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Should we end the blame game of divorce?

Under current English law, even if both parties agree that their marriage has broken down, unless and until they have been separated for 2 years, they cannot get divorced without one party being blamed.

The reasons for the breakdown of a marriage are usually complex and it is not uncommon for both parties to have quite different views regarding the cause of the difficulties that have arisen. When emotions are already running high, the law, which requires reliance upon either adultery or unreasonable behaviour (unless parties are willing to wait 2 years) is only likely to add fuel to the fire.

Forcing couples to blame each other when there is no real need to do so, can create unnecessary conflict which can in turn affect how the couple deal with the related arrangements that must be made in respect of any children and regarding financial matters.Resolution Standard

Resolution, an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals who believe in a constructive and non-confrontational approach to family law matters, is currently campaigning for a change in the law that would allow couples to divorce without blame.

The need for reform has to a great extent been highlighted by the recent case of Owens v Owens in which a wife has been denied a divorce because the Court determined that her husband’s behaviour was insufficient to justify the granting of a divorce decree.  A decision of the Supreme Court is still awaited and will turn upon the interpretation of the relevant section of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Whatever the outcome, the case highlights the need for change.

Resolution are proposing a new “no fault” process allowing one or both parties to give notice that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.  The divorce can then be progressed and if after a period of 6 months , either or both remain of the view that the marriage is over, the divorce can be finalised without any blame being assigned to either party.

Our family team at North Ainley are accredited Resolution members and can advise and assist you with divorce proceedings and all other issues that can arise following the breakdown of a relationship.

 

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THREE PEAKS FOR MAHDLO!

On Saturday 7 July 2018, Team North Ainley took on the ‘Saddleworth Three Peaks Challenge’ – organised by registered charity Mahdlo Youth Zone, to raise money for its state of the art facility in the heart of Oldham.

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As the day approached and the heat wave showed no signs of subsiding, extra sunscreen, sunhats, ice-packs and lightweight everything was panic bought and we wondered whether it would be deemed too hot for the event to go ahead.  We then heard that as one of the peaks (Indian’s Head) was off limits due to the moor fires it would be replaced with a mystery ‘peak’ on the day….the fear of the unknown set in!

On the day, we all arrived bright and breezy at the starting point (Royal George in Mossley) to find the sun still had its hat on and that we were technically climbing 4 peaks (thanks for that Mahdlo/Chris Wareing!).  The route included Dovestones, Pots and Pans, Alderman’s Hill, a particularly gruelling section up Lark Hill from Dobcross, along the Delph Donkey Trail and a final push up Wharmton Hill.  The sun beamed down all day and our feet nearly gave up but we were rewarded with amazing views and a fantastic sense of camaraderie between the 90 walkers who took part.  That said, the hills were no match for our very own Laura Brennan who was first back having completed the route in just over 5 hours!!

Congratulations to all our team who took part (Laura Campbell, Alison Winterbottom, Lisa Yates, Val Stocker, Laura Brennan, Jill Gregory, Jamie Holmes, Sophie Lee) flying the flag for North Ainley and raising essential funds for Mahdlo.  With some sponsors still to be collected, we are thrilled to report that our total raised currently stands at £875 – which is just fantastic for a one off event.  A big thank you to all the firm’s friends, family and clients who sponsored us, we hope we did you proud!

If you didn’t get chance you can still sponsor us on the link below until 31 August  2018.

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/na3peaks

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New Acas Religion & Belief Guidance

Religion will always be a sensitive subject and in a multicultural society like ours it can be tricky for employers to navigate without unintentionally discriminating.  With that in mind, Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) have just issued new guidance on Religion and Belief discrimination.Acas

What is religion or belief discrimination?

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against or treat someone unfairly because of religion or philosophical belief, or their lack thereof.  All protected beliefs are equal and so no one religion can override another. However, to be a protected philosophical belief, it must be more than an opinion, apply to a significant aspect of human life or behaviour, be worthy of respect and not conflict with other people’s the fundamental rights

The Guide

The Acas guidance suggests that discrimination is most likely to occur in recruitment, requests for time off and dress codes and suggests the following:

Recruitment

Job advertisements should be published widely, religion should not be mentioned in the posting but the employer should be clear in explaining the job’s duties and hours of work so there are no misunderstandings. Any potential issues should be flagged up early on in the recruitment process e.g. if the role involves client networking it would not be suitable for someone who refusesd to shake hands for religious reasons.

