We aim to offer our clients quality legal advice with a personal service at a fair cost. As a start, we hope it is helpful to you to set out in this statement the basis on which we will provide our professional services.
OUR HOURS OF BUSINESS
The normal hours of opening at our offices are between 9.00am and 5.30pm from Monday to Friday. Messages can be left on the answer phone outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential.
PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR WORK
The solicitor responsible for dealing with your work will be Christopher Shepherd. If unavailable, the Personal Assistant (PA) to the Partner will endeavour to assist you. We will try to avoid changing the people who handle your work but if this cannot be avoided, we will tell you promptly of any change and why it may be necessary.
The partner of this firm with final responsibility for work done in this department is Sean White
CHARGES AND EXPENSES
Our charges will be calculated mainly by reference to the time actually spent by the solicitors and other staff in respect of any work, which they do on your behalf. This may include meetings with you and perhaps others; reading, preparing and working on papers; making and receiving telephone calls, emails, faxes and text messages; preparation of any detailed costs estimates and bills; and time necessarily spent travelling away from the office. From time to time we may arrange for some of this work to be carried out by persons not directly employed by us; such work will be charged to you at the hourly rate which would be charged if we had done the work ourselves.
Routine letters, e-mails and texts that we send and routine telephone calls that we make and receive are charged at one tenth of the hourly rate. Routine letters, e-mails and texts received are charged at one twentieth of the hourly rate. Other letters, e-mails and calls are charged on a time spent basis.
The current hourly rates are set out below. We will add VAT to these at the rate that applies when the work is done. At present, VAT is 20%. Our VAT number is 935 435 024.
These hourly rates have to be reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. Normally the rates are reviewed with effect from 1 January each year and we will notify you of any increased rates and the date from which they will become effective. If a review is carried out before this matter has been concluded, we will inform you of any variation in the rate before it takes effect. If you have a query about the level of any revised rates notified to you, please contact the Partner with primary responsibility for the particular matter straight away.
In addition to the time spent, we may take into account in calculating our charges a number of other factors which include the complexity of the issues, the urgency of the matter, the expertise or specialist knowledge that the case requires and, if appropriate, the amount or value of any money or property involved. It is not always possible to indicate how these aspects may arise but on present information we would expect them to be sufficiently taken into account in the rates, which we have quoted. Where an increase in the rates or a charge reflecting any value element is to be added we will explain this to you.
Solicitors have to pay out various other expenses on behalf of clients ranging from Land or Probate Registry fees, court fees, experts' fees, travel expenses and so on. We have no obligation to make such payments unless you have provided us with the funds for that purpose. VAT is payable on certain expenses. We refer to such payments generally as 'disbursements'. We will require a payment in advance from you in respect of any search fees payable on your transactions.
Generally, it is extremely difficult to estimate the total cost or the number of hours that will need to be expended to bring any matter to a conclusion. However, we will do our best to estimate the likely cost of the likely steps that need to be taken in relation to each stage of the matter. Our estimate of fees is given in good faith, but unless otherwise specified, our fees may be higher or lower than the estimates given.
You may set a limit on the charges and expenses to be incurred on a matter without further authority from you. If you do so, we will inform you as soon as it appears that any such limit may be exceeded and we will not exceed the limit without first obtaining your consent.
If, for any reason, this matter does not proceed to completion, we will be entitled to charge you for work done on a time spent basis and for expenses incurred. Property sales and purchases which fail to complete often involve as much work as those which reach completion. Any charge made will not exceed the amount of our estimate unless there are unusual or exceptional circumstances.
In all matters other than residential conveyancing transactions we may require that you pay monies on account towards our fees and disbursements prior to undertaking work. It is usual that you will be asked to pay a sum of money prior to our undertaking any work and also to pay additional monies after the rendering of any interim bills.
In relation to probate matters we utilise the Law Society’s suggested method of billing. We charge a discounted hourly rate of 25% less than our standard hourly rate but in addition charge 1% of the value of the estate excluding land and half a percent of the value of land.
Residential property transactions: We will normally send you our bill following the exchange of contracts and payment is required on a purchase prior to completion; and at completion; on a sale. If sufficient funds are available on completion, and we have sent you a bill, we will deduct our charges and expenses from the funds.
Administration of estates. We will normally submit an interim bill at regular stages during the administration, starting with the obtaining of a Grant. The final account will be prepared when the Estate Accounts are ready for approval.
