We Need More Houses

A recently published White Paper on the housing market in England described it as “broken”. According to the White Paper the reason for this is simple- not enough houses are being built, now and in the past and supply significantly lags behind demand. It is estimated that 160,000 new homes have been built annually in England since the 1970s but the actual supply needed to keep up with an increase in population and a historic under-supply of housing is believed to be closer to 250,000.

And it is not the lack of land to build on which is the problem, with only 11% of English land currently built on. Instead the White Paper blames the chronic under-supply of housing on three main factors namely:

  • There are not enough local authorities planning for the homes they need
  • House building is too slow
  • The construction industry is too reliant on a small number of big players

The gap between demand and supply has of course an impact on house prices. Since 1998 the ratio of average house prices to average earnings has apparently more than doubled, making home ownership unaffordable for millions of people. The Coúncil of Mortgage Lenders predicts that by 2020 only a quarter of 30 year olds will own their own home.

Scotland faces similar problems. According to industry body Homes for Scotland the total number of new houses being built in Scotland each year is still down 40% on pre-recession levels, whilst the country’s population has grown to its highest ever level.

“As Sajid Javid said, the root cause of the housing shortage is the simple fact that not enough houses have been built, and that applies equally in Scotland”,commented Nicola Barclay, Chief Executive of Homes for Scotland.

“We need to move away from thinking of housing policy  in terms of election cycles and narrowly focusing on ‘affordable housing’  and instead look at the requirements for all tenures over the next 15-20 years” she added.

“We also need to be brave about the issues that are holding housing back, like the availability of land and the provision of infrastructure, or we will never have enough homes to meet the diverse needs and aspirations of those living in Scotland” she said.

If you intend to buy or sell property in Scotland, I can help. Please contact me Marcus Downie on 0141 552 3422 or by email on marcus@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

Whose Home Is It Any Way?

When a relationship ends one of the most vexing concerns for many is whether one person can force the other to leave a shared family home.

There are three typical scenarios.

  • Firstly if a couple are married or in a civil partnership and the property is owned by only one person or the tenancy is in the name of only one person, the person who owns the house or holds the tenancy has the right to stay there. That said they cannot force their spouse or civil partner to leave, as a “non-entitled” spouse or civil partner has the right to continue to live there. If the property owner wants to sell they would need to obtain the consent of their spouse or civil partner .If that consent was unreasonably withheld then a court order would be required to waive the need for consent. The only way in which a spouse or civil partner can remove a former partner is to raise a court action and seek an exclusion order. The threshold needed for success in this is very high and an exclusion order is only granted for the protection of any spouse or civil partner or child of the family. It is frequently granted in cases of domestic abuse.
  • Secondly if both parties are joint owners or tenants then both have the right to occupy the home and again neither can evict the other unless an exclusion order is obtained. If one person wants to sell and the other does not then an action of division and sale needs to be raised for the court to order a sale. The other party can ask the court to postpone or delay the sale and sometimes the court will do this if there are children of the marriage and there is no alternative accommodation.
  • Thirdly if a couple are cohabiting and only one person is the owner or tenant the other is still protected and cannot be locked out or forced to move. However the cohabitant’s right to occupy is not automatic and he or she has to have the right declared by the court with a right to occupy, if granted, only lasting for six months although the court can extend it for another six months. Where cohabitants are joint owners or tenants then neither can force the other to move out and if one party wishes to sell and the other does not then an action of division and sale will need to be raised. Unlike spouses or civil partners cohabitants do not have the same rights to ask the court to postpone or refuse a decree of sale.

If you would like advice on any of the issues raised above please contact Fiona Wayman on 0141 552 3422 or by email fhw@mitchells-roberton.co.uk.

Wheelchair v Buggy

Bus drivers must pressure passengers to make room for wheelchair users.

Wheelchair user Doug Paulley was refused entry to a FirstGroup bus in 2012 when a mother with a pushchair refused to move from the wheelchair space when asked, claiming that the pushchair could not be folded. Mr Paulley was left at the bus stop. He argued that FirstGroup’s “requesting not requiring policy” was discriminatory.

On 18 January 2017, the Supreme Court found that FirstGroup did not discriminate against Mr Paulley. However, they did rule that drivers must do more to accommodate wheelchair users by considering different ways to persuade non-wheelchair users to vacate the space, without making it a legal duty to move them.

Lord Neuberger, the Supreme Court president, said that if a non-wheelchair user unreasonably refuses the driver’s request to move , the driver should consider further action to pressure the non- wheelchair user to vacate the space, depending on the circumstances.

