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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71159
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Friend rents a property. Alarm has malfunctioned, making automated

Customer Question

Friend rents a property.
Alarm has malfunctioned, making automated calls out.
£1400 in calls in a couple of weeks.
Phone company will not say who was receiving the calls - saying possible a fax machine.
Phone company says full amount is due.
i.e., needs to be paid by friend or his landlady (on friendly terms at present).
Alarm was installed several years ago before buying the property - so no contact or warranty.
Suggested way forward?
Peter ***********
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
Was the alarm provided by the telephone provider?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Several years ago - unknown installer before house purchase.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Do you know how old the alarm is?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The house was probably built in the 1980's.
The alarm has never worked since the landlady bought the property i.e., seems to have just come back to life and has been ringing home (like ET!)

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
That is a difficulty I'm afraid.
Come what may, the alarm is out of warranty and we cannot really even be sure that it falls within the six years from the date of sale that common law demands to bring this under the Sale of Goods Act.
That makes no difference really as it is the sum of the bill that concerns you. The only arguable point might have been that the phone company cannot claim because their equipment failed which caused the problem.
That did not really happen. Sadly, the starting point is that the money is due.
You could always offer a less sum in full and final settlement. Probably they will accept a deal. The risk is that they could add a default to your credit account. Often they will agree reductions in situation like this of a huge sum.
Sorry if that is bad news.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

If it went to a small claims court between friend & his landlady as to who should pay how much - what would be the likely outcome in your opinion?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
I presume the alarm belongs to the landlady?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

As above - the alarm was purchased with the property several years ago.
i.e., it has never been an operational alarm in those several years. All it has done is to recently come back to life, probably found itself faulty, and automatically kept ringing back to its old support number.

ps thanks for the considered reply above - if it was you, and the sum being asked for was £1400, what would be your opening offer amount to settle (approx.).

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
I would offer £700. You can negotiate up but you can't come down.
You could try to claim any losses from the landlord on the basis that the alarm was not in good order. It could go either way really. She could defend on the basis that you didn't report it and so she could not act but it would be worth an attempt.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Goodness - I would have gone for say £200 (as it is pretty much pure profit to the telecoms company on the back of an unfortunate circumstance) - in you opinion and experience, what risk is there in going too low at the start of negotiation?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
None really. Except that they would dismiss you as unrealistic but you can always go up.
They are not going to accept £200 obviously.