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Equity release, where a person aged 55 or over is able to release cash from their home and continue living there, seems to be very much back in favour.  The money may be taken as a lump sum or in several smaller amounts or both.  In simple terms, the home owner retains ownership of their home and the loan is paid back with interest when they die or move into long-term care.  In the case of a couple, this will happen on the move or death of the surviving partner. Another form of equity release is home reversion.  This involves selling part of your home in return for a lump sum or regular payments.  At the end of the plan, the property is sold and the sale proceeds are shared according to the proportions of ownership.

Part of the reason that equity release is seen as attractive is the current low interest rates in the UK. Interest rates on lifetime mortgages are more expensive than conventional mortgages but the latter are often difficult to obtain for the over 55s. However, entering into equity release is something that should not be done lightly and is often seen as a last resort.  This is because interest is compounded and eats into the value of the property. Equally, there are often additional charges that can be high.  Some products are complicated and inflexible and with 121 lifetime mortgages now available, it can be difficult to choose the right product

It is also important that you discuss this with your children as it could significantly reduce their inheritance. On the other hand, equity release can fund home improvements; provide assistance sooner rather than later to younger generations; fund home care costs; or simply provide an additional income.

There are alternatives worth considering. Downsizing may be an option or, the Financial Conduct Authority has recently said that it is looking into assisting those with maturing interest-only mortgages who have no means of repaying them.  They will be publishing more details in the New Year.

For further advice please contact Nicole or our Wills, trusts and probate team.

The post Equity Release – a good idea or not? appeared first on Sherrards Solicitors.

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Commercial property availability and price is a controversial subject in and around St Albans. It is an issue that seems to be raised vociferously at every business meeting. Hardly surprising since, in the recent ‘Barriers to Growth’ research commissioned by the members of The City of Expertise, 80% of the businesses in and around St Albans are planning to grow either dramatically or moderately over the next two years.

With growth comes the issue of space and some businesses will simply find themselves outgrowing existing premises, and that presents many challenges.

Click here to read the full the latest blog.

The post Location, location, location appeared first on Sherrards Solicitors.

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You are in a business that revolves around people – clients, candidates and above all else your employees.

So what do you do when you are faced with an employee who raises a complaint or threatens to bring an Employment Tribunal claim against your business? What if you consider that their complaint has absolutely no legal basis and you feel that they are just using this to make your life difficult or try to get some form of compensation from you?

Such complaints are often highly disruptive and involve significant management and financial costs. However, ignoring the situation and having a disgruntled employee could backfire as ultimately it is your employees who have the relationship and contact with your clients and candidates. You would not want your employees to sour those relationships or worse leave and try and take those contacts with them.

What are some of the things that you can do to diffuse such a scenario? We admit, there is not a one size fits all answer to this question. Set out below are some potential options you could explore when dealing with a litigious/vexatious employee:

  • Informal conversations sometimes can go a long way – Quite often, matters can be resolved through an honest and tactful conversation with the employee, before things go too far or get too formal. Such a conversation might involve asking the employee what their desired outcome is, to ascertain whether it could be accommodated. This could resolve the dispute with minimal disruption to the business. However, this approach may not always be appropriate and it should be assessed depending on the nature of the individual involved or the complaint alleged.
  • Where appropriate, direct the employee towards the grievance procedure – Informal discussions may not be the best approach in all scenarios. In such cases, it would be advisable to direct the employee to start the formal grievance procedure. Whilst investigating the grievance will involve management time, should the complaint ultimately end up in an employment tribunal, the business would be able to show that it followed the correct procedures to try to resolve the employee’s concerns (provided those procedures are carried out correctly!).
  • Show that you take allegations seriously – Whilst it may initially appear that an employee is being difficult or vexatious by raising their complaints, this may not always be the case. It is still important to show that you are taking the allegations seriously by conducting a proper investigation in accordance with the relevant procedures. This will allow you to make an informed determination as to whether the complaint is vexatious or genuine.
  • Do not allow the employee to rehash old grievances – Where the employee has exhausted the internal grievance procedure (including appeal) but seeks to try and raise another complaint essentially on the same matter, the employee should be referred to the original grievance decision and it should be made clear that the business will not enter into any further correspondence or discussion on the matter.
  • Try to be consistent – We often see that disruptive employees try to contact different people with the same concerns in the hope that they can get a different response. In cases such as these, training would be helpful for employees to be aware of whom to raise such complaints with to ensure that there is a consistent approach within the organisation where possible.
  • Settlement Agreements – Where a package is offered to an employee in order to settle any complaints, consider doing this by way of a settlement agreement (even if there is no termination of the employee’s employment). Failure to do this means that technically an employee is not prevented from bringing a claim in the employment tribunal. However, a judgement will need to be made as to whether that is appropriate in the circumstances as, in order for such an agreement to be valid, an individual needs to get independent legal advice which could result in the employee asking for more in compensation following the advice they receive.

