Woolwich clears-up “Great Escape” confusion

Borrowers applying for The Woolwich’s “Great Escape” deal, which comes with free legals if clients opt to use panel solicitors and £300 cashback, CAN instruct their own lawyer but only if they pay the fees themselves and don’t use the cashback – that can only be used to pay the exit fee from the existing lender.

A Woolwich spokeswoman said: “Borrowers are well within their right to get their own solicitor as well as us having our panel solicitor so long as they aren’t using the cashback to pay their independent legal fees.”

The clarification comes after Eddie Goldsmith, senior partner at conveyancers Goldsmith Williams, claimed he had received up to 20 calls from brokers saying they were unable to instruct his firm to represent their clients applying for the “Great Escape” Woolwich mortgage. Goldsmith had raised concerns that the Woolwich was “effectively preventing” borrowers from their lawful right to legal representation in the mortgage transaction by insisting that borrowers use its panel solicitor.

He said: “The Law Society makes it clear people should have the right to choose who represents them. And when mortgage advisers have applied for the fee-free product they have been told they can’t access it unless the customer uses a Woolwich lawyer. The application form doesn’t even allow for the possibility of the buyer having their own legal representation.”

For mortgage products which include free legals the lender’s panel solicitor represents the lender only, leaving the borrower without legal representation. But as long as the borrower is informed of this situation, and accepts it, it is legal to proceed in the mortgage application.

If the borrower wishes to have their own legal representation, they can instruct their own solicitor and incur a fee.

The Woolwich spokeswoman added: “If any broker has a client wishing to do this, they just need to get in touch with us.”