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A Christmas bonus for shared ownership buyers

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First-time buyers who bought a shared ownership property in the last twelve months should check if they are due a refund on any stamp duty paid.  

That’s because when Chancellor Hammond extended the stamp duty relief available to first-time buyers of shared ownership property in his Autumn 2018 budget, he also applied the extension retrospectively to any qualifying transactions that took place between 22 November 2017 and 29 October 2018.

Since November 2017, relief has been available to first time buyers of shared ownership property who opted for the full market value election, paying stamp duty on the value of the whole property not just their share. Now, the relief has been extended to the first premium for those opting to pay their stamp duty in stages, and, in the case of a newly granted lease, to the portion calculated on net present value of rent.

For those paying in stages, first time buyer relief will continue to be excluded from subsequent stages of any so-called ‘staircasing’.  And for those purchases of a property with a market value in excess of £500,000, normal stamp duty rates will apply.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is payable in England on residential property transactions where the market value is more than £125,000, with a tiered scale related to the purchase price, but there are different rules if you’re buying your first home and the purchase price is below £500,000.  These provide a complete exemption from stamp duty for qualifying first-time buyers where the full market value of the property they’re buying is £300,000 or less, and a reduced bill when the full market value is £300,001 and £500,000.  Overall, this can make a saving of up to £5,000 on the stamp duty payable.

When the property is being purchased under an approved shared ownership scheme, the calculations are more complex, and buyers can choose whether they pay SDLT on the full market value or just on the value of the share they have purchased.  Also, when buying a new lease for a new build shared ownership property, SDLT is due on what is known as the ‘net present value of rent’.

Said property law/conveyancing expert Sarah Avern of Band Hatton Button solicitors in Coventry:  “Any first time buyer who completed on a shared ownership purchase on or after 22 November 2017 and opted to pay stamp duty in stages, can now make a claim for a refund of stamp duty.  And those who elected to pay the full market value option should also check where they stand, if the purchase involved a new lease, as they may be due a rebate on the rental element, to which the relief has also been extended.

“Many first-time buyers could stand to benefit from the changes, as they are less likely to have opted for the market value election.  It involves paying out a large sum up front in expectation of later staircasing, and it’s often not a viable option for those starting out on the property ladder.”

Any claim must be made to HMRC no later than 28 October 2019.  Refunds will also attract repayment interest at 0.5% for the period involved.

Saah added:  “For those not yet on the property ladder and considering shared ownership, it’s worth getting some guidance in advance to understand what costs will be involved at each stage as it can involve a complex set of calculations.”

 

Understanding the options on stamp duty for shared ownership purchases
Market value Election : pay up front

You use the total market value of the property to calculate how much to pay, no matter what size share you are buying.  You don’t pay any more SDLT after this, even if you buy a bigger share in the property later.

 

Paying in stages : pay as you go 

You use the price you pay for the lease – known as the ‘lease premium’ – if it’s above the SDLT threshold.  If the lease premium is below the threshold, you don’t pay SDLT at this point.   Those who qualify will receive the first-time buyer exemption on the SDLT against the lease premium, but will not qualify for the exemption if they buy a bigger share of the property later.

 

Staircasing 

If you buy any more shares in the property, you don’t have to pay any more SDLT or send a return to HMRC until you own more than 80%, but once your share of the property goes over 80% you must send a return and pay SDLT on the transaction that took you over 80% and any transactions after that. Once you own over 80%, earlier purchased shares may become linked and so SDLT might become due on those previous shares. No first-time buyer relief will apply to staircasing share purchases after the initial lease premium transaction.

 

SDLT on new leases 

This is the complex part of the calculation when a new lease is involved, as you may have to pay SDLT if the total rent over the life of the lease is more than £125,000. This is known as the ‘net present value’ and SDLT is due at 1% on the amount over £125,000 and must be added to any SDLT being paid on the lease premium.  It is calculated by working out the current value of the rent you will pay to the housing association over the full length of your lease.

 

Firm lands triple recognition at regional awards ceremony

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Coventry law firm Band Hatton Button has landed triple recognition at a regional awards ceremony in what has been a record year of accolades for the firm.

Keri Wood, lawyer in the wills, trusts and probate department scooped young lawyer of the year at the Warwickshire Law Society’s annual dinner, which was attended by 120 people and 8 law firms at the Manor Hotel in Meriden.

