Can a Buyer and Seller use the Same Real Estate Lawyer for a Home Purchase?

by: Robert Pacan

No, but they can use the same law firm. In most cases, one lawyer is not allowed to represent both the buyer and seller in a transfer of property. The Law Society’s rules of professional conduct state that a lawyer cannot act for both parties in order to avoid conflicts of interest. However, the parties are permitted to be represented by one law firm if both the seller and buyer are represented by different lawyers within the same firm and if the parties consent to the representation. For example, I alone could not represent a buyer and seller on a real estate transaction, but one of my fellow colleagues could represent one party and I the other, both lawyers belonging to Adam, Miller, Kelly.

A potential benefit for parties retaining one law firm include lower disbursement costs (e.g. normal courier expenses between offices), as well as practical benefits, such as communication efficiency between both lawyers. For a firm to act on both sides, both parties would be informed of said situation and consent to the representation. They are informed that no information received in connection with the matter from one client can be treated as confidential so far as any of the other parties are concerned. The parties are also apprised that should a conflict arise out of the transaction which cannot be resolved, neither lawyer would be able to continue acting for either the buyer or seller and each party would require new representation.

The limited exceptions where one lawyer can represent both the seller and buyer are as follows:

1)      the Land Registration Reform Act permits the lawyer to sign the transfer on behalf of the transferor and the transferee,

2)      the buyer and seller are “related persons” as defined in section 251 of the Income Tax Act (Canada), or

3)      the lawyer practices law in a remote location where there are no other lawyers that either the buyer or seller could without undue inconvenience retain for the transfer.

This blog contains strictly general information and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified legal professional. The contents of this blog are therefore not to be relied upon as such. Any facts or examples used are for illustrative purposes only and not intended to address specific incidents or problems. Use of this information does not constitute a lawyer-client relationship. Retain a lawyer for legal advice prior to making any decisions referenced in this blog.