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£500 fine for carrying your decking home from B&Q?

I used to think I’d be in a whole heap of trouble if anyone ever caught me taping the Top 40 off the radio on my ghetto blaster, trying to perfect the art of pressing stop before Bruno Brookes or Mark Goodier started talking again. I’ve considerably moved on technologically since then, as Alexa will play pretty much whatever I want just at my command…although my music taste is still stuck quite firmly in the 1980s!

And illegally recording music off Radio1 really was the worst of my crimes…or so I believed. It turns out that us law-abiding citizens may not be quite as innocent as first thought!

Whilst mainly redundant now, and probably not enforced quite as strenuously as other crimes did you know you could still be nicked in England for carrying a plank of wood down the pavement, bringing potatoes into the country from Poland or trying to flag down a taxi or ride the bus whilst knowingly having the plague. And if you’ve ever ‘handled a salmon in suspicious circumstances’, watch out!

Here are some of the weird and wonderful laws still enforceable in the UK:

  1. Knocking on someone’s door and running away, definitely one of the more entertaining games of my childhood
  2. Allowing your servants to clean or paint windows/frames whilst standing on the sill – I shall have words with my servants immediately!
  3. It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour. Even if you did have it laid out ready to wear…back to the suit and tie
  4. It is also illegal to handle salmon in suspicious circumstances – Some salmon do get themselves into dodgy situations
  5. Ladies aren’t allowed to eat chocolate on public transport – Hide the Twirl until you’re off the bus ladies
  6. If you happen to be in York and see a Scotsman, it is perfectly legal to shoot him with a crossbow – EXCEPT on Sundays
  7. Placing a postage stamp upside down on an envelope is an act of treason – You can get sent to the Tower of London for treason!
  8. And…it is illegal to be drunk in the pub – …woops

You may or may not have any concerns about the aforementioned laws – but if you require up-to-date, friendly advice on a current issue, please contact us at Sousa Law on 023 8071 3060 for a free, no-obligation chat or complete an enquiry form to request more information

Advice on travelling abroad with children post separation

The summer holidays are fast approaching.  You’ve booked that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disney World and arrive at the airport.  The children are excited and you manage to keep them entertained for the duration of the flight without too many complaints from other passengers!

You arrive at your destination and proceed to passport control.  The officer behind the screen examines your passports and notices that your children have a different surname to you.  Questions are asked about your situation and whether you can produce written consent from the other parent who has parental responsibility.  You can’t.  The holiday is cut short and you are swiftly returned to the UK with your children.

This is not an uncommon situation.  Many parents post separation, do not realise that permission is required by all people with Parental Responsibility, in order to remove a child from the jurisdiction.  The only exception to this rule is if you have a Child Arrangements Order, or an old residence order stating that the child ‘lives with’ you.  If you have been to court and have such an order, you are able to remove the child from the jurisdiction for up to 28 days without the consent of the other parent.

So, what should you take with you when travelling with your child?

Birth Certificate

If your child has a different surname to you, it is advisable to carry a copy of their birth certificate.

Court Order

If there is a court order in place, this should be taken as well.

Written Consent

In the event that you do not have a court order, you should take with you the written consent of the other parent with parental responsibility.

It is important to remember that at some point, both parents may wish to travel abroad with your child.  If the other parent refuses to provide written consent, you can try alternative methods of dispute resolution to discuss the concerns and to try and find a solution.  This could be by attending Mediation, or through the Collaborative Law process.  In the event that an agreement cannot be reached, you may have to apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order.

So when you’re packing the sun cream and other holiday essentials, remember to add these things to your travel checklist:

  1. Child’s birth certificate;
  2. Child Arrangements Order, if you have one;
  3. If there is no court order in place, the written Consent of the people with parental responsibility of your child.  

 

Naomi Lelliott, Family Mediation Solicitor

How do you choose who to use?

Often, when buying or selling a property, people feel under pressure to use a conveyancer recommended by their estate agent. Or if they are purchasing a new build property, a conveyancer recommended by the developer. In the case of the latter, use of a developer’s recommended solicitor is often tied in with the developer agreeing to pay legal fees. The other option, of course, is to use a solicitor sourced by you. So how do you choose who to use?

Most estate agents with a national presence will recommend a conveyancing firm which deals with a large volume of transactions. In such cases, the usual internal set-up within such firms means that transactions are dealt with by large teams, with the consequence that you may speak to one person one day and another person the next. Additionally, whilst each team will have a team leader, the sheer volume of calls received means that it is often difficult to speak directly with that team leader about a problem or concern that you may have.

