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

Friday 26 January 2018

Business Rates Major Victory

Owners of empty business premises rejoice. The Court of Appeal has just provided them with a possible escape route from being condemned to pay punitive rates (after three months of emptiness) despite the fact that they are not receiving a bean by way of rent. The case is Telereal Trillium v Keven Hewitt (Valuation Officer) [2018] EWCA Civ 26 in which judgment was given last Friday.

The case was about a three-storey office block in Blackpool. Although empty, it was given a rateable value of £490,000. The valuation officer had sought to follow the valuation hypothesis set by statute by adopting the estimated rent for which the building could be let on a yearly tenancy. The valuation tribunal to which the owners appealed was unimpressed and valued at £1! But it was later agreed by the valuation officer that nobody would have been prepared to occupy the building and pay a positive price. ‘So what?’ was the valuation officer’s retort to the Court of Appeal. The rating hypotheses requires the valuer to assume demand that does not in reality exist and what did exist was a general demand because other comparable office properties had been let.

The Court of Appeal held that in the absence of any actual demand, there was no principle of law which required such a demand to be assumed. The evidence was that the relevant market was saturated. However, every case will turn on its own facts and any owner intending to rely on this decision will need to show that there is no general demand in the area for premises such as theirs. Extensive efforts by them to find an occupier - if only a 'pop up' selling plastic cups for a few weeks - would be useful.

The rulings could encourage more appeals to valuation tribunals or higher tribunals and some applications for an extension of the appeal time limit.

This decision has been reversed by the Supreme Court on 15 May 2019 by a majority of three to two (see [2019] UKSC 23). But the argument raised by the tenant may not be dead for ever where the facts support it. 

Thursday 18 January 2018

Court Closures: latest potential victims

Plans have just been announced to close the county court at Wandsworth, the crown court at Blackfriars and the magistrates’ courts at Banbury, Maidenhead, Cambridge, Chorley, Fleetwood and Northallerton. Consultation on the plans has opened. Objections to HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Sneezing Revisited

It's not that I am hard up for material to blog about. It's that people are sneezing - and coughing - all over the place and there's a lot of flu about, isn't there? We should all arm ourselves with a handkerchief when we step out of the front door (if not before) - and use it! I am reproducing below an earlier post of mine as an encouragement to being responsible.

Assault By Sneezing

This is the silly season, alright. And this topic may sound silly. But I'm serious 'cos I am fed up to the teeth with being sneezed at wherever I go. We should all keep our germs to ourselves. And if we don't? Well, let's see.

An assault and battery are known to the civil law as a trespass to the person. If an unprotected sneeze is directed into your face then I regard that as such a trespass. It's probably also the tort of negligence. It could be either or both when, though not directly aimed at you, the sneezer is aware of your presence and the sneeze is emitted so close to you that they should have foreseen that you might catch something from them.

Proving that it was a result of the sneeze that you were struck down could be the obstacle to a successful civil claim for damages. You would have to prove that it was more probable than not that the sneeze was the cause of your illness. Physical closeness, the absence of prior symptoms, the velocity of the sneeze and the stage at which the symptoms began to manifest themselves will be among the major factors for consideration. The further away from you was the sneezer, the weaker your case.

A good sneeze can certainly travel at 60 to 80 miles per hour for up to 20 metres but research published in 2015 suggested that droplets from sneezes - and coughs - may travel 200 times further than had been thought. The incubation period for whatever is to follow the sneeze is around 24 to 48 hours.

Of course, you cannot make a civil claim unless you know the identity of the sneezer. Don't attempt a private arrest. For more on overcoming this obstacle and draft particulars of claim for a sneezing claim for damages, see my book Breaking Law. No warranty is given that you will succeed but let's hope someone does..... soon.

Thursday 4 January 2018

New Court Forms In Family Cases

Beware. Certain court forms are being amended for family cases on 8 January 2018 although the current forms will still be accepted by the court during a short period of grace which ends four days later. The affected forms are the C100 (application for an order under the Children Act 1989),  A (notice of application for a financial order), A1 (notice of application for a financial remedy), B (notice of application for the court to consider the respondent's financial position after divorce or dissolution) and FM1 (family information and assessment form). The forms will be accessible on the Internet at https://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/HMCTS/FormFinder.do

The changes reflect the revisions to legal aid making it easier for the victims of domestic violence to obtain legal aid in family cases as from 8 January 2018 (see http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/legal%20aid) and what will be consequential changes to the scheme requiring mediation information to be obtained by certain applicants before starting family proceedings.