Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

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Halfawife
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Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby Halfawife » Tue Jun 03, 2014 6:28 pm

We sent both our children to a local private nursery. Last year my husband was out of work for a year but we continued to keep our girls in their schools for stability. My husband has since gotten a job outside of London so we have decided to move the family (and I have gotten a new job) in this new city so that we can all be together.

We informed our eldest daughter's school and they were kind enough to waive the Sept school fees despite not being able to give the length of notice normally required. Phew.

My youngest daughter's nursery is holding us to the Sept fees so we are paying approx £2k for a space we will not attend and they will probably fill anyway, thereby making a profit on us.

I know we were supposed to notify them at the beginning of April but we didn't know we were going then.

I feel sick to my stomach and on the verge of tears because we cannot afford to throw this money away. I am going to go in and plead with them again but doubt I will be successful.

Can they force us to pay? I guess we have signed a contract but it just seems so unfair.
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KatherineHepburn
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby KatherineHepburn » Tue Jun 03, 2014 8:37 pm

That's really rough. No advice I'm afraid but will be keeping my fingers crossed for you.
Do you feel comfortable naming the nursery in question?
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Goldhawk
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby Goldhawk » Tue Jun 03, 2014 8:44 pm

Did you give them a full term's notice? Almost?
How much of a deposit do they hold?
You can refuse to pay and see if they take you to the small claims court or alternatively threaten to do the same to them
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pie81
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby pie81 » Tue Jun 03, 2014 8:51 pm

It does seem pretty unfair that they can hold on to the money even when they know they will probably fill the space. If they can't fill it then that's one thing but we all know good nurseries round here are oversubscribed.

Two ideas:

1: you could try using this site to see if anyone wants to "take over" your place and then suggest this to the nursery. You'd have to name the nursery on here of course to do that. I bet there are quite a few people wanting places if it's a good nursery school.

2: a legal argument: you could say that this part of the contract is invalid because it's a penalty, ie the amount they are keeping is well above their expected level of real loss (since they can clearly fill the place). Legally this argument has some strength actually, but pulling out legal arguments tends to sour discussions so I'd use this as a last resort.
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Tealover
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby Tealover » Tue Jun 03, 2014 9:08 pm

Sorry to hear this ....it really annoys me. Do you know when the next payment would be due? Payment for full sept term or deposit for jan term? If you are not due another payment (after the 2k) until late summer then what about going back to them and withdrawing your notice? Ie. tell them you will hold the place until the day before next payment is due. They hopefully will take the line "we could offer that place to another child' - which may put you in a better position to argue that it's your place until xx date as you've paid 2k for it. If it's a very popular nursery then they will want to guarantee places to children before the summer hols I expect. Good luck
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supergirl
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby supergirl » Tue Jun 03, 2014 9:32 pm

This is truly upsetting and i feel for you really.

But i will go against the crowd as you knew the little prints when you signed up. I know of a friend who moved her child from a private primary to a state one because she moved for work and had no other choice and lost £4,000 of deposit because she coyldnt give a full term's notice.

You should try to negociate by all means and I would too if was in your situation but you know that your position is very weak.

Naming and shaming would not only be disgraceful as you knew the small prints it would also bectotally unfair.

Granted the deposit, admissions, waiting lists in london are totally opaques and should probably be reformed but there is more demand than places so unfortunately they are setting the rules.

Good luck i wish you ll succeed in your claim but i dont know if i want the status quo to stay the same or to change... Maybe you ll be setting a precedent?
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nuttymummy
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby nuttymummy » Tue Jun 03, 2014 10:27 pm

Pie81's Point 2 in her post is a really good point. My hubby (written a lot of Ts &Cs in his time!) has been saying for ages (we have friends who've also found themselves in this situation) that he thinks this practice could & should be challenged & it would stand a good chance as their (the school's) material loss should really only be a basic administration fee (assuming they fill the place). Do you have a lawyer friend who could at least draft a response pro bono? Whoever eventually stands up against this practice (we are really surprised it hasn't happened yet) stands a good chance of setting the precedent and changing this. Good luck!!
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pie81
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby pie81 » Tue Jun 03, 2014 11:03 pm

by the way, there is also a similar argument based on the unfair terms in consumer contracts regulations