What is the best approach is a matter of judgement and should be assessed taking into account the individual in question, the complaints alleged and the potential risks to the business. However, implementing one or more of these action points could ultimately save your business time and money and avoid potential employment tribunal claims.

Our next blog in November will focus on how employers can deal with litigious/vexatious former employees who seek to try and bring claims following termination of their employment.

For more information please contact Mark Fellows or our recruitment or employment teams.

Sherrards uses reasonable care to ensure that the content (“Content”) appearing on the Website is current and accurate. The Content does not constitute legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only, without giving any warranty of any kind, either express or implied. The User hereby acknowledges that Sherrards have no control over the use to which the User puts the Content and as such Sherrards cannot and shall not be liable for any loss arising out of the Users (or any third party to whom the User forwards Content) use of, or reliance upon the Content (whether such loss is direct, indirect or consequential).

The post The vexing problem of aggrieved employees in the recruitment industry appeared first on Sherrards Solicitors.

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New rules were recently approved by the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) committee to change the way in which litigants disclose their documents. It is set to be a two-year pilot scheme in the business and property courts, beginning in January 2019 and if successful, is likely to lead to wider reforms on disclosure.

This announcement follows widespread concerns expressed by court users and lawyers about excessive costs, scale and sheer complexity of disclosure and the formation in May 2016 of a disclosure working group. The rules have been amended in an effort to clarify the provisions about disclosure of known adverse documents and on the procedure for withholding documents on grounds of privilege.

The use of tech-led solutions will certainly be increasing over the coming years. Fortunately, the courts are becoming more comfortable with technology and law firms need to adapt to the changes set to take place. London’s commercial and chancery courts, alongside those in Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, will be the first to experience the pilot.

Defects in the current disclosure regime:

  • Since the CPR were introduced, the volume of data that is required to be disclosed has significantly increased to often unmanageable amounts.
  • Standard disclosure which was originally announced in the CPR has unfortunately not reduced the volume of disclosure.
  • Searches are unnecessarily wide and do not focus attention on key information – vast quantities of data are produced when more often than not only a small amount of this is actually relevant to the disclosure exercise and supports the party’s case.
  • There is a lack of engagement between the parties in relation to disclosure.
  • The existing rules are based on hard copy paper documents. In today’s world, they are the exception, with electronic documents taking their place as technology rapidly advances and use of document management software increases. The working group has announced the need for a cultural change.

Proposals and Solutions:

  • There needs to be a duty on both the parties and their lawyers to cooperate and assist each other and the court over disclosure.
  • Introduction of sanctions for non-compliance.
  • Duty to refrain from providing unnecessary and irrelevant documents.
  • Duty to consider the use of technology.
  • Part 31 of the CPR (disclosure and inspection of documents) has been fully redrafted – the proposals introduce a new concept of basic disclosure, requiring the key documents, necessary for the other side to have an understanding of the case, to be provided, along with the parties’ statements of case.
  • After close of statements of case, and before the case management conference (CMC), if the parties want to go beyond basic disclosure, they should be required to discuss and jointly complete a joint disclosure review document (DRD), which replaces the existing electronic disclosure questionnaire and disclosure report.
  • The DRD requires the parties to list the main issues in the case which will need to be determined by reference to contemporaneous documents and exchange proposals for extended disclosure, selecting from a “menu” of options (there will be a “model of disclosure” for each issue – models A to E). The parties will also need to share information through the DRD as to how documents are stored and how they might, if required, be searched and reviewed. This will provide a way for parties to engage positively prior to the first CMC, hopefully agreeing a more efficient approach to disclosure.
  • The graduated models for disclosure range from no order for disclosure at all (model A) to exceptional disclosure based on a train of enquiry (model E).
  • Form H cost budgets in relation to disclosure should be completed after an order for disclosure has been made rather than before. By this time the parties should have a much better sense of what the actual costs are likely to be and saving a lot of time.
  • Moving away from a paper-heavy approach and towards technology-assisted review techniques and the use of specialised document management software.

