Houses

When Should I Remortgage?

When you’re buying a house, finding the right mortgage can be a major headache – especially if it’s taken you ages to find a house you like, and you just want to move in.

So it’s no surprise that some people end up taking whatever mortgage offer they can get, often on a fixed-rate deal lasting anywhere from one year to five years or more.

But once this expires, you’re typically left with a standard variable rate mortgage that might not even be close to competitive with the current market – knowing when to switch is crucial.

Are you locked in?

First of all, know the details of your existing mortgage. Are you still locked into a fixed-rate period that you’re not allowed to leave? Or is there an exit fee you will have to pay if you switch?

Sometimes you may be allowed to switch to a different mortgage from the same lender without incurring a fee, whereas you might be asked to pay to leave the lender completely and go elsewhere.

Are you in negative equity?

The housing market, like the economy as a whole, has been turbulent in recent years, and if the value of your property has dropped, you might be left unable to repay the outstanding mortgage when you sell your home.

Remortgaging in these circumstances can be challenging, as your effective loan to value rate could be over 100%, and mortgages at that level of LTV have disappeared from the market.

On the flipside, if house prices in your area have rocketed, it might be worth remortgaging at a lower LTV, as you could get a lower interest rate as a result.

When did you last remortgage?

If you’ve never remortgaged, it’s definitely worth considering it, even if you ultimately decide to stick with the loan you’ve got.

Think of it like switching energy supplier – until you compare the full market, you’ll never know if there’s a mortgage out there that suits your needs and could save you a lot of money.

By Pricketts Solicitors

litigation

Why Is Estate Planning So Important?

You might think writing a will is not a major priority – perhaps you think you’re not wealthy enough for it to matter, or that the rules of intestacy will make sure your money goes to the right person when you die.

But intestacy can be challenged by anyone with a reasonable claim to part of your estate – for example, an ex-partner with whom you have a child.

Even if their claim is ultimately rejected, fighting it can use up funds from your estate that you would prefer to pass on to your rightful beneficiaries.

Having a will in place clarifies the situation, setting out your specific wishes for where you want your money to go, and this makes it much easier to carry out those wishes when you die, without leaving anything to chance.

There are financial benefits too – leave some of your estate as a charitable legacy, and you can reduce your total inheritance tax bill.

You might even find during the estate planning process that it becomes apparent that you can save even more on your potential IHT bill, by placing some of your money or possessions into a trust.

But most importantly of all, a will provides your family members with clarity on how to divide up your money and assets after you are gone – so they don’t have to make any difficult decisions on their own.

In order to provide them with this clarity though, it’s important to make sure that your descendants and beneficiaries know that a will exists.

Without this one simple piece of knowledge, they can be left with the unenviable task of searching through your home and your papers in an attempt to discover which ‘safe place’ you might have left your will in.

Think of a will reading, and you might immediately assume that nobody knows what is in the will until it is read out – the classic Hollywood scene of one child being left the entire estate, for instance.

In many cases this is the real-life situation too, and the contents of your will are yours to keep private until after your death, if you wish.

But if you are part of a loving family with plenty of openness and trust, it can be worth discussing your will with your intended beneficiaries.

You might find they have their own ideas about what they would like to inherit from you – and it’s often substantially less than you would prefer to be able to leave as your legacy.

This leaves you free to plan your estate in line with their wishes as well as your own, perhaps letting you make more charitable donations, or to simply write in several smaller sums for extra beneficiaries who would otherwise get nothing.

Ultimately it is your decision – and without a will, you have no guarantee that your wishes will be carried out, making estate planning a crucial part of your last act.

By H Pipes & Co Solicitors

Lewisham

Buy To Let – Where To Begin?

If you’re new to becoming a property investor, then dipping your toe into the buy to let water might be fairly daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

There are a few things you can keep in mind that could help to steer you towards the right decision – just remember any choices you make are at your own risk, and you might want to hire a professional advisor if you have any doubts.

1. Mortgage Options

First of all, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to buy your first rental property outright; that typically comes later, once you have substantial rental yields coming in.

So assess all the mortgage options open to you, from wiping out your savings on the biggest deposit possible, to the potential availability of interest-only buy-to-let mortgages, or even remortgaging your own home and owning the rental property outright instead.

2. Know the Location

Don’t buy in an unfamiliar location just because the property seems like a bargain; stick to an area you know well, at least for your first time.

The added advantage of buying a property close to your own home is that you will be nearby if you need to visit your tenants – the disadvantage is, you will be nearby if they decide to visit you!

3. Read the Legal Pack

If you’ve watched any TV shows about buying property at auction, you’ll know one piece of advice often given is to read the legal pack.

The reason this advice is given so often is that it is good advice, especially for beginners, as the legal pack will help to highlight any potentially expensive issues, access disputes and so on.

Even if you’re not buying at auction, consider paying the extra for a full structural survey and any extra searches from your solicitor, for total peace of mind before you spend your life savings.

4. Run the Sums

This should really be number one, but hopefully it’s so obvious that it doesn’t need to be at the top of this page – check local rents, for properties similar to your own, and try to find out how easy or hard it is to find tenants.

