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Selling your home can be complex and daunting, so finding the right conveyancing team to work with is vital to ensure the process is as stress-free as possible. At Tollers, our Conveyancing teams assist their clients through every stage of the process to ensure the journey to completion is as smooth as possible.

An average sale transaction takes approximately 10 -12 weeks based on a standard freehold sale. If the property being sold is leasehold the transaction will take longer due to the involvement of additional third parties, such as a Landlord and/or managing agents.

Tollers Conveyancing team have produced this step-by-step guide to selling a house to assist you in understanding the steps involved in a standard freehold sale transaction and what they do at each stage for you and what you need to do.

Stage 1 – Instructing your Conveyancer/Solicitor

To ensure a smooth and legally compliant property transaction, it is essential to engage the services of a Solicitor or a Conveyancer who possesses the expertise to handle the intricate legal aspects of the sale, safeguarding your interests, whilst adhering to the relevant regulations. You should instruct your conveyancer or solicitor as soon as you place your property on the market so that they can start working on your sale even before you have sold your property.

Such preparation includes:

  1. Sending you an instruction pack;
  2. Opening your file and dealing with the relevant identification formalities;
  3. Obtaining a copy of the title to your property;
  4. Obtaining a redemption figure from your existing mortgage lender.

Carrying out these steps before you have sold the property means that, once you have agreed a sale, your conveyancing team can issue contracts to your buyer’s nominated Conveyancer speedily.

Once you have agreed a sale on your property it is important to inform your Conveyancing team who will confirm if they have received the sales details from your estate agent. If not, they can chase the estate agents as they are unable to prepare the necessary contract papers and issue these to your Buyer’s Conveyancer until they have received the sales details from them -which confirms the sale price and details on which firm the Buyer has chosen to instruct to act for them.

Stage 2 – Preparation of the Contract Papers

Your Conveyancing team will prepare the contract papers for your buyers’ solicitor which will contain the sale contract along with any associated documentation such as warranties, disclosures, inspection reports and any other relevant information specific to the transaction.

Stage 3 – Dealing with Pre-Contract Enquiries

Once the contract pack has been received by your Buyer’s Solicitor they should undertake their searches and review the draft contract pack in order that they can raise any enquiries. These enquiries may encompass queries about the property, its condition and legal or regulatory concerns.

The enquiries which may be raised could cover:

  1. Enquiries on the title to your property;
  2. Enquiries on the search results;
  3. Enquiries raised from the Buyer’s survey;
  4. Enquiries which the Buyer has raised.

Your conveyancing team will review the enquiries and deal with any they can answer and will forward any enquiries on to you which require your involvement.

Your responses to any enquiries are required in writing and once received these will be sent, by your conveyancer/solicitor to your Buyer’s Solicitor.

The Buyer’s Solicitors will then review the replies and forward a copy to the Buyer, this can sometimes lead to further enquiries being raised.

Sellers can find these steps frustrating but the Buyers and their Conveyancers are entitled to raise enquiries up to the point of exchange of contracts.

It is helpful if you, as the seller, deal with any enquiries promptly and provide as much information as possible, as well as any paperwork which you may hold in relation to the enquiry in order that your conveyancer can reply to the enquiries as comprehensively as possible. This may prevent further enquiries from being raised.

Once confirmed the sale contract can be prepared and sent to you for signing. The contract must also be signed by any adult occupiers that live in the property but who are not legal owners.

The second document that requires your signature is the transfer. This is prepared by the Buyer’s Solicitors and your conveyancer will approve it on your behalf. Your signature/s on the transfer need to be witnessed by someone that is independent and not related to you.

Both the signed contract and the transfer should be returned to your conveyancing team in order that they are in a position to exchange contracts.

We are not always advised when the Buyer’s mortgage offer is in place. The estate agent will have more information regarding the position of the Buyer’s mortgage offer as they are contacted by the Surveyor to arrange access to the property to carry out the Buyer’s survey and/or valuation report. The agents will also have the contact details for the Buyer’s mortgage broker or financial adviser. We would therefore suggest that you keep in contact with the estate agent who will be able to keep you updated on how the Buyer’s mortgage offer is progressing.