In rare circumstances employers can specify an ‘occupational requirement’ that a candidate must have (or not have) a particular religion or philosophical belief.

Leave Requests

Requests for time off for religious festivals or for religious reasons should be considered carefully and sympathetically and ideally, agreement on such requests should be set out within the employment contract. The guidance warns that refusing requests for leave for religious holidays and time to pray without good business reasons can lead to a claim for discrimination and also, that employers should acknowledge that employee performance may be affected during fasting.

Dress Codes

Where possible, employers’ dress codes should be flexible and reasonable and any restrictions must be based on solid business reasons that are proportionate, appropriate and necessary.

Is it useful?

In the absence of any government guidance, the Acas guide is long overdue and whilst it does go some way to inform and comfort employers it fails to address real life complexities of the workplace. For example, employers can be liable for their employees’ acts so it’s advisable to provide training to all staff on religion or belief discrimination and lay down firm rules on what behaviour is unacceptable. Employers should also note that if a discrimination cases got to an employment tribunal, the focus would be on how an individual ‘perceived’ words or actions and this is of course subjective.

If you are an employer or an employee and have concerns about discrimination in the workplace, contact North Ainley for expert legal advice.

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Dress Codes: “Don’t tell me what to wear!”

As a society we are becoming increasingly averse to being told what to do, not least in the workplace and especially when the British summertime hits and we want to ditch the suits and keep cool……

Can I be told what to wear? There are many valid reasons why an employer may impose a dress code (corporate image, identification, health & safety) but it must relate to the job, be reasonable in nature and ideally be set out clearly in the organisation’s policy. Employees must also be informed of the policy and given enough time to buy the required attire.

But is it fair? A dress code must not be discriminatory against any of the ‘characteristics’ protected by the Equality Act 2010 (age, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation). For example, if a dress code is in place, reasonable adjustments may need to be made for disabled people and employers must respect clothing worn for religious reasons. However, this must be balanced against other relevant factors i.e. loose clothing may be a hazard when operating machinery.

Men v. women:  The Government Equalities Offices has recently published new guidance on dress codes and sex discrimination. The Guidance highlights that whilst dress policies for men and women do not have to be the same, the standards imposed on each sex should be equivalent. For example a policy can require men to ‘wear a tie’ whilst ‘business dress’ is required for women and requiring any gender-specific items (high heels, manicured nails or lipsticks) is likely to be held unlawful.

Recent media hype surrounding dress codes has caused many employers to review and even scrap their policies. Last summer male employees revolted against a ‘no shorts’ policy by wearing skirts to work and the Speaker of the House of Commons announced that male MPs no longer needed to wear a tie to speak, thus ending centuries of tradition.

What if I don’t want to? If the code is reasonable, staff can be dismissed for failing to comply but employers should be cautious of imposing high standards and risk having their policy tested by the Employment Tribunal.

Our Team at North Ainley provide clear and practical advice on all Employment Law issues.

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Is your home owned by your partner?

In the 21st century it is very commonplace for individuals to cohabit with their partner. In the early stages of a relationship, a breakup seems remote.  If the property is owned in your partner’s sole name, it is prudent to consider at an early stage if you would be entitled to an interest in the home you share with your partner.  Many people invest their time and hard work into the “family home”, without establishing their rights.   This is a tricky area of law and it is important to obtain clear legal advice at the outset.

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The recent case of Dobson v Griffey [2018] EWHC 1117(Ch), emphasised  how difficult it can be to claim an interest in a property, if the property is in your partner’s sole name.  In this case, Ms Dobson and Mr Griffey were in a relationship and agreed to purchase a farm property in 2007, in Mr Griffey’s name, in which they would both live.  Ms Dobson alleged that before the property was purchased, an agreement was reached that she would have rights in the farm or that she had the right to live at the farm for her rest of her life. She also alleged agreement was reached that if Mr Griffey should die, she would inherit the property.

Ms Dobson carried out extensive manual work at the farm, including painting, tiling, clearing gutters and drains, creating gardens and re-sealing the roof. When the relationship broke down, she asserted that this manual work, together with the agreement she reached  with Mr Griffey before the farm was purchased meant she was entitled to a share in the proceeds of sale, when the farm was sold.  Mr Griffey did not agree and Court proceedings were issued by Ms Dobson, to establish her rights.

