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Author Archives: Johanna Nolan

Do not run out of time!

JudgementThe very recent case of Cowan v Foreman and others, highlights the importance of  bringing claims in a timely fashion.  In this case, a widow tried to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Act”) against her husband’s estate.  The Act states that claims must be commenced within six months of the date probate has been granted.  The Court does have discretion to allow a claim to be brought out of time.  In this case the claim was brought 17 months after the date probate was granted.  The Judge refused the widow permission to bring the claim, commenting there was no justification for the delay.

The moral of the story is that if you think you may have a claim, act quickly and seek legal advice.

For further information and advice, please contact Johanna Nolan in our Dispute Resolution team.

Posted in Legal Briefs, Litigation Disputes, Probate & Estate Adminstration | Comments closed

Tenant Fees Act 2019

On 1 June 2019, the Tenant Fees Act (“the Act”) will come into force.  The aim of the Act is to reduce costs Landlords may currently impose on tenants both at the outset and during the tenancy.  The Act applies to new tenancies from 1st June and to existing tenancies from 1 June 2020.  It affects tenants renting privately, student accommodation and licences. Letting Agents are also governed by the Act.  The Act does not apply to social housing and long leases.

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Of course, rent can still be claimed.  Rent payments cannot be increased at the beginning of the tenancy and then reduced later on in an effort to recoup costs indirectly.

A Landlord is permitted to claim certain payments by the Act, but the amount that can be claimed is restricted.  Whilst a deposit can still be claimed, the Act provides that the amount of the deposit cannot be more than five weeks rent if the annual rent of a property is less than £50,000.  If the annual rent is more than £50,000, the deposit must not exceed six weeks rent.  If a holding deposit is paid for a property, this must not be more than one weeks’ rent and once a tenancy agreement is entered into the holding deposit should be repaid.

Other charges can be made by a Landlord e.g. cost of replacing lost keys, charge for late payment of rent, ending the tenancy agreement early, changing the tenancy agreement or a claim for utility or Council Tax payments if not paid by the Tenant.  However, the Landlord can only recover the reasonable cost incurred by the Landlord.

Tenants will be entitled to recover charges wrongly paid.

A landlord in breach of Section 1 or 2 of the Act can face a fine of up to £5,000 for a first offence.  If a Landlord commits a further breach within five years of the first breach, a criminal offence is committed or alternatively the Landlord may face civil proceedings and be fined up to £30,000.

Landlords should note that if a payment prohibited by the Act has been taken and not re-paid to the Tenant, the Landlord will be prevented from serving a Section 21 notice.

For further information and guidance, contact our Dispute Resolution Team.

Posted in Legal Briefs, Litigation Disputes, Residential Property | Comments closed

Is your property energy efficient?

For most residential lettings, a Landlord has to have an Energy Performance Certificate (“EPC”) before they let a property.  As part of the government’s strive for energy efficiency, with effect from 1 April 2018, a Landlord should not grant a new tenancy/lease if the property has an EPC rating below E.  This is according to Part Three of The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015, known as the MEES Regulations.

From 1 April 2020, the MEES Regulations apply to existing tenancies of domestic properties (usually granted prior to 1 April 2018) and from 1 April 2023 to commercial properties.

This article gives an overview of the Regulations and will focus on domestic private rented properties.  Broadly, this term covers ordinary lettings of properties by a private landlord.

What to do if your property has an EPC rating of less than E?   energy-efficiency-154006_960_720

  • A Landlord should check the MEES Regulations apply to the property and the type of tenancy.
  • A Landlord should carry out “relevant energy efficiency improvements” (for the meaning of which see below) to bring the EPC rating above the minimum threshold, unless an exemption to the MEES Regulations (as set out in the PRS Exemptions Register) applies.

The exemptions are:-

  • No funding exemption – If the costs of purchasing and installing the “relevant energy efficiency improvements” cannot be financed at no cost to the Landlord.
  • The consent exemption – A Tenant or other third party refuses to give consent to the relevant works being carried out to increase the energy efficiency or the Tenant refuses to give Consent to Green Deal funding.
  • The devaluation exemption – A Landlord has obtained a report from a Surveyor, which shows that the works to improve the energy efficiency would result in a reduction of more than five per cent in the value of the property.
  • Temporary exemption – In some situations, a Landlord (usually if the Landlord has recently acquired the property) may be given six months to comply with the prohibition on letting and carry out the relevant energy efficiency improvements.
  • Wall insulation exemption – If a Landlord has obtained written expert advice that cavity wall insulation, external wall insulation or internal wall insulation is not appropriate due to its negative impact on the structure of the property.
  • Although not classified as an exemption, if all relevant energy efficiency improvement works have been carried out but the property still has an EPC rating of lower than E, it may be let and the Landlord has up to five years to grant new lettings or continue existing lettings.

