Latest News

Price transparency rules

As from the 6 December 2018, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) made it compulsory for solicitors to display prices and service information if you work in particular areas. Conveyancing is one of them. The rules stipulate that price information must...

Moving into care and your property

Moving into care can sometimes mean selling your home. We can help you through every stage of the selling process. Once you have found a buyer, our team will provide advice and guidance to you, or your appointed representatives, regarding completion of the...

Birkett Long appoints Solicitor to its growing residential property team

Solicitor Jemma Jones has joined Birkett Long’s Colchester residential property team. Jemma qualified as a solicitor in 2015 and has worked at well-respected firms across Essex and Suffolk, so she knows the area well. Jemma will be based at the...

A call for change - government's view on conveyancing

  In April 2018, The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government responded to the call for evidence on improving the home buying and selling process. Solicitors are now expected to find a fine balance between a quick, cost effective...

What is the Help to Buy equity loan?

Help to Buy provides an opportunity to people who wouldn’t normally be able to step onto the property ladder. It is a government scheme which can help buyers purchase a property with a deposit of as little as 5%. It is one of the most popular routes...

Making a conveyancing process more effective

Buying or selling a property is not something that we do very often. Whether it’s your first or last time, or you’ve bought or sold a property multiple times, it can be a stressful process. The conveyancing process is generally straight forward...

Active Market Ahead

You will all remember that back on 22 November 2017, the Chancellor of the Exchequer surprised us in his budget statement by abolishing stamp duty for first time buyers. It is now almost two months since the new measures were put in place and we are pleased...

How easy is it for first time buyers?

There is no doubt that the current market is becoming increasingly attractive for first time buyers. Whilst the stamp duty changes are less lucrative for investors, first time buyers can relish in the positive change. As a result, first time buyers will not...

Fraud alert

a Law Society warning A new joint property and title fraud advice note from the Law Society and HM Land Registry highlights the increasing risk of fraud in property transactions.  The note, published on 8 September 2017, is intended to improve...

Ban the sale of new build homes under a leasehold title?

The government has proposed to ban the sale of new build homes under a leasehold title instead of a freehold title, in a bid to end the exploitation of potential buyers. When a client of yours buys a leasehold home, the owner of the lease only buys the...

Stamp duty land tax for additional properties explained

Since 1 April 2016, anyone purchasing additional residential property, such as second homes and buy-to-let properties, has been required to pay stamp duty land tax (SDLT) at a higher rate.  Where applicable, the higher rate is 3% above the standard...

Current leasehold concerns

Many will be aware that following the initial changes to the Nationwide Building Society’s mortgage instructions, the Government is now looking at ways of controlling or regulating the grant of Leases for houses.  Indeed, it has gone so far as to...

Avoid the floods

The recent period of wet weather and subsequent flooding is a reminder to us all that the location of a property should be a relevant factor in any property purchase. Many homeowners have not only had the contents of their houses destroyed but, worse, they...

The Conveyancing Process

Have you have ever wondered what happens after we receive your Sales Memorandum? Here is a step by step outline of the conveyancing process: We take full instructions from the customer, if we have not done so already, including checking their proof of...

First steps on the housing ladder

The financial impact of that first step on the housing ladder is increasing, but joint ownership or the ‘help to buy’ scheme could help soften the blow. Joint Ownership Joint ownership can allow a purchase that would otherwise be...

Perils of Joint Ownership - What to think about!

If you have clients buying a home as joint ownership – what advice you can give them? Bad decisions about joint ownership can have dramatic consequences for the parties involved and it is very important, particularly when unmarried couples buy a...

An insight into the Help to Buy Scheme

By using the Government-funded Help to Buy equity loan scheme, your clients can now purchase their dream home with a deposit of just 5%. The scheme has become an increasingly popular route onto the property ladder for first time buyers, and an easier way to...

Could your trees cause a hazard?

Falling trees and branches can result in serious damage to both people and property. Any property owner should be aware that they may be liable for any damage caused, and they have a general duty of care to keep their trees in safe condition. The key point...

TOP 3 TIPS FOR ESTATE AGENTS: FRAUD PREVENTION

These days, fraudsters use more sophisticated ways of plying their ‘art’ and therefore all property professionals should be alert to any fraudulent activity.  So how can we help to prevent properties being targeted by unscrupulous...

