Wednesday, 28 December 2011

New approach to the offer of mortgages

Changes put forward by the Financial Services Authority will introduce some of most significant changes to the mortgage market this country has seen in recent times.

The FSA new rules for banks  to follow on approving mortgages are designed to make sure customers are not able to borrow more than they can afford. They include a ban on self-certification mortgages, new rules for those seeking to remortgage, stricter rules on interest-only mortgages, improved affordability checks, and a change in the rules on how advice is given by mortgage brokers.

These changes have come about prevent another boom in mortgage lending and in house prices. This is what happened in the middle of the last decade and why some right wing commentators say we are now facing one of the worst financial disasters ever witnessed.

So how does the affordability test, as proposed, work?

A lender will consider how much you spend on essential household expenditure such as heating and council tax plus basic living costs and other debt commitments. If these changes are implemented a lender will no longer have to consider how much you spend on discretionary spending such as on leisure activities and holidays as it will expect a borrower to change spending habits if the borrower wishes to succeed with the loan application.

Lenders will also apply a “stress test” on your finances so as to assess your ability to afford your mortgage repayments if interest rates rise in the future.

What about interest only loans?

Borrowers will only receive an interest-only mortgage if it can be proved there is a robust strategy to repay the capital, such as from the sale of a second home or have an Isa (Individual Savings Account) or from regular bonuses.

Replacing existing mortgages will also prove difficult under these new rules though the FSA have introduced “transitional arrangements” to help existing creditworthy borrowers that might not be able to move home or refinance as a result. Lenders will be allowed to waive the new affordability rules for existing borrowers if the borrower has met repayments for at least the last 12 months and have not fallen into arrears. Existing borrowers who need to borrow more will however be subject to the new affordability rules.

These new rules are unlikely to change the current attitude of borrowers and in the short term are likely to keep property prices stagnant.  Whether this will assist first time buyers remains to be seen, though our view is that they will only serve to make it more difficult for those looking to get onto the property ladder and force more people into looking to the rental market.   These rules could very well begin to turn our property market into those markets commonly found on the continent where home ownership is not a priority and indeed a goal of those looking for a home.

The rules will create a more stable housing market but one which will be seeing a reduced number of transactions and one where only those who have financial stability and a track record of proving it will be able to become home owners.  Whether this is good for the country as a whole and will lead to a more stable and balanced society will remain to be seen.

As conveyancers, there will be fewer transactions around and as those borrowing will face higher lender fees and perhaps spend more money to prove their track record and credit worthiness, there may be a temptation to make economies elsewhere, and perhaps look to find the conveyancer advertising the lowest price.

At MJP we understand this, and this is why we offer a competitive price for our moving service, but with the commitment to ensure we also provide a personalised service and one in which we take pride.   We are able to offer a quality service at a discounted price because we operate a unique case management system and have quality checks built into every stage of our process.  All out clients can access the system and receive regular updates straight to their phones.

Each client is also assigned his or her very own case handler who will oversee the transaction throughout its course.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

"David Pett and his team have been excellent - regular updates and speedy responses to queries. Something that has been problematic with other solicitors in the past" 

Louise Stone - December 2011

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Merry Christmas

We would like to take the opportunity to wish all of the followers of our Blog a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year and to invite you all to take some time out to read our Christmas Newsletter which you can find HERE

All the best from the team at MJP Solicitors in Norwich - have a good one!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Letter to the Justice Secretary

Dear Mr Clarke,

I wanted to write to you and express my dismay at your comments in the press this week:-

What we have marching towards us is an army of lawyers advancing behind a line of women and children saying, of course, they're not concerned about the income of the profession, they're only concern is these vulnerable clients who would be adversely affected if they're not paid at the rate they currently are".

I was deeply offended by what you said.

