What is an engrossment fee?

Mon 21 Jul 2014 by Lorraine Imhoff

Written by Lorraine Imhoff

An engrossment fee is a fee charged by a Solicitor for producing a fair copy of a legal document, such as a lease or conveyance, for signature by the parties.

When a Conveyancing transaction requires a legal document to be prepared, it is usual practice for one party’s Solicitor to draw up a draft first. This is then sent to the other side’s Solicitor for approval. The draft may be amended, and sometimes a draft document will pass backwards and forwards several times before all the wording is finally agreed.

Once the draft has been agreed, the first Solicitor will then have a fair copy written out (or ‘engrossed’) incorporating all the agreed amendments, so that it can be signed.

In the past the draft documents would be written or typed on ordinary paper. Once it was agreed the fair copy or engrossment would have to be written by hand on parchment or typed on special high-quality paper, so preparing the engrossment copy would take time. To recoup the cost Solicitors would often charge clients an extra engrossment fee for this work. 

Nowadays documents are usually prepared on a computer. Producing a final copy for signature is just a question of making sure that the stored version incorporates all agreed amendments and hitting the ‘print’ button. 

It has also become less common to use any special paper, as many documents are not expected to have a long life. The land registry now scans all new documents and holds them electronically, so once a transfer has been registered the original document is no longer required. Engrossment fees are therefore much less common.

Do I have to pay an engrossment fee?

The most likely situation in which an engrossment fee is now likely to be encountered is when buying a new property, particularly a flat or other leasehold property. On such purchases the seller’s Conveyancing Solicitor will have to prepare two engrossment copies of the transfer or lease, one for signature by the seller or person granting the lease and one by the buyers. 

It has for many years been customary for Solicitors acting for developers and lessors to require the buyer to pay a fee for preparing these engrossment documents. This might have been justified in the past when it would have involved a substantial amount of typing, but it is difficult to see how this can still be justified in the computer age. However it seems difficult to shake off the practice, and it still persists – even when the developer is offering the buyer all sorts of incentives to buy the property. 

Buyers should certainly object if they are being asked to pay an engrossment fee to the other side’s Solicitor. It is not a legal requirement, but it is often made a condition of the sale contract, so unless an objection is raised before exchange the buyer could find himself stuck with having to pay the fee.

If your own Conveyancing Solicitor wants to charge you an engrossment fee for preparing a document, this charge should have been explained to you at the beginning of the transaction. Some law firms do hide extra charges such as engrossment fees in their Heads of Terms which clients are asked to agree, so such Terms should be read carefully.

Fixed fee conveyancing

At Homeward we know that buyers do not want to be faced with unexpected legal charges, so we guarantee that the figure we quote is the figure you will pay on completion.


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