INTERVIEW: Help your clients keep hold of their buyers

Sellers have a better chance of keeping hold of their buyers if they take some simple steps before the sale board goes up: How can we keep the sale going smoothly? If sellers collated key paperwork prior to hooking a buyer, there is more chance of a...

How to deal with Restrictive Covenants

Whether you are considering building a new extension, a single house or developing a large site for multiple properties, best practice is to first check the deeds of the property for restrictive covenants.  Restrictive covenants may appear on the legal...

Tax relief on gains from land sales

Selling land for development can be an attractive proposition, but capital gains tax is less so!  Entrepreneur’s relief may be a way of minimising loss. When land is sold for redevelopment, there is an inevitable capital gains tax charge....

Leasehold Arrangements

NHS Property Services Limited (“NHSPS”), has been seeking to regularise its property portfolio and in particular negotiate to improve conditions for GPs who occupy NHSPS-owned properties. Alongside the British Medical Association, a template...

Buy to let...still a good idea?

Despite the rise in stamp duty land tax in April, buy to let properties are still seen as a good investment opportunity, especially in light of the historic low rates of interest and volatility in the stock market.  If you’re considering entering...

Landlord and tenant relations

Many business leaders – for perfectly obvious and valid reasons – concentrate on running their business, rather than the premises out of which their business operates.  The only time that property is likely to come...

Security and peace of mind for parents and first time buyers

In the current housing market of ever climbing prices, first time buyers often look to their parents for help with raising the 5-10% mortgage deposit needed for their first home, but some parents express concern about what would happen to their...

Property advice - buying and selling can be daunting

Buying and selling property can be a very daunting prospect for most. At Birkett Long we take the pressure away, at least when it comes to the legal work involved.  However, before you instruct us, there are some things to think about. Buying a...

Dealing with the family home

Many people own the home in which they live and when they die, their home will either need to be sold or pass to a beneficiary, as named in the will.  However, the rules surrounding what happens to that property will differ depending on the status of...

Expert advice on how to keep your home buyer

A property legal expert at Essex law firm Birkett Long has revealed that sellers have a better chance of keeping hold of their buyers if they take some simple steps before the sale board goes up this autumn. The season is traditionally a busy sales time for...

Joint ownership of property

When two or more people buy a property together it is important that they understand the types of joint ownership.  The way in which joint property is owned may have implications for couples who separate, friends and family members who pool resources to...

Lawyers pay the price for failing to get a survey

Ask any property lawyer and they will tell you never to buy a house without first getting a survey.  However, that is exactly what Mr and Mrs Griffiths, both experienced lawyers, did and they certainly paid the price in a recent High Court case! Mr...

Is now a good time to invest in buy to let?

Once again savers are being tempted to invest in the buy to let property market after average rental prices hit a new high in July, but there are question marks over whether or not now is a good time to buy. Rents have risen over the past few years as...

Gazumping is back for unique homes

Gazumping, the scourge of the 90s housing boom, is back warns a property expert at Essex law firm Birkett Long. Now that confidence is returning to the market and property prices are rising, Kurt Goddard, Partner and head of the firm’s real estate...

The hidden dangers of a generous gift

For many people today their home is their main asset and, understandably, they would wish their children to inherit it when they die.  However, as a person’s main asset, there is a risk that the house may need to be sold to pay for care fees...

Are you aware of your roots?

It has generally been thought that landowners will not be liable for damage caused to neighbouring properties by the roots of their trees unless they are aware of the possibility that such damage is being caused and fail to act.  However, in the recent...

The pitfalls of solar panels

It is difficult not to notice the outbreak of solar panels across the nation's roof slopes.  Householders have been embarking on their own “green” adventure with subsidised solar energy generation, many are tempted by the promise of...

Birkett Long secures Law Society's quality mark

Essex law firm Birkett Long has secured membership to the Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) - the mark of excellence for the home buying process. Birkett Long, which has offices in Colchester, Chelmsford and Basildon, underwent an...

The digital age and its problems in the working environment

Media reports are full of the impact the digital age is having on society and we regularly hear about employers dealing with inappropriate comments made via Facebook or other social media websites.  Because people use social media on a daily basis...

