Thursday, 15 June 2017

What can conveyancers learn from the Grenfell Tower tragedy?

The inquiry into the cause of  the tragic Grenfell Tower fire will almost certainty focus on the role of the Freeholder and Management Company and investigate any failings on their part.  

In the meantime  what steps as conveyancers can we take to ensure  clients are well informed of the risk of fire when purchasing a flat in a high raise building.

To begin with, we should all be asking to see the risk assessment and checking when this was last updated as well as checking that any recommendations have been followed. 

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 became law in October 2006 and introduced significant change to workplace fire safety responsibilities. It also  simplified the legislative regime by bringing all fire safety legislation together into one Order. Essentially it introduced the need for employers, building owners and occupiers as 'responsible persons' to carry out, implement and maintain a fire safety risk assessment. That is someone who has been trained to do so!

A 5-step fire safety risk assessment checklist is available to help 'responsible persons' carry out and implement a risk assessment in their premises.

All non-domestic premises including the common or shared parts of blocks of flats or houses in multiple occupation are covered by the Order, and may be inspected by their local Fire and Rescue Authority. Under the Order, Fire and Rescue Authorities have a statutory duty to ensure compliance and enforce the requirements where necessary.

As well as the check-list setting out what is required within an adequate risk assessment, an on-line form is available to help check the extent to which the assessment will comply with legislation.Fire risk assessment guidance: 

If the seller is not able to supply it the seller should be asked to obtain an assurance from the Freeholder/Management Company one will be sought and made available within a reasonable period of time.  

Health and Safety  legislation has the allowance of 'reasonable steps' being taken to comply. If there is a plan in place to assess at some stage in the future  this may help to avoid immediate enforcement action and it might therefore be wise to ask the seller to provide confirmation from the Freeholder/Management Company that there is at least a plan in place to undertake the assessment.

If the client is to acquire an interest in the Freehold/Management company then there is a need to warn the client of the risk of enforcement for so long as it takes to supply the assessment.  

What other steps can be taken?

The following additional enquiries should also be considered. 

Is there a sprinkler or other fire suppression system installed? More than a million people are living in council owned tower blocks with no sprinkler systems. In all newly constructed blocks taller than 30m sprinklers need to be installed, though surprisingly not in common areas. 

Has the building undergone refurbishment and if so was the fire risk assessment updated?

Is the property cladded and if so does the cladding contain a plastic or mineral core?  It is understood cladding with a plastic core was used in the West London tower.  Has the cladding been sent to the Government test laboratory and if so what was the result of the testing? 

Does the building have fire doors fitted throughout? 

Has the relevant Fire Service visited and inspected the building and when did the last inspection take place? 

Our job as lawyers is make sure we can obtain the right type of information to enable our clients to make informed decisions before they commit to make a property their home.  The risk of fire and fire mitigation measures will clearly in the light of this tragedy be in the forefront of all of our minds. 

MJP Conveyancing are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877067 or via email at

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Builders and neighbours - the hurdles of extending your home

More and more of us are thinking about extending and making modifications to our homes.   Its cheap to borrow money and relatively straight forward to secure planning permission or build within permitted development parameters.  My experience having recently gone through the process is that local authorities are far less relaxed about planning projects  than they were at one time, and obtaining consent has become more of a formality these days.   

You still require building regulation approval, even if you are constructing whiten permitted development rights.   Again, with a good detailed plan this has become far simpler to procure.  

So once consents are in place you may think the headaches are over.   Well I am afraid not. The first problem we faced was finding a reputable builder who was interested enough to quote for what was viewed as a ‘small’ job, even though it involved the creation of 200 square meters of new space. Four or five years ago builders were scrambling around for work and quoting for anything that came their way.  There was a shortage of work due to the financial recession, property development was slow and there was hardly any demand for building services.   How this has all changed.    A good builder is now very hard to track down.   Most builders have jobs on their books for the next 18-24 months and those who are able to fit the work in will almost inevitably  take longer to undertake the work due the shortage of electrical, plumbing and plastering  contractors.  The net effect of this is that it is going to take longer not only to find and vet a builder but to also complete the project. 

