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, 17 September 2021

TENANCY NOTICE PERIODS: in England, old periods are coming back with new forms

FIFTH 'RETURN OF BREAKING LAW' UPDATE  - TO CHAPTER 67 ('AT WAR WITH YOUR HOME LANDLORD')

01 October 2021. A Friday. Remember it well. It is the day on which residential landlords in England will be screaming in ecstasy. Those temporary notice periods which were brought in to provide some respite for tenants being booted out during the pandemic for defaulting with their rent or other transgressions - at one time, six months' notice! - are coming to an end and the pre-pandemic notice periods are coming back. When? On 01 October 2021, of course. A Friday. I know you have already remembered that. So it's generally back to at least two months to 14 days' notice depending on the type of tenancy (and for much more on that, take a butchers at my latest book what I wrote 'The Return of Breaking Law'). 

Notices already served and proceedings already underway on the strength of them are unaffected. It is only notices that are given to tenants on or after 01 October 2021 - a Friday - that will be governed by the changes. Some landlords who have more recently given notice to their tenants for the longer temporary periods may well be tempted to withdraw those notices and serve fresh notices on or after 01 October 2021. They will need to get out their diaries and calculate whether they will be better off doing so.

So far, then, a boost for landlords. But a trap too. That's because the prescribed notice forms are changing to reflect the reintroduction of the original notice periods. A landlord who serves an old form on or after 01 October 2021- a Friday - does so at their peril.

The actual new regulations with the new forms are waiting for you at the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies) (Amendment and Suspension) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/994). The forms that change are form 3 for notices under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, form 6A for notices under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and the part 2 notice under section 83 of the Housing Act 1985 which was given a couple of injections of Botox so very recently (see https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/2021/08/council-repossessions-in-england-new.html).

I almost forgot. The legislators' right to bring back the longer temporary periods is retained right up to 25 March 2022 just in case too many of you go into Waitrose without a face covering.








COMPULSORY PURCHASE: displacement compensation about to rise in England

 
There's nothing to beat a nice bit of development - unless you are being thrown out of your home to make way for it. Where you are out because of a compulsory purchase order or public redevelopment, one of the heads of compensation to which you are entitled is for the distress and inconvenience which displacement will cause. There are limits to that compensation which are reviewed annually. The limits are going up for England when you are thrown out on or after 01 October 2021.  You can bless and curse the Home Loss Payments (Prescribed Amounts) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/841).

An owner-occupier can collect 10% of the market value of their property under this head of compensation. The minimum will be £7,100 which is an increase from £6,500 and a maximum of £71,000 which is an increase from £65,000. For a tenant, there is a flat rate which will be set at £7,100 and increases from £6,500.  




Saturday, 11 September 2021

LAW WATCH: Free video on legal rights of cohabitees with ex-judge Stephen Gold

 



You've broken up with your partner. You thought you had absolutely no legal rights against them? You may be pleasantly surprised. Take a look. And remember to subscribe - no charge - so that you will be alerted to my future free videos and  be able to check whether I have changed my shirt. 


Wednesday, 8 September 2021

WAITROSE STAFF UNMASKED

 



That's an 'A' board you see. It is outside the Havant, Hants branch of Waitrose at which a relatively large proportion of staff will not wear face coverings while on the shop floor. Management say they encourage them to do so. Indeed, they give the same encouragement to shoppers and, from my experience, most shoppers positively respond. There is not unanimous agreement on the effectiveness of face coverings in enclosed spaces. But I suggest that in shops, at least, there should be respect for the wishes of the owners and face covered shoppers who believe that protection is afforded by the wearing of coverings by all customers and staff for whom wearing a covering does not raise any health issue.  Here's a summary of my recent email exchange on the subject with the Waitrose executive office. If you bear with me, you will find out more about the 'A' board.

Me to Waitrose
13/08/2021
Good Afternoon
I have shopped in your Havant, Hants store every day this week. I am appalled to see a material number of staff - three of them today were supervisory - without face coverings and without any displayed indication that they were exempt from wearing such a covering. What sort of message does this convey to shoppers who are civilly asked to take various health precautions and, from what I have observed, are in the vast majority of cases doing so? In short, your shoppers are behaving more responsibly than your staff. Why do you not prevail on staff at the store to be masked or, at the very least, withdraw from client contact if they refuse? By virtue of the large proportion of unmasked staff, it is highly unlikely they were all exempt in any event.