Get off my land!

The value of agricultural land continues to soar.  Therefore, protecting land boundaries has never been more important.  This trend seems set to continue with expectations that the global population will double by 2050, causing further demands for...

Holiday lets - victory for the Revenue...for now

In the last newsletter, I wrote about the case of Pawson deceased v HMRC.  You may recall that the First-Tier Tribunal found for the taxpayer, and therefore against the Revenue, when deciding as to whether Business Property Relief (BPR) would be...

Land registration - dont wait!

Registration of property at the Land Registry was introduced by the Land Registration Act 1925 and, gradually since then, titles to properties throughout England and Wales have become registered.  It has been a slow process with registration becoming...

The continuing trend to extend

The dilemma faced by many homeowners - whether to move or improve - is not a new one.  In a climate of high property prices, a scarcity of willing lenders and the high costs of moving, improving your current home has got to be the better...

Property fraudsters

When an elderly person leaves their home for any period of time, for example, to go into residential care or move in with a relative, it is important to take steps to protect their home from property fraud. Property fraud normally occurs where there is no...

The perils of joint ownership

The recent court case of Jones v Kernott had dramatic consequences for the parties involved and has shown once again how important it is that when unmarried couples buy a property they need to decide at the outset how they will own that property and how both...

When right of way is not enough

Most people would agree that it is usually preferable to own the access to your property but this is not always possible. There are down sides to owning your own access, such as the costs of maintaining and repairing it and preventing trespass, so when...

Make sure holiday lets are a business

In these difficult economic times, our farming clients are often looking for ways to diversify their businesses. Many farms have cottages that used to house farm workers and now stand empty.  The cottages may be in idyllic surroundings and are often a...

Managed realignment

No landowner wants to lose land, but with the ability to recover loss of revenue and additional Higher Level Scheme (HLS) income, coupled with creation of dwindling habitats and new approach to coastline management, managed realignment no longer needs to be...

Flooding: Sink or swim

Over the last few years we have seen widespread disruption and damage caused by flooding.  The Met Office predicts that climate change will lead to an increase in extreme weather events, meaning the UK will have to learn to live with severe flooding. ...

Disputes with building contractors

In a slow property market, many choose to extend rather than move, but homeowners seldom know what should be in a contract and usually get a simple quote from their builder – a process that often leads to disputes. It is not essential to use a...

What threats do climate change pose to land owners and occupiers?

The increase in flooding, both globally and on a local scale, highlights the impact of climate change. We will all have seen recent devastating flooding across vast swathes of Australia, covering an area the size of France and Germany, and 2007 saw similar...

How many years are left on your lease?

Whether you’re a owner/occupier of a flat or maisonette, or a corporate investor with a portfolio of residential leasehold properties or freehold properties subject to long leases, you should never disregard the importance of regularly reviewing your...

Firm news - New real estate department

We are pleased to announce the launch of our real estate department which has been created to meet the challenges and demands of today’s property market. With 19 solicitors and legal executives, the department covers three areas of specialism:...

Legal Expenses Insurance

Legal costs are always a concern, especially during contentious proceedings.  Despite this there are a number of strategies to minimise cost such as alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, which are designed to conclude proceedings before trial, and...

Reduction in the rate of Inheritance Tax

For deaths from 6 April 2012, the rate of Inheritance Tax will be reduced from 40% to 36%, if 10% or more of your estate is left to charity. Of course, where the Revenue is concerned, it is rarely a straightforward calculation, and it has left the...

Birkett Long at High Easter Point to Point

Birkett Long recently attended the point to point at High Easter on 14 April. It was a fantastic afternoon of racing made even better by the addition of a big screen showing the Grand National! The Birkett Long marquee and hospitality, provided by our rural...

APR and farmhouses

The ever topical issue of Agricultural Property Relief (APR) and farmhouses has been back in the news with two important cases. In Hanson v HMRC, the taxpayer was victorious. The deceased did not live in the farmhouse, it was in fact occupied by his son,...

Registration of land

The Land Registry started the registration of property in 1925 and gradually since then an increasing amount of land has been registered. Compulsory registration, initially restricted to sales and long leases, was phased in on a regional basis and in recent...

