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Q: Dispute with an English Property Management Company (Supplementary) ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Question  
Subject: Dispute with an English Property Management Company (Supplementary)
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: probonopublico-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 30 Aug 2002 11:38 PDT
Expires: 29 Sep 2002 11:38 PDT
Question ID: 60302
I asked the following question that was brilliantly answered by
iaint-ga:

'I own a flat in England and I have disputed some charges raised by
the property management company. As a consequence, I sent them a cheque
for the undisputed items and, in a covering letter, specified that
this was 'in full and final settlement of their account. They accepted
the cheque but are still claiming that I owe them for the disputed
items. My understanding is that, by accepting my cheque, they also
accepted the terms on which it was offered. Can a researcher find any
case law and/or references that I can quote - without going to a
lawyer?

NOW FOR THE SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTION:

The are two disputed items:

1: This arises from a payment of 250 that I made in 1999 'on
account'. The property management company duly 'lost' this money but
eventually they finally admitted its receipt but claimed that 100 was
in respect of work that they said they had done ... but had never
billed!

2: The second arose this year when the property management company
billed me 50 + VAT as a 'sub-letting fee' - even though I do not
sub-let my flat! Worse they charged VAT even though HM Customs &
Excise have ruled that such charges (which are raised by the Council)
are exempt. Moreover, the Council have ruled that the action of the
Property Management Company is not considered 'good practice'

As you would expect, I have refused to pay, hence my recent cheque
(which was for over 200) and my previous question.

NOW, the Pproperty Management Company is billing me 10 + VAT per
month until I settle the account 'to their satisfaction'.

What is the BEST way of dealing with this situation?
Answer  
Subject: Re: Dispute with an English Property Management Company (Supplementary)
Answered By: jem-ga on 30 Aug 2002 13:17 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
 
Hi probonopublico

You've asked what the "BEST" way of dealing with your situation - what
follows is my purely subjective opinion and, of course, is no
substitute for proper legal advice.

Before going into detail about what I think would be your best course
of action, I thought you should know about the UK Courts Services
website found at:

http://www.courtservice.gov.uk/

The main purpose of this website is to make it far easier for members
of the public in England to file court proceedings in a timely and
cost effective manner.  So, for example, you could file a money claim
against a potential defendent who you feel owes you money.

The fees for court proceedings, which can be instigated, tracked and
concluded online without ever having to visit a court, depend on the
amount of money you are claiming but start at 27 for amounts up to
200 and go up to 500 for claims involving potentially unlimited
amounts of money.  You can also claim against a defendent for matters
"other than money", so, for example, you could potentially claim for
unnecessary administrative hassle, loss of work time and so on.  To
view information on the current fees as well as the types of matters
you can claim for, have a look at:

http://www.courtservice.gov.uk/fandl/leaflets/ex50.pdf

(you need adobe acrobat reader to view this page - the free adobe
acrobat reader can be downloaded from:

http://www.adobe.com).

The Court Service website provides a good selection of leaflets and
guidance notes to assist in deciding whether you wish to file
proceedings.

However, given the background of the situation and in particular, the
relatively small amounts of money concerned, I would think that you
would want to avoid the hassle of a) having to go to a lawyer and
incurring fees and/or b) having to go to small claims court, which
also involves fees and additional personal time expenditure.

I would suggest in the first instance that you take the following
course of action:

1. Find out which local Department of Trading Standards covers the
area in which your property management company is based.  You can do
this by going to the Trading Standard's Central website at:

http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/

and entering the relevant postcode into their postcode finder.  This
will give you the correct contact details and address of the relevant
local Trading Standards office.

2. Telephone the HM Customs and Excise Office's National Advice
Service on  0845 010 9000 and ask them to whom should you address an
official written complaint concerning a business which is attempting
to charge you VAT on exempted services.

3. Write a letter addressed to both the relevant local Trading
Standards office AND to the address given to you by HM Customs and
Excise and copy your property management company in on the
correspondence (you might even want to put a cover letter with the
copy which you send to the property management company stating
something like "please find copy correspondence attached in light of
our on-going dispute").

