Our Continuing Support for Mary’s Meals

I posted a blog way back on 9th July 2014 about our firm’s support of Mary’s Meals.

Since the beginning of 2011 until July 2014 Mitchells Roberton has donated 450 filled backpacks to be gifted to children receiving Mary’s Meals. Mary’s Meals is a registered charity that sets up school feeding projects in some of the world’s poorest communities. It is a simple idea-by providing a daily meal in a place of education chronically poor children are attracted to the classroom where they can gain a basic education that provides an escape route from poverty.

Since July 2014 Mitchells Roberton has donated a further 145 backpacks each filled with a notebook, pencils, coloured pencils, a rubber and a pencil case. We also put in every pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, a towel, a new outfit, sandals, a ball and a spoon. All of this is funded from staff  and client donations.

Margaret Ritchie our receptionist who organises this project says “ It is a wonderful charity which Mitchells Roberton will continue to support.”

To find our more about this wonderful cause, please follow this link: http://www.marysmeals.org.uk/what-you-can-do/backpack-project/

Book Club- Katharine Grant – Sedition Q & A

sedition_uk_cover1Our book club choice for January was Sedition by Katharine Grant. We had the pleasure of having Katharine come to speak to us about her book. Katharine has written a number of children’s books but Sedition is her first adult novel. I was delighted that she took the time to answer some of my questions.

1. The date of Sedition, 1794, is very precise. Why did you choose 1794?

In revolutionary Paris, the Terror reaches its climax in 1794. London holds its breath. Will revolutionary fervour hit its streets? Will a guillotine be erected in every London square? For subversive fever and revolutionary excess, 1794 is a perfect year. Having said that, Sedition is not a novel of the Revolution. Harriet’s French shoes are the girls’ only experience of France. Rather, Sedition is a novel about revolution with a small ‘r’, or about how five girls, whilst doing exactly as their parents direct, contrive to do precisely the opposite. But 1794 gives Sedition a particular edge. That’s why I chose it with such care.

2. Sedition is quite hard to categorise in that it’s both tragic and comic. How do you think of it?

I can see the value of labels for books: they’ve got to be described somehow! But just as life is darkly comic, so I see Sedition. It’s interesting that when people talk about it, some foreground the comedy, others the tragedy. If I was the reader, not the writer, I’m not sure which way I’d fall.

3. Did the plot of Sedition arrive first, or the characters?

I could see the concert scene at the end of the book. I think that came first, then I heard the music – Bach’s Goldberg Variations – then the girls. Perhaps the plot was in my subconscious. It’s actually quite hard to remember. A bit like spring in the garden, a novel creeps up on you.

4. Did you draw on real people for the characters?

That’s for me to know, and the models to discover …

5. Who’s your favourite Sedition character?

A bit like your children, it’s hard to have a favourite amongst your creations. If readers hate a character, that’s signals success for the writer in that the character has made a real connection. So, in a rather contradictory way, the most hateful and hated character can sometimes be a writer’s favourite. Amongst the Sedition girls, I’d be friends with Harriet, want to make music with Annie, and be frightened of Alathea.

6. Do you have a routine for writing?

I try and always fail. Writing is hard – can feel like breaking stones. Procrastination is much easier! Research, though necessary, can also be a form of procrastination. My 2015 New Year’s resolution is to write at least 200 words every day, on the basis that once I start writing, it’s like oiling a hinge. And actually, once a novel has found its voice, I write obsessively, almost blind and deaf to anything else. Sedition was written mainly in my study at home, but also in the supermarket queue, the dentist’s waiting room, in various carparks, and at Glasgow Central Station. (I’m a ridiculous traveller: I like to arrive at least 30 minutes before my train leaves.)

7. If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

In an ideal life, I’d be a ballet dancer or a concert pianist. I think it’s a bit late for ballet! As for a concert pianist, I think people would pay to stay away …

8. Have you any advice for wannabe authors or even solicitors?

Writers of both novels and legal documents use the same tools. Use them with care to say precisely what you mean. The best friend of all writers is the delete button.

To learn more about the book please visit http://katharinegrant.com/

Advanced Medical Directive

An Advance Medical Directive (AMD), also commonly known as a Living Will, is a written statement of your wishes to refuse certain treatments in a specific situation.

In Scotland, any adult with capacity can refuse medical treatment. There may, however, come a time when you are unable to communicate your wishes or you no longer have the ability to make a decision regarding your treatment. An AMD is a way of preserving your right to make treatment decisions even when capacity has been lost.

Any adult over the age of 16 who has mental capacity can make an AMD. Having mental capacity means that you are able to understand the information relating to the decision you are making, retain the information for long enough to make the decision, weigh up the information involved in making the decision and communicate your decision in any way to your doctor or others caring for you.