In today’s world, clients increasingly expect their lawyers to carry out their legal work efficiently and at reduced costs while maintaining the same level of service. If law firms are to meet these expectations, and run disclosure exercises efficiently, then embracing the use of litigation technology will be crucial.

It is important that law firms take note of the proposed changes and start thinking about how they are going to adapt in order to be fully compliant with the new rules.

For more information please contact the dispute resolution team.

Sherrards uses reasonable care to ensure that the content (“Content”) appearing on the Website is current and accurate. The Content does not constitute legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only, without giving any warranty of any kind, either express or implied. The User hereby acknowledges that Sherrards have no control over the use to which the User puts the Content and as such Sherrards cannot and shall not be liable for any loss arising out of the Users (or any third party to whom the User forwards Content) use of, or reliance upon the Content (whether such loss is direct, indirect or consequential).

The post Disclosure Rules set for major changes appeared first on Sherrards Solicitors.

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Whether you are relatively new to the UK property market or an experienced investor, you will be aware of the difficulties of buying a new home or investment property.

Here are our top five tips to help you:

1.Finance arrangements

Whether or not finance is needed, speak to a broker early on in a transaction and preferably before your agent agrees the main elements of the purchase.  Raising finance once exchange has taken place, makes for a fraught completion experience for both you and your lawyer.

2. Planning the completion date

If you are selling a property to raise money for your purchase, ensure that the completion date of the sale is on or before the completion of the purchase. This may sound obvious but it will avoid surcharged rates of SDLT being paid at 3% above the standard rates.  These rates are paid even where your main residence is being replaced with the Revenue requiring you to claim a rebate once the additional main residence is sold.

You can also avoid the need to use your cash reserves for a deposit, as a deposit held on your sale can be used for your purchase where the property is in England and Wales.

3. Surveyor’s appointment

Appoint a surveyor. He or she will flag items that you may not necessarily have spotted on your brief viewing and may even give some bargaining power and leverage on the price.

4. Your lawyer

Make and keep a relationship with a lawyer and update them on your transaction. This is particularly important where you are marketing a property for sale, to ensure that deadlines, that you or your agent impose, can be met by buyers.  A full sales pack with all title deeds, up-to-date searches, planning and building information can be pulled together in advance.

Plan for exchange well in advance. Weeks of delay can be avoided if all the fact finding has been completed in advance.  Attended exchanges do still occur so be prepared.If there are any title difficulties, these can be addressed in advance.

5. Your accountant

Take tax advice. You may not be resident in the UK, you may own other properties worldwide or hold a portfolio of investment property.  Early tax advice will be required to work out your CGT (Capital Gains Tax) liability on sale and IHT (Inheritance Tax) liability on death.

SDLT matters will be more complicated, where other property is held and often a detailed assessment is required to determine the SDLT rates payable by you.  Where your company owns the title to the property, ATED (Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings) charges will be made annually and your accountant will need to claim any exemptions in your annual tax return.

Final thoughts

You may have very specific requirements which must be conveyed to all parties. You may want to access the property you are buying between exchange and completion with architects and builders to obtain quotes or for interior designers to start planning works.  The seller may even agree to you commencing limited works to help you move forward quickly with your plans.

Where you are buying a bolt hole which is a leasehold property, a landed estate owner may own the freehold, for example the Grosvenor or Portman Estate. Do not be surprised when you are asked for onerous references to obtain the landlord’s consent, in lieu of a rent or service charge deposit.

If you are buying a turn key, consider if there are any service charges for the shared estate roads and whether building warranties for any building works are available.

Where you are buying expensive items of furniture, artwork, electrical items, to be left at the property, a full inventory of those items with costings will need to be included.  Such items do not attract SDLT but they must be justifiable in their costings.

For more advice or a quote please contact Caroline Vernon or our residential team.

