Gaskell & Walker – Terms of Business
1. NORMAL HOURS OF BUSINESS Monday to Friday between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm. Evening appointments or home visits can be arranged outside office hours.
2. THE FEES Our estimate is based on information supplied by you at the time of your enquiry and may increase if it becomes obvious that the value or nature of the work we undertake differs from that originally advised, or if the amount of time, skill or work required for the conduct of the matter is more than initially expected or if you require it to be expedited. We will advise you in writing of any increase at the appropriate time, or as soon as possible thereafter. You may object to our bill and apply for an assessment of the bill under Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974
3. VAT we are registered for VAT and all fees and appropriate expenses will have VAT added at the current rate for the time being in force (currently 20%).
4. MONIES ON ACCOUNT We may ask for a payment on account either at the start of the matter or during its progress. This is a common practice when expenses will be incurred, for example property searches or court fees or where the matter is likely to be complicated or lengthy.
5. EXPENSES Any estimate of our fees may refer to expenses (disbursements) which are payments we will need to make to third parties for search fees, court fees, or Land Registry fees for example. We will notify you in writing of any changes to these fees as soon as we become aware of the same. Sometimes we will need to incur additional expenses which we may not be aware of at the time we provide our initial estimate but the financial statement will show the items separately from any fees. Where the expense is fixed, for example the local search fee then the actual cost will be charged. In respect of faxes telephone calls or postages a fixed charge may be made. Your acceptance of these terms shall constitute your agreement for us to incur the expenses (including repeat expenses) which, in our judgement, are necessary to protect you or any lender’s interests
6. ABORTIVE FEES If for any reason the matter fails to complete or proceed we will assess the value of the work carried out and will charge our fees together with third party expenses already incurred although you will be credited for sums paid on account. Such fees and expenses are for immediate settlement unless otherwise agreed in writing. If unpaid after seven days interest as set out below may be applied.
7. SERVICE STANDARDS We will update you (by telephone or in writing) with progress on your matter regularly.
We will communicate with you in plain language.
We will explain to you (by telephone or in writing) the legal work required as your matter progresses.
We will update you on the cost of your matter at regular intervals.
We will update you on whether the likely outcomes still justify the likely costs and risks associated with your matter whenever there is a material change in circumstances.
We will update you on the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates.
We will continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded.
8. PROPERTY TRANSACTIONS : THE MORTGAGE
(i) If you need a mortgage it is your responsibility to comply with the lender's terms and conditions as set out the offer. It is your decision to accept the financial effect of any deduction retention redemption penalty or early redemption penalty interest imposed by the offer. If asked by you in writing we will explain any terms of the offer. If not then it is assumed you fully understand the offer and the financial and other implications.
(ii) All lenders require a lawyer to carry out specific legal work in granting or accepting repayment of a mortgage and you may not be aware that they require you to pay their lawyer's legal fees for this. We are on the Panel of most lenders and they will usually instruct us to represent them as well as you in which event we confirm that if applicable we will provide you with an estimate of the lender's legal fees. Your acceptance of these terms shall constitute your agreement for us to disclose instructions and information to any lender, which also instructs us
(iii) If your lender appoints their lawyer to act, you will be responsible for their legal fees in addition to our own. We will advise you in writing of the fees at the appropriate time but will continue to represent you.
(iv) Most offers expire after a period of time. It is your responsibility to ensure that the offer is valid at the time of exchange of Contracts. You must re-apply to your lender if your offer has or is about to expire. It is also your responsibility to advise your lender and us of any change in the purchase price or any financial adjustment between you and the other party such as an allowance or cashback.
9. PROPERTY TRANSACTIONS: COMPLETION
(i) We always advise a minimum of ten working days between exchange of contracts and completion. This period is regarded as the minimum to safely deal with all pre-completion searches and formalities (including cleared funds from the lender and from you) to enable you to be fully protected at completion. In particular we need to hold cleared funds from you in respect of any stamp duty and Land Registry fees payable
(ii) If you ask us to complete your matter in less time we may charge an expedition fee. We will notify you in writing of the charge which will be added to our fees and be payable by you. We will not be liable for any direct or consequential losses for completion being delayed beyond your specified date, provided we have used reasonable professional skill in attempting to complete on the specified date.
(iii) Within seven days of completion we will send by post a cheque in your favour (unless we have your written instructions to the contrary) for all sums held by us due to you to the address notified to us in writing at least five working days before completion. "working day" does not include Saturdays Sundays Bank or other Statutory Holidays
(iv) We will only accept completion funds by means of an electronic bank transfer. We cannot accept card payments or cheques for completion funds.