Once the Buyer’s solicitor has received the mortgage offer they need to comply with the mortgage lenders requirements and any conditions of the mortgage offer and valuation report before they are in a position to proceed to exchange of contracts.

Once the Buyer’s Solicitors are in receipt of satisfactory replies to enquiries, the search results, their client’s mortgage offer, source of deposit from the Buyer and they are holding signed papers from the Buyer, they will be in a position to exchange.

When the Buyer and any others in the chain (if there is one) are in a position to exchange contracts, all of the parties in the chain will need to agree a completion date. This completion date must be a working day.

Stage 4 – Exchange of Contracts

Exchange of contracts is the process when the contract becomes legally binding and the buyer and seller have formally committed to the sale and the completion date is set. Exchanging contracts involves the execution of contracts by both parties, typically accompanied by the buyer paying a deposit.

Once the contracts have been exchanged, the sale assumes legal enforceability, the contract becomes ‘legally binding’, and both parties are obligated to complete the transaction in accordance with the terms outlined in the contract.

Financial penalties will be incurred by the defaulting party if either party wishes to withdraw from the sale once contracts have been exchanged.

Your conveyancing team will need to speak to you on the day of the exchange to obtain your authority to exchange. This is a simple telephone call in which the price of the property and the completion date are confirmed.

The conveyancers in the chain will then exchange contracts and you will be advised once the exchange has taken place.

If you are also purchasing a property, the exchange of contracts on your sale and purchase would take place at the same time for the same completion date unless you have given specific instructions and your sale and purchase are to be exchanged and/or completed on different dates. Your Solicitor/Conveyancer will provide you with relevant advice on doing this before you exchange contracts.

Before contracts have been exchanged the sale is not legally binding and so therefore it is not advisable to commit yourself to securing rental accommodation or book removals or storage until the exchange had taken place.

Stage 5 – Completion

Completion is the final part of the process. On the day of completion, you vacate the property, the buyers’ solicitors transfer the outstanding balance to your solicitors and the transfer of the ownership to the buyer is affected, which means that the buyer officially becomes the new owner.

Once your conveyancer/solicitor receives the sale proceeds they will redeem any mortgage that you have on the property, pay the estate agents, settle their bill and account to you the balance of the sale proceeds.

There is no control over what time your sale completes on the completion date as it is subject to the Buyer’s solicitors transmitting funds to your solicitors’ practice and the banking system on the day.

On the completion date you need to vacate the property by midday and on receipt of the Buyer’s completion money, your conveyancing team will let you know the funds have been received, as well as telephone the estate agents and ask them to release the keys of the property to the new owners.

Completion takes place once your solicitor’s practice has received the funds, not when the balance of the sale proceeds are received by you.

Talk to Tollers

The successful sale of a property requires attention to detail and thorough preparation, as well as Collaboration with experienced professionals, from solicitors to real estate agents who provide invaluable support and expertise.

If you are uncertain about where to begin or have any queries regarding selling your HomeTalk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our Residential Property teams are on hand to provide up to date legal advice and guidance and support you throughout the process.

Purchasing a home is an exciting experience and a goal many in the UK aspire to achieve. So many in fact that a recent survey from the Homeowners Alliance found that just over 7 in 10 Brits who are not homeowners wish to own a home in the future, despite over half (52%) thinking they will never be able to do so.

With this unconfident look of getting on the property ladder, the only hope many see of actually achieving their goal is buying jointly with another person.

Purchasing a home with another person enables you to:

• Potentially afford a bigger mortgage;
• Share the responsibility of monthly repayments;
• Pool together savings in order to afford the required deposit;
• Split other costs such as Stamp duty and legal costs.

However, whether you are buying with a partner, friend, or colleague, it can be all too easy to overlook the legal implications that come with this type of arrangement. These implications could resurface at a later date, so addressing them at the start of the purchasing process is advisable.

The major point to discuss at the outset is how the property will be held between you and your co-buyer(s). There are two options you can choose: joint tenants or tenants in common.

But what’s the difference? Which one is best? Keep on reading this post to find out.


What are Joint Tenants?

