STANDARD TERMS OF BUSINESS AND CONDITIONS

Our aim

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 this statement the basis on which we will provide our professional services.

Our hours of business

The normal hours of opening at our offices are between 9.30 am and 5.30 pm on weekdays. Messages can be left on the voicemail outside those hours and appointments can be arranged at other times when this is essential.

Our location

We are located at 811 High Road in North Finchley. The nearest tube station is Woodside Park which is serviced by the Northern Line and there are many local bus routes directly outside the office. A public car park is located behind our offices.

We also have an office at 6 Bloomsbury Square, London. The nearest tube station is Holborn.

Accessibility

This firm is committed to providing an accessible environment for all our clients. Please let us know should you require any adaptations to the way we communicate with you, where meetings should take place or for any other accessibility requirements.

People responsible for your work

The fee earner responsible for dealing with your work will be identified in a covering Letter or Email. We will try to avoid changing the people who handle your work but if this cannot be avoided, we will tell you promptly of any change and why it may be necessary. The Partners of this firm with final responsibility for work done on your file are Michael Votsis, Christopher Yiannakas, Lambros Lambrou, Nicholas Kephalas, Shamil Patel, Mario Economides and Jonathan Bishop.

Client Relations

If you have instructed us to deal with your matter we will endeavour to explain exactly what we need to do and will check that you fully understand your legal position. You will receive a Letter or Email and the Solicitor dealing with your case will clearly state what they believe your objectives to be. There will be a clear explanation of the issues involved and the options available to you including the next steps to be taken. Your Solicitor will do their utmost to keep you informed of the progress of the matter, unless otherwise agreed. Your Solicitor will explain their duties to you and equally your responsibilities to them. It is extremely important that you understand the value of your cooperation with your Solicitor to ensure they represent you in the best way possible.

Your responsibility to us

You will provide us with clear and prompt instructions and notify us of any developments which could have an impact on the work we do for you. You will supply us with all relevant documents and any information that may be relevant during our retainer.

Charges and expenses

Our charges will be calculated mainly by reference to the time actually spent by the solicitors and other staff in respect of any work which they do on your behalf. This may include meetings with you and perhaps others; reading, preparing and working on papers; making and receiving telephone calls, emails, faxes and text messages; preparation of any detailed costs estimates, schedules and bills; attending court; and time necessarily spent travelling away from the office. From time to time we may arrange for some of this work to be carried out by persons not directly employed by us; such work will be charged to you at the hourly rate which would be charged if we had done the work ourselves.

Routine letters, emails and texts that we send and routine telephone calls that we make and receive are charged at one-tenth of the hourly rate. Non-routine/other letters, emails and calls are charged on a time spent basis.

The current hourly rates are set out in bands below. We will add VAT to these at the rate that applicable rate.

  • Partners and Consultants (Grade A) £220-350
  • Solicitors & Legal Executives (Grades B & C) £200-250
  • Trainee Solicitors and Paralegals (Grades C & D) £150

These hourly rates have to be reviewed periodically to reflect increases in overhead costs and inflation. Normally the rates are reviewed with effect from 1 January each year. If a review is carried out before this matter has been concluded, we will inform you of any variation in the rate before it takes effect.

In addition to the time spent, we may take into account a number of factors including any need to carry out work outside our normal office hours, the complexity of the issues, the speed at which action has to be taken and any particular specialist expertise which the case may demand. An increase in the rates may be applied to reflect such factors. In property transactions, in the administration of estates and in matters involving a substantial financial value or benefit to a client, a charge reflecting, for example, the price of the property, the size of the estate, or the value of the financial benefit may be considered. It is not always possible to indicate how these aspects may arise but on present information we would expect them to be sufficiently taken into account in the rates which we have quoted. Where an increase in the rates or a charge reflecting any value element is to be added we will explain this to you.

