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We aim to provide practical guidance on useful areas of busness law.  

By brocs1, Oct 27 2020 10:34AM

First Stage – Service of Notice

The first step taken to remove a tenant is to issue one of two notices available through the Housing Act 1988.

The initial steps is sometimes sufficient to secure vacant possession or payment of arrears outstanding.

• Section 21 Notice: a two-month notice to terminate a tenancy agreement and seek possession of the property. The Government has temporarily changed the rules around using a Section 21 notice during the coronavirus pandemic and any section 21 notice served in England must give at least six months notice to the tenant.

• Section 8 Notice: a 14-day notice seeking possession on grounds of rent arrears. The Government has temporarily changed the rules around using a Section 8 notice during the coronavirus pandemic. The notice period to be given in a Section 8 Notice will in many cases now be six months but can be much shorter depending on the grounds used.

To take instructions from you, prepare and service the appropriate notice = £150 plus VAT

Second Stage –

Possession Order following a Court Hearing

This procedure is available to a landlord following the service of either the Section 8 Notice or Section 21 Notice. However, it differs from the accelerated possession proceedings as it allows the landlord to apply for a judgment for rent arrears in addition to a possession order.

To issue proceedings in the County Court, prepare for and attend a hearing to obtain possession and judgement for rent arrears = £750 plus VAT. There will also be a Court fee payable to the Court.

In the event that the Court Hearing is contested by the tenants, then this may incur further costs and we will advise you on receiving instructions of what this may entail.

Accelerated Possession Proceedings

If the tenant has been served with a valid Section 21 Notice, then it may be possible to obtain a Possession Order without the need of a Court Hearing. The procedure is sometimes known as an Accelerated Possession Procedure, although this may not be the fastest route. An Accelerated Possession Order can only be made if you are seeking possession alone (and so not seeking a County Court Judgement for rent arrears).

If you wish to recover rental arrears under this Procedure, then you will have to issue standard possession proceedings or separate debt recovery proceedings through the County Court. The purpose of the Accelerated Procedure is to avoid the need for a hearing.

The landlord must file a notice setting out what they know about the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tenant and their dependents within the claim form.

A tenant can still seek a hearing on the following basis:

• Challenge the procedure

• Challenge the validity of the notice

• Seek to extend the time in which to vacate the property

If you are a Landlord or Tenant and need advice, please contact us on 0800 567 7595 or email [email protected]

By brocs1, Oct 12 2020 09:46AM

What is harassment?

Harassment is unwanted behaviour which you find offensive or which makes you feel intimidated or humiliated. It can happen on its own or alongside other forms of discrimination. Unwanted behaviour could be spoken or written words or abuse, offensive emails, tweets, or comments on social networking sites.

Some examples are as follows: -

• Phone calls, letters, emails or in person visits

• Abusive behaviour online

• Stalking

• Verbal threats

• Damage to your property

Harassment Act 1997

Harassment is both a criminal and civil action under the Harassment Act. This means that action can be taken in the criminal and civil courts. The Act states that you must experience at least two incidents from the same person or group of people before it can be classed as harassment. In the Act harassment has not been defined, the reason for this, is to keep the definition flexible, in order that the court can make the decision, if the actions of the individual are to be considered as harassment. All harassment claims must be made within 6 years of the harassment taking place.

What action can be taken to stop the harassment?

The civil court can make an order or an injunction, that will stop the person harassing you. If they do not stop once the injunction has been issued, then this is considered a criminal offense and they can be prosecuted in a criminal court.

What can you do if you are being harassed?

If you are being harassed, you would need to follow the points below: -

• Keep a record of the harassment for evidence by: -

taking screen shots

save emails

make recordings

or take photographs.

• Try and stop the person from contacting you by blocking them online or their telephone number.