Here comes the sun - changes to planning requirements for small scale solar energy installations

Without any fanfare, the Government has passed legislation, which comes into force on 6 April 2012, that could give significant help to those considering installing small scale Solar PV or Solar Thermal equipment on existing non-domestic buildings, i.e....

What happens when trustees cant be trusted

Trusts can offer great flexibility. They allow property to be ring-fenced; placing it in the hands of trustees who have wide powers to deal with it for the benefit of the named beneficiaries. Farmers in particular often find that the trust offers the most...

Is Your Tenancy Deposit Protected?

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) has been in place since 6 April 2007, when it was brought into force by the Housing Act 2004. It was created to protect deposits paid by tenants who have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy and to provide a fairer system to settle...

Residential property - New regulations in force

From 1 July 2011 new regulations transfer ownership of private sewers and lateral drains to the statutory undertakers (e.g. Anglian Water).  This affects all houses connected to a public sewer. Sewers constructed prior to October 1937 were, under the...

Birkett Long to provide free legal advice for those celebrating Essex Pride

A team of solicitors from law firm Birkett Long will be on hand at Essex Pride in Chelmsford Central Park on Sunday 4 September to provide free legal advice. Those seeking a fun family day out at Essex Pride will be able to drop in on the team for...

Solar panel lease agreements

The sun shines on the righteous - or perhaps that should read 'on the well advised'! Many clients are seeking our advice on 'standard' leases from companies interested in placing solar panels on the roof of their house. The offer is attractive; the house...

Birkett Long's quick thinking saves homebuyers almost £500,000

The residential property team at leading Essex solicitors, Birkett Long, have saved homebuyers £424,000 in potential stamp duty fees this April by completing property deals in a matter of days. It was announced in the March 2010 budget that the stamp...

Stamp Duty Land Tax update

A new rate of SDLT Currently, the highest SDLT rate of 4 per cent applies to purchases where the consideration exceeds £500,000. The Finance Bill 2010 adds a new rate of 5 per cent for residential property transactions where the consideration for...

Tenancy Deposit Scheme Changes

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) has been in place since 6 April 2007, when it was brought into force by the Housing Act 2004. It was created to protect deposits paid by tenants who have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) and provide a fairer system to...

New requirement to register if your house is not connected to mains drains

If your house has a septic tank or sewage treatment plant instead of being connected to mains drains, new regulations require you to register the tank or plant (or rather the discharge from it) with the Environment Agency. The Environmental Permitting...

Changes to rent limits under assured tenancies

Currently a tenancy with an annual rent exceeding £25,000 cannot be an assured tenancy and landlords letting properties with rents above this threshold are not therefore bound by the special provisions which apply to assured tenancies, the most common...

Joint ownership - will it be as safe as houses?

Joint property can be owned in two ways; as tenants in common or as joint tenants. Tenants in common own a share in the property which means that they may deal with that share, for example upon the death of a tenant in common that share remains as part of...

Changes to Construction Contracts

As readers of our construction newsletter will be aware, there are substantial changes on the horizon for the way in which construction contracts operate. The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 was passed on 12 November 2009....

HIPS - the changes

Since 21 May 2010 Home Information Packs (HIPs) are no longer required to sell a residential property in England and Wales. The final HIP abolishment will require changes to legislation but at the moment a suspension order has been put in place. Despite...

Law & Financial 50+

Peace of Mind It’s all too easy to keep putting off those annoying, but very important, matters affecting your future. We all do it because the future can seem a long way off. The reality, of course, is that it’s not! Planning ahead and...

Whose house is it anyway?

With more couples choosing to live together rather than marry, particularly those who find love later in life, disputes about jointly-owned houses have been hitting the headlines. One case earlier this year went all the way to the Court of Appeal, where...

Abolition of Home Information Packs

House prices could continue to increase over the summer with the abolition of home information packs (HIPS), it has been suggested. Following the general election in May, the Government announced the elimination of the packs to help reduce the cost of...

Green Leases

Author: Tim Dowley In today’s changing world, the need to become more environmentally conscious is growing. The Government has come up with initiatives to help reduce our carbon footprint and is looking closely at how new buildings and those in line...