When couples are unmarried, the rules applied in the Family Court are not applicable and instead Courts have to decide cases such as this based on property law, which many consider are inadequate to deal with the way people live in the 21st century and reflect “contributions” made by an individual such as Ms Dobson.

The Judge hearing the case decided that no agreement was reached on the terms alleged by Ms Dobson and that she was not entitled to any money when the farm was sold. Accordingly, her claim failed.  She had not established any interest in the farm.

For help and expert guidance on these issues either at the outset or breakdown of a relationship contact the Dispute Resolution and Family team at North Ainley for further advice.

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Fund raising – Three Peaks of Saddleworth Challenge

North Ainley, as part of Mahdlo’s summer fundraising challenge will be taking part in their next challenge as a team take on the Three Peaks of Saddleworth on Saturday 8th July.  The route includes Pots and Pans, Indian’s Head & Wharmton Hill – this will be a tough day, but rewarded by amazing views across Oldham and beyond.3-peaks

Mahdlo are working with POINT (Parents of Oldham in Touch) on this event, with all the money raised supporting the work they do with the young people of Oldham.

Mahdlo is a registered charity and state-of-the-art Youth Zone in the heart of Oldham for 8-19 year olds (up to 25 for young people with a disability). Open 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year, they offer an exciting range of activities and opportunities that all young people from across Oldham can access for just 50p as a member.

Mahdlo aims to deliver high quality, innovative activities and experiences for young people from Oldham, to provide opportunities to raise aspirations and support young people to be the best they can be.

The Youth Zone is governed by members of the local authority and business community, who volunteer their time to support a Senior Management Team to ensure the success of the Youth Zone. Senior Partner, John Ainley as a member of the Board helps contribute by using his skills and experience to assist Mahdlo in achieving its aims and objectives.

This will be a day to remember and a fantastic achievement for all who take part.

You can support us by helping raise funds by following the link below to make a donation.

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/na3peaks

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Alzheimer’s Society – Cupcake Day

North Ainley has again today joined in with organisations across the country for a day of fundraising by baking cakes, and of course eating them!

In addition to the baking of cakes and collecting donations we also had a few additional fun games together with a World Cup sweepstake to help raise further funds.

In the UK, someone develops Dementia every three minutes, and there is currently no cure.  With your support, we aim to change this.

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By hosting a Cupcake Day our staff not only get to enjoy some tasty treats with their colleagues, family, friends and clients, but help raise awareness and funds to help to find new treatments and, ultimately, a cure for Dementia.

Dedicated Cupcakers like us have raised £1.4 million since 2016 and this year we intend to raise even more together!

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Charity Quiz night

Once again a team from North Ainley attended the annual Oldham Law Association quiz in aid of Shelter, the housing and homeless charity.  Some last minute swotting took place just before the start of the quiz with a clear aim to win the trophy this year!  The atmosphere was tense, the questions were quick fire and in the end the team battled through to finish a very creditable second place (as we did last year!).  Well done to all the participants who helped raise funds for this worthy cause.

Shelter

Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness by offering advice, support and legal services.

They campaign to make sure that, one day, no one will have to turn to them for help.

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Dementia Action Week 2018 (21st – 27th May 2018)

Dementia Action Week (DAW) is now in full swing with various events being held across the country.  The purpose of DAW is to raise awareness of dementia.  This week a staggering statistic has shown that there are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK.  By 2025 the number is set to rise to 1 million and by 2051; the number is set to rise to 2 million.

Given this statistic, dementia awareness is so important.  Everyone should educate themselves about dementia and there are plenty of helpful resources on the internet to help you in understanding more about dementia and how to care for someone with dementia.  You can also become a dementia friend by attending a session – search the internet for dementia friends sessions in your area.  We are in the process of arranging dementia friends training for all of our staff.dementia

With Barbara Windsor’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, that has been in the press recently, and looking at the statistic above, it is so important to put things in place whilst you still can to ensure your loved ones can look after you, and your affairs, should you be diagnosed with dementia.  Everyone should have a Will in place and Lasting Powers of Attorney but, unfortunately, too many people in the UK do not.  Once you lose capacity you cannot make either so act now, or before it’s too late, to put them in place.

Having a Will means that you can ensure your assets pass to the people you wish to benefit on your death.  If you die without a Will (intestate), the law dictates who is to receive your estate.

