Breezeplus chief executive Brendan O’Brien said the firm had been forced to increase staffing by 40% to address service issues which included missing completion dates by several weeks and out of date redemption forms.
Breezeplus conducts free-legal conveyancing for major lenders including Nationwide, Leeds Building Society, TSB, HSBC, Santander and Metro Bank.
He also would not say whether lenders had supported their clients and brokers by putting pressure on the firm to address its problems, and added that less than 1% of customers had been affected.
Mortgage Solutions has spoken to several brokers around the country who had clients struggling with terrible service levels at the conveyancing firm – with some suggesting lenders on occasion being forced to place cases with other legal firms following complaints to business development managers.
Speaking to Mortgage Solutions, O’Brien said the situation at the firm was “nearing normality” and he urged brokers to join its broker engagement programme, which was launched at the start of the week to improve the situation.
Creating delays themselves
O’Brien blamed a poorly introduced universal telephone service earlier this year for creating delays and meaning brokers were on hold for up to three hours at a time, sometimes getting cut off before being answered.
“Brokers would generally call once per matter – so they were creating a lot of telephone calls and a lot of delay for themselves,” he said.
He added: “Having deployed it at 10am on Monday, the programme has transitioned into something else. At the core it’s still that unpublished telephone number which brokers have and which they can use exclusively to get updates, but also it has transitioned into passing information to them which enables them to do some chasing.”
O’Brien admitted that the firm had also addressed its conveyancing process as the root cause of the problems, including adding more staff and changing shift patterns.
“Where there are concerns we are addressing them,” he said.
“I am looking at the operation specifically as to what changes we need to bring in. I have deployed quite a significant number of changes and I have noticed a major upswing in performance of our teams and turnaround times.”
However, when asked if he would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused to brokers and customers, he said: “I understand the challenges that borrowers and brokers have faced.
“I can’t deal with specific cases, what I would say, is that I am the point of contact for anyone who wants to raise their concerns with me, whether they are a broker or a borrower, and I would address them individually.
“I think my insurers might have an issue with [saying sorry], but I regret that we find ourselves in this position, and that we may have had an impact on an individual broker, customer or all of those people together.”
The broker engagement programme is currently only open to brokers with more than five cases with Breezeplus, however O’Brien said it had already included brokers on it who may not have met the criteria.
The problems at Breezeplus highlight wider issues when consumers are offered ‘free legals’ and many brokers are now urging lenders to offer cashback deals to cover legal fees, or for borrowers to pay for conveyancing services to avoid delays and complications.