As for conveyancers recommended by developers – there can be advantages; such as the conveyancer having a more in-depth knowledge of the development site due to the large volume of transactions they will have acted on in relation to a particular development – but you have to wonder if this will lead to blinkered advice. Consider, for example, the news over the last few years regarding new build leasehold properties rendered un-saleable due to their rent escalation clauses. Had the conveyancers not had such a close relationship with the developers would they have scrutinised the set-up and the leases more thoroughly and would their advice to their clients have been different?

At the end of the day the choice is yours…and when making your decision, keep the following things in mind:

  • Don’t make your decision purely based on price or incentives; do some research. If your conveyancer doesn’t do the job properly, the costs of rectifying a problem or mistake could cost you more in the long run than the money that you will initially save.
  • Where a recommendation is made by an estate agent, ask the estate agent if they are receiving a referral fee from the conveyancer.
  • If your conveyancer is too busy, they will find it difficult to deal with your case as quickly as you may want them to. If you have timescales for exchange and completion in mind, let your conveyancer know from the outset and ask if they can meet these timescales.
  • Above all, the best way to make sure that you make the right choice is by speaking with the person who will be acting for you, and asking any questions that you may have regarding the process.

 

Lana Farrell, Head of Property

This article does not constitute legal advice and is for general information purposes only.

I recently read a New York Times article by Jon Karborn about making a deathbed playlist.  The article suggested that as well as your Will, your Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) and Advance Statements, you should also make a deathbed playlist or “singing will” as the author calls his.   Whereas people often consider what music they would like played at their funeral (in my opinion, it never seems to be loud enough – I want mine played LOUD!), they have not given thought to what they would like to be played as they die.

Lovely idea I thought, but how to choose…… it’s kind of like when people ask you what is your favourite song – so many, it’s impossible to say.  Who knows what I may feel like listening to as I lie dying??? If I’m in pain, will I feel like hearing anything too loud or heavy? – this from the person who thinks about whether, if she has a car crash and is lying trapped and unable to reach the stereo, the music she has chosen for the journey may turn out to be really irritating.

Is it best just to ensure that those who are close to you know what music you like and hope they will choose the right thing?  I had the privilege of being with my Dad as he was dying.  I hope I made the right choice of music.  I had already made some various CDs for him over the years because music was one of the few things he was still able to connect with and enjoy as his Alzheimer’s progressed.  On one of the days I lay on the bed beside him and sang along to one of the home-made CDs – some of his favourites and some I hoped he would like, I remember in particular Minnie Driver’s “Everything I’ve Got in My Pocket” seemed to be pertinent and soothing and has become very precious to me now.  Then Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (something he had had on repeat a few years before)  and Hayley Westenra, among others.  It was a sad but very special time.

So, what to do…… Maybe I will make a few lists, keep my iPod close (iPod- is that a bit retro now?), and share my thoughts on the matter with those I love.   There will definitely be some Frazey Ford – currently on repeat for me. I guess, as with a Will, you should review your playlist if you get married, divorced, experience something life-changing (or every five years in any event 😊) because, as we all know, these things can affect how you experience the music…

And I know I must get round to those LPAs soon!

Click here to read the full article in the New York Times

 

Louisa Hollely, Solicitor

 

It’s come to that point in your relationship where you’ve decided you no longer see a future with your partner.

You’ve heard stories from friends, family members, even colleagues about their divorces/separations.  How they were costly and time-consuming.  How both parties came out of the process feeling like they’d lost time, money, relationships – and yet still had to try to find a way to work together moving forward because they had children.  Resentment, bitterness, anger are all emotions linked with the memory of break-ups.  Surely, you think, there must be another way.  An alternative to fighting.  To Court.  To Acrimony.  A way that enables both you and your partner to move forward from the relationship positively, preserving your parenting relationship and allowing you to co-parent into the future.  To make joint decisions for the benefit of your children.  To put the needs of your family first, as opposed to having a stranger deciding what they believe is right for you.  There is an alternative: It’s called mediation.

Mediation is a confidential and voluntary process.  It enables people to have discussions in a safe, impartial environment, allowing them to road-test ideas to find the best solution for them and their families.  Mediation can be utilised at any stage of the process – whether you’re considering separating and want to discuss the contents of the divorce petition with your spouse, or whether you’re engrained in court proceedings and want to find a way to communicate with your partner constructively, and take back control of what will happen to your finances; mediation helps thousands of couples to separate positively. 

