FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
September 29, 1964
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
It is improper for a mortgage company attorney to charge a seller an attorney’s fee in the absence
of any agreement between the attorney and the seller. It is not improper for the attorney to collect
a reasonable fee for his services, provided the seller has agreed with the buyer to pay all closing
costs, and provided the fee is part of the closing costs.
Chairman Smith stated the opinion of the committee:
The following factual situation is posed by a member of The Florida Bar:
Seller agrees to sell his home to Buyer and is required by his agreement to furnish
to Buyer a warranty deed. Buyer secures financing for the purchase through a
mortgage company. An attorney employed by the mortgage company prepares the
deed and all closing papers and handles the closing. Buyer is represented by his
attorney. Seller has no attorney, but is charged an attorney’s fee by the mortgage
He asks (a) if it is ethical for the mortgage company attorney to charge Seller
an attorney’s fee in the absence of any agreement and (b) if such charge is ethical
if Seller agrees with Buyer to pay all closing costs.
This Committee generally declines to render opinions on matters pending before a
Grievance Committee. For that reason, and because the inquiry is pursuant to complaints made to
a prosecuting officer, two members of the Committee decline to respond to the inquiry.
Three members of the Committee respond as follows. It is improper for the mortgage
company attorney to charge Seller an attorney’s fee in the absence of any agreement between the
attorney and Seller. It is not improper for the attorney to collect a reasonable fee for his services
provided Seller has agreed with Buyer to pay all closing costs and providing the fee is part of the
In this case, the payment is made because of Seller’s obligation to pay closing costs, not
because of any obligation on the part of Seller to the mortgage company attorney. The fee must
be reasonable and within the contractual agreement between Buyer and Seller. Further, Seller
should be fully advised of the circumstances because the attorney represents the lending
institution, not Seller, and the interest of these parties could well be in conflict. Preferably Seller
should be represented by an attorney of his own choice.