Archive for the ‘News’ Category
Hair Dye or Hair Die?
What to do if you are injured by a defective product
Our guide to making a Personal Injury claim
I confess – I am guilty – Just as guilty as those of us who take a perverse and slightly voyeuristic interest in articles or shows on television about people who have been injured in freak accidents.
Watching these types of horrific accidents can be comforting in that the possibility of suffering such an accident is so remote that we can watch safe in the knowledge that it would never happen to us. .
It seems all the more interesting when the items that cause injury are products that we all use – an everyday product – then we all want to know about it because we all use these products and the personal risk to us appears to be a very real one – something I like to call the “it could have been me” syndrome.
Human beings enjoy an innate level of trust. Every day, millions of us buy goods, appliances and products, trusting that what we pick up from shop shelves and online are not defective. I know I do the same and generally there are no problems with the items bought. We tend not to question or even think twice about the hidden dangers lurking amongst the everyday items we use.
Below, I will discuss what you should do if you find that you have been injured by a defective or faulty product.
Who is responsible?
Thankfully, we do enjoy legal rights that will protect us if we are injured by defective products. The good news is that you can make a claim for compensation and damages for the injuries, pain and suffering you have suffered as well as other losses such as lost earnings or the cost of someone having to take care of you if you have been off sick from work or need specialist care at home as a result of the injury
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having been injured by a defective product, you can claim against either:
A) The producer (i.e. the manufacturers of the products)
B) The retailer (the shops that sells the goods) and
C) An online business that may have made certain misrepresentations or even manufactured the faulty goods wrongly.
So what do you do if it happens to you?
- First and foremost, you need to make sure that you seek immediate medical treatment and advice. This may involve going to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital or popping into your local walk in clinic or visiting your G.P. Remember, your safety is paramount. Make sure you tell them the cause of the injury as far as you are aware and also explain the full extent of your injuries.
It may be that certain symptoms do not arise until sometime after your use of the product. Therefore it may be necessary for you to make a repeat visit to the medical facility. Don’t be afraid to do so. It is very important that the full extent of your injuries are documented by medical professionals as this will make it easier for you to make a claim further down the line.
- Make a note of when and where you purchased the product. If possible, please retain the receipt or proof of purchase. When you come to see us, you should be able to tell us where it is that you purchased the item.
- You should always consider whether the specific product contains safety information on it. Does it say for example in the case of a hair dye, to undertake a patch test or to not use if you have a sensitivity or allergy? Many times it will do, however care needs to always be taken to preserve the product itself and the packaging of the item in case an expert lab analysis needs to be undertaken to establish whether there was some other inherent defect in the product itself.
- You may want to complain to your local trading standards office – Most companies and manufacturers have product liability insurance that may cover damages for your injuries and the legal cost of obtaining compensation.
- If you have any scars or burns, we recommend you also take photographic evidence of the injury and or the product/packaging.
- Retain contact with any witnesses so that you/your lawyers can get a statement from anyone who may have witnessed your injury.
- Contact a specialist Personal Injury lawyer (like myself).
You may be thinking to yourself whether all of this is necessary? After all, we should all be able to confidently rely on the fact that the products we use are safe. But this is not always the case and often you will need to turn to a specialist lawyer to guide you if you have been injured by a defective product.
The law in this area can be complicated and who you decide to make a claim against and how much compensation you will receive is something that a good lawyer will be able to assist you with.
Often, if it is proven that a product is defective and caused your injury, the courts in the U.K will adopt a strict liability approach unless it can be shown that the defect could not have been known at the time.
I have been a personal injury lawyer for some 15 years but I am still amazed by the sheer number of people who are injured by defective products and worse still, some of bizarre and often very serious injuries that can follow. Over the years I have conducted hundreds of product liability claims and helped thousands of people and their families achieve compensation after being injured. Whilst the compensation will not change what has happened, it certainly helps to make up for the anguish suffered and get you bcak on the road to recovery.
My work requires a knowledge of consumer law, the law relating to strict product liability and negligence as well as understanding how to get you the maximum award of damages you are entitled to.
Ultimately, our aim here at Saracens is to ensure that you are happy and that you achieve the maximum award of compensation. If you are injured by a defective product or one that is faulty, call me or come to see me as soon as you can, as any delay may mean that you could be losing out.