Waitrose to Me
13/08/2021
Dear Stephen
Thanks for getting in touch with us.
....In line with government guidance, we will recommend that our customers and Partners in England continue to wear a face covering unless exempt, from 19 July. The decision over whether to do so or not, when in our shops, will be for each individual to take, based on their own judgment.
I do appreciate your concern, despite the relaxation of Government restrictions. Across all our stores we will be retaining perspex screens and hand sanitising stations, We will also maintain all of the hand hygiene and store cleaning disciplines which have served us well since the start of the pandemic.
Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns and I will ensure your comments are fed back to the branch manager at Havant.
....

Me to Waitrose
14/08/2021
Dear Josh
Thank you and noted. But that is a highly unsatisfactory state of affairs, is it not? What is the legal impediment to you taking a Partner who refuses to wear a mask off the shop floor to discharge other duties so that customers are not exposed to them and the danger they present? There is none of which I am aware.

Me to Waitrose
14/08/2021
Dear Josh
An update, Just back from waitrose, Havant. The lady on 'customer services' is unmasked. Customer disservices?

Waitrose to me
16/08/2021
Dear Stephen
Thank you for getting back in touch and for your suggestion.
I'm very sorry that you're unhappy with our response and I do understand how you are feeling.
Unfortunately this isn't something we would be able to do with our Partners due to operation of our shops - the majority of the tasks take place on the shop-floor and there aren't dedicated 'back of house' teams.
I will continue to pass on your feedback to the branch manager as well as to our leadership teams to review.

Me to Waitrose
17/08/2021
Josh
...
I observe today that the safety guidance to customers is displayed close to the store entrance but inside so you have to be inside to read it whereas my recollection is that it was formerly displayed in the front window (possibly, as well as inside). For the obvious reason, exclusive display inside is not sufficient, is it?

Waitrose to me
17/08/2021
Dear Stephen
Thanks for your response.
...
I'm sorry to hear that some of our safety guidance is positioned inside the branch. I will speak to branch management about this to make the signage visible to customers outside of the branch. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.  

Me to Waitrose
21/08/2021
Josh
...I would have hoped - as I am sure would you - that this particular complaint could have been put to bed but, alas, I have more depressing news. The signage and the positioning have not changed and so it would seem that your direction or advice (as the case may be) has not been heeded. I have started on the task of producing a notice that can be prominently displayed in a front window and which follows the wording of the covid notice to be found within the store. If the branch management team can take  a few minutes off from encouraging staff to wear face coverings and contact me, arrangements can be made for me to affix the notice to a suitable position. I would not make any charge for my services.
On my visit to the store this afternoon, only two cashiers were face covered which then increased to three. One of the uncovered was the young lady on the fast 'baskets only' till. I would have thought that this was unsatisfactory as this till surely needs to be well patronised to take the pressure off the other tills but I did observe that customers, as did I, were unsurprisingly keeping their distance from her. Perhaps those members of management who are singing the praises of mask coverings need to raise the volume of their voices or take a course in the powers of persuasion.


Waitrose to me
24/08/2021
Dear Stephen
I'm very sorry to hear that the signage has not been moved to a clearer position outside. 
I have spoke with...the branch manager who has arranged for a sign to be placed outside. They have also ordered a new signage display which will sit outside to display the safety message to customers. I apologise that this wasn't in place previously.

Me To Waitrose
04/09/2021
Dear Josh
Yes, it is me again. The signage outside is an 'A' board: one side has advertising material and the other side is devoted to covid health precautions. During the week commencing 23 August 2021, the board on successive days was situated so that the health precautions side could only be read by customers approaching the store along the pavement outside in one direction or so that the health precautions side was only visible from inside the store and facing out (see photograph above which was sent) and on one day it was absent.
I think that Waitrose, Havant is having a laugh. Don't you?