Sherrards uses reasonable care to ensure that the content (“Content”) appearing on the Website is current and accurate. The Content does not constitute legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only, without giving any warranty of any kind, either express or implied. The User hereby acknowledges that Sherrards have no control over the use to which the User puts the Content and as such Sherrards cannot and shall not be liable for any loss arising out of the Users (or any third party to whom the User forwards Content) use of, or reliance upon the Content (whether such loss is direct, indirect or consequential).

The post Top tips when buying property appeared first on Sherrards Solicitors.

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The Law Commission has launched a consultation into the leasehold enfranchisement of houses and flats. Amongst the proposals are a unified procedure for both flats and houses which currently operate under separate regimes for claiming the freehold.  The proposed reforms would also remove the requirement for leaseholders to own a property for a minimum of two years before making a claim for the freehold.

Difficulties continue to be experienced with lenders, where housebuilders have sold leasehold homes with annual “ground rent” charges that double every ten years.  Banks do not like to lend on such properties, particularly where such rents are determined with RPI and are not ascertainable nor set out in the lease.

Reform to the procedures for dealing with missing landlords would also be welcome.

The most contentious aspect of the consultation is a reform of the valuation procedure.  The proposed reforms may reduce the amounts payable by leaseholders at the expense of landlords.  This would of course adversely impact on the value of landlords’ ground rent portfolios.

Reform of this area is also required so that leaseholders cannot be at risk of losing their largest and most valuable asset following a first-tier tribunal ruling, in November 2017, which granted forfeiture of the lease and possession of a property to a landlord where a long leaseholder repeatedly failed to remedy unauthorised alterations in breach of the lease.

Views on the proposals are invited up to 20 November 2018.

For further information please contact Caroline Vernon or our residential property team.

Sherrards uses reasonable care to ensure that the content (“Content”) appearing on the Website is current and accurate. The Content does not constitute legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only, without giving any warranty of any kind, either express or implied. The User hereby acknowledges that Sherrards have no control over the use to which the User puts the Content and as such Sherrards cannot and shall not be liable for any loss arising out of the Users (or any third party to whom the User forwards Content) use of, or reliance upon the Content (whether such loss is direct, indirect or consequential).

The post Leasehold reform appeared first on Sherrards Solicitors.

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This was the second webinar of a two-part series on how law firms can develop their brands and reputations through inclusion and recognition by the law firm directories, such as the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners.

The webinar stood out as a truly global shared experience with over 330 subscribers online, dialling in from over 80 countries, watching a live interactive panel session.  With a running “ticker-tape” chat-box, viewers jumped in with plenty of feedback and comments, which the panel responded to in real-time, both in writing and on the screen.

The webinar is available to watch on the IBA’s website.

The panel included: David Burgess, publishing director of the Legal 500, who is ultimately responsible for all rankings across the world for the Legal 500; Melissa Davis, who is director of MD Communications, a legal PR and marketing agency; Ekaterina Rozenbaum, head of international business development for one of Russia’s leading law firms, Egorov, Puginsky, Afanasiev & Partners; and Jason Smalley, a general counsel with many years’ experience working with and engaging law firms all over the world.

Sherrards’ Melissa Menelaou helped to “drive the decks” and provided commentary on the feedback, giving the odd shout-out to Sydney, Singapore and Switzerland!

The IBA itself has a membership of more than 80,000 individual lawyers and more than 190 bar associations, in over 160 countries.  It has considerable expertise in providing assistance to the global legal community.

Sherrards’ connection to the IBA, alongside our membership of the Alliott Group worldwide alliance of law and accountancy firms, means that we are able to call upon professional colleagues across the globe when international support is needed.

If you would like more information about the IBA, the Alliott Group or Sherrards, then please contact Paul Marmor.

Sherrards uses reasonable care to ensure that the content (“Content”) appearing on the Website is current and accurate. The Content does not constitute legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only, without giving any warranty of any kind, either express or implied. The User hereby acknowledges that Sherrards have no control over the use to which the User puts the Content and as such Sherrards cannot and shall not be liable for any loss arising out of the Users (or any third party to whom the User forwards Content) use of, or reliance upon the Content (whether such loss is direct, indirect or consequential).

The post Paul Marmor facilitated a webinar for the International Bar Association (IBA) on ‘How to leverage a position in the legal directories’ appeared first on Sherrards Solicitors.

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