Reasonable solicitor fees?

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    Reasonable solicitor fees?

    After six long and tedious months of negotiations to extend the lase on a flat, we are nearing completion and I have been sent the final balance.

    I was shocked to be presented with a £2,700 bill for the freeholder's solicitor fees. When I first inquired about renewing the lease, the freeholder advised via letter that his solicitor fees are usually in the region of £1,000+VAT. I realise that was for indicative purposes only, but that is quite a difference with the final bill.

    My solicitor queried that figure with the FH solicitor but got some non-specific answer. I wasn't given a breakdown of the cost - not sure it matters, I'm sure they could come up with anything to make it look like they've done hours of work.

    Do these fees look unreasonable or are they standard?
    If unreasonable, what can I do? If I don't pay now I'll hinder completion. Can I do something about it later on? The legal Ombudsman or something similar?

    I feel totally stitched up

    Make a complaint to SRA ( Solicitors Regulation Authority).

    Make a complaint to CMA

    Make a complaint to local MP , asking MP to lodge complaint to Minister for Levelling up.


      You can challenge the costs at the FTT and perhaps making that clear you will may make the solicitors rethink their fee proposal


        Why has it taken 6 months? If the freeholder and solicitor have been involved in other lease extensions and the cost was £1,000 plus VAT, why is the cost much higher in your case? How does the cost compare to your own solicitor's charges?

        I suggest that you do insist on a detailed account prior to completion so that you can understand the reasons in order to narrow down the areas to base a complaint and possibly take further action. Have you tried making an offer via your solicitor in order to avoid making a formal complaint?

        If you decide to make payment in order to avoid further delay, you should make it clear that you are paying under protest and you do not accept the charges. The problem then is that the burden of proof switches to you to prove that the charges are unreasonable.


          Thanks for the replies.
          It has taken 6 months because the surveyor - who was dealing with the negotiations - was useless and not proactive / reactive. Add to that the fact that we had reached a deal I said OK to, then the freeholder and their solicitor turned around and said actually no, they didn't want that deal and wanted a double ground rent clause which I refused so it was back to the negotiation board (see my other thread on negotiating a lease extension if you want further details). I ended up paying more for the premium, with 0 GR.

          When probed by my solicitor, the FH solicitor provided us with 3 lines on an email, something like, "section 60 a / b / c, £ xxx / £ xxx / £ xxx. That was it. Not a detailed breakdown. Anyway, I am sure they could come up with some made up figures such as, "we spent x hours on this that and the other". They then said they would reduce their fees by £450, to £2250+VAT, except that £2250+VAT equals £2700 which is exactly what they were charging in the first place! So no reduction at all, an absolute joke.

          In comparison, my solicitor costs are £1880-ish. The FH solicitors are London-based, although the property itself, the FH and myself are not based in London (I know they can choose a London firm but that is their choice and should the increased costs be on me?)

          Yes, I am under time pressure as we are reaching the 6 months deadline for the statutory extension and are due to complete asap. They would know that too obviously. What are the costs at FTT? If it's going to cost me over £1000, it's pointless going there to recoup £1000.

          It has taken a lot of hard work and time to save that money, I am extremely upset with what is essentially, daylight robbery. Charging me what I deem unreasonable costs while knowing I have no choice but to pay.


            You can insist on a summarised time record showing the number of hours spent by each grade of solicitor on the different aspects of the work involved. You can then compare it with your own solicitor's time records in order to raise a specific complaint.

            Intead though, I suggest that you make an offer of something in between, say £2,250 including VAT and see if they will accept that sum in order to avoid a complaint being made. You can claim that the freeholder should bear the costs for changing the offer midstream.

            I would avoid going to the FTT, not only could you face costs which may not be recovered, you may be ordered to pay their costs as well if the FTT finds that they have a compelling argument that the costs are reasonable in view of the extended negotiations.


              Thank you very much for the tips and ideas eagle2. Much appreciated.


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