If you want to run this argument then PM me and I can help with wording - but as I say, I'd try non legal arguments first.
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vendredimanche
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby vendredimanche » Wed Jun 04, 2014 9:32 am

I agree that a (possible) way out of this is to argue that this is an unenforceable penalty as it is not genuine pre-estimate of the loss suffered by the school - and this irrespective of the fact that you knew what you were signing up to argument.
I have sent you a PM on this.
Good luck!
VdM
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schmee
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby schmee » Mon Jun 09, 2014 10:10 am

Presumably they have a deposit from you of around £500 and they are asking you to pay next term's fees as well? In your position I would probably feel that they were entitled to the deposit, but would want to challenge the next term's fees, which they will need to pursue you for.

If they do chase you for the fees when the time comes, ask them to confirm in writing that they have been unable to fill the place, thus demonstrating a loss to them. I think it is unlikely that they will be unable to fill the place, given the competition for nursery places in the area.
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Halfawife
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby Halfawife » Tue Jun 10, 2014 12:10 am

Well we appealed to the Head's compassion, explaining our situation but she said she still will charge the autumn term fees. I'm livid. Pure greed. The T&C's said that they charge the term's fees regardless of whether the place is filled or not. So they will keep our £750 deposit and demand next autumn's fees on top. So we will be +£3k out of pocket for nothing. If anyone can recommend a lawyer, please PM me.
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Halfawife
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby Halfawife » Tue Jun 10, 2014 12:21 am

Sorry, correction, they would return the deposit if we paid the autumn fees so +£2k out of pocket.
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Quintilius
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby Quintilius » Tue Jun 10, 2014 10:20 am

Continuing to look at it all from your side of the contract rather than that of the school you say that you are likely to end up paying £2,000 for nothing. Can I just ask what value you would have put - at the time- on the knowledge that you had secured a guaranteed place at a good school for your child? Now you don't want it, of course, it is worth nothing to you but I suspect that when you did it was worth a good deal.
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meringue
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby meringue » Wed Jun 11, 2014 2:20 pm

I agree with Quintilius, although seems harsh, but you were prepared to pay it when you chose to, but just because you are now unable to pay it, it is too much. So many people pull out and whats the point of any terms and conditions if no one abides by them.

They are just doing what they should be doing. Did you fill them in to your circumstances about a year ago when your husband first lost his job? have you kept them informed all the way along this past year? If not, you suddenly spring it on them that you are leaving, when most people by now have already got their nursery places for September, I suspect they will have plenty of places left for September.
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pie81
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Re: Losing Sept School Deposit Rant

Postby pie81 » Wed Jun 11, 2014 3:00 pm

Meringue - yes of course they were "prepared to agree" at the time, because all nursery schools have similar ts and cs and if they didn't agree they'd have no place. Just because someone's agreed to something doesn't make it fair and in some cases the unfairness makes it unenforceable - as recognised by the legal rules against penalties and the unfair terms in consumer contracts regulations.

If the nursery was indeed unable to fill the place then I agree the parent who pulls out would and should have to pay. But we are talking about the situation where the nursery CAN fill the place but charges anyway - so basically they get a windfall as they get double payment for that single place.

Legally the argument would go:
- as a popular nursery school they should be able to fill the place
- given this, the term's fees is not a genuine pre-estimate of their loss and that term of the contract is invalid as a penalty and under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations
- you are therefore not obliged to pay the fees under that clause
- you acknowledge that you must compensate them for any loss they in fact suffer as a result of your withdrawal
- however they have a duty to mitigate their loss, which means they need to take reasonable steps to attempt to fill the place
- so in order to be able to claim the fees from you they will need to demonstrate that despite reasonable steps they have been unable to fill the place
- you suggest that both sides discuss this issue again in September once it is known whether they have been able to fill the place or not.

NB the strength of this argument very much depends on how popular/oversubscribed the nursery is. If there is a real risk they won't be able to fill the place, then I wouldn't run this argument.

I presume you haven't actually paid the fees yet, but are being asked to do so now?

If you're going to run the argument above, and not pay the fees, you will need to be brave because it's possible they will sue you. However my guess is they won't dare as they won't want that clause tested in the courts.
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