Lasting Powers of Attorney allow your named Attorney(s) to look after and manage your affairs for you as and when you require assistance; whether that be whilst you still have capacity or if you should lose capacity.  Under a Lasting Power of Attorney, your Attorney(s) can ensure all of your bills are paid, your care home fees are paid and your affairs generally looked after.

Should you lose capacity and you do not have a Lasting Power of Attorney then your loved ones will not be able to manage your affairs and ensure your bills are paid.  They may have to in some circumstances pay your bills themselves for a period of time.  Your family, or an appropriate person, would have to apply to the Court of Protection to be appointed as your Deputy but, this process can be rather lengthy and expensive.

Act now to get your affairs in order and speak to a member of our Private Client Team.

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When is your home not your home?

What happens if you have lived with a partner for many years and your partner dies without making a Will?  What if the Will that your partner did make leaves little or nothing to you? In those circumstances, what rights do you have?

What, for example, happens to the property you shared with your partner?

What if your partner did not make a Will?

The Intestacy Rules will apply.  Co-habitees are not recognised under the Intestacy Rules.  A co-habitee would not benefit from a deceased partner’s estate.

What if the property is jointly owned?

If you owned the property with your partner on what is known as a joint tenant basis, the property would pass to you under established legal principles, whether or not your partner had a Will.

What if your partner owned the property?

If the property was in your partner’s sole name the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 allows certain categories of individuals (including those who have lived with a partner for more than two years) to make a claim against their partner’s estate, for what is known as reasonable financial provision.  The claim would be for such financial provision as it would be reasonable to receive for your maintenance.  Maintenance would include somewhere to live and may include a lump sum payment, dependent on your financial position.

“It won’t happen to me” In a recent case Thompson v Raggett (2018), a couple lived together for 42 years but never married.  Throughout the relationship, Ms Thompson was financially dependent upon Mr Hodge.  After suffering a stroke in 2006, she became physically dependent upon Mr Hodge and moved temporarily to a nursing home in 2015.  Mr Hodge purchased a cottage to be  adapted to Ms Thompson’s needs but he passed away before they could move into the cottage.  Mr Hodge made a will, leaving his £1.5m estate (including the cottage) to two tenants of a property he owned.  The will left nothing to Ms Thompson! She was effectively left homeless at the age of 79.

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Ms Thompson made a claim under the 1975 Act.  Often in these types of cases, Courts allow a cohabitee to live in a property during their lifetime and the property reverts on their death to the estate of the deceased partner.  Ms Thompson’s claim was successful and given the length of the relationship, she was awarded the cottage outright, c.£29,000 to cover costs of adapting the cottage to her needs and a lump sum payment of £160,000.

Don’t leave it to chance.  If any of these issues do or may affect you in the future, contact North Ainley for expert legal advice.

Johanna Nolan is a Solicitor in the Dispute Resolution team at North Ainley.  For advice on this issue or any dispute contact Johanna a member of our litigation team.

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Power of Attorney Fee Refund Scheme

On the 1st February 2018 the Ministry of Justice announced its Power of Attorney fee refund scheme.

The refunds are being offered to those who may have been charged more than was necessary to apply to register Lasting Powers of Attorney or an Enduring Power of Attorney between the 1st April 2013 and the 31st March 2017.  The reason for this is that during this period, the Office of the Public Guardian’s operating costs came down as more and more people were applying to register Powers of Attorney and the process of registering the same became more efficient.  However, the Office of the Public Guardian did not reduce the application fee in line with this.

To make a claim you can simply go online and use the quick and simple online service at www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney-refund.  This should take you around 10 minutes to complete.     You will need the donor’s UK bank account number and sort code to hand.  If the donor does not have a UK bank account then you will need to claim by telephone.  Similarly, if the donor has subsequently died or you are a court appointed Deputy, you will need to claim by telephone.

The Office of the Public Guardian have provided full guidance on their website and they have also set up a dedicated refunds service helpline.  If you do not have access to a computer or can’t use one easily, you can speak to the dedicated helpline.  To speak to the helpline you need to call the Office of the Public Guardian on 0300 456 0300 and select option 6.  The lines are open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9am to 5pm and Wednesday from 10am to 5pm.  Please visit the following website for details of call charges – www.gov.uk/call-charges.

