TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS

TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS

1.               INTRODUCTION

These terms of business contain important provisions that limit our liability, in broad terms, to £3,000,000.  They may not be varied unless agreed in writing and signed by the Managing Partner of the firm.  All work we do for you is governed by these terms of business and any agreed written variation.  This is an important document.  Please keep it for future reference.

2.               HOUSING LAW SERVICES LLP (“HLS LLP”)

Your relationship is with housing law services LLP (“HLS LLP”) who have the sole legal liability for the work done for you and for any act or omission in the course of that work.  No member, consultant or employee of HLS LLP will have any personal legal liability for that work whether in contract, tort or negligence.  In particular the fact that an individual member, consultant, or employee signs in his or her own name on any letter or other document in the course of carrying out that work does not mean he or she is assuming any personal legal liability for that letter or document.

  1. SOLICITOR’S REGULATION AUTHORITY

housing law services LLP is regulated by the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority registration number 592384.

  1. RESPONSIBILITY FOR MATTERS

We value our relationship with you and welcome any suggestions for its improvement.  We aim to offer you a friendly and efficient service.  We will exercise reasonable skill, care and diligence in carrying out your instructions.  You agree that you will give us clear and prompt instructions and keep us informed of developments in your matter.  You authorise us to make routine or administrative decisions on your case without asking you first although we will keep you informed.  Litigation is subject to detailed rules and deadlines and we are not responsible if you fail to give us instructions in time to comply with those rules and deadlines.  You will be advised of the person responsible for the supervision of our work for you.  Please contact him or her if you have any query.

  1. AVAILABILITY

Our offices are open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. on weekdays (excluding Bank Holidays).  We will, however, always endeavour to be available outside those hours as the need arises.

  1. YOUR WORK

We will agree with you at the outset the scope of the work required.  We are not responsible for matters that are outside the scope of the work agreed, or that would not normally be considered part of a solicitor’s duty in relation to that work.  Unless we have agreed to do so in writing, we do not advise on tax and we do not advise on the commercial wisdom of a matter.  Where possible we will also agree a timetable and an estimate of cost.

  1. WHO DOES YOUR WORK

Work will be done by those able to do it competently and cost effectively.  We will agree with you who handles your work providing details of their name and status. We will not make changes unless it is necessary, for example to bring in specialist help, or while someone is absent from the office. 

  1. OUR DUTY

We have a duty to act on your reasonable instructions, subject to our legal and professional duties as solicitors.  We will keep you regularly informed of progress.  Our relationship is with you, and we owe a duty of care only to you.  No other person may rely on our advice or on these terms without our prior written agreement.

  1. OUR LIABILITY

Despite our best efforts we may make a mistake, by which we mean any breach of our duties to you.  If we do, and are liable to compensate you, you agree that our liability is limited in the following respects:-

  • It is HLS LLP that is liable, not an individual partner or member of staff; you agree to make no claim against an individual except for fraud. You and we intend that this clause is for the benefit of, and shall be enforceable by, the partners and staff under the Contracts (rights of Third Parties) Act 1999;
  • Our maximum liability for any mistake (except for fraud) is £5,000,000 including interest (unless we agree a different amount with you in writing). Our Indemnity Insurance is currently with Zurich Insurance under Policy No. 8006529
  • This overall limit applies whether the mistake affects just one piece of work we do for you or several, so long as it is the same or a similar mistake;
  • For the purposes of the overall limit, more than one mistake on a matter or transaction is considered as one mistake;
  • We are liable for loss that we directly cause and for any indirect or consequential loss or loss of anticipated profit or other benefit where that total liability does not exceed £5,000,000. Otherwise we have no liability for any indirect or consequential loss or loss of anticipated profit or other benefit.
  • We are not liable to the extent that our mistake results from something you do or fail to do, such as giving us the wrong information, or not giving us information at the time we ask for it;
  • If others are also responsible for your loss, our liability is limited to our fair share of the proportion which is found to be fairly and reasonably due to our fault, whether or not you are able to recover the rest from the others. We shall not be liable to pay you the proportion which is due to the fault of another party.  This clause is subject to the minimum of £3,000,000 restriction on limiting liability prescribed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
  • These limits on our liability shall apply to work done under this contract and any future work unless we agree different terms with you;
  • We shall not be liable for any loss arising from or connected with our compliance with any statutory obligation which we may have, or reasonably believe we may have, to report matters to the relevant authorities under the provisions of the money laundering legislation;
  • We believe the limitations on our liability set out in this section are a reasonable amount having regard to our assessment of:-
    • The amount of any likely liability to you if we make a mistake;
    • The availability and cost of professional indemnity insurance, and
    • Possible changes in the future availability and cost of insurance.
  • We are happy to discuss the limit with you if you consider it insufficient for your purposes and if appropriate we may then consider whether we are able to provide a higher limit at extra cost.

