope, that my independence of mind was not compromised by too many committees.
In the late eighties, many lenders looked to acquire a bigger share of the mortgage market. They had forgotten that after a boom, comes a bust. They took very little trouble to look into the loans they made. We had a running joke about a chap going into a lender to borrow some money. He is asked how much he wants, and then asked what security he has to offer. He says ‘Well, all I have in the world is Fred here, my tortoise, but I can’t ask you to lend money on him, he is a living creature’ The manager pulls a hammer from under his desk, splats Fred on the head, and says ‘Not now, he isn’t. Here’s your fifty grand’ You may think that sounds exaggerated, but … The truth is that lenders were in desperate competition with each other to lend as much money as they could, to anyone who wanted to borrow it. In truth also, many lending decisions involved lending managers turning a severly blind eye to aspects of the loan.
When the loans came to go bad, and the same managers looked to their own backs, they took to suing anyone they could, for as much as they could, and on whatever pretext they could find. Our profession got hurt badly (but not quite as badly as the valuers) in the process.
Cutting a long and painful story short, sole practitioners came to be blamed for the lenders behaviour. The lenders who behaved in the most gross fashion, the Skipton Building Society, and the Bristol & West in particular, decided that they would look better if they blamed sole practitioners. Sps were scapegoated. Since they have the choice, they have chosen not to instruct SPs. They will not send them deeds nor mortgage instructions.
My firm acted many times for the Skipton, the Bristol & West, and indeed several others who have taken the same line. At no point did we ever receive a single complaint or even adverse comment about our handling of their matters, nor did we given cause for complaint. They took a decision, which limited what we could do for our clients. The exclusion of my firm from their panel had nothing to do with the quality of our work, or of our reliability. It says rather more about their own inability to take responsibility for their own actions.
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