Waitrose to me
06/09/2021
Thanks for getting back and I hope you are keeping well.
.... I will raise this with.. the branch manager so he can address this with the team and look to resolve this.
Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I hope you have a lovely rest of the day and rest of the week.

Safe shopping.





Tuesday, 7 September 2021

BEAT COURT FEE RISES:UPDATE

I recently warned of imminent court fee increases. See https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk I can now report that those increases will be coming into force on 30 September 2021. They are introduced by the Court Fees (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2021 (SI 2021/985) which were laid before Parliament yesterday 06 September 2021.

I have kept this update short so that you can get on with preparing paperwork to beat the rises instead of wasting time reading my attempts at humour. But, for the avoidance of any doubt, these rises are positively not a joke. 

Sunday, 5 September 2021

BEAT COURT FEE RISES

As predicted in 'The Return of Breaking Law'  a wigful (to fit an enormous head) of court fees will soon be introduced. To be precise, 129 of them in civil and family proceedings as well as in certain cases in the Court of Protection. To avoid paying the extra, you need to take the step which will attract the fee as soon as you can. The Ministry of Justice has said that the increased fees will be brought into force in early Autumn 2021 which means we could be looking at the start of October 2021 or shortly after.  You can find full details of each and every increased fee at https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/increasing-selected-court-fees-income-thresholds/results/court-fees-increasing-consultation-response.pdf

Here are some of the increases -

To start a divorce, nullity or civil partnership dissolution case  - up £43 to £593

To issue a county court or High Court application notice (form N244) - up £20 to £275

To issue a county court or High Court application notice BY CONSENT (form N244) - up £8 to £108

Hearing fee (otherwise called trial fee) for county court small claims case for £300 or less - up £2 to £27

Ditto for case for more than £300 but no more than £500 - up £4 to £59

Ditto for case for more than £500 but no more than £1,000 - up £5 to £85

Ditto for case for more than £1,000 but no more than £1,500 - up £8 to £123

Ditto for case for more than £1,500 but no more than £3,000 - up £11 to £181

Ditto for case for more than £3,000 - up £11 to £346

Hearing fee (otherwise called trial fee) for multi-track case in county court or High Court - up £85 to £1,175

The Help with Fees system which can mean no fee or a reduced fee survives. It will benefit you if you are on benefits. If not on benefits but a low income, have a go. The income thresholds for applicants not on benefits will be slightly raised at the same time as the fees go up.




Sunday, 29 August 2021

CHILD DISPUTE SCHEME BOLSTERED: £500 on offer towards mediation cost: no means test

FOURTH 'RETURN OF BREAKING LAW' UPDATE

I looked at alternatives to court proceedings at chapter 09 of my book. One of the alternatives is mediation. That's the process by which somebody independent who has been trained in getting parties at war to settle disputes will apply their skills to hostilities between you and your opponent. Those skills sometimes extend to the connection together of the parties' heads until peace prevails. This is sometimes known as head bashing. 

One type of mediation covered by my book is the pilot scheme set up by the government to pay £500 towards the costs of a mediator assisting in couples reaching an agreement over a child dispute and to avoid it going to or continuing in court (see https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/mediation). I predicted that if the scheme was initially successful then more money would be added to the £1m made available to issue vouchers to cover this £500 a dispute. 

It's happened. Yesterday 28 August 2021, the government announced the investment of a further £800,000 in the scheme which is sourced through a mediator conducting the information programme in which anyone wishing to take a child dispute to court must generally participate  before the case can be started.

The scheme does not involve a means test. It's open to millionaires.

Friday, 27 August 2021

'LAW WATCH' FREE VIDEOS FROM AUTHOR OF 'RETURN OF BREAKING LAW'

Don't waste your time ordering a box set. You can see my mug - no judicial wig as I have a bit of my own hair - in a series of videos packed with legal tips on a wide variety of legal topics. They are free to watch and are aimed at helping you win your case, whether you already have a lawyer acting for you or are going it alone as a litigant in person. And if they tempt you into buying my latest book for much, much more information, then that would help me with my increased car insurance premium. The book is available from the usual places which do not specialise in pornography and I see that the publishers have a special offer going till the end of next month. Actually, I am tempted to take advantage of it myself!