These limits apply to the extent that they are permitted by law.  We cannot, for example, avoid full liability if our mistake causes death or personal injury.  If any part of this section of our terms which seeks to limit liability is found by a court to be void or ineffective on the ground that it is unreasonable or does not accord with any professional obligation, the remaining provisions shall continue to be effective.

If you think we have made a mistake we have no liability for any breach of our duties to you unless you let us know in writing about the mistake within 24 months of becoming aware of it, and start any legal proceedings about it within 12 months of giving us that written notice.

The firm operates a formal complaints procedure details of which are available on request from the firm’s Business Manager,   at infor@housinglawservices.co.uk

  1. CONFIDENTIALITY

We will keep confidential all information about you and your business and not disclose it to anyone outside HLS LLP without your consent.  You do consent to that disclosure:-

  • In the proper handling of your work;
  • On a confidential basis to auditors who make random checks of files;
  • To our professional indemnity insurers;
  • On a confidential bases to assessors for Lexcel (Law Society Practice Management Standard);
  • Where compelled by professional regulations or by law, such as a court order;
  • On a confidential basis to any external provider of administration services.

If we are compelled to disclose information, or if you ask us to object to disclosure, we may charge for the work involved.

  1. EMAIL

We routinely use email to communicate, and whilst we have normal levels of security in place, you accept the risk that email communications may not be secure.  Our general email account is info@housinglawservices.co.uk

  1. MONEY LAUNDERING ACTIVITY AND PROCEEDS OF CRIME

The law now requires solicitors, as well as banks, building societies and others, to obtain satisfactory evidence of the identity of their clients.  You accept that we must comply with the law and professional rules about money laundering and proceeds of crime.  We will ask you to let us have either your passport or driving license and an up to date utility bill showing your current address.  HLS LLP will then copy and return the originals to you.  You agree that until you have produced these documents HLS LLP will be unable to proceed with your work.

We also have to report, without telling you, any activity that we suspect may involve the proceeds of crime.  We may in some circumstances have to stop acting for you as a result of the money laundering legislation.

The proceeds of crime are defined very widely and include, for example, money gained as a result of unlawful tax avoidance or through the evasion of payment of any similar charges or duties.  Our duty to report may override any duty of confidentiality that we owe to you and the legal professional privilege (your right to refuse disclosure of documents relating to advice given to you) may not apply in these circumstances.

We also follow Law Society guidelines and restrict the amount of cash that we are prepared to receive from clients.  Our limit is currently £1,000.  Please advise us if you think this may be a problem.  However, if you exceed this limit by depositing cash direct with our bank we reserve the right to charge for any additional checks we deem necessary regarding the source of the funds.

  1. FEES AND DISBURSEMENTS

HLS is registered for Value Added Tax in the United Kingdom – registration number 803 0450 81.  Our fees are primarily calculated on the basis of hourly fee rates, which vary according to the seniority and experience of those concerned.  The fee is calculated by multiplying the time spent, recorded in six minute units, by the hourly charging rates of those working for you.  We will let you know these hourly rates and if the rates change for example through promotion or at the annual review of the costs of running our business.  Hourly charging rates are based mainly on the level of skill and experience of the person involved and the complexity of the matter.

We will normally charge for time spent on your work in:-

  • Meetings;
  • Travelling;
  • Reading, preparing, negotiating and working on documents;
  • Research;
  • Dealing with mail;
  • Making and receiving telephone calls;
  • Attending court or other formal proceedings, including waiting time;
  • Preparing notes of meetings, of telephone calls and of proceedings;
  • Complying with statutory and professional requirements (for example money laundering regulations).
  1. DISBURSEMENTS

You are responsible for paying expenses we incur on your behalf (for example Court Fees, travel, Land Registry Fees, Counsel’s fees).  These are added to the invoice at cost.

  1. INVOICES

We normally send out invoices when the fees on a file are in the region of £1,000.00 and/or on a monthly basis, and then a further invoice when the work has been or is about to be completed.  This applies unless we have agreed with you a different billing frequency or only to invoice at agreed stages in a case or transaction.