Before you can issue an application with the court for financial or children matters, you must first attend a Mediation, Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).  At this meeting, a mediator will discuss with you the options available for resolving matters outside of the court arena.  These options are cost-effective alternatives which enable you and your partner to be in control of the outcome of your separation.  Many topics can be discussed including divorce, financial matters, children and matters surrounding separation and cohabitation.  It is your process, so the length and number of sessions required depends entirely on your needs.  There is nothing to lose from attempting mediation, and potentially so much to gain.  So why not give it a go – what have you got to lose?

Remember, you can self-refer to mediation. So if you would like more information, please contact Sousa Law on 02380 713060 or email Naomi Lelliott

 

This article does not constitute legal advice and is for general information purposes only.

Do you have an anti-social garden?

Is there a pretty bamboo like plant that appears in your garden during summer, which comes back year after year, with lovely white flowers and grows up to approximately 7 metres in height? If so, your garden could be harbouring Japanese Knotweed.

Whilst the presence of Japanese Knotweed in your garden is not illegal, if it is deemed to be having a detrimental effect on neighbouring property and not being kept under control, action could be brought against you and you could find yourself receiving a Community Protection Notice under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. In more extreme cases, you could even face a custodial sentence!  As the land owner, the onus is on you to control and remedy the problem.

 

Furthermore, the presence of Japanese Knotweed can have a detrimental impact on your property. Some banks will refuse to lend on a property that is affected, and the presence of the plant has been known to significantly reduce property values. This has been demonstrated in recent cases Waistell & Williams v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd and Smith v Line 2017

 

Identifying it

Typically it is at this time of the year that Japanese Knotweed likes to reappear. Its starts off as little shoots (looking very similar to asparagus), with bright pink buds, these then open up into green heart shaped leaves. The shoots can grow as much as 10 cm in height per day and once fully grown, it can be as tall as 7 meters – not something easy to miss! The stems themselves are hollow and mainly green but have a distinctive purple speckles and the arms of the plant always form a zig-zag pattern. Come winter it will die off and look like brittle light grey bamboo canes.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Action

As a highly invasive plant Japanese Knotweed is notorious for being able to break through foundations, concrete, tarmac and bricks. With a root system that can be 3 metres deep and 7 metres in each direction eradicating it is a complex task. Just leaving behind as little as 2 mm of root will allow it to come back.

The plant and any part of it are classed as controlled waste. Whilst you are allowed to burn the plant at home before doing so you must allow it to fully dry out on your property before burning it and the remains of this must also be disposed of at a licensed landfill site. However, the majority of purchasers, and those lenders willing to lend on a property that has been affected by Japanese Knotweed, will want to know that the plant has been or is being properly dealt with. It is therefore prudent that you procure the services of a company specialising in the removal of Japanese Knotweed who should provide you with a treatment plan and warranty which can be passed on to a buyer or lender.

If properly dealt with the existence of Japanese Knotweed in your garden need not spell disaster for you or your home.

 

Georgina Pickering, Conveyancer

Sunday 20th May 2018

Join Sousa Law at the annual Alresford Watercress Festival this Sunday for a fun packed day for all the family

  • The Watercress Festival Awards 2018
  • Best BBQ competition
  • World Watercress Eating Championships
  • Live music
  • Circus skills workshops
  • Morris dancing
  • Petting farm
  • Local, fresh food and drink…watercress cocktail, anyone?!

You can find the Sousa Law stand down Station Road, near the Swan pub – your kids can decorate fans… or their faces, with glitter, and make friendship bracelets! There will also be incredibly delicious tray bakes available – come and have a taste!
For more information, check out our event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/180851042573980/

Although it is said that one person in the UK develops dementia every three minutes, the fact of the matter is that many people lose capacity through accidents or other health conditions which occur unexpectedly.

It’s not just about getting old…

The most common conditions relating to a lack of capacity are:

  • stroke
  • coma
  • delirium
  • concussion
  • severe mental health problems
  • neuro-disability/brain injury
  • alcohol and drug misuse
  • Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia

You cannot assume that if you were to lose capacity your relatives would automatically have the power to deal with your finances/welfare without having a Power of Attorney in place.  Once your banks and other financial institutions find out that you’ve lost capacity, they will freeze your accounts (including joint accounts) and assets.

The key is to get a Lasting Power of Attorney before you need it!

So what is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?

