Tuesday, 15 June 2021

COVID-19: LATEST CHANGES TO RESTRICTIONS LAWS IN ENGLAND

The coronavirus restrictions extension and revisions to them, announced  for England, yesterday 14 June 2021, have been reflected in legislation made and laid before Parliament this morning and due to come into force at 11.55pm on 20 June 2021. The government has issued an explanatory note on the changes. This you will find at https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2021/705/pdfs/uksiem_20210705_en.pdf  

If you want chapter and verse, feast yourself on the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Steps and Other Provisions) (England) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/705) - swinging title, eh? - which those of you who want to cool off will discover at https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2021/705/pdfs/uksi_20210705_en.pdf


Friday, 11 June 2021

ESCAPING DEBT: Bankruptcy alternative CHANGES: England & Wales

If you are insolvent - what you owe is more than what you own - you can seek your own bankruptcy or wait for a creditor to do it for you. There are advantages and disadvantages to bankruptcy which I fully examine in the new edition of Breaking Law. The big advantage is that, generally, you are automatically released from your debts after one year.

There's an alternative to bankruptcy. It's a debt relief order and is easier and cheaper (just £90) to obtain. You seek it from the Insolvency Service through an approved debt advice intermediary such as the CAB. And it works in basically the same way as a bankruptcy.

The conditions for qualifying for a debt relief order are changing on 29 June 2021. The main change is that you can owe more to qualify. Currently, you are out if your debts come to more than £20,0000. That figure is rising to £30,000. No, DO NOT ratchet up another ten grand on your credit card tomorrow afternoon!!!

You are also currently out if your assets are worth more than £1,000. That figure is increasing to £2,000. But say you own a car? Up to £1,000 of its value is disregarded in totting up the value of your assets. From 29 June 2021, that £1,000 is doubling to - altogether now - £2,000. 

And one more change. You are also currently out if your surplus income comes to more than £50 per month after tax, national insurance and normal household expenses are knocked off. That figure is rising to £75.

An alternative to the alternative ((!) is an administration order from the county court. You can only go for that if your debts do not exceed £5,000. There the court can order you to make repayments over a period  of time but can also reduce the amount you owe. 

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

NO-FAULT DIVORCE LAWS DELAYED

Implementation of the no-fault divorce laws (see https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/divorce) is being delayed. It was intended that they would be up and running this Autumn but the start date has now been put off until 06 April 2022. There is still a possibility that even this date will be put back slightly.  The main reason for the delay appears to be the need to finalise and test the system to allow legal professionals and litigants in person to follow through the new procedures online in the majority of cases. 

Watch this space and for a full explanation of how the new laws will work, do order a copy of the second edition of Breaking Law.


Monday, 7 June 2021

NEW WAITROSE NEWSPAPER GAME: WARNING

I can see you at it now. You saunter along to your nearest Waitrose. Half your face covered. Times subscription token, My Waitrose card, Partnership credit card and shopping list in long life carrier. Not a care in the world. You carefully select your purchases and pick up a copy of the Daily Telegraph taking great care to ensure that the value of everything is at least £10 so that you will qualify for the Daily Telegraph free of charge under that wonderful scheme Waitrose has been running for some time now. 

And you cockily reach your favourite checkout partner who tells you that 'I am so sorry but the rules have changed. We can no longer accept your voucher and give you a free newspaper in the same transaction.' You cannot believe it. You think you must be participating in a nightmare. Alas no. It is stark reality. It is Wednesday 16 June 2021 or any day thereafter and that, my friends, is the day on which Waitrose is changing its free newspaper scheme: you will no longer be able to procure a free newspaper and redeem your newspaper voucher in the same transaction.  Why? Waitrose looks upon your practice as ' double dipping' and tells me that this means additional costs for the publishers which is why the commercial decision had been taken to mess up your day. 

If you have time on your hands (and, presumably Waitrose hopes you won't), you can keep your Times voucher secreted under your armpit, spend at least £10 and collect the Daily Telegraph free, walk round the block, return to Waitrose and redeem your Times voucher as a second transaction and without making any other purchase. That, Waitrose assures me will be okay. Two separate transactions in one day.

