About Alison Gourley

Alison graduated from Edinburgh University School of Law in 1991. She joined Mitchells Roberton in 1996 and became an Associate thereafter. Alison specialises in both commercial and residential conveyancing, advising individuals, large and small businesses, banks, charities and further education institutions on all property transactions. Having 20 years experience in property law Alison has developed excellent relationships with surveyors, independent financial advisers and banks so is ready to act swiftly and effectively to meet her clients’ needs in an ever changing property market. She enjoys getting to know her clients and is committed to giving them an efficient service and is always friendly and approachable. She is also involved with the marketing aspects of the firm and is the solicitor in the office who trains the conveyancing paralegals. Alison is married to a photographer and has one child. In her free moments she likes to keep fit. She is a talented amateur artist and loves nature and the great outdoors.

Update on Help to Buy (Scotland) Scheme

The Scottish Government has recently announced that the price cap on properties eligible for the Help to Buy scheme will remain at £200,000 in 2018/19. The scheme helps eligible householders buy a new build home from a participating builder by contributing up to a maximum 15% equity stake in the property. The aim behind the Scheme is to help more families onto the property ladder.

The Government says that by keeping the maximum property value eligible for the scheme at £200,000 from 1 April 2017 until March 2019, the scheme will help as many people across as many geographic locations as possible.

“We want to help people get on or up the housing ladder and Scotland’s Help to Buy Scheme gives a helping hand to thousands of people” explained Housing Minister Kevin Stewart.”

“We want to make home ownership as accessible as possible- with a particular focus on helping people to buy affordable new-build homes.”

“We know, however, that prices of property-and what constitutes affordable- can fluctuate massively across different parts of the country,” he said.

“That is why I have decided to retain the price cap on homes across, urban, rural and small towns in Scotland.”

For expert legal advice on buying or selling property across Scotland then please contact me Alison Gourley on ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by phoning 0141 552 3422.

A Legal Update for Landlords

The private rental sector will face significant changes over the next year with the introduction of the new ‘Private Residential Tenancy’ and the ‘Letting Agent’ Regulations but there are a number of other recent legal developments that landlords should be aware of.

  • Creation of the First-tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber

The Housing and Property Chamber which replaces the Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP) and Homeowner Housing Panel (HHP) will, from December 2016, issue decisions on rent and repair issues and help landlords with exercising their right of entry. Also from December 2017 the Housing and Property Chamber will also hear private rented housing cases including eviction actions currently heard in the Sheriff Court. Landlords should note that the AT5 and AT6 forms and Tenant Information Packs have been updated to reflect the transfer of functions to the First-tier Tribunal.

  • The Letting Agent Code of Practice ( Scotland) Regulations 2016 will be coming into force on 31 January 2018

When introduced, all letting agents must comply with the Code which introduces, amongst other duties, obligations on agents to have insurance, complaints procedures and client money handling processes in place by the date of enforcement. The introduction of the Code of Practice is the first step in a wider framework of letting agent regulation which will include compulsory letting agent registration and as of September 2018 it will be an offence for letting agents to operate without being registered.

  • Immigration ‘Right to Rent’ checks to be introduced in Scotland?

The UK government has voiced an intention to introduce the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme to Scotland, the scheme already being in force in England. The scheme was introduced by the Immigration Act 2014 and places a duty on landlords to check the immigration status of would be tenants to make sure they have the right to rent residential premises in the UK. Landlords must refuse tenancies to those who cannot produce the relevant identity documentation. If a landlord breaches this duty under the scheme he/she may face up to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to £3000.

If you would like further advice on any landlord and tenant matters then please contact Alison Gourley by email on ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by telephoning 0141 552 3422

Gender Pay Gap

When you “make a bold statement”, you express an opinion in a brave way or it might be “bold” because the opinion is uncommon or controversial.

In the wake of International Women’s Day I am going to be bold.

  • There exists a gender pay gap (GPG) which the World Economic Forum predicts will not be closed until 2186. The gap currently stands at 18.1% being the difference between the average pay of men and of women. Although 2017 heralds the arrival of the GPG Reporting Regulations which require employers with 250 or more employees to publish information relating to the average pay of women and men thereby disclosing their GPG ,no sanctions for non-compliance have been imposed nor is there any requirement on employers to take positive steps to close the gap.
  • Last year the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee requested urgent action to give pregnant women and new mothers more protection. The Committee reported that over the past decade the number of expectant and new mothers forced to leave their job has doubled to 54,000 a year. The representatives called for a law similar to the one in Germany which prevents pregnant employees being made redundant except in extremely rare cases. They also called for the three month employment tribunal time limit for pregnancy and maternity claims to be doubled to six months.
  • Recent research from the TUC found that more than half of women say they have experienced sexual harassment at work, including unwelcome jokes and comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes. The accusations of mistreating women made against Donald Trump sparked outrage and served as a timely reminder that harassment and sexism in the work place should not be tolerated.

International  Women’s Day made an appeal for women to be bold- bold for change and bold enough to speak up.

Voluntary Registration- Would it benefit you?

At the moment less than 30% of land in Scotland is registered in the Land Register of Scotland which is a digital map- based Register.  The remainder of land is still recorded in the General Register of Sasines which is a Register of historic deeds.