I am one of your “lawyers advancing…………..” and am against your proposals for removal of legal aid for clinical negligence claimants and even more so against the idea of taking up to 25% of a Claimants damages for a success fee. I have never been in this game for money.  I have always carried out this job so that I can help accident victims. That is my first priority and always has been. I have a real passion for helping accident victims.

Only this morning I spent 2 hours with an 18 year old and her mother talking about her child abuse possible claim which will be “free time” for which I will recover nothing. This is not unusual  as it happens most weeks, providing free advice to potential clients. I help at the CAB too. Last week I was in the High Court with John Foy QC settling a £9m plus RTA claim for a young lady who was knocked down by a car in 1996. Liability was only resolved in the Court of Appeal and the Defendants only came up with an offer acceptable (approximately £500,000 more than their previous offer) 2 days before trial (we were listed for 7 days about which see below). This was one of the last legal aid cases for personal injury, possibly in the country I would imagine.  We needed to provide the Claimant with enough by way of income from her lump sum (and Periodical Payments Order) for her care regime for the rest of her life. How could I ever have taken away any of  her damages for a success fee? How could my practice (or indeed any other) run that case (with a legal bill of over £1m) now?

Whilst talking about this case you may be interested to know 2 other points of interest. Firstly the discount rate currently set at 2.5% is going to mean that it will be a real struggle to bring in sufficient funds to pay for all her outgoings let alone taking some of her damages for losses. If it were not for her loving parents putting their lives on hold to care for her then she would really struggle. All because of someone else’s negligence and you want to deny people like her access to justice, Justice Secretary!

Finally the same case had leading counsel for both sides (plus a junior) and 4 leading experts in their field yet the court would not provide a fixture for the hearing, notwithstanding a joint application from the parties to do so. Hence we had experts (and counsel/clients/witnesses) all waiting on the whim of a court listing, which had still not come through 2 days before. I would estimate that this will have cost at least an extra £20,000, payable by the Defendant, onto the costs which would not have been incurred if the experts could have been given a fixture and booked other work in when they knew they would not be required.

I am not alone in these sentiments.

On my wall is a commitment to accident victims which tells them I will put their interests first and I do, with pride.
I thought you should know that there are in fact a great many people with similar sentiments to me. I would hazard to guess the wider public, if properly informed would actually be horrified at your plans.

If you would like to respond or discuss matters with me then please feel free to.

Yours sincerely,
Simon Bransby F Inst L Ex

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Are Banks lending to the legal sector?

I have attended many conferences over the past month or so and have had to listen to one bank representative after another making claims of how wonderful they are when it comes to helping the legal profession.   Often presenting with a smile and twinkle in their eye I have had to sit and listen to how lending to the legal sector is up on the previous year and how they have extended overdrafts and provided loans for practices to develop.

Listening and drifting off to another world it is easy to get lost in the fluffy words and  believe how lucky we are to have banks who despite the deepening recession and meltdown in Europe, are still there to help when help is needed.

Unfortunately the reality bears no relationship to this fairyland rhetoric. Yes, banks are lending to the sector, and perhaps lending is up, but the fact is that a solicitor business is viewed no different from any other business, and unless you meet the credit criteria fixed by some faceless person stuck somewhere is a skyscraper in London, you will not be helped.  It’s as simple as that.

The truth is that banks will only lend when the exposure to bad debt is minimized with security and capital reserve requirements.  Ask yourself how many practices fit this criterion.  Moreover, the very reason for turning to the bank in the first place is that there is nothing in reserve and short term assistance is required. 

In fact banks look at solicitor practices differently, and in a way which  when compared with other businesses makes it even more difficult to satisfy the faceless men who make these decisions.  Most firms are profitable, but face cash flow problems. Apart from those who own the premises they occupy, there is normally no other assets of value in the business other than work in progress.  The problem is that banks when looking at the balance sheet refuse to attach any weight to it, even though the Inland Revenue is quick to value and tax it!  I am not sure why this is so when its no different to stock in a stock room.