If you believe you may be entitled to a refund you should visit www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney-refund.  You can make a claim if you are the donor (i.e. the person who made the Power of Attorney) or an Attorney appointed within the Power of Attorney.  Any refund however will be paid to the donor.

The refund you receive depends on when you paid the fees.  There will also be 0.5% interest added on top.  If you cannot remember how much you paid you can still make a claim; the Office of the Public Guardian will work out the refund for you.  Only one form needs to be completed for each donor as the Office of the Public Guardian will be able to find all application fees paid by the donor during the qualifying period.

Below is a table of the possible fees you may receive back.

DHCapture

If you paid a reduced fee (“remission”), you’ll get half the refund.

Once you have submitted your claim it takes up to twelve weeks for it to be processed.  If your claim is approved, the refund will be paid directly into the donor’s bank account.  If your claim is rejected you can appear this decision by contacting the refunds helpline.

For more information or advice, please contact a member of our Private Client team.

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Annual Leave: Know your rights

Right about now, we are all feeling like we need a good dose of sunshine if not just a break from the hum drum of working life. So, what are your rights?

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Your basic rights – The Working Time Regulations 1998 ensure all employees and workers can take paid leave.  If you are full time, this is a minimum of 28 days every year to include bank holidays although your employer might be more generous.

When can you take it? – In theory, whenever you want as long as you give your employer notice.  There are no official rules so you should consult your contract of employment and company policies but you can expect to give your employer twice the length of notice as the time you propose to take off.  It’s also worth requesting your holiday in writing so you’ll have a record if you have to dispute it later.  Also note, you cannot be required to use annual leave when at home sick.

Can they say no? – Your employer can turn down your request if they have a good reason e.g they’d be understaffed at a busy time of year.  But, they have to give you the same amount of notice as the amount of time you were requesting to take off.

Unused holiday – Most employers will cover unused holidays in their policies with either a ‘use it or lose it’ clause or a limit on the number of days you can carry over to the next year.  If your employer isn’t clear on this they risk large claims for payments in lieu of holidays.

How much should I be paid?  You should be paid the same rate when on holiday as you’re normally paid.  If your pay or working hours vary you should get the average based on the last 12 weeks.

Unlawful deduction from wages  If you get commission, shift allowance etc on top of your basic pay, this should be included in your holiday pay i.e. you shouldn’t get paid less because you took time off.

This issue has been under the spotlight recently as it transpired that many individuals may have claims for unlawful deduction from wages as they earn a basic pay plus variable payments (shift allowance, overtime, commission) but only received basic pay when on holiday.  Workers should be alert to this and also to any sudden changes in holiday policy which could suggest their employer is trying to avoid such claims.

Resolving a problem – If you think your employer has breached its obligations the first step should be an informal chat to raise your concerns.  If this doesn’t work, check if your employer has a formal grievance procedure you can follow or raise a grievance by writing a letter setting out your concerns.  If this fails, you may be able to bring claim in the Employment Tribunal.  The time limit for a holiday pay claim is 3 months from either the termination of your contract or from the last unlawful deduction from wages.

For advice on all aspects of litigation and employment law please contact Laura Campbell in our Employment & Dispute Resolution team.

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Separating Together

The decision to separate can be difficult and daunting, with the most common concerns and fears relating to the risk of conflict, the impact on the children, your future financial security and of course costly legal battles.

Unfortunately family breakdown is a fact of life and the legal process can sometimes lead to more pain and heartache.  Whilst there is no way of avoiding the sadness and upset that the end of a relationship brings, a new approach, called Collaborative Law, could enable you and your partner to work out the arrangements to be made together, with your lawyers and without going to court.

The traditional approach involves both parties taking separate advice from their own family lawyer and working through their lawyers they attempt to reach an agreement.  If agreement cannot be reached then court proceedings are likely to follow with a decision being imposed by the judge.

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The Collaborative process is fundamentally different in that you and your partner commit at the outset not to go to court but rather to sit down together and work with your respective collaborative lawyers, to find a solution to all the issues.  You are in control, you set the agenda and talk about what is important to you.

Although meeting face to face and talking things through with your ex-partner can seem a huge challenge when you are dealing with all the emotions that accompany the end of a relationship, focussing on solutions and the best outcome for the whole family can actually ease the pain of family breakdown.  Discussing how you feel and what you want for the future can enable you and your ex to have a better understanding of each other’s views and to remain on more amicable terms in the future.  This is of course particularly important if you have children.

