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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

Wednesday 30 June 2021


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


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


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


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


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


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.