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Enact Direct Legal Services are the largest direct conveyancer in their market, are based in Leeds and employ in excess of 300 members of staff. Enact aim to “provide fast, efficient and innovative direct legal solutions to the housing market of the 21st century” (source: www.enact-online.co.uk).
I recently split up with my partner so had to re-mortgage my house to buy my share from him. The mortgage I took out through Natwest (a 2 year fixed rate) included the survey and legal charges meaning that Natwest themselves selected a surveyor and conveyancing solicitor for me.
I received a letter from Enact Direct Legal Services telling me that they had been instructed to carry out the legal work for my re-mortgage by Natwest, a response that I received very promptly. The letter included a questionnaire which I had to complete and I was told to return this quickly to ensure a quick re-mortgage. Being the good little girl that I am, and wanting everything to go as smoothly as possible, I did a bit of homework on Enact. I found that they were the winner of the 2002 Legal IT Awards for the electronic delivery of legal services and that their clients included 4 of the top 7 lenders. This gave me a lot of faith in the company and made me believe that my re-mortgage would be completed as quickly and trouble-free as is possible.
However, my experience with Enact was not a good one, and without turning this into one of those mad rants, I’ll try and outline the problems I had with them.
1. The structure of the company Enact appears to consist of three main teams; the technical team, the legal team and the telephone operators. On several occasions my file would apparently be with either the technical or the legal team and at this time appears to be totally inaccessible to the others, preventing them from doing any work on my case. This was incredibly frustrating and no number of phone calls could do anything to speed things up.
2. Contacting Enact The telephone operators are the people you get through to when phoning to enquire on the progress of your case. They are some of the friendliest call centre staff I have ever spoken to and I couldn’t fault them at all, however, they only know what their computers tell them, they are not in the position to offer any advice and are forced to put you on hold for great lengths of time so they can talk to members of the technical or legal teams to find out what is going on. Talking to members of the technical or legal teams appears to be virtually impossible. I was promised return calls from them on 6 occasions but was never once called back. If you ask to be put through to them they are suspiciously either out at lunch or just not in the office. After very lengthy times on hold (without even some of that sickly music, just silence) the friendly telephone operator would come back with a very lame excuse that I eventually learnt to predict. Unfortuantely you couldn’t discuss the excuse as the telephone operator doesn’t actually understand what it means and can’t do anything about it anyway.
3. The work carried out As my case wasn’t perhaps as simple as some, due to the fact that the names on the deeds were changing (my partner’s name being removed) Enact told me that they were unable to do all of the work and I had to instruct another solicitor to do what they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do. I’m not sure why this was, I thought perhaps Natwest were giving Enact a fixed fee which would not cover the cost of extra work, however why they couldn’t just charge me extra, I don’t know. In a way, having another solicitor involved did speed up the process as Enact couldn’t fob him off so easily. My solicitor told me how he was appalled by the excuses and service Enact gave to me (and not just because he wanted the business himself!) and couldn’t believe how slow they were.
4. Completion date For completion to occur, I eventually had to phone Enact at least once daily for 2 weeks. I was promised completion on a particular date and then nothing happened, this needed another week of phone calls (and unfortunately some swearing) for my re-mortgage to be complete. The total time taken for Enact to complete my re-mortgage (and this is just the legal work, the loan had already been agreed by my lender) was almost 3 months.
My ex-partner had already put in an offer on a house when my re-mortgage process started and as he needed the money from me to proceed with his purchase, Enact’s immense slowness meant that he lost his house. Going though a break up is bad enough without the increase tension of house buying and re-mortgaging.
I am well aware that all conveyancing solicitors need a good nagging for them to actually get on with some work, it’s one of the joys of house buying. However, the problems I experienced with Enact were possibly just as much down to the structure of the company (and others like it) as them personally, as nagging call centre staff has very little effect.
To anyone planning on taking out a mortgage or re-mortgaging their house I would highly recommend avoiding Enact Direct Legal Services like the plague, and probably avoiding companies similar to it too. My advice is that the good old solicitors with their musty offices are the best and these new conveyancing companies such as Enact are not the way forward.
Enact claim to have “customers who wish to repeat the experience” (source: www.enact-online.co.uk). I have no idea who these strange customers are but I am definitely not one of them!