Solicitors have to pay out various other expenses on behalf of clients ranging from Land or Probate Registry fees, Court fees, Barristers, Experts’ fees, and so on. We have no obligation to make such payments unless you have provided us with the funds for that purpose. VAT is payable on certain expenses. We refer to such payments generally as ‘disbursements’. Any disbursement exceeding £50 will be separately identified on any bill we send you.

If, for any reason, this matter does not proceed to Completion or conclusion, we will be entitled to charge you for work done and expenses incurred.

Barristers and Experts fees

We may need to instruct a Barrister (Counsel) and/or an Expert in your matter. When a Barrister and/or Expert is instructed, the firm enters into a contract with them to meet their fees. Therefore by instructing the firm to appoint an Barrister and/or Expert you are also confirming that you will be responsible for any fees that we incur on your behalf with the Barrister and/or Expert in your matter.

Payment arrangements

1. Property transactions: We will normally send you our bill following the exchange of contracts and payment is required on a purchase prior to Completion; and at Completion on a sale. If sufficient funds are available on Completion, and we have sent you a bill, we will deduct our charges and expenses from the funds.

2. Administration of Estates: We will normally submit an interim bill at regular stages during the administration, starting with the obtaining of a Grant. The final account will be prepared when the Estate Accounts are ready for approval.

3. Other cases or transactions: It is normal practice to ask clients to pay interim bills and sums of money from time to time on account of the charges and expenses which are expected in the following weeks or months. We find that this helps clients in budgeting for costs as well as keeping them informed of the legal expenses which are being incurred. If such requests are not met with prompt payment, delay in the progress of a case may result. In the unlikely event of any bill or request for payment not being met, this firm must reserve the right to stop acting for you further.

Payment is due to us within 28 days of our sending you a bill. We reserve the right to charge interest on a daily basis at 4% over NatWest Bank’s base rate from time to time from the date of the bill in cases where payment is not made within 28 days of delivery by us of the bill.

The common law entitles us to retain certain money, papers or other property belonging to you which properly come into our possession pending payment of our costs, whether or not the property is acquired in connection with the matter for which the costs were incurred. This is known as a ‘general lien’. We are not entitled to sell property held under a lien but we are entitled to hold property, other than money, even if the value of it greatly exceeds the amount due to us in respect of costs.

If we are conducting litigation for you, we have additional rights in any property recovered or preserved for you whether it is in our possession or not and in respect of all costs incurred, whether billed or unbilled. We also have a right to ask the Court to make a Charging Order or any other Order in our favour for any assessed costs.

We do not accept payments to us in cash in excess of £3,000. Monies due to you from us will be paid by cheque or bank transfer, but not in cash, and will not be made payable to third parties except without your specific written authority.

It is normal practice to ask clients to pay sums of money from time to time on account of the charges and expenses that are expected in the following weeks or months. This helps to avoid delay in the progress of the case. We may request further payments on account as the matter progresses. If we put these payments towards any interim bills we will send you a receipted bill. We will offset any payments on account against your final bill, but it is important you understand that your total charges and expenses may be greater than any advance payments.

We are obliged to inform you that you are entitled to complain and challenge about the extent of our bill, initially with us and then to the Legal Ombudsman and/or by applying to the Court within 30 days for an assessment of the bill under part III of the Solicitors Act 1974.

Other parties’ charges and expenses

In some cases and transactions a client may be entitled to payment of costs by some other person. It is important that you understand that in such circumstances, the other person may not be required to or able to pay all the charges and expenses which you incur with us. You have to pay our charges and expenses in the first place and any amounts which can be recovered will be a contribution towards them. If the other party is in receipt of Legal Aid no costs are likely to be recovered.

If you are successful and a Court orders another party to pay some or all of your charges and expenses, interest can be claimed on them from the other party from the date of the Court Order. We will account to you for such interest to the extent that you have paid our charges or expenses on account, but we are entitled to the rest of that interest.

You will also be responsible for paying our charges and expenses of seeking to recover any costs that the Court orders the other party to pay to you.