So what can be done?  Very little I am afraid to say as the banks hold all of the cards and will clearly dictate the fate of many of those legal practices who are struggling to keep their heads above water.  All I can say is to forget loyalty and shop around.  Although most banks are the same, there are some that are worse than others.  The days of receiving a more favorable hearing if you have been with a bank for some time are long gone.  Loyalty is only a one way street for many of these banks.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

New low cost case and risk management portal for conveyancers

Norwich based Property IT Company, Move and Log, has recently launched an online portal aimed at suppliers of conveyancing services, and which is designed to assist busy practitioners in managing multiple transactions and the risks associated with conveyancing

David Pett, lawyer and designer, of the system explains the background to the idea:

‘We have in the past spent a small fortune on purchasing case management systems many of which promised the world but in the event fell miserably short of our expectation. 

Designing our own system was relatively straightforward and with an in-house IT team we have produced a highly practicable and low cost on line portal for managing the common risks associated with conveyancing transactions.

It doesn’t make the tea or coffee, nor does it do the work for you. It is however a system that delivers in full on everything it says it can do on the ‘tin lid’.   It has revolutionized the way in which conveyancing is processed in our office and the way in which partners can monitor the level of work and the performance of those working in the department’.

The portal that can be accessed by clients and agents 24/7 has according to Mr. Pett helped to cut down on calls coming into the office and has also helped to significantly improve the line of communication to both client and agent.

In designing the system the focus was fixed on risk management and what could be done to reduce the risks surrounding the conveyancing process.   This objective, explains Mr. Pett:

‘is achieved with features built in to address concerns over money laundering, mortgage fraud, complaints, undertakings and the recording of key dates.   By adding these processes my firm was able to secure a 5% discount when it came to renewing this year our professional indemnity insurance’.

Looking ahead, Mr. Pett adds:

‘We are now looking to share this technology with other practices that might be looking to introduce case and risk management systems and to offer the portal with no set up costs or ongoing support charges.    At the same time we are busy integrating the system with third party suppliers such as search and indemnity insurance providers in the hope that in time with commission payments funding the maintenance and future development of the system we will be able to offer the portal as a free service’.

For further information David Pett can be contacted at

Is the client always right?

It was once said that as a nation we are very reserved in our ways and are reluctant to complain when something goes wrong. This may be down to a sense of reasonableness, a desire to give people the benefit of doubt and to realise that in life mistakes do from time to time occur.

I have in recent times however noticed a major shift in attitude, people in general I find are less tolerant when it comes to mistakes and are less likely to be forgiving when things do not go their way.  This may be to do with the lack of money; the scramble to make savings and even the hope that by complaining a financial gain may follow.

Working in the service industry I work hard putting into place procedures and training sessions for staff to ensure that customer relations is given the priority it deserves.  I work tirelessly to do all I can to ensure mistakes do not happen but as with most aspects of life it is inevitable that there will be times when oversights or mistakes are made.  

I always like to think that if you admit the mistake as soon as it happens and do not fall into the trap of trying to defend the indefensible that the client will understand and a swift resolution should then follow.  

In the majority of cases this is often the outcome, though speaking to others it seems there is of late an increasing trend for complainants to seize the opportunity to make life difficult for the person or company responsible for the mistake.  More often than not this particular stance in money motivated  - the hope is that by taking the offensive it will result in a financial reward.

The difficulty this causes is that however hard one works to find a satisfactory resolution if the agenda of the complainant is different the chances of preserving a congenial relationship with the client/customer is almost bound to be lost.  You find yourself in a ‘no win’ situation and one that leaves even the most conscientious practitioner feeling extremely deflated. 

Much emphasis is given to the use of complaints procedures and of the need to follow these at all times.    There is no doubt that a process of this type is essential but I do question the effectiveness of such procedures in dealing with the hard nosed complainant who is determined to get his or her ounce of flesh irrespective of the merits or otherwise of the complaint.