When a property is held as joint tenants, it means that the parties who co-own the property have equal rights and obligations for the entirety of the property. Each party owns 100% of the home as far as the law is concerned. This means that to sell, all of the owners have to agree.

It also means that a joint tenant cannot leave part of the property to someone else in a will. So if one of the joint tenants passes away, the property automatically passes to the other owner(s) and is known as the ‘right of survivorship’. It also means that the value of their share does not form part of their estate, so it is not regarded as an asset on death.


What are Tenants in Common?

When you buy and co-own a property as tenants in common, there is no obligation for ownership shares of the property to be equal. Ownership splits, such as a 60:40 or 70:30 split, are decided by the owners of the property at the start of the buying process.

Unlike joint tenants, tenants in common can leave their share in the property to anyone they like in their will. When a tenant in common dies, their share passes to the person named in their Will or Trust Deed or to their next of kin. The value of this share is then calculated and forms part of their estate.

Tollers Conveyancing solicitors advise people entering into an agreement as Tenants in common to sign a Declaration of Trust to set out the distribution of shares on sale or death, for instance, if a couple are contributing different amounts of money towards the purchase price, that Trust Deed may provide that the original contributions are returned to the respective buyers, but that they share equally in any increase in value from the date of their purchase.

 

Joint Tenants vs Tenants in Common

There are pros and cons for both types of ownership, which can be dependent on the relationship between the buyers as well as their personal circumstances. The below table provides a summary of some of the differences:

 

 

Tenants in Common

Joint Tenants

What is the allocation of ownership?
Every owner (up to 4) each owns a specific percentage share of the property. These percentages can be any size. All ownership parties will have equal rights and 100% ownership of the property as a whole.

Right of survivorship?
No. Yes.
What type of people typically select this option when buying a property?
Friends, joint venture partners, relatives, people with children from a previous relationship. Spouses or partners.

Who receives your share on death?
Your share will form part of your Estate and your Executors will distribute this
The joint owner will have no claim on your share unless you have provided for this in your Will.
As there is a right of survivorship, the joint owners inherit the property,
You are unable to pass any interest in the property in your Will.

 

So which is best?

When it comes to selecting between tenants in common and joint tenants for property ownership, the choice ultimately hinges on what aligns best with the buyer’s personal preferences and circumstances.

For example:

Joint tenants may be the best choice if you are purchasing a property with a long-time spouse/partner where your financial contributions will be equal.

whereas,

Tenants in common may be the best option if you are buying with a group of friends where the amount you contribute financially is different.

Talk to Tollers

At Tollers our highly experienced Conveyancing team ask their clients at the very start of the process to state their preference after explaining their meanings and the ramifications to them.

If you’re seeking expert guidance for your Joint property purchase…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 our team is on hand to provide you with the advice you need.

 

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the process of deciding how an individual’s assets will be managed and distributed when they either become incapacitated or pass away.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be a challenging time for those left behind, so ensuring that the right processes have been put in place, whilst you are alive, can help your loved ones manage your estate should you become incapacitated or once you have gone.

Just some of the things to consider when putting your estate plan together are:

How can Estate Planning benefit you?

Protection for beneficiaries

Having a clear plan of action in place allows you to outline who you would like your beneficiaries to be. It also allows you to state how you wish to transfer your assets to your beneficiaries, meaning that you can, if done correctly, pass assets over in a tax-efficient manner.

Without estate planning in place, it could be left to the court to decide what happens to your assets and who benefits from them, which may go against what you would have liked, as well as be a time consuming and expensive process.

Protection of young children

Knowing you have estate planning in place gives you peace of mind should you have young children as it allows you to name who you would like to become their legal guardians. It also allows you to outline how you wish your child be cared for, should you or your partner pass away before your children turn 18.

Importantly, estate planning can also prove particularly helpful in creating unique plans tailored to any specific needs your child may have relating to their health, education and general wellbeing.

Without estate planning in place these decisions could be left to the court to decide.

Reduce Inheritance Tax burden

The estate planning process can protect your wealth while you are still alive and after you pass away.

Estate planning can ensure that you protect your assets against the impact of Inheritance tax and can help you to minimise the amount of tax that would be payable by your estate when you die.

