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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 47340
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This weekend just gone, my husband and I were due to be

Customer Question

This weekend just gone, my husband and I were due to be staying for two nights in a rural pub in Dorset for our wedding. We checked in to our room early Saturday afternoon and were given a set of keys to our room and the front door. When we returned at about 1.30am on Sunday morning after the wedding, we quickly realised that we had lost our set of keys and that there was zero mobile phone signal in the village. The pub staff had left the front door open so we were able to get in to the building straight away, hoping to find a member of staff who would be able to let us in to the room. After knocking on the internal door to the bar/office area for sometime with no results, my husband went upstairs, along the corridor and down some back stairs into the bar/office area and in doing so set off an alarm. At this point we expected a member of staff to respond, but still noone arrived. The alarm continued for at least an hour, and eventually appeared to turn itself off. Two guests came downstairs due to the alarm, one of whom gave us use of her mobile phone connected to wifi and the emergency overnight number for the pub. We called this number to which there was no answer. As a last ditch attempt to raise a member of staff's attention, we went round to a different side of the building and attempted to knock on a different door, and in our frustration, by knocking hard we broke a pain of glass in the door. My husband also threw himself against our room door a few times but was not successful in breaking in and there was no visible damage. In the end, at about 3am, we were forced to hitchhike back to the next village where my parents live. The next morning, when my husband went back to the pub to apologise for the damage, he was told by the owner that she had already taken £1000 from my debit card to cover the damamge and guest refunds, and called the police but that she would not press charges as he had come to apologise. We are not happy with this situation and have told her that she can't just deduct a random amount with no authorisation, and that we will only pay the £250 for our room now, and then she can send us the invoices for the cost of repairing any damage and proof of any guest refunds (we do not believe she gave any) and we will then cover these too. I have told her that unless she refunds me the £750 immediately, I will be contacting the bank to tell them the £1000 was unauthorised. She has now threatened to press charges against my husband. Whether she will actually do so or not is unclear, but I would like to get some legal advice on where we stand, and whether an owner of a hotel business can charge random amounts to a customer's card for 'damages'. I have double checked the T&Cs of our booking and there is no mention of anything to do with this. Many thanks, Harriet
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today. I presume they only had your card details to charge you for the room for the duration of your stay?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi Ben, thank you, ***** ***** they had my card details in order to charge me for the booked two night stay.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

Thank you. If they had you card solely for charging your room for your stay and you had not signed any terms or given your explicit consent allowing them to make further deductions, then these would be treated as unauthorised charges.

Whilst you are liable to an extent for the damage caused, I do not believe that it would be as high as £1000 they have tried to charge you. In the first instance they should have approached you and given you details of the alleged damage and losses and asked you to pay these voluntarily. If you did not then they could have made a claim against you if necessary.

In terms of pressing charges, it is unlikely that will get anywhere as no criminal conduct has been committed here and this is all down to the damage and losses they may have suffered. You have every right to ask them for evidence of such charges/losses and if they refuse to provide that or to return your money, then you can consider taking this further yourself. Firstly you can approach the bank to report this as an unauthorised transaction and ask them to issue a chargeback. If that fails, you may have to consider a small claims court procedure t get the money back. Just bear in mind that even if you get that money back you may still be liable for the actual losses for the damage caused so there will likely be some outstanding liability on your part. I just do not believe it would be as high as they have tried to make it out.

This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the steps you need to follow should you have to take this further, which I wish to discuss so please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service so far (by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars) and I can continue with that and answer any further questions you may have. Don’t worry, there is no extra cost and leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you

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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you, ***** ***** rated you with 5 stars and would be very interested in your advice about the next steps should we need to take this any further. Thanks again, Harriet
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

Thank you. Whenever a dispute arises over money owed by one party to another, the debtor can be pursued through the civil courts for recovery of the debt. As legal action should always be seen as a last resort, there are certain actions that should be taken initially to try and resolve this matter informally and without having to involve the courts. It is recommended that the process follows these steps:

1. Reminder letter – if no reminders have been sent yet, one should be sent first to allow the debtor to voluntarily pay what is due.

2. Letter before action – if informal reminders have been sent but these have been ignored, the debtor must be sent a formal letter asking them to repay the debt, or at least make arrangements for its repayment, within a specified period of time. A reasonable period to demand a response by would be 10 days. They should be advised that if they fail to do contact you in order to resolve this matter, formal legal proceedings will be commenced to recover the debt. This letter serves as a ‘final warning’ and gives the other side the opportunity to resolve this matter without the need for legal action.

3. Before you consider starting legal action you may wish to consider sending a formal statutory demand. This is a legal request which asks the debtor to pay the outstanding debt within 21 days and failure to do so will allow you to bankrupt the debtor (if they are an individual ) or wind up the company (if they are a business). For the relevant forms to serve a statutory demand see here: https://www.gov.uk/statutory-demands/forms-to-issue-a-statutory-demand

4. If they fail to pay or at least make contact to try and resolve this, formal legal proceedings can be initiated. A claim can be commenced online by going to www.moneyclaim.gov.uk. Once the claim form is completed it will be sent to the debtor and they will have a limited time to defend it. If they are aware legal proceedings have commenced it could also prompt them to reconsider their position and perhaps force them to contact you to try and resolve this.

Whatever correspondence is sent, it is always advisable to keep copies and use recorded delivery so that there is proof of delivery and a paper trail. The court may need to refer to these if it gets that far.