Personal Injury – Saracens Solicitors
In part 2 of our articles on top tips for first time buyers we focus on property viewings and mastering the art of negotiating a property price with estate agents.
Let’s hear it for estate agents everywhere – a round of applause, please. While still recovering from a double, almost triple-dip recession, estate agents are playing a vital role in keeping our economy moving. They facilitate communications amongst sellers and buyers of property and they know a thing or two about negotiating property prices. Their role is to achieve the best possible price for the seller, while enticing hungry buyers at the asking price or higher. The estate agent therefore, although not supremely popular, is a key player in this process.
Negotiating a property price for your first home is not as scary as it sounds. You have to be bold and trust your instincts somewhat. It is useful to establish good relations between you and your chosen agent fairly early on so that negotiating a property price is more art-fare than warfare!
Estate agents are trained in providing an indicative valuation of a property’s worth unlike surveyors who provide a valuation based on the structural condition of the property. Estate agents valuations will be based on their own opinion of the market taking into consideration local amenities such as transport links, schools and high street shops.
It is therefore important that you do your own research into property values in your search area so that when it comes to negotiating a property price, you can validly explain the reasons for your offer. Experienced and reputable agents will be open to negotiating a property price and can even encourage a seller to accept a price, but ultimately it is the seller’s decision to accept or reject an offer. Don’t rule out negotiating a purchase price for substantially lower than advertised as agents have to put forward all offers received even if they are ridiculous. However, people have different reasons for selling; they may want to urgently downsize and need the money as soon as possible, and so what may seem like a crazy offer may lead to surprising results.
Finding your home
From the eyes of the first time buyer, the world can seem a cruel place. You have to scrimp and save every penny to afford a decent deposit by which time property prices rise again and the wait continues. However, the last 6 months has seen a comparable increase in first time buyers in the market for the last 5 years, which means lending conditions are improving and first time buyers can finally step up the ladder after years of being denied or calling on the bank of Mum and Dad.
For the first time buyer you may be confused about where to start looking. Finding a property that ticks the majority if not all of your boxes is a good start. Making lists helps. Think about what is important to your lifestyle and see if you can achieve that in your chosen property. For example, you may want to be near a train station for your daily commute to work, or have a local gym or garden area. Don’t rely exclusively on pictures and maps, go and see the place in person as often pictures can be deceiving, having been air-brushed or made to look bigger than they are (yes, it does happen!).
Prepare to be flexible about what you want, particularly in dense property markets. Consider whether it really is imperative to live within 10 minutes walking distance of your friends, the local pub or nightclub. Being a homeowner often results in making changes to your priorities and lifestyle. While it is important to get what you want, do remember that you are competing with other first time buyers who have a similar budget to you. Delaying making a decision or rejecting a suitable property for non-essential lifestyle reasons could be a very expensive mistake if the property market begins to change.
Sign up with a few reputable local estate agents and clearly explain what you want otherwise you are likely to be shown everything within your budget which may only serve to confuse and frustrate you! Getting clear on what you want, where and how much you are prepared to for it is an essential exercise.
Line up your property viewings at times convenient to you. See your property 2, 3 or even 4 times and at different times of day, so you can assess the vicinity, the traffic, the neighbours, and so on.
Tactically, you may want to wait a few days or even arrange a second property viewing before making an offer. It will depend on the market you are property viewing in and whether a ‘bargain’ is likely to be missed if you do not act fast. It really does pay therefore to do your research first.
Regardless of whether or not there are competing first time buyers, setting the right tempo and appearing neither too desperate and hounding down the seller’s agent nor too aloof and out of contact, will assist you in perfecting the art of negotiating a property price. Stay calm and always be polite. This will give the impression of a first time buyer who knows what s/he wants and who won’t be pressured into going over budget to bag the property.
When property viewing, make sure you have your criteria to hand. Keep a pen and notebook with you and write down any thoughts/questions that come to mind. Ask questions during the property viewing. For example, if the heating is only electric and you want gas, you will need to factor in how much you would need to spend to install gas central heating. A good estate agent will be able to answer your questions as you raise them.
Making the offer and beyond
A property is only worth what you are willing to pay for it. Quick and easy internet research will reveal information about other properties in the area such as property values, rental yields, upcoming developments or expected changes in the area that you can use to guage your bid.