It allows you look at how to pass on certain aspects of your estate and assets whilst still alive and decide on the most tax efficient methods for distributing your estate when you die, to ensure your beneficiaries receive the greatest benefits.

There are many different ways to do this including; gifts, leaving a legacy to charity, establishing Trusts, adding to a pension or even spending your wealth now.

Help loved ones avoid disputes

Family life is often not straightforward and can sometimes involve disagreements. Estate planning can help you minimise potential disagreements between family members, as it clearly sets out how you would like your estate managed when you pass away or are incapacitated.

When estate planning you will designate Executors who will administer your estate and facilitate your wishes once you are gone. Just some of the things your executors are responsible for are:

Having appointed executors should alleviate family tensions and conflicts and hopefully avoid any legal action, as your executors will ensure everyone is aware of exactly what they are entitled to and who will benefit from your estate.

Talk to Tollers

These are just some of the benefits of estate planning, each plan is tailored to the individual and their estate and may encompass other elements. This is why it is important that when putting your plan in place you seek out the best possible professional and legal advice.

For further advice and guidance on Estate Planning and how to put this important set of documents in place…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 and our experienced Trusts and Estates team will happily assist.

find out more here on Estate Planning.

In order to protect your business it is vital to understand restrictive covenants and how to use them in your employment contracts.  An ex-employee who possesses insights into your classified data, customers, and suppliers could become a substantial liability if they join a rival company or launch their own competitive venture. Therefore, when creating and negotiating employment contracts, consider what restrictions you would like to place on your employees or consultants if they resign, the contract ends, or are terminated. Including restrictive clauses that your employee or consultant has agreed to in writing could provide your business with legal protection and help you enforce these restrictions if the employee attempts to breach them.

In this blog, our specialists in Employment Law and Dispute Resolution have collaborated to answer frequently asked questions regarding the advantages of restrictive covenants in an employment contract and the process for enforcing them if issues arise.

  1. What are restrictive covenants?

Regarding an employment contract, restrictive covenants (also called post-termination restrictions) are a common feature of employment contracts and can help protect your business through periods of staff turnover. They are intended to survive the end of the employment relationship and prevent those employees from compromising your business interests by, for example, setting up a business in direct competition with you, going to work for a company that operates in direct competition with you, attempting to solicit your clients, customers or staff, or divulging trade secrets or confidential information.

  1. How do restrictive covenants work?

Drafting restrictive covenants requires careful consideration. These covenants should be specific, tailored to the role and go as far as is reasonable to protect your business interests. You should decide on a timeframe for the restrictions to apply, which may typically exclude any garden leave or notice period and geographical scope, such as a ten-mile radius of your premises. It is also essential to update the restrictions if an employee is promoted or starts a new position in your company to ensure that the covenants apply to their current job role. If an ex-employee breaches these covenants, they may be liable to a claim for breach of contract, and you may be able to recover losses incurred as a result of this.

  1. Why are restrictive covenants important for employers?

Restrictive covenants can provide businesses and employers with legal protection, covering matters such as:

  1. Are there different types of restrictive covenants?

Yes, there are various types, including non-compete clauses (which prevent ex-employees from working for competitors), non-solicitation clauses (which restrict solicitation of clients), and non-disclosure clauses (which prevent the sharing of company secrets).

  1. Are restrictive covenants enforceable?

Standard contract clauses restricting an employee’s activities after employment ends are typically invalidated due to their conflict with public policy and being viewed as a form of trade restraint.

Therefore, the enforceability of any restrictive covenants is fact-specific to each case.

  1. What should an employer do if they suspect a breach of a restrictive covenant clause in an employment contract?

If a former employee breaches legally binding restrictive covenants, the former employer can resort to specific measures to remedy the situation. One of the first steps includes sending a cease-and-desist letter to the former employee, detailing the alleged breach, and requesting compliance with the covenant in issue. Typically, the letter will specify a deadline for a response.

If a former employee does not respond or refuses to comply, the employer may need to consider legal action. Legal remedies could involve filing for an injunction to prevent ex-employees from committing further breaches and commencing a claim for damages for the losses the employer has suffered due to the breaches by the employee.

