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In for a penny...

01 June, 2004
Page 22 
Can I pay someone off in pennies asked a bitter retailer who is facing a nightmarish £50K bill involving a sub-lease/tenant legal wrangle. It started out at a lot less than £50K but barristers got involved along the way. The retailer, who doesn’t want any publicity, had some sublet property ‘on the side’ just sort of ticking over. As he will regret for the rest of his life, he didn’t pay close enough attention to the wording of the lease and he got well and truly taken to the cleaners by his tenant, a South American lady who took extended holidays back to Brazil while sub-sub-letting to a succession of gentlemen, sometimes several at a time. He evicted her. Wrong. You really don’t want to get on the wrong side of any issue that comes with compensation such as unfair dismissal, or in this case, eviction. The details, although fascinating, don’t really have anything to do with petrol retailing (though thankfully that side of his business is doing fairly well). But I was intrigued by his query and rang the Bank of England to find out if he could get a little of his own back by delivering several tonnes of coins. According to a spokesman both parties are free to agree any form of payment whether legal tender or otherwise. She and her lawyers would have to agree. “Even if it were agreed, you’d need to hire a big lorry,” said the helpful bloke at the Bank. “What about one pound coins?” I asked, picturing wheelbarrows and local press coverage. “What about security?” he countered. He then sent me a fact sheet with a breakdown of which monetary permutations are permitted, so if you are thinking of paying someone off in this fashion – you can only pay in pennies for an amount not exceeding 20p (unless otherwise agreed). For fivepenny payoffs, the amount shouldn’t exceed a fiver and even 50p pieces cannot be used for payments over £10. If nothing else, it may be useful for pub quiz night!