Developer’s solicitors “engrossment fees”

Residential Property | 27th February 2018

Am I the only one whose blood pressure rises when receiving the initial letter in a new build purchase transaction that not only refers to needing to access a link to draw down 100s of pages from a web site but also refers to an extortionate engrossment fee ?

On recently asking 2 separate developers lawyers in separate cases for hard copies of the papers that, being old fashioned, I prefer to have in front of me I was told by each:-

  • we will take our client’s instructions to see if they will pay our copying charges and
  • we can provide these on receiving your undertaking to pay our copying charges of £75.00 plus VAT

In each case the additional engrossment charges are £200.00 plus VAT for what in essence is 24 pages of contract and transfer.

The root of these types of fees is to supplement the paltry plot sale fee that developers impose on lawyers and that stupidly we, as a profession, have allowed to have imposed on us. Our firm used to deal with plot sales for a major developer but we decided to cut ties when beaten down to £200.00 per plot sale with no abortive costs for plot sales that fell out of bed. The pressure brought upon us at half year and year end to rush plot sales through was immense and no fun for those at the sharp end.

The recent experience of copying charges being added into the mix because the sellers lawyers do not want to send out hard copies is insulting.

Fortunately in both cases a direct conversation with the firms in question indicating that as the buyers lawyer I could have the papers in whatever form I require at their expense produced the papers.

Needless to say I will not be so lucky with the extortionate engrossment fee and so why, in this age of having to comply with Law Society rules justifying each £1.00 we charge clients, are developers lawyers able to get away with supplementing their fees with an arbitrary and excessive fee ?


This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

David Knapp

Partner, Head of Residential Property

David is Partner of the firm, head of residential property and a qualified solicitor. David has worked at Hart Brown for 37 years, joining the firm...