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Should I pay this bill?

(23 Posts)
TheHikingNun Tue 20-Sep-11 20:18:33

back in July 2009 I had a dispute with my estate agents. They requested a crazy amount for fees for having done very little and they didn't confirm the amount of the fees before the sale went through. I looked into it and found they had been in breach of regulations that they are required to follow, but as they had done some work, I sent them a cheque of 1% plus vat, which I felt was fair, along with a letter explaining my reasons.

Approximately 4 months after, the cheque still hadn't been cashed so I cancelled it with my building society as they automatically take the funds out of the account. I have heard nothing...until now.

Basically the agent apologises for not cashing the cheque. He states that it was left on his desk whilst he decided what to do, and when he decided to accept my offer "to avoid any animosity", the cheque had been cancelled. He then adds that my file has been sitting on his desk since then (two years), and wishes me to re-issue the cheque. This correspondence was sent to my old address.

In those two years a lot has changed. We now have two children, I am in my final year of university and the funding that I was hoping for to do my PGCE has been pulled, so DH and I are saving like mad for future childcare costs, etc. So in a nutshell, we haven't got a great deal of spare cash at all.

What should I do? DH says ignore the letter as it was sent to our old address (although we do still own the property). I feel that I should acknowledge the letter and state I will pay them back at an amount that suits me, but part of me thinks that the agent didn't conduct his business in the first place so why should I pay him?

Any advice would be great.

OpenMouthInsertFoot Tue 20-Sep-11 20:21:44

see a solicitor would be my advice, get an idea of your legal position. I mean, I don't doubt you'll have to pay them for any services provided, but it all sounds really messy and you could do with a legal bod on it.

Talker2010 Tue 20-Sep-11 20:21:52

I think that you should pay it as you considered it to be a fair payment for work done

AuntiePickleBottom Tue 20-Sep-11 20:22:05

could he take you to the small cliams court

TheHikingNun Tue 20-Sep-11 20:25:51

open my solicitor at the time said he would not pay them.

Talker at the time it felt 'fair', it not that I was being over-generous. I cant help that feel that contacting me now is a bit of a cheek.

TheHikingNun Tue 20-Sep-11 20:27:22

Auntie, i'm not sure. The amount is £450.00. I'm not sure that he would have a leg to stand on so wouldn't bother. Could the CAB help?

rhondajean Tue 20-Sep-11 20:28:54

Hmmm well I think that banks put a limitation on how old the cheques they will cash can be and Im thinking a maximum of 6 months. Which means if its two years later hes missed the chance to cash it regardless of whether or not you cancelled it.

I think I would double check with your solicitor though, dont want it any messier than it has to be eh.

Oggy Tue 20-Sep-11 20:30:53

Why did you cancel the cheque? I appreciate after 4 months they hadn't cashed it but, if I am right, after 6 months it would have been void anyway and if they had failed to cash it that would have been their problem, but by cancelling it I would have thought you have taken away their chance to cash it within the legal timeframes therefore you should re-issue the cheque.

It is ridiculous they have taken so long to ask. My comments aren't based on any legal knowledge, just common sense and fair play.

banana87 Tue 20-Sep-11 20:32:41

It's a small claims court job really, if they decide to pursue it.

Did you sign anything with the EA? An agreement or anything in writing?

TheHikingNun Tue 20-Sep-11 20:36:29

I cancelled the cheque after 4 months because he didn't cash it within what I felt was a reasonable time-frame, and felt that he possibly didn't have the nerve to cash it.

rhondajean Tue 20-Sep-11 20:38:48

Actually Oggy might be more correct than I was now I think about it, definitely one for legal advice IMHO>

TheHikingNun Tue 20-Sep-11 20:40:24

banana87 no, I didn't sign anything. They didn't do anything apart from contact me about a potential buyer. They did a few other things that proved how incompetent they were, so after that the buyer and solicitor requested to deal with matters through me. When I asked what the fees were they said "it won't be much", but that was it.

slavetofilofax Tue 20-Sep-11 20:47:15

If they introduced you to a buyer, they did do some work, so you should pay them what you thought was reasonable at the time.

