Thank you all for considering my enquiry.
I will try to keep it as to the point as possible.
I have sought advice from many advice bodies and a couple of solicitors but I'm receiving conflicting information and a friend recommended I try here.
I engaged a tradesperson for a range of works which were quoted at £1740.
The tradesperson completed some of the works over 2 days.
On the 3rd day, the tradesperson was late and sent an offensive message.
Based on the offensive content of the message I refused to allow him onto my property further.
He agreed to reduce fee based on works not completed.
He offered a reduction of £240, total £1500, which I said was not fair based on the works left to complete.
I paid a portion (£1240, 83%) of the fee, with a reduction of £500 from original quote of £1700 based on an average of 3 quotes from local providers for the remaining works.
He returned the payment and engaged a debt collection agency.
Debt collection agency has given 5 working days to pay full amount or they are taking me to court.
Full description and timeline below.
Original invoice - £1740
Tradesperson offer after reduction - £1500
Amount we paid - £1240
Amount debt collection agency is seeking - £1500 + interest of £10.23
1. I have told the debt collection agency I dispute the debt.
Is my best bet now just to wait until they start court process?
2. Am I correct in thinking, because of the amount in dispute (they want £1500, we paid £1240 which they returned, so effectively £260 in dispute), this will be considered as a small claims issue?
3. Were I to lose the dispute, I would be required to pay the £1500 + small amount of interest + court fee of £100-£200?
So I wouldn't have to pay his legal costs or cost of using debt collector?
4. Would this type of issue (full details below) be likely to go to court?
Or will it be considered on the basis of submissions?
5. Given we're talking so small amounts here,
I am obviously wanting to maximise value from any legal advice.
Would the best use of money on legal advice be to ask a solicitor who specialises in consumer issues to review my defence form, N9B?
Thank you very much for any advice you can give.
FULL TIMELINE & DESCRIPTION
28th Jan - Having found a tradesperson through an online review site I asked for a quote for some work on my property. They emailed a quote of £1740 (I'll round the figures for ease of reading).
30th Jan - I phoned the company and asked them to start work as soon as possible.
7th Feb - Tradesperson started work on the property.
8th Feb - Tradesperson attended the property.
9th Feb - Tradesperson doesn't show in the morning.
I ask where they are and am told they'll be there later.
After I have asked when they will arrive, I receive a 'pocket call' with a recording of the tradesperson where he calls *somebody* a 'f-ing bird, b-tching about when tradesperson will arrive'.
We speak on the phone where he considers the situation a joke and calls me a 'b-tch'.
I say I don't want him on my property anymore and he agrees to discount the fee for the incomplete work.
13th Feb - Tradesperson confirms work left to be completed and offers discount of £200 (total £1540).
14th Feb - On the advice of the Equalities service I submit a formal letter of complaint about the comments which says that no matter who he was talking about I find the comments offensive on the basis they are about somebody of my gender which violates my dignity and creates a hostile environment.
On the advice of Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) I say I do not consider discount fair for the work that is left to be completed and will be seeking to show market rate as part of negotiating process under the Consumer Rights Act.
17th Feb - Tradesperson apologises for comments and offers discount of £240 (total £1500).
25th Feb - On the advice of CAB I seek 3 quotes for the remaining work from local providers which show market rate to be £500. I offer tradesperson £1050.
3rd Mar - Tradesperson rejects offer and threatens debt collection if £1500 is not paid by 6th Mar.
4th Mar - I transfer £1240 (original invoice of £1740, minus £500 fair market rate) and say that is our final offer.
6th Mar - Tradesperson emails to say he will be returning the £1240 and engaging a debt collection agency to seek £1500 from us.
6th Mar - On the advice of CAB I send a formal letter questioning why he has engaged a debt collection agency when we have paid £1240.
11th Mar - I receive a letter from a debt collection agency demanding £1500 (plus interest of £10.23) to be paid within 5 working days, or they will begin court process.
- I speak to debt collection agency who try to debate the merits of my dispute with me.
I say we have not received any of our payment returned.
They say it was sent Friday.
I say I do not wish to discuss the issue with them and just wanted to check the address to correspond with, they end the conversation saying "see you in court".
On the advice of the Debt Advice Line,
I post a formal letter confirming my disputing the debt and evidencing previous correspondence.