  1. COSTS AND OPPOSING PARTIES

In contentious matters, you should be aware that:-

If you succeed in the litigation you may obtain an order that your opponents pay your costs.  We shall do everything possible to maximize the recovery of your fees and disbursements under any such order.  However you should be aware that any such order is at the discretion of the Court and, in any event, will generally only cover a proportion of the fees and disbursements actually incurred by you.  Furthermore, there is always the possibility that you may be unable to enforce a costs order against your opponents, for example if they are publicly funded.

You remain responsible for payment of our fees and disbursements and VAT, whether or not you have any costs orders against your opponents.

  1. OVERDUE INVOICES

Invoices must be paid within 28 days. In the event that all or part of your bill is not paid we reserve the right to charge interest.  Interest will be charged on a daily basis at the official rate payable on judgment debts (which is usually close to standard commercial rates) from the date of the bill. We may also:-

  • Recover any costs we incur in collecting the overdue amount;
  • Do no further work for you until we are paid in full (or we may choose not to do any further work for you at all);
  • Retain all papers until we are paid in full.
  1. QUERIES ON INVOICES

If you have a query on an invoice, please discuss it as soon as possible with the person who is dealing with your work.  If you are dissatisfied with the amount of our charges you have the right to:

  • Complain about the bill as part of the firm’s formal complaints procedure;
  • If following your initial complaint we are unable to resolve the bill to your satisfaction and you remain unhappy you have the right to complain to the Legal Complaints Service and/or apply to the Court for an assessment of costs under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974;
  • If all or part of the bill remains unpaid, the firm may be entitled to charge interest.

Full details of our complaints procedure are available from the firm’s Business Manager who can be contacted by email at info@housinglawservices.co.uk or by telephone on 01424 774 738.  If following the result of your initial complaint you remain dissatisfied about the bill you may contact the Legal Complaints Service at the following address:

Legal Complaints Service, Victoria Court, 8 Dormer Place, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV32 5AE

email enquiries@legalcomplaints.org.uk

Helpline 0845 608 656

The firm is happy to resolve complaints in relation to bills at any time whilst the bill is unpaid.  However you are reminded that interest may be charged on any amount unpaid.  Please note there are strict time limits on applications to the Court for the assessment of solicitor’s costs.  Please contact the Legal Complaints Service for further details.

  1. PAPERS AND DOCUMENTS

We will retain your deeds and other documents as long as you want us to in a secure offsite storage area.  We will keep the papers for six years from the date of the final invoice and then destroy them.  Where you urgently require delivery of documents stored with us we will pass on to you the charge to us – currently £10 plus VAT.

  1. LIENS

 

There are circumstances where the firm may be entitled to exercise a lien for unpaid costs. For example where fees are unpaid and the Solicitor holds property for a Client the Solicitor may retain that property pending payment of the fees. Such property may include anything on paper files created by this firm, hard copy or electronically, in contemplation of or in connection with any matter upon which you have instructed us to represent you. 

  1. COPYRIGHT

We own the copyright in any work we create and this copyright will not be transferred to you although you have our licence to use the work for the purposes for which it was created.  We have the right to be indemnified as the author of the work and to object to any misuse of it.

  1. EQUALITY AND INCLUSION

HLS LLP is committed to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality and inclusion in its own policies, practices and procedures and in the areas it has influence. All personnel are aware of the firm’s policy and commitment in relation to equality and inclusion and are encouraged to challenge discriminatory behaviour at every opportunity. The policy deals with all professional dealings by personnel with clients, other solicitors, barristers and third parties. Please contact us if you would like a full copy of our equality and diversity policy.

  1. COMPLAINTS AND COMPLIMENTS

We follow the Solicitors Regulation Authority rules and provide a copy of our complaints procedure on request.  We investigate any complaint promptly and thoroughly.  First, you should contact the person dealing with your matter with full details of your complaint, and, after our investigation, you will receive a written response.  If you are still unhappy, you should contact the Business Manager for a copy of the firm’s formal complaints procedure.  This procedure allows for the Senior Partner, Tim Crook to review the handling of your complaint and then report back to you in writing.

The Legal Ombudsman Service also investigates complaints about solicitors.  Their service is independent, impartial and free and their role is to investigate complaints fairly.  The Legal Ombudsman may be contacted as follows:-

Helpline No. 0300 555 0333, or contact www.legalombudsman.org.uk

We are also governed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct and full details of this may be found at www.sra.org.uk/rules

If you consider the firm, or an individual fee earner, has provided you with exceptional service we would be pleased to hear from you.  The firm keeps a note of compliments which are passed on to the relevant individual in recognition of the quality service provided.

 

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