My solicitor retained the money I deposited for buying a house for several days after the purchase fell through, disregarding my requests for the deposit to be speedily returned. The deposit was only returned when he had raised an invoice for his fees and deducted them from the deposit. This deprived me of the opportunity of questioning the invoice which I thought was excessive, especially as I had already lodged money with him to pay for searches undertaken. Is it acceptable practice to keep hold of my 10% deposit money for 4 or 5 days and deny me time to question the amounts invoice?
Hello my name is ***** ***** I will help you with this.
Have you paid the Solicitors fee already please?
I paid in advance for the searches and deposited £25000 as 10% purchase money for a flat. The purchase fell through and the solicitor deducted his £2400 fees from my deposit money and returned the balance 4 days later, and emailed an invoice at the same time.
Did the Solicitor not give you a quote beforehand for the work please?
The solicitor gave an interim account which was less than the final invoice.
My question is - Can the solicitor imprision my money for 4 or 5 days and help himself from money deposited with him for a different purpose?
Did you sign their terms of business? What does that say about theft of your deposit please?
I am not aware of any mention of this. I just wondered if it is acceptable for him to imprision my money for 4 days and help himself from money intended for a different purpose. Surely on receipt of an invoice one is entitled to question the tally?
No it is not proper for him to do this.
You need to check the terms and conditions
It may say that he is entitled to deduct his fees from your client money
If not then he is in breach of contract and you can sue for loss and damage.
You would be entitled to claim interest at 8% for the days that he held it
You need to write and set out your losses and request a payment of within 14 days or say you will go to Court within 14 days. You should make sure you send this recorded delivery and keep a copy.
If they do not refund the interest to you then you can issue proceedings in the County Court. You can either do this online at: www.moneyclaim.gov.uk or by completing form N1 http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/n001-eng.pdf and take it to your local County Court.
The Court will then issue a claim which a copy will be sent to the Defendant who will have a limited time to defend it, if not you can enter Judgment and enforce
If the matter is defended it will be set down for a trial. If the claim is for £10,000 or less it will be a small claim and you will not need representation
Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?
I have already made representations to the firm and this is their reply: "We believe deducting our fees , is a normal way of dealing with such a situation. I gather you do not accept that."
Is their any redress that I can ask for? I wish to question the tally of the invoice as well.
Yes you need to check the terms as I have suggested.
You can also challenge the fees in Court as per the Solicitors Act.
You have the right to do this and ask for detailed assessment. It should say this in the invoice itself
Is there anything I can write back in response to his assertion that : We believe deducting our fees , (. And I understand you accept the amount and have no complaint about,) is a normal way of dealing with such a situation. I gather you do not accept that.
Yes, check the terms and conditions and ask where they have the power to do this.
If it is not in their terms then they do not have the power to deduct fees from the client monies
Please can you recommend a form of words in which I can reply to his assertion : "We believe deducting our fees , (. And I understand you accept the amount and have no complaint about,) is a normal way of dealing with such a situation. I gather you do not accept that and recommend that you seek advice from an appropriate person." Also I have not said I accept the amount charged.
It a matter of contract
You need to ask where it says in the contract for business that they can do this.
If it does not say they can do it within their terms then they can not
(I am sorry to have kept asking the same thing. I am not used to this and thought my previous attempt did not get to you.)
Indeed, that is ok
Can I clarify anything else for you?
There is just one thing. The solicitor gave the wrong advice which resulted in the purchase falling through. There was a £2000 Council bill attached to the block of flats for clearance of vermin which the freeholders would not pay and which the mortgager wanted discharged first. I wanted to pay this but the solicitor said it would bring the price to £252000 and increase the stamp duty and that the mortgager would have to accept the higher price of the flat. This cost about a week during which time I tried to contact my solicitor to say I would pay it all, but he decline to answer the phone and finally the sale fell through. the mortgage broker said that advice about the price going to £252000 was wrong.
Ok - you could potentially also sue the Solicitor for negligence and/or breach of contract
The same process would need to be adopted as I have indicated above using making a claim
Thank you for your advice. How much is it to go to the small claims court? Is there a penalty if I lose my case?
There is no penalty save for the Court fees which you have paid
The Court fees are found here:
Does that help?
Thank you it has been a great help. However, I think I will ask the ombudsman to intervene as I only wish the bill to be reduced to a reasonable amount.
Is there anything else I can help with today please?
No it has been very helpful. Goodbye
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