Other cases or transactions. It is normal practice to ask clients to pay interim bills and sums of money from time to time on account of the charges and expenses, which are expected in the following weeks or months. We find that this helps clients in budgeting for costs as well as keeping them informed of the legal expenses, which are being incurred. If such requests are not met with prompt payment, delay in the progress of a case may result. In the unlikely event of any bill or request for payment not being met, this firm must reserve the right to stop acting for you further.
Payment is due to us within 14 days of our sending you a bill. Interest will be charged on a daily basis at 4% over Barclays Bank Plc’s base rate from time to time from the date of the bill in cases where payment is not made within 14 days of delivery by us of the bill. If a third party undertakes responsibility for the payment of our charges and expenses on your behalf and such third party fails for any reason to settle those charges and expenses within 14 days of delivery of the bill, you will be responsible for settling the outstanding charges and expenses.
If you have any query about any bill, please contact the partner with primary responsibility for your matter.
In order to secure payment of our charges and expenses, we may have the first call upon any money or other property recovered or preserved for you by our
efforts pursuant to Section 73 of the Solicitors Act 1974.
The common law entitles us to retain any money, papers or other property belonging to you, which properly come into our possession pending payment of
our costs, whether or not the property is acquired in connection with the matter for which the costs were incurred. This is known as a “general lien”. We are not entitled to sell property held under a lien but we are entitled to hold property, other than money, even if the value of it greatly exceeds the amount due to us in respect of costs.
We do not accept payments to us in cash in excess of £1,000. Monies due to you from us will be paid by cheque or bank transfer, but not in cash, and will not be made payable to a third party.
We accept all major credit cards and you are therefore able to make payments on account or settle invoices by credit card by telephoning or attending at our offices.
OTHER PARTIES' CHARGES AND EXPENSES
In some cases and transactions a client may be entitled to payment of costs by some other person. It is important that you understand that in such circumstances, the other person may not be required to pay all the charges and expenses which you incur with us. You have to pay our charges and expenses in the first place and any amounts which can be recovered will be a contribution towards them. The other person will not be liable to pay the VAT element of your costs if you are able to recover the VAT yourself.
Any money received on your behalf will be held in our Client Account. Subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time set out in the Solicitors' Accounts Rules 1998, interest will be calculated and paid to you at the rate from time to time payable on Barclays Bank Plc’s Designated Client Accounts. The period for which interest will be paid will normally run from the date(s) on which funds are received as cleared funds by us until the date(s) of issue of any cheque(s) from our Client Account.
Where a client obtains borrowing from a lender in a property transaction, we will ask the lender to arrange that the loan cheque is received by us a minimum of 4 working days prior to the completion date. If the money can be telegraphed, we will request that we receive it the day before completion. This will enable us to ensure that the necessary funds are available in time for completion. Clients need to be aware that the lender may charge interest from the date of issue of their loan cheque or the telegraphing of the payment.
OTHER PROPERTY DISCLAIMERS
It is not our responsibility to carry out a physical inspection of the property, but if you wish us to this for any reason please make a specific request. We shall not advise on the valuation of the property nor the suitability of your mortgage nor any other financial arrangements. We shall not advise generally on environmental liabilities where we shall assume, unless you tell us to the contrary, that you are making your own arrangements for any appropriate environmental survey or investigations. We may, however, need to obtain on behalf of your lender at your expense an environmental search.
STORAGE OF PAPERS AND DOCUMENTS
After completing the work, we are entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. We will keep your file of papers for 6 years for sales of properties and for 12 years where you have purchased a property. We have your authority to destroy the file at the termination of this period starting from the date of the final bill we send you.
In addition, we will keep your file of papers for you in storage for not less than 1 year. After that, storage is on the clear understanding that we have the right to destroy it after such period as we consider reasonable or to make a charge for storage if we ask you to collect your papers and you fail to do so. We will not of course destroy any documents such as Wills, Deeds, and other securities, which you ask us to hold in safe custody. No charge will be made to you for such storage unless prior notice in writing is given to you of a charge to be made from a future date, which may be specified in that notice.
If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act in connection with your affairs, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. However, we may make a charge based on time spent at the junior executive hourly rate for producing stored papers or documents to you or another at your request. We may also charge for reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions.
