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.”

Landlords must check they hit the spot with deposits

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Claims for incorrectly handled property rental deposits are soaring and landlords should be alert to the danger and ensure they or their agents are complying with the legal requirements, if they want to avoid high penalties.  

According to figures from insurers, the number of claims relating to deposits peaked at 25% of all professional indemnity claims made by estate and letting agents in the first quarter of this year, up from just 3% last year[1].  The claims most often relate to a landlord lodging a deposit late or failing to provide the correct information to the tenant about the terms and the deposit scheme used.

Under the Housing Act 2004, any deposit must be held by the landlord in a registered deposit protection scheme and the tenant must be given specific details of the deposit protection scheme used and details about how the scheme works within 30 days.

If a court rules that a landlord has failed in their duty, it can impose fines of up to three times the value of the deposit, which must be paid within 14 days of the court order.

Explained property litigation legal expert Kristy Ainge of solicitors Band Hatton Button in Coventry:“It’s the landlord who will find themselves subject to the county court order.  They may be able to bring a claim against the letting agent, if there is one involved, who in turn will claim on their professional indemnity insurance. It’s a costly business and bad in reputational terms for all concerned.”

She added: “The legislation has been in place for a long time, but we see both agents and landlords getting it wrong still.  Where landlords have a big property portfolio, they are more likely to have the right processes in place.  For small-scale landlords, or the accidental ones who may have ended up renting out their home while working elsewhere, it’s worth adopting some of the practices of the big boys as it’s no defence to say you didn’t know or had left it to your agent.

“That includes taking some time to understand the law as it affects you as a landlord and having checklists for each stage of the tenancy.  Then you need to make sure they are used each time, whether you are doing it yourself or checking your agency have acted properly on your behalf.  In the worst-case scenario, if you haven’t used a deposit scheme when you should have, the court can rule that a tenant does not have to leave the property when the tenancy ends.”

The prescribed information that must be provided to the tenant includes:

  • the address of the rented property
  • how much deposit you’ve paid
  • how the deposit is protected
  • the name and contact details of the tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme and its dispute resolution service
  • their (or the letting agency’s) name and contact details
  • the name and contact details of any third party that’s paid the deposit
  • why they would keep some or all of the deposit
  • how to apply to get the deposit back
  • what to do if you can’t get hold of the landlord at the end of the tenancy
  • what to do if there’s a dispute over the deposit

[1]Claims data compiled by DAC Beachcroft.

Web site content note: 

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

The difference between freehold and leasehold

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To make your home your castle, be sure who owns the drawbridge – by Conveyancing expert Sarah Avern

The Government has announced plans to tackle unfair leaseholder arrangements on new build properties, but in the meantime, as the Spring housing market gets into full swing, it’s worth understanding the difference between freehold and leasehold property.  

Increasing property prices and high population densities have seen a big increase in the number of leasehold properties across the country, as houses are split into flats and new apartment blocks are built, so there are now 1.4 million leasehold houses across England.  

And while leasehold arrangements are generally seen as a simple route to managing multiple occupancy buildings, over the past twenty years there has been a big increase in the number of houses being sold by developers on a leasehold basis.  These sales have seen ground rents being set at much higher levels than the ‘peppercorn’ arrangements that were typical previously, and with scheduled increases.  In the worst examples, leases include terms to allow the ground rent to double every ten years.  

The new measures announced by the Government will target such practices, including a ban on leaseholds for almost all new build houses, and changes will also be made so that ground rents on new long leases – for both houses and flats – are set to zero.  The government say that it will also make it cheaper and easier for existing leaseholders to buy-out their freehold, and that there will be routes to redress for those facing the most onerous terms.

We must wait for the detail and timetable for the introduction of these changes, which are anticipated to happen during 2018, but in the meantime, whether buyer or seller, it is worth being prepared by understanding the basis on which a property is being sold.  For prospective buyers, knowing the right questions to ask could save a lot of wasted time and resources.  And for sellers, it can ease a sale if you pre-empt any concerns and know the answers to the questions you may be asked.  

  • What form of ownership? 

It’s important to check exactly what form the ownership takes, and then ask the right questions. If it’s freehold, you will own the property and the land it sits on, but there may be other responsibilities that are not so obvious, such as contributing towards maintenance of a private shared access road.

