TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
We are committed to providing all our clients with an excellent service. We always aim to achieve the best possible outcome for our clients reliably and promptly. We, accordingly, operate a system throughout our office of insisting our staff meet certain standards with regard to client care. Such standards include:
(i)Clients should receive copies of all substantive correspondence. (ii) Wherever possible telephone calls from clients are to be returned promptly. (iii) Correspondence of any sort is to be seen on the same day that it is received (and dealt with if possible). (iv) Letters to clients or other solicitors are to be written in plain English. (v) Whilst we cannot undertake to see clients without an appointment, appointments are to be offered to clients without delay.
There are other standards but these are the main ones that affect your dealings with us. Please remind us if you feel we are not keeping to those standards. In return, we ask the clients to respond to our requests promptly.
FEES AND DISBURSEMENTS
In the vast majority of cases you will be given a fee estimate. Please bear in mind that this is only an estimate and sometimes estimates need revising. If the work on your matter will exceed your estimate you will be notified so that you can agree to the revised estimate. If we have not given you a specific quotation in advance or if your matter goes abortive our fees will be based on the time our lawyers spend working on your case. In common with most firms, we calculate time in units of 6 minutes. Our fees per unit (in £’s and exclusive of VAT) are set out below:
- Directors & Heads of Department: £27.50
- Solicitors/FCILEx/Licensed Conveyancers: £25.00
- Paralegal: £20.00
“Client money” is money held or received from you in our client account. “Client money” can be used to pay professional or non-professional disbursements or our bill of costs. These monies may be transferred into our Office account to pay such disbursements or costs at any time throughout your transaction. At the outset, during, or at the completion of a matter you will receive a bill of costs, or other written notification of the costs incurred.
We expect you to fund disbursements such as counsel fees or Land Registry fees before we incur any liability for them. We will usually bill you on a monthly basis so that you can keep on top of the legal fees that you are incurring. We will always ask for a payment on account of costs before we undertake any work and we will not carry out any work until such time as this payment has been received. If we have agreed a fixed fee for the work to be carried out this will usually be billed in one installment and we will ask for the whole of the agreed fee on account before undertake any work.
Payment terms: All interim and final invoices must be paid within 7 days. Time is of the essence and, if our payment terms are not met: (a) interest will accrue on a daily basis at the rate of 8% per annum over and above the Bank of England base rate and (b) we will charge you our reasonable fees and our costs incurred in the recovery of the late payment through court proceedings or any other action, plus all costs that may be awarded to us by any Court and (c) we may suspend all further work and may even terminate our instructions altogether.
For security reasons, we prefer all bill payments and payments on account to us to be made by bank transfer, our bank details will be provided to you, once the Anti-Money Laundering checks have been completed.
If you do not pay a bill, we reserve the right to stop working on any matters for you and to ask for payment in full for work carried out to that date. We may also apply any funds in our client account, which are not held for a specific purpose, towards a settlement of outstanding bills. Quotations are exclusive of VAT, but we normally show VAT to you in our initial letter. Please tell us if this is ever unclear. VAT is not payable on most “Government” expenses, such Stamp Duty Land Tax and Land Registry fees which may appear in your quotation. Where we act for more than one client then each client will be jointly and severally liable for our charges.
We reserve the right to serve our bill electronically and your agreement to these terms will be taken as your consent to this.
CHAPS Transfers: An administration fee of £35.00 plus VAT is payable for arranging each electronic transfer of funds, for example, on completion of a purchase or on a mortgage redemption. Faster Payments: An administration fee of £10.00 plus VAT is payable for arranging each faster payment will apply.
LIMITATION OF LIABILITY TO YOU
Our liability to you is capped at a maximum of £5million and applies to every liability arising under or in connection with our retainer, including liability in contract, tort (including negligence), misrepresentation, restitution or otherwise. Nothing in in the retainer limits any liability which cannot legally be limited, including liability for: death, personal injury caused by negligence, fraud or fraudulent misrepresentation. All losses including but not limited to loss of profits, loss of sales or business, loss of agreements or contracts, loss of anticipated savings, loss of damage to goodwill and indirect or consequential loss are all losses are excluded from our liability under this retainer. This liability clause shall survive the termination of our retainer.
MAKING PAYMENTS TO US
Due to anti-money laundering legislation, we can only accept payments into our bank from a UK bank or building society. Our bank details will be provided once the Anti-Money Laundering checks have been carried out. Additionally, the account from which the transfer is made or which the cheque is drawn must be in the precise name of our client in this matter – payment cannot be made from a joint account unless we are acting for both account holders nor from a company account unless the company is our client.
If payments are received from any other source or are in cash (which includes a cheque made payable to “Cash”) then we regret that we may be legally advised to report the matter to the Serious and Organised Crime Agency and to freeze the money until we receive clearance from them.
During the course of a standard conveyancing transaction, we would expect you to make a payment to our client account three times. If you chose to send funds to us in increments or instalments you will incur a charge of £25 plus VAT.
WHEN WE MAKE PAYMENTS
We will only make payments to our clients who have passed our Anti-Money Laundering checks.
INTEREST AND PAYING US
Subject to a few exceptions, solicitors must pay interest on clients’ money held on their behalf. We will not, however, pay interest where the amount is less than £50.00 and only at a rate of 0.15%.