  1. Can the dispute be resolved without legal action?

In most cases, it is advisable to attempt to resolve the dispute through negotiation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods like mediation. This can save time and costs compared to litigation. It is also important to note that the courts typically view those who do not attempt to resolve disputes through ADR unfavourably when it comes to deciding who should pay costs at the conclusion of any court proceedings.

Remember, pursuing a claim for breach of restrictive covenants can be legally complex and should be approached carefully. It is crucial to seek legal advice and representation from specialists in this area of law to protect your interests and rights as an employer.

Legal Advice for Employers in Stevenage, Corby and Northampton

At Tollers, our employment lawyers in Stevenage, Corby and Northampton are experienced in assisting former employers in pursuing ex-employees who breach their restrictive covenants. We can advise on whether the restrictions you seek to rely on are enforceable and, with our experience, can help you protect your business from further damage caused by an ex-employee’s breach of such restrictions.

Should you require further information or assistance, please get in touch or contact us on 01604 258558 or complete the form below.

Robust Employment Support with Tollers HR

At Tollers, we understand the invaluable role your employees hold, along with the potential challenges they present. Hence, we have designed Tollers HR – a tool tailored to facilitate confident, cost-efficient HR management. Let us shoulder your HR responsibilities while you concentrate on what you do best – running your business. Our dedicated solicitors are here to provide you with personal, hands-on support, helping you navigate any employment law challenges that may arise. Utilising our legal teams for your outsourced HR solution ensures you can have peace of mind knowing that the advice and support you receive is legally protected and backed by regulated professionals who understand the intricacies of employment law.

Some of the key benefits of this service include:

Tribunal and Damages Claims: Specialist Indemnity Scheme Protecting Your Business

In partnership with a leading specialist insurance provider, the Tollers’ HR indemnity scheme covers tribunal costs and awards of up to £100,000 per case. We do not self-insure, which means we can cover all areas of potential claims, including discrimination. Our indemnity scheme is an essential safeguard against the unexpected costs of a Tribunal claim and can take away the temptation to settle a case on a commercial basis. Furthermore, it can protect against the cost of pursuing damages claims and injunctions, such as breaches of restrictive covenants. With Tollers’ HR indemnity, employers can have peace of mind, knowing they have a robust defence against legal uncertainties.

Robust Representation: Expert Guidance When You Need It

When faced with a Tribunal Claim or the need to pursue damages, Tollers is here to support you. Our professional and ethical advice can be critical to achieving successful outcomes, allowing you to focus on your business operations.

Navigating Employment Tribunals or Breach of Restrictive Covenant claims can be daunting and involve a specialist legal process that can prove complex, time-consuming, and costly. Tollers HR insurance indemnity can protect your business against the uncertainty of these costs, covering the expenses associated with Tribunal proceedings or legal actions against former employees.

What sets us apart is the expertise of our solicitors, who bring a wealth of experience in handling Tribunal and damages claims and a deep understanding of your unique case, thanks to your affiliation with Tollers HR. This insight allows us to meticulously prepare your case, and should you choose, we can even represent your business throughout the entire process, providing steadfast support from the initial stages to the final hearing.

Anytime Advice Line: Direct to Solicitor Support at Your Fingertips

Enjoy peace of mind with our ‘direct to solicitor’ service, exclusively available to Tollers HR members. Our experienced employment law solicitors are just a call away, providing reliable support and advice whenever you need it on everyday employment matters and general inquiries.

Find out more ….

These are just a few of the benefits available and the protection covered by the Tollers HR insurance indemnity. Tollers HR package ensures you and your business get hands-on support and legal advice for all Human Resource issues from our specialist employment law solicitors. Click the link to find out more about Tollers HR.

Are you unsure on whether to buy a property in 2023/2024? The looming end of the temporary relief on Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) may be the reason to think about this now and save yourself thousands of pounds!

The SDLT threshold increase to the rate announced in September 2022 has provided the opportunity for many first-time buyers to get on the property ladder. The savings made by first-time buyers has helped them to increase their deposit and to pay a reduced amount of tax on a home that costs more than £425,000.

However, be aware, that the SDLT threshold is coming to an end on 31st March 2025.

