Our Service and Terms of Business
Welcome to Hood Vores & Allwood and thank you for your instructions.
This guide sets out the terms on which we undertake work for you and on how our charges are calculated. It also contains other essential information which you must read prior to returning our client care letter.
IF YOU WISH TO HAVE THESE TERMS OF BUSINESS IN LARGE PRINT OR YOU HAVE ANY QUERIES ON THEM, PLEASE TELEPHONE 08453 724240
1. TAKING AND CARRYING OUT YOUR INSTRUCTIONS
We aim to offer our clients quality legal advice with a personal service at a fair cost. As a start, we hope it is helpful to you to set out in these terms and conditions the basis on which we will provide our professional services.
When we take your instructions we will:
- Identify your objectives;
- Explain the issues involved and the options available;
- Advise you of salient factors;
- Either agree a fee, or give you an estimate of our charges, or tell you the basis on which our charges will be calculated; and
- Advise you of any variations to these terms.
We have a statutory obligation to obtain satisfactory proof of identity of all our clients and we will ask you to produce evidence. More information is set out at the end of these notes.
During each matter we will:
- Keep you regularly advised of progress (or lack of it);
- Respond promptly to letters, telephone calls or other communications from you or others involved;
- Advise you promptly of any unexpected difficulties or complications that arise;
- Advise you promptly of any factors that would affect any estimate we have given of our charges; and
- Conclude the job as quickly and efficiently as reasonably possible.
2. HANDLING THE WORK
Our objective is to ensure that each aspect of any job is handled by those with the appropriate experience and skills.
Work may be designated to another partner, assistant solicitor or legal assistant in order that the work is dealt with as expertly, efficiently and economically as possible. However, we shall always designate a partner to be in overall charge of your work.
3. BASIS OF CHARGES
The amount of our charges and/or an estimate and/or information on how they will be calculated will be put to you in writing. Charges are determined principally by reference to an hourly rate. Each person has rates appropriate to their level of experience and seniority, applicable to each job.
Time spent will include: meetings with you and others; travelling; considering, preparing and working on papers; making and receiving telephone calls; and correspondence whether by letter, email or fax. Time is recorded in units of six minutes. Letters and telephone calls are charged as one or more unit according to the length of time involved. Our hourly rates are reviewed from time to time. You will be notified of any changes before they come into effect.
We may also take into account other factors when assessing our charges. These include: the complexity of the issues involved; the speed at which action has to be taken; the expertise or specialist knowledge the case requires; and the value of the property or subject matter involved. The last is particularly relevant when we are handling probate and trusts.
We will always endeavour to give a fixed quote for your work where we can. Otherwise, we will provide an estimate of our likely charges in any matter but we can provide no guarantee that the final charge will not exceed the estimate.
There are many factors outside our control that affect the level of our charges. If an increase is likely, a revised estimate will be given.
All charges are quoted exclusive of VAT.
4. BANKING AND INTEREST POLICY
The Firm’s bankers are Lloyds TSB Bank plc.
In the course of our retainer, or during a transaction, we may hold money on behalf of a client. The Rules that govern the way in which we deal with clients’ money are set out in the SRA Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011. Our primary role is to act for you in a legal capacity.
We do not provide financial advice nor is it our role to operate a Bank account on your behalf. Client monies will normally be held in our general (instant access) client bank account and in which amounts for different matters and different clients are held together.
We will pay a sum in lieu of interest to you on amounts held in our general client bank account on the following basis:-
- Such sum will be calculated on the balance held for each individual matter.
- Each of your matters will be treated separately and we will not combine the balance between all your transactions when calculating this sum.
- The sum to be paid will be calculated on a daily basis on amounts held overnight from the day on which funds become cleared for interest purposes.
- We will calculate the sum due once your matter has been completed.
- Any sum payable in lieu of interest pursuant to this policy shall be calculated at the rate payable on our Lloyds TSB Bank PLC Business Instant Access Account. This rate is likely to change from time to time.
- Any sum paid to you in lieu of interest is paid without any deduction for income tax. As such it is your responsibility to inform the Inland Revenue of amounts paid by us. The implications of this will depend upon your own financial circumstances.
- In normal circumstances if the total sum calculated over the period during which monies are held is less than £50 no payment will be made. We take the view that any amount below £50 can be reasonably retained by the firm to cover the administrative costs of dealing with client funds.
- No sum will be due where there are outstanding fees due to Hood Vores & Allwood by the client.
The rate referred to above reflects the Solicitors Regulatory Authority recommendation that client monies are held upon an instant access basis.
