The short answer is: No, you don’t need a lawyer when you do a property transaction.
Everything about conveyancing is spelt out in the National Land Code 1965, Stamp Act 1949, Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966, Strata Titles Act 1985, Banking and Financial Institutions Act 1989, and a few other statutes related to buying and selling of properties. Let us not forget Contract Act 1950, lest you will not be able to draft a proper Sale & Purchase Agreement for the transaction of a property in the secondary market.
There are also those who make a living by doing all the work a conveyancing lawyer does. In some parts of Malaysia, not even that far off from the Klang Valley, I know of these runners. They make a living out of helping people to register their registration documents at the land office. All for a fee, of course. They even have a Bahasa Malaysia term for this service which is called potong nama (canceling of names).
These runners charge way below the market price unlike lawyers who are bound by the Legal Profession Act 1974 when it comes to such conveyancing matters. Conveyancing lawyers are also subject to a set of fees they cannot divert from when they charge their clients.
I have helped a few of my clients who hired these so-called runners but later found problems in the matter they have entrusted these runners with however.
You can also get some help understanding the laws involved by checking out my books 40 Questions You Should Ask Your Lawyer Before Buying A Residential Property in Malaysiaand 40 More Questions You Should Ask Your Lawyer Before Buying A Residential Property in Malaysia.
I have been told that my books have revealed secrets held for so long by lawyers. A friend, who is a lawyer, told me about one of his clients who brought my book to him and used it as a reference to counter what my lawyer friend had advised.
Unluckily for the client, my lawyer friend was one of the persons who gave a testimonial for my book. The client finally agreed to take my friend’s advice as he was impressed with my lawyer friend as someone who gave a testimony for one of my books.
The point here is anyone can learn how to do conveyancing on his or her own. You need the basic knowledge and voila! You are set to fill up forms, file them, pay up the requisite fees and make sure everything is in order.
Unlike runners, however, lawyers endeavour to ensure you have the best protection under the law in your transaction. A lawyer needs to weigh all the worst case scenarios when he is advising a client.
A lawyer has to understand and justify each clause of the agreement so that they will not be questioned in a court of law. This is true even for the so-called ‘standard’ Sale & Purchase Agreement found in the schedules of Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966.
To compare, in an internet world full with knowledge and knowhow, people still need a doctor when it comes to treating a disease. There are self-appointed armchair doctors who try to diagnose and treat their own maladies. Some may find that this method works and some may not be so lucky. Some will finally acknowledge they need a real doctor in treating their ailments.
There is no hard science in drafting sale & purchase agreements or performing the tasks set out by these agreements as terms and conditions in it are not empirical in nature.
Clients are also protected by indemnity insurance if any claim of negligence or unsatisfactory work is filed and found to be justified.
A lawyer is also subject to disciplinary action by the Malaysian Bar, the body governing lawyers in West Malaysia or Sabah Law Association or Advocates’ Association of Sarawak for breach of any rules by lawyers in Sabah or Sarawak, respectively.
That is why, in answering the question I set out to answer in the first place, ultimately, it helps to have a lawyer in property transaction but choose a good one to get your money’s worth.
Khairul Anuar bin Shaharudin is a lawyer and author of books related to property law. He can be found on his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/AskTheLawyer.