Scottish Property Prices are Predicted to Rise

In a recent survey carried out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) it was predicted that property prices will continue to rise over the next few months.

Supply is still falling behind demand with a decline in the number of houses coming on to the market. Rics Scotland director Sarah Speir said “With supply restrictions continuing to impact the market in Scotland , it is imperative that the Scottish Government and industry look at viable solutions to the lack of housing and increase new-start targets in order to meet needs.”

Meanwhile a report by Bank of Scotland has suggested that Scotland’s largest cities need thousands of new family homes, partly because the number of “downsizers” is dwindling.

The Bank found that only 8% of over 50s had any plans to move to a smaller home which in turn means it is harder for “second-steppers” to move up the property ladder.

Alasdair Gardner the managing director of Bank of Scotland commercial banking said “This study identifies the major pressures facing Scotland’s housing market with demand for new rental and privately owned homes going to increase in the coming years.” He added “All parts of the housing industry-government, local authorities, investors and house builders must work together to ensure we build the homes Scotland needs.”

I specialise in property law and if I can help you with any property transaction please get in touch and I will be delighted to help you. My contact details are 0141 552 3422 or ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

Lost someone close to you? We can help

You don’t need to enlist professional help when someone dies but an experienced solicitor can greatly assist in dealing with the deceased’s affairs promptly, properly and with the minimum of fuss.

Obviously when someone close to you passes away you will be upset and you may find it hard to know what to do. Here are a few points to guide you.

Firstly you will need to ascertain whether there is a Will. You should check through the deceased’s papers or contact their solicitor to see if they hold a Will. If there is a Will then the person named as executor in the Will can give instructions about the estate.  If there is no Will a Petition will often require to be lodged in court to have someone, usually the closest relative, appointed as executor. A solicitor will be able to advise you.

Once you have clarified the position regarding the Will you should arrange to meet with your solicitor. You should take to that meeting  the Death Certificate, the original Will if available, title deeds to the deceased’s property, again if available, together with any paperwork that confirms or gives a clue to what assets and debts the deceased may have had.

Thereafter, in most cases you will need to apply to court for what is called Confirmation. This is necessary if there is heritable property in the estate or if there are bank accounts and investments of around more than £10,000-£15,000 held with a single asset holder. To get Confirmation your solicitor has to prepare a detailed list of everything the deceased owned with values as at date of death. This list of assets is then signed by the executor together with the deceased’s Will (if there is one) and HMRC papers. These documents will then be lodged at Court in order to obtain Confirmation.

If there is no Will then a solicitor can apply to court to have an executor appointed.  This is usually a spouse or child but anyone entitled to the estate can be named. If you need Confirmation and there is no Will then it is necessary to get a Bond of Caution (except if the spouse is inheriting the whole estate) which is a type of insurance policy to protect the estate from any wrong doings by the executor.  You may find it difficult to get a Bond of Caution unless a solicitor is dealing with that for you.

Once Confirmation has been granted by Court this can be used to sell or transfer title to any heritable property owned by the deceased and it will enable banks, building societies, insurance companies etc to release monies.

I can provide practical, sympathetic legal advice and support. If I can help please contact Lauren Hill on 0141 552 3422 or by email lauren@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

How quickly can I get divorced?

Divorce can be extremely distressing yet surprisingly a question often asked is how quickly can a divorce be obtained. Of course the answer is: it depends.

For a divorce to be granted there has to be an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage with no prospect of a reconciliation. If you cannot demonstrate this then you cannot get divorced.

The irretrievable breakdown of marriage can be established if one of the following is true:

  1. Since the date of the marriage, your spouse has committed adultery and you thereafter ceased to cohabit together as husband and wife (this is and will continue to apply exclusively to heterosexual relationships even after same sex marriage is introduced).
  2. Since the date of the marriage, your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to cohabit with them.
  3. You have not cohabitated with your spouse for a period of one year and your spouse consents to the granting of the divorce.
  4. There has been no cohabitation for a period of two years.

A Simplified Divorce is the fastest way to obtain a divorce and is essentially a form filling exercise. You must not have cohabited with your spouse for one year and have your spouse’s consent or been separated for at least two years. This simplified procedure can only be used if there are no children of the marriage under the age of 16 and no financial issues to resolve. The relevant form can be downloaded from the court website and is completed by the individual raising the action who must then sign an affidavit at the end of the form stating that everything in the form is true. This affidavit can be sworn before a notary public (most often a solicitor), a Justice of the Peace or a Commissioner of Oaths. The form is then submitted to the court along with the appropriate fee (currently £107). A divorce order is usually granted within 4-6 weeks of lodging the relevant paperwork with the court.