For all exemptions, the Landlord must register the property and his/her details on the PRS Exemptions Register.  The exemption is to be registered before it can be relied upon.

A relevant energy efficient improvement is a list of recommendations (often detailed on the EPC or a Surveyor’s report) and the impact they will have.  If such works are required, they must be one of the following:-

  • A measure to improve efficiency in the use of energy in the property and;
  • Identified as an improvement for the property in question.
  • Can also include installation of a service pipe for the supply of gas, if the property is not fuelled by mains gas and is situated 23 metres from the main of a gas transporter.

If a Landlord does not carry out the energy efficiency improvements and does not register the property on the PRS Exemptions Register, or puts false or mis-leading information on the PRS Exemptions register, a Landlord is likely to face enforcement action. This could mean a fine, depending on the type of breach up to £5,000 per breach for each property and/or publication of a notice detailing the non-compliant property, details of the breach of the MEES Regulations, the financial penalty (if any) and the Landlord’s details but not if the Landlord is an individual.

UPDATE

On 5 November 2018, following  a consultation, the Government confirmed that new Regulations will shortly be put before Parliament.  These will apply on the grant of a new tenancy to a new tenant or an existing tenant.  These Regulations will remove the “no cost to Landlord” principle and:-

  • Introduce a Landlord contribution towards any works required to improve energy efficiency capped at £3,500 including VAT.  Any energy efficiency measures undertaken since October 2017, will be included within the £3,500 cap, as will any available third party funding
  • There will be a new “high cost” exemption if the EPC grading of E of a property cannot be achieved for £3,500 or less.  Landlords will have to obtain three quotes, to enable registration of this exemption on the PRS Register
  • The “consent exemption” referred to above will be removed where a tenant has withheld consent to a Green Deal finance plan.

For advice and guidance on these issues or other Landlord/Tenant issues contact our litigation team.

Posted in Commercial Litigation, Property Development, Residential Property | Comments closed

Important tips for Landlord’s on granting or ending an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (‘AST’)

Since 1 October 2015, under the Deregulation Act 2015, a Landlord offering a new Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement to a tenant must ensure that the tenant is provided with :-

  • A Gas Safety Certificate for the property to be occupied
  • An Energy Performance Certificate
  • The booklet entitled – How to rent: the checklist for renting in England

With effect from 1 October 2018, the above requirements will apply to all tenancies, even those in existence prior to 1 October 2015.

It has also been the case for some time that if a deposit is paid by the Tenant, the Landlord must ensure that:-

  • The deposit is being held in accordance with an authorised Tenancy Deposit Scheme and;
  • the Tenant has received the information about the Tenancy Deposit Scheme within 30 days of the Deposit being received.  Failure to provide such information means that the Tenant has a claim against the Landlord of up to three times the amount of the Deposit.

It is important that a Landlord complies with the above points as this could impede a Landlord’s right to obtain possession of their property at the end of the term of the tenancy.  It is common for Landlords to serve a Section 21 Notice upon the Tenant, if the Tenant does not vacate at the end of the term.  Non-compliance with the requirements set out above will mean a Landlord cannot serve a Section 21 notice, although steps may be taken to rectify the situation and enable service of a Notice.  Alternatively, a Landlord may be able to serve a Section 8 Notice.

A Landlord is further prevented from serving a Section 21 notice:-

  • Within the first four months of the tenancy and must issue any possession proceedings within six months of the date of the Section 21 Notice.
  • If a local housing authority has served notice upon the Landlord about the condition of the property.

With effect from 1 October 2015  for any tenancies granted after that date (and 1 October 2018 for any other tenancies) Landlords must serve upon the Tenants the prescribed form of the Section 21 notice, otherwise, the Section 21 notice will be deemed ineffective.

For further information on granting a new tenancy please contact our Commercial Property team or for advice on serving a Notice to end a tenancy, please contact a member of our Dispute Resolution team.  Both departments can work together to provide overall comprehensive advice to suit your individual or business needs.

Posted in Commercial & Corporate, Legal Briefs, Litigation Disputes, Residential Property | Comments closed

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.

Posted in Family, Legal Briefs, Residential Property | Comments closed

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.

Posted in Legal Briefs, Litigation Disputes, Private Client, Residential Property | Comments closed
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