A client who is unsuccessful in a Court case may be ordered to pay the other party’s legal charges and expenses. This money is payable in addition to our charges and expenses. Arrangements can be made to take out insurance to cover liability for such legal expenses. Please discuss this with us if you are interested in this possibility.

Costs Estimate

We will estimate your total charges and expenses and specify that amount within the covering Letter or Email. This estimate is not intended to be fixed. We will review and update this costs estimate periodically and inform you if it appears that any estimate may be exceeded significantly. We will inform you if any unforeseen additional work becomes necessary (for example, due to unexpected difficulties or if your requirements or the circumstances significantly change during the course of the matter).

Interest payment

Any money received on your behalf will be held in our Client Account in accordance with the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules 2011. Subject to certain minimum amounts and periods of time set out in the Rules, interest will be calculated at the rate from time to time payable on NatWest Bank’s Designated Client Accounts, and any interest calculated above £20.00 will be paid to you. The period for which interest will be paid will normally run from the date on which cleared funds are received by us until the date of issue of any cheques from our Client Account.

Interest accrued from Designated Client Accounts will be paid net (i.e. with the deduction of tax). Interest accrued in the General Client Account will be paid gross (i.e. without the deduction of tax). It is the client’s responsibility to declare any sums to HM Revenue & Customs. For many clients, the additional compliance cost and burden outweighs the benefit of receiving interest, and we offer our clients an opt-out to receiving interest held on our General Client Account. At the conclusion of your matter, we will advise you of any interest earned and allow you to opt-out of receiving this interest.

Where a client obtains borrowing from a lender in a property transaction, we will ask the lender to arrange that the loan cheque is received by us a minimum of four working days prior to the completion date. If the money can be telegraphed, we will request that we receive it the day before completion. This will enable us to ensure that the necessary funds are available in time for completion. Such clients need to be aware that the lender may charge interest from the date of issue of their loan cheque or the telegraphing of the payment.

Storage of papers and documents

After completing the work, we are entitled to keep certain papers and documents while there is money owing to us for our charges and expenses. In addition, we will keep your file of papers for you in storage for not less than 6 years. After that we have the right to destroy the papers. We will not of course destroy any documents such as wills, deeds and other securities, which you ask us to hold in safe custody. No charge will be made to you for such storage 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 for producing stored papers or documents to you or others at your request. We may also charge for reading, correspondence or other work necessary to comply with your instructions.

Financial services and insurance contracts

If, while we are acting for you, 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.

Termination

You may terminate your instructions to us in writing at any time but we will be entitled to keep certain 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.

These provisions do not apply if your first meeting with us took place at one of our offices, if you are not instructing us as a private individual/consumer, or in certain other matters. Under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2014 you have the right to cancel this agreement without giving a reason within 14 days of instructing us. If you wish to cancel you should notify us in writing. We are not permitted by law to start work on your matter during the 14 day cancellation period unless you expressly request us to start working during that time. If you ask us to start work you may still cancel but (a) you will lose the right to cancel if we complete our work in that time, and all fees and disbursements would be payable, and/or (b) if you cancel and we have undertaken work on your behalf you will be liable to pay such proportion of costs, fees and disbursements as have actually been expended and any excess held by us would be reimbursed to you. These provisions do not apply if your first meeting with us took place at one of our offices or if you are not instructing us as a private individual/consumer.

Limited or Public Limited companies

When accepting instructions to act on behalf of a Limited or Public Limited company, we may require a Director and/or controlling Shareholder to sign a form of Personal Guarantee in respect of the charges and expenses of this firm. If such a request is refused, we will be entitled to stop acting and to require immediate payment of our charges on an hourly basis and expenses as set out earlier.

Tax advice

Any work that we do for you may involve tax implications or necessitate the consideration of tax planning strategies. We may not be qualified to advise you on the tax implications of a transaction that you instruct us to carry out, or the likelihood of them arising. If you have any concerns in this respect, please raise them with us immediately. If we can undertake the research necessary to resolve the issue, we will do so and advise you accordingly. If we cannot, we may be able to identify a source of assistance for you.