4. In the letter that you write to Trading Standards and Customs &
Excise, state your case in full (e.g. payment made in 1999, property
management's loss of the money, property management attempting to
charge you for services never billed for, property management
attempting to charge you for sub-letting and VAT, etc).  You might
also want to state that you are writing because the property
management company, instead of attempting to resolve the matter
amicably and fairly, is now threatening to charge you additional
penalty fees until you settle the matter "to their satisfaction". 
Then, send the letter to all parties concerned, keeping a copy for
your records! :)  For the avoidance of doubt, you may want to send the
letter by recorded post, which requires that you get a signature on
delivery of the letter, and costs an additional .63pence (on top of
the normal first class postage).

5. By copying the property management company in on the
correspondence, you are putting them on notice that you are not only
formally reporting their unprofessional business behaviour but also
their potentially criminal VAT charging tendencies.  This *may* be
enough to get them to settle the matter amicably with you - hopefully,
they will see the error of their ways and agree to a swift and speedy
resolution to the whole matter.  Quite often, the local Trading
Standards office will telephone the business in question and notify
them that a complaint has been made against them and that it is in
their best interest to resolve the issue to avoid a visit in person
from their local Trading Standards officer!

Some other things you might also want to follow up on;

1. When you contact the local Trading Standards Office, you might want
to ask them if they know of any governing bodies or ombudsmen who
govern property management companies - if they do, then they might
also be able to provide you with an address and you can copy any
relevant correspondence to that party as well.

2. Have a look at the following websites, which may also be able to
assist you with your current problem:

a. Consumer Complaints site - allows you to file a complaint directly
to your local trading standards office online (although I would advise
in the first instance to write to them directly at the same time that
you write to Customs & Excise as that means you have written
correspondence which you can physically copy to the property
management company)

http://www.consumercomplaints.org.uk/

b. Department of Trade and Industry Consumer Gateway site - an
excellent site providing information and resources for consumers of
both products AND services.

http://www.consumer.gov.uk/consumer_web/index_v4.htm

Although the initial suggested course of action as outlined above
involves more of your time and resources, I think it's probably more
desirable to attempt to resolve the problem without resorting to undue
expense and litigation if you can.

Obviously, if the above still brings you no satisfaction, you could
contact your local Citizen's Advice Bureau (see the excellent website
of the Community Legal Service to find your nearest legal advice
provider) at

http://www.justask.org.uk/directory/index.asp?lang=en 

for further assistance and/or send a "final letter before action" to
the property management company, stating that unless the matter is
resolved to your satisfaction, you will have no choice but to refer
the matter to a court for final judgement. Often, a final letter
before action will make parties think about resolving an issue much
more quickly and amicably without involving the law!

I hope that the above assists you with your query and good luck! If
you have any queries relating to this answer, please use the
clarification request option.  Thanks for using Google Answers!

:) jem-ga

p.s. a useful printed reference source which you might find handy is
The Daily Telegraph's "Everyday Law" by Aviva Golden - check it out on
Amazon UK's website at:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0007102801/qid=1030738537/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_2_1/026-8469719-6466013

where it retails for 11.99 plus p&p

Search terms used on www.google.co.uk:

HM Customs and Excise

Department of Trade and Industry

Consumer Complaints
probonopublico-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Brilliant!

I will now follow up the various ideas ... Thanks a lot.

Thanks also to thx1138-ga ... if you still have your copper's uniform
perhaps you could lead a search party?

Kindest regards

Bryan

Comments  
Subject: Re: Dispute with an English Property Management Company (Supplementary)
From: thx1138-ga on 30 Aug 2002 18:48 PDT
 
Hi probonopublico! 

I would also like to add, that you can get a lot of free advice from
solicitors for free (I know it sounds impossible!) from your local
Citizens Advice Bureau.  I have used them before in the UK and they
are really worth a try!
You can find a list of CAB's in your area here:
http://www.nacab.org.uk/cabdir.ihtml

Good Luck!

THX1138
Subject: Re: Dispute with an English Property Management Company (Supplementary)
From: jem-ga on 30 Aug 2002 23:17 PDT
 
hi probono/bryan :) glad to have helped and good luck!  thanks to
thx1138-ga for providing direct weblink to CAB's :)

:)jem-ga

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