Many believe there are benefits to making an AMD. You may feel more in control of your circumstances, future care or indeed the end of your life. You can avoid taxing treatment which may not always be helpful to you. Your family and healthcare team will know what you want and can respect your wishes thus making treatment decisions easier for your family. It can also help avoid disagreements about your care and treatment within your family or healthcare team.

Friends, family and Welfare Attorneys can use AMDs as evidence of your wishes to ensure that you are not being kept alive in a situation that you have decided would be intolerable for you. You can use an AMD to refuse any treatment, including life-sustaining treatment such as resuscitation, artificial nutrition and hydration or breathing machines. An AMD cannot be used to ask for your life to be ended.

In Scotland an AMD is highly likely to be legally binding if it is validly signed and witnessed with a solicitor’s certification that you understand the document and you have not been influenced by another person when writing your AMD. The treatment you have chosen to refuse in your ADM also must apply to your specific medical circumstances at the time of writing the directive.

Remember to let your healthcare professionals, next of kin, family, friends and Welfare Attorney ( if you have one) know you have made an AMD.  Also it is important to review your AMD regularly so you can be sure it is up to date and reflects your current wishes.

If you do not have an Advance Medical Directive nor have appointed a Welfare Attorney doctors will make the final decisions regarding your care.

If you would like to discuss an AMD please get in touch with me on 0141 552 3422 or by email eb@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

New Regulations Turn Up the Heat

As if you didn’t already have enough to think about , if you are a landlord ( residential or commercial) of a multi- let building you should be aware that there has been a recent change to legislation that affects all district heating, communal heating and cooling networks in the UK which is causing a shockwave throughout the property industry.  Articles 9, 10,11 and 13 of the EU Efficiency Directive 2012 set out a number of requirements regarding metering and billing on all new and existing heating  and cooling systems  which have been implemented in the UK through the Heat Network ( Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 which came into force on 18th December 2014.

All landlords of multi-let buildings who operate communal central heating systems are considered to be suppliers of heating, cooling or hot water and must comply with the new Regulations.

The introduction of the Regulations is staggered. The key deadlines being as follows :

  • By 30 April 2015 ( and then at least every 4 years) a supplier must notify the National Measurement Office (NMO) of the communal heating system and provide details of its location, the number and types of buildings it supplies, number of customers along with estimates for the yearly heating capacity, heat generated and heat supplied.
  • From 31 December 2014 where meters/heat cost allocators have been installed, suppliers must ensure that bills and billing information for the consumption of heating, cooling or hot water by a final customer are accurate and based on actual consumption. The customer should get a bill at least once a year and potentially quarterly. If the cost to provide this information exceeds £70.00 a year then the supplier will be relieved from this obligation.
  • From 31 December 2016 suppliers must :
  1. Install individual meters in buildings where there is more than one final customer and the building is supplied  by a communal heating system to measure consumption by each final customer. This includes existing and new systems.
  2. If meters cannot be installed because it would not be cost effective or technically possible the supplier must install heat cost allocators and thermostatic radiator valves on each radiator in order to calculate and enable each final customer to control its consumption. Hot water meters must also be installed.
  3. If the installation of individual meters or heat cost allocators cannot be achieved ,the supplier must use alternative methods of calculating charges for the supply of heating and hot water.
  4. A feasibility study must be completed by 31 December 2016. The Department of Energy and Climate Change has produced a toolkit to assist on the assessment of cost and technical feasibility.

A breach of the Regulations could result in a fine of up to £5000 per offence  plus daily penalties of £500 until the breach is remedied. No person will be prosecuted prior to 30 April 2015.

The government’s best estimate of the number of dwellings connected to such heating networks was 400,000 homes but the true figure is likely to be higher.

Do you have multi let buildings ?  If so you need to know about these Regulations. The heat is on. If you need further information please contact me by email rjl@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by telephoning me on 0141 552 3422 and I will be happy to help.

Stamp Duty Reforms – The New Facts

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his autumn statement on the 3 December 2014 made unexpected and radical reforms to the Stamp Duty system, these new rules coming into effect from midnight of that day.

What is Stamp Duty ?

Stamp Duty Land Tax, to give it its full name, is a tax you pay when you buy a house. The tax is calculated according to the purchase price of the property.

What are the changes ?

The changes apply to you if you are buying a home in the UK for over £125,000. These changes do not affect commercial properties.

Under the old rules you would have paid tax at a single rate on the entire purchase price.

Between £125,001 – £250,000  1%
Between £250,001 – £500,000  3%
Between £500,001 -£1m  4%
Between £1m -£2m  5%
Above £2 m  7%

Under the new rules you only pay the rate of tax on the part of the property within each tax band just like income tax. Below are the new rates.                            

