The Property Market is Showing Signs of Recovery

The Scottish property market is showing its first real signs of recovery since the economic downturn in 2008 according to a long term report issued by the Registers of Scotland which reviews the market trends from 2004 to 2014.

The key findings are as listed below :-

  • Residential house prices grew steadily between 2004 and 2007.
  • On average residential house prices over the decade increased by 36.9%. The average price in 2004-5 was £115,056, while in 2013-14 it was £157,476. The average price over the financial year 2013-14 was the highest in the decade.
  • Between 2004 and 2014 the number of residential properties sold for over one million pounds has more than doubled. In Scotland’s seven cities volumes are now at their highest level for five years.
  • In terms of volume the height of the market was in the second quarter of 2007-8 with 42,493 residential sales applications. The lowest volume of sales was 11,787 in the fourth quarter of 2008-9.
  • Over the decade, residential sales volumes decreased by 32.3% from 129,276 in 2004-5 to 87,475 in 2013-14. Volumes in 2013-14 are the highest since 2007-8 and are up by 19.8% when compared to 2012-13. The final three quarters of 2013-14 all showed volume increases in excess of 20% compared with the same periods of the previous year.
  • The year on year value of total sales grew by 22.2% to £13.8bn in 2013-14.
  • Flats have represented the largest share of the property market, making up 40% of all residential sales over the last decade
  • The number of sales being registered with a mortgage in 2013-14 fell by 46.3% when compared with 2004-5. This is also down by 53% on the height of the market in 2006-7.
  • Title coverage in Scotland via the registration of properties in the Land Register now stands at 57.4%. This represents almost 26% of the land mass in Scotland. The Land Register County of Renfrew has the highest coverage with 76.1% of titles being registered, while Ross and Cromarty has the lowest at 36.7%
  • The total value of residential sales in Scotland since 2004 is £148.7bn, contributing an average of almost £14.9bn a year to the Scottish economy.

Registers of Scotland Director of Commercial Services Kenny Crawford said “It’s been an interesting decade for the Scottish property market, which is now showing real signs of recovery since the economic downturn in 2008.”

If you are thinking about buying or selling anywhere in Scotland we can help. Please contact Alison Gourley by email  ajg@mitchells-roberton.co.uk  or by phone 0141 552 3422.

The Scottish Government Passes Children’s Bill

On the 19th February 2014 the Scottish Parliament passed the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill with 103 MSPs voting for it and with 15 abstentions. The aim of the Bill is to “transform” services. There are increased provisions for free childcare with three, four and vulnerable two- year- olds getting around 16 hours free care per week as from August 2014. The Bill also encompasses free school meals to all children in the first three years of primary school as from January 2015. Further the Bill lays out a plan to help young people in care, meaning that teenagers in residential, foster or kinship care would have the right to continue to be looked after until the age of 21. The appointment of a “guardian” for every child in Scotland also forms part of the Bill. This proposal is to nominate specific named persons from the NHS and councils to monitor every young person’s well-being from birth to eighteen.

Although the Bill has been passed it has not been without opposition. The Faculty of Advocates  previously issued advice to the Scottish Government when the Bill was going through the consultation stage ,saying that they believed  the Government was going too far with the new Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill. The plan that there should be an individual appointed (known as a “named person”) who is there to look out for all children generally, as opposed to only those who would appear to need looking out for, has come under criticism that it interferes with family life and could be in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights.