We believe that this is an equitable approach and fulfils our duty to account to our client for monies in lieu of interest where it is reasonable to do so.
5. BILLING AND PAYMENT
- We may require you to make a payment to us on account of fees, disbursements and expenses at any time and on more than one occasion. A requirement to make a payment on account may be a condition of acting or continuing to act for you. Any money paid on account for disbursements but not utilised, may, with your permission be set against any costs you may owe us but if not subsequently required for our fees disbursements or expenses, will be refunded to you.
- We will usually send our bill for payment at the end of the job, but we may issue interim bills every three months or at other appropriate intervals.
- Payment of any bill is due within 30 days of the delivery of the bill by us.
- In the case of property purchases we must receive payment in full of all charges and disbursements before the transaction is completed.
- We may charge interest on bills that remain unpaid after 30 days. Such interest will be charged on a daily basis at the rate set under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 from the date of the bill.
- Law Society rules require that if we hold funds in our client account that are not designated for a particular purpose, or where we hold a deposit towards costs, or where we have recovered costs for you from another party, we must deduct the amounts due to us relating to that or any other matter from such funds. The deduction will be made 14 days after the date of our bill.
- You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. If at any stage you do not wish us to continue doing work and/or incurring charges and expenses on your behalf, you must tell us this clearly in writing.
- If we decide to stop acting for you, for example if you do not pay an interim bill or comply with the request for a payment on account, we will tell you the reason and give you notice in writing.
- We may bring this contract to an end at any time by giving written notice to you. We will not do this without giving you reasonable notice and without good reason including but not limited to:
- your failure to pay us any amount due:
- Your failure to pay money on account when requested to do so:
- your insolvency;
- the discovery or creation of a conflict of interest:
- our being prevented from acting by the Serious Organised Crime Agency;
- you asking us to break the law or any professional requirement:
- your failure to give us adequate instructions: or the trust and confidence necessary to the relationship between solicitor and client ceasing to exist.
We also reserve the right to give you written notice to bring provisions of our services to you to an end in the event of any other breach by you of these terms.
You will be liable for payment of our fees arising up to the date of termination together with any fees or payments for any services necessary to transfer the matter to another adviser. In the event of this happening, we would charge at the appropriate hourly rate plus VAT.
7. CONCLUSION OF THE WORK
At the end of each matter we will:-
- Report on the outcome and explain any further action you need to take.
- Advise you whether the matter should be reviewed in the future and if so, when.
- Account to you for any outstanding money.
- Advise you of the whereabouts of any original documents and about arrangements for storage and retrieval of any papers or documents we keep for you.
We will keep any information you give us confidential unless we are legally obliged to do otherwise. If we are working for you in conjunction with other advisers on a job we shall assume, unless you notify us to the contrary, that we may disclose any such information to them and discuss it with them where necessary. Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of clients confidential.
This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception. Legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing places solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
Where a solicitor knows or suspects that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering the solicitor may be required by law to make a money laundering disclosure. If that happens, we may not be able to inform you that a disclosure has been made or of the reasons for it because the law prevents “tipping off”.
We aim to avoid most problems, and to overcome those that do arise.
Unfortunately, on some occasions our clients are unhappy about the work that we have done. This may be about the advice they have been given, the level of service that they have received, or the level of their bill. If you think we are at fault or could do better, then please tell us. If you don’t, we may never know that we have failed to live up to your expectations.
How we handle complaints is governed by the SRA Code of Conduct 2011, in particular Outcomes 1.9 to 1.14. These rules were amended with effect from 6th October 2011.
It requires that we must tell you that:-
- in the event of a problem you are entitled and have a right to complain;
- this may include a complaint about the firm’s bill;
- you should complain in the first instance to the fee earner who was responsible for your matter.
- if you are not able to resolve the problem with him or her, you should complain to Roger Margand, the partner responsible for handling complaints. Such complaints should be made in writing, wherever possible;
- we will endeavour to ensure that your complaints are dealt with promptly, fairly, openly and effectively
- that the firm has a Complaints Procedure a copy of which is available on request;
- that at the conclusion of the complaints process you may complain to the Legal Ombudsman. Such complaint must be made within three months of the final decision under the Firm’s Complaint Procedure. The Legal Ombudsman may be contacted at PO Box 15870, Birmingham, B30 9EB; and
- Advise you that you may also have the right to apply to the Court for an assessment of our bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974
10. FURTHER INFORMATION
We have to tell you about the following matters.
