We have specialist advisers who can advise on many subjects and if any HRA Members need advice please firstname.lastname@example.org
There will be times where the advice required is of a complex nature that it may exceed the level at which such advice can be provided free of charge.
To assist members on this the Association has set certain guidelines to the advisers so there should be no doubt. The paragraphs below give some guidance on how the distinction is made.
General initial advice: For example, basic guidance on general principles by letter or a couple of phone calls, or any enquiries which an adviser can deal with simply and quickly: These should be given free of charge to the member.
If a visit to the member railway or other location is needed: The member should reimburse the adviser for all 'out of pocket' expenses (travel, subsistence etc.)
If advice is being given in an area where members may reasonably be expected to have some professional advisers in place. This might relate to e.g. accountants, solicitors etc. Advisers may wish to frame advice simply as some general 'pointers' and recommend that the member seeks confirmation and/or more detailed advice from their appropriate professional adviser.
Payments and out of pocket expenses: A very clear distinction needs to be made between payments to an adviser, in reimbursement of firstly 'out of pocket' expenses and secondly for the Adviser's services (time and expertise) covered below.
Advisers Acting on a Fee Basis: Terms of Appointment - In many cases something may start off as a basic general query and develop into a 'major exercise'. Advisers are asked to give the member a clear forewarning that they will have to stop giving free advice on the matter in question and must charge for their services to continue to help.
The Adviser would then be acting in a personal capacity rather than as an HRA officer. This change of role and terms of acting should be notified in writing before any fee chargeable work is started and should (1) set out clearly the level of fees and (2) indicate when the change will take place.
In the interests of both Adviser and member, we would wish that formal terms of engagement are agreed, with the member being given an estimate of costs or at least of hourly rates (where appropriate, this should follow standard or recommended forms of 'Letter of Engagement' set out by the Adviser's relevant professional body).
A practical point is that many HRA member organisations find it more difficult to cope with a single possibly substantial payment once work has been completed - billing 'little and often' is easier to cope with (e.g. an account for work done to date every 3 months rather than a large bill at the end of 2 years).