Sunday, 10 January 2021

COVID-19: REPRIEVE FOR TENANTS

The majority of residential tenants due to be evicted from their homes have been granted a further reprieve in England until 21 February 2021. The reprieve is in the same terms, except for one important exception, as the last one: see  https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/COVID-19   The exception is that evictions can go ahead where the tenant owed at least nine months' worth of rent which had been run up before 23 March 2020. That has now been reduced to at least six months' worth of rent. Tenants should give thanks to and landlords should curse The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/15) which, unlike its predecessor, does not halt bailiffs' seizure of goods. Despite the reprieve, which also protects mortgage borrowers, possession proceedings may still be brought and possession orders may still be made by the court, although not enforced by a bailiff or High Court enforcement agent where the regulations apply.

For Wales, a similar, but not identical, reprieve has been granted by The Public Health (Protection from Eviction) (Wales) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/12) and, just to be different, they have placed the name of the dreaded virus in a different place to England. The Wales regulations prevent evictions for a longer period until 31 March 2021 but must be reviewed earlier and so could be brought to an end earlier. They do not make an exception for cases where the arrears had reached six or nine months. 

Some crumbs for business tenants too. The paralysis on landlords being able to forfeit their leases or go into their premises to take them over where there are rent arrears has been extended from 31 December 2020 to 31 March 2021,  in England by SI 2020/1472 and in Wales by SI 2020/1456.

Friday, 11 December 2020

MASTERCARD CLAIM: APPEAL RESULT

MasterCard has lost its appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision of the Court of Appeal that the Walter Merricks claim can proceed. Open the champers. On second thoughts, make it the prosseco. More to follow. See https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/MasterCard%20claim 

Monday, 16 November 2020

COVID-19: EVICTIONS & BAILIFFS HALTED AGAIN: ENGLAND

Regulations made today and coming into force tomorrow 17 November 2020 will save the majority of residential occupiers in England from eviction and seizure of their goods for the time being. The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1290) stop evictions up to 11 January 2021. They also stop bailiffs and enforcement agents seizing goods inside residential premises (but not outside or on the road and not from business premises) until the end of the current national lockdown on 02 December 2020. Possession proceedings which are pending and new possession cases can still continue.

There are exceptions to the paralysis on evictions (which extends to even delivering tenants with a notice of eviction proclaiming when the bailiff or enforcement against will be calling and so this effectively amounts to a ban on fixing eviction appointments).   The main exception is where the possession order was made on the ground of rent arrears amounting to the equivalent of nine months but any arrears which have clocked up since 23 March 2020 will be disregarded for this purpose. Other exceptions include evictions where the possession order has been made in relation to social tenancies on the grounds of anti-social behaviour, nuisance, false statements to obtain the tenancy or domestic abuse and orders made against trespassers whose identities have not been established.  





Friday, 13 November 2020

FINANCIAL REMEDIES: IMPACT OF COVID & BREXIT ON COMPANY VALUE

The High Court in London has just ruled in a matrimonial financial remedies case * how the twin horrors of the pandemic and Brexit should be reflected in the value of a company which figured highly in the assets to be divided up between husband and wife. 

In focus was a company providing ducting to a wide range of customers in construction and other industries. A significant proportion of trading business was in the EU and, if there was 'no deal', the free trade tariff on which the company operated would end. The company had already experienced a significant decrease in demand. 

It was agreed that the court should take into account both the pandemic and Brexit in deciding what the company was worth. By how much should the value  be discounted? The wife argued for a discount of 10% not only to the trading value of  the company but to the company's surplus assets of cash and quoted investments. The judge ruled that it was right to knock off 10% but only on the trading value. There was no logic in applying any discount to the pile of cash and investments, he said. There was no evidence that they had suffered a decrease in value.

* OG vAG [2020] EWFC 52

MOBILE HOME OCCUPIERS IN ENGLAND:HELP IS ON ITS WAY!

 If, as is highly possible. your mobile home site owner is giving you grief, you may now be able to do something about exterminating them other than strangulation - and please, please, don't resort to that. 

New laws* will prohibit the use of land as a residential mobile home site unless the local authority is satisfied that the site manager is a fit and proper person. Authorities will have until 1 July 2021 to establish a fit and proper register and applications to go onto that register will have to be submitted during the following three months.  From 1 October 2021, it will be an offence for the site to be used without a registered manager. Should there be a second conviction for this offence then the licence to use the site as a mobile home site can be revoked. This should all act as a deterrent to the owner and their staff from any unreasonable conduct towards occupiers. Just mention it in the sweetest of tones when they next throw a brick through your window.

So where do you come in? Start now in giving the local authority details of your legitimate complaints. Then they can take those into account next year in deciding whether the hateful swine who has been making your life a misery for so long is a saint or a sinner.

* The Mobile Homes (Requirement for Manager of Site to be a Fit and Proper Person) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1034

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

LOCKDOWN IN ENGLAND: WHAT YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE KNOWN

The lockdown in England due to start this Thursday 05 November 2020 will be governed by the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No 4) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1200) which were laid before Parliament at 4.10 pm this afternoon and, unless I am a banana, will be approved in Parliament tomorrow. Just 32 pages! Here are a few things you may not have realised you will be able to do.