FirstGroup said the ruling meant drivers would not have to remove customers from their vehicles while Mr Paulley said the decision would make a “major difference.”

Penny Mordaunt, the Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, will discuss with the Department for Transport “clarity, good practice and the transport providers to ensure this ruling becomes a reality.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission described the Supreme Court ruling as “a victory for disabled people’s rights” and “a hugely important decision”. Chairman, David Isaac, said “Public transport is essential for disabled people to live independently, yet bus companies have not made it easy for this to happen.”

“For years, wheelchair users have been deterred from using vital public transport links because they could not be sure they will be able to get on.“

But it does seem that the driver has to decide whether the person being asked to move is being unreasonable in their refusal. If so, the drive must tell them they are required to move and if necessary refuse to move the bus until they shift.

Chris Fry, Mr Paulley’s solicitor said the ruling had fallen short. “The judgement should have gone further – there’s no right as things stand to force someone off a bus. So it goes as far as that, but not that far as yet.”

As one wheelchair user on BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire Programme said “It’s kind of back to square one.”

If you have any questions or if we can help in any way then please contact Paul Neilly on 0141 552 3422 or by email pdn@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

New Legislation Relating to Car Seats

Confused about car seats?  No wonder, as new legislation is pending and obviously when buying a car seat for your baby or child it’s crucial that you know the current car seat legislation. There are lots of different rules and exceptions to these rules depending on how old your child is which does make it complicated.

The current law which changed in 2006 states:

All children travelling in a car must use the correct car seat appropriate to their weight or height, until they are either

  • 135cm tall or
  • 12 years of age.

After that they can use an adult seat belt.

The same rules apply to children with disabilities, unless a doctor confirms they’re exempt on medical grounds.

Recently there have been reports in the media about backless car seat laws changing and booster cushions being banned. Backless boosters are the simplest and cheapest car seats. They’re basically bottom seats that raise the height of your child. This helps the seat belt give better protection in the event of a crash, but there’s no side or head protection. The new rules are being introduced because many experts think backless booster seats are unsuitable for young children. They argue that small children aren’t held as securely in the seat, that the adult seat belt isn’t guided across their body in the best way, and that backless booster seats offer no protection for a child if a car is involved in a side-impact crash.

However booster seats will not be banned under any new legislation. In fact the reason the law makers say they won’t ban booster cushions is because some parents need them, particularly if they have small cars and they believe that it is better for parents to have a backless booster than no child seat at all.

What is going to happen is a change in the height and age when children can use backless booster seats. At the moment booster cushions fall under the Group2/3 car seat category, meaning they can be used by children as young as 3 or weighing only 15kg. The new extension recommends children use backless booster cushions only once a child is 125cm in height or taller and weighing more than 22kg which is roughly around 7 years old.  The new rules will bring us in line with European countries such as Germany and France.

From January 2017 manufacturers will no longer make booster cushions for smaller children, only the backless boosters for children over 125cm tall.  Any changes in the law will apply only to new products, not child restraint systems that are already in use and meet existing safety standards but undoubtedly the change in law will make parents re-think the safety of their family vehicle.

The ruling for new products will not be mandatory until implemented into European legislation and is not in force as yet but is expected to be introduced in March of this year. Adults found in breach of the revised legislation will face fines of up to £500.

Lose the High Heels and the Make-Up and Make a Fuss

Shocking examples of workplace sexism were laid bare in a major Government report prompted by a London office worker being sent home from work without pay for refusing to wear high heels. Nicola Thorp who was employed as a temporary worker by PwC’s outsourced reception firm, Portico, launched a campaign after her experience. Within a few days her petition had over 100,000 signatures and sparked a huge debate about workplace dress rules. An enquiry was instigated by the Petitions and Women and Equalities committees with a report being released this month calling on MPs to review the law.

The report said “We heard from hundreds of women who told us about the pain and long-term damage caused by wearing high heels for long periods in the workplace, as well as from women who had been required to dye their hair blond, to wear revealing outfits and to constantly apply make-up.”

“The Government has said that the existing law is clear and that the dress code that prompted this petition is already unlawful. Nevertheless, discriminatory dress codes remain widespread.”

“It is therefore clear that the existing law is not fully effective in protecting employees from discrimination at work. We call on the Government to review this area of the law and to ask Parliament to change it, if necessary, to make it more effective.”

Ms Thorp said “This may have started over a pair of high heels, but what it has revealed about discrimination in the UK workplace is vital, as demonstrated by the hundreds of women who came forward.”