But it won't feel quite the same.


Tuesday, 1 June 2021

HOME REPOSSESSIONS: LATEST: TRAPS FOR LANDLORDS, DEFENCES FOR TENANTS: England & Wales

The general coronavirus ban on residential evictions is over. But modifications to the procedure landlords must follow before they can have any hope of the county court making a possession order are still with us - and have changed again.

Firstly, the notice period. There are two kinds of notice which come into play: the fault-notice (arrears of rent, anti-social behaviour and the rest) under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 and the no-fault notice under section 21 of the 1988 Act. 

In England, in respect of the section 8 notice, at least three months was required during 26 March to 28 August 2020 inc. This was doubled to a stonking six months  during 29 August 2020 to 31 May 2021 inc with variations where rent arrears, anti-social behaviour, rioting and obtaining the tenancy through a false statement were relied on. The six months has now been reduced to four months as from 01 June until 30 September 2021 but different periods will apply in rent arrears cases: at least four weeks for four months' arrears and four months for less than four months' arrears, tapering down from 01 August to 30 September 2021 inc to two months' notice for less than four months' arrears. The notice period on the ground of the tenant being unlawfully present in the UK or in the event of the tenant's death has reduced to two months from 01 June 2021. Notice periods for social introductory and demoted tenancies are amended as from 01 June 2021 and tapered as from 01 August 2021. 

The section 21 notice period in England of the minimum of three and six months as above have applied but as from 01 June to 30 September 2021 inc the six months has been reduced to four months,

Secondly, the form of notice in England. Under section 8, it's form 3 and under section 21 it's form 6A. The forms have been revised alongside changes in notice periods and form 3 was revised on account of the introduction of the debt respite moratoria as from 04 May 2021. Both forms have again been reamended as from 01 June 2021.

In Wales, the current general minimum six months' notice requirement is running until at least 30 June 2021.

So notice has been given but when given it was for less than the minimum period which applied at that time? Then the notice is not worth the paper it was written on. Any county court claim based on the insufficient notice should fail and the landlord should serve a fresh compliant notice and commence new proceedings on the strength of it. And say the notice was not in the correct prescribed form which was current when it was served? There may be a defence for the tenant because of this. It would depend on the ways in which the notice was incorrect and the particular circumstances of the case. Professional advice should be taken on this by the tenant.

Just one other thing. The life of a section 21 notice is limited. If a possession claim has not been started before the notice expires then a fresh notice has to be served. Before coronavirus, the notice had a life of six months. For the period 29 August 2020 to 31 May 2021 it was increased to ten months. It has now been extended to eight months from 01 June to 30 September 2021 inc.


Monday, 17 May 2021

COURT FEES: HOURS LEFT TO SAVE MONEY: ENGLAND & WALES

 The general savings in suing on line instead of off line end today. I warned that this would be happening

(see https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/court%20fees). So get that mouse working...FAST!!!!

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

RESPITE FOR DEBTORS - AND NEW NOTICE SEEKING POSSESSION FORM

Yesterday 04 May 2021 a debt respite scheme which cuddles debtors who are individuals over 18 and hits creditors came into force. The breathing space moratorium  (BSM) and the mental health moratorium  (MHM) have been introduced in England and Wales under the Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018. Both are accessed through an approved debt counsellor or the local authority. 

With a moratorium in place, creditors will be prevented from taking enforcement action in respect of a debt whether it has accrued before or after 04 May 2021 or require the payment of interest, fees, penalties or charges during the moratorium period. The BSM lasts for 60 days. The MHM period is the total of the debtor's mental health crisis period plus 30 days but that could be followed by a BSM 60 days. The BSM may be applied for annually. The MHM can be applied for as and when a mental health crisis recurs, without limit.

Not all debts qualify. In are those under a warrant of possession, court judgment and personal and crown debts. Out are secured debts (generally), business debts if the debtor is VAT registered or in partnership and the debt relates to the business and debts which mirror the bankruptcy discharge exemptions. A charging or attachment of earnings order made before 04 May 2021 will be unaffected. 