In terms of the Children Scotland Act 1995, section 1(1) a child’s parents are the persons principally responsible for carrying out the functions mentioned in clause 19 of the new Bill, which include safeguarding and promoting a child’s health development and welfare and with offering direction and guidance. In the first instance it is the responsibility of a parent to seek assistance if this is required by their child. The Faculty of Advocates therefore argued that this part of the Bill could possibly dilute the legal role of parents, whether or not there is any difficulty in the way that parents are fulfilling their statutory responsibilities. It would appear to undermine family autonomy and therefore potentially result in interference with private and family life in a way that could violate article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

At worst the Bill seems to imply that parents are not the people ideally placed to decide what is best for their children and when they may be at risk. Given that the number of parents who abuse or neglect their children is thankfully a minority, it would seem that the Bill is trying to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. While some may say that parents who have nothing to hide should have nothing to fear, should we be interfering in family life to that extent? Could it just be the thin edge of the wedge that causes even more “Big Brother” legislation? And is it in fact legitimate or could it be in breach of our commitment to the ECHR? The Faculty of Advocates made their concerns clear but the controversial legislation has been voted through in spite of these doubts.

Let’s have that conversation about why everyone should have a Power of Attorney!

We can present statistics, production efficiency models, delivery times and accurate numbers of this and that as much as we like, but for each and every one of us the twists and turns of life remain unpredictable apart from the inevitability of eventual death.

Many people understand the need to have a Will but fail to recognise the importance of having a Power of Attorney in place. Let me put it simply, a Will covers a deceased person’s wishes whereas a Power of Attorney is for the living. In short, a Power of Attorney is a legal document which gives another person authority to act and make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so.

A  popular misconception is that Powers of Attorney are only for the older generation with conditions such as dementia becoming increasingly common. Indubitably all elderly people should grant a Power of Attorney in favour of a trusted friend or family member to manage their affairs if they were to lose capacity. But Powers of Attorney are not just for our respected older citizens; they are for anyone over the age of 16 in Scotland. An accident or illness could happen at any time causing you to lose the capacity to act on your own behalf and unless you have a Power of Attorney in place nobody has the power to act for you, not even your immediate family, causing potential difficult problems with banks, healthcare providers and other organisations.

If a Power of Attorney is not in place and you lose capacity then application may need to be made to court to give others the legal authority to deal with your affairs, an avoidable, time consuming and expensive procedure.

So we must talk about Powers of Attorney. Whilst making a Power of Attorney may be considered solely a pragmatic, legal move to grant peace of mind, I am fully aware of the emotive issues surrounding such instructions. Who would be the best Attorney? Will other members of my family be upset about my choice of Attorney? Will I be giving up my independence of thought too soon? Can I revoke the Power of Attorney at any time?

We are here to have that important conversation whenever you want. Please just call and ask to speak to Kathryn Bready on 0141 552 3422 or email kb@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

Domestic Abuse remains a major issue

Unfortunately domestic violence is still a prominent part of many people’s lives. Shocking statistics have been released by Women’s Aid illustrating the scale of the problem:

  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives
  • 2 women per week are murdered by a partner or ex partner
  • Women who are living with domestic abuse are 5 times more likely to suffer from depression
  • In 90% of incidents of domestic abuse , where children are present in the home, the children will be in the same or the next room
  • On average a woman will be assaulted 35 times before reporting it to the police
  • 30% of domestic abuse either starts or escalates during pregnancy
  • Domestic abuse accounts for between 16% and 25% of all recorded crime.

The problem has received a lot of media coverage recently following MSP Bill Walker’s convictions for assaulting his ex wives and step daughter.  Yet despite years of heightened awareness of this national shame and calls for zero tolerance, the prevalence of domestic abuse has not fallen.

In 2012 the Citizen’s Advice Bureau indicated that 13,500 people reported domestic violence to them. Scotland’s Police recorded 10,159 incidents occurring between 1 December 2012 and 31 January 2013 alone.

So what does the law do to protect victims of domestic abuse?

Of course any one experiencing domestic abuse should report it to the police. Stephen House at the helm of the new national police force is said to have domestic abuse at the top of his agenda. When he was Chief Constable at Strathclyde he confirmed that very few police officers today would dismiss an assault by a partner as “just a domestic”.

