Terms of Business

Terms of Business

plainlaw llp

These Terms and our Engagement Letter

These terms apply to all work we do on your behalf until we contact you with any revised terms of business. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, these terms apply to any future instructions you give us. Your continuing instructions will amount to your acceptance of these terms and conditions of business.

Each time you instruct us on a new matter we will send you an engagement letter, confirming your instructions, setting out the scope of the work we will carry out for you and giving you details about the people who will be principally involved in working for you, and our then current fee rates or any agreed rates or fees. These terms should be read together with our engagement letter, which form the contract between us.

Our responsibilities do not include tax advice of any kind, nor do they include monitoring or reminding you of warranty periods or other notice periods or time limits. Unless we expressly agree in writing otherwise, we shall not advise, or be under any duty to advise you on any commercial implications of any matter or transaction with which you are involved.

If you wish us to start work immediately, we may do so before you receive our engagement letter and you will be responsible for paying us for doing that work even though it has been done before you have received our engagement letter.

Personnel

For each matter we will tell you the name of the person responsible for its overall supervision. Your work will be dealt with by a solicitor (whether a partner, consultant or a solicitor employed in the practice) legal executive, trainee solicitor or legal assistant.

We will try to avoid any unforeseen changes in personnel. If a change is unavoidable or has to be made, we will keep you informed about who is handling your matter.

From time to time it may be necessary to call in people with specialist knowledge to help do your work. It is the firm of plainlaw llp as a whole, rather than any individual lawyer, employee, consultant or partner of the firm, which has responsibility for providing legal services to you.

Confidentiality

We will keep all information about your affairs confidential. If, on your authority, we are working in conjunction with other professionals, we will assume that we may disclose any relevant aspect of your affairs to them.

We may also disclose such information to third parties if:

 you agree that we can; or

 it is within the scope of our instructions to do so; or

 we are required to do so by law, by our insurers or by our professional rules

For a small fee, you have the right to apply for a copy of the information we hold about you and to have any inaccurate information about you corrected.

Third Party Advisers

If we need to engage other professionals with specialist knowledge to help do your work (such as counsel, overseas lawyers, surveyors, accountants, expert witnesses or costs draftsmen) whether in the UK or abroad we will do so as your agent. We cannot be responsible for any act or omission of such a professional unless we have otherwise agreed in writing

Property transactions – environmental risk

If we are acting for you in a property transaction, we ask you to advise us of the level of investigation you require to ascertain whether there are environmental risks associated with the property (such as contamination or flood risk). The person dealing with your matter will be pleased to advise you further about the issues involved

Fees and expenses

Unless we agree a fixed fee or a mark up with you in relation to any matter, we base our fees on the amount of time we spend dealing with your work. This includes meeting with you and the other parties involved in any matter, and your and their representatives, preparing and working on documents, carrying out research, considering documents and papers, corresponding with you, the solicitor acting for other parties and your other advisors, making and receiving telephone calls, drafting instructions to barristers and travelling.

We may revise our rates of charge at any time but any revision will not be applicable to the work we do for you until we have told you about the revision. If you have any query about any revision please contact us immediately.

Our hourly rates cover most of our overheads (including routine secretarial services and voice telephone within the UK), save as mentioned in our engagement letter. In addition to fees for legal work, we also charge fees for certain support services including photocopying, fax and international telephone services. Unless we agree with you otherwise, these fees are charged at our standard rates from time to time, details of which are available on request.

We often need money on account to allow us to pay expenses we incur as we go along. Should this be necessary we will record this in our engagement letter. Depending on the circumstances we may also need to request additional funds on account as the matter progresses. The expenses incurred will depend upon the type of work we are carrying out for you. They may include barristers’ fees, experts’ fees, Court fees, Land Registry fees, Local Authority and Companies House search fees. We will try to obtain your prior approval before incurring liability for substantial expenses but this may not always be possible. We reserve the right to ask you to put us in funds before we incur any reimbursable expense or series of expenses exceeding £250 in total.

Our fees and expenses (often called disbursements) are subject to the addition of VAT where applicable.

By all means feel free to ask us for an estimate and/or the amount of our fees and the expenses incurred to date at the end of each month. Please note that estimates are not binding; they are the best guess we can make at any time based on our experience and the circumstances then known to us. We may revise any estimate in the light of new circumstances. An estimate, quotation or other indication of fees is not intended to be fixed unless otherwise agreed in writing.

Please bear in mind that in many cases the amount of our fees will depend on the way that the other parties to any transaction (and their advisers) conduct their business.

Unless we have agreed to invoice you only on completion or at the end of the work, we may invoice you monthly for our fees and disbursements to date or at key stages of a transaction. These will be bills on account, not final bills. We will send you a final bill after completion of the work. If sufficient funds are available and we have sent you a bill, we will usually deduct our charges and expenses and any disbursements and VAT payable from the funds. In other cases, payment is due to us upon your receipt of the bill, or on such other date as we may have agreed.

If you would like, you may set an upper limit on our unbilled fees for which you may be liable without further authority. We would then not exceed such an agreed limit without first obtaining your consent.

