Do It Yourself – at your peril.

(Senior Partner Ivor Klayman of Caesar and Howie sounds a note of caution) We live in austere times these days.  Money is tight in most households and we are all looking for ways to get things done cheaply if we can.  DIY stores are apparently bucking the retail trend for that very reason.  We are also seeing from time to time some legal work being done by individuals themselves.  This seems to be limited to probably two areas of work, letting residential property and writing wills.  On the letting side some people are reluctant landlords rather than landlords of choice – with letting being a last resort when the housing market is poor.  These landlords may be trying to let “on the cheap” On the wills side there has always been a small number of people who go “DIY”. Sometimes a DIY legal job is done properly but over my career, for every well done DIY job I have seen, I have probably seen 10 times as many failures.  That’s a pretty horrible ratio and the consequences for the individuals and their families can be  damaging and expensive to fix – if they can be fixed. Not setting up a Short Assured Tenancy properly can make it very difficult to recover the property from the tenant.   Not serving Notices to Quit properly can have the same effect and cause significant wasted court costs.  On top of that there is now a mass of legislation placing obligations on landlords, where if any obligations are not met, the consequences are potentially extremely serious.  So letting a house in Scotland without understanding the legal framework surrounding residential letting in Scotland is risky to say the least. On the wills side I have seen “self made “wills which vary from being completely invalid to ones which were wholly confused and contradictory.   I have even seen a DIY will which did not actually leave the person’s property to anyone! If legal documents are to have legal effect, experience of drafting such documents and of the meaning of legal terminology is really necessary to get things right. I would never dream of rewiring my own house because I don’t have the skill and knowledge of an electrician (and anyway, it would now be illegal!).  I think DIY in critical areas is simply dangerous and usually a false economy.  In our field we generally earn higher fees sorting out an estate for example with a shambolic DIY will than we ever would from doing a correct will in the first place. And one last point – all Scottish solicitors carry compulsory insurance against defective work.  If a solicitor does make a mistake clients can be and are compensated for losses occurring.  This is a massive protection for the Scottish public and really should make people think twice before perhaps dabbling in drafting legal documents which if wrongly completed could cost them or their family dear. Ivor Klayman Senior Partner Caesar and Howie