Admittedly, it’s not fun thinking about (or talking about) losing your faculties, but for many people in the UK, it is a fact of life. 

If you are having difficulty making decisions, or you need help managing your finances, you must prepare a legal document for a trusted family member or friend to help look after your affairs. If you lose capacity, your family members cannot simply walk into a bank and pull out money for you!
They must hold a registered legal document, known as a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in order to do so, or obtain a Deputyship Order from the Court of Protection. It can be both costly and time consuming to obtain a Deputyship Order, which is not helpful if monies need to be paid out on your behalf, or decisions must be made urgently.

The Health and Welfare and/or Property and Affairs

Mention an LPA and many people will automatically think of a person’s finances – but there are two types to consider:

  • health and welfare
  • finance and property

In a nutshell, the health and welfare document allows a nominated individual to make decisions over day-to-day healthcare and medical treatments, as well as deal with any health and social care staff. Whereas, the finance and property document allows a nominated individual to pay your bills, sell your property, withdraw money from your accounts, and see to your day-to-day finances.

Additionally, the health and welfare document cannot be used unless or until a person has actually lost capacity. In contrast,  when you make the application for the finance and property document, you decide at that time whether or not you want your attorneys to be able to make decisions before and/or after you lose capacity.

Do you already have an LPA?

If you paid to register a Power of Attorney in England or Wales between April 2013 and March 2017, you may now be due a refund of up to £54 on the registration fee. Some 1.7 million applications are thought to have been affected – click the link below to see how to claim back the money owed to you:

https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/family/power-of-attorney#refund

Kristen Woods, Solicitor

From 1st April 2018, the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 imposed Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) on commercial and domestic properties that are being rented.

MEES apply to most types of commercial and domestic lettings. These new standards make it an offence for landlords of commercial and domestic properties to renew or grant a new lease of premises for a term of more than 6 months, in circumstances where the property has an Energy Performance Certificate rating within bands F and G. In the meantime, that is not to say that any lease entered into will become void – rather such a lease will remain enforceable and valid. It just means that the landlord may find that penalties are issued for non-compliance with the MEES.

From 1st April 2020 in the case of domestic property, and 1st April 2023 in the case of commercial property, a landlord will not be able to continue to let an already let property where the Energy Efficiency Rating falls within band F or G.

There are some circumstances in which a landlord may claim an exemption, e.g. if compliance would reduce the market value of the property by more than 5%. Exemptions must be recorded on the PRS Exemptions Register and will only be valid for 5 years. On the sale of a property, a registered exemption will not pass to the new owner. If a landlord has registered false or misleading information on the Register, penalties of up to £1,000 for domestic properties and £5,000 for commercial properties can be imposed.

If the enforcing authority believes that there has been a breach of the relevant regulations, it may, within 12 months of the suspected breach, serve upon a landlord a compliance notice requesting information to enable the authority to determine if a breach has occurred. Non-compliance with a notice is subject to a maximum penalty of £2,000 for domestic properties and £5,000 for commercial properties; additionally details of the penalty may be published.

Where the enforcing authority decides to impose a financial penalty for breach of MEES, the maximum penalties are as follows:

  • A breach of less than 3 months will, in the case of domestic property, be subject to a maximum penalty of £2,000 rising to the greater of £5,000 or 10% of the rateable value (up to £50,000) in respect of commercial property
  • A breach of 3 months or more will, in the case of domestic property, be subject to a penalty of up to £4,000 rising to the greater of £10,000 or 20% of the rateable value (up to £150,000) in respect of a commercial property.

Either of these penalties may be combined with penalties for non-compliance with a compliance notice and/or registering false or misleading information on the PRS Exemptions Register. In the case of a domestic property, if combined, the maximum penalty that can be imposed is £5,000 for a single domestic property.

In addition to imposing a financial penalty the relevant enforcing authority may also publish some details of the breach on a publicly accessible part of the PRS Exemptions Register.

If you are a landlord and have not already done so, you should be reviewing your portfolio ensuring that EPCs are current, ascertaining if improvements are required and whether or not the costs of such improvements can be passed on to your tenants.

Detailed Government guidance for landlords can be found on the internet by clicking on the following links:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/698541/Domestic_Private_Rented_Landlord_Guidance_-_March_18.pdf

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/656541/Non-Dom_Private_Rented_Property_Minimum_Standard_-_Landlord_Guidance.pdf

This article does not constitute legal advice and is for general information purposes only.

 

Lana Farrell, Head of Property

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