The first video is about financial remedy applications which determine who gets what of a lot, a little or nothing, when a relationship breaks up. Take a look. Of course, when you've watched it remember to subscribe so you know when I'm next on screen.  



Council repossessions in England: new notice form required for secure tenancies

THIRD 'RETURN OF BREAKING LAW' UPDATE 

'At War With Your Home Landlord is chapter 67 of my book. You should get to it by around this time next month but only if you read fast and keep off the bottle. Among a multitude of topics, it covers the procedure your social landlord should follow if they want you out. If you rent from a council  one of their own properties then the probability - but by no means the certainty - is that your tenancy is a 'secure tenancy'. The paperwork will make it clear whether or not this is so.

And, if it is a secure tenancy and the council want you out, there is an important change. The prescribed form of notice  - effectively, a notice to quit which is actually called a notice seeking possession - the council must give you and which must run out  before they can start county court possession proceedings in England, has changed. The new form is introduced by the Secure Tenancies (Notices) (Amendment) and Suspension (Coronavirus) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/946) which title you need not learn off by heart and repeat to me before bedtime. It revises the information about the length of the notice period you should currently be given.

The revised notice should be used by the council for any notice which is given on or after 24 August 2021 (and until it is revised again). Since the regulations which changed the form were not made until 19 August 2021 and since some government websites are still referring to the old form of notice, it is very likely that any notice you have had after 23 August 2021 or you may receive in the near future, will be in the wrong from. In that event, it may well be legally ineffective and you might wish to take that point at some stage when communicating with the council or in a defence to the proceedings which may follow. A bit more time which would result from the council having to give you a fresh notice in the correct from, might well be useful to you. 



 



Wednesday, 18 August 2021

MASTERCARD COLLECTIVE CLAIM BY WALTER MERRICKS: latest hearing result

SECOND 'RETURN OF BREAKING LAW' UPDATE

Chapter 41 of my latest book covered the collective claim against Mastercard now put at £15 billion - yes, I did say £15 billion- on behalf of 46 million UK customers who between 1992 and 2008 paid more for their goods and services as a result of an unlawful Mastercard practice. That practice is said to have put up the price of those goods or services for the 46 million whether or not they  - and this could be you or even little me -actually used a Mastercard credit or debit card on any transacation.  

The contested claim failed before the Competition Appeal Tribunal. But the failure was reversed by the Court of Appeal whose reversal was backed by the Supreme Court which sent the claim back to the Tribunal to reconsider it. That it has now done and in a judgment published today 18 August 2021 the Tribunal has changed its mind and has made a collective proceedings order  - the first ever - which will allow the claim to go ahead. An attempt to include deceased persons among the claimants was unsuccessful. 

Watch this space for more details of how the claim will proceed and whether you can expect a payout for a bottle of champagne (or a case) or a glass of water and when.


Monday, 2 August 2021

Package holidays: travel company liable for hotel rape

FIRST 'RETURN OF BREAKING LAW' UPDATE

My latest book gives the law as at 08 June 2021 which was the date on which I dropped my pen, had a whisky, caught up with 25 box sets and fell asleep for a week having got to the 762nd page. Anything covered in the book that has changed since will be updated in this blog, free of charge and so long as you behave and I retain my marbles. Yes, I know, I know. I must be crazy.

And that takes me to the law on package holidays (see chapter 34). There I explain that the company with which you booked your package holiday will be legally liable to you not only for their own sins but the sins of others who they have arranged should perform some part of the package on which they have messed up. That could be the hotel which poisoned you or, as I stated, 'as the Supreme Court is likely to rule in a pending case, the hotel whose employee raped and assaulted you.'

And that is precisely what the Supreme Court did rule - last Friday 30 July 2021. The case was X v Kuoni Travel Ltd [2019] UKSC 34 and concerned the 1992 Package Travel etc Regulations but the ruling is likely to apply to the later 2018 regulations which have taken over and, subject to a bit of tweaking, still have effect notwithstanding Brexit.

