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Jo W
Jo W, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 94
Experience:  Expert
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Just wanted advice to a very general point re storage

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Hi there
JA: Hi. How can I help?
Customer: Just wanted advice to a very general point re storage charges for a vehicle being held in a garage - there is a dispute over the bill which is likely to end up in the small claims court.
JA: Since laws vary from place to place, where is this? And just to clarify, have charges been officially filed?
Customer: UK England. No claims made yet, but lots of postering.
JA: What steps have you taken so far?
Customer: 1) followed complaints procedure within garage
JA: Is there anything else the Lawyer should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: Is this free advice?
Customer: replied 17 days ago.
2) Escalated complaint to Manufacturer - the Garage then ignored this and sent me a heavy handed solicitors letter, asking for details and evidence re my position that they were in breach of contract
Customer: replied 17 days ago.
3) I then paid for and received an Independent Engineers report - conclusion being that they failed to diagnose the main issue with my car. Thus carrying out about £2000 worth of work, on a car that had a faulty (dangerous) turbo. Which they have now accepted was present when it arrived with them - they are saying that I never asked them to fix the turbo. I asked them - and paid for them to diagnose - to quote how much it would cost to 'fix my car' and they quoted for lots of work, which I agreed, but failed to tell me that they were concerned about the turbo. Fixing the turbo would have made the sum cost of all repairs on the car uneconomical.
Customer: replied 17 days ago.
4) The car has now been deemed 'dangerous to drive' and their solicitors have stated that it is not to be driven on a road again, due to the risks to other road users. Their solicitors have stated in a letter that - the car was in this state when it arrived with them. Then why did they agree to fix / mend lots of other (less important) parts of my car, if it was fundamentally unroadworthy?
Customer: replied 17 days ago.
5) I am about to issue a 'pre-action letter' stating that I shall be pursuing a small claims against them, for the costs of the service and repairs. About £2,500 in total.
Customer: replied 17 days ago.
I shall be arguing a breach in Consumer Rights Act - due to their failure to take due care in servicing the car. The Independent Engineers report states that they 'failed to inform me of their concerns over the turbo at the start of repairs' and that this falls below standard practise. There is a video taken before they started the work, where their mechanic points out a possible concern over the turbo. This video was never shared with me. It is my belief that there has been a clear breach here. I am less certain that I can pursue a claim for 'negligence' although it is arguable that they damaged my car further, by continuing to carry out work on it, when they should have stopped due to concerns. But I am confident that the contract has been breached.
Customer: replied 17 days ago.
6) This week I was about to send my Pre-Action Letter - and they have got in first, and sent me a letter titled 'Notice to Bailor that car is ready for delivery; Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977, Section 12 (1) (3)
Customer: replied 17 days ago.
7) They have stated in this letter the following 'storage charges will accrue from today at the rate of £25 plus VAT per day and will continue to accrue until collection or sale'.
Customer: replied 17 days ago.
to cut a long story short - I have 3 questions:
(A) IS THERE ANY COST IMPLICATIONS TO ME, IF I ISSUE IN THE SMALL CLAIMS COURT EVEN IF I SHOULD LOSE? I SHALL REPRESENT MYSELF. PRESUMABLY THEY CANNOT ISSUE THEIR COSTS (LEGAL FEES) AGAINST ME?
(B) IT HAS BEEN SUGGESTED TO ME THAT IT IS BETTER TO GO STRAIGHT TO COURT - AS IT IS A CLEAR BREACH - THAN TO GO TO THE OMBUDSMAN. DO I HAVE TO GO THROUGH THE OMBUDSMAN FIRST?
(C) CAN THEY REALLY CHARGE ME STORAGE FEES? SURELY THIS HAS TO HAVE BEEN CONTRACTUALLY AGREED AT THE OUTSET?
Customer: replied 17 days ago.
I am likely now to have to 'pay under protest' and then pursue the money back, through the small claims court.
Hello,

I've been working hard to find a Professional to assist you with your question, but sometimes finding the right Professional can take a little longer than expected.

I wonder whether you're ok with continuing to wait for an answer. If you are, please let me know and I will continue my search. If not, feel free to let me know and I will cancel this question for you.

Thank you!

Hello. My name is***** am a solicitor here to help you with your question. I will respond as soon as practicable which will be some time today.

Hello there.  I can see that this problem is causing much trouble and taking up a lot of time.  It would appear that you are at the issuing a Letter Before Claim point.  I see that you are are aware of the relevant Pre-Action Protocol.

To deal with your specific questions:

1. There are some costs implications, even in the small claims Court.  These tend to be fees (Court fees or other experts' fees).  Also, people are entitled to claim for their costs and time (such as lost earnings to attend Court).  These costs do not include standard legal costs charged by a solicitor;

2. Timing - due to the service of the notice from the garage, I think you have no alternative but to issue the claim rather than go the Ombudsman Route.  Plus, if you open an Ombudsman Claim the Court could very likely stay (pause) the case to await the Ombudsman's outome.

3. Storage fees.  Yes, they can charge reasonable storage fees.  They are doing this on the basis of being allowed to by the law - The Torts and Interference with Goods Act  - not on the basis of any contract.  At this point in time I think strategically it is better that your car remains with them rather than taking it back as this strengthens your claim.  However, I can see that this means they could counterclaim for the charges in the Small Claims Court.  You could include some reference to the Torts Notice in your Pre-action letter, something like "your claim for storage charges is rejected in its entirety given that the car has been returned to you for the reasons outlined in this letter".

I trust these answers have been of help.  If not, do let me know.

Customer: replied 16 days ago.
Thank you very much, very helpful. I think that I might be forced to 'pay under protest' and include your line above - "your claim for storage charges is rejected" - but on the basis that they have failed to diagnose and repair my car, so therefore they have failed to carry out the service I was paying them for. The car is now no longer safe to drive on the road - it drove in perfectly well, however. So, I have had to buy a new car in the interim ! As this has been going on since February.

You're welcome.  Good luck!

Customer: replied 16 days ago.
I have already paid for the Expert Engineers report so... I think the only cost implication, should I lose, would be their Employee's time, in that case. Is that capped?
Also, if I don't use the Ombudsman - can they say that I have failed to consider ADR?

I assume you have tried and tried to discuss and sort it out with the garage.  You are not forced to use the Ombudsman but essentially time and cost pressures have forced you to go the Letter Before Claim route.  You can say that in the letter.

Jo W, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 94
Experience: Expert
Jo W and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 16 days ago.
They refused to answer many of my questions; refused to provide the paperwork showing what work they carried out on my car; and then they refused to engage with the official complaints procedure with their main Manufacturer. So they have tried to box me in - and left me no real option but to pursue it further. Which? legal people said that I would do better in court - as this is quite a nuanced argument, around contract law - and that the Ombudsman are not lawyers essentially.
And tbh the Garage sent me a letter from their lawyers entitled LITIGATION before I had even submitted my complaint to the Manufacturer.
So, it feels like I am being forced down that route, in my opinion. As the only offers they have made involved me purchasing a new car from them... !! Not on your nelly, after this nightmare.