The problem service providers face is that with increased access to consumer redress schemes, and the fear of adverse publicity on Google and other sites where the client/customer can rate the supplier, the complainant will always have the upper hand.    How many of us would risk finding ourselves on the end of a negative rating and one that could be set in stone even where there is no justification. 

So what can one do to avoid this?  Well in short very little as even with the best will in the world one can not avoid the serial complainer or the complainant who complains for no reason other than to seek a reduction in your fee or some other financial gain.  All one can do is to operate a robust complaints procedure and to be firm and fair in its application. 

Undertaking high volume of work particularly as low cost increases the risk of complaint not only statistically but in terms of clients/customers seem to expect more for their money and are more likely to complain if the service does not live up to their expectation.

The upshot of all of this is that complaints are an occupational hazard and one that in addition to operating a complaints procedure we should make provision for both financially and in the setting aside of management time.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Thursday, 6 October 2011

What is equity release?

Equity release is a term that refers to various ways in which mainly older homeowners can use their homes to generate income or lump sums, either with a mortgage repayable on death, or by selling the property (or part of the property) but continue to live in it during their lifetime.

If anybody thinking about entering into a scheme of this type it is most important to seek advice from a solicitor who has experience in dealing with these transactions.

A good solicitor will warn you about certain aspects of these arrangements which are as follows:

Maintenance and repair

You will continue to be responsible for maintaining and repairing the property and therefore you should ensure that you have sufficient reserves to meet your obligations.

Some arrangements place an obligation on you to seek the consent of the lender before carrying out any alterations or making any additions.

All adult owners and occupiers in these arrangements have to be part of the loan agreement. If they are not and you were for example to die then the other adults in the property would have to move out.

Moving home

Most of these arrangements will allow you to move home providing the new home that you are moving into will act as sufficient security for the loan. If you were to move to a property which didn’t act as sufficient security you may have to repay all or part of the existing loan before you could move.

Welfare benefits

Receiving a large amount of money from an equity release could affect your entitlement to means tested welfare benefits and services both now and in the future. One area is of particular importance and that concerns possible financial support towards the cost of the care services.


There could be tax implications and it is important that you should seek advice from an accountant or tax specialist about these. Some arrangements can be structured in such a way as to reduce or eliminate liability to inheritance tax.


Releasing equity from the property will of course diminish the value of your estate and the amount your beneficiaries will inherit upon your death. It is always important therefore to discuss the issues with your beneficiaries to ensure that they fully understand the implications to avoid any misunderstanding in the future.

There are a lot of credible schemes out there that operate in this field but equally there are a number of less desirable schemes and it is for this reason as I say at the beginning it is important to seek expert advice from a solicitor on these arrangements before making a final decision.

Any questions please feel free to email me.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Dont let romance blind you when buying a home!

I have acted for many first time homebuyers and as you would expect many of these clients have had to make significant financial sacrifices to save money for a deposit.  For many of these clients their heads are very much in the clouds. The romance of living and owning a home together for the very first time makes it difficult to discuss and provide advice on the financial implications of what is clearly a major life changing decision.

In a number of these cases advice has to be given because one partner may be putting more money into the transaction than the other. It is not uncommon for the deposit to be as much as 30% of the purchase price and for this to be funded by savings accumulated before the couple met. This is not of course an arrangement confined to the first time buyers.  There are also clients who are for example looking to buy a property with a new partner following death, separation or divorce.

The common thread is that at this point in time the relationship may be at an early stage and the buyers are only really concerned about the immediate future, and not what might lie ahead.

In general, couples purchasing a home instruct me that they wish to purchase the property as “joint tenants”. The significance of this is that if one of the partners were to die then the share of the profit in the property would automatically pass to the other partner, even if the deceased partner makes a different provision in his or her will.  A Court would not be able to interfere in that arrangement even if the deceased partner had contributed more towards the purchase of the property when it was originally purchased.