Sometimes, the work we do for you involves investments. We are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority so we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised to provide any necessary advice. However, we can provide certain limited services in relation to investments if they are closely linked with the legal services we are providing to you, as we are regulated by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority.
The Money Laundering Regulations 2007
These regulations require solicitors as well as banks, building societies and others, to obtain satisfactory evidence of the identity of their clients. We have to comply. We understand that it is an inconvenience but we shall need you to produce evidence in the form of one document from List A and one from List B in the list at the back of this leaflet.
If you cannot provide such evidence please tell us and we will advise what alternative evidence may be acceptable.
Please do not send us any funds until the identification procedures have been carried out. We may use electronic identification service providers to confirm your identity, and that of any beneficial owners.
We have to keep copies of these documents on record for a minimum of five years even if the file is returned to you or passed to another firm of solicitors.
If we have done work for you in the past three years and we have evidence of identity we need not obtain further evidence of identity unless your address has changed. In that case we shall need fresh evidence of your address.Attorneys /Agents
Where we are instructed by an attorney or other agent, the donor of the power of attorney, or principal, is our client and in such cases we require evidence of identity for that person as well as for the attorney or agent with whom we actually conduct the business.
For partnerships, we require:
- evidence of identity for at least two partners in the business; and
- further evidence from List B in respect of your trading address.
- For companies or corporations, we require:
- evidence of identity in respect of two directors and all main shareholders;
- a copy of the certificate of incorporation;
- a list of all the directors showing their home addresses;
- a list of all the shareholders showing their home addresses; and
- evidence of the registered address.
The rules relating to Trusts are the most difficult to implement. Generally we have to obtain evidence of identity for
- the person setting up the trust or providing the funding for it;
- the trustees; and
- all beneficiaries having an interest of 25% or more in the trust (or members of a class of beneficiary holding 25% or more interest)
If we have to obtain any of these details for you, for example by making a search at the Companies Registry, we shall have to pass on the cost to you.
Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005
This legislation creates a number of offences relating to the proceeds of crime (“criminal property”). Criminal property includes any money, property or other asset that has arisen as a result of any crime. It will include, for example, money (however low in value) saved as a result of tax evasion or benefit fraud, whether that money has been saved or spent. The offences include entering into or being concerned in any way in an arrangement which one knows or suspects facilitates the acquisition or use of criminal property by or on behalf of another person.
If, during the course of working on your case, any member of this firm becomes aware of or suspects the existence of criminal property (whether relating to you or to any other person and whether the information comes from you or any other person) we must report our suspicion to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). It is a criminal offence for us not to.
The obligations imposed on us by the Act can in certain circumstances override the duty of solicitor/client confidentiality. There may also be circumstances in which we are required to make a report to SOCA without discussing it with you or even telling you we have done so. SOCA can pass any information that it receives to any relevant body, such as the Inland Revenue. An investigation may then take place at any time in the future.
If any fee earners engaged in your case spend time in addressing issues arising from the Act, that time will be charged in the same manner as any other work undertaken in relation to your case.
The anti-money-laundering regime also prescribes maximum sums that may be accepted as payment in cash. Please note that we are normally only able to accept cash up to a limit of £1000 in any 28 day period. If clients circumvent this policy by depositing cash direct with our bank we reserve the right to charge for any additional checks we deem necessary regarding the source of the funds.
Payment of our charges by a third party
If somebody else has agreed to pay our charges in any matter, please note that:
- Our bill and VAT invoice will still be issued in your name.
- The party who is paying cannot reclaim the VAT.
- If appropriate, we will seek an undertaking for payment from the other party’s solicitors.
- If we are unable to recover the charges from the third party, you will remain liable to pay.
Stamp Duty Land Tax
At the end of 2003, Stamp Duty was replaced by Stamp Duty Land Tax. The compliance work is far more complicated. Some organisations have responded by making an extra charge for dealing with the forms. We do not believe this is fair to our clients and have decided to absorb the charge in the figures we have quoted to you.
However, if there is any further work required as a result of information you provide, we may have to make an extra charge for that work at the appropriate hourly rate.
There may be occasions when, in the course of handling your work, we arrange insurance (for example: defective title indemnity in a property transaction or insurance of an empty property in probate matters.
We are not authorised by the Financial Services Authority (“FSA”). However, we are included on the register maintained by FSA so that we can carry on insurance mediation activity, which is, broadly, the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts. This part of our business, including arrangements for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, is regulated by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority.
The register can be accessed via the FSA website at www.fsa.gov.uk/register.