“The current system favours the employer and is failing employees. It is crucial that the law is amended.”

Campaign group, the Fawcett Society, told the enquiry that requiring women to abide by gendered dress codes, often of a sexualised nature, sent out the message that their appearance was of more value than their skills, experience or voices.

“Having a society where it is normal to judge women in their professional life by their appearance and their shoes is not just ridiculous but demeans women.”

“Employers need to focus on what drives productivity and enables their staff to feel part of a team. It isn’t a pair of high heels.”

That everyday sexism exists is concerning enough but the bigger problem is how to tackle it. When it comes to less overt and unconscious acts of daily sexism the line between acceptable and unacceptable, lawful and unlawful, insulting and jocular becomes much harder to define or even recognise. It is about changing mind sets and workplace culture, alongside writing policies and setting rules.

The report does recommend that a publicity campaign be launched to ensure that employers know their legal obligations and that workers know how they can complain effectively and I hope they do.

A German Prisoner of War left £384,000 in his will to the Perthshire village of Comrie

Heinrich Steinmeyer , a member of Hitler’s Waffen SS  was only  19 when he was captured in Normandy shortly after  D-Day, in August 1944. He was classed with a C designation which meant he was considered a hard-line Nazi, completely committed to the cause and dangerous. He was sent to  the Prisoner of War camp at Cultybraggan by Comrie and was held there from September 1944 to June 1945. He was then dispatched to Watten in Caithness, another maximum security Nazi Camp and at the end of the war he spent time at a camp in Ladybank , Fife.

But Steinmyer said he was only shown kindness by the villagers of Comrie which he had not expected and the experience had such an impact on him that he returned to Comrie after the war and made lasting friendships. He vowed that when he died he would leave everything he owned for the benefit of the elderly in the community of Comrie.

His Will read “I would like to express my gratitude to the people of Scotland for the kindness and generosity that I have experienced in Scotland during my imprisonment during the war and thereafter.”

When he died at the age of 90 in 2014 his ashes were scattered in the hills above the camp where he had been held. Two and a half years later his bequest of £384,000 was gifted to the village’s local community trust and has now been transferred to a special Heinrich Steinmeyer Fund set up by Comrie Development Trust as a separate account.

Andrew Reid from the Comrie Development Trust said “This story is about Heinrich Steinmyer’s gratitude for how he was treated and welcomed in this village and other parts of Scotland.”

“ Heinrich’s personal history is an amazing story of friendship and appreciation and people in Comrie will both honour and benefit from his legacy.”

Mr Steinmyer was born in 1924 and grew up in Silesia (which became part of East German) with only basic education. He came from a “very poor” family and worked as an apprentice butcher on a pitiful wage. He joined the SS aged 17 and was captured in a fight for a bridge in Caen in France.

He stayed in Scotland after he was released from detention in 1948 and settled in Stranraer where he found work on farms in the area. He said he would have remained living in Scotland after the war  had it not been for his elderly widowed mother in his native Silesia. He returned to his hometown  in 1970 as she was ill and did not qualify for a pension. He found work at the docks in Bremen and settled in Delmenhorst in a house which he built. He once said “It was in Scotland that I earned the money to build my house so it is only right that it goes back to Scotland when I die.”

He credited the Scots for saving his life on three occasions- from the French when he was captured, from the Polish as he was being transported and then in captivity with kindness.

I have great experience in assisting clients with Powers of Attorney, Wills and Executries and  if I can help please contact me, Lauren Hill on 0141 552 3422 or by email lnh@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

We are pleased to welcome an aspiring solicitor to our firm

marcus200x300-200x300

This year’s trainee Marcus Downie is settling in to his new position in our Residential Conveyancing Department. During his two year traineeship he will gain an understanding of client’s needs and have the opportunity of working in different areas of law including  commercial property, private client and civil litigation.

In the summer of 2013 Marcus began working with us initially helping with the administrative tasks relating to the merger with Donaldson Alexander Russell and Haddow. He then returned the following summers to assist with legal work in various departments before commencing his traineeship in 2016.

As a Mitchells Roberton trainee Marcus will learn how to deal with people who may be going through a stressful situation and need guidance and support. He will also gain an understanding of how to work as a team member and communicate effectively with colleagues; know when to ask advice from someone more experienced; and understand the importance of building up a network of contacts.

Mark McGorm our Partnership Director said: “We are committed to investing in our people and believe in helping our staff succeed”.