A lawyer, B, has been censured and fined $6,000 for making two certifications to Land Information New Zealand when he did not have reasonable grounds to believe the matters certified were true.
B represented Mr A, the vendor in an agreement for the sale of a residential section. The property was part of a new subdivision undertaken by Mr A.
In the course of the transaction, B lodged an easement on the property title. He certified that he had authority to act for the grantees and that he held evidence showing the truth of the certificates he had given.
The purchasers wrote to B seeking, among other things, confirmation that B had the consent of one of the grantees. B only obtained a completed Authority and Instruction Form from that grantee some 10 days after the date of the purchaser’s letter.
Mr A and the purchasers then reached an agreement allowing the purchasers to build on the property. The purchaser’s solicitor subsequently lodged a caveat on the title of the property to secure any improvements made.
B then lodged a second easement on the title of the property. He certified that the caveators (i.e. the purchasers) had consented to the lodgment and that he held evidence showing the truth of the certifications he had given.
Three days later, B obtained consent from the purchaser’s solicitors to lodge the easement.
In relation to the first easement:
“…, the committee considered that at no stage did [B] have reasonable grounds to believe [one of the grantees] had given him authority to act for it in relation to the lodging of the first instrument, nor did the committee consider that [B] had taken appropriate steps to ensure that his certifications were accurate,”
The committee found that certifying that he had authority to act and that he held evidence showing the truth of the certification when he did not was unsatisfactory conduct.
In relation to the second easement the committee also found that B did not have authority to act, nor grounds to believe the matters he certified were true, and that was unsatisfactory conduct.
The committee ordered B to pay fines of $3,000 for each of its findings of unsatisfactory conduct, as well as censuring him.
The level of the fines took into account the “vital role certificates play in conveyancing and other transactions; the integrity of the profession; and the repeated nature of [B]’s conduct,” the committee said.
The committee also ordered B to pay the Law Society $3,000 costs, and directed the Lawyers Complaints Service to provide a copy of its determination to the Registrar-General of Land.