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Debt recovery on behalf of Lavender Hotels

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Hi all, I would appreciate any help I can get re this issue.

 

My wedding was booked for 27th April 2013. The relationship ended at the end of October 2012 and I emailed the hotel to advise them of the cancellation. My contract states 75% of the total wedding balance is due if cancelled less than 6 months before the wedding date. I notified the hotel 1 week within the 6 months. I am now being chased for this 75% of the total balance by a debt collection company.

 

When I initially contacted the hotel to inform them the relationship had ended they insisted that the balance would still be outstanding regardless of the circumstances of cancellation.

 

I notified the hotel via email and have heard nothing until today when I received a phone call and (unpleasant) text message from a debt collection company who have informed my they are being instructed to contact me on behalf of the Hotel and have issued a 'Notice Before Legal Proceedings'.

 

Nothing has been received in writing regarding these proceedings prior to today's contact, of which I have since only received a brief email (on request) from the debt collection company today. However I must admit I didn't provide them with a forwarding address (they do have my email address and contact number).

 

My ex-partner may also have received the same phone call and text message from the collection company but since we are not on speaking terms I cannot be sure. He may also have received prior notification of the debt but I am not aware of this.

 

Do I have any rights to dispute this supposed debt? Is there anything I can put in writing to the company?

 

Many thanks in advance.

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What value are we taking about here?

 

In principle, if this is a breach of contract then their cancellation fee is unenforceable as it probably exceeds the administrative costs caused by your breach.

 

It seems to me that you need to look at this situation very carefully, because in any event, if they are not providing the wedding for you - they might be able to rent the facility out for another function.

Also if they are not providing you with a wedding then they are not spending on catering or any of the other expenses which they would have to incur. In fact by getting you to pay 75%, it is likley that they are making more money from you by not providing you with a wedding than if they did provide it. If they managed to rent out the wedding facility to someone else then they would be making much better than double their money - and that is a big No No.

 

You may not be on speaking terms with your ex - but you had better contact him and make sure that he isn't acting independently and paying them out - and then coming to you for half of it.


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My guess is that this implys they require 6 CEAR Months notice.


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What value are we taking about here?

 

In principle, if this is a breach of contract then their cancellation fee is unenforceable as it probably exceeds the administrative costs caused by your breach.

 

It seems to me that you need to look at this situation very carefully, because in any event, if they are not providing the wedding for you - they might be able to rent the facility out for another function.

Also if they are not providing you with a wedding then they are not spending on catering or any of the other expenses which they would have to incur. In fact by getting you to pay 75%, it is likley that they are making more money from you by not providing you with a wedding than if they did provide it. If they managed to rent out the wedding facility to someone else then they would be making much better than double their money - and that is a big No No.

 

You may not be on speaking terms with your ex - but you had better contact him and make sure that he isn't acting independently and paying them out - and then coming to you for half of it.

 

Hi, thanks for the quick response. In terms of the cancellation fee being unenforceable, I'm not quite sure I understand.

 

The total cost was roughly £1700 but now stands at £2225 including additional fees (I haven't yet received a breakdown of these additional fees).

 

As for the other point made, I too had considered this. It does seem like a lot of money considering the fact they won't be providing me any services whatsoever.

 

Thanks again for the advice so far.

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Well you entered into a contract in which you agreed to pay them £XX for a wedding. They introduced a clause which basically said that if you didn't go through with the wedding - meaning that if you breached the contract then you would have to pay 75% of the contractual price.

This is a penalty clause.

To be enforceable, a penalty must reflect actual losses caused by your breach. So if they had bought food which was wasted of if they had taken on staff who had to be paid, or if they were unable to rent the room out elsewhere, then they would be able to recover those wasted costs. They are not entitled to make a profit from your breach of contract.

 

Not only is it an unenforceable penalty but also the term is unenforceable under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regs - which say that a penalty must be fair - proportionate

 

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/2083/contents/made

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/2083/regulation/5/made

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/2083/schedule/2/made - especially para.e

 

 

Of course, if they can show that the cost of your cancellation really is 75% of the price, then you will have to pay it


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Well you entered into a contract in which you agreed to pay them £XX for a wedding. They introduced a clause which basically said that if you didn't go through with the wedding - meaning that if you breached the contract then you would have to pay 75% of the contractual price.

This is a penalty clause.

To be enforceable, a penalty must reflect actual losses caused by your breach. So if they had bought food which was wasted of if they had taken on staff who had to be paid, or if they were unable to rent the room out elsewhere, then they would be able to recover those wasted costs. They are not entitled to make a profit from your breach of contract.

 

Hi BankFodder, thanks again for the advice. Are there any template letters available on the website that I could use to form the basis of a letter to send to them?

 

Thanks again.

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I think that you should write to them and say that you do not agree that you owe them the money requested.

You consider that the sum demanded is an unenforceable penalty and also is invalid under UTCCR.