If you do not pay our bill within 14 days of the due date for payment, we may charge you interest on a daily basis on any outstanding amount at the rate of 8% per annum above the base rate of HSBC Bank plc in force in England from time to time. You should contact us immediately if you have any query about any invoice.

You will be responsible for paying our fees and disbursements even though the matter may not proceed to completion.

Papers and Deeds

We may keep any of your papers and deeds while you owe us any money.

We will keep your files for no more than 6 years. We keep the files on the understanding that we have your authority to destroy your papers six years after the date of the final bill we send you for the relevant matter. Provided you do not owe us any money we will of course let you have any original deeds unless they have been deposited with a third party for security or have been sent to someone else on your instructions.

We do not normally charge for retrieving your papers when they are relevant to any new instructions from you, but we may charge you for time spent reading papers and dealing with correspondence, and for any other work we have to do to comply with your instructions.

Conflicts of Interest

We may be instructed by people lending money to you. In those circumstances we will have a professional duty to disclose certain information to them. If you do not wish us to do so, we may have to stop acting for you.

In other circumstances we may be duty bound to refuse your instructions or to stop acting for you if there is a conflict of interest.

Even then you will be obliged to pay us for work done and expenses incurred to date.

Money laundering

All firms of solicitors are required to comply with the provisions of the Money Laundering Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 (the Regulations). We have to verify the identity of all clients. We also have to undertake “customer due diligence measures” within Parts 3 to 5 of the Regulations. These are legal requirements. Please therefore bear with us if we ask you to produce means of identification or if we raise enquiries to ensure compliance with the Regulations and the 2002 Act.

In certain circumstances, we may be required to disclose otherwise confidential information about your affairs to The National Crime Agency. By instructing us, you expressly consent to our complying with our statutory obligations in relation to the prevention and detection of money laundering.

Financial Services Act (FSA) requirements

We are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. However, we are included on the register maintained by the Financial Conduct Authority 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 Financial Conduct Authority Web site at: www.fca.org.uk

If during our work for you need advice on investments, we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, as we are not. However, as we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, we may be able to provide certain limited investment services where these are

closely linked to the legal work we are doing for you. We cannot provide you with advice on pensions or taxation and you should obtain such advice from your financial advisors and accountants.

Copyright

Copyright in all documents we produce is owned by us. You may copy a document we produce for you, but you must not modify, reuse or adapt any documents we produce for you without our written agreement

Electronic mail (e-mail)

Despite the inherent insecurity of email, many of our clients expect to communicate with us in this way. If you do not wish e-mail to be used as a method of communication in matters upon which you have instructed us, please let us know. We cannot guarantee that any e-mail will remain confidential nor when, or whether, the message will arrive. We do not accept liability for any loss occasioned by use of e-mail.

Variation

Only a partner may vary these terms of business or the terms of any engagement letter. Agreement on fees or any other matter which under these terms of business may be subject to agreement must be given by a partner

plainlaw llp’s status

plainlaw llp is a limited liability partnership established under English law registered with No OC304983. It is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority ("SRA"), registered with the SRA under number 568812 and is subject to the SRA Handbook, which can be accessed at www.sra.org.uk/handbook. A reference in these terms of business or in any engagement letter to a "partner" refers to a member of plainlaw llp or an employee or consultant with equivalent standing and qualifications. A list of members and other partners together with their professional qualifications is available for inspection at the registered office, Acers, Doggetts Wood Lane, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire HP8 4TH.

Limitation of liability

Our liability to you in respect of negligence, breach of contract, breach of duty, fault or otherwise whatsoever arising out of or in connection with this engagement shall be limited to £3 million (or, if higher, any minimum level fixed by the SRA) to cover claims of any sort whatsoever (including interest and costs) arising out of or in connection with our engagement. This limit applies to this and to each and every engagement and to any subsequent work which we may undertake for you unless it is expressly overridden by any later written terms of engagement. For the avoidance of doubt, individual lawyers, employees, consultants and partners of the firm will have no personal liability to you in respect of negligence, breach of contract, breach of duty, fault or otherwise whatsoever arising out of or in connection with this engagement.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

In accordance with the disclosure requirements of the Provision of Services Regulations 2009 we confirm that the required details of our professional indemnity insurance are displayed in each of our offices.

Queries

We are quietly confident that we will provide a high standard of service, but if you have any query or concern, please do not hesitate to contact any of our partners. It is important that you raise matters with us as quickly as possible; we do not want you to be unhappy with us or for there to be any misunderstanding. A copy of our complaints policy will be supplied with our letter of engagement and can be downloaded from our website. You also have the right to refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, whose contact details you will find at http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/ You must make your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within 1 year of your becoming aware of your concerns or within 6 months of the end of our complaints procedure, whichever is the earlier.

Termination

We will have the right to suspend work in any and all matters in which you have instructed us, and to terminate any and all of our contracts with you, if, for whatever reason, you or anyone connected with you does not make a payment on account within a reasonable time of being requested to do so.