10. PROPERTY TRANSACTIONS:INSURANCE POLICIES Our estimate includes dealing with the assignment or re-assignment of a single policy (or other security) but, in the event of additional policies needing assignment we shall make a further charge of £25 plus VAT for each additional policy or security. These charges include the preparation and service of the required Notice. We do not advise on the suitability or otherwise of any insurance policy.
11. INTEREST Any money lodged with us will be paid into our client account and you will, subject to the exceptions contained in the Solicitor’s Accounts Rules, receive interest on that money at the same rate as would have been received had a separate designated deposit account been opened. Any money held by us and interest thereon may be used in or towards payment of our accounts. This provision will be expressed to be subject to a de minimis rule in respect of interest earned below £20.00
12. FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS WITH CLIENTS
The matter can only be financed using funds cleared through our account. You may make payment direct to our account by means of an electronic transfer. If it is delayed because you provide funds after the specified time or by inappropriate means then we will not be held liable for any direct or consequential losses for as long as the funds remain uncleared. Our Practice’s policy is only to accept cash up to £500.00
Subject to this you may pay us by Bank transfer, debit or credit card in payment of costs and disbursements only.
If you try to avoid this policy by depositing cash directly with our bank we may decide to charge you for any additional checks we decide are necessary to prove the source of the funds.
Where we have to pay money to you it will be paid by cheque or bank transfer. It will not be paid in cash or to a third party.
13. FINANCIAL ADVICE
Many of our clients require advice on financial planning matters and since we are not ourselves authorised by the Financial Services Authority (the FSA) under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 to provide such advice, we have established in conjunction with a highly reputable local firm of independent financial advisers, Bright Financial Solutions Ltd, a separate financial services business by the name of Gaskell and Walker Independent Financial Advisers Ltd. ( GWIFA). The advantage of this arrangement is that we are able to offer a one-stop legal and financial advice service to our clients.
The partners in Gaskell and Walker Solicitors have a financial interest in GWIFA, but the business is managed by Bright Financial Solutions, which is authorised by the FSA and also satisfies the criteria approved by the Law Society’s Lexcel practice management standards unit for the selection of IFAs by Solicitors. This stipulates that firms should be independent, directly authorised by the Financial Services Authority, fee-based, and with a clean regulatory record and that individual advisers should possess advanced qualifications. In many cases GWIFA provides all of the financial services required by our clients. However, we will willingly work with other firms of financial advisers if so requested by clients or if particular specialist expertise is required, subject to being satisfied that such other advisers satisfy the Lexcel quality criteria.
When clients indicate their interest in receiving financial advice from GWIFA we will send GWIFA a written instruction summarising the client’s requirements and, subject to our clients’ consent, disclosing whatever client information we may hold whether obtained by us or, with your consent, by the financial advisers, which is necessary to the provision of appropriate financial advice. If requested, we will also attend an initial meeting. For its part, GWIFA will explain its own Terms of Business, including its remuneration arrangements, and in accordance with the requirements of the FSA will undertake a “fact finding” exercise to determine the client’s personal and financial circumstances and needs and to satisfy the requirements of the Money Laundering Regulations. GWIFA may seek the client’s permission to share this information with us so that legal and financial considerations are properly co-ordinated. Please note that we cannot accept responsibility for any advice given by GWIFA or any other firm of financial advisers with which we work.
14. PAYMENT OF OUR COSTS AND EXPENSES It is normal for the fees and expenses due to us to be paid as cleared funds before the date of completion in property transactions and in all other dealings within 30 days of us submitting a bill to you for payment. We reserve the right to charge interest at the rate of 8% on outstanding fees after this time. Where we hold funds this payment will be deducted once a financial statement has been provided, by signing these Terms you authorise this practice. If we do not hold sufficient sums then you will provide the sums as cleared funds prior to completion of the transaction.
15. SPECIALIST SERVICES You must consult other qualified professionals for advice on non-legal matters, such as the physical condition of a property, its connected services and its market value, or investment, financial or tax advice. Before exchange of contracts or leasing premises we advise a structural survey (of a type appropriate to the nature of the property) by a qualified surveyor and obtain any further information the report may state is required.
16. MATTERS WHICH YOU ARE TO DO (i) to provide us with written confirmation of any variation of your original instructions (ii) to respond promptly in writing to any request for instructions you may receive from us (iii) to provide us with evidence of your identity if so requested by us (iv) to take whatever steps we may request to comply with current money laundering regulations and (v) generally to co-operate with us
17. TERMINATION You may end your instructions in writing at any time but we can keep your papers and documents while sums are due to us. We may think it appropriate for us to stop acting if, for example, you cannot give appropriate instructions, or if you have lost confidence in the way your work is done. We can only stop acting if there is good reason to do so and /or if there is a conflict of interest. For example if you fail (i) to comply with our request for payment on account or (ii) to give us proper or adequate instructions. If either of us decide we can no longer act you will discharge our fees and expenses up until that point.