Communicate with the estate agent that you are content with an early completion, so long as all of your requirements are met.
As a first time buyer, you can move quickly as there is no chain beneath you. Your deposit finance must already be available if you want to progress matters quickly. You should already have a mortgage agreed in principle as estate agents often want this assurance from first time buyers before taking an offer seriously.
You will also need to arrange your mortgage offer and survey. The estate agent will want to know when this will be sorted out fairly quickly as this is a specific indicator used to assess how committed you are as a first time buyer.
Whilst the estate agent is instructed by the seller, they are also there to help you too. A skilled estate agent is one that manages to hold a deal together and work with both the seller and the buyer. Keep your estate agent updated as this will help keep information flowing between you and the seller and prevent any communication breakdowns.
Once the process of negotiating a purchase price has been settled, solicitors are appointed by the buyer and seller and with the right professional guidance the matter will proceed smoothly to a successful completion. The seller will collect the proceeds of sale, the buyer will move in to a new home, the estate agent will be paid its commission by the seller, and the first time buyer can get on with the art of living happily ever after!
Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage” – Niccolo Machiavelli.
Unsurprisingly, the recession has caused many budding businesses owners to lose confidence in an economic climate where dipping sales have become the norm. For entrepreneurs and for the established business owners, tying to run a successful / profitable business is not only challenging but takes real courage.
In the same vein others have seized the opportunity realising rents are low, staffing costs are low and have increased their level of creativity and innovation to capture new business that others are missing.
For the determined among you, we have produced a series of blogs created by Saracens Solicitors commercial department to assist when starting up a business. This series will focus on certain legal issues to consider when setting up a business, the daily activities of a business as well as ongoing expansion
The titles in the series include:
- Getting started
- The first year in business
- Commercial agreements
- Business protection
- Growing your business
- Business health check
In our experience we have found that many business owners have overlooked the importance of having a proper business plan, which is similar to starting a journey without a map. Losing your way is highly likely but for a business owner this is valuable time that has been wasted.
One of the questions that our clients ask us is whether it is beneficial to have a bespoke business plan? This of course will depend on the circumstances of the business and the intention of the individual driving that business
A business plan is a formal document which sets out the vision, ethos, goals and how these goals will be achieved by the business. The commercial value of this document is often underestimated – for a new company this document is often used to obtain financial support from investors or a loan from a bank.
We would advise an individual starting a new business to think carefully about their business plan and seek the assistance of a commercial solicitor.
Another decision that a new company will need to make is the structure in which to carry on its business. There are many different ways of carrying on a business which will determine the liability, responsibility and the tax that a business will have to pay. It is essential for all businesses to obtain legal advice and tax advice at the outset to find the most suitable structure for their business.
We have listed a number of business structures below:
This is an individual who runs their own business without a corporate structure, per se
The business owner will keep all profits that the business makes after tax has been paid. The individual will have unlimited liability for the debts, bills and other expenses that the business incurs.
A sole trader is only established when the business is registered with HM Revenue & Customs by completing the relevant forms.
Private Limited Company
This is made up of a group of individuals who make up the company. The company is managed by directors who make decisions on its day to day activities through their conduct. The directors are not only accountable to the shareholders who have a financial interest in the company but also to members of the general public. It is not unusual to find that the directors and shareholders are often the same individuals.
The company is responsible for its own affairs, which means that the personal assets of its shareholders remain intact. The liability of the shareholders is also limited to the value of the shares that they own. The profits of the company are shared after it has paid corporation tax and other liabilities that it owes.
Company formation is completed through registration with Companies House. The company must also inform HM Revenue & Customs when it starts operating.
In this structure there is an array of legal issues for shareholders to consider that a commercial solicitor will on occasion have to advise on. The Companies Act 2006 regulates the conduct of directors, but is silent on the relationships of shareholders and how they treat each other. The questions that often arise are:
- What happens if one of the shareholders dies?
- If a shareholder wants to attract external investment by another shareholder, what rights do other shareholders have to stop this? If this is not resolved, is there a possibility of litigation?
- Where there are conflicting views amongst the shareholders, how are these views harmonised?
- Does a minority shareholder have any rights if a majority shareholder seeks to dilute their shares for their own benefit- more importantly, can this action be stopped?
This topic will be discussed in further detail in our 3rd blog of the series, titled “Commercial Agreements.”
