Just when I should be writing about jolly things like the jingle of tills, I find it's the jangle of spurs instead. Merry Christmas, sigh, the cowboys are back in town.
My first caller was from Scotland, which is an important point as the company which contacted him in Old Kilpatrick told him they had already got an adjustment to his business rates on his revaluation of three years ago. Hmm. This is not possible in Scotland - you need to be very quick off the mark and appeal within a short time frame unless you have just bought a new business, which he hadn't. Fortunately, he smelled a rat.
The second caller was Dennis Patel in Northampton. He had received a call from a 'rate reduction rebate specialist', which offered 'no fee until we get you a reduction and then it's 50%'. Clever Dennis had a good look at the contract and it spelled out, in small type of course, that it will be 50% every year until 2015.
"So, for argument's sake, if they save me £1,000 on my rates," says Dennis, "they'll take £500 every year until 2015. They do the job once and get paid every year for doing nothing."
I haven't named either
of these companies, but if
you call me I'll tell you who they are.
I contacted my reliable chartered surveyor Ken Batty, who knew these operators and confirmed every word about their tactics. Ken says very, very few companies really work on a no-win, no-fee basis (although he does, so ring 01772 558333 if you want assistance).
Ken says cold calls are usually spurious. Look out for 'no fee until appeal accepted'. This has now been outlawed - all appeals are accepted automatically. And watch out for that percentage fee in each year of the list.
Before entering a contract ask if they comply with the rating surveyors' code of conduct.