House Price Index Reveals Annual Price Rise

According to March’s edition of the UK House Price Index UK, house prices rose by an average of 4.1% on an annual basis.

Residential sales in Scotland rose by 2.0% to 6239 compared to January in the previous year , however this was 25.4% lower than sales during December 2016. Again in Scotland the average price of a property in March 2017 was £137,139 which is an increase of 0.7% from March 2016 but a decrease of 1% compared to sales in February 2017.

There were 746 property sales in Edinburgh City making it the top local authority in terms of volume of sales. The other regions in the top five were, Glasgow City (700 sales), South Lanarkshire (396 sales), Fife (391 sales) and North Lanarkshire (305 sales)

The biggest fall in house prices was once again seen in Aberdeen City with a 6.3% drop during March of this year compared to in March 2016, taking the average price to £163,050. East Dunbartonshire showed the biggest annual price increase where the average price increased by 10.7% to £196,332. Across Scotland, all property types except flats showed an increase in average price in March 2017 when compared to the same month in the previous year. Semi-detached properties showed the biggest increase rising by 2.3% to £144,261, while flats decreased by 0.1% to £98,012.

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

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.

The Bank of Mum and Dad

The Bank of Mum and Dad apparently is now Britain’s ninth biggest “mortgage lender” putting it on a par with the Yorkshire Building Society. Parents are predicted to lend more than £6.5bn this year to help their children get on the property ladder.  This is a 30% increase on the £5bn loaned in 2016 according to recent research from Legal & General and economics consultancy Cebr.  This means that parents will be involved in more than 25% of UK property transactions as first time buyers continue to struggle to afford homes.

According to the report, the so called Bank of Mum and Dad will help fund property purchases worth about £75bn in 2017 including deposits for more than 298,000 mortgages. Parental assistance is expected to have risen from an average of £17,000 in 2016 to £21,600 this year. For those under the age of 35 the proportion seeking help from parents, friends and family for property purchases stands at 62%.

Nigel Wilson, the chief executive of L & G said “This is the second year of our bank of mum and dad research programme and the statistics show the problem is getting worse, not better.”

“The intergenerational inequality that creates the demand for (parental) funding continues to widen- younger children today don’t have the same opportunities that the baby boomers had, including affordable housing, defined benefit pensions and free university education.”

“Parents want to see their kids get on in life and the bank of mum and dad is a testament to their generosity, but it is also a symptom of our broken housing market.”

The surge in parental lending comes in spite of record low rates on mortgages, fuelled by intense competition between lenders for new business. But while mortgage repayments have never been more affordable, high prices in parts of the country mean first time buyers need large deposits to qualify for loans.

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

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.