If we have to send you money (for example following settlement), we will make payment to you as soon as possible after we receive cleared funds. If for some reason we have to hold a substantial amount for more than a few days, you may require us (as we often do anyway) to place the money in a separate designated account. You will receive all the interest earned on that account and a copy of the closing statement from the bank or building society used. Our policy is to only accept cash up to £350.
Bennett Oakley Limited is not authorised under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 but we are able in certain circumstances to offer a limited range of investment services to clients because we are members of the Law Society. We can provide these investment services, if they are an incidental part of the professional services we have been engaged to provide.
So, for example, upon the sale of property, or the winding up of an estate, please discuss with the person dealing with your matter or with a director, how we can help you.
At the conclusion, deeds and other valuable documents are removed from files and, where they are not sent to a third party such as a mortgage lender, we can usually offer to store them on your behalf, free of charge, in our strongroom. We will not store copies or “pre-registration deeds”, only originals. Note that most property is registered at Land Registry which means that due to computerization, there are no “title deeds” to store. The correspondence and other such material is retained for six years and thereafter destroyed by shredding. All correspondence is kept for our benefit and will not belong to the client. We will only send final versions of documents that were the object of the retainer. If you require any of these documents from us after completion before the file is shredded, there will be an administrative fee of £200 plus VAT.
We may terminate our retainer and our instructions at any stage if:
- we consider it inappropriate to continue acting, as an example if a “conflict of interest” situation becomes apparent
- you do not accept our advice
- you fail to pay bills or sums on account promptly
- we are unable to obtain clear instructions
- there is a breakdown in the relationship
- you mistreat our staff in any way
- if you fail to disclose to us material facts or documents relating to your matter where we feel it would benefit both parties to do so
If we cease to act, you will be liable to pay our charges for work done to the date of termination and arising out of it.
MONEY LAUNDERING AND TAX EVASION
Current laws require many institutions and professionals, including solicitors, to report to the authorities circumstances which could be indicative of money laundering and/or tax evasion. We are obliged to carry out standard money laundering checks and our authority to carry out these checks will be provided by you in accepting our terms of service. Clients should be aware that it is an offence to disregard the legal requirements, and in most cases it is also an offence, even if asked by the client, to admit to the client that the information has been disclosed. Nonetheless you will be charged for our time in making the formal disclosure to the Serious and Organised Crime Agency. We must disclose to them any arrangement disclosed to us whether by yourself or by a third party, such as your spouse or opponent, which indicates – for instance – non-disclosure of income, or welfare fraud, however small. We will charge you our time for complying with these regulations. The regulations, which affect all solicitors equally, override our view that client confidentiality should be paramount.
ADVICE AND STAMP DUTY LAND TAX
Regrettably we are unable to offer any advice in relation to tax. If you have any concerns in this respect you should raise them with your accountant or tax adviser. We, therefore, do not normally complete tax returns, and refer clients who need assistance with tax returns to an accountant. However in the case of SDLT, we prepare the tax return in our capacity as an agent for a fee of £50 plus VAT (additional to any quote given) because in most cases, it is essential for Land Registry purposes that we are in a position to lodge your signed form and where applicable have the money to pay the tax (which will be mentioned on your final statement) immediately upon completion taking place. We will not, however, be responsible for the accuracy of the return and the amount of tax paid.
It may be that you are able to obtain payment of all or some of your legal fees from a third party, such as the other party to the proposed transaction, an employer or your insurer. It is your responsibility to check carefully whether you are entitled to funding and if you believe you may be you should contact your provider immediately. We must make it clear that you will be responsible for payment of any work undertaken for you irrespective of whether you are able to arrange reimbursement of your legal fees from another source.
If our client is a limited company, the person signing these Terms and Conditions on its behalf personally guarantees the prompt payment of all monies due to us by the company.
We will never pass your personal details onto a third party without your consent. We may from time to time contact you with services that we think may interest you. Please let us know if you would not like to be contacted in this way by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes we will pay a referral fee to the introducer or sales agent, to introduce us. This can be between £100 and £500. Please note that we may receive a referral fee from Independent Financial Advisors if we introduce business to them. If this is the case, by signing these terms and conditions, you are giving us your consent for Bennett Oakley Limited to keep this payment unless you state otherwise.
If you have any questions or concerns about our work please raise them at an early stage with the lawyer dealing with you. If this does not resolve the problem then please contact Simon Elliott, the Managing Director. The complaints procedure is available on our Website, www.bennettoakley.co.uk
If, for any reason, we are unable to resolve any problem you do have the right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman at the conclusion of our complaint process. You are advised to contact the Legal Ombudsman after at least eight weeks of registering the complaint and within six months of your last contact with us. You can contact the Legal Ombudsman by the following methods:
Telephone 0300 555 0333; E-mail email@example.com
Post: PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ www.legalombudsman.org.uk
If you are unhappy with the bill that we have submitted, then you do have the right to object to the bill by applying to the Court for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors’ Act 1974. If all or part of our bill remains unpaid, however, we may charge you interest.
By signing our letter of engagement (client care letter) you are agreeing to these terms and conditions. These terms will be incorporated into the contract between us and you agree to be bound by them.