Bailiffs: Detailed Assessment of Fees
Detailed Assessment of the Bailiff Fees.
With thanks to Tomtubby
The Distress For Rent Act provide that if there is a dispute about the fees charged by the bailiff company, that you should apply to the County Court for what is called a Detailed Assessment of the fees (previously called Taxation of the fees). You must apply within 12 months, and the court where the application is made, must be in the same district where “distress was levied”. The application is made under Part 47 of the Civil Procedures Rules 1998. Unless you have previously been involved in disputes with, for instance, a complaint about a large solicitor’s bill, it is unlikely that you would know what detailed assessment is. Put simply, this is a very common procedure for legal firms, and allows for them to have a large solicitor’s bill etc, examined by a specialist; referred to as a Costs Officer. This person will look at the letters sent, telephone calls made and meetings attended, to see if the fees charged by the solicitor are fair. In reaching his decision, he would be looking to see if work charged for by a senior partner, could quite as easily have been undertaken by a more junior member of staff, so that costs could have been saved. The Costs Officer would only be dealing with the matter of fees, nothing else.
One of the main reasons why many people do not use detailed assessment however, is because of the court fee, which is a staggering £300!! With the average bailiff charges, excluding the debt that they are collecting, being approx: £500, it is not surprising that most people are unable to consider detailed assessment. It is worth noting however, that you may not have to pay the court fee – you may be entitled to fee exemption or remission if you are in receipt of certain benefits. You would need to ask the court for an EX160 Application Form for this.
The second problem with detailed assessment is that: if you are not successful in getting the courts agreement to reduce the charges by more than 20%, you can be liable for the other parties’ court costs. Therefore, this method of legal action should be taken only, if you are confident that the court will agree to reduce the charges by 20%.
If you think that the fees charged by a High Court Enforcement Officer are too high, you need to apply to the High Court for a detailed assessment of the fees. This means that the court will decide if the fees you have been charged are reasonable or not. The situation is very similar to that mentioned above, with the exception being that the Court Fee is currently £600, but there are proposals currently being considered by HMCS to reduce this fee to £300.
It is fair to say, that although detailed assessment is provided for in the regulations, it is not commonly used, with most people instead issuing proceedings in the County Court under a small claims action.