TheHikingNun Tue 20-Sep-11 20:52:41

I think I will contact them and explain that my circumstances have changed. I will offer to pay them in installments and see what happens. Yes, I was probably wrong to cancel the cheque after 4 months, but believed that if they were going to cash the cheque they would have done it quite soon after they recieved it.

Choconellie Tue 20-Sep-11 20:57:09

I'm not sure if I'm clear on this - but did he try to cash the cheque then found out it was cancelled (ie within the 6 months) because if he didn't try to cash it within this time then I'd say he's lost his chance to get any further cheques sent to him. Personally I would ignore it and let him try and contact you again. One letter might be him just trying his arm at recovering fees that he failed to collect at the time.

KatieMiddleton Tue 20-Sep-11 21:02:56

If it was a counter cheque it will have been valid for a year.

TheHikingNun Tue 20-Sep-11 21:04:47

Choconellie I feel that he is just chancing his arm because he knows that he was in the wrong. He said that he tried to cash it and it was cancelled, but like you said, I don't know if it was within the six months. Maybe my building society may have a record.

TheHikingNun Tue 20-Sep-11 21:06:24

It was a counter cheque Katie. I just wish he had contacted me when he found out the cheque had not been paid.

KatieMiddleton Tue 20-Sep-11 21:10:39

I think you should pay it. He did some work and you agreed a settlement. He has tried to cash the cheque and contact you at your last known address.

I think if you ended up in the small claims court you'd struggle to justify your position.

YesMaam Tue 20-Sep-11 21:20:25

You've admitted a debt to the amount on the cheque. Pay up.

I'd imagine they are chasing you as they are not doing very well (like most E agents) and every £ counts. It isn't worth running the risk of having to pay more (small claim costs) if they do decide to take you to court.

cfc Tue 20-Sep-11 21:44:08

Don't pay it.
Let them take you to court where the judge will ask you to explain your position and will tell them to go forth and multiply for taking so long about the whole thing!

But it won't get that far, they'll just leave it. And if they needed the funds so much they ought to have cashed the cheque.

CaymansBound Tue 20-Sep-11 21:51:54

I would contact in writing and offer to pay a fiver a month (actually I would just not pay and bank on them not pursuing for being disorganised twats who are not operating within terms of their own trade regulatory/guidance body but if you are a worrier then ignore this option - after 6 years they would be barred from any breach of contract claims which this is)

Am I right in thinking all you have received is a letter to your previous address and you haven't contacted them yet? They would have to pursue you through the county courts small claim process and serve on you at your current address (are you registered at your current address on the electoral roll? If he's sat on this for 2 years I can't see him being organised or savvy enough to even check that) which would cost them approx £80 and to prove the debt (the absence of a written contract/ the breach of estate agent guidance in terms of not being upfront about their charges in a written contract/ your initial attempt to pay which they ignored and you sensibly cancelled - I would think my cheque had got lost after 4 months) - which all looks pretty crap for them - and the end result, if the debt was proved, would be you paying a fiver a week. And the court would not be interested in any of this if you can show you are already paying off the debt....even at a fiver a month.

If he wants to take you to court while you are actually paying off the debt then he has even less chance of winning.

Pop along to your local CAB or local law centre for firm advice but please don't go to the expense of employing a solicitor for this! You'll end up paying more than the debt and small claims court actions are very easily self-defended if the worst comes to the worst (there are standard forms you fill out with your witness statement and no matter in which court the claim is lodged, you can generally get the claim moved to one which is most convenient for the defendant ie. you!)

TheHikingNun Wed 21-Sep-11 11:03:23

Caymans thank you for so much information. I really do appreciate it. Yes, I am a worrier and would like to get this sorted. I have made an appoinment with the CAB for next week and will not be replying to the letter that has been sent to my old address.

My gut instinct is that because the company didn't behave in the correct manner, which he must be well aware of (otherwise he would have persued me for the amount in his original invoice), he will not take me to the small claims court...but I just want to get it sorted and not pay it in one lump so monthly payments would suit me better.

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