The Scottish Government has asked the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland to complete the Land Register by 2024, meaning that all Scottish land should be registered by then. This is indeed a tall order and one way the Registers of Scotland hope to achieve this goal is by encouraging private and public landowners to voluntarily register their land.

Voluntary Registration permits an owner of an unregistered plot of land to apply for registration of that plot in the Land Register at any time. No new deed is needed although a new Land Register  Plan may be required.

However not only will voluntary registration help the Land Register to achieve its aims by 2024 but there are added advantages for landowners in registering their plots of land.

  1. The Land Register requires an exact plan which does not overlap with any other registered titles thus clarifying the definitive boundaries of a piece of land providing certainty to owners.
  2. Also once a title is registered any questions from neighbours and others about boundaries can be dealt with speedily and cheaply as it avoids laborious title examination or arguments over ownership where the titles are unclear, as often they are. This can be extremely pertinent for rural estates and farms or where a landowner wishes to sell land to a developer.

Currently the Registers of Scotland are offering a 25% discount on the cost of the Voluntary  Registration application fees to landowners  who undertake the process. The fees are calculated depending on the value of the land or property involved and  range from £45 to £5625.A plans assistance service has also been set up by the Registers to help with the preparation of plans which are suitable for registration.

If you would like help in assessing whether your property would benefit from Voluntary Registration please contact Alison Gourley on 0141 552 3422 or by email ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

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.

Home Ownership Is Still The Aim for Many

The Council of Mortgage Lenders recently carried out a survey that showed home ownership as the nation’s distinct preference and aspiration and not just for financial reasons.

The research interestingly revealed that:

  • The two most popular reasons for valuing home ownership are having the freedom to do what you want and knowing that once the mortgage is repaid the property is yours. Seeing the property as an investment or an asset, or a mortgage as cheaper than renting are cited less strongly.
  • Virtually no existing home owners wish to have a different tenure in the future.
  • Private tenants generally appear to view their position as a temporary state. Around 56% of private renters would like to own within the next two years, and 71% aspire to own within ten years. Only 26% of existing private tenants would prefer to be renting in two year’s time, and 15% in ten year’s time
  • Sentiment is not the same among social tenants-57% of social tenants still want to be living in social housing in two year’s time and 46% in ten year’s time.
  • Among those who want to be home owners but are not currently, there is a substantial majority who do not feel confident that they will achieve that aspiration. Less than a quarter of those who are currently not home owners but want to be in two year’s time , believe it is likely.
  • The disparity between hope and expectation is particularly marked among younger age groups-fewer than half of those aged 18-24 who want to be home owners in ten years think it is likely that they will be.

I have been a property lawyer for 25 years and if want any specialist advice regarding buying or selling of property please contact me Alison Gourley on 0141 552 3422 or by email ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk.

Airbnb Boom

Founded in August 2008 and based in San Francisco, Airbnb is a “trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique accommodation around the world”-online or from a mobile or tablet. Whether a room for a night, a house for a week or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences in more than 34,000 cities and 191 countries. It has become immensely popular over the years and has many benefits for both hosts and travellers. Hosts get to meet people from all over the world, while making a little extra money and travellers can often stay for less than the cost of a hotel room.

That said both property owners and their tenants may well find that they are either breaching their mortgage or insurance conditions or their rental agreements respectively by participating in Airbnb. Indeed this is highlighted by a recent English case Iveta Nemcova v Fairfield Rents Limited (2016). A tenant asked the First-Tier Tribunal whether she was contravening a clause of her lease agreement by renting out the property using Airbnb. The Tribunal found in favour of the landlord and the tenant appealed to the Upper Tribunal.  She argued that there was no specific term in her lease that said she could not sub-let but only a clause saying that the property had to be used  as “a private residence.” The tenant contended that as the lease referred to “a private residence” rather than “the private residence” that she could let out the flat, as it did not need to be the tenant herself occupying the property providing it was being used by someone as “a private residence”. The decision of the Upper Tribunal was that Airbnb short term lets were lacking the necessary degree of permanence to amount to using the property as “a private residence” and found in favour of the landlord.

Of course this is an English case and is not binding in Scotland but tenants here should be equally aware and check their leases. In Scotland in terms of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1988 Section 23, there is an implied condition that a tenant in an assured or short assured tenancy can only sub-let or assign his or her lease with the landlord’s consent unless the lease specifically states otherwise. So if a tenant in Scotland wishes to let out property he or she would need to examine the stipulations of the lease for an express clause and if there is none then the landlord’s permission should be sought. The landlord can refuse and there is no need for the refusal to be reasonable.

A property owner or a landlord considering using Airbnb should seriously give thought to the implications before doing so. A property owner with a mortgage may find that the lender’s conditions prohibit the owner from letting out the property at all. The landlord with a mortgage may only be able to let out his or her property using a short assured tenancy. Breaking these terms could mean the agreement is invalidated and risk the mortgage being called up.

Extremely importantly a property owner or landlord’s insurance policy will not normally cover short term lets or subletting, so if anything goes wrong the policy may not be valid. Also depending on the letting, an HMO licence may be necessary and if the letting or subletting amounts to a change of use then planning permission may be required.

If you would like more information please contact Alison Gourley by email on ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by calling 0141 552 3422.