You want to cover any mortgage repayments at the very least, ideally with some profit on top of that, and a surplus to see you through any void periods – typically about 125% of your monthly mortgage payment is a sensible target to aim for.

5. Be Careful

Property investment can be exciting, and even fun, but it’s not a game, with tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds on the line.

Keep a sensible head on your shoulders, not just when making the initial purchase, but also when refurbishing and decorating the property – you might want to make a palace, but be sure you don’t accidentally make a money pit in the process.

By Marsh Brown & Co Solicitors

 

Best Place to work

Mediation, Privacy And Multiple Trusts

A trust can be a useful way to impose some privacy on your family finances – so that, for example, the exact size of a beneficiary’s inheritance does not become a matter of public record.

But if a dispute leads to litigation, it can be hard to keep that veil of privacy in place, as reported recently by the Wall Street Journal.

“While carefully worded confidentiality agreements and other legalese can be drafted into trust documents in an effort to ensure privacy, those moves likely will prove no match for the public record once a disagreement hits litigation,” the publication pointed out.

So what’s the solution? There are actually several avenues you can take, as noted in the WSJ article, all of which will help to avoid the contents of your trust appearing in a court report.

The obvious solution is to avoid court action, but that’s easier said than done – and if a dispute does arise, mediation is potentially the last chance to resolve it without disclosing details of a trust to the public.

But before it gets to that stage, there are steps you can take to structure your trusts in such a way as to reduce the risk of disputes, and to protect the contents from public scrutiny.

First of all, transparency when creating your trusts will help to keep everybody in the loop, and cut down on the chance of disputes later on.

Where the trust is a family affair, have open discussions with all of the family members who might be affected, and make sure the beneficiaries always know where they stand.

And if there are multiple beneficiaries, it can be more effective to set up multiple trusts, tailored to the needs of each individual.

WSJ reporter Anna Prior opens her article with a pertinent observation: “When you are rich, trusts can help keep everyone from one day knowing just how rich.”

Careful planning can structure them to ensure this remains the case, while transparency makes sure any disputes are much less likely to arise in the future.

By R A Wilkinson & Co Solicitors

social media

Social Media Is Now Becoming A Common Ground Cited In Divorce Petitions

Social media can be a wonderful way of keeping in touch with friends and family, but it can also put added strain on a relationship.

New research by Slater and Gordon shows that just under half of all adults in the UK admit they have secretly checked their partner’s Facebook account and one in five went on to argue about what they discovered.

One in seven said they had contemplated divorce because of their partner’s activities on Facebook, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter or What’sApp. Nearly a quarter of the 2000 married persons asked said they had at least one argument a week with their partner because of social media use.

The most common reasons for checking their partner’s social media accounts were to find out whom their partner was talking to, to keep tabs on them, to check who they were out with and find out if they were telling the truth about their social life. 14% said they looked specifically to identify evidence of infidelity.

How long a person spends on social media together with what they are doing on social media is likely to cause marital problems with Facebook usage topping the list.

One in ten admitted they hid images and posts from their partner whilst 8% admitted to have additional social media accounts.

Exercise caution when it comes to using Facebook and all forms of social media because it has the ability to potentially damage relationships.

By Lisa Dave

Child Care

Election 2015: What Now For Family Law?

With David Cameron remaining as Prime Minister, it’s easy to think ‘nothing has changed’ after the general election, but that’s not the case.

Before, Nick Clegg was Deputy Prime Minister and the Liberal Democrats held a position of power as part of the coalition – and of course Labour in opposition had a good chance of outvoting any unpopular proposals in parliament.

Now the Conservatives rule alone, and with an overall majority, albeit a small one. So what might this mean for family law?

The Conservatives are the party of austerity, probably more so than any of their opponents, and their consistent cuts to national spending in an attempt to tackle the deficit have been the cause of considerable controversy over the past five years.

Without the Liberal Democrat influence, there is little to stem austerity in the five years to come, and that could lead to even more swingeing cuts in some areas – including the legal aid budget.

This has already raised concerns that some people are being ‘priced out of justice’ in the exact way the Magna Carta promises they will never be.

On the other hand, for those living a relatively stable and conventional lifestyle, there is good news, as the Conservative Manifesto pledged more tax benefits for married couples, specifically the ability to share more of their tax-free allowance.

That applies not only to male-female couples, but also to same-sex couples who wed under the new definition of ‘marriage’, so for once there should be no argument that heterosexual marriages are being given an unfair advantage.

Beyond this, it’s hard to predict what might come next – and the medium-term economic cycle is likely to have a big effect.

If austerity measures work sooner than expected, then the belt-tightening should ease too; if the turbulent economic waters remain choppy throughout this parliamentary term, then we can all expect further cuts, both in family law and the legal aid budget, and beyond.

By Pricketts Solicitors

 

Networking

Can We Sell Our Customer Database?

These days, information itself is big business, whether you’re a digital firm that deals directly with information, or a ‘real-world’ company with a treasure trove of customer records, sales activity and so on: this is the age of Big Data.

