Who? Chris Haan, 36, senior international and group claims solicitor at London firm Leigh Day.
Why is he in the news? He is bringing what is expected to be a multimillion-pound group claim against a London estate agent.
The claim is on behalf of private landlords using Foxtons to let, or to let and manage, their properties. It is alleged that the estate agent, without the landlords’ consent, charged commissions of up to 33% of a contractor’s fee for repairs and other work done on their properties. Individual claims, Leigh Day estimates, could be £15,000 or more.
The group action began when one of Foxtons’ 19,000 landlords allegedly became aware that contractors routinely paid ‘hidden’ commissions to Foxtons that were not referred to in invoices or accounts.
Haan said: ‘We allege that Foxtons has a potential conflict of interest in that the more expensive the contractor, the more Foxtons makes in hidden commission.’
Foxtons said: ‘We are incredibly disappointed to hear when any customer is dissatisfied with the service they have received, however, as a legal dispute we are not in a position to comment on the specifics of this case. We are satisfied though that our fees are clearly laid out within our terms and conditions and that approvals are obtained from our landlords before works commence on their property.
‘As part of our managed service to our landlords we arrange for maintenance works to be carried out on their behalf from a panel of carefully vetted and trusted contractors. Due to the volume of work we provide we are able to achieve discounted rates offering competitive value with the benefit of efficiency, availability and quality of work that many landlords would not be able to achieve on their own.’
Thoughts on the case: ‘Letting industry codes of conduct require full disclosure of commissions and fees, and yet it seems charging [landlords] without proper consent, as we allege, may be rife, meaning landlords and tenants both pay more. It needs to stop.’
Dealing with the media: ‘There’s been a lot of media interest – possibly because the public dislikes estate agents even more than lawyers.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I’m a lefty and went into law wanting to work in litigation in human rights, consumer and environmental cases, or in the trade union movement.’
Career high: ‘Appearing alone for an Australian trade union to oppose an application to stop a protest by workers, and getting the union off on a technicality. Returning to my office, I could see and hear my client giving a rousing speech.’
Career low: ‘Our clients were refused after-the-event insurance in a big case I’d been working on, leading to it collapsing for a time. It was devastating.’