A conveyancing solicitor has been fined £15,000 and been ordered to pay £23,650 in costs following her arrangement of the sale of a property for an elderly woman who lacked capacity in 2017.
Rana & Co Solicitors’ Sonia Hunjan, admitted in 2001, was contacted three times by Slough Borough Council regarding the capacity of Hunjan’s client to make such decisions. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard these emails were “unambiguous” and “not long or complicated”.
Despite this, and despite replying to said emails, Hunjan said she focused on the outstanding charges on the property and “overlooked the references to mental capacity”. It was said she “took no further steps regarding the issue that had been raised concerning [the woman’s] capacity”, with exchange and completion of the property subsequently taking place simultaneously.
The property was sold for £140,000. After discharging the various charges against the property, the proceeds of £53,625.98 were deposited into an account shared between the woman and her two sons.
The SDT asked Hunjan whether she had any reason to believe the woman lacked capacity. Hunjan said:
“No, [the woman] came to us with her two sons and said that her property was being repossessed and that she needed to sell it.”
The SDT then asked: “As you were aware at the time of the sale that [the woman] was in a respite care, which was a temporary accommodation, [did you explore] any options in relation to her long term care[?]” Hunjan said:
“We were not aware that she was in long term care. She did not inform us that she was in care and we found out when you wrote to us.”
Finally, the SDT told Hunjan of the elderly woman’s upset upon learning that the property was sold and that she did not remember instructing the solicitor to sell the property. Hunjan said:
“We do not understand how [the woman] can say this as she did not inform us that she had any mental problems and we were not aware of any.”
Therefore, the SDT confirmed Hunjan’s alleged breaches of Principles 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011 following the sale of the woman’s property, suggesting that the “warning signs […] were clear and obvious” and that “the public would be alarmed by a solicitor who facilitated a transaction in circumstances where she was on notice that the seller lacked the relevant capacity to effect the sale”.
In explaining its proposed penalties, the SDT said:
“[Hunjan] is an experienced conveyancing solicitor. Indeed she was so senior that the principal of the firm felt that he could leave her to conduct and be responsible for her own caseload, without any significant supervision. A solicitor with that level of experience, in a specialist area, ought to have known better.”
Read the SDT’s full judgment.