 

Tell them that if they believe that this is not correct, then please let you have a full breakdown of costs incurred as a result of your contractual breach and then you will be pleased to consider their demand.

 

Do nothing on the phone. Everything in writing.

 

By the way, it seems to me that it will not be possible to assess the full value of your breach until the wedding date has passed - because then they will know how much they have lost.


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Hi BankFodder, thanks again for your help. I will put a letter together and make contact with the company asap. I will let you know of the outcome.

 

Thanks again.

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Something to think about as well, if this is still going on in for a few more months and the hotel isn't too far away. Pop along on 27th April and see if there is a wedding! If so, then that must be taken into account when assessing their losses. My partner and I have been visiting venues recently and I know for a fact that if is the place is popular and there is a cancellation, that slot is booked again within hours.


Apologies for the formatting in my posts, I do put paragraphs in but the forum removes them for some reason :(

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Hi again,

 

Well I wrote to the hotel disputing the charge (see attached letter). The manager contacted me to say she had forwarded the letter to head office but could I 'pop' up to the hotel for a 'brew' and a chat about the letter. She told me the collection company had been advised to put recovery on hold while we discuss the matter.

 

I went up to the hotel where I simply re-iterated the points in my letter and maintained my position hadn't changed. The manager said she would discuss the issue with head office and contact me once they had responded.

 

I received a phone call from the hotel manager today advising me that head office are willing to remove any proposed drinks charges and would reduce the collection company's costs from £500 to £200, taking the total balance from £2255 to £1400.

 

I still believe this to be grossly unfair. Could you possibly advise me on the next step at this stage?

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I've just checked one of the T&C's of a venue we visited and if the wedding is cancelled they want 100% of the outstanding balance and this is within SIX months of the wedding!

 

I found this for the OP, this might give you some hope though it is in Scotland where laws sometimes differ.

 

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/couple-win-hotel-court-battle-over-cancelled-big-day.19555192

 

Edit: removed section about claiming insurance, good advice by Bankfodder below not to use it.

 

Otherwise stick to your guns, if the debt collectors contact you then say the debt is disputed and they should refer it back to the their clients.

 

The hotel can only claim their losses for the cancellation and this far out their losses will be quite small, perhaps a token amount for staff costs assisting you in preparing the wedding.

No food or flowers would have been prepared this far out, and any drink ordered can either be cancelled or reused in another wedding.

As Bankfodder said, get them to give you a breakdown of the costs they are claiming - they very fact they have already reduced their claims down almost a grand means it never reflected their losses in the first place.

Edited by Lucifa42

Apologies for the formatting in my posts, I do put paragraphs in but the forum removes them for some reason :(

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Firstly - write to them and confirm the terms of their offer.

 

You are falling into a trap where you are doing things in writing and they are managing to manipulate you into doing things verbally. This means that there is no record and no poof.

 

Put everything they have said in writing and and send it to them recorded. Deal all the time with the hotel. Next thing you know, they will try to start getting you to deal with the head office.

 

What a big favour. Lavender Horels have offered - as a gesture of goodwill, no doubt not to make you pay for drinks which you have never had!!!

 

This is a damn cheek.

 

Do you realise that hundreds of couples every year probably cancel their weddings every year and Lavender - and other groups, milk it for all it's worth and the poor suckers just go along with it.

 

What a nice little earner.

 

I think that you need to start taking the fight to them. Are you up for it?

 

Have you checked your credit file. These debt collectors will often attack your credit file - so check it out in order to understand what the complete picture is.

 

Under UTCCR, an unfair contractual term becomes totally unenforceable. This means that it is not possible for the hotel to say - "OK, it's a fair cop" our actual losses are £100, pay that and we'll stop.

It means that they lose the benefit of the entire clause.

 

I think that you need to check your credit file.

 

Then write them a letter - this is separate to the one you will right above -

 

Tell them that under the UTCCR, their penalty clause is unfair and therefore completely unenforceable.

Tell that as a gesture to them, you are prepared to pay their actual losses if they will let you know honestly what they are.

 

If they will not do that, then you will begin a County Court claim to recover all of the money paid under their unenforceable penalty - this includes your deposit.

 

Only say this, if you are prepared to do it - it is very easy and cheap - and you will win.

 

By the way, how much deposit are they holding?

 

I'm fed up hearing about this greedy bullying company which can't organise its affairs in a lawful way so that its customers are just treated decently -especially at a difficult time when an important relationship has broken up.

 

By the way, tell them that you are being advised by the Consumer Action Group and that they can come and see it all here.

 

Their own lawyers are obviously pretty poor, so they can come here and learn what the law in this situation really is.


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By the way, do not invoke any insurance. You don't need to. You will be giving in to Lavender. Do you really want to do that?

 

If you make an insurance claim, you will have to declare it on future insurance applications. This is totally down to Lavender.


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