Portsmouth pub The George and Dragon in North End is at risk of closure due to legal fees - but is being saved by customers
A BELOVED pub that was under threat from closure is being saved by its loyal regulars.
The George and Dragon in Kingston Road, North End, is at the heart of a legal battle over alleged forged documents.
Landlord Vladimir Nasadovich alleges that RVA Surveyors, headed up by Stephan Hughes, doctored his signature after approaching him in 2014 to reduce his business rates.
Mr Nasadovich, 55, claims he never signed any agreement, but on June 12, 2018, he received a bill for £4,425.84.
The dispute was taken to court, with the judge siding with RVA Surveyors. Mr Nasadovich is appealing the decision but in the meantime, he must pay out his legal fees.
Dealing with this while the pub is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic has hit him hard, he admitted.
‘It has been very difficult for me,’ Mr Nasadovich said.
‘We have been closed for months and this has made things even tougher – but I’m doing everything I can.
‘The last thing I want is to close down, but money has been incredibly tight.’
The document RVA Surveyors produced was signed on June 24, 2014.
Mr Nasadovich confirms he did speak to RVA Surveyors over the phone, and that workers visited the pub, but insists he couldn’t have signed anything on this date as it was his son’s birthday, and so he was not working.
As both parties gear up for the appeal process, the pub landlord’s lawyer, Elliot Hammer of Branch Austin, has launched a CrowdJustice page to help cover the legal fees.
So far, this has raised £2,690 for the pub, with almost all of the donations coming from pub regulars.
Mr Nasadovich is aiming to raise £10,000 to fully cover his court costs.
He said: ‘I was really surprised by how many people have come to support us.
‘Especially when we have been closed for so long, I haven’t seen the customers for months now.
‘It feels encouraging in what has been a very dark time for us.’
Mr Hammer himself has three years of experience fighting RVA Surveyors in court, with more than a dozen cases under his belt in that time.
He said: ‘They’re very litigious – in order to have a chance, you need an expert legal team defending you.
'I've been defending clients from all over the UK from RVA Surveyors – in the case of Mr Nasadovic the appeal has been lodged but not yet heard.
'Often, even if you win the case, you don't get your money back. This fundraising page is helping to ensure that the landlord of the George and Dragon can get justice.
'Without it, he would be paying hand over fist in legal fees, and might not be able to afford this appeal.
'Pubs are the cornerstones of our communities and they are very vulnerable at the moment.'
Mr Nasadovich and wife Larissa have been living in Portsmouth for 17 years, and he says they have no intention of going anywhere, and will fight the legal system for as long as they need to.
In the past few years, a number of court cases brought forward by RVA Surveyors against other businesses have been overturned.
As reported in The Mirror last year, David Hurst of Braided International Lines was taken to court by RVA for unpaid bills on a second contract.
But at Leicester County Court, Deputy District Judge Henderson agreed that the contract had been forged, and ruled that the firm must pay Mr Hurst’s legal costs.
Mr Nasadovich is optimistic that his case will join the others.
‘It’s very unfair, to be in this position,’ he added.
The News’ consumer champion, Richard Thomson, described RVA as ‘profiteering’ from small businesses – who might not have even needed a business rates reduction.
He said: ‘Their latest tactic is to insist on payment of exorbitant charges for business rate relief in the current tax year when in fact the government have given small business statutory zero business rate relief.
‘To put it bluntly, they are charging for doing precisely nothing.
‘I have not yet had sight of their contract with their clients, but if they insist on making a charge for doing precisely nothing and then threatening them with court action for non payment it’s likely to be challenged as unfair and therefore break regulations to prevent profiteering by claims management companies.
‘Any business persons who may be entitled to zero rate relief can find out if they qualify simply by contacting their local council.’
RVA is not registered with the Financial Conduct Authority, which monitors all financial service activities.
The company’s website says the business takes pride in ‘integrity and commitment’ to its clients.
On TrustPilot, the firm is rated at 4.3 stars out of five, but 27 per cent of reviews are negative.
RVA Surveyors, which is based in Denton, Manchester, did not respond to The News’ request for a comment.
To donate to the George and Dragon’s fundraiser, people can go to crowdjustice.com/case/save-the-george-and-dragon.