So it’s only natural to wonder whether you can monetise that data, and this is particularly the case during insolvency proceedings, at which point the customer database becomes an asset the insolvency practitioners might be keen to use to raise funds.

But is this allowed? It depends on a number of different factors – here’s the Information Commissioner’s Office guidelines on the issue:

Can I sell my customer database?

Normally if you have not told customers upfront that their details might be sold on, then it would be a breach of the Data Protection Act to do so. But if you are in insolvency, closing down or selling your business as a whole, you can sell the database too without breaching the DPA.

How can the information be used?

Data should still be used broadly in line with the original terms under which it was collected – the ICO’s example is, if information was collected by an insurance provider, then it might be sold on only for use in marketing or providing insurance products.

Do the customers need to know?

Yes, they do. Customers should be told that their information has been sold on, who it has been sold to, and given the opportunity to opt out if there is going to be a significant change in the way the data is used.

What about marketing?

You don’t need express consent to use a customer’s data for marketing – for example, if they bought your products one year, it might be reasonable to send them next year’s catalogue without express permission. But that doesn’t give free rein to anyone buying a customer database to bombard them with advertising: it should still be proportionate and reasonable, and take into account any customer preferences on how they would like to be contacted (e.g. telephone, email, post etc).

The DPA

Finally, the general terms of the Data Protection Act still apply – so the buyer of the database should give clear consideration to how much of the data should be retained, and how it should be used. Just because information has changed hands, it doesn’t mean the Act no longer applies at all.

By H Pipes & Co Solicitors

New Rules For Landlords Holding A Deposit Taken Before 6 April 2007

Are You A Landlord Holding A Deposit Taken Prior To 6 April 2007? You Need To Act Now!

Under the Deregulation Act 2015, you have until 23rd June 2015 to protect deposits taken prior to 6 April 2007.

If you fail to do so, you may face a fine of three times the initial deposit and will be restricted in your right to serve a S.21 Notice to Obtain Possession.

To talk to a member of our team please call 0116 266 5394.

By Mary Brown from Marsh Brown & Co Solicitors

Photo Credit: theglobalpanorama via Compfight cc

Election 2015: What Now For Commercial Property?

The immediate aftermath of the unexpected Conservative majority victory in the 2015 General Election brought with it an upward swing in the markets – the pound gained over 1% in value and the stock market rose 100 points, according to commercial property consultancy Knight Frank.

Why is this? Well, following a full parliamentary term under a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, and substantial doubt over the likely outcome of the election, a clear majority finally brings some confidence to proceedings.

Is that a good thing? In the short term it undoubtedly is for the markets, as the immediate gains show – but Knight Frank’s CIO Ian Whittock is less confident about the medium-term prospects, based on some of the voting figures.

For example, north of the border, the SNP achieved a near whitewash, making the referendum on Scottish independence seem perhaps less of the “once in a generation” opportunity it was presented as: could we see Scots heading back to the polls to vote again within the space of just a few years?

South of the border, England has its own independence referendum to consider, and UKIP’s respectable voting figures (albeit without winning more than one seat) have cemented the issue of departure from the EU on the agenda.

Again, nothing will be decided without a vote, but after several election campaigns run on the promise of a referendum that then never happened, it feels like this time that question might be put to the people.

Mr Whittock points out the slim but real possibility that the two votes could coincide to see the UK leave the EU, and Scotland leave the UK.

He writes: “As one wag in our team has suggested – tongue in cheek, I think – let’s hope that we do not end up with an independent England operating outside of the EU. That really would be a ‘wake me up, I’m having a bad dream’ day!”

In terms of commercial property itself, all of this combines on the following likely impacts:

  • Medium-term confidence should help to restore activity and liquidity to the UK commercial property market.
  • Leaving the EU could knock the value of sterling, and reduce inward investment from overseas.
  • In the meantime, despite losing the Liberal Democrats from government, it is likely to be ‘business as usual’ in terms of the main government policies in effect.

By R A Wilkinson & Co Solicitors

Difference Between A Consent Order And A Tomlin Order

litigation

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A consent order is drawn up to record an agreement reached between the parties after the issue of proceedings.

The terms of a consent order will be open to public inspection and the terms agreed must be within the powers of a court to order.

In the event that the disputing parties wish to keep certain terms of the settlement confidential and/or beyond the powers of a court to order, there is an alternative form of consent order available. This is the Tomlin order.

Tomlin orders are often used where complex terms of settlement are agreed. The order stays the claim on agreed terms set out in a schedule to the order. Certain terms must appear in the order itself and these will be open to public inspection whilst others can be put in the schedule and these will be subject to confidentiality.

For more information on the Litigation process, please do not hesitate to contact EHL’s Litigation department.

Our Solicitors in Leicester are experts in their fields and dedicated to quality client care. If you would like to find out more about our solicitors in Leicester please contact us.

The information provided in all of our blogs reflects only a narrative of some elements to consider on the topic. The blogs do not contain considered legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Please see our website terms and conditions for full details of our disclaimer.  If you are interested in obtaining advice, please contact one of our solicitors who will be happy and able to advise you on your own particular circumstances.

By Bijal Thakrar