In the Supreme Court case the claimant had taken a package holiday through Kuoni in Sri Lanka. The hotel - the accommodation there was part of the package - employed an electrician. While he was on duty and wearing the uniform for maintenance staff, the claimant encountered him. He offered to show her the shortcut to reception. He then lured her into the engineering room where he raped and assaulted her. She brought  civil proceedings under the regulations against Kuoni for damages for what had happened to her. Kuoni resisted the claim.

Kuoni was liable to the claimant for the acts of the employee of the hotel. The electrician's acts constituted an improper performance of Kuoni's obligations under the package. It was an integral part of a holiday, stated the Supreme Court, that a hotel's employees should provide guests with assistance over a range of ordinary matters affecting them during their stay including assistance guiding them around the hotel. A wide interpretation of a package which will be welcomed by holidaymakers and cursed by travel companies.

Friday, 23 July 2021

Another ground of challenge for tenants: another trap for landlords

County court bailiffs and High Court enforcement agents (who are the uglier and more enthusiastic form of bailiff) in England and Wales must now generally give you advance written notice that they are coming to evict you from your home when you have stayed put after the court has made a possession order against you. How long in advance? At least 14 days. [see https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/2020/08/bailiffs-about-to-awake.html ] The notice must specify the date and time of the eviction appointment.

But say the eviction does not take place on the specified date? Perhaps the bailiff or agent were off work with a bellyache or the court halted the eviction so that rent or mortgage payment arrears could be cleared but this has not happened. A new court procedural rule which comes into force on 07 August 2021 (see SI 2021/855) requires that a fresh written notice must be given which again specifies the date and time for eviction and at least seven days before the second appointment. 

The court does have power to dispense with the first or the second notice or to increase or shorten  the notice period.  This is something that landlord or tenant could raise with the judge at any court hearing at which the first appointment is being postponed or the second appointment is being arranged. Failure to give the prior notice - at least 14 or seven days - could invalidate an eviction that proceeded and entitle the tenant to ask the court to allow them back in and  for the eviction process to be restarted.

The Ministry of Justice has just updated its  guidance given to bailiffs and agents during the pandemic. It should be followed in England and taken into consideration in Wales alongside its own health and safety laws.  A check should be made with the household before bailiff or agent pounce and if it is established that an occupier has the virus symtoms or is self-isolating the action proposed should not go ahead. Oh and bailiffs and agents should not shout as that could increase the risk of virus transmission!

Also on the possession front, the temporary rules for landlords having to give a reactivation notice for  claims which were halted because of coronavirus are being extended to 30 November 2021 (Civil Procedure Rules 2018 Practice Direction 55C as modified by the 133rd update). 

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

VIDEO: Getting legal help for free

There may be no such thing as a free lunch - but there are some ways to get free legal help if you know where to look. All explained in my latest video below (with much more advice worth paying for in the new edition of Breaking Law available for a modest fee from the button on the left) 

Friday, 9 July 2021

PROBATE FEES: increases in the air

If you are someone who should be applying for probate to wind up a deceased's estate (that's where there is a will) or letters of administration for the same purpose (that's where there is no will) then PULL YOUR FINGER OUT!!!

I predict that around October or November 2021 the fee for applying in England and Wales will increase. Currently, the fee is more if you apply in person rather than through a professional such as a solicitor. In person, it will cost £215 as against £155 through a professional. The plan is to align and increase the fee. Everyone would pay the same and the new fee would be £273. Estates worth less than £5,000 do not currently attract a fee and that will not change. Remission from a fee (sometimes called the 'Help with Fees' scheme) will still be available to applicants of low means. There may well be inheritance tax to pay and that's another headache. You can soothe your brow on this by taking a look at 'The Return of Breaking Law'. [There he goes again].  

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

VIDEO: No fault divorce coming soon

The good news is that no fault divorce is coming next year. The bad news is that you have to watch me talk you through how it will work.


Friday, 2 July 2021

RARE WIN FOR LANDLORD: energy performance certificates

If my video hasn't induced vomit over landlord and tenant issues, https://www.breakinglaw.co.uk, stay with me and hear of some rare good news for landlords of lettings in England.