SDLT thresholds will return to the previous levels in just 18 months. This means that from the 1st April 2025 the cost of a property on which homebuyers start paying stamp duty land tax will return to the previous level of £125,000 from £250,000 and to £300,000 from £425,000 for first-time buyers. For example:

Current SDLT rate on a standard freehold property purchase, UK resident/main residence:

The SDLT homebuyers pay when buying a freehold property for £350,000 before 31st March 2025 deadline is calculated as follows:

SDLT rate from 31 March 2025 on a standard freehold property purchase, UK resident/main residence:

The SDLT homebuyers pay when buying a freehold property for £350,000 after 31st March 2025 deadline is calculated as follows:

Homebuyers who complete before the 31st March 2025 deadline could save as much as £2,500 in SDLT.

The deadline is fast approaching and homebuyers need to be aware that a residential property transaction takes an average of 12 to 16 weeks to complete.  Therefore, any property completion date that falls after this deadline could result in a significant tax burden.

If you are currently considering buying a residential property, planning ahead may be the right approach to reduce the risk of paying higher SDLT and missing the deadline.

Whether buying or Selling a property getting the advice and guidance you need is invaluable. For all your property needs…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258101, our experienced conveyancing teams are on hand to guide you through.

The Statutory Legacy has increased for a Spouse when a person passes away without a Will.

When a person passes away without a valid Will in place, their estate passes in accordance with what is called the “Intestacy Rules”.  Many people would assume that when they pass away if they have a surviving spouse or civil partner, then their estate would automatically pass to them, however, this is not the case.

The “Statutory Legacy” is the specific sum given to the surviving spouse or civil partner of a deceased person, who has died without a valid Will in place, and has children.  From the 26th of July 2023 after a review took place, the amount of Statutory Legacy received under the Intestacy Rules increased from £270,000 to £322,000.

This therefore means that if the deceased has a spouse or civil partner and has children, then the first £322,000 of the deceased’s estate passes to the surviving spouse or civil partner, along with the personal possessions, and then half of the residuary estate (the remainder of the estate minus deductions).  The remainder of the residuary estate is then shared equally between the children of the deceased.

This law doesn’t apply to those who are cohabiting together, or living as common law spouses, regardless of the time together.  For the rules to apply, you must be married or in a civil partnership on the date the first partner passes away.  There may also be inheritance tax implications if your entire estate doesn’t pass to your spouse or civil partner, as the spouse exemption cannot be claimed.  It is also important for those with blended family arrangements to ensure the beneficiaries of your choice inherit from your estate.  For example, if your estate is below the £322,000 Statutory Legacy, then without a valid Will in place, only your spouse would inherit from your estate and your children would not.  This may not be your wish if the spouse is not the parent of your children.

Therefore, to ensure that your estate passes where you wish and that your family and beneficiaries are protected, we strongly advise drawing up a Will.

For further advice and guidance on Statutory legacy and how to put this important document in place…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 and our experienced Trusts and Estates team will happily assist.

find out more here on making a Will…

Tollers is proud to announce its support for Lakelands Hospice, Corby and Garden House Hospice, Letchworth as our chosen Charities of the Year for 2023/24. We will not only be fundraising for these hospices but will also be looking to make a difference in a more hands-on way of volunteering across the coming months.

Lakelands Hospice, Corby

Lakelands Hospice provides emotional and practical support for adults with life-limiting illnesses within a 20-mile radius of the hospice’s location in Corby, Northamptonshire. Their nurses facilitate Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and Heart Failure courses for patients referred by GP’s, District Nurses and Hospitals. They also have a team of nurses who provide Hospice at-home services supporting patients who want to pass away in their own homes within the last two weeks of life.

Lakelands is an independent daycare hospice and does not receive any Government or NHS funding. It relies entirely upon charitable donations.

Lakelands Hospice is particularly close to the hearts of the staff at Tollers after it supported one of our own, Amanda Marlow, during her battle with cancer; a battle she sadly lost in November 2022.

Garden House Hospice, Letchworth

Garden House Hospice Care provides specialist palliative care for patients, families and carers facing life-limiting illnesses, enabling them to have the best possible quality of life by providing care and support in the setting of their choice, without discrimination.

