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Alex J.
Alex J., Litigator
Category: UK Law
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Experience:  LLB, LPC, DELF
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Im not sure if this is Business Law or Consumer Law - it is

Resolved Question:

I'm not sure if this is Business Law or Consumer Law - it is regarding an invoice that I may dispute?

I would like to outline circumstance that I have currently found myself in:

In 2011 my parents wanted to transfer ownership of a family property to myself. For Inland revenue purposes this required a valuation.

(The following paragraph is just background)
AT the time, the government retained some of my parent's land under CPO (Comp. Purchase Order) to build a road. The government provided an agent to negotiate the CPO terms on my parents behalf. This was a large piece of work that was ongoing for over 2 years at that point. For that project the agent's services were funded by the government. (this is just background)

Due to regular discussions with this agent we had regular telephone calls. In Nov 2011, on one of those calls, as an aside, I mentioned the valuation and asked if I drafted the wording would they transcribe it onto their letter headed paper. I explained that the valuation details were in accordance with the valuations detailed in the national newspaper from that week. They were satisfied with that. I drafted the wording and emailed it to them. They then sent out a letter with different wording than what I had provided. However, the valuation was consistent with what was agreed. Hence, the letter was fit for purpose and was thus used. The property's ownership was transferred to myself (Dec 2011).

In May 2012 they issued an invoice (6 months after the letter) to my solicitor for this service. My solicitor assumed that I had a copy. However I didn't receive the invoice until December 2012 (last month). The invoice was for £1500. It is calculated as a percentage of the valuation.

At no point were costs ever discussed nor was any information provided indicating that the costs could have been so significant. Needless to say, terms of engagement were never provided or signed.

I am not disputing that they deserve compensation for their services. However, I would have assumed that a letter provided as described above would have not amounted to more than a few hundred pounds. I have considered writing a response, explaining the circumstance of which the valuation letter was provided and that their fees were unjustified. In that letter I would offer £400 accompanied by a cheque for that amount. But I am hesitant as this may create a fruitless dispute that may have little chance of success. Also, I'm afraid that writing such a letter could compromise my position should a dispute arise. However, I have no legal background and have no idea where I stand or what I should do.

I am assuming that these circumstances are quite common and disputes arise with eventual resolution. I would only wish to dispute the bill if I had a reasonable chance of success. Hence, if I was to dispute the bill, please could you comment from the legal aspect and likely outcome. And any suggestion on how to proceed.

Thanks you in advance
Damian
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: UK Law
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.
Hi,

Thank you for your question and welcome to Just Answer.

Firstly do not worry, you have asked all the right questions and yes these disputes do occur all the time. I can make the following comments:

1. Generally if you want to make an admission without it forming the basis of an argument then you should take the following steps write two letters to the valuer:
Letter 1 - Deny their claim to payment. Say that you never agreed to any of their fees and you never formally retained them under an engagement letter. Say if they pursue you for the debt then you will report them to the appropriate regulator (are they surveyors?);
Letter 2 - In the heading mark the letter "WITHOUT PREJUDICE - SAVE AS TO COSTS" - this allows you to make admissions so as to settle the argument and the admissions cannot then be used against you in court other than to decide the issue of costs. In this letter you can make your offer of £400.


2. Personally I would consider arguing against this, they are probably regulated either as surveyors or estate agents and should not just charge you without consent. If however you feel it is the right thing to do and they should be compensated then I would try and settle it quickly. I would just say that they cannot just impose an unagreed price on you without you having either a letter of engagement or even having seen their terms and conditions. It is a basic principle of contract law that silence does not deem acceptance.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

AJ
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you this is excellent
As the community that i live in is small I would prefer to compensate them fairly. Your suggestion 1 sounds a bit frank/formal, for me, but I really like your No. 2 suggestion.

So to attempt to settle it quickly I will write a letter "WITHOUT PREJUDICE - save as to costs".

The letter will explain why I believe their charge is unjustified. It will also explain that they cannot charge without consent and impose an unagreed charge without either having a letter of engagement or even having seen their terms & conditions.

It will then outline that due to their time consumed to provide the letter I feel it is only fair that they are paid a generous rate for their efforts estimating a generous total being £400.

Is there anything I should leave out or include in this; and

Should I enclose the cheque with that letter?

Thank you again

Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.
Hi,

Thank you.

Do not send any money until they have agreed the settlement.

I would suggest at least in some open correspondence that you deny the debt is owing, simply because based on what you have told me you have a good arguable case to deny any payment. Even if you just say that you feel they have not acted in accordance with good professional conduct.

I do understand that you want to do what is fair and reasonable so as long as you mark the correspondence "without prejudice - save as to costs" you can make the admissions that you need to.

Kind regards

AJ
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thanks again


Really satisfied


I note from my account that the monies have not been transferred to you - is there something that I should do?


(from prior use of this site [many moons ago] I thought there was a button to click to send the payment?)

Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.
Hi,

Many thanks.

The link will remain open if you have any follow up points.

Any feedback will be gratefully received.

I wish you the best of luck.

Kind regards

AJ
Alex J., Litigator
Category: UK Law
Satisfied Customers: 2536
Experience: LLB, LPC, DELF
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