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.

Government Urged To Remove VAT On Charitable Wills

Charity Consortium, Remember a Charity, has urged the UK Government to exempt VAT from the cost of writing a Will containing a charitable bequest.

The consortium predicts a VAT exemption on charitable wills would double the number of people leaving a gift to charity, generating a further £800m for the voluntary sector.

Rob Cope, Remember a Charity director, said “While this change would come at a relatively low cost to government, this could make a huge difference to charities, giving solicitors and will- writers cause to highlight the option and benefits of legacy giving with all clients.”

“We need to ensure that legacy giving is not just something reserved for the wealthiest in society; that it is something we are all given the opportunity to do.”

Legacy giving is a vital source of funds for charities and accounts for £2.5 billion of charitable income each year. Backing the recommendation is The Charity Finance Group, its head of policy and engagement, Andrew O’Brien said: “Legacies are a growing and important way that the public supports good causes. It is critical that we make giving as easy and effective as possible.”

Also supporting the move is the Institute of Fundraising, with its head of public affairs Mike Smith adding “This small change in the cost of writing a will could make a massive difference in the number of people who decide to leave a gift to charity.”

“The Government has been really supportive of efforts to increase legacy giving, and we are encouraging them to back this small reduction in tax to help raise millions for good causes.”

For expert advice on writing or updating a will then please contact Heather Warnock on hw@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by phoning 0141 552 3422.

Keep Your Options Open

Ross Leatham, a Partner in our Commercial Property Department explains what an option agreement is and why the parties involved in a land purchase transaction may want one.

An option agreement is an agreement between a landowner and a potential developer of the landowner’s property. Mostly the prospective purchaser will pay an agreed price to the landowner and in exchange secures a first option to purchase the property within a certain period of time or as a result of a trigger event for example planning permission being granted for the development.

The option agreement provides the developer with some level of protection as it prevents the landowner from selling the property to someone else whilst the potential purchaser is exploring the feasibility of the project thus reducing risk and cost to the developer. Also the purchaser may be able to agree the purchase price from the very outset bringing some certainty regarding costs.

From the seller’s point of view with the property market having its ups and downs over the past number of years an option agreement is a start to a probable deal being done although it does not guarantee a sale and if the developer does not obtain planning permission and pulls out the purchase would not go ahead.

Often something called an overage agreement is negotiated alongside the option agreement. Land will have a greater market value once it has been built upon and an overage agreement will mean the seller would be able to obtain additional payment after completion of the development based on the increase of value of the land.

Option agreements and overage agreements can be beneficial to both the seller and purchaser but there are of course potential pitfalls.

Should you require advice please do not hesitate to contact me by email rjl@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

New Residence Nil Rate Band

From April 2017 a new IHT- free allowance has being  introduced. It is to be known as the residence  nil rate band (RNRB) and will apply if you leave your residence to your  “direct descendants”.

The objective of the policy according to the Government is to “reduce the burden of IHT for most families by making it easier to pass on the family home to direct descendants without a tax charge.”

For some years now the nil rate band has been fixed at £325,000 and it looks like it will remain set at this amount for the next few years. At the moment IHT is charged at 40% on the value of a deceased person’s estate which exceeds the nil rate band. Where spouses or civil partners leave their estates to each other the nil rate band can be transferred giving a maximum of £650,000 IHT free.The RNRB when introduced can also be transferred between spouses and civil partners.

If you would like more information or to find out whether you should consider revising your Will to benefit from this new allowance, please contact me Heather Warnock  at heather@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by telephoning 0141 552 3422.

Families Matter

The Scottish Family Business Association exists to support, nurture and help develop the full potential of all our Scottish family businesses. Research, expertise and experience from across the globe show that by adopting specific best practices family businesses can overcome inherent challenges and flourish both as businesses and as families.

Although it is not always recognised family businesses already dominate the Scottish economy, accounting for 69% of all businesses in Scotland and create around 45% of the GDP of our country. Yet despite these facts 57% of family firms have no defined plans for succession and most conflicts in family firms arise from family issues such as succession or family relationships. Indeed most family businesses fail for family rather than business reasons. Only 33% of family businesses survive into the second generation with only 9% surviving into the third generation.

So if failure  of family firms is predominately due to family reasons  then concerns  about succession planning, Wills , Powers of Attorney and Pre-nuptial and Co-habitation Agreements can hold equal sway with the sustained success of a family business as any application of commercial law.

There are three matters to consider.

The first is succession planning. . If someone dies without a Will in Scotland their estate is administered according to the law of intestacy which means that rather than the business passing in a planned way from one sibling or generation to another, the future of the business will be decided by the law which in some cases may lead to very young children or distant relatives inheriting control of the family business.

Secondly to have a Power of Attorney is very important.  If a business owner or partner cannot work as a result of serious illness or accident then a Power of Attorney will help ensure that the business can carry on as usual. In fact a Power of Attorney can be pivotal to the continuity of the family business and it should be noted are also appropriate for even the youngest and fittest of business owners.

Lastly in family firms decisions around corporate structure, share issue and personnel are often based on commercial or tax reasons  and it is easy to overlook the consequences of relationship breakdowns for the business. Pre-nuptial contracts and cohabitation agreements can ring fence a family business from being included in divorce or separation settlements therefore safeguarding the future of the business.

Why leave your family firm exposed if certain events or misfortunes occur.  Far better to plan the future of your business and have a Will, Power of Attorney  or Prenuptial or Cohabitation Agreement in place. If I can help please contact me rjl@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by phone 0141 552 3422

A new Bill to tackle psychological domestic abuse has been published

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill aims to strengthen the law against people who psychologically abuse their partners using coercive and controlling behaviour.

For the first time, the Bill will create a statutory offence of domestic abuse by recognising the damage which non- physical abuse can cause. Such behaviour could include subordination, humiliation, isolating a partner from friends, relatives and sources of support and controlling or monitoring their day to day activity.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met survivors of abuse at the Glasgow Young Women’s Movement (YWCA) as the Bill was introduced to Parliament.

Ms Sturgeon said: “ I am proud that as a society, we’ve come a long way from believing that domestic abuse is only a physical act. The truth is that the psychological scars left by emotional abuse can have devastating effects on victims and this government will work hard to make sure perpetrators face the justice they deserve.”

“This Bill will help our police and prosecutors hold abusers to account- but importantly, it also shows those who have suffered abuse that we stand with them and will take the steps needed to help them.”

Kara Brown, Director of YWCA Scotland added “The Young Women’s Movement is proud to be part of a country breaking ground through new progressive legislation.”

“We welcome this legislation as a critical tool to reduce stigma, raise understanding and encourage survivors of mental, financial and physical abuse to come forward.”