18. PROFESSIONAL INDEMNITY INSURANCE If you wish to know details of our Professional Indemnity Insurers please apply in writing to our Bridgend office.
19. EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY Gaskell and Walker is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of its dealings with clients, third parties and employees. Please contact us if you would like a copy of our equality and diversity policy.
20. DATA PROTECTION We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including:- Updating and enhancing client records, analysis to help us manage our practice, statutory returns, legal and regulatory compliance, future marketing of legal services
Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the Data Protection Act 1998 and our duty of confidentiality. Please note that our work for you may require us to give information to third parties such as expert witnesses and other professional advisers. You have a right of access under data protection legislation to the personal data that we hold about you.
We may from time to time send you information which we think might be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive that information please notify our office in writing. In order to facilitate our communications with clients and our administration of their affairs, we seek your consent to our recording your relevant personal information on our firm’s computer system, whether the information has been obtained by us or by the financial advisers firms with which we work. We will supply to clients, at their request, a copy of the data relating to themselves and will provide them with a description of the data and the purposes for which it is processed and with details of the source of the data and any potential recipients of the data. To facilitate our communications with clients and our administration of their affairs, we seek your consent to our recording your relevant personal information on our firm’s computer system, whether the information has been obtained by us or with your consent, by the financial advisers firms with which we work. Where you have been referred to Gaskell and Walker Independent Advisers Ltd, you agree to us providing them with information, which enables them to ensure our legal advice is compatible with their own financial advice. You also agree, to us receiving and retaining information from Gaskell and Walker Independent Financial Advisers to maintain a more comprehensive overview of your affairs generally, which will enable us to tailor our advice to any current or potential future needs.
21. STORAGE OF DOCUMENTS After completing the work, we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.
We will keep our file of your papers for at least six years, except those papers that you ask to be returned to you. We keep files on the understanding that we can destroy them six years after the date of the final bill. We will not destroy documents you ask us to deposit in safe custody such as wills, deeds and powers of attorney.
22. VETTING OF FILES AND CONFIDENTIALITY External firms or organizations may conduct audits or quality checks on our practice. These external firms or organizations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files.
23. APPLICABLE LAW Any dispute or legal issue arising from our terms of business will be determined by the law of England and Wales and considered exclusively by the English and Welsh courts
24. MONEY LAUNDERING PROVISIONS The law requires solicitors to get satisfactory evidence of the identity of their clients and sometimes people related to them. This is because solicitors who deal with money and property on behalf of their clients can be used by criminals wanting to launder money.
To comply with the law we need to get evidence of your identity as soon as possible. We ask you to complete a Client Identification form and obtain copies of the relevant documents referred to therein eg. Passport /driving licence etc., and carry out a credit check against you. The fee for the credit search is £3.00 per name and will appear on your bill under disbursements.
If you cannot provide us with the specific identification requested please contact us as soon as possible to discuss other ways to verify your identity. It is important that you complete and return the Client Identification form and supply the required evidence of identity, promptly.
25. MAKING A DISCLOSURE We are professionally and legally obliged to keep your affairs confidential. However, solicitors may be required by statute to make a disclosure to the Serious Organised Crime Agency where they know or suspect that a transaction may involve money laundering or terrorist financing. If we make a disclosure in relation to your matter, we may not be able to tell you that a disclosure has been made. We may have to stop working on your matter for a period of time and may not be able to tell you why.
26. MORTGAGE FRAUD We may also act for your proposed lender in this transaction. We have a duty to fully reveal to your lender all relevant facts about the purchase and mortgage. This includes any differences between your mortgage application and information we receive during the transaction and any cash back payments or discount schemes that a seller is giving you.
27. COMPLAINTS The Law Society of England and Wales is a designated professional body for the purposes of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the independent regulatory arm of the Law Society. The Legal Ombudsman deals with complaints against lawyers. Gaskell and Walker is committed to high quality legal advice and client care. If you are unhappy about any aspect of the service you have received or about the bill, please contact Gwyn Davies, Complaints Partner, Gaskell and Walker on 01656 653122 or by email or by post to our Bridgend office. We have a procedure in place which details how we handle complaints which is available at our offices. If you are not satisfied with our handling of your complaint you can ask the Legal Ombudsman at PO Box 15870, Birmingham to consider your complaint. Normally, you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving a final written response from us about your complaint.