• Hit the report button if the harassment is online

Summerfield Browne Solicitors have specialised Lawyers that can give you advice regarding harassment. Contact us by phone on 0800 567 7595 or by email [email protected]

By brocs1, Oct 8 2020 10:08AM

I recently met a client who suffered an injury at work and was worried he would not be able to return to his physical, manual job because of it. He sat in front of me and told me he could never do anything other than manual work because he was “too stupid”. This man certainly did not present as such and when I asked what made him classify himself as “stupid” he disclosed to me that he was dyslexic and did not do well at school. This gentleman became quite visibly emotional, apologetic and embarrassed talking about his dyslexia, and the thought of not being able to work within his comfort zone of “non-academic” employment. This encounter really struck a chord with me and I found myself talking to this client in depth about the possibilities he had in terms of vocational support and re-training, after which he told me that I was lucky I didn’t have to think about such things. I sat for a moment feeling perplexed that my Client seemed to think that his lawyer couldn’t possibly understand the struggles he would face. After a careful thought I decided to disclose to my Client that I too struggle with dyslexia but that it is not a barrier to success in any field. He said he was shocked as he would never have guessed he would meet a dyslexic lawyer. I was taken aback by this and it made me think about the perception people have about dyslexia.

It seems to be a common misconception, even amongst dyslexics themselves as I discovered, that dyslexia is linked to a lack of intellectual capability. This misconception is apparent in schooling, where it is all too prevalent (in the writer’s experience) to hear of parents having to fight with schools to get their children tested for this specific learning difficulty because their child is not struggling generally with their school work. This story is familiar to me too. At school I was never tested for dyslexia as “I was doing well in all my lessons; I wasn’t struggling or falling behind.”

When a child has poor behaviour at school, the school provides additional support, but is there the same level of focus on a less obvious difficulty such as dyslexia? I am sure the understanding of dyslexia has changed through the years, as has the understanding of many other learning or behavioural problems usually highlighted during schooling. However there seems to still be some way to go to ensure all potential dyslexics receive the testing and support that is needed to help breakdown the additional barriers they face. I appreciate that school budgets only go so far (certainly not far enough) however, it is a personal frustration that some students may struggle to reach their potential because of a lack of testing and support.

I wasn’t diagnosed as dyslexic until I started at University and sought out the support of the disabled students support team. They arranged testing and ultimately put in place a fantastic support package which helped me to learn new study tactics and how to utilise aids and equipment to tackle the academic world of undergraduate law.

For me personally, one of the biggest challenges I face is reading – I find it hard to concentrate on the words on a page and sometimes they seem to move a bit. One particularly useful tool to help with reading was a simple sheet of coloured acetate which helps the eye to focus on words on the page. This in itself lead to regular questions from fellow inquisitive students, questions which were never malicious, but there were times when I personally felt embarrassed that my peers had noticed something different about me.

University is challenging for anyone – often the first time being away from home, learning a new subject and studying independently. Having the additional hurdle of studying with dyslexia often made me feel incredibly self-conscious – having to spend longer reading materials, taking more time to complete written assignments and even having extra time in my exams. Just through my personal experience I can understand why some people hide behind dyslexia and feel less inclined to continue into higher education or an academic career.

When I initially started looking for work in the legal sector I was hesitant to share some of the problems I had with employers because of the embarrassment I felt at University. However, I have always been pleasantly surprised by the understanding and support I have received in the workplace. From arranging assistive software on my computer and being afforded a quiet working space to having letters proof read. However, the most important aspect I have experienced is just a genuine appreciation from my employers of the fact that sometimes, written work or reading takes a little longer. This has certainly helped my professional confidence and is something I explained to my client who was concerned about working in an office as a dyslexic.

In conclusion, my point is that having dyslexia shouldn’t be a barrier to success. Dyslexics often thrive when problem solving and have a great ability to think unconventionally. Famous dyslexic success stories include Richard Branson and Walt Disney. There has even been a suggestion that Leonardo da Vinci himself was a dyslexic – other than the erratic and strange spelling, he wrote his notes in reverse mirror image (a trait shared by some dyslexic left-handers who often do not realise they write in this manner). Learning about the success stories within the realm of dyslexia has been a huge inspiration and encouragement to me and hopefully will continue to be so to other aspiring professionals.

It would be great to think that all employers in our profession offer the same level of support that I have been privileged enough to experience. I would urge any fellow lawyers who have dyslexia, or any other learning problem or disability, to take the brave step to talk to their employers about it. If you are finding something difficult, there could be something that your employer could do to help support you.