Daniel Blood, Head of commercial property at Band Hatton Button, was also named as lawyer of the year, while the residential property team triumphed in the team of the year category.

Keri was recognised for her inspirational journey since joining the firm in 2006 – working her way up from a receptionist to a fully-fledged lawyer, which involved studying alongside her full-time job.

Daniel – who oversees a 20-strong group – saw his commercial property team beat their 2018 financial year target by over 30 per cent, a record result, with Daniel smashing his own individual target by more than 40 per cent.

Band Hatton Button’s residential property team has seen consistent growth. The alleviation of stamp duty for first-time buyers meant that Band Hatton Button’s residential property team, led by Sarah Avern, saw a 46 per cent increase in demand in the 2017 financial year, smashing their financial target by around £180,000.

This growth has continued, with residential property currently operating at 116 per cent of their financial target for the 2019 financial year.

The triple recognition follows the firm’s recent success at the Coventry Telegraph Business Awards, where Band Hatton Button won the contribution to the community and leadership team of the year categories.

Mark Moseley, managing director at Band Hatton Button, said: “To receive five separate pieces of recognition for our work in 2018 is a phenomenal achievement.

“It also reflects what a buoyant region we are operating in with growth across the majority of departments, and the challenge is to keep on capitalising on the opportunities that are out there.

“Keri is a fantastic role model for the next generation of lawyers, while Daniel and Sarah have unrivalled reputations in their respective areas that are helping us to continue our growth year-on-year – congratulations to all of them on their awards.”

Associate level promotions for six lawyers

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A growing Coventry law firm will see the New Year in with associate level promotions for six of its lawyers.

Band Hatton Button, based on Warwick Road in the city centre, has promoted lawyers Charlotte Macalister, Christina Polychronakis and Lisa Moseley from the firm’s wills, trusts and probate team to associate.

Kristy Ainge and Raman Dhillon from the firm’s litigation department are also starting 2019 at associate level, as is residential property lawyer Rani Bola.

The promotions come off the back of a strong period of growth for the firm, which currently has an annual budget of £4.5 million.

“This particular group epitomises why we are growing organically as a business with their positive customer feedback and dedication to personal development, whether that’s expanding their legal knowledge or engaging with community groups,” said Mark Moseley, managing director at Band Hatton Button.

“They have around 50 years of service to the firm between them.

“Charlotte, Christina and Lisa are all now accredited members of Solicitors for the Elderly, and are signed up as Dementia Friends, ensuring they are tuned in to how issues affecting the nation’s elderly community can affect their assets in later life.

“Having Kristy on board as a solicitor advocate also means we are able to represent clients in court as well rather than handing a case over to a third party – and because of her strong networking skills we are making significant headway with this service.

“Raman joined us two years ago with a sterling track record of acting on multi-million pound cases and has developed her case load to drive strong year-on-year growth for the litigation department.

“Rani is one of our longest-serving colleagues having joined us in 2000 and has built up unrivalled relationships with a range of the region’s estate agents, which has stood us in good stead, and the residential department continues to see exorbitant work levels.

“This group of professionals are role models for other up-and-coming lawyers which is particularly useful as we look to expand our teams further over the coming year.”

 

Coventry and Warwickshire’s hot property market creates vacancies

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Coventry and Warwickshire’s hot property market has created a number of new vacancies at one of the city’s law firms.

Band Hatton Button, which is based on Warwick Road, has three vacancies in their commercial property department and two in their residential property department.

Both departments are operating at 116 per cent and 117 per cent of their annual targets respectively.

It comes as the Office for National Statistics revealed house prices in the West Midlands showed the highest annual growth in England in the 12 months to September 2018 (6.1 per cent).

The vacancies on offer in Band Hatton Button’s residential property department include a lawyer and a paralegal, while the roles in commercial property are for two lawyers and a paralegal.

Band Hatton Button – which has an annual budget of £4.5 million – is also recruiting for a lawyer to bolster the firm’s family department.

Mark Moseley, managing director at Band Hatton Button, said: “Coventry is very much a city on the up and it has fast become an attractive destination for studying, working and visiting which is something we feel is going to build as we get closer to UK City of Culture in 2021 and with innovations such as driverless cars being developed on our doorstep.

“It’s for this reason that we have decided to inject long-term investment into our property departments.

“The property markets, particularly in the West Midlands, are bucking the wider national trend of slower property prices which is undoubtedly being driven by increasing demand for property in Coventry and Warwickshire.