With a BSM, the debtor must keep up certain defined payments which accrue during its currency including taxes and mortgage instalments. Failure to do could lead to cancellation of the BSM at a midway review by the debt counsellor. A creditor can ask for a review of either moratoria within 20 days of its inception and can apply to the county court for cancellation if the review goes against them.

The court or a tribunal may grant permission to a creditor to take an enforcement step either before or after they have started proceedings.  In the absence of permission, any bankruptcy petition pending against the debtor based on a debt which qualifies for a moratorium must be halted. Any application  or appeal to the county court allowed by the moratoria should be made by application notice in form N244. A fee of just £5 has been set for a county court appeal by a debtor who is aggrieved by a refusal to have their usual residential  address disclosed to creditors. 

You will find  highly digestible guidance on the moratoria at gov.uk/government/publications/debt-respite-scheme-breathing-space-guidance if you want more.

A knock-on effect of these new laws is that the notice (form 3) which a landlord after possession of their property and relying on rent arrears is required to serve on their tenant before they can begin court proceedings - it's called a notice seeking possession - has been amended as from 04 May 2021. The new form draws attention to the fact that it cannot be served where a moratorium is in force, without county court or tribunal permission. 


Tuesday, 27 April 2021

PERSONAL INJURY TRAFFIC CLAIMS: Major new laws

Please don't have a traffic accident that causes a modest injury. But if you really must, try and have it before 31 May 2021 or you will be caught by new laws which affect how the court will deal with the claim, and if it is for a whiplash injury, cut down the level of compensation you receive, assuming the other driver was wholly or partly to blame. And please don't engineer a claim so as to make a fast buck or you can expect a slow prison sentence.

See https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/whiplash%20reforms%3B%20road%20traffic%20accident%20claims%3B%20personal%20injury%20claims

The claim in England and Wales for a traffic accident occurring on or after 31 May 2021 can be expected to be dealt with as a county court small claim. That's because all traffic claims where the personal injury element is worth no more than £5,000 will be classified as small claims. Currently they fall outside the small claims procedure if the personal injury is worth over £1,000.  In addition to dealing with the personal injury, the court will be able to award up to £5,000 for losses such as vehicle repairs and vehicle hire charges. 

The consequence of a case being covered by the small scheme is that the restricted costs regime will apply to it. Apart from certain expenses such as court fees and loss of earnings, the winner cannot  generally expect the loser to be ordered to pay their costs and, in particular, their lawyer's bill if they have been legally represented (except for a few peanuts not worth salting). That means that the number of law firms willing to take on these cases in future will be drastically reduced. Some will still do it but probably on the basis that the claimant pays them 25% of the compensation awarded for dealing with the case. Of course, it may still be possible for a lawyer to be hired by a claimant who has legal-fees insurance cover for traffic accident claim representation. The small claims route will not be foisted on a claimant who is under 18 or where at the time of the accident they were a cyclist, motor cyclist, pillion or sidecar passenger, using a mobility scooter, pedestrian - or riding a horse!

And now for the new whiplash compensation. This is for a soft injury job to the neck, back or shoulder. Here's an example of what the court will award. If the claimant's symptoms clear up within three months, the compensation will be £240, with an extra £20 thrown in if there are one or more minor psychological symptoms as well and a 20% enhancement in exceptional cases. This is as against the current range of compensation which is £1,290 to £2,300. What a difference! The low compensation limits will NOT apply to a whiplash which has lasted for more than two years or is likely to do so. 

Flight Delay Claims: Staff sickness defence rejected

Flight delay claims are still with us despite Brexit. It's the flights that have flown but what might lift your spirits is the prospect of reactivating a refused claim on account of a recent court decision. Have a look at https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/flight%20delay%20claims to see how delay claims work and airlines can escape liability for having to pay compensation on the ground that the delay was caused by 'extraordinary circumstances'. 