I have recently joined the “Lawyers with Disabilities Division” (LWDD) who are a voice for disabled lawyers and a wider network of support within the legal profession. For anyone who wants to read more about the LWDD then login to “My Law Society” and tick the “Lawyers with Disabilities” box under the diversity and inclusion heading on the “Interests” tab or email [email protected]

If you have been affected by this article, have you experience issues with your employer not providing reasonable support and adjustments, then contact our Employment Solicitors om 0800 567 7595 or email us on [email protected]

By brocs1, Oct 5 2020 10:13AM

This week, 2nd October 2020, sees a High Court hearing, to consider any applications to appeal from Insurance Companies regarding pay-outs to businesses in connection with business interruption insurance policies, following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many businesses have made claims to their insurance companies during the Covid -19 pandemic, for loss of income and many are reliant on a pay-out to keep them afloat. The claims are for loss of income, due to the closure of their business during the pandemic and lockdown. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is representing policy holders in this landmark case and obtained judgement against certain insurance companies in the High Court in September 2020, which was ruled on sample business interruption contracts.

The eight defendant insurers are Arch, Argenta, Ecclesiastical, Hiscox, MS Amln, QBE, RSA and Zurich. Insurers argue that they should not be required to pay claims where firms chose to close due to the pandemic rather than being legally required to shut.

There is expected to be around 370,000 claims to be affected by this outcome. If the High Court does grant permission to an appeal at the upcoming hearing this week, the case is expected to go to the Court of Appeal and then straight to the Supreme Court, which could be heard before Christmas.

If you have been affected by this and need some advice, please contact Summerfield Browne Solicitors on 0800 567 7595 or email us on [email protected]

By brocs1, Sep 29 2020 09:59AM

The coronavirus pandemic has put an enormous pressure on Landlord and Tenants. The government have introduced new rules to protect tenants during this time.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) have produced a Pre-Action Plan with nine golden rules that sets out what the parties should do, before considering repossession.

NRLA state it is important to stress that we are in unprecedented times. It is incumbent on tenants and landlords to engage with each other, trying all available avenues to reach an agreement before seeking repossession through the courts.

Here is the Pre-Action Plan with nine golden rules: -

1. Communicate:

If rent cannot be paid in part or full, tenants and landlords should discuss the situation as soon as reasonably possible. It is important for landlords to be flexible and have a frank and open conversation with their tenants at the earliest opportunity, to allow both parties to agree a sensible way forward. It is important that landlords try to understand:

the cause of the arrears;

whether the tenant, their dependants, or other occupiers have been affected by coronavirus and how this has impacted on their ability to pay rent;

the tenant’s general financial situation; and

what ability there is for a payment plan to repay arrears.

2. Establish:

Whether the tenant may be considered vulnerable, such as disabled or a single parent - this guide will help you. If the tenant is in the vulnerable category, local authority housing options teams can also give advice and support.

3. Signpost:

Landlords should point the tenant to organisations that may be able to provide support or advice on benefit entitlement and debt management. Your local council can also offer help and advice, including funding to help pay your rent, called discretionary housing payments (DHP). Other organisations include: ·

Citizens Advice– 0344 411 1444 ·

Shelter - 0808 800 4444

4. Agree:

Seek to agree an affordable payment plan, based on the tenant’s circumstances, where this information has been shared. Guidance for tenants and landlords on how best to manage conversations about arrears is available from the NRLA and other partners here.

5. Be clear:

Landlords should provide clear rent statements for 3-month periods (or 13 week periods, if rent is paid weekly), showing any temporary reductions in rent or deferred payments.

Guidance, including templates for agreeing such reductions, are available from the NRLA.

6. Consent:

Where the tenant is claiming benefits, explore seeking consent for payment of any housing element to the landlord. As a last resort, you can also request deductions to repay arrears - but neither you nor the tenant can choose how much is deducted as they are automatically calculated. This could lead to higher deductions than a tenant feels they can afford. You can find out more by ringing the Universal Credit Helpline – or the tenant can arrange by speaking to their work coach or UC advisor.

More information on alternative payment arrangements can be found here.

7. Guarantors:

If there is a guarantor in place, actively involve them in discussions with tenants regarding payment of rent. Bear in mind that the financial situation of guarantors may also have changed.

8. Mediate:

If you cannot initially agree, an independent mediator could help resolve your differences without the time/cost of taking a possession case to court.

Information on mediation is available here.

9. Record:

Landlords should keep copies of all documentation and a record of all contact with the tenant and provide the information to the court should proceedings be necessary.

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