FINANCIAL SERVICES AND INSURANCE CONTRACTS
If, while we are acting for you, you need advice on investments, we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised by the Financial Services Authority, as we are not. However, as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, we may be able to provide certain limited investment services where these are closely linked to the legal work we are doing for you.
We are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority. However, we are included on the register maintained by the Financial Services Authority so that we can carry on insurance mediation activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts. Insurance mediation activities and investment services, including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The register can be accessed via the Financial Services Authority website at www.fsa.gov.uk/register.
It is not part of our role as your legal advisor to advise on the commercial merits of your transactions or to give you tax advice unless we agree in writing to the contrary.
You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. If at any stage you do not wish us to continue doing work and/or incurring charges and expenses on your behalf, you must tell us this clearly in writing.
We may decide to stop acting for you only for good reason, for example if you do not pay an interim bill or comply with the request for a payment on account, if you cannot give us clear and proper instructions on how we are to proceed, or if it is clear to us that you have lost confidence in how we are carrying out your work. If we do stop acting for you, we will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing. In addition, we are entitled to stop acting for you where to continue would put us in breach of the law or the rules and principles of professional conduct or of our duty to the Court or would place us in a conflict between your interests and the interests of one or more of our other clients or in a conflict between our duty to you and our duty to the Court.
If you or we decided that we will no longer act for you, you will be liable to pay our charges and expenses as set our earlier and in accordance with the relevant engagement letter.
Under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, for some non-business instructions, you may have the right to withdraw, without charge, within 7 working days of the date on which you asked us to act for you. However, if we start work with your consent within that period, you lose that right to withdraw. Your acceptance of these terms and conditions of business will amount to such a consent. If you seek to withdraw instructions, you should give notice by telephone, email or letter to the person named in these terms of business as being responsible for your work. The Regulations require us to inform you that the work involved is likely to take more than 30 days.
When accepting instructions to act on behalf of a limited company, we may require a Director and/or controlling shareholder to sign a form of personal guarantee in respect of the charges and expenses of this firm. If such a request is refused, we will be entitled to stop acting and to require immediate payment of our charges on an hourly basis and expenses as set out earlier.
TAX AND PLANNING ADVICE
Any work that we do for you may involve tax implications or necessitate the consideration of tax planning strategies. We may not be qualified to advise you on the tax implications of a transaction that you instruct us to carry out, or the likelihood of them arising. If you have any concerns in this respect, please raise them with us immediately. If we can undertake the research necessary to resolve the issue, we will do so and advise you accordingly. If we cannot, we may be able to identify a source of assistance for you.
We will not advise you on the planning implications of your proposed purchase unless specifically requested to do so by you, otherwise than by reporting to you on any relevant information provided by the results of the ‘local search’.
IDENTITY, DISCLOSURE, CONFIDENTIALITY AND DATE PROTECTION
Money laundering regulations require Solicitors to report to the authorities any money laundering activity known to them or of which they are suspicious and the making of the report cannot be disclosed to the client. We are therefore required to conduct a series of checks when any financial transaction occurs where money changes hands. Please do not take offence when Members of this firm are conducting such checks. By way of identification we will ask you to produce your current passport and a utility bill or bank statement confirming your address.
We are entitled to refuse to act for you if you fail to supply appropriate proof of identity for yourself or for any principal whom you may represent. We may arrange to carry out an electronic verification of your identity if we consider that a saving of time and cost will be achieved by doing so. The cost of any such search will be charged to you. If the amount is in excess of £10 including VAT, we will seek your prior agreement.
Most of the information which you give to us in order to enable us to do our job is covered by the Data Protection Act. It is also confidential. We are bound to protect that confidence, and will only disclose that information with your authority or if we are required to disclose it by law or by a regulatory authority. By instructing us you consent to us disclosing to your other professional advisors such information as is reasonable and necessary for the purpose of carrying out your instructions. Unless you advise us to the contrary in relation to any particular matter, you consent to the disclosure of our involvement as your legal advisors for the purposes of publicity.
By signing these terms and conditions of business and returning it to us you authorise us to disclose to the other parties in the transaction and, if applicable, to all other parties in the chain of transactions and their agents and advisers all information which we have in relation to your involvement in the transaction including any related sale or mortgage and other financial arrangements and wishes as to dates for exchange and completion. You may withdraw this authority at any time but if you do so you should appreciate that we will inform the other party or parties and their agents or advisers that this authority has been withdrawn.
Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of the client confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception: Legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing has placed solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the Serious and Organised Crime Agency. Where a solicitor knows or suspects that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering, the solicitor may be required to make a disclosure. If, while we are acting for you, it becomes necessary to make such a disclosure, we may not be able to inform you that it has been made, or of the reasons for it, because the law prohibits ‘tipping-off’. Where the law permits us, we will tell you about any potential money laundering problem and explain what action we may need to take.
Our firm may be subject to audit or quality checks by external firms or organisations. We may also outsource work. This might be for example typing or photocopying or costing, or research and preparation to assist with your matter. Information from your file may therefore be made available in such circumstances. We will always aim to obtain a confidentiality agreement with the third party.
If you are an issuer as defined in the Disclosure Rules of the Financial Services Authority, then it is your responsibility to inform us if any engagement involves us having access to inside information. If you have so informed us. Then we will record this in our letter of engagement and make effective arrangements to deny access of inside information to persons other than those who require it for the exercise of their functions in connection with the engagement. We will identify in our engagement letter to you your principal contact. We will maintain an insider list as required by the Disclosure Rules containing the identity of each person acting on your behalf which access to inside information. We will keep this list for at least five years and will provide a copy of it to you as soon as possible on request.
COMMUNICATION BETWEEN YOU AND US
We are confident in providing you with a high quality service. If however, you have any queries or concerns about our work, please raise them in the first instance with the partner with primary responsibility for the particular matter. If that does not resolve the problem to your satisfaction or you would prefer not to speak to that partner, then please contact the Firm’s Client Complaints Manager, Sean White. We shall try to resolve any problem quickly using our internal complaints handling system. If for any reason, we are unable to resolve the problem between us, then we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority which also provides a complaints and redress scheme. If you are not satisfied with how your complaint was dealt with, you have the right to refer this matter to the Legal Complaints Service http://www.legalcomplaints.org.uk/home.page
We will aim to communicate with you by such a method as you may request. We may need to virus check discs or email. Unless you withdraw consent, we will communicate with others when appropriate by email or fax but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by email or fax.
We may choose to communicate with you electronically (unless you specifically request otherwise) and we may also use electronic means of communication to send and receive information to and from third parties in carrying out your instructions. Please note, however that the electronic transmission of information cannot be guaranteed to be secure or error-free and its confidentiality may be vulnerable to access by unauthorised third parties. We accept no responsibility or liability to you in respect of any loss arising from or in connection with the electronic communication of information to you or to third parties in relation to work undertaken by us pursuant to your instructions.
The Data Protection Act requires us to advise you that your particulars are held on our database. We may, from time to time, use these details to send you information which we think might be of interest to you.
Where we act for two or more clients jointly it is on the clear understanding that we are authorised to act on instructions from either, both or any of them.
We do not assume liability to any person other than to you in relation to advice provided by you. Except as expressly provided in these terms and conditions of business and /or in any specific letter of engagement with you, no item in either document is enforceable under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 by any person to whom it is not addressed.
Neither you nor we may transfer or assign any right or obligation under this Agreement without the written consent of the other party.
OUR LEGAL STATUS
Courtyard Solicitors LLP is referred to in these terms and conditions of business and any letter of engagement to which they are attached as “the firm” or “we” or “our” which, where appropriate, includes our successor and predecessor firms and our members, employees and consultants. We (like many other Limited Liability Partnerships) call the members of the firm “partners” rather than using the legal term “members”. However, legally the members are not partners and do not have joint and several liability to you. All liability is the sole responsibility of the firm itself.
PROFESSIONAL INDEMNITY INSURANCE
Our Professional Indemnity Insurance is covered by Travelers Insurance Company Limited,61-63 London Road, Redhill, Surrey RH1 1NA. The insurance policy provides cover for worldwide territorial and worldwide jurisdiction.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS
Unless otherwise agreed, and subject to the application of then current hourly rates, these Terms and Conditions of Business shall apply to any instructions you give us, including any future instructions given by you to this firm. We may change these terms and conditions of business from time to time, but, if we do so, we will notify you in advance of the changes we propose to make.
These terms and conditions should be read in conjunction with any letter of engagement. In the event that the terms of any letter of engagement are inconsistent with these terms and conditions, the provision of the letter of engagement shall prevail. Although your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business, it may not be possible for us to start work on your behalf until one copy of them has been signed and returned to us for us to keep on our file.