Even though it is often an unpalatable exercise I always advise my clients that they should think about whether it would still be their wish for their share to pass to the other in the event of death or separation.  More than often they shrug their shoulders and I am greeted with a perplexed look.

There are times however when I am instructed to set up the way in which the property is bought so as to provide for the equity (money left over after the mortgage and fees are paid) in the property once it is sold, to be divided on an unequal and predetermined basis.

If one party for example put 2/3 of the money forward for the deposit and the other the remaining 1/3 then they might instruct me to ensure that the property is held in such a way so as to provide that 70% of the equity/profit in the property goes to one, and 30% of it goes towards the other.

There are also three or four other different ways in which unequal contributions can be recorded and it is therefore important that if you are in this situation and seeking advice that you ask your solicitor to explain these options to you. The way in which the division of the proceeds is expressed at the outset can have quite a substantial bearing on the financial outcome in the event of a future sale.

Even though your solicitor may try and persuade you to look beyond the romance of owning your first home together you may still decide even though unequal contributions are made, for the property to be held jointly. This is understandable. There is however a half way house in that you can instruct your solicitor to record that you are holding the property as joint tenants but that if anything happens in the future, and one of you decides that you want to serve notice to say to the other to say this arrangement should no longer apply, that the net process should then be divided in accordance with shares predetermined at the point of purchase.

I am happy as ever to answer any questions you might have about this or any aspect of property transactions. Please feel free to email me at my email address shown below.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Save our Countryside

Close your eyes, cast you mind back to when you last visited the countryside. Remember how beautiful and tranquil everywhere looked, and how relaxed I bet you felt.  Now keep those thoughts and just think how you would feel if the tranquil and idyllic setting you are remembering was suddenly turned into a battlefield with 40 to 50 excitable people running around in combat gear and  repeatedly  firing a paintball gun and shouting and screaming?.  How would you feel when the landscape that you were escaping too was littered with smoke bombs and inflatable objects reminiscent to an episode of ‘It’s a Knockout’? I bet you would not be too pleased.

This may all sound like the promo for a Paul McKenna self-help CD, but there is a serious edge to it.  The fact is that over the past 12 months or so there has an increasing number of planning applications seeking permission to make use of large areas of our countryside for urban purposes. The worrying aspect is that a vast number of these are being passed even in areas where settlement limits apply.   The consequence of this worrying trend is that it has and continues to adversely impact on the visual attributes of our countryside as well as the amenity of those who live within it and the ecology.  In short there are many areas of our countryside that are becoming urbanized.

So where is the justification for this?  I am not really sure but a clue may be found in the case of a pending application for change of use to allow a Norfolk farmer to use woodlands and agricultural land, in an area of the beautiful and mainly unspoilt Wensum Valley, north of Norwich (Ringland) for the purposes of operating a paint balling park.  

I along with others living within the area have over the past couple of weeks been working hard to oppose this application and during our campaign we have come across wide support from local people and also people from around the country.  We have come very few who see any benefit from turning this lovely piece of countryside into a noisy and visually unpleasant combat zone.  However a local Councillor at a recent meeting said he thought it would be good for the area as it would create jobs.  He added with an air of arrogance that the Council had recently received a directive from Government to do all they can to allow development of this type to take place if this in turn created job opportunities.

It is a sad state of affairs when one of the last barriers in place to ensure our countryside is protected appears to have been removed because of economic pressures.  I am sure David Cameron did not intend for Councils to forget their obligation towards the protection of the countryside when his Government issued the directive, and I am even more certain that it was not intended to be acted upon without giving thought to other equally important planning considerations.  The daft thing about all of this that the farmer in question believes only 2 full time jobs will be created.

I seriously question whether the sacrifice of the local wildlife inhabitants, the loss of amenity to those who live in the area and the destruction of a piece of countryside that plays an important part in bringing tourists to the area, is worth the ‘benefit’ of creating two jobs.