If you have never used a builder before or do not have access to reliable recommendations the task of souring a reliable contractor is not easy.  I know from my experience that working with a contractor on a three month project involves the same tolerances and flexibility which feature in any successful relationship. Its like a marriage and you really do need to get on with your builder to ensure the build goes according to plan.  If you are constantly falling out with each other, the scope for heated conflict and perhaps disaster will be increased.  

Keep in mind also that if the builder likes you and the relationship is good the builder will inevitably make sure the finished product is one that you will be pleased with.  Indeed you need a builder who understands the brief and will act as an advisor with all of those many decisions you will be required to take during the build. 

Before selecting a builder, do talk to the builders past customers, read reviews and go and have a look at some of the builder’s previous work.  Also check out the financial position of the builder if you can.  If the builder is a limited company you will be able to access their accounts online. Also most importantly make sure you have a contract drawn up to detail the work to be undertaken and the intervals for payment.  Never pay you builder any money upfront.  Make sure you pay for stages of work as and when they complete.  

I also recommend the engagement of a  project manger to be on site regularly to make sure the build is happening according to plan and to be available to make decisions on the timing of delivery of materials and the organisation of the various trades. 

This brings me on to another area of risk and that is your relationship with your neighbours. Never assume as I did much to my cost that the relationship with your  neighbour is made in heaven and will continue forever.  Like any relationship your long standing relationship with your neighbour can break down.  Forget all of the BBQ, dinner parties and other happy moments which you have ver the years shared with your neighbours, since when it comes to building works, people can change and change quite dramatically.   

If you need access to enable some of your works to be carried out then you will need the consent of your neighbour.  You also need the consent of your neighbour to carry out work to a party wall.   My advice is that how ever well you think you know your neighbours always make sure that you establish a Party Wall Agreement with your neighbour before you commence work.  This should avoid issues over access and arguments around potential damage to your neighbours property caused by the building works. Don’t fall into the trap of relying on the good faith of your neighbour. 

Problems may arise and if they do the best advice is to try and sort these with your neighbours direct. If this is not possible then you may need to resort to the engagement of  a specialist surveyor who may be able to mediate or a solicitor who can consider access rights under the Party Wall Act 1996 and or Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992.

You have to live with your neighbours and falling out with them should be viewed as a last resort.  However do not let an awkward neighbour who has no reason to make your life difficult stand in your way.  You have a right to extend and carry out building works to your property providing you have all of the necessary consents and  you should be entitled to exercise that right without unreasonable interference or obstruction. 

MJP Conveyancing are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877067 or via email at

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Award nomination for national technology driven conveyancing service

Following hot on the heels of their nomination for the ESTAS Conveyancer of the Year awards, MJP Conveyancing is delighted to have been shortlisted for the Modern Law Conveyancing Awards in two categories: the “Client Care Award” and “Conveyancing Firm of the Year – Midlands.”

The nominations are testament to the outstanding efforts of all our staff this year and demonstrate the dedicated focus we place upon delivering the highest levels of care and support for our clients during the house-moving process. 

Fighting off fierce competition from some very reputable firms, the nominations are also indicative of MJP’s growing reputation, both locally and nationally, for delivering a technology driven, transparent, efficient yet affordable online and client focused conveyancing service

David Pett, Director, commenting on this development, explains why he considers MJP  is deserving of this well overdue nomination:

"Starting from a standing start in 2011 we have aways looked to punch very much above our weight.   We have built up a massive following of loyal clients and using ground breaking technology our position in the market continues to grow.  We are proud of the fact that we offer our clients technology which provides regular updates and involves the client in every stage of the the process.  I believe we are the only national conveyancing service which offers clients a free online property log book and it is clear that this and other technological features within our unique online case and risk management platform, places MJP as one of the leading conveyancing services in the country'.  

The awards ceremony is being held on the 13th July in Liverpool and we will be keeping our fingers crossed that MJP bring home the trophies! 

MJP Conveyancing are solicitors who provide legal advice and services to clients based in England and Wales and who can be contacted on 01603877067 or via email at