Everyone knows that a bitter separation or divorce can leave lasting scars, not only for the couple involved but also the children and extended family.  Whilst dealing with arrangements through the Collaborative process, does not prevent separation being difficult, for many couples it can provide a better way of separating, together.

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Warning to all Landlords – time is running out!

Landlords will not be able to rent out both domestic and non-domestic properties unless they meet the new Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Rules (2018) which come into force on 1 April 2018.  Properties across England and Wales are currently expected not to pass the new rules and could face huge fines.

To make sure you don’t fall foul, consider the new rules and what you need to do to make your property compliant in time.

What are the upcoming EPC changes?

Landlords are required to have a EPC Certificate and they last for a period of ten years.  Back in 2015 legislation was passed that means, from 1 April 2018, properties will have to meet a minimum energy efficiency standard (MEES).  The minimum efficiency standard is set at an E rating for all types of domestic and non-domestic property.

So which properties do the new EPC rules apply to?

The new rules apply to both domestic and none-domestic properties in the private rental sector meaning that whether a landlord is letting out a commercial property or a house to a tenant, it could be unlawful to do so should the building not meet these new minimum EPC requirements.

Without an EPC rated E or above it will not be possible to issue a new tenancy, or renew an existing tenancy, from 1st April 2018.  There are fines of up to £5,000 for landlords that are found in breach of the legislation.  The regulations will be enforced by Trading Standards Officers. Penalties will be based on the rateable value of the property.

Do the EPC changes affect current tenancies or just new lets?

The 2018 rules only apply to new tenancies, but in 2020, the same rules will apply to all tenancies.

In April 2020, the new MEES rules will apply to all existing lets.  At this point, you will need an EPC rating of an E or above to let your property at all.  Even if your tenancy is already underway and you have no plans to renew, after April 2020, you will need to have an EPC rating of E or above or you could face fines.

What should I do if my rental property has an EPC that is lower than an E rating?

If your last EPC rating was below an E, the first thing to do is consider when the EPC was last carried our and what improvements, if any, you have made to the property that may have improved the energy efficiency rating.  EPC calculations are changing all the time and it is possible that you will receive a different rating to the one you got several years ago.  Your EPC report will have a list of recommended measures for improving your property’s energy efficiency performance.  You will need to carry out enough of these measures to improve your score to above an E rating.  If the property’s new EPC rating is still below an E, then you will need to make efficiency improvements to boost your rating before you let it out or renew your contract.

Speak to your EPC assessor if you are unsure about how to proceed with improvements.  After the energy efficiency changes have been made to the property, you will then need to get another EPC to show the new energy rating.

We recommend you review your property portfolio now to consider what you may need to budget for in the future.

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Holidays during term time: cheaper, but is it really worth it?

As we all struggle with the January blues, it’s no surprise this is prime holiday booking season.

Regardless of your views on whether it’s appropriate to take children out of school during term time, most of us are a bit vague on what we can and can’t get away with…..

When are absences allowed?

As a starting point, under English law any parent who fails to ensure their child goes to school ‘regularly’ is guilty of a criminal offence under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996.

The basic position is that you can only allow your child to miss school if:

  • They’re too ill to go in, or
  • You have advance permission from the school.

Advance permission

Previously, under the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 schools had the discretion to grant up to 10 days term time holidays each year for ‘special circumstances’. But, since The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 came into force head teachers can now only give permission in ‘exceptional circumstances’ (e.g. visiting seriously ill family, attending a close relative’s  funeral or if immediate family in the Armed Forces is returning from operations).

Basically, even with the most persuasive request you’re unlikely to get permission for a term-time holiday.

What happens if I take them away anyway?

You are breaking the law.

Head teachers have to report all absences to the council responsible for education in their area (LEA). Therefore, if an absence is unauthorised (i.e. advance permission was refused) you could face a £60 fine (per child per absence) or worse.

What if I don’t pay the fine?

If you don’t pay within 21 days the fine increases to £120 and if you don’t pay the fine after 28 days you can be prosecuted for your child’s absence from school under the Education Act 1996.

If found guilty you could end up with a criminal record and face a fine of up to £2,500, court costs or even a jail sentence of up to three months.