“Band Hatton Button has gradually grown its workforce and has seen its team increase by approximately 30% in recent years, many of whom are long-serving and, by the New Year, we hope to have seen our workforce grow by another ten per cent which is very much in line with our future growth plans.”

Welcome Arvin Bhamra

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Welcome Arvin Bhamra!

Arvin Bhamra has joined Coventry city centre based Band Hatton Button as an Associate in their residential property team, which has taken nearly 1,000 enquiries in the last quarter and is currently operating at 116 per cent of its annual financial target.

Bhamra, a qualified solicitor , has 15 years of experience across residential and commercial conveyancing, as well as real estate finance work.

Career highlights include acting in a deal which saw the transfer of 5,000 houses from a council to a housing association, and working on a £95 million loan for a portfolio of 15,000 properties.

“Demand for residential conveyancing keeps growing, particularly in Coventry, and this is a great opportunity for me to join a busy team and build on that reputation ” said Bhamra.

“I’ve spent a lot of time gaining rounded knowledge of the conveyancing industry and residential property was what I first practised in, so this role is a homecoming for me.

“I’ve joined a department and firm that is experiencing growth consistently year-on-year, and coupled with opportunities for long-term progression within the firm, that was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.” 

Sarah Avern is Head of Residential Property at Band Hatton Button, with the department’s recent growth aided by the firm’s new online tool, which can produce a residential conveyancing quote in one minute.

“Arvin has varied, sought-after experience under her belt and an impressive CV, so we are thrilled to welcome her to our team,” said Avern.

“Not only is this a coup for our team which now stands at 14 people, but her experience means she can lend her expertise and provide referrals to our commercial property team.

“We are continuing to grow as a department in line with Coventry’s popularity as a place to live whether it is because of our range of manufacturing employers we have based in our region, landlords expanding their property portfolio or first time buyers climbing on to the property ladder.

“Digitising our services is key to capitalise on this market activity. We are currently converting around three quarters of online conveyancing enquiries into customers, and we expect this service to expand even further in the near future.”

Band Hatton Button win ‘the double’

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Double Award Winning Solicitors

Our two awards!

We’re Double Award Winning Solicitors!

Leading Coventry and Warwickshire law firm Band Hatton Button has landed double recognition at a prestigious awards ceremony.

The Coventry city centre-based solicitors scooped the Contribution to the Community and Leadership Team of the Year awards at the Coventry Telegraph Business Awards 2018 in front of hundreds of people at the Ricoh Arena.

It comes off the back of a bumper period of fundraising for the 82-strong firm for their chosen charity of the year – Shine A Light Support Service – which supports families affected by childhood cancer. 

Band Hatton Button’s Charity Ball last May saw £10,000 raised for charity, and has also seen staff members assist Shine A Light in moving premises.

Staff members also took part in Dementia Awareness Week in support of the Alzheimer’s Society, and have also organised a quiz for the Rotary Club of Kenilworth which raised around £2,000 for Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice.

A range of charity and volunteering work has dovetailed with a strong year of performance for Band Hatton Button, which has seen their turnover increase by six per cent in the 12 months to April 2018, driven by the Midlands’ buoyant property market.

Band Hatton Button’s board has also moved to futureproof the growing business by converting the board into an Alternative Business Structure – enabling the firm to diversify its services and attract additional expertise and investment should the need ever arise.

Mark Moseley, managing director at Band Hatton Button, said: “We are extremely proud to have been recognised as the best business in the region in terms of community work as well as leadership.

“We place great emphasis on making our firm a great place to work – providing fundraising opportunities and reserving time for team-building, through to ensuring there are routes for career progression – and having a happy, motivated workforce is reflected in our recent performance both commercially and in the community.

“Receiving these awards is great news and recognition for us as we aim to embark on another year of growth.”

Band Hatton Button Shorlisted in Two Award Categories

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We are delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted in two categories at the Coventry Telegraph Business Awards.

Band Hatton Button have been announced in the top three in both the Leadership and Contribution to the Community Awards at the prestigious Awards Ceremony.

The winners will be announced on the 25 September at an Awards Ceremony at the Ricoh Arena.

We are also sponsors of the Entrepreneur category at the event.

For more information click here.

School exclusion policies in the dock at start of the school year

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Pupil exclusions by schools have been hitting the headlines in the run up to the start of the new academic year and parents are being encouraged to find out where they stand if their children are the focus of disciplinary action at school.