We find it convenient to correspond by email. The Law Society requires us to point out that we should not send confidential information in non-encrypted email without the client’s consent because of the risk of breach of confidentiality.
If we send email to you it will be in non-encrypted form unless you specifically request in writing that you wish to receive email only in encrypted form. We shall not be responsible for any loss or damage arising from the unauthorised interception re-direction copying or reading of any emails including any attachments. We shall not be responsible for the effect on any hardware or software (or any loss or damage arising from such effect) of any emails or attachment which may be transmitted by us (except where this is caused by our negligence or wilful default).
If your instructions were not received in person but by telephone or correspondence, the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations will apply to our retainer.
You will have the right to withdraw without charge by notifying us within seven days of receipt of our letter of confirmation of your instructions. You will lose the right to withdraw once work has started. We will consider that you want us to start work as soon as you return the second copy of our letter unless you specifically tell us otherwise.
Our office hours
The office is open between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm Monday to Friday. We are not open at the weekends or bank holidays. The office is closed for lunch between 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm.
Deeds, Wills and other papers we hold for you
No charge will be made to you for storage of any documents such as Wills, Deeds, and other securities or documents unless prior notice in writing is given to you of a charge to be made from a future date which may be specified in that notice.
If we retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act in connection with your affairs, we will not normally charge for such retrieval.
However, we may make a charge based on time spent at the junior executive hourly rate for producing stored papers or documents to you or another at your request. We may also charge for reading, correspondence, or other work necessary to comply with your instructions.
The following applies when collecting any Wills, Deeds, and other securities or documents:
- If you are collecting deeds for someone else we will need written authority from them to allow us to hand the deeds to you.
- We need valid identification documents (from the list below) for any person collecting deeds.
- We need the written authority from all parties named on the deeds before they can be released.
- We will need 24 hours notice to retrieve any Wills, Deeds, and other securities or documents from our storage system.
There may be circumstances in which we are entitled to retain any documents following the conclusion of any matter or earlier termination of the relationship between us. This may specifically apply where there are sums of money due to us that have not been paid.
Except only to the extent that the law does not permit us to exclude or limit our liability, the total liability of this firm, its partners and employees in connection with or arising, directly or indirectly, from this matter, will be limited to an aggregate amount of £5m.
This limit will cover all claims of any sort whatsoever whether arising in contract negligence or otherwise and all losses or damages including interest, costs and expenses.
- You must produce an original of one document from List A as proof of your identity AND an original of one document from List B as proof of your address.
- If you are obtaining a mortgage loan, only the documents in bold type in each list are acceptable. In other cases any documents in the lists can be produced.
- You will have to bring these into the office so that we can inspect them and take copies. The originals will be given straight back to you.
- We must check the photograph and/or signature on any document used for identity.
- We must check the address on any document produced from List B. If it does not correspond to the address you have given us, it will not be acceptable.
- We have a legal duty to keep copies for at least five years.
- If you are not able to produce any of the documents we ask for, please tell us and we will discuss with you what other evidence we can use instead.
- If you cannot come into the office because, for example, you live a long way away or you are housebound, please tell us and we will discuss what arrangements we can make to get the evidence we need. This may involve getting another Solicitor to certify the documents for us and he/she may charge you for that service.
List A – Identity (In order of preference)
- A valid and signed full UK passport;
- A valid full UK or EU Photo card driving licence (both parts);
- A valid H.M. Forces identity card with the signatory's photograph;
- An EU member state identity card (if it gives an address, it may also be accepted as List B evidence but not to satisfy both lists at once);
- A valid full old style UK driving licence (not provisional licence);
- Firearms or shotgun certificate;
- Any document from Benefits Agency giving details of right to benefits showing your NI number;
- Other national identity card containing a photo;
- Bus pass;
- Recent Tax assessment or correspondence from Inland Revenue showing your NI number.
List B – Address (Each item must bear your name and address)
- A valid cheque guarantee card or credit card (bearing the Visa or MasterCard logo), American Express or Diner’s card, debit or multifunction card (bearing the Switch or Delta logo) AND a statement of account relating to that card, not more than three months old;
- A firearm or shotgun certificate (unless produced under List A);
- A receipted utility bill (electricity, gas, telephone NOT mobile) less than three months old;
- A council tax bill less than three months old or (if no mortgage) for the current year;
- A council rent book showing the rent paid for the last three months;
- A recent mortgage statement from a recognised lender;
- Bank or building society statement or passbook showing the address;
- Any document listed in List A that shows your name and address and has not been used as evidence of identity.