About this blog

Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Saturday 23 December 2017

Hurry. Planning fees going up.

Here's my Christmas present to you. And you can't return it if you think it stinks. It's news that may save you money.

If you are about to apply for planning permission, make the application before 18 January 2018. The fees payable to local planning authorities for planning applications, deemed applications, requests and site visits are increasing by around 20 per cent on that date. A fee will also be chargeable for permission in principle which is a new route to planning permission.

So pull out your planning finger and at the same time you can start a war with your neighbours who you can bet will object - even if you did send them a Christmas card.

Sunday 17 December 2017

Essential Laws for the Festive Season. Ignore At Your Peril!

Extend the 30 Days If the goods you purchase as a consumer are below legal standard, you are at your legal strongest by rejecting them within 30 days of delivery (less if they are perishable). It's known by the law and lawyers (whether or not they are wearing their wigs) as 'short-term' rejection. But the trader who is selling them can agree to extend the 30 days. Make an extension a condition of purchase. 'I'll buy this parrot but only if you agree to extend my right of short-term rejection under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to two months (you can ask for longer, if you want) and write on the till receipt that this has been agreed. And I don't care if I am holding up the queue.' 

Use Credit Card By paying with your credit card on a purchase which has a cash price of more than £100 and up to £30,000 you may get extra protection under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This makes the credit card company equally responsible with the seller for any breach of contract or misrepresentation. Useful if the seller goes out of business or is especially difficult. You still get the protection if you paid with a mixture of cash and credit card so long as the cash price exceeded £100. And that's £100 on the particular goods you are moaning about rather than the total of your entire shopping from that trader. But beware. Credit card companies are starting to refuse to accept liability where there has been in intermediary which has processed the transaction. Whether or not they are legal justified will depend on the arrangement with the intermediary but transactions through Amazon Marketplace or Pay Pal will probably mean that section 75 does not apply.

Avoid Duff Present Embarrassment It's embarrassing for the relative or friend (or former friend!) to whom you have gifted the purchase to come back to you and tell you that the present has fallen to pieces and was rubbish. The seller may inform them that can take  running jump because they weren't the buyer and so they cannot complain of a breach of contract. Put them in the position of being able to complain directly to the seller without having to breathe a word to you. Get the seller to write on the till receipt (if it's long enough, otherwise continue on the back): 'This purchase is for X and we agree that she shall be entitled to enforce all terms for their sale as the third party.' If the seller won't agree before you say you are buying, tell them you will have a go at the shop next door and don't worry if you held up the queue. Alternatively. transfer in writing your rights under the contract to the person to whom you gifted the purchase and tell the seller in writing that you have done so.  Of course, as purchaser, you could always take the damned thing back yourself!

Be strong on No-Receipt If the seller has agreed to a refund or credit note within a specified period but makes production of the receipt an essential condition of going along with this then you've had  it should you have lost the receipt - unless you get the seller on a very good day or are dating the manageress. But this does not apply where the goods are below legal standard although it is only reasonable that you should be able to satisfy the seller that you bought the goods from them and not one of their rivals. If no receipt you may have some other proof like a credit card statement. Nothing whatsoever available? Then the conversation may go like this.
'Do you accept I am a truthful person?'
'Well, I as a truthful am  personal telling you that I purchased this item (a) from you; (b) when I say I did; and (c) for the price marked on it.'
'Sorry, sir, but our policy is that we must see the receipt.'
'Which means I have to sue you and claim the price, interest, court fees and my car park expenses for today and you will have no defence. There is no reason why the judge should not accept my word. What a complete waste of time.'
'I'll just get the manager.'

Don't be sneezed at  I am sick and tired of catching the germs of other shoppers as they sneeze in my face. So should you be. but for sneezing in your face, not mine. You may be entitled to compensation. Really. See http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/sneezing%20claims

Buy a copy of my book Breaking Law and do yourself a favour and me a favour. Make a nice Christmas present and the pages won't fall out. There's loads of law in it and it's in plain English. And jokes. And my time with the Krays. And template letters and court documents. And template pre-nuptial, cohabitation and no-sex (what?!) agreements. It sounds good. I think I'll get myself a copy.

Compliments of the Season and a Happy New Year

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Tax Penalty Invalidated Because Imposed by Computer

A company was late in filing its tax return. Result? You guessed right. It was fined £100. It appealed against the penalty to the first-tier tax tribunal. 

The tribunal judge wanted to be satisfied that the the Revenue's determination to impose a penalty had been validly made. It was for the revenue to prove this was so. The Taxes Management Act 1970 section 100(1) says that..."an officer of the Board authorised by the Board ...may make a determination imposing a penalty under any provision of the Taxes Act and setting it at such amount as, in his opinion, is correct or appropriate." 

From such documents as were produced to him in the case, the tribunal judge concluded that the penalty notice had been issued automatically by a computer as had been the covering letter sent out with it to the company. It appeared that the Revenue's computer was programmed to run checks shortly after the due date for filing a return that was entered into it. If it found no entry for the return being received, the computer caused an entry to be recorded that a determination was made for the imposition of a penalty and the computer issued a notice to this effect. All without any decision making by an officer of the Revenue. 

