27th JULY, 2007
Yes, life is too short to read all the contracts you come across with their various clever and convoluted clauses (always written, bear in mind, on behalf of companies with better lawyers than you are ever going to be able to afford). But there is one where I urge you to get the microscope out - and that's when you're thinking of selling up.
Case study: when you've just had two heart attacks, the very last thing you need is a five-figure claim from a business transfer agent who failed to sell your shop and who, according to the judge in this case, "did nothing to earn £13,000".
Alan and Eileen Davies, whose PO store is in Swansea, had their court run-in with RTA after they had agreed to go on its books when it offered to sell one of the couple's two shops for £250K within three weeks. "We laughed and said, 'if you can, then go ahead,'" says Alan. So, there they were, on the books.
A year later, having had no offers, Christie & Co valued the business at £190,000 and it was sold.
RTA then put in a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against the Davies, which their solicitor at the time should have defended but didn't. But Alan dug his heels in. "I'll die in the dock," he said.
A while later, and with a new solicitor, the couple had the CCJ overturned in Swansea where Alan says the judge was extremely strict. "She had us all shaking. I almost felt sorry for RTA." She was the one who demanded to know what the company had done to merit a bill for £13,000. Nothing, she decided.
Of course, RTA dropped the case, but it nevertheless cost Alan and Eileen in hefty legal fees.
"We could have gone for costs but our solicitor said that if we lost we would have to pay their costs as well. RTA, on the other hand, spent nothing. When it gets to the point where you have to register your evidence, that starts to cost you too," says Alan. "RTA pulled out the minute it was going to cost money. RTA did send a cheque for £1,000, in full and final settlement, to our solicitor for costs, but we still spent £3,000 in the end in legal fees."