I would invite you to add your support to our campaign to protect the countryside from unwanted and wholly unnecessary development of this type by lodging your views with the local planning authority – Broadland District Council .   Just keep in mind the next application of this type could be on your doorstep! 

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Solicitors face rise in professional indemnity premiums

There was an interesting article in Mortgage Strategy recently which caught my attention. The article predicted that around 50% of Lloyd’s customers could fall victim to negative equity if property prices decline by a further 10-15%. If this is correct then as is happening in Southern Ireland institutional lenders will inevitably be seeking recovery from somewhere or someone when they begin to suffer loss.  In Southern Ireland it is known that Conveyancing now counts for 70% of all professional indemnity insurance claims.

What is happening in the background should be taken seriously particularly at a time when many solicitors are now looking to renew their professional indemnity cover.

There is no doubt that premiums will rise.

The problem practitioners’ face is that there is a complete and total lack of transparency within the professional indemnity insurance arena.  Many of us are asked to complete quite detailed risk assessment documents. These are required by the insurers to that they can access the risk each firm presents and to then tailor a quote accordingly.

The problem is that when completing these forms there is little understanding on how an answer to a particularly question will affect the risk assessment and consequently the size of the premium to be paid. There is no guidance within the proposal form or risk assessment form that helps to understand how risk is assessed.

Knowing how membership of one particular accreditation scheme can affect the level of premium is important because it will encourage firms to invest time and money into obtaining ‘badges’ of this type.

Surely it is in the interests of the insurers to be transparent to make it clear what percentage reduction certain actions will result in so that all of us can then do all that we can to make sure those actions are taken in the  knowledge that this will result in lower premiums in the future.

I question what the Law Society is doing to assist in brining pressure on insurers to make this information available. Our insurer broker mentioned that being a member of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme is of importance but could not say whether it would actually result in a significant reduction in future premiums.

The other issue I have with insurance is that there are so many brokers out there looking for your business but the majority of these are tied in with certain insurance companies. Surely this must present a conflict of interest and not always lead to the best deal.

It would be better use of Law Society resources if it took the time to review and investigate this market and to bring in measures to improve the situation for practitioners who are for the majority of the time working very much in the dark.  Is this likely to happen?  No.

Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Leading Clinical Negligence Practice appoints new equity partner

Leading Norfolk based Clinical Negligence practice Morgan Jones and Pett has today announced the appointment of Sara Westwood as a new equity partner.

Sara joined the firm as a Trainee Solicitor in January 1996 with an Upper Second Class Honors Degree from London Guildhall University.  She qualified in February 1998 and became a salary partner in April 2001. She is a member of the Law Society's Clinical Negligence Panel and a Senior Litigator with APIL.

Announcing the appointment David Jones, Senior Partner at MJP, told staff:

‘’Today I am so very proud to announce that Sara joins the firm as an equity partner, the first in the firm’s 37 year history.  The firm recognised Sara’s many qualities from day one and all that she would bring to the firm. There is no substitute for a person who progresses through the ranks of the business, working from top to bottom, and now that Sara’s place in the future of the firm is secure, I find it tremendously reassuring’’

Sara is a senior litigator within the firm’s clinical negligence team and has in recent months handled several high profile clinical negligence cases. Morgan Jones and Pett are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877000 or via email at

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Ideal time to purchase your freehold or extend your lease

While we are all concerned that house prices have diminished over the last few years and with the suggestion of the period of decline flattening out as Leaseholders this could be an ideal time to buy the Freehold to your Properties or Extend your current Lease!  

If you have owned your Leasehold Property for a period of 2 years or more you may together with your fellow Lessees be in a position to force the current freeholder to sell to you thus taking control of your leasehold future and with the valuations being at their lowest level for some time this may be the ideal time to do so.