If it’s a shared freehold, then you will own your personal space in the property, and generally a share of the land and the shared spaces.  Any maintenance is likely to be subject to agreement between all the freeholders, and the cost shared between everyone.  

If it is leasehold, then you will be buying the right to live in the property for the remaining duration of the lease, with the land, the structure of the building and shared spaces owned by the freeholder, who may be an individual landlord or a property management company.  They will hold the buildings insurance and will consult with leaseholders about any works that are required, collecting service charges from each leaseholder to pay for all maintenance and managing such work. The owner of a leasehold property is effectively a tenant in a very long-term rental, having to pay an annual ground rent and ask for consent to make any changes to the property.  

  • It’s a lease, so how long does it have to run? 

Leases of between 99 and 999 years are commonly granted and generally the value of a property will reduce as the lease gets closer to the end, but don’t expect to snap up a bargain if you’re looking for a mortgage as lenders are unlikely to make a loan on a property with anything less than 25 years left to run.  If a property has only a short time left on the lease, you can ask the seller to seek an extension, but expect to pay for the benefit.  A lease extension can be requested at any time by a leaseholder.

  • How much is the ground rent? 

Normally ground rent will apply only if it’s a leasehold property.  Ground rent can be a fixed charge or one that will change over time, so check out how much is being paid currently, but look through the small print as well, to be sure there are no big increases on the way. If any escalation is written in, then it should not allow for a rise that is more than the retail price index. Again, if you are seeking a mortgage, a lender will be looking to see affordability not just in the headline purchase price, but also in the ongoing costs of ground rent and the service charges. 

  • How much are the service charges? 

Service charges can strike fear in the hearts of leaseholders, even when they have very deep pockets, as all work is likely to be relative to the size and standing of the overall building. Be quick to ask for evidence of the service charge budget and the accounts for the past three years and don’t be afraid to ask around about the freeholder. The agent may assure you it’s a big property management company with the right infrastructure, but if research shows they have a poor reputation in getting work done, or in the amounts being charged on, you’ll be glad you checked.  

  • Are repairs and maintenance up to date?

Take a good look at how well things are maintained as you view the property and then check it out against those service charge accounts you’ve asked for. If everywhere is looking a bit run down, there’s no evidence of regular work being done in the accounts, and there’s very little being held in the pot for future works, you can expect a big bill, or an increasingly rundown environment. A survey is just as important when buying a flat as when buying a house. And importantly, be clear about the proportion you must contribute.

And finally, for the seller, it’s always a good idea to get your ‘house in order’ by tackling paperwork before the sale board goes up. There are forms requiring detailed information about the property itself and one covering all the fixtures and fittings. If it’s a leasehold property you will have to complete one covering details around the lease such as the rent, service charges, insurance and future work. By working with your lawyer in advance to prepare all the forms that will be required, you’ll be well prepared to answer all the questions your potential buyer may have for you.  

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

Our new Online Conveyancing Tool is Live!

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We are excited to launch a new product which enables clients to get quotes for residential conveyancing services at the touch of a couple of buttons.

Band Hatton Button have teamed up with ‘Perfect Portal’, a LawNet partner, to launch a web tool which gives clients a full quote for their legal needs based on a few quick questions. The quote is then emailed to the client outlining what the legal fees for their conveyancing will be, and it also includes all of the extra costs involved in a transaction such as stamp duty, land registry fees etc.

The conveyancing market is hugely competitive and we are well aware that we constantly need to adapt and evolve to remain up to speed and keep up with the our peers. We are hugely committed to interacting with clients in the way they wish, and also to developing technology, so this solution ticks two huge boxes for us. Research also shows that generation Z (those born in 1995 or later and a generation that are a big target market for us) are huge users of technology and with the average age of someone in the UK buying their first home being 30 years old embracing technology is very key for us.

As a firm we strive to make the conveyancing process less stressful, speedy and efficient and so launching this product ties in perfectly with our approach. We are also passionate about being open and honest about our pricing and the quote that clients receive is clear, transparent and contains no hidden extras.

This new product means clients can get an instant quote any time of the day using any device. They can also then instruct us if they wish by clicking to do so and then we will start the ball rolling at our end.

The system will also be hugely beneficial to us internally as our Client Relations Team will be using it to provide clients with instant quotes when they call us so it streamlines the whole process.