In a judgment just published, the judge ruled that the requirement in section 100(1) of the 1970 Act mentioned above was for a flesh and blood human being who is an officer of the Revenue to decide to impose the penalty and then give instructions in relation to it which could be executed by a computer.

The judge quashed the penalty but in doing so made the point that his decision was limited to the late company tax return penalty which was the subject of the appeal and should not be taken to apply to other penalties for different taxes under schedules 55 and 56 of the Finance Act 2009. Nevertheless, it is an argument which may well be run in cases involving other taxes but there different statutory wording may apply. Two other matters. The decision in the company's case was not an upper tribunal decision or higher and the Revenue did not address the issue of the determination's validity or engage in the appeal in a very active way. On another day, it may well have much more to say which is relevant.

If you are aggrieved by a penalty, you might ask the Revenue who decided to impose it and,if not a fleshed blood human being, why not.

The company's case was Khan Properties Ltd v Commissioners for HMR&C [2017] UKFTT 0830 (TC)

Legal Aid Where Domestic Violence: New Rules: Apply Again?

The odds on getting legal aid these days are about as great as winning more than £1m on the National Lottery. It's different though when you want the legal aid for a private family dispute such as over contact to children and your opponent has used domestic violence to you or a child or there is a risk of it. Legal aid then becomes much more likely on 8 January 2018 when the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) (Amendment) (No2) Regulations 2017 SI 2017/1237 come into force despite all those brackets and so a reapplication may succeed  if legal aid has been refused. 

You have to produce evidence of the abuse or the risk of it to support your legal aid application. The requirement that the evidence of abuse should relate back to the previous five years (originally, two years) has been scrapped. Now there is no time limit but remember the application must succeed on merits.

As to the reckonable forms of evidence, there are still the old ones but also new ones and broadened ones. The old continue include an arrest, caution for or conviction for a domestic violence offence or the obtaining of a non-molestation order. The new include a letter from a UK domestic violence support service that they provided you with support – there is an objective element here in that the author must state their reasonable professional judgment that you are or are at risk of domestic violence – or even a letter or report that admission to a refuge was refused after allegations of violence. Also reckonable, letters from a local authority or housing association officer (objective again); a public authority which has assessed violence or risk; an independent domestic violence adviser providing support; and the Home Office confirming that leave to remain has been granted under the Immigration Rules 1971 domestic violence provisions. The burden on GPs is relaxed in that appropriate supporting evidence will now be accepted from other health professionals registered with a relevant regulator including a paramedic or social worker.

Say the risk is perceived on the strength of violence towards a previous partner or other family members but not to you? A further change says that evidence to this effect can count.

Judges will continue to be alert to the possibility of invented or exaggerated allegations of violence purely to secure legal aid. The amendment regulations are similarly alert. Legal aid may be withdrawn where a non-molestation etc injunction has been obtained without notice and subsequently been set aside and also, following certain forms of evidence, a public authority writes to confirm that you were neither a victim or at risk of domestic violence.  

Good luck. And for how to win compensation against the perpetrator of domestic violence, see my book Breaking Law

Sunday 10 December 2017

DIY Financial Remedy Consent Orders: Templates


The above link could be invaluable to you. Click on it and you will find what the top family law judge for England and Wales has to say about the template orders available for financial cases following marriage and civil partnership break ups. In particular, the link will take you to those templates. What is likely to be of special interest are the templates which can be used where the parties have reached an agreement about what is to happen post-divorce or dissolution in respect of sharing of property, income, pensions and Spotty the Dog.

The agreement should be incorporated in an order of the court for a variety of reasons: most important is that without an order either side could attempt to wriggle out of the arrangement at some time in the future and so no order risks uncertainty. The proposed order has to be submitted to the court and will only be approved and made by a judge if they are satisfied that it achieves fairness for both sides. The court will require completion of  a shortish form giving a summary of each side's finances and intentions about future living arrangements and other relationships.

If you or your spouse or partner have been represented by a lawyer in negotiations then the lawyer will draft the order. Perhaps you thrashed out the agreement without lawyers. In that event, you can go to a lawyer just to draft the order. One lawyer each is the ideal but it is possible for one lawyer to do the drafting at the request of one side and for the other side to satisfy themselves about its contents without legal help. The same lawyer must not advise both sides on the draft document. There are  non-lawyer firms who will do the drafting at a lower price than a lawyer would charge. The preference should be to get a lawyer to do what is necessary.

Drafting an order without any professional assistance to either side is the last resort. Something of importance could easily be left out or the wording you adopt might lead to the wrong interpretation of the wording and so unintended consequences.  However, if  the money just 'aint there to engage a professional, you can have a stab at a DIY draft order but utilising one of the templates the top judge likes so much. If the judge who considers it reckons the arrangement is unfair or there is some ambiguity in what you say, you will hear more from the court and have the opportunity to put things right.

You'll find plenty in my book Breaking Law (here he goes again!) about finances on breaking up and many other aspects of matrimonial law. Why not buy a copy as a Christmas present for your other half? It may lead to a reconciliation.