This consists of two or more individuals who share equal responsibility for the business and share its profits. Each partner pays tax on their individual share of the profits. The partners are responsible for the losses, expenses and bills that the business incurs.
A key distinction here is that a partner does not have to be an individual and can be a limited company.
Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)
An LLP is a company which is independent of its members, giving the partners the right to manage the company directly unlike the shareholders of a company who would have to appoint a director onto the board.
The partners are not legally liable for the actions of the other partners and the partners cannot be held jointly liable. The liability of the partners is limited to their individual investment in the company and they pay tax on their individual share of the profit.
Public Liability Company (PLC)
This is a company whose shares can be traded on the stock market. The shares in the company can be bought and sold by members of the public, and their liability is limited to the value of their shares. This company structure is strictly regulated and two or more individuals are required to form the company.
Alternative Business Structures (ABS)
Even solicitors are not removed from considering the nature of their business structures. On the 6 October 2011 for the first time in English legal history non-lawyers were permitted under the Legal Services Act to own and manage law firms, a role traditionally restricted to qualified individuals.
For many this was received with an “about time” and saw the opening of the English legal system as an avenue for choice and healthy competition. For cynics the risk of the quality of legal services being diluted and customer care has been too much to bear.
We hope that this section illustrates the importance of obtaining legal advice from a commercial solicitor when considering a business structure.
There are essential documents that a business must have for company formation. These documents include the following:
Memorandum of Association
This is the company charter which defines the scope of the company activities.
Articles of Association
This specifies the internal regulation (including rules and processes) of the company for carrying out its activities as defined in the memorandum.
The main difference between the two documents is that the Memorandum of Association cannot be altered except as provided by the Companies Act 2006, while the Articles of Association can be altered by a special resolution signed by the members of the company.
A number of our clients have mentioned obtaining “of the shelf articles” from the internet, without giving consideration to issues such as “pre-emption rights”. If, for example, 2 shareholders own equal shares in a company, the default position is that one of the shareholders would be able to transfer their shares freely without having regard to the other shareholder. In owner-managed businesses, having a right of first refusal for share transfers can be particularly important. Such rights can be inserted into a bespoke set of articles which we can draft.
Certificate of Incorporation
This is a certificate issued by Companies House confirming the existence of the company and the date of its incorporation.
Until next time
It is evident that having a business at any level can be challenging. The following titles in this series will focus on the first year in business given that statistics prove that many businesses fail within the first five years.
If you are thinking of starting your own business you must consider how to structure the set up and the points detailed above. Even if you are already in business you may want to change your commercial structure, e.g. from a sole trader to say a limited liability company. In these circumstances, the above details may prove to be helpful and you should seek professional guidance on how to go about it.
Our commercial lawyers are on hand to assist – feel free to give them a call.
It’s all about priorities – What are your priorities in life? Most of us don’t think actively about this question until we are forced to and once a person starts to think about the answer to this question, the results can be quite surprising.
As a leading family lawyer, I find myself asking my clients this question more and more. I want people to focus on exactly what it is that they want to achieve from matrimonial proceedings and the reasons for their choices.
Most people going through a divorce are usually dealing with a whole host of emotions ranging from sadness and anger to feelings of embitterment, resentment and often an understandable desire for revenge. These feelings are only natural when a relationship comes to an end but it is important that you have someone on your side who will encourage you to concentrate on the important issues and allow you to focus in on your priorities.
What is your priority?
Most people’s first thoughts are about their children: “How often will I see my child? Who will make the important decisions in my child’s life? Where will they live and who will they live with? ” Inevitably linked to this is the question of what will happen to the matrimonial assets?
Matrimonial assets are any assets acquired during the course of the marriage. They include the family home and business, pensions, joint bank accounts as well as any property or assets held in either partner’s sole name. Crucially, this can include property or assets that were acquired before the marriage. A financial settlement or agreement about what to do with these assets must be reached between the parties or else the Court will decide who gets what based on what it deems fair, just and reasonable.
It is often difficult and too emotive for a divorcing couple to reach an agreement on their own as to how the matrimonial assets should be divided. Each partner usually has a different view as to what is in their opinion, a fair settlement.
It is crucial that each partner have sensible and pragmatic advisors whilst negotiating a financial settlement as there are no strict rules governing any financial settlement and it is not always the case that assets will be divided equally between the two of you.