At Morgan Jones & Pett we are able to offer specialist advice regarding your rights to purchase your freehold by way of collective enfranchisement  or extend your lease as well as complete the same on your behalf. Email 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

How do I find a good estate agent?

There are good and there are bad Estate Agents.  There are Estate Agents that are helpful and there are other Agents who inadvertently cause delay. Finding a good Estate Agent is therefore not an easy task.  In this article I provide some tips which I hope will help you find an Agent who will provide you with a good service and one commensurate with the fee that they charge. 

The Estate Agent will charge a fee according to the value of the property to be sold and this varies from 1% up to 3%.  This is different from how Solicitors charge as most will quote a fixed fee for the work which more often than not is tied in with the value of the property.  The fee of the Solicitor often therefore represents a very small proportion of the fee that you will be required to pay the Agent for marketing your property.

The tips I have are as follows:

Shop around as there is quite a variance in the rates charged by Agents and there are a number of online Agents who now offer their services for a fixed fee.

Don’t be tempted to place your instructions with the Agent who is offering the lowest fee.  There may be a number of reasons why the Agent is not charging a fee in line with other Agents and one of which may be that the Agent will not advertise your property as much as one that is charging a greater fee. 

Indeed it is important to find out at the beginning how often the Agent guarantees that your property will appear in the local paper and also whether or not it will be listed on Right Move’s website or other similar portals. It is important to get some form of commitment from the Agent as to the extent and length of the exposure your property will receive.

Most Agents keep details of the properties they have sold each month and it may help if you ask for these details to be made available to you before you make your decision.

Does the Agent offer any online access to their service so that you can check on progress outside normal working hours?

The Agent may be open to agreeing a split commission arrangement with you which enables you to pay more if contracts are exchanged within the specified period and less if it takes longer to find a buyer. 

If the Agent refers you to a Solicitor it is important to ask whether there is any arrangement that exists between that Agent and the Solicitor whereby the Agent receives a referral fee.  The reason for this is that if a referral fee is paid then the solicitor to whom you are referred will need to disclose this and it is important to know because sometimes the Solicitor may look to add this referral fee onto the fee you are charged.

It is important that you always get an agreement from the Agent in writing and to check all the terms and conditions before the agreement is signed.  It may be advisable only to agree to a short period of time for marketing because if the Agent doesn’t perform then you will be safe to instruct another Agent.

If you do instruct another Agent it is important to read the small print because some agents even after you have left them still reserve the right to charge a fee if it can be subsequently shown that it was as a result of that Agents promotion that a buyer was found.  My advice therefore is that if you move Agents you get a letter from the other Agent to confirm that there is no longer a right to raise a fee.

On the whole Agents can be very helpful during the course of the conveyancing transaction.  However, they can create unnecessary delay because of constant requests for updates from the Solicitor you instruct.  At the end of the day you are instructing the Solicitor not the Agent and therefore it is important that you tell the Agent that they should not contact your Solicitor without first seeking your prior consent.

The Agent will be expected to be paid by the Solicitor once your house is sold. If for any reason you do not wish for the Agent to be paid or you would rather pay the Agent yourself it is important to tell both the Agent and your Solicitor in advance of completion. 

Once the sale particulars have been prepared and sent to you for approval it is important for you to read through these carefully as mistakes can often occur. The statements contained in those sales particulars are often relied on by the purchaser and if there is anything therefore that is not correct it is important for this to be pointed out straight away.

Feel free to consult with a Solicitor before you market your property because local Solicitors often know who the good Agents and may be able to help you find an Agent through recommendation.

At the end of the day you are paying quite a substantial sum for the service and it is for this reason that you should always do your homework and shop around and perhaps also seek recommendations from friends, family and work colleagues before making your decision. 

If you would like to find out how we recommend within the Norfolk area feel free to email me as I am more than happy to assist.

 David Pett.  Solicitor and Partner 

Monday, 20 June 2011

What is a compromise agreement?