Figures1 published recently by the Department for Education show that the proportion of pupils permanently excluded from school has risen for the third year in a row, and the publishing of the latest GCSE results coincided with accusations that schools have been timing so-called ‘informal’ exclusions to improve their league table performance.  Alongside, a landmark human rights case has ruled that the exclusion of an autistic pupil on the grounds of challenging behaviour is unlawful.

The case of the autistic student, known as “L” was heard by the Upper Tribunal, the court that deals with appeals against school exclusions.  The judge said that a regulation under the Equality Act which allowed schools to exclude pupils for aggression was incompatible with human rights legislation, as it discriminated against pupils with autism and similar conditions.

Although schools must make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled pupils get the right support, until this ruling they have been able to exclude autistic pupils for acting aggressively, without taking any steps to support the pupil, even if the behaviour was directly related to their autism.

The Department of Education figures1 show that pupils with special educational needs account for around half of all permanent exclusions, with ‘physical assault against an adult’ given as the most common reason.  In future, where such behaviour is related to a pupil’s condition, schools will have to demonstrate that such a decision is proportionate.

Said John French, education disputes expert with Coventry based solicitors Band Hatton Button: “This ruling means that pupils with autism, ADHD and other similar conditions, where aggressive behaviour is a likely outcome, will have greater protection from school exclusion.  The judgement does not mean that schools will be stopped from excluding such children on the grounds of behaviour, but in future they will have to demonstrate the steps they have taken to support the child, and how such an exclusion is proportionate in the circumstances.”

He added: “For any parent who is dealing with an exclusion, whether or not their child has a recognised special educational need, it’s important to know where they stand and how they can question a school’s decision.

“Any exclusion – temporary or permanent – can be challenged, and parents have the right to make representation to the school’s governing body, which has the power to over-rule a headteacher’s decision. Beyond that, parents can ask for an independent review, which can be done without cost to them, or they can contact the exclusions team at their local authority.  For children with special needs, there is a dedicated tribunal to deal with cases.

“And if an exclusion is made on an ‘informal’ or ‘unofficial’ basis – what is sometimes known as ‘off-rolling’ – that is unlawful and the parents need to contest it with the school.  This is the practice that has been highlighted in recent news reports.

“Whatever the situation, if it’s hard to get answers, or you don’t know what to make of the answers, then it’s worth getting professional advice as early as possible.”

Exclusions in England are governed by rules set out in the Education Act 2002 and can be made on disciplinary grounds alone.  The rules also apply to children above or below compulsory school age, such as nursery or sixth form.  Pupils may be excluded for fixed periods of up to 45 school days in a single academic year or permanently removed from the school roll.  Any decision on permanent exclusion should be taken only “in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school’s behaviour policy; and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school”.

 

1 Department for Education :Permanent and fixed-period exclusions in England: 2016 to 2017:  0.1 per cent of pupils in all schools were excluded in 2016-17, compared to 0.08 per cent in 2015-16 (Published July 2018)

ENDS

 

Web site content note:  

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

The pitfalls of carrying out a DIY divorce…

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Unhappy couples across Coventry and Warwickshire are being warned against the pitfalls of carrying out a DIY divorce.

The popular method of divorce involves couples downloading, filling out and submitting documentation to the courts themselves, or with limited online help, perhaps limiting their costs to the £550 court fee in a bid to save money.

However Tracy Cross, Head of Family at Coventry law firm Band Hatton Button, has been handling numerous divorce cases that have originated from DIY divorces that have gone wrong, particularly where couples have unintentionally ended up with a defended and time-consuming divorce.

Keen to dispel the myth of conventional divorces being expensive, Tracy said: “Divorces only become costly if couples spend time arguing over how to do the divorce, their share of money and children’s issues; an undefended divorce in itself is a relatively cheap, straight-forward paperwork process that takes around six-months to conclude.

“There are two types of divorce – defended and undefended. In the majority of cases the person receiving the divorce doesn’t want to defend it, but equally doesn’t like what is being said about them, which is where good legal advice should be sought to navigate this issue in an informed, efficient and cost-saving manner.

“Doing a DIY divorce and ticking various boxes without knowing the consequences can be an extremely dangerous thing to do.

“There’s a common misconception that once a divorce is complete all financial claims are ended. They’re not. People need to think about the financial element as a separate process to the divorce.