How are Matrimonial Assets divided?
The Courts in England and Wales consider the merits of each party’s entitlement and the surrounding circumstances on a case by case basis. There are number of factors that are taken into account when parties negotiate or when the Courts decide on what is a fair financial settlement.
Some of the factors that the court considers are:-
- The welfare and security of any children in the family.
- Each partner’s financial needs, obligations and responsibilities.
- The length of the marriage.
- The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.
- The age of each partner and whether there are any health issues.
- The contribution that each partner has made (or is likely to make in the foreseeable future) to the overall welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family.
- The conduct of each partner (but this is rare).
- Whether there are any benefits that one of the parties will lose upon divorce, such as the ‘benefit’ of the other partner’s pension.
The Court will look at both spouses’ current income, current earning capacity, property, future income and earning capacity before it decides upon a fair financial settlement.
If there is a significant difference between the spouses’ earnings/earning capacity, then the courts normally order that the wealthier spouse give a larger share of the matrimonial assets to the financially weaker spouse.
Similarly if there is child of the family, then the courts will be concerned to ensure that there is adequate housing for that child and the parent with whom the child resides with.
In relation to assets that were acquired before the marriage, any financial settlement will depend upon how those assets were held and treated during the marriage and whether there are enough other assets and property acquired during the course of marriage which can deal with each of the needs of both parties.
Types of Financial Settlement Orders a Court will make
The Clean Break
The Court will always consider the option of a clean break. A clean break simply means that once the matrimonial assets have been divided between the parties, then that is the end of the matter and neither of them will be able to claim financial relief in the future.
Lump Sum Payments
This does what it says on the tin. It involves one partner paying money to the other in lump sums. These sums can be paid in exchange for one partner’s share of the matrimonial assets or sometimes even in place of spousal maintenance.
Spousal Maintenance Orders
A spousal maintenance order (aka periodical payments/alimony) is when one partner makes regular payments of maintenance to the other in order to support them financially after the divorce. These payments usually end when one or both of the partners remarries, dies or if the Court varies the payment in some way.
Sometimes when there are not enough assets to be divided in a meaningful way, the Court can also order a nominal payment of maintenance. This is to ensure that if the financial circumstances of the parties change in the future, then one of the partners may apply to vary or change the order.
Transfer or sale of property
In relation to the matrimonial home, the court can make a variety of orders relating to property, including if necessary:
- An order to sell the property and divide the proceeds.
- An order to postpone the sale for a period ( known as a ‘Mesher’ order)
- An order that the property be transferred to one partner.
- An order that property be transferred subject to payment of a lump sum.
Pension Sharing Orders
The Court can order that any pension policies be divided between the partners, normally with half of the pension being transferred into a new pension fund for the benefit of the other partner.
How can you reach a financial settlement?
Direct discussion between parties
Sometimes separating couples are able to reach settlement amicably by negotiating amongst themselves. It is important to remember however that any such agreement is not legally binding unless it has been sanctioned and sealed by an order of the Court. Separating couples should consult with solicitors to ensure that their agreement is reasonable, fair and is capable of being endorsed by the Court.
Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third party (a mediator) assists both parties in reaching a financial settlement. The parties are assessed to see whether the mediation process is suitable and then negotiations can begin. Once an agreement has been hammered out through mediation, the agreement will need to be finalised into a court order and formally sealed by the Court.
Negotiation through solicitors
Often the most cost effective way of reaching a financial settlement is through solicitors. I have found that open honest and frank disclosure of your financial situation early on in the negotiations is often crucial to a quick settlement being reached. Once an agreement is finalised this can then be drafted into a binding and lasting court order.
The Court Process
Unfortunately there may be occasions where parties cannot reach a financial settlement and an application has to be made at court in order to obtain a financial remedy.
Once an application is made, the Court will set out a timetable: There will normally be three Court hearings:
1) First Appointment Hearing
2) Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing and
3) A Final Hearing.
Each side must exchange financial information (by completing a Form E). It is this document that the court uses to reach a financial settlement. At each stage above, parties can attempt to negotiate and reach a financial settlement.
Ultimately seeking advice from a solicitor at an early stage will save you time and money. Financial settlements on divorce are quite complex in nature and can become very expensive if legal proceedings are required. The best option for spouses is to negotiate through their solicitors and reach an amicable agreement as to how the property and assets in divorce should be divided.