We will also have the right to suspend work in any and all matters in which you have instructed us, and to terminate any and all of our contracts with you, if, for whatever reason, you or anyone connected with you does not pay any of our bills within 14 days of the due date for payment. For the avoidance of doubt, the outstanding amounts (including interest) will remain payable to us regardless of whether or not we have suspended work or terminated the contract in accordance with these terms.

"Connected" in these terms of business means a person, business or company controlled by you, controlling you or under common control with you.

Non-Waiver

Any failure or delay by us in enforcing any of our rights set out in these terms does not constitute a waiver of these rights unless it is made in writing and any written waiver of a particular breach or default by you or anyone connected with you shall not automatically constitute a waiver of any subsequent breach or default.

Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999

No person other than the parties to the engagement letter, and their respective successors and assignees, shall have any right to enforce any of the terms of business or the engagement letter (pursuant to the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 or otherwise), except to the extent that the terms of business or the engagement letter expressly provide for the Act to apply.

Severability

If any of the terms of business or the provisions in the engagement letter are declared void, illegal or otherwise unenforceable, the remainder shall survive unaffected.

Governing Law and Jurisdiction

The terms of business, the engagement letter and the engagement are to be governed by and construed in accordance with English law and any disputes arising in connection with the engagement are to be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts.

Acceptance

The fact that you do not withdraw your instructions after receipt of these terms or any engagement letter, means that you accept these terms and that engagement letter, but so that you and we can be sure about the terms on which we are acting for you, please sign the enclosed copy of any engagement letter and return it to us as soon as you can.

These terms are important, so please keep them in a safe place so that you can refer to them in future.

 

Our complaints policy

 

We are committed to providing a high-quality legal service to all our clients. When something goes wrong we need you to tell us about it. This will help us to ensure that our service meets the highest standard. Our complaints procedure If you have a complaint, whether it relates to our work, the way we have treated you or a third party, or our charges, contact us with the details. What will happen next? • We will send you a letter acknowledging your complaint and asking you to confirm or explain the details of the matters you have set out. We will also let you know the name of the person who will be dealing with your complaint. You can expect to receive our letter within ten working days of us receiving your complaint. • We will record your complaint in our central register and open a separate file for your complaint. We will do this within five working days of receiving your complaint. • We will then start to investigate your complaint. This will normally involve the following steps. o We will pass your complaint to Philip Horn, our Client Care partner, (or if your complaint relates to a matter which he is dealing with, then to his partner Stephen Stratton) within five working days. o He will ask the member of staff who acted for you to reply to your complaint within fifteen working days. o He will then examine their reply and the information in your complaint file and, if necessary, he may also speak to them.This will take up to ten working days from receiving their reply and the file. • Philip Horn will then invite you to a meeting and discuss and hopefully resolve your complaint. He will do this within the following ten working days. • Within ten working days of the meeting Philip Horn will write to you to confirm what took place and any solutions he has agreed with you. • If you do not want a meeting or it is not possible, Philip Horn will send you a detailed reply to your complaint. This will include his suggestions for resolving the matter. He will do this within ten working days of completing the investigation. • At this stage, if you are still not satisfied you should contact us again. We will then arrange to review our decision. This will happen in one of the following ways. o Another partner of the firm will review Philip Horn’s decision within ten working days; or o We will ask our local Law Society or another local firm of solicitors to review your complaint within twenty working days. We will let you know how long this process will take; or o We will invite you to agree to independent mediation within twenty working days. We will let you know how long this process will take. • We will let you know the result of the review within ten working days of the end of the review. At this time we will write to you confirming our final position on your complaint and explaining our reasons. • If we have to change any of the timescales above, we will let you know and explain why. • You have the right to refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, whose contact details you will find at http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/ • You must make your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within 1 year of your becoming aware of your concerns.

 

Plainlaw LLP Interest Policy

 

This policy sets out how Plainlaw LLP applies interest rates on money which is held in accordance with the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011 in our client bank account during the course of your transaction.

 

1.0          Where we are required by a Rent Deposit Deed, Lease or any other contractual document to retain funds in an interest bearing account, we will account to you, or, if the terms of the deed or document require it, the tenant, or other contractual beneficiary, for interest earned at a rate calculated in accordance with 4.0 below.  Such interest will be accrued on a quarterly basis.

 

2.0          At the conclusion of your transaction we will account to you for interest on money held during the course of the transaction at a rate calculated in accordance with 4.0 below.  However, interest will not be paid if the total amount of interest which accrues during the course of the transaction amounts to less than £25. 

 

3.0          We will contact you to obtain bank details to which interest due to you can be returned and a telephone number which we can use to contact you for the purposes of verbally verifying your bank details.  Interest must be returned to an account in the name of the instructing client entity or other contractual beneficiary.  If we do not obtain both your bank details and make contact with you to verbally verify such details within two months of our initially trying to make contact with you to obtain this information, the money will be paid to a registered charity in accordance with the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011.

 

4.0          Interest will be accounted to you at a rate which is based on an average of the current client deposit account interest rates published by Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Natwest, Lloyds, Santander and HSBC.