There are all sorts of tricks that a residential landlord has to perform in order to ensure that any notice they give to their assured shorthold tenant seeking possession under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 is legally effective. One of them is to ensure that the tenant has previously been provided with an energy performance certificate.

There was no doubt that this obligation applied to tenancies granted on or after 01 October 2015. But what about tenancies granted before that date? Judges have been divided on the issue. But the Court of Appeal has just settled it. In a case called Minister v Hathaway and another [2021] EWCA Civ 936, it has ruled that tenancies granted before that date are not caught by the energy performance certificate requirement. There was power to catch them but it has not been exercised. I reckon that the prospects of the power being exercised are as great as me being appointed the mascot for the England football team. My knees are too knobbly.  

  


 

Thursday, 1 July 2021

VIDEO: RESIDENTIAL POSSESSIONS AND CORONAVIRUS

In what will be the first of many videos (or several at least!) you can, if you can bear it, watch me explain a few hot topics inspired by the latest edition of my book - The Return of Breaking Law.

This first video looks at the confused and confusing topic of eviction notices after all the changes made during the pandemic. What I say might help you if you are facing eviction or are a landlord seeking an eviction order. Of course much more on this available in the book - buy it now from the button on the left. 

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

TAXMEN SOON TO GO ON THE PROWL: AVOIDING ENFORCEMENT

The cuddly HM Revenue & Customers have coughed what they intend to do about businesses and the self-employed who are in debt with their tax. You might have thought that they would have sent one of their kindlier looking tax collectors down your chimney with a bouquet of flowers and a blank cheque for you to sign. Not quite. They announced today that they are restarting their debt collection work as we emerge from the pandemic and economic activity resumes but that at all times - and write this down just in case they overflex their muscles in your direction - they will 'take an understanding and supportive approach to dealing with those who have tax debts or are concerned about their ability to pay tax.'

They will discuss affordable options such as a payment plan (they have more than half a million arrangements in place at any one time) or they may be able to offer a short-term deferral. But - and  this sounds a bit ominous- where customers (clients would be nicer) do not respond to any of their communications or refuse to pay when they can afford to do so, they may try to visit them at their home or business address. 'I'm sorry but he's just gone out to have his toenails filed and won't be back until tomorrow. Who shall I say called?'

From September 2021, where customers are unwilling to discuss a payment plan or ignore contact attempts, Revenue & Customs may start the process of using their enforcement powers: bailiff and bankruptcy included.

In the new edition of Breaking Law I look at how to deal with the taxmen, particularly when they overstep the mark. If you are behind with your tax, you may say that you can hardly afford to 'buy that b....y book.' Fair enough but it can be sued as a door stop when not being read: over 750 pages. 

Monday, 21 June 2021

COVID-19 COMPANY AND BUSINESS TENANCY NEWS - THE GOOD AND THE BAD

The restrictions on service on companies of statutory demands and the presentation of petitions to wind them up were due to run out on 30 June 2021. They have been extended until 30 September 2021 by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Extension of Relevant Period) (No 2) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1718) which were laid before Parliament today 21 June 2021. However, what are not and will not be extended are the measures which protected company directors from complaints of 'wrongful trading' and the small trader exemption from termination clause provisions which will lapse on 30 June 2021. These changes apply throughout Great Britain. 

The government has announced that the ban on eviction measures against business tenants in England which was due to expire on 30 June 2021 will be extended to 25 March 2022 - legislation to give effect is awaited any minute - and that legislation is to be put before Parliament in the current session to ring fence rent arrears owed by business tenants and which have been run up during covid closures. Landlords and tenants will be helped - no the government won't be stumping up the cash! - to reach an agreement about the arrears. If no agreement is reached, the dispute will be settled by an arbitrator whose decision will be binding on both sides. The ring fencing scheme will not apply to rent which accrued due before March 2020 or is clocked up after all restrictions are lifted.

The increase in the amount of rent arrears outstanding from business tenants in England and Wales before notice of enforcement can be given and an enforcement agent can be sent in to seize property under the commercial rent arrears recovery scheme currently stands at 554 days. That's thanks to temporary covid legislation. This legislation is to be extended but the 554 days' worth will stand for the time being.

The covid ban on residential evictions in England has been lifted.

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.