Identity, disclosure and confidentiality requirements

We are entitled to refuse to act for you if you fail to supply appropriate proof of identity for yourself or for any principal whom you may represent. We may arrange to carry out an electronic verification of your identity if we consider that a saving of time and cost will be achieved by doing so. The cost of any such search will be charged to you. If the amount is in excess of £10.00 including VAT, we will seek your prior agreement. Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of the client confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception: legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing has placed solicitors under a legal duty in certain circumstances to disclose information to the National Crime Agency. Where a solicitor knows or suspects that a transaction on behalf of a client involves money laundering, the solicitor may be required to make a disclosure. If, while we are acting for you, it becomes necessary to make such a disclosure, we may not be able to inform you that it has been made, or of the reasons for it, because the law prohibits ‘tipping-off’. Where the law permits us, we will tell you about any potential money laundering problem and explain what action we may need to take.

The firm is accredited by a number of quality standards or may be working towards one and as a result of this it may become subject to periodic checks by external assessors. This firm is also subject to audits by independent accountants. This means that your file may be selected for checking but which will be undertaken in the strictest of confidence. Unless you advise us otherwise we will assume that you give us such consent.

We may sometimes ask other companies or people to carry out typing, photocopying, billing and other work on our files to ensure that it is attended to promptly. We will always attempt to seek a confidentiality agreement with these outsourced providers. If you do not wish for your file to be outsourced, please tell us as soon as possible.

In order to comply with Court and Tribunal rules, all documentation relevant to any issues in litigation, however potentially damaging to your case, have to be preserved and may be required to be made available to the other side. This aspect of proceedings is known as ‘Disclosure’. Subject to this, we will not reveal confidential information about your case except as provided by these terms of business and where, for example, your opponent is ordered to pay your costs, we have to meet obligations to reveal details of the case to them and to the Court.

Communication between you and us

Our aim is to offer all our clients an efficient and effective service at all times. Our clients and our staff are of first importance to us. We hope that you will be pleased with the work we do for you. However, should there be any aspect of our service with which you are unhappy, please raise your concern in the first place with the fee earner responsible for your work. If you still have queries or concerns, please contact our Complaints Handling Partner, Lambros Lambrou to whom any final difficulty can be reported. If you wish to make a formal complaint you should do so in writing. Our firm has a formal Complaints Procedure, details of which will be provided on request and reference to which is detailed below. All solicitors must attempt to resolve problems that may arise with their services. It is therefore important that you raise any concerns you may have with us. We value you and would not wish to think you have reason to be unhappy with us. Ultimately, if your complaint cannot be resolved internally to your satisfaction, you have the right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman at the conclusion of our complaints process.

We will aim to communicate with you by such method as you may request. We may need to virus check discs or emails. Unless you withdraw consent, we will communicate with others when appropriate by email or fax but we cannot be responsible for the security of correspondence and documents sent by e-mail or fax.

The Data Protection Act requires us to advise you that your particulars are held on our database. We may, from time to time, use these details to send you information which we think might be of interest to you.

Where we act for two or more clients jointly it is on the clear understanding that we are authorised to act on instructions from either, both or any of them.

Keeping you informed

We will communicate regularly with you about your matter. We will send important copy correspondence to you for your information (unless you have specifically instructed us not to do so). This may be done simply with a compliments slip or by forwarding on an email in order to minimise costs.

We will advise you of any significant delays and the reason or reasons for them. We will also indicate at each stage when and how we are next likely to be in touch with you.

Complaints Procedure

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 improve our standards. If you have a complaint, write to us with the details. The following will then happen:

1. We will send you a letter acknowledging your complaint and asking you to confirm or explain the details 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 2 days of us receiving your complaint.

2. We will record your complaint in our central register and open a separate file for your complaint. We will do this within a day of receiving your complaint.

