Farm chief hits out at rule change for homes

A farm leader warned yesterday that solicitors cannot be allowed to introduce regulations that will ultimately benefit their own members at the expense of people who wish to transfer their property to the next generation.

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association president John Comer claimed that from Jan 1, the legal representation of even the most straightforward parent-to-child, non-contested property conveyancing will be at least doubled.

“If parents wish to convey property to their four children — well, then we will now see no less than five sets of solicitors and five sets of fees, where up till now, a single firm of solicitors was able to convey the property and advise on the respective interests,” he said.

The Law Society said yesterday the planned change was influenced by a national report on elder abuse, parti-cularly in financial dealings.

Mr Comer, addressing the ICMSA’s annual general meeting at Limerick Racecourse in Patrickswell, said politicians are constantly talking about the need to drive down the cost of doing business in Ireland — specifically the costs that pertain in sheltered sectors such as the legal profession.

He said: “The decision of the Law Society of Ireland, a professional body whose own internally decided regulations have the de facto status of the ‘Law of the Land’, to prohibit solicitors acting for two or more parties in the conveyancing of property is a perfect example of this lamentable practice.

“The people elect politicians to make the laws — not the Law Society,” he said, demanding that the Government intervene.

He said people surely have the right to convey their own property among their own families without having to retain half a dozen firms of solicitors and pay half a dozen different sets of fees at the behest of the Law Society of the Irish economy.

However, the Law Society’s director general Ken Murphy said family farms typically change hands every 30 years. He said the estimated cost of engaging a second solicitor would be €2,000-€3,000.

“The effect of the change is in everybody’s interest in that property is protected which is, or was, not always the case,” Mr Murphy said.

The Law Society, he said, was now making what would have been regarded as proper practice into a rule.

Mr Murphy said the National Study of Elder Abuse and Neglect report noted the most frequently reported incidents of financial abuse were older people being forced or misled by family members to give money or to sign over property or home ownership against their will.

Furthermore, a taskforce of international legal advisers recommended the Law Society try and perfect legal representation which would reduce, if not eliminate, the possibility of elder abuse.

Mr Comer said farming, like other industries, operates in a competitive environment and that the Government cannot allow vested interests to introduce additional costs that will undermine competitiveness.

“We’re not making idle threats here,” he said.

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