The recent decision comes from the Court of Appeal in a case called Lipton v BA City Flyer Ltd. That involved a flight from Milan to London City. One hour before the flight was due to depart, and before he had come on duty, the captain reported in sick. There was no replacement captain available and so the flight was cancelled. Hence, the delay. The Court of Appeal ruled that this event did NOT amount to an 'extraordinary circumstance' and so the airline had to pay out to the passenger who pressed their claim for compensation.  

The decision is likely to put pay to future liability escape for airlines by arguing that the delay was down to staff absence and airlines can be expected to be on even weaker ground where the sickness occurs while the member of staff has already started their shift. All of which means that if you have not already been to court and lost but been turned down by the airline for compensation in a 'staff sickness' situation, have another go at them and mention that Court of Appeal decision. And don't mention me!

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Flexible Tenancies: LATEST

For the story so far, see https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/2021/01/flexible-tenancies-landlords-in-trouble.html  The Supreme Court has just granted the local authority permission to appeal to it against the decision of the Court of Appeal. 

Now for the wait.

Friday, 26 March 2021

CHILD DISPUTES: How to get £500 voucher towards mediation costs: England and Wales

A pilot scheme has just been announced by the Ministry of Justice in the hope of keeping you out of court on a dispute over the welfare of your child. Before starting court proceedings, you must generally participate in a mediation information and assessment meeting. They call it a MIAM so that nobody knows what is being talked about.That meeting might move on to you and the other parent going through mediation. It isn't compulsory but it's worth looking at. Trouble is that the mediator wants to be paid for trying to get you to reach an agreement at mediation. The government will now give you up to £500 towards the cost of the mediation which could follow the MIAM. A voucher for that contribution will be obtained by the mediator. 

But hurry if you can't agree on your child's school, where they should live, whether they should keep to a vegan diet and never drink a coke and if they should never be shown a copy of Breaking Law. Only £1m has been set aside to finance the scheme and that could run out fast though there is always the prospect of the scheme being extended if it is a success.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

COVID-19: COMPANIES 0FF HOOK FOR LONGER:LATEST

In legislation laid before Parliament today 24 March 2021 - alright, you win: it's called the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Extension of the Relevant Period) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/375 - there is further respite for companies. The restrictions on serving statutory demands on and issuing winding up petitions against them which was due to have ended on 31 March 2021 has been extended by three months until 30 June 2021. Additionally, the temporary assumption that directors are not liable for 'wrongful trading' by carrying on with the company's business while its financial position may worsen which was due to come to an end on 30 April 2021 has been extended to 30 June 2021.

Monday, 22 March 2021

COVID-19: RESPITE FOR TENANTS: LATEST

That extended ban on evictions and the delivery of notices of eviction of residential tenants in England on which I reported to you at  https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk has arrived. And to prove it, as they say, it's 'ere! It will continue until 31 May 2021 and for that, tenants may bless and landlords may curse, the Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) (No 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/362) laid before Parliament today 22 March 2021. As before, there are exceptions. These are that the possession order was against unknown trespassers, or has been made wholly or partly on the grounds of anti-social behaviour, nuisance, domestic abuse in social tenancies, false statements, substantial rent arrears exceeding six months' worth or where the occupier has died.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

RESPITE FOR TENANTS REVISITED

Here's an update on https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk

Residential tenants In England, the temporary six month notice period for tenants before possession proceedings can be brought, has been extended to 31 May 2021 and the ban on evictions and the delivery of eviction notices which was last extended to 31 March 2021 is being further extended to 31 May 2021 but the necessary legislation for that is awaited. In Wales, the ban on evictions and delivery of eviction notices has been extended until 30 June 2021 (although will be subject to earlier review) under regulations laid today 17 March 2021 by SI 2021/325. There are exceptions: the occupiers are unknown trespassers; the possession order was made on the grounds of domestic violence, serious offences, anti-social behaviour or nuisance; or the property is unoccupied and the order was made wholly or partly on the grounds of the occupier's death. 