3. We will acknowledge your reply to our acknowledgement letter and confirm what will happen next. You can expect to hear from us within a day of your reply.

4. We will then start to investigate your complaint. This will normally involve the following steps:

  • a. We will pass your complaint to Lambros Lambrou, our Complaints Handling Partner, within 3 days.
  • b. He will ask the member of staff who acted for you to reply to your complaint within 5 days.
  • c. He will then examine the reply and the information in your complaint file. If necessary, he may also speak to them. This will take up to 3 days from receiving the reply and the file.
  • d. Mr Lambrou may then invite you to meet or speak to them and discuss and, we hope, resolve your complaint. He will do this within 3 days.
  • e. Within 2 days Mr Lambrou will write to you to confirm what took place and any solutions he has agreed with you or will send you a detailed reply to your complaint. This will include his suggestions for resolving the matter. He will do this within 5 days of completing his investigation.
  • f. At this stage, if you are still not satisfied you can write to us again. We will then arrange to review our decision.
  • g. We will let you know the result of the review within 5 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. We will also give you details of the Legal Ombudsman.
  • h. If you are still not satisfied or a period of 8 weeks has elapsed, you can contact the Legal Ombudsman about your complaint. This must be done within 6 months of our final response to your complaint. The Legal Ombudsman can investigate complaints up to six years from the date of the problem happening or within three years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint. Their contact details are PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ, 0300 555 0333, enquires@legalombudsman.co.uk or www.legalombudsman.org.uk. Not all Client’s are eligible to resort to the Legal Ombudsman, full details appear in our Complaints Policy which is available on request.

If we have to change of the timescales above, we will let you know and explain why.

Money Laundering Regulations (“the Regulations) and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“the Act”)

We have various obligations under the Regulations and the Act. Among them is a requirement that we obtain identification evidence about you at the commencement of our relationship and at such other times during the course of it as we consider appropriate. This may involve us using electronic bureau services to obtain such information.

We may be required to make a report to the National Crime Agency (“NCA”) in connection with the legal work we do for you and we may have to do so in circumstances where we cannot tell you that we have made a report. NCA will then give or withhold permission for us to continue with the case. Even if NCA gives permission for the case to continue, it can pass the information received to any relevant body such as HM Revenue & Customs and an investigation may take place at any time in the future.

The obligations which we have under the Regulations and the Act can in certain circumstances override the duty of solicitor/client confidentiality.

Fraud and identity of third parties

When dealing with other parties who are represented by another legal professional such as a Solicitor, Licensed Conveyancer or Legal Executive, we are unable to verify the identity of that third party and we are relying on that party’s representative to have complied with their professional duties, money laundering and Know Your Client (KYC) requirements. In such circumstances we are unable to accept any liability for loss suffered by you as a result of a fraud or breach of trust taking place by such third party and/or their representative or negligence on behalf of that party’s representative.

Equality and Diversity

This firm is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of its dealings with clients, third parties and employees, and in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. It is not our policy to discriminate in the way we provide services on a “protected characteristic” (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation).

Regulation

YVA Solicitors LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership. We are registered in England and Wales under registration number OC375085. We are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (“SRA”) which is an independent regulatory body. Our SRA registration number is 570531. We are authorised and regulated by the SRA.

Client Account Bank Details

YVA Solicitors LLP Client Account

National Westminster Bank Plc, Holloway Road Branch, 490 Holloway Road, London N7 6HN

Sort Code: 60-11-14

Account No: 18540163

IBAN: GB53NWBK60111418540163

SWIFT: NWBKGB2L

Please ensure your quote our reference on any payments sent to us to ensure that it can be properly allocated. We reserve to reject payments that we cannot identify.

Agreement

Unless otherwise agreed, these Terms of Business and Conditions shall apply to any future instructions given by you to this firm.

Your continuing instructions in this matter will amount to an acceptance of these Terms of Business and Conditions.

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