An attorney who poorly represented a buyer of a residential property in Massachusetts has received an admonition for his conduct. The attorney was admitted to practice in Massachusetts in 1985 and had no disciplinary history. While representing the buyer in the cash sale the attorney acted as representation for the buyer in the sale and the settlement agent.
The sale took place on February 27, 2012. At the time of the sale there was a fence and a shed that belonged to a neighbor that encroached on the property.
During the sale the parties entered into an escrow agreement that stated the buyer’s attorney would hold $2,200 from the sales proceeds in escrow until May 31, 2012. The escrow agreement stated that the funds would be released to the seller upon complete removal of the fence and shed and if the fence and shed were not removed by May 31, 2012 the buyer would be entitled to the funds. On May 31, 2012 the fence and shed were not removed, and the attorney in question did not promptly deliver the escrow funds to the buyer.
Between February 2012 and March 2015 the buyer’s attorney held the funds in his Interest on Lawyers Trust Account, (“IOLTA”) and did not hold the funds in an interest-bearing account. The attorney received several inquiries from the buyer about the escrow funds, but did not make diligent efforts to obtain permission to disburse the funds. Around March 9, 2015 the buyer contacted bar counsel.
Bar counsel then contacted the attorney and the estate administrator, who had no objections to the release of the funds. March 11, 2015 the attorney released the funds to the buyer. The Massachusetts Rules of Professional Responsibility make it clear that failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness when representing the buyer and disbursing the escrow funds is a violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.3 and 1.15(c). The attorney also violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.15(e)(6) by holding the funds in the IOLTA for three years. The attorney received an admonition for his conduct.