If there are financial issues still to be agreed upon or there are children of the marriage under the age of 16 you must use the Ordinary Procedure, which will require the assistance of a solicitor. A list of the parties’ assets requires to be lodged with the initial paperwork when a financial order is sought. If the action is not defended by your spouse a court order may be passed within approximately 6-7 weeks from raising the action.

If the action is defended because there are young children and custody and contact are disputed, or a financial order is requested or indeed the allegation of adultery or unreasonable behaviour is denied then it is extremely difficult to state with any certainty how long proceedings will take.

If you have any queries regarding divorce please contact Fiona Wayman on fhw@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or phone 0141 552 3422 to talk to her.

Legal Fees FAQ

If you use a lawyer he or she should talk to you about the cost of their services. But you should also understand their charges. As a consumer, you have the right to expect your lawyer to be clear about how much they are likely to charge you, and for the final bill to be comprehensible and be in the range you anticipated. Legal costs can be complicated and the end cost can depend on such things as type of service, individual details of the case, and how events develop. The expertise and experience of the solicitor involved are also instrumental.

To help you, we have prepared answers to some frequently asked questions about charges :

1.       Will I be charged for my initial consultation ?

Finding a lawyer who is right for you and the service you need is very important. Some solicitors do charge for an initial consultation but should tell you this before hand and explain any condition. Here at Mitchells Roberton for new clients to the firm we do not charge for the first 30 minutes of the first consultation.

2.       How do solicitors cost their services ?

This is quite a vexed question as new clients may phone for a quote but are shopping around and get confused when two solicitors provide very different estimates for the same service. Understanding why the quotes may be so divergent can help you make the right decision. One lawyer may be more experienced or an expert in the area of law your case involves .If you have a complex case perhaps you would wish to instruct the expert, as at the end of the day that expert could be able to achieve the desired outcome, meaning you may have to pay less in the long run. However, if the matter is fairly straightforward you may want to choose  the cheaper option. We are always prepared to discuss our costs in detail and explain the level of service you will receive for that fee and from whom.

3.       Can you tell me more about the way you charge ?

Lawyers have different ways of charging and their charging methods may vary with the  service. For example we have a fixed fee for writing a will or making a Power of Attorney. However ,there may be an hourly rate for the administration of the estate of a deceased person. We have a duty to confirm the costs we will be charging in a client care letter which is sent to each new client when they have instructed us.

4.      What is a fixed fee and what does it cover? Will I be charged for any other costs ?

The term “fixed fee” can be used in different ways. It can be easy to assume that it covers all costs for the service you need but it may also refer to only the lawyer’s fee. For example, a fixed fee in a property case may or may not include charges relating to searches , stamp duty  registration dues or VAT.  On every occasion we will tell you what the whole transaction will cost including all outlays so that you are certain there are no hidden costs.

5.       You charge an hourly rate but I would like an estimate for the cost of the whole service. What will my final bill look like? 

If your lawyer charges an hourly rate they should still be able to give you a rough estimate of how much the overall service will be. Sometimes it may be hard to predict but having a range of costs might be helpful. You can ask your lawyer to add a limit to your spend so that he or she has to check with you that you are happy to continue if the spend approaches the agreed threshold. We are always happy to answer any questions and can give an estimate of the likely number of hours we expect the transaction to take and what might cause it to change and how likely this is. 

6.       Could my costs change ? How will you let me know ?

There may be circumstances where costs do change such as where new information or developments make a case or a transaction more difficult .For example, in a divorce case a lot depends on the other party’s co operation to resolve matters quickly and there may be a breakdown of communication further down the line preventing an amicable solution. Even if there is a fixed fee, if a case becomes complicated the fixed fee arrangement may change. We will advise you of this, as and when the fee is likely to vary from what is expected.

7.       When will I receive my bill and how long will I have to pay ?

We will always give you clear information about our billing procedure and offer a        reasonable time for you to make payments which is 28 days from the date of issue of the fee. We are not obliged to offer payment options but may be willing to negotiate in individual circumstances. We would expect all third party outlays to be paid at the time the searches or court dues are going to be incurred.

8.       What happens if I disagree with the amount I have been charged?

Every law firm including our own have a complaints handling system in place. You can ask for the fee to be audited independently by the Auditor of Court or some other independent assessor.