  • There are many specified reasons for leaving your home which  amount to a reasonable excuse and so will be okay. But you may have some other excuse for going out which is not specified. If it is reasonable, you will still be okay.
  • Going out for the purpose of visiting a waste disposal or recycling centre is classified as a reasonable excuse. We had better call that the rubbish excuse.
  • Attending an event commemorating Remembrance Sunday will also be a reasonable excuse.
  • For the purpose of one to one exercise or recreation gatherings outside- that is between a member of a household and one other person  who is not a member- the other person is not reckoned if a child under five. This means, for example, that one household member could meet up with one other adult and a four year old child. 
  • It is a reasonable excuse to leave home for the purpose of any training and not just education.
  • Leaving home for medical assistance is permitted as a reasonable excuse and that assistance can be from or by way of 'dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health.'
  • The child care bubble enables a person to provide informal child care for children in another household who are under 13. All the adult members of both households must agree.There cannot be a similar arrangement between two other households. This is an exception which will enable grandparents to continue to act as slaves to one set of grandchildren but it is not limited to grandparents and, on my interpretation of the regulations, the child care care may by more than one person from the second household. However, it must be reasonably necessary for this child care to be provided. If , for example, two children live with parents who are stuck at home and not working there and have two live in nannies and a governess, it would be difficult to sell the idea to the police that the informal arrangements were reasonably necessary.   
Stay safe.

Thursday, 8 October 2020

FREE LEGAL HELP: ENGLAND & WALES

Here is the latest about free (because you cannot afford to pay for it yourself) legal help for those caught up in civil or family court cases or who just need to know how they stand legally. 

Sometimes you will get advice only and sometimes you will get more such as representation at the hearing, be it at a court or a tribunal. Where the people you go to are restricted in what help they can give, they will refer on to another organisation who may be able to help more. Because of Covid-19 and its financial consequences, advice agencies are currently under great pressure and face-to-face sessions may well not be available. If one organisation cannot fit you in, try another. 'Ere is my contact info.

LEGAL AID   There will be a means test. Advice only on debt, housing, education, discrimination and family. www.gov.uk/civil-legal aid-advice: 0345 345 4345.  There's not much legal aid available for the whole case including representation at court although it is available for some limited cases  - included are family cases where you have been the victim of domestic abuse and local authority care cases involving children - where you have reasonable prospects of success. However, you might just be able to secure legal aid which is ordinarily excluded if you can show it would be a denial of your human rights not to be granted it (for example, you could not follow the proceedings without a lawyer). Difficult to obtain but see

CITIZENS ADVICE - CAB They operate out of 2,500 locations. citizensadvice.org.uk: 03444111444

ROYAL COURTS OF JUSTICE ADVICE BUREAU It is based in London but don't let that put you off. www.rcjadvice.org.uk: 020 7092 3960 Monday to Friday between 2pm and 4pm and first email them a triage form which you can access online. 

ADVOCATE (formerly Bar Pro Bono Unit)  For representation in court but you need to be referred by Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau (see above), a solicitor or your Member of Parliament.

LAWWORKS Mainly advice at clinics (some of which may be housed in a law centre). www.lawworks.org.uk to find out your nearest clinic and other points of contact.

LAW CENTRES  Plenty of them and they can usually do more than just give initial advice: they may be able to take on a case where full legal aid is available (see above under LEGAL AID). lawcentres.org.uk

FREE REPRESENTATION UNIT Based in offices in London and Nottingham they represent claimants in social security, employment and criminal injuries compensation tribunals and will go out to venues which are within reasonable travelling distances of their offices.www.thefru.org.uk : 020 7611 9555.

SUPPORT THROUGH COURT (formerly Personal Support Unit) Emotional and practical support including help with court forms. www.supportthroughcourt.org

SHELTER Housing advice. Chatline at http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help.

FREE HOUSING ADVICE AT COURT For cases for possession in the county court which are mainly between landlord and tenant and mortgage lender and borrower, free legal advice at the court will be available for the tenant and borrower even though it has not been sought earlier. The adviser  may also be able to speak in court for the tenant or borrower concerned. This advice will be available for what will now usually be a review hearing when attempts will be made to get parties to agree some compromise or possibly refer the case to mediation but you will not see the judge on this day and the landlord or lender should also be present for discussions or remotely available. If the case has not settled on the review date, a later substantive hearing will be listed (at least 28 days later) and advice at court will again be available, as before.

INITIAL ADVICE FROM A SOLICITOR  Many solicitors' offices will give initial advice to see whether you have a good case and how you can go about bringing or defending it and- what it may cost you if legal aid is not available. Typically, this advice will be for thirty minutes and free. 

NO WIN, NO FEE AGREEMENTS These are for bringing a claim (not a family case) where you pay your solicitor and any barrister involved a success fee (nor more than 25% of your compensation in a personal injury case) if you win and nothing if you lose. Good game and the majority of solicitors will be prepared to act for you on this basis.

DAMAGES BASES AGREEMENTS  A bit like NO WIN, NO FEE AGREEMENTS except you pay the lawyer a cut of the compensation. 

INSURANCE  You may hold an insurance policy that covers legal advice and/or representation for a host of topics. Check all you policies, even property and household contents jobs.

LEGAL SERVICES ORDER For financial remedy applications in matrimonial proceedings, if you cannot afford to pay a lawyer and cannot reasonably raise the money to do so but your opponent can afford it, then the court can order your opponent to shell out for your own lawyer: if not for the whole of the case, for part of it.

GOOD LUCK!