Business premises In England and Wales, the ban on lease forfeiture or re-entry into the premises for non-payment of rent has been extended to 30 June 2021. In order to justify giving notice of enforcement and sending in an enforcement agent to seize goods on business premises under the commercial rent recovery scheme, the amount of rent in arrears (which was originally seven days' worth) has been re-increased on a temporary basis : generally, 457 days' worth as from 25 March 2921 and 554 days' worth on or after 23 June 2021.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Coronavirus-19: RESPITE FOR TENANTS

The government has this afternoon laid before Parliament regulations (see SI 2021/284) which extend the duration of the emergency legislation requiring residential landlords in England to give longer notice periods to their tenants before they can bring court possession proceedings against them.  This legislation will now run for an additional two months, expiring on 31 May 2021. The notice period required is at least six months. The most notable exception is where rent is at least six months in arrears and then a reduced four-weeks' notice will be needed. The notice periods which applied before the pandemic for cases of anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse and fraud still stand. There are special provisions for introductory and demoted tenancies.

Separate regulations have been made in relation to business tenancies in England (SI 2021/283). Landlords will be prevented from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent for an extended period which will now expire on 30 June 2021. Similar regulations have been made for business premises in Wales (SI 2021/253).  

Monday, 8 March 2021

Court Fees: Sue Early

Making a civil money or possession claim online rather than in the traditional paper way through a court office saves bucks even though it may corrupt your eyesight by over-exposure to a computer screen. These online discounts were introduced to lure in the punters like you and have been stunningly successful. 

It's all changing. The government has announced today following consultation that, apart from a single exception, the online fees are to be aligned with the paper jobs. You will pay the same on line as you will offline when you commence the case. That single exception relates to a request for the bailiff to go in through a warrant of control where the same but new fee will be payable on and offline at £83. 

The new fees will come into force during May 2021, subject to legislation. If they don't come in, I will be eating another of my hats, washed down with some computer screen fluid.  To take advantage of the lower fees, get a move on. 

Flexible Tenancies: Latest

In the highly impacting flexible tenancy case of Croydon LB Council v Kalonga, the local authority is to seek permission from the Supreme Court to appeal against its defeat in the Court of Appeal. Watch this space.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Whiplash Reform: Revisited

Phew! We've got the rules now which were laid before Parliament today. See Civil Procedure (Amendment No 2) Rules 2021 (SI 2010/196). More to come. 

Whiplash Reform: At last!

The controversial road traffic whiplash injury reforms under the Civil Liability Act 2018 will come into force on 31 May 2021 as a result of regulations (Civil Liability Act 2018 (Commencement No 1 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/195)  made on 23 February 2021. They will only apply to accidents occuring on or after that date. More regulations, procedural rules and a Practice Direction are awaited. 

Friday, 19 February 2021

Legal Aid: Financial Eligibility Rules Eased

The Legal Aid scheme for a civil as opposed to a criminal case is still there but it has shrunk to the size of my pen top. You will know if it is available for your case because you will have applied and been turned down on the ground that you had too much money even though you did not realise you were so well off. You might be able to apply again thanks to changes in the financial eligibility rules which have recently come into force.

If you owed more than £100,000 on your mortgage, the excess over that figure was ignored. No more. The whole mortgage debt will now be reckoned. And certain one-off payments made to you will be disregarded when it comes to assessing the amount of your capital. These  are compensation payments from some certain UK government and UK charitable schemes that support victims of state error and serious incidents. Infected blood support and criminal injuries compensation are among them. 

Good luck.

Friday, 29 January 2021

Flexible Tenancies: Landlords in Trouble

Between 2014 and 2018 an estimated 30,000 flexible tenancies were granted by local authorities. If a flexible tenancy has been granted to you, your landlord may well be frustrated in any attempt to get you out before the fixed term of the tenancy has come to an end. A judgment of the Court of Appeal in a case called Croydon London Borough Council v Kalongola [2021] EWCA Civ 77 has made it clear that without a so-called forfeiture clause in your tenancy agreement - you should check with a professional on whether you've got one - the landlord cannot bring the tenancy to an early end. And, even if there is a forfeiture clause in the agreement, there are certain technical steps the landlord would need to take before it could secure a court order for possession against you.

Croydon has been refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. It might seek permission from the Supreme Courts itself. We shall see.

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.