Business and commercial disputes
Why Thomson Hayton Winkley?
Unfortunately disputes are a fact of life and when you run a business you need to be prepared to face a dispute from time to time. Of course you can help avoid many disputes by planning ahead, keeping good records and managing your risks – but even the best managed business can often find themselves with a dispute they neither want nor need.
From problems over contracts with suppliers or customers and debt recovery, to issues relating to your commercial property or leases we can help. By working closely together, our commercial lawyers and dispute resolution lawyers can quickly identify the key issues of the dispute and work towards resolving it in a way that works for you and your business.
The emphasis has shifted away from going to court to resolving disputes without the need for a court process, which is why this area of practice is more commonly known as business and commercial dispute resolution, rather than commercial litigation. But you can rest assured that if we need to issue or defend court proceedings on your behalf we will fight your case whilst always striving to reach a cost effective solution so that you can move on and do what you do best – running your business.
Answering your questions
What are your charges for debt recovery?
These charges apply for recovery of a straightforward debt based on unpaid invoices. They do not apply to contract or other commercial disputes.
Our hourly rate as of 1 January 2024 is £318 (£265 + £53 VAT) per hour.
STAGE 1 – Pre-letter meeting or advice
If a meeting or advice is required before we can send a letter we will charge on an hourly rate depending on the time spent.
STAGE 2 – Letter of claim
Sending a Letter of Claim under the Pre-Action Protocol for Bad Debts – fixed fee of £90 (£75 + £15 VAT)
[If a detailed interest calculation is required, this will be charged separately and we will agree the cost of this with you in advance].
STAGE 3 – Response to letter of claim
If the debtor disputes the debt, or engages in correspondence to arrange a payment plan, we will advise you of your options including the likely costs and any further work we do will be charged in accordance with our hourly rate.
STAGE 4 – Issuing Proceedings
If the debtor does not pay and you decide that you want to start a Court claim we will charge a fixed fee of £318 (£265 + £53 VAT) to prepare the Court documents, lodge them with the Court and arrange for them to be served on the debtor. In addition there will be a Court issue fee to pay as follows:-
Value of your claim = Fee payable
Up to £300 = £35
Greater than £300 but no more than £500 = £50
Greater than £500 but no more than £1,000 = £70
Greater than £1,000 but no more than £1,500 = £80
Greater than £1,500 but no more than £3,000 = £115
Greater than £3,000 but no more than £5,000 = £205
Greater than £5,000 but no more than £10,000 =£455
Greater than £10,000 but no more than £200,000 = 5% of the value of the claim
Greater than £200,000 = £10,000
Fees correct as at January 2024
STAGE 5 – Judgment or defended claim.
If the debtor does not defend the County Court claim we will enter Judgment against the debtor for which we will charge a further £90 (£75 + £15 VAT). There are no additional Court fees to pay at this stage.
If the debtor defends the County Court claim we will advise you of your options including the likely costs and any further work we do will be charged in accordance with our hourly rate.
How much it is likely to cost to be represented in a defended claim very much depends on the circumstances of the individual case and we will provide you with an estimate of likely costs at that stage. There will be further fees to pay to the Court for the final hearing and any applications you make.
Please be aware that if your claim is for less than £10,000 a defended case will most likely to dealt with as a Small Claims Hearing. For Small Claims it is extremely rare for your legal costs to be recovered from an opponent, even if you win. It is not usually economic to be represented by a solicitor in Small Claims proceedings, but we will advise you of your options.
STAGE 6 – Enforcement
If, despite a Judgment being entered against the debtor they fail to pay the amount ordered we can help you try to enforce the Judgment. The various options are as follows: –
- Writ of Control – a High Court Enforcement Officer is instructed to seize goods belonging to the debtor. Our costs will be £180 (£150 + £30 VAT) and there will be a Court fee of £71 to pay. If the High Court Enforcement Officers is unsuccessful there is further fee of £90 to pay (including VAT). If they are successful, their fees will be added to the debt payable. This step normally takes between 8 and 12 weeks and success clearly cannot be guaranteed – the debtor may have nothing of value.
- Attachment of Earnings Order – the Court will order the debtor’s employer to deduct money from the debtor’s salary and pay it to you by regular instalments. Provided the debtor can be easily found, his or her employer is known and we do not have to attend a hearing, we will charge £330 (£275 + £55 VAT). In addition there will be a Court fee of £119 to pay. In the event that a hearing does become necessary (for example the debtor objects) we will provide you with an estimate of costs. The amount will depend on where the hearing takes place, whether we deal with it for you, or whether we need to instruct an agent. The process normally takes between 8 and 12 weeks.
- Charging Order – this puts a charge/mortgage on property owned by the debtor or on the debtor’s share in the property if it is jointly owned. We will charge £504 (£420 + £84 VAT) for this work provided we do not have to attend a Court hearing or deal with any queries raised by the Court. In addition there will be a Court fee of £119 to pay, search fees of approximately £7.20 (including VAT) to pay and a fee of £40 to pay when the charge is registered at Land Registry. In the event that a hearing does become necessary (for example the debtor objects) we will provide you with an estimate of costs. The amount will depend on where the hearing takes place, whether we deal with it for you, or whether we need to instruct an agent. The process normally takes about 8 to 12 weeks if the debtor does not raise an objection. If you then wish to seek an Order for Sale of the property, we will advise further and provide an estimate for this work.
- Third Party Debt Order – this is an order requiring someone who owes the debtor money to pay that money direct to you. We will charge £330 (£275 + £55 VAT) for our work provided we do not need to attend a Court hearing or deal with any queries raised by the Court and there will be a Court fee of £119. In the event that a hearing does become necessary (for example the third party or debtor objects) we will provide you with an estimate of costs. The amount will depend on where the hearing takes place, whether we deal with it for you, or whether we need to instruct an agent. The process normally takes about 8 to 12 weeks.
- Order to Obtain Information – If you do not have sufficient information about the debtor’s financial circumstances you can apply to the Court for an order that the debtor attend Court to be questioned. Our charges for this will be £330 (£275 + £55 VAT) there will be a court fee of £59 to pay and you will have to pay a Process Server a fee of up to somewhere in the region £150 to serve the order on the debtor requiring them to attend Court.
- Bankruptcy – You may also take steps to make the debtor bankrupt or, if it is a limited company, to wind it up. Bankruptcy or winding up are very much a last resort because they don’t usually result in the recovery of the money owed but we will advise you about these options and the costs involved if it becomes appropriate to do so.