Between £0 – £125,000 0%
Between £125,001- £250,000 2%
Between £250,001 – £925,000 5%
Between £925,001-31,500,000 10%
Between £1,500,001-over 12%

Therefore if you bought a house for £150,000 under the old regime you would have paid 1% of tax on the whole amount- a total of £1500 whereas buying the same house under the new rules means you will not pay any tax on the first £125,000 and 2% on the remaining £25,000. This works out at £500, a saving of £1000. If you were buying a house at  £300,000 before 4 December 2014 the Stamp Duty would have been  £9000 but now there would be no tax to pay on the first £125,000 , then 2% on the next £125,000 (£2500) and 5% on the last £50,000 (£2500) making a total of £5000.

Is this good news for everyone?

HM Treasury advises that Stamp Duty will be cut for 98% of people who pay it. However, anyone spending more than £937,000 will face a higher bill. If you are purchasing a home for £2.1m you will be liable for tax of £165,750 under the new regime versus £147,000 previously.

Changes in Scotland

In Scotland the new rates will apply only until the 1 April 2015 when the Land and Buildings Tax replaces Stamp Duty. This will also be calculated like income tax. There will be a tax free allowance of £145,000 on each transaction. Above that there will three bands:

Between £145,001 – £250,000 2%
Between £250.001 – £325,000 5%
Between £325,001- £750,000 10%
£750,000 and over 12%

If you would like to discuss the impact of this new land tax please contact me on 0141-552-3422 or by email rjl@mitchells-roberton.co.uk and I will do my best to help.

My Top Tips to Sell Your Home

Mark Hordern of GSPC on 1 October 2014 commented that the “property market in Glasgow and the West of Scotland lost momentum over the summer as house price growth and selling times stalled. But much of the apparent ‘pause’ in the market could be attributed to one off events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Referendum on Independence.” That said, Professor Gwilym Pryce , Director of Sheffield Methods Institute at Sheffield University who has analysed recent GSPC’s sales data points out there are some early indicators that activity levels are now recovering and there is the  prospect that many would-be movers who had put their sales on hold will now look to make up for lost time.

So the housing market remains uncertain but it is not all doom and gloom. There are always things you can do to maximise your chances of selling your property. Here are my top tips……

  1. Choose the right estate agent

Selling a house is a stressful business so choosing the right estate agent who is going to minimise worry and maximise results is a vital first step. This is where Mitchells Roberton can help .As lawyers and members of GCPC we provide an outstanding sales service. The firm has an impressive track record of selling houses. Our experience, together with probably the best property advertising package available, ensures your home will get maximum exposure. If you would like a free, no obligation valuation of your home please contact me Bridie Gillan on bg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk  or by phoning 0141-552-3422.

  1. Take home price indices with a pinch of salt when establishing an asking price

At the moment we are being constantly bombarded with conflicting reports of house prices rising and falling. So often these contradictions exist because they rely on different data. For example Nationwide and Halifax house price indices base average property values on mortgage valuations whereas the Land Register records what the home actually changed hands for. The Rightmove house price index uses asking prices. With twenty three years of experience , being a qualified pre-sale valuer and having an intimate knowledge of the property market in the West of Scotland I can assist you when it comes to establishing  the best asking price for your home. Just contact me on bg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by phoning 0141-552-3422.

  1. Increase your property’s ‘kerb appeal’

First impressions are crucial. You want a potential buyer to walk up the path already feeling impressed and wanting to see more. So make sure your garden is clean and tidy, an overgrown jungle could see a purchaser running miles. Put up hanging plants, move bins out of view and clear away anything unsightly. If your gate or fence looks tired brighten it up with a lick of paint. A well maintained or newly painted front door will create great impact. Do you have a doorbell? Does it work? Inspect your roof and windows. Make sure there are no slipped tiles or leaking gutters and that the windows have no flaky paint and that they open properly. Check the render or cladding on the exterior of your property. Exterior problems may put potential purchasers off if they think there is a larger underlying problem which simple maintenance and attention before putting the property on the market could rectify. I can recommend reliable tradesmen if needed.

  1. Spruce up

Making your home attractive does not mean an expensive decorative overhaul. The chances are the buyer won’t like your decor in any event and it will be replaced as soon as they move in but you should freshen up rooms with a coat of paint in a neutral colour making them as light and airy as possible.  Are your carpets and floor coverings clean?  A mirror hung in the hall can give the suggestion of more space and a few vases of fresh flowers or some plants can freshen up your house. If you do have a pet ask a friend or relative to look after them during viewings. You may love your furry friend but a buyer may not. Don’t forget the detail either so get round to those annoying little maintenance jobs such as a long overdue light bulb change and a clean of the grouting and sealant in the bathroom. Again I can recommend reliable tradesmen if needed.