Their team offers physical, emotional and spiritual care. It is available for people living in North Hertfordshire, Stevenage and surrounding towns and villages in Central Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire and they support hundreds of people every year.

To find out more about our chosen charities of the year, the vital work both hospices provide, to make a referral or to make a donation:

Click here to visit Lakelands Hospice Corby.

Click here to visit Garden House Hospice Letchworth.

Tollers are proud and excited to support these fantastic organisations this year, and hope you will join us in showing them support.

The government introduced the Renters (Reform) Bill (‘the Bill’) to Parliament on 17 May 2023 proposing significant reforms to the residential letting sector in England. Some provisions also affect Wales.

The Bill is likely to be subject to change as it passes through parliament and the purpose of this update is to highlight some of the possible changes coming down the road and what these could mean for landlords.

The changes will affect new residential tenancies other than purpose-built student accommodation.

The key points in the Bill are:

Rent increases

Currently a landlord can provide mechanisms for reviewing or increasing the rent to avoid the statutory regulation of rent increases. The Bill will prohibit landlords from increasing rents other than by serving a statutory notice, and only where the market rate rises. Tenants will be able to challenge the rent increase. The First-tier Tribunal (FTT) will continue to hear those challenges and will determine the correct market rent. The Bill also includes a requirement for landlords to give at least two months’ notice before increasing rent and rent increases will only be permitted once a year.

Abolishing fixed-term tenancies

Fixed-term tenancies will be abolished and tenancies can only be periodic. The period can be no longer than one month. Tenants will be able to end their tenancy by giving two months’ notice (unless the parties have agreed to a shorter period) or a landlord can provide evidence for a valid ground of possession. Note that a fixed-term tenancy of more than seven years cannot be an assured tenancy.

Abolishing assured shorthold tenancies (‘ASTs’)

ASTs have been the standard form of tenancy granted by private landlords in the residential property market since they were introduced in 1997. The Bill will abolish them. New residential tenancies are likely to be assured tenancies.

Abolishing ‘no fault’ possession notices

As a consequence of abolishing ASTs, the mechanism to end quickly and at no fault (by the landlord serving a section 21 notice), also falls away. Existing fault-based grounds can be used to end a tenancy. These will require service of a notice specifying a particular ground for possession and then, most likely, a court hearing.

New grounds for possession
Property Ombudsman

The Bill proposes a new “property ombudsman” who can deliver binding decisions in landlord-tenant disputes (including payment of compensation), and these decisions can be enforced just like court orders. This will be free to tenants and funded by landlords. Private landlords will be required to join this scheme.

Written statements

Landlords will have to provide tenants with a written statement, including terms of the tenancy before the tenancy starts.

Pets

Tenants will be given a right to request permission to keep a pet in their home, which cannot be unreasonably refused (although landlords can require the tenant to maintain pet insurance or cover the landlord’s reasonable costs for doing the same). A decision must be given within 42 days.

Penalties

Various financial and criminal penalties will be introduced for landlords who breach their obligations. For example, if a landlord uses the new possession ground to move a family member into the property and subsequently lets the property within the prohibited three-month window, the local authority may impose a financial penalty of up to £5,000 (which may be recurring if the contravention continues for more than 28 days) or prosecute for a criminal offence.

If the abolition of ASTs and ‘no fault’ notices become law, investment landlords are likely to want to see a commitment by the government to introduce court reforms to provide an effective mechanism to remove tenants who are withholding rent payments. In any event, Landlords will need to consider the increased legislative burdens and costs of these proposals.

Talk to Tollers

We will provide more updates on the Renters (Reform) Bill as it progresses through parliament.

If you are a landlord and would like more information on how the Renters (Reform) Bill could affect you and the properties you own and rent…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our experienced Commercial Property experts are on hand to guide you and provide the latest updates on the progress of the bill.

Reducing conflict in family matters is vital. For many years the family court has encouraged family law solicitors to adopt a more constructive and collaborative approach to how they deal with the resolution of family issues compared to other courts. This is because it has been found that trying to resolve matters in a way that minimises conflict between the parties is likely to lead to better outcomes for the family in the long run. Many family law solicitors agree to act in line with a code of conduct and are members of an organisation known as Resolution which supports this approach. The courts are continuing to develop this approach in many ways.

