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JimLawyer
JimLawyer, Solicitor
Category: Law
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Experience:  Senior Associate Solicitor
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I am currently in dispute with a luxury farmhouse letting

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I am currently in dispute with a luxury farmhouse letting company in Norfolk, over a property booked for this coming weekend for 18 family members to attend a joint 100th birthday party. Due to the new rulings and because it’s illegal for 18 of us to be in the property and for them to let it to us I’ve requested a full refund amounting to nearly £3000. They are saying that as they’ve let the property and 6 people can go, they are not in breach of contract. We are saying that they are, as it is illegal for us to go there and as it was for a specific purpose, it has to be all or nothing. They have since offered us an alternative weekend within a year, but this can only be booked 9 weeks in advance. We had to book over a year in advance to get this weekend and in life returns to normal then it’s unlikely we’ll be able to find a suitable weekend with such short notice. Info on the BBC news page yesterday seems to agree that we are in our rights to request a full refund - they have the option of eelerorn *reletting the property
JA: What steps have you taken so far? Have you prepared or filed any paperwork?
Customer: They are refusing to budge
JA: Have you talked to a lawyer about this?
Customer: No we haven’t spoken to a lawyer yet - that’s why I’m asking your advice before I go down that avenue
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: They’ve offered to refundthe £500 security deposit and the fuel surcharge that I paid on 4th Sept

Hi, this is Jim, thank you very much for the question - I will do my best to resolve this for you today.

Customer: replied 7 days ago.
Thank you very much - I await your response. Please let me know if there is any further info I can give you.
Customer: replied 7 days ago.
Quite happy to carry on via this method, for now

Thanks, ***** ***** give you my answer in the next few minutes.

You should demand the refund from the letting company. There are essential terms in the contract - you pay for the trip, they provide the accommodation on a specific date. There is no cooling-off period for a holiday booking on a specific date, which then begs the question of whether this contract is void due to the current situation.

If one of these essential terms is not able to be carried out, in this case due to an external event being the pandemic, and making it illegal to travel there, you can demand a refund. You therefore need to say the contract has been frustrated and therefore void.

The key term here is "force majeure", or an "act of God" clause - meaning that if performance of the contract is impossible then the parties can agree to suspend their obligations - for the duration of the force majeure, or in this case, for as long as the service cannot be carried out due to the lock down. They would need a force majeure term in their booking conditions though and it should also refer to "pandemic", "outbreak", to be able to let them rely on this clause.

If you simply cannot go due to the rulings, the contract is frustrated – then you are due a full refund.

If you booked by credit card then you can make a claim - you can contact the card provider and ask for a refund under S.75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 - as they are jointly liable if you do not get the service you paid for. You can claim a full refund even if you only paid for part of the trip with the credit card as long as £100 or more was spent.

If you did not book with a credit card (or you did and the card company refuses to reimburse) then you should consider a Small Claim.

You should send the company a letter before action to demand repayment of the further payment within 14 days, failing which you will issue a small claim.

The attached letter is generic and needs to be tailored (and quote the above breach). The letter should be sent by post and email.

Assuming they do not respond or they do and refuse to pay, you need to register at www.moneyclaim.gov.uk so that you are ready to issue the claim in the event they dispute the claim and do not pay you. The website is very user-friendly and you would not need a lawyer to use the money claim site. Claims with a value of under £10,000 are classed as a "small claim", so legal costs are not recoverable and the matter may be dealt with on paper by a Judge, not at a hearing. A hearing may be necessary if the court thinks that oral evidence is required to dispose of the case.

You would claim the sum for the loss, the court issue fee (£105 based on a claim for £3,000) and court interest which is 8% calculated on a daily rate from the date of loss to date of court judgment. The site allows you to calculate the interest and add it to the claim.

If you are on a low income or have low savings (or in receipt of benefits), you can ask the court for a fee remission so you do not have to pay the court issue fee.

If you win then once you have the CCJ from the court the defendant has 14 days to pay in full. If they do not then it gets registered with the credit agencies after 30 days. You can also enforce the CCJ with the county court bailiffs or transfer the debt to the High Court for a small additional fee assuming the total amount owed is at least £600 and you can use the high court enforcement officers who have greater powers than county court bailiffs. The transfer fee is added on to the debt and payable by the defendant.

There are other enforcement methods which I can help with, including bank account freeze, charging order on their property (and then apply to force a sale), application to wind up the company if £750 or more is owed (if suing a limited company), apply to summons them to court for questioning, all of which can ensure you are actually repaid the money.

You may find they just pay you after receiving the letter before action – hopefully they will want to avoid litigation.

I hope this helps - please feel free to ask me anything else.

Have a good day,
Jim

Customer: replied 7 days ago.
Thank you for that extremely detailed response but the bot***** *****ne is that they are insisting that as 6 people could go for the weekend, they are NOT in breach of the contract and therefore do not have to offer a refund.
Customer: replied 7 days ago.
Our argument is that it was for 18 people and a specific party arrangement and therefore, legally we can not go
Customer: replied 7 days ago.
It was suggested in an email that as they were not policing the property, the onus was on us, whether to go or not! Surely that is being illegal on both sides!
Customer: replied 7 days ago.
As actually turning a blind eye to us using the booking!
Customer: replied 7 days ago.
Do we have a case?

Yes, I do not see them having any defence here. You do have a case. I would be inclined to report them to Trading Standards given they seem to be fine encouraging paying customers to break the law.

Customer: replied 7 days ago.
Thank you - you have been brilliant! We will certainly use this service again

Many thanks, ***** ***** good day.
Jim

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