  1. De-clutter

A de-clutter is a must. Purchasers need to be able to picture themselves living in the house so it is essential that each room is shown off to highlight its purpose. If your dining room table is covered in work papers or an exercise bike is in the room move them out and return the room to its original use. It is important also to de-personalise. Try to remove personal pictures and ornaments. Take down posters in the kids bedrooms and clear the kitchen work surfaces so potential purchasers can see the potential in the house and where they would put their own items.

  1. Stay out of the way

Your house is now ready and has been placed on the market. You have freshly ground coffee perculating as your potential purchasers come to view. Let them wander freely around the house with the agent. You want them to feel comfortable and to be able to spend time looking at each room freely. Of course you should be ready to answer any questions after the viewing.

  1. Choose the best buyer

Once the offers are on the table your next big job is to choose the most reliable purchaser. Safer buyers include ones who have already sold and are in rented accommodation , chain free first time buyers and cash purchasers but you might not have the luxury of this choice if you only have one offer. Obviously there are other considerations such as how quickly you need to sell and whether you have found your own new home.

  1. Consider alternatives

You may have followed all my tips but in the current market there are no cast iron guarantees that your property will sell. So do not be down-hearted. If your motivation to move is space then consider building an extension. It will provide the generous extra space you need and add value to your property until the market is more buoyant.

I am always here to answer any questions you may have by contacting me on bg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by phoning 0141-552-3422. Happy selling !

Found your dream home? Follow these tips

With the right advice buying your home needn’t be stressful. Despite a conveyancing transaction being relatively routine and commonplace many people are mystified about the process actually involved so I hope this simple step by step guide will help you.

STEP  1. Get in touch

When you’ve found your dream property please call us on 0141 552 3422. We will then contact the estate agent marketing the property to let them know you are interested and to find out if there is a closing date. We will discuss with you how you will be funding the purchase and can put you in touch with an independent mortgage adviser if required. At this point we will advise you what our fees will be. Our fees are very competitive and represent excellent value for money. We will also get ID from you as required under money laundering regulations. This initial consultation is FREE.

Step 2.  We send the offer

Once all of the above is in place we will send the seller’s estate agent the offer. Our conveyancers know the local market inside and out and can help you get the best possible deal on your new home. If the offer is acceptable the estate agent will pass it to the seller’s solicitor who normally will issue what is known as a “qualified acceptance”. This is basically an acceptance of your offer with conditions attached. We will then negotiate these conditions for you. This process is known as the “Missives”. The missives are not one document but are a series of letters exchanged between the purchaser’s and seller’s solicitors negotiating the deal on your behalf. Contrary to popular belief these do not need to be signed by the purchaser or the seller.

Step 3. Title deeds and reports

At this point we receive certain documents from the seller’s solicitor. These will contain the title deeds and reports relating to the property. “Title to the property” is the legal way of saying that the seller owns it and thus has the right to sell it. If the seller does not have this right because the title is defective in some way then title cannot pass to you. We will therefore examine the title deeds to ensure that everything is in order. If there are any doubts about the titles we will resolve matters at this stage. We will also enquire as to whether the property has had any alterations carried out and whether it has been or could be affected by coal mining. We will receive a Property Enquiry Report which details various matters relating to the property and its immediate surroundings such as drainage and road proposals. An account of the titles and reports will be given to you. We pride ourselves on the quality of our communication and clarity of our advice so our explanation of the titles should be readily understood. Our conveyancers are all friendly and approachable and will  gladly answer any questions you may have.

Step 4  We exchange documents with the seller’s solicitor

Now we will prepare a disposition which is the deed signed by the seller that formally transfers title to the property to you. Once agreement has been reached with the seller’s solicitor on the terms of the missives, titles and reports, the missives for your purchase are concluded which means there is a binding contract in place between yourself and the seller with a date of entry , being the date your new home will legally be yours.

Step 5 .The Standard Security

We will take your instructions regarding the mortgage and explain in clear terms just what you are getting into. As the mortgage is secured against your home it is very important that you understand the terms of your mortgage. We will get the Standard Security signed and report on the title to your lender. We will also request your loan funds from the Bank ensuring these are received in sufficient time for settlement.

Step 6.The House is paid for

At this point the financial aspects of the transaction are settled. The price of the house is paid together with the fees for registering your ownership of the property with the Registers of Scotland. We will also submit the Stamp Duty Land Tax Form on your behalf and if the value of the property exceeds £125,000 we will arrange payment of the stamp duty due. SDLT (if due) is paid.

Step 7 Moving in day.

Now you are on your own! Remember to check that everything is working in your new home and let us know of any faults immediately. Good luck and we wish you much happiness in your new property.