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purchase    No Comments

I met an estate agent friend last week – I’ve not seen him for about a year. It was nice to catch up and se how things are going – he’s about 20 miles away from us. Things are going Ok for him, and gradually improving. As we got talking it through it seems that the number of properties being sold are up about 30-45% on the same time last year – a substantial increase in the volume of jobs going through. I thought this was brilliant news – a good sign that things are on the up.

I know he’s red hot on sending out press releases to the local media so I asked what he’d made of this good news. He said he can’t get a story like that into the media because it doesn’t fit with the prevailing view that things are dire and not likely to improve. Our own figures back up what he as saying – the number of jobs passing through is about 36% up on the year to date in 2010. It seems utterly amazing to me that real genuine property news from people at the sharp end won’t be put in the media because it doesn’t coincide with the popular story. Yet on the other hand doom-mongers predicting the end of the world get more column inches than you can shake a stick at.

If the Murdoch/phone hacking story leads to any change in newspaper reporting in the UK, lets hope it leads to a bit of good news for a change. There’s plenty out there but to open a newspaper you wouldn’t believe it. I won’t hold my breath though.

Oh and one more thing – I’m talking about a rise in number of transactions – not house prices. But it’s the number of transactions that’s actually more important to the economy – every time someone moves this results in a flurry of new carpets, curtains, DIY, electrical and plumbing work.

If you are one of those people looking to move house and you want an instant conveyancing quote then give us a chance to pitch for your work



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Employment    No Comments

When you mean what you say, are you saying what you mean? As the Mad Hatter told Alice, the two are not the same at all.

Businesses need to be careful when drawing up routine documents like contracts of employment to ensure that key words are clearly defined in the document itself, otherwise the courts may apply a meaning from normal modern usage that has a different outcome.

This is the message of two cases that have come before the Court of Appeal over the last few weeks.
In Owens v Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, Beverley Owens was a qualified teacher who was employed to help special needs children to deal with their behavioural and emotional difficulties. Her contract of employment described her as a ‘specialist teacher counsellor’ but because she did not teach in a classroom, the Council transferred her from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme to the less generous Local Government Pension Scheme. When Ms Owens objected to this, the matter went all the way to the Court of Appeal.
Because the word ‘teacher’ was not defined in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme rules, the judges looked to the Oxford English Dictionary for a definition of the word. They decided that the words teach and teacher were not limited to teaching in a classroom and that the activities undertaken by Beverley Owens fell within the dictionary meaning of the word and that she was entitled to be reinstated in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

The meaning of a single word was equally important in R v Taylor where businessman Mr Taylor had been convicted in the Crown Court of falsifying his company’s books or papers, which is an offence under section 206 of the Insolvency Act 1986. The records that he had falsified were kept on computer and he appealed against his conviction on the basis that the company’s computer records were not ‘books and papers’ within the meaning of section 206.
The judges agreed that computer records were not paper, but held that the records could be described as ‘books’. They said that the expression books and paper should be given a practical meaning in line with present-day usage and practice, and that it would not be inconsistent to say that a company’s books were kept on computer.
Fidler & Pepper Solicitors say : “These cases give a strong message that the courts will not feel that they are restricted to a narrow, literal interpretation of words and phrases when interpreting documents and acts of Parliament. By adopting an up to date practical approach to language, the law will change and adapt as the language evolves.
“It certainly emphasises that businesses need to be careful when drawing up routine documents like contracts of employment. If a key word or phrase is given a certain meaning, then it’s crucial that the meaning is expressly defined in the document itself.”

Contact us for help and legal advice on HR and employment issues, we offer a 30 minute free consultation.

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young people    No Comments

Any suggestions for first time buyers is welcomed at the moment so it was with interest that we saw the Housing Minister Grant Shapps announce, at his 2nd first time buyer’s summit earlier this week, that: “Banks should offer ‘mates mortgages’ to help groups of friends buy a home together.” He went on to urge lending giants to send a lifeline to the record numbers of first-time buyers struggling to get on the property ladder. The housing minister said that “without urgent help from banks a generation of young people would be locked out of the market.”
The answer, he suggested, was a radical and new type of lending that he called ‘mates mortgages’”, and then added: “If there are mates who are perfectly capable of paying monthly mortgage payments but are struggling to fund a deposit of their own, there should be straightforward options to unite with their friends and take the first step on to the housing ladder together.”
The subsequent media coverage, however, went on to point out that Britannia is one of only a small number of lenders to offer a mortgage that allows friends to buy together. Its Share to Buy scheme, launched in July 2004, takes into account the incomes of up to four people. But just 1,300 customers have signed up so far.

It was also disappointing that the response from commentators was quick to raise the risks involved and once again makes me realise so much of the media coverage of this first time buyer market is negative because the media continue to talk it down.
Clearly any group of friends thinking of buying together need to discuss the situation with experts and take all the legal steps necessary to protect themselves. For example, they need to ensure they all sign a Deed of Trust. To help bring co-buyers together and guide them through the process Propertymates has a number of useful guides. We all hope young buyers will take a look at the co-buyer option and get away from the dead end of renting.

Guest Blog by Propertymates – For more information see Propertymates.co.uk ‘Turning dreams of ownership into reality’

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Solar Panels    No Comments

Further to my last blog on the benefits of installing solar panels on your roof and renting out the roof space there has been some futher developments.

The Energy Savings Trust (“EST”) had previously estimated the savings to households at around £120 annually but recent investigation by the EST has shown savings to be significantly less.

This could have an impact on the schemes (as mentioned in my previous blog) where you rent out roof space in return for all the electricity you can use as householders may now be reluctant to lock the property into a scheme where the savings are not that significant.

In addition the estimates that are provided do not always take into account the area in which the panels are going to be installed. This is further backed up by a Which investigation which confirmed that careful consideration should be given when calculating how long it would take for the system to pay for itself.

More than 28,000 households installed solar panels in the last financial year, with the number growing by 1,000 homes each week so there is still clearly market for this type of product and scheme.

The key factor is for many people schemes such as the above can be mutually beneficial but time should be spent working out the figures before you take the plunge.

Should you have any questions in relation to this blog please contact me on wjames@fidler.co.uk or alternatively 01623 451111

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