There are of course other protections that can be granted by the court in addition to raising criminal proceedings:

  • You can apply for a matrimonial interdict which is an order that prevents your spouse from carrying out a specific action like coming near your home or contacting you or generally behaving in a way that would put you into a state of fear and alarm. If the matter is urgent, then the court can grant an interim interdict to protect you until the matter is fully heard.
  • You can ask for a power of arrest to be attached to the interdict. The court will only grant a power of arrest after your spouse has had the opportunity to speak to the Sheriff. If a power of arrest has been attached to the interdict and the interdict is subsequently breached, your spouse can be arrested by the police.
  • You can apply to the court for an exclusion order. Such an order suspends your spouse’s occupancy rights in the matrimonial home. The court will only grant such a restrictive order if it is satisfied that it is necessary for the protection of you or any child of the family from conduct that would be injurious to the physical or mental health of you or the child. Such orders are not readily granted.

But these measures are evidently not enough. Until it is recognised that domestic abuse is everyone’s problem and that we must re- evaluate our attitudes towards relationships and what we see as acceptable, little is going to change. We have to sit up and take notice and try to change our country’s culture if we want to make domestic abuse a thing of the past.

Tenancy Deposit Schemes…Landlords look out you must comply!

Tenancy Deposit Schemes (TDS) were introduced on 2 July 2012 to:

  • Prevent landlords from unreasonably withholding deposits at the end of a lease
  • Speed up the process of deposits being refunded
  • Provide access to free dispute resolution

Payment of Deposit

Landlords must pay tenancy deposits into an approved TDS within 30 working days of the start of the tenancy.  They must also provide the tenant with certain information about the tenancy and deposit.

Return of Deposit

At the end of the tenancy, either the landlord or tenant can write to the TDS.  If there is no dispute, the agreed amount of deposit will be returned to the tenant.

Any dispute will be referred to an Adjudicator to make a decision.  If that decision is accepted by both parties, the deposit will be released within 5 days.  Otherwise, the decision can be appealed to a second Adjudicator, whose decision is final.

Approved Schemes

There are currently three government-approved providers of Tenancy Deposit Schemes in Scotland:

Tenancy Deposit Schemes were brought in to address common problems which arise at the end of a tenancy.  If you are a Landlord or Tenant experiencing problems at any stage of a tenancy, we can help.  Please contact Paul Neilly pdn@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

Minimum Alcohol Pricing – The best way forward?

The question of minimum alcohol pricing continues to cause anger, debate and conjecture ahead of the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce the legislation which could be in place as early as 1 April 2014. Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon is relentless in her views that something has to be done about Scotland’s “booze culture” and believes minimum pricing may be the way forward in dealing with spiralling social depravation and most importantly from the Government’s perspective, the colossal £110 million NHS bill due to excessive alcohol consumption. From a pragmatic standpoint the upshot of minimum alcohol pricing would mean a typical bottle of wine would cost just under £4.70 with the cost of a bottle of whisky increasing to £14.

While I remain highly sceptical of the proposals, it is clear to see that the problem has to be tackled. Scotland is the UK’s “booze” capital and binge drinking isn’t just a small problem, it’s worryingly a way of life for some of our young teenagers. If the culture remains the same then the figures from the Government are only going to get worse and our reputation as a nation will continue to be slowly clouded by overindulgence in alcohol. Like many, I personally enjoy a few drinks at the weekend – I think this is a natural social leisure time activity and when done in moderation is good to keep our Scots “spirits” high.

So is minimum pricing the best answer to tip the balance from excess to moderation? The truth is I don’t know and I can’t make a convincing case either way. The cynic in me believes that it won’t work.  In 2003 the average price of a pint of beer cost around £2.10. Dramatic inflation and tax rises mean that the same pint of beer on average now costs £3.24. While statistics show a small decline in the number of pints consumed between those dates, a massive 54% increase in the cost hasn’t deterred too many people and I fear it will be the same outcome if this legislation comes into force next year

Without doubt it’s encouraging to see the Government trying to act. Even though it will hit me personally in the pocket, I am happy to support the cause and hope that my doubts are unfounded.