It is regrettable that we are now living in a climate where we are seeing an increase in ‘forced’ terminations of employment  contracts.  Many employers, particularly in the public sector, are looking to reduce staffing levels and to facilitate the termination through compromise agreements.

The concept of a compromise agreement was created in 1993.  It is a document that records an employee’s agreement not to pursue an employment related claim, such as unfair dismissal or breach of contract. The agreement is usually in exchange for a sum of money.

In law the agreement will only be valid if certain conditions are met and in all cases if you are being required to sign a compromise agreement your employer should send you, along with the  draft agreement, to an independent solicitor  for advice.

So why is it so important to seek independent advice?

At MJP when we are instructed to provide advice we run through an established check list to make sure that the agreement you are being required to sign is valid and more importantly fair. 

We will check whether:

the sum offered to you represents a fair compromise

the reason given for termination has any bearing on you income protection scheme if you have one

your contractual entitlements will be protected until the termination comes into effect

you have as part of the compromise received compensation for accrued holiday, notice, and other contractual benefits

 the treatment and timing  of the payment is structured in a way to mitigate your tax liability

there will be help in finding alternative work with the production of a pre-written reference

the restrictive covenants are fair

Who pays for this?

The practice is that the Employer will pay a contribution towards the cost which is in the majority of cases will cover the solicitor’s fee.  In the main therefore it will cost nothing to seek advice.

If you wish to know more or to arrange a FREE consultation with us please call David Pett on 01603877000 or email him at

Posted by David Pett

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Lack of Building Regulations – Why is it such a problem when moving home?

Solicitors should always when a property is to be purchased ask if there has been any alteration made to a property, and whether planning permission and/or building regulations approval has been obtained.  At one time if no enforcement action in relation to building regulation was not taken within 12 months the buyer could proceed without fear of assuming the risk of liability.

However, in the case of Cottingham v Attey Bower & Jones [2000] PNLR 557, a firm of Solicitors were held negligent because they had not adequately investigated whether works had building regulation approval.  The building works required £30,000.00 worth of repairs and the buyer’s Solicitor was held responsible for the cost of this, because it was held that even though no enforcement action had been taken in 12 months it was still open to the Council to apply for an injunction at any time.

Since this case Conveyancers have always erred on the side of caution and ask for a copy of building regulations approval for any works irrespective of when they were undertaken.   The problem they often face is that Councils do not always keep a copy of the building regulation documentation for more than 4 or 5 years.

You may ask why a Council would bother to enforce say after 20 years. Realistically the chance of action is remote, but it is not inconceivable, because if the works   later raise a Health and Safety issue then the Council would probably not hesitate in taking action.

If you are a purchaser with a mortgage the situation is not going to be helped, because lenders are aware of this case, and always ask as a condition of the mortgage for confirmation the building approval has been obtained.  Sometimes a lender can allow the lack of building regulations to go through, if an indemnity policy, that is an insurance policy, is taken out to protect against possible enforcement action.

Insurance can only be obtained however if the Council has not been alerted to the fact of the absence of building regulation approval.  Interestingly therefore it is perhaps best at times for no inquiry to be made with the Council.

No all lenders however accept insurance.  It is down to the solicitor to check with the lender.

Insurance may not always be the answer because if there have been structural alterations undertaken, and there is no building regulation approval, then it is obviously important to make sure that the property is safe.  In those circumstances a structural survey is clearly essential and is likely to be requested by the lender.

So to recap if it’s found out there had been structural alterations, the first step is to ask the seller whether there has been any building approval.  If there is not, then to enquire about insurance, but to also give consideration to whether:-

-       The lender you are borrowing from is prepared to accept insurance.

-       Whether you are in fact prepared to accept this, because you could be buying a house that has structural problems.  Indeed it’s for this reason I always advise that a full survey should be obtained before contracts are exchanged.

Before paying for indemnity insurance please read this article by the same author:  Overuse of indemnity insurance 

By David Pett -