By: Joan Reed Wilson, Esq.

It has been well-established in Connecticut law that consumers have the right to choose their own attorney to represent them in their real estate closings. Yet during the mortgage application process when consumers receive their loan estimate, they see the name of a firm or lawyer on the form and many assume that they have to use that law firm. This is not true. You always have an option to use your own attorney to represent you in your real estate closing and should not feel forced to use the lender’s assigned attorney.

This week, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed a bill effective October 1, 2019, that prohibits lenders from requiring consumers to choose an attorney from a limited list of attorneys. If you are given a list of attorneys and told to choose from that list, please remember that you have the right to choose your own attorney.

Sometimes the attorney referral comes from the realtor. Realtors are prohibited under the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act from receiving anything in exchange for giving referrals to attorneys, but sometimes clients are swayed to use the attorney that the real estate agent recommends.

Referrals from lenders and agents are not necessarily bad; the lenders and agents know the attorneys who are well-versed in real estate closings and sometimes the referral is useful and beneficial. But always know that you have the right to choose your own attorney, if you want. Consumer choice is the law.

In order to handle a closing and issue title insurance, which is required when the consumer is obtaining a mortgage, the attorney must be an agent with a title insurance company and have approved professional liability insurance in place, so not every attorney can represent you in a real estate closing. If you have an attorney with whom you have a relationship and would like that attorney to represent you, call the attorney and ask him/her if she/he can represent you in the matter. It can’t hurt to have someone you know looking out for you.