This is a situation I've faced many times, although usually it is not worth the challenge where the fees are "pushing the boundary".
However, I have recently applied to a Landlord for Licence to Assign. I won't name the firm (although perhaps there should be a mechanism for publicising firms who charge extortionate amounts) but they are one of these City of London (EC4) firms who have a larger opinion of themselves than is merited.
I have been advised that Surveyors' fees will be £950 + VAT, Solicitors' fees £850 + VAT, and if a rent deposit deed is required, a further £850 + VAT in legal fees.
Essentially we are talking over £3,100 in fees, for what is likely to involve a 4 page Licence to Assign, and something similar for the Rent Deposit Deed.
Even applying the Court Service's guideline hourly rates (which by the way are for contentious work) for a Grade A fee earner in the City of London (£396 p/h), we are essentially saying that producing two short documents and perhaps discussing a few amendments will take the said solicitor 4 hours and 20 minutes.
The reality is that the solicitor will spend nowhere near that amount of time, and the routine work involved in drafting and engrossing will be done by the secretary or a trainee. In fact, on a straightforward non-contentious matter such as this, a trainee or junior assistant can quite feasibly deal with the work, and his or her hourly rate should be significantly lower.
I know that the current system does not entitle a third party to insist on a Remuneration Certificate, and assessment is not (as far as I am aware) an option in non-contentious matters, so where next? If the Landlord's solicitor is obviously overcharging, can this be deemed to constitute a fine or premium?
Any practical solutions here? One for the solicitors, I think, but any informed comment is welcome!