Help to Buy Aids 150,000

The Government has released statistics which show that more than 150,000 properties have been sold to buyers who have made use of the ‘Help to Buy’ mortgage guarantee and equity loan schemes. Nearly 80 per cent of those sales were to first-time buyers and the average price of houses bought by them was significantly below the national average. The ‘Help to Buy ISA’, launched in December 2015, has also already attracted more than 250,000 subscribers. Using the ISA enables first-time buyers to obtain up to £3,000 from the Government by way of a bonus when they use savings to purchase a property. The contents of this article are intended for…

Relationship Breakdown Hurts, But a Lawyer Can Help Ease the Pain

The breakdown of a relationship is sadly often accompanied by dispute over the ownership of once shared possessions. However, one High Court case vividly shows why it is nearly always sensible to seek compromise with the benefit of legal advice, rather than resort to costly litigation. A wealthy same-sex couple had never formalised their 15-year relationship, but both viewed it as akin to marriage. Together they had achieved considerable financial success, establishing a substantial property portfolio and a lucrative chain of tanning salons. Following the acrimonious parting of their ways, however, they could not agree on who owned what. Title to numerous personal possessions, including a Mercedes CLK 200 cabriolet…

P2P Lending Losses Compensation Terms Announced

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending has grown very quickly over recent years. It is a system whereby an intermediary acts as a broker to enable individuals to make loans directly to those seeking loan finance. The attraction for the borrower is often that they can borrow relatively small amounts of money in a less formal way and at less cost than borrowing from an established financial institution. For the lender, the available rates of return are much higher than those offered on the high street. However, P2P lending is riskier than placing money on deposit and, as a result, the P2P lending industry is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. It has…

Court Aids Widow by Correcting Obvious Error in Will

Wills are written in a style which many would describe as ‘legalese’ but, as any lawyer will tell you, absolute precision is the objective. In one case which illustrates the point, a clerical error which resulted in three crucial words being omitted from a man’s will required a High Court hearing to remedy. The missing words were ‘to my wife’. The omission meant that the relevant part of the will did not identify a beneficiary and the man’s widow was left at risk of losing her home. Had the Court not intervened, the error would have meant that the man died partially intestate, with part of his estate passing to…

High Court Rules on Residential Development Contract Gone Bad

Building projects inevitably go wrong sometimes and those involved in such cases are wise to seek legal advice to achieve a swift and low-cost resolution. In a case where that did not happen, the High Court found both the developer of a residential property and the owner of the land on which it was built in breach of contract. The owner had engaged the developer to build the house but, by the time it was approaching completion, their relationship had broken down. The owner decided to complete the work himself, without any further input from the developer, and the property remained on the market five years after it should have…

In the Style to Which One Wishes to Become Accustomed

Divorce cases involving the very rich are over-represented in court reports for the simple reason that where the family is very wealthy, the costs of arguing over the division of the assets are deemed to be worth incurring, which may not be the case for families with much more modest assets. However, the legal principles that apply are the same in all cases. In a recent case, a man’s ex-wife sought a divorce settlement of some £29 million against his offer of £8 million. The husband had brought very substantial inherited wealth into the marriage and it was agreed that the settlement should be based on his ex-wife’s needs. The…

Eyewitness Evidence Preferred to That of Experts

When a car hits a pedestrian, it is usual for the driver of the car to be held to be at fault, but this is not always the case. When a man sprinted across a dual carriageway and was struck on the leg by a passing car, the High Court concluded that the driver was not responsible for the accident. The man who was hit made a claim against the driver, although he himself had no recollection of the incident. He claimed that the driver was negligent because she had not braked quickly enough. The only witnesses were the driver of the car that hit him and the driver of…

It’s All in the Timing

Selling the shares in a business you own and run attracts very favourable tax treatment in the UK and one of the most beneficial reliefs is Entrepreneurs’ Relief (ER), which for most small businesses limits the Capital Gains Tax payable by the director-shareholders to 10 per cent as opposed to the usual rate of 18 or 28 per cent (being reduced to 10 or 20 per cent following the recent Budget). ER is a relatively easy relief to get. The main criteria for a director-shareholder of a trading company are that at the time of sale the vendor must own at least 5 per cent of the shares and voting…

Evidence Sufficient to Defeat Challenge to Will

A recent Court of Appeal case shows how important it is to carry out procedures properly in order for a person who clearly has impaired mental capacity to create a will that can withstand legal challenge. It involved a will created in 2005 by an 84-year-old woman. It divided her estate between her two sons and superseded an earlier will, executed in 2003, which gave the majority of her estate to one of them. The woman died in 2010 and the son who had stood to inherit under the earlier will challenged the legitimacy of the new will on the basis that his mother lacked ‘testamentary capacity’ when she executed…

Homeowner Defeats Planning Officer in Rates Row

In an important decision for property professionals, the High Court has ruled that, when considering the nature of a single unit of accommodation, a simple application of the ‘bricks and mortar’ test is too narrow and that the use to which rooms are actually put can legitimately be taken into account. The case concerned a listed house which had been converted into two flats and was thus treated as two units for Council Tax purposes. A couple who later bought the house converted it back into a single family home. Their transformation of the property’s internal layout was constrained by its listed status but they argued that the works they…