Perfect Portal also share our ethos of “providing a human touch” so we know this will be a perfect partnership!

The ‘One Minute’ Conveyancing Quote!

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Property sellers and purchasers can now receive a conveyancing quote in one minute thanks to a new online tool.

Solicitors Band Hatton Button, who are based on Warwick Road in Coventry city centre, are teaming up with Perfect Portal to launch an online system which asks prospective clients some simple questions relating to their transaction.

This information is then analysed instantly before a quotation – including stamp duty and other extra costs – are emailed to the prospective client, who can then decide whether to instruct a solicitor at the click of a button.

Sarah Avern, Head of Residential Property at Band Hatton Button, said: “This is the tool that Y and Z generations have been crying out for when it comes to buying or selling a home.

“Those born in the late 80s and early 90s are currently setting out to buy their first home and are big technology users, but they’re also time poor, so this tool will help us to connect with what is a massively competitive market.

“It is also designed to make the house-buying process much less stressful and more efficient.

“Comparing conveyancing prices can be a lengthy and complicated process as extra costs aren’t always added on, but the Perfect Portal service includes everything up front within a minute.

“This service will further improve our overall efficiency as our Client Relations Team will also be able to provide quick quotes over the phone using the online system, freeing up our solicitors’ time to focus on their clients’ matters.

“Adapting to reflect consumer behaviour is vital for us as a firm, and we are expecting this new approach to conveyancing to become the norm in the future.”

The online service is being launched on from 22nd March.

Breakfast Workshop Event

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 Breakfast Workshop: Conveyancing Conundrums!

Ever wondered about the conveyancing process from a lawyers’ perspective? Or been frustrated with timescales or confused by legal terminology?

Come along to our informal breakfast session where we’ll talk through the conveyancing process from our side and will explain how it works and what we do on a typical sale and purchase. We’ll also go through some of the common conveyancing terms and will talk to you about some of the current trends we are experiencing regarding processes and charging.

The session will be very informal and with plenty of time and opportunity for discussion and questions.

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Avoid septic tank blockages when selling

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This year’s housing market has been characterised by slumping prices and sluggish sales in many areas, posing a challenge to would-be sellers looking to move on.   

And for those who are not connected to mains drainage, generally in rural areas, there’s an added challenge, with many unaware of stricter rules regarding septic tank systems and soak-aways, which must be dealt with as part of the conveyancing process.

According to Sarah Avern, property law expert with Coventry-based firm Band Hatton Button: “Property owners with a septic tank or small sewage treatment plant could find themselves with a headache if they aren’t up to date on their responsibilities and meeting the latest legal requirements.”

Those are set out in the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 and the Small sewage discharges in England: general binding rules. For homeowners, the important points relate to the amount of waste being discharged, and where it is being discharged.

If it’s domestic waste, you can discharge up to 2 cubic metre per day to the ground via a septic tank or small sewage treatment plant. If it’s discharging to a river, stream or other surface water, then up to 5 cubic metres per day is permitted, but only if a small sewage treatment plant is being used.

Any septic tank discharging to surface water will have to be replaced or upgraded by the end of 2019, or when the property is sold, if that happens earlier.

The Environment Agency has provided a simple calculator to enable homeowners to work out their estimated daily discharge, which is based on the size of the property.

If a system is being installed or upgraded, then it must be to British Standard BS EN 12566 and both planning permission and building regulations approval will be needed. Approval will not be given if public sewers are accessible within 30 metres.

Sarah added: “These approvals apply to any installations from 2015 onwards, so any system that has been upgraded in that time without planning permission and building regulations approval would have to apply for permission retrospectively, and that’s going to cause delays and problems if it is only discovered during the sale process.

“When selling, the home owner is legally obliged to tell the purchaser if sewage is being handled by a private drainage system, with a written notice that sets out details of the waste water system, its location and the maintenance requirements. There’s a legal responsibility to ensure the system is in good working order and does not cause pollution, so it makes sense to check everything is OK on a regular basis, and certainly before putting the property on the market. It is also important to be sure that all rights and obligations are in place if any part of the system is located on someone else’s property, as any gaps would be thrown up as part of the conveyancing process.”

The discharge limits do not apply to cesspits, as they are self-contained tanks, but cesspits must be maintained and emptied regularly by a registered waste carrier.

Web site content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.