Should we pay this fee (UK)?
November 28, 2007 3:13 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone know anything about UK property law? Can they make us pay this? Conveyancer demanding small payment they should have asked us for a year ago.

Background - my partner and I bought a house a year ago, and he sold his flat at the same time. As far as we were concerned, both sales were complete, we had moved in, and the buyer of the flat sold the flat on in March (we found this out by looking at an online property prices site).

A few weeks after we moved, our conveyancer sent a letter to us saying that a 'registration fee' of 0.05% of the sale price was owing to the management company that owns the freehold of the flat, and that this payment is 'traditionally made' by the vendor, and that my partner, as the vendor, therefore owes £51.25. As far as we were concerned the sale was complete, and 'tradition' is not an adequate reason for paying anyone anything, so we ignored the letter.

Fast forward to last week when we received a copy of the letter requesting payment, along with a cover letter asking quite nicely for the money. Then this week we received another letter from our conveyancer, sounding more worried this time, with a copy of a letter from the buyer's solicitor to our conveyancer containing the enlightening phrase 'With respect, you knew what payments were required from your clients prior to completion and this sum should have been retained by yourselves from your clients to cover these costs'.

So it looks like the conveyancers have made a mistake and are trying to recoup the money from us. What is our position? Should we pay? Are we obliged to pay? How should we approach the conveyancers? To be clear, this is in the UK, we don't seem (yet) to be under any threat of legal action if we don't pay this, and all letters so far have been civil.
posted by altolinguistic to Law & Government (4 answers total)
If you were obliged to pay, they would have said so. The fact that they're asking for payment, pretty please, tends to indicate that they messed up, they should have included this amount in your total invoice. Now the other party is asking for it, they would you to pay than themselves.

I would suggest that you politely decline their offer of payment, and show a copy of your receipted final account from them (if you have one).

But then again, IANAL.
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 3:19 AM on November 28, 2007

You should talk to the solicitor who handled the sale, they will be able to answer this question for you (and probably wont charge for it)

It sounds like the buyer's solicitor is trying to recoup the funds from your conveyancer and they don't want to pay out of their own pocket. Send them a copy of their original invoice and any payment confirmation received from them. If they're still asking nicely after a year then its likely they have no legal grounds to obtain the money from you because they have no record of invoicing you for this amount prior to completion.
posted by missmagenta at 3:37 AM on November 28, 2007

The question is where is it stipulated that there is this fee of 0.05% due to the freeholder. If it was in the lease that your partner sold on to the new owner, then you might well be due to pay it.

Tradition is worth diddly in this case, but it would be enlightening to know where the number came from. It really can't hurt to ask them to point at the actual reason for asking you for money.

It's only 50 quid, so no-one's going to get too upset about it either way. Although if someone is flagging it as being unpaid it might be that it's holding up subsequent transactions and that's when it might get nasty.
posted by unsliced at 5:01 AM on November 28, 2007

Whether you legally have to pay and ought to pay are two different things.

If this fee was never mentioned to you before you signed the contract and you knew nothing about it then you're probably in the clear.

It is possible that they always pay the fee but are just trying to scam you, but if it looks like the conveyancer made a mistake and that you were supposed to pay it initially then it comes down to how you feel about taking advantage of their mistake.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:52 AM on November 28, 2007

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