Advocate has successfully recovered a £1k debt from a Birmingham-based architect who seemingly had more blueprints for evading payment than designing a house! Our client specialises in contaminated land studies and was engaged to report back on how soil contaminants would impact the West Bromwich build. From engagement to invoicing, our client dealt exclusively with the architect. Their demeanour of being overly appreciative and excessively confident was, in hindsight, a ruse to quash rumours of financial difficulty. In the run-up to Advocate’s instruction, the debtor had repeatedly promised payment, immediately defaulted on a payment plan, and even threatened to wind up the company to avoid payment.
Getting in on the Ground Floor
After establishing first contact, the debtor initially denied any knowledge of the £1k and then denied instructing our client six months ago. Quotation and signed contract in hand, the debtor could no longer feign ignorance. Their next bone of contention was the site owner being listed on the planning application, which, in the debtor’s view, made someone else liable for the debt. We countered by advising such practice is normal, and even if it were not, it had no bearing on the debt in view of the earlier proven contract. Then they tried claiming that GDPR prevented our client from finding out who the site owner was! The next level of dispute was the debtor claiming they were coerced into agreeing to a payment plan to conceal the site owner’s identity. That, too, was easily dismissed. Only at this stage did the debtor let slip the root cause of financial difficulty – that a business development loan had been refused, causing a prospective investor to withdraw their interest.
From the Penthouse to Payment
Throughout, we repeatedly maintained our client’s right to seek payment and asserted the implications of court proceedings if the £1k plus statutory charges were not paid by the deadline. The debtor’s last and penthouse level of the dispute was claiming they had used pseudonyms in correspondence with Advocate, supposedly making the email trails inadmissible in court. From the start, we suspected the debtor was using fictitious names for correspondence, something reinforced by the client, who had also noted it. The debtor’s plan fell short on two counts. The first was emails sent from the director’s own named accounts, and the second was email signatures stating both the director’s name and chosen pseudonym.
With that last point of order out the way, the flawed architect had nowhere else to go except to make payment before the deadline passed. This was, of course, received alongside a flamboyant communication geared towards saving face whilst politely confirming payment!