Repeat offenders may wish to note that the LEA are technically under no obligation to issue a fine (penalty notice) first and could take you straight to the Magistrate’s Courts.

A cautionary tale: Platt v Isle of Wight LEAJudgement

The Isle of Wight dad was prosecuted by the Council after he took his daughter to Florida for 7 days during term time without permission resulting in a fine which he refused to pay.

At first instance the Magistrates Court found there was no case to answer and two High Court Judges upheld that decision due to the child’s otherwise high attendance (95% prior to the holiday).  In April 2017 the Council successfully appealed to the Supreme Court who unanimously found that Mr Platt must face prosecution as “regularly” in the Act meant “in accordance with the attendance rules” and that a child’s prior record of attendance was irrelevant. The matter was sent back to the Isle of Wight where the Magistrate handed Mr Platt a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered him to pay £2,000 in costs.

This decision is binding on Courts and local authorities meaning anybody appealing a fine is now unlikely to be successful.

For further information and advice, please contact Laura Campbell at our office.

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City litigator joins North Ainley

Long established Oldham firm North Ainley is pleased to announce the appointment of experienced lawyer Laura Campbell to bolster its litigation practice.

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Laura has spent her career to date in Manchester city centre, having trained at a large national practice before moving to top global law firm DWF LLP.  With experience in all areas of litigation, Laura joins the Dispute Resolution team which has provided the people of Oldham and its surroundings with advice on personal injury, clinical negligence, employment, consumer rights, property and commercial disputes for over 100 years.

Laura explains “I’ve acted for all kinds of organisations and individuals from business owners and national companies to prisoners, nurses and athletes which has exposed me to all manner of claims and taken me to the Court of Appeal…you name it I’ve dealt with it”. She added “I’m sure my family would agree that I am a born litigator and I am passionate about what I do which means I will go above and beyond to secure the best result for my clients”.

When asked why she’s moved from the ‘bright lights’ of the city Laura was clear “I was keen to move away from the corporate culture but I didn’t want to compromise on quality and had been looking for an opportunity at a thriving local law firm with a long standing reputation.  North Ainley more than fits the bill and I am keen to use my experience for the benefit of a more local clientele”.  She added “From the moment I met with the partners I knew it would be a good fit for me…it’s a friendly, professional practice and client satisfaction is at the heart of everything they do”.

Managing Partner John Ainley, welcomed Laura, saying: “This is a fantastic appointment for the firm.  Laura brings a wealth of experience and a commercial attitude which will enhance our litigation practice” and her arrival coincides with an exciting time of development for both the practice and the new ‘Independent Quarter’ of Oldham, of which we are a proud part”. Geoff Lamb who heads up the Dispute Resolution team added “Laura is a confident and tenacious lawyer but she is also engaging and approachable which fits perfectly with our aim of combining a local, friendly, personal service, with city professionalism”.

Laura lives locally with her husband and two young daughters where they play an active part in the village and school communities. Laura concluded: “I look forward to being part of North Ainley’s continued success and to helping ensure they remain at the forefront of the local legal community”.

For more information or advice, please contact Laura Campbell at our office.

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Love is in the air

With Valentine`s Day around the corner and the shops filled with love hearts, chocolates and balloons, it can be easier than ever to be swept away in the first blush of a new relationship.

But if you have recently separated or divorced, whilst a new romance is a happy and exciting time for you, it can be an unsettling and worrying time for your ex-partner and your children.

However head over heels in love you are feeling, it is worth taking some time to think about the impact your new relationship may have on others close to you.

Whether your ex–partner still has feelings for you or not, a new relationship can be a source of conflict, which if not handled properly can lead to problems with the arrangements for the children. Inevitably your former partner will be concerned about how your new relationship will impact on the children.

Your children too may need some time to adapt and may initially feel jealous or insecure now they have to share you with someone new. Don`t forget that many children continue to harbour secret hopes that their parents will get back together and a new partner can bring this hope to an end.  It is not uncommon for children to feel worried about how the other parent is feeling and concerned that if they like the new partner this may cause further upset.  These conflicting feelings can be very confusing and unsettling and can lead to the children being reluctant to leave the other parent or even saying that they don`t like the new partner .

So what can you do?

Be patient:  Take things slowly. Children need time to adjust to the separation of their parents before being introduced to a new partner.