We place great importance on the value of the good service we offer and will happily answer any cost related questions you may have.

Know Your Neighbour

Paul Neilly looks at the causes of neighbourhood disputes and offers solutions to prevent war erupting in your street.

In today’s society of the individual, the ideas and ethos of neighbourly harmony seem to be under an almost constant barrage of attack.

Neighbourhood disputes can arise in a multiplicity of circumstances.  Sadly, disagreement between those living in close proximity is becoming increasingly common.  Arguments can range from the late night music of a teenager’s “empty” to fully fledged wars of attrition over creeping hedgerows.

All over Scotland, householders are experiencing the same problems associated with living in a modern community.  Noise seems to be the nation’s number one bugbear but quarrels often ensue over simple things such as shared facilities, gardens and trees.  A barking dog could start a wrangle.   Difficulties of a more social nature based on families with young children and neighbours with personal problems are now, however, not unusual.  Harassment can be a particularly nasty form of bullying or aggravation.  Passive-aggressive behaviour such as neighbours spreading rumours or “annexing” shared garden ground can lead to simmering resentment.

So what can you do if you are in dispute with your neighbour?

Dispute, unsurprisingly, seems to arise when both co-operation and understanding are most needed.  By far the best approach in the first instance is dialogue, neighbour to neighbour.  If this does not work but there is still a chance of having some discussion on how to resolve the problem, mediation may be the optimal route.  This can be provided by specialised mediators who are often solicitors or other professionals.  Some local authorities provide a free neighbour dispute resolution service which can facilitate a successful outcome for all parties.

For noise-related issues, it is always preferable, initially, to approach neighbours with a polite notification of the problem.  Should this approach fail, the next step is to keep a diary that can be used as a point of reference for future action.  If the issue continues, contact the Environmental Health Department within your local Authority who should intervene on your behalf.

If the problem is not just noise-related you should contact us.

There are two common legal remedies.  The first is called an interdict: a court order that prohibits a neighbour from behaving in a certain way.  For an interdict to be successful, you have to demonstrate to the court that your neighbours’ conduct is persistent and unreasonable.  Keeping a log of incidents and taking photos where appropriate are important.

The second legal remedy is an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO).  An ASBO can stop an individual being in a certain place or acting in a particular manner.  Only the police, local authorities and housing associations can ask the court to grant an ASBO and it will only be granted where there is a public need for the order.

There are various simple ways to help defuse potentially volatile situations and the good news is you don’t have to wait for them to arise.  Getting to know your neighbours will help you to understand each other better, help create a sense of belonging and shared identity in your local area and establish common interests.  Whether or not you become firm friends (and many neighbours do), this can only make it easier to discuss problems at an early stage before resentment turns to hostility.

If a situation cannot be resolved directly with your neighbour or by mediation, it is imperative that legal advice is sought to ensure due process is followed in as painless and cost effective way as possible.  A solicitor can write a letter, offer advice and, should all else fail, commence legal proceedings.  Court action, however, is likely to sully neighbourly relations beyond the point of no return and in these circumstances, sadly, the next professional who can be of most assistance may well be an estate agent.

Law is not boring…

I do not think law is boring. It covers everything from embryo to exhumation. It regulates the air we breathe, the food and drink we consume, our employment , education , health and  property . But if I were to refer you to Section 19 of The Rural Development Contracts (Rural Priorities) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2011 you may be forgiven for believing law dull.

But this little piece of legislation is extremely important and essential for the protection of the beloved corncrake now probably only found on the Western Isles of Scotland and Orkney. The corncrake is a brown streaked bird with bright chestnut wings , a short deep bill and strong legs and feet ,ideal for thrusting through tall vegetation where they live. In fact corncrakes are reluctant to emerge from the rough vegetation and so are more often heard than seen, the male singing with a distinctive rasp used to attract females. The bird is a summer visitor to Scotland between April and September thereafter migrating to central and southern Africa in winter.

Over a hundred years ago corncrakes were common in Britain but there are now only a few left. This is due to modern farming methods destroying nesting sites and killing chicks and also adult birds. The Rural Development Contracts (Rural Priorities) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2011 sets out conservation schemes which pay farmers  to manage land in a corncrake friendly way.

There are encouraging signs that the number of corncrakes in Britain are slowly now increasing. Legislative measures have saved corncrakes from being an endangered species.

Isn’t law wonderful !