“For example if a person going through a divorce doesn’t finalise any financial settlement because they don’t have much money now, it may allow their ex-spouse to claim for a share of any pension or money that they come into in the future.

“This is why it is so important for people to employ a solicitor to explain the process and what the consequences of each decision, or lack of decision is.

“Filing for a divorce yourself may save money in the short-term, but paying for sound legal advice up front could save people money in the long run.”

Recognising the gender agenda for trans staff

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Recognising the gender agenda for trans staff  

Trans campaigners are hoping for a simpler path to legal recognition of gender change following the government’s announcement that it is reviewing the process.  Elsewhere, the High Court has set an important precedent on the right to respect for non-gendered identity, marking a milestone in civil rights litigation on gender identity and LGBTI+ rights.  

Public awareness of gender identification has increased significantly since former Olympian and reality star Caitlyn Jenner took the issue mainstream in unveiling her transition in 2015.  Recently, producers of the Supergirl TV show announced a transgender superhero would feature in the cast.  For employers, there is a need to keep up to speed with this fast-changing landscape to ensure policies do not inadvertently discriminate on grounds of gender identity, whether through personnel protocols, toilet provision or dress codes.   

The Equality Act 2010 protects trans people from discrimination, and guidance for employers recommends an inclusive workplace, with a supportive environment that means staff feel able to declare any change in gender identification.  The Government has estimated there are between 200,000 and 500,000 trans people in the UK, but research suggests that some 2 in 3 of all trans people have been afraid to be open about their gender and last year LGBT charity Stonewall reported that 41% of trans people had experienced a hate crime because of their gender identity in the previous 12 months. 

One of the first challenges for any HR team may be in understanding how to deal with a change in an individual’s self-identified gender.  The answer is that employers need to handle the news carefully, find out how the individual wants to be addressed by colleagues, and when they would like to announce the transition.  Then, post-transition, make sure all records relating to that employee have been updated to the new name and gender.  

Said employment specialist Mark Ridley of Coventry-based lawyers Band Hatton Button: “There is no need for official paperwork to be in place before an employer recognises a gender shift.  Trans people can change their name and gender for almost all services without changing their legal gender, simply by asking for the change to be made, including passports, driving licences and their employment records. 

“It is only if they wish to get married or request appropriate pension provision that they must have a new birth certificate, which requires a Gender Recognition Certificate to be issued under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.  It is this process that the Government is looking to reform, to make it less intrusive and bureaucratic when trans people apply for legal recognition of their acquired gender.”  

Experts advise that it’s worth checking that processes don’t take a binary approach to gender, as increasing numbers are asking for a gender-neutral option in form-filling.  Recently the process of applying for a passport was challenged on these grounds by long-standing campaigner Christie Elan-Cane.  

Although the case was dismissed, the judgement marked a significant development in the law in this area as the Court recognised that the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 8) guarantees a right to respect for non-gendered identity.  This means the Government must consider the rights of non-gendered, intersex, trans and non-binary people, who do not identify as exclusively male or female, when forming policy in future.   

Mark added: “Gender neutral approaches can be useful, including for toilet provision in both the workplace and customer facilities. Single-occupancy toilets that are simply marked with a generic WC sign can be used by anyone, whether they are comfortable using a toilet in gender-specific usage or not, although no one can be forced to use a single-occupancy toilet where gender specific facilities are also available.  It must be their choice, as under the Equality Act 2010 anyone who identifies themselves as a specific gender can choose to use the appropriate single-sex facilities.”

The Act allows service providers to refuse a trans person access to single-sex services if it may be detrimental to others and the review of the Gender Recognition Act will not affect women-only spaces and services such as safeguarding processes, as currently used in refuges and healthcare services.  Neither will it change any protected characteristics in the Equality Act relating to gender, religion and disability.  

Protected characteristics are likely to be relevant also in the context of dress codes for trans workers.  Earlier this year, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) issued long awaited guidance on workplace dress codes.  Despite a high-profile petition by temporary worker Nicola Thorp, who was sent home in 2016 for refusing to wear high heeled shoes, the new code stops short of harsh punishments, saying: “dress policies for men and women do not have to be identical. However, the standards imposed should be equivalent. This means there must be similar or equivalent rules laid down for both male and female employees”.  The guidelines also say that “it is best to avoid gender-specific requirements”, going on to remind employers that “transgender employees should be allowed to follow the organisation’s dress code in a way which they feel matches their gender identity”.

ENDS

Web site content note:  

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.