Communicate: It will definitely help if you keep your ex-partner informed, particularly of any plans to introduce the children to your new partner. If possible talk through any concerns and be prepared to offer assurances about your new partner`s involvement with the children. Be willing to listen.

Be sensitive: Only introduce the children to someone you are in a long-term relationship with. Do not rush the children but let them take time to get to know your new partner gradually. Remember the children will not feel the same as you do about your new partner and will still need some time alone with you, particularly if they do not live with you.

Reassure: Both the children and your ex-partner will benefit from assurances that the new partner is not a substitute parent ,replacing mum or dad and that you and your former partner will continue to have joint responsibility for the children`s parenting .

If you are experiencing difficulties regarding the arrangements for the children, particularly if a new partner is involved, seeking early advice from a specialist family lawyer can prevent a small problem becoming a major headache.

For more information or advice contact Alison Winterbottom in our Family Department.

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Cohabitation Agreements – Do you need one?

If you are living as an unmarried couple the simple answer to this question is probably yes, given that under English law cohabiting couples have little or no legal protection if their relationships break down.

Cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK with almost 7 million people living in this type of relationship and the numbers are projected to rise further as the decline in marriage continues.

It is perhaps astonishing in the circumstances that the law does not recognise the rights of unmarried couples who live together.

In a previous article, we talked about the myth of the “common law husband or wife” and highlighted the difficulties that unmarried couples can experience asserting their rights to the family home.  The difficulties do not stop there.  Under the current law, a couple could live together for 20, 30 or even 50 years (periods longer than most marriages) and following separation, simply walk away without any on-going financial responsibility to each other.   Perhaps even more surprisingly, the case remains the same even when the couple have children together.

Imagine the not uncommon scenario of an unmarried couple with young children.  The mother has given up work, putting her career on hold to look after them.  Should their relationship break down, although the father will have a responsibility to pay child support he will have no financial obligations to his former partner.  This is despite the fact that they made choices together as a couple which may have prejudiced the woman financially and damaged her career prospects.

You may have seen reference in the press or social media during the last week in November to “Cohabitation Awareness Week”. This campaign is about raising awareness amongst cohabiting couples and is calling for the introduction of laws to provide cohabiting couples with legal rights.

Sadly however, pending any change in the law many unmarried couples will remain vulnerable if their relationship breaks down and may find that it is too late for a family lawyer to help them.

So what can you do pending a change in the law?

You and your partner could agree to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement, to protect you both if  your relationship breaks down. The Agreement can record your intentions and deal with both the financial arrangements whilst you are living together and set out what will happen to finances and property if the worst happens and you split up.

You could also consider taking out life insurance and you should definitely make a Will.

Many unmarried couples continue in the mistaken belief that they have rights as a common law husband or wife, when no legal rights exist. If you are in a cohabiting relationship, it is important to seek legal advice from a specialist family lawyer so that you understand how you would be affected financially if your relationship were to break down and how a Cohabitation Agreement could help to protect you.

For more information or advice, please contact Alison Winterbottom in our Family Department.

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Christmas Hampers – The Alzheimer’s Society

At Christmas time each year the staff at North Ainley donate various items to fill luxury hampers, with each hamper being raffled off to raise money for their chosen charity.  This year the staff wished to support the Alzheimer’s Society, a very worthy cause.

Every penny donated to Alzheimer’s Society is making sure they can be there for people affected by dementia.  They are the only UK charity investing in research into dementia care, cause, cure and prevention, committed to spending £150 million on cutting-edge research over the next decade. Every project they fund directly addresses the needs and concerns of people affected by dementia.

What is dementia?Alzheirmer's Society

The word ‘dementia’ describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. These changes are often small to start with, but for someone with dementia they have become severe enough to affect daily life. A person with dementia may also experience changes in their mood or behaviour.

Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but not the only one. The specific symptoms that someone with dementia experiences will depend on the parts of the brain that are damaged and the disease that is causing the dementia.

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North Ainley – Christmas Closing Times

Our office will close at 14.00 on Friday 22 December 2017 and re-open at 09.00 on Tuesday 2 January 2018.

Limited staff will be available at the office between 10.00 – 16.00 on 27, 28 and 29 December 2017.

The Partners and Staff would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

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  • You explained every detail very clearly and very simple to understand. You were very helpful and did not rush over any question. You were a pleasure to meet and to know.
    Mrs M J Taylor - Oldham
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