We have now passed the one-year anniversary of the change to the divorce law in England and Wales which removed the need for separating couples to make any allegations against one another when they were seeking a divorce, known as no-fault divorce. Since April 2023 anyone wishing to divorce has been able to simply file an application online through the divorce portal stating that their marriage has broken down irretrievably to start the divorce process.

Changing the process in this way has undoubtedly allowed some couples to avoid the difficult confrontation or negotiation that previously arose following the breakdown of their marriage in deciding who would petition whom and on what basis. It has also stopped the rush to get in first with the divorce petition to gain control of the process. Between April and December 2022, 22% of the divorce applications issued under the new law were issued on a joint basis, something that was not possible previously.

As part of the changes, the court also took the opportunity to review and change some of the legal terminology affecting the divorce process. Petitioners became Applicants and the Divorce petition is now the divorce application.

Recently the Family Solutions Group published a paper called “Language Matters” which addresses the effect of legal terms used in the family court. They have recommended that the terms used be looked at again to minimise their impact. The language used can stoke a combative mindset and some terms such as “opponent”, “judgement” and “dispute” create the suggestion of an environment that is far from collaborative. Instead, they suggest the use of the parties’ first names in documents and the discussion of resolution in more constructive terms.

Talk to Tollers

Tollers family solicitors will always aim to minimise conflict in dealing with your family matters as far as possible. If you require assistance and would like to look at ways of reducing conflict…Talk to tollers on 01604 258558, our experienced family team is on hand to guide you through and facilitate you.

We would all like to imagine that we will always be capable of managing our affairs, but what happens if through mental or physical impairment we cannot?  Planning ahead is essential and Lasting Power of Attorney (LPAs) are a vital part of the process.

The Trusts and Estates team at Tollers is experienced in assisting and guiding our clients through the process of making an LPA to ensure their wishes are respected.

Here they answer some common questions concerning Lasting Powers of Attorney:

Q: What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A: A Lasting Power of Attorney (‘LPA’) is a document appointing a person (an ‘Attorney’) to manage the affairs of another person (the ‘Donor’) and can continue to have effect  even when the Donor has lost mental capacity.

Q: Are there different types of LPA?

A: Yes – there are two different types of LPA:

Lasting Power of Attorney for finance and property:

The Property and Financial Affairs LPA usually relates to dealings in respect of the Donor’s house, bank accounts shares etc.  It can remain in effect if the person it relates to loses mental capacity at a later date.

If someone owns a business or has an interest in a business they can also make an LPA to appoint a suitable person to make decisions concerning their business interests when they are unavailable or lack mental capacity.

Lasting Power of Attorney for health and care:

The Health and Welfare LPA relates to decisions such as where the Donor lives, life-sustaining treatment, medical decisions, medication and social care.

Q: When can an individual make an LPA?

A: If someone has mental capacity they can make an LPA at any time.  If they lack mental capacity then someone else cannot make an LPA on their behalf instead, an application would need to be made to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order.

Q: Can an LPA be used as soon as it has been signed?

A: No.  An LPA must be registered at the Office of the Public Guardian (the government body that administers LPAs) before it can be used.  An application would normally be made when all parties have signed.

Q: Are there safeguards?

A: The advantage of an LPA is that the Donor chooses the people to manage their affairs (the Attorneys).  The Donor can also include within the LPA binding instructions or non-binding advice for their Attorneys.  There is also provision for family members to be notified that the LPA is being registered.

Q: Can the Donor still manage their own affairs?

A: If an LPA is in place the Donor can still manage their own affairs provided the Donor has mental capacity.  If the Donor loses mental capacity the appointed Attorneys will then take over the management of the Donors affairs.

Q: What happens if the Donor dies?

A: If the Donor dies the LPA automatically comes to an end.  The Attorney should send the original LPA and the death certificate to the Office of the Public Guardian as soon as possible.

For further advice and guidance on how to put these important documents in place…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 and our experienced Trusts and Estates team will happily assist.

More information can be found here.

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