In order to do this, it is necessary for both parties to focus in and prioritize their needs. What is most important to each partner? Is it the family home? Is it regular maintenance payments? Is it more important for one partner to have a clean break and no further contact with the other after the divorce?
By focusing on what is needed, you can make sure that you don’t end up with the dog when what you really wanted all along was that 70’s collection of Beatles Records… Remember, sharing is not always caring!
Without knowing it, you may well have thrown away hundreds or even thousands of pounds on something that you never needed. This is the phenomenon that has resulting in claims where people have spent money on something called PPI.
So…What is PPI?
Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is insurance cover taken out at the same time as say a loan or mortgage. It is intended to provide insurance cover in the event that you cannot make the payments for reasons such as: critical or other illness, loss of a job, inability to work due to an accident or injury.
Before PPI was issued the arranger (e.g. the bank or financial institution) should have told you that you need not include PPI as part of your monthly payment plan.
If you were not properly advised of your rights and told that there was an option for you to not make a contribution for PPI, the chances are you have been mis-sold the policy.
The cover could have been for anything, including a mortgage, loan, credit card or any other insurance product.
I strongly recommend that you come to see us now so as to not lose out on your claim as a substantial fund has been set aside to pay you back for the selling you a product you neither wanted or needed.
At Saracens we offer a free consultation on your PPI claim!….We invite you to contact the litigation team today to discuss.
So… What can you do about PPI
Try and reflect on how the product was sold to you. You were probably never even told that you were paying for cover to include loss of your employment (for example through illness or redundancy, or due to an injury or accident or other reason.
You may not even realise you have PPI, so why not ask us at Saracens to look over your paperwork for you? We will be able to identify for you within a short period of time whether there is any terminology within your statements or agreements which amount to a PPI.
We would also recommend that you contact the company who has provided you with the finance arrangement and ask them directly if your payments include PPI.
There are many thousands of people with unclaimed compensation payments. If you are not sure whether you are entitled, you have nothing to lose by coming to us for advice.
We can offer you various funding options to process your claim and you need not lose out. We provide funding under a “No win No Fee” arrangement and we have many years of experience in advising our clients under a No win No fee and have successfully pursued many insurance companies.
You will first need to check whether or not you have a valid PPI policy. A PPI claim is usually available to those that did not realise they were taking out a PPI policy and did not actually want or if they accepted it without having the terms properly explained to them. Many banks have already written to a large number of my clients informing them that PPI policies may have been missold to them. If you have received a letter from your bank in this respect, do not delay, respond and ask for your premiums to be refunded.
Even if your bank has not written to you, check previous bank statements for any payments that have gone out of your account. They are unlikely to be marked as “PPI” but if you are unsure as to what a payment relates, contact your bank and find out.
If you are unsure on whether or not you have a valid PPI claim, contact us now; Saracens would be more than happy to assist.
Deadlines for PPI claims
Generally speaking, you must lodge a claim for missold PPI for a policy that has been used over the past six years. This is because most banks and financial institutions only hold information about an individual or policy for this period of time before it is destroyed.
Even if your PPI policy was taken out more than six years ago, you may still have a case as long as you still have the relevant paperwork in your possession. Contact your bank and ask them to provide details if you feel that you are missing something.
You may consider contacting the Financial Ombudsman for assistance if your bank is being uncooperative.
Contact your bank!
Many banks are turning down their customers PPI claims. If you are turned down, this does not mean that you do not have a claim. The Financial Ombudsman are often asked to intervene in these circumstances and investigate whether the claim is valid or not.
In many instances, banks have been ordered to pay up after initially refusing to do so.
PPI misselling is a very serious issue and one that is being afforded attention from every financial institution in the country. Lloyds have set aside some £5billion to compensate its customers with and the Financial Ombudsman is having to deal with hundreds of complaints every hour of the working day.
Records indicate that the average PPI payout is worth around £2500.00 but regardless, many people are unaware of their entitlement.
Saracens can offer a no-win-no-fee arrangement. If you feel you have a claim, contact us today.
“A gentleman’s word is his bond” ….or is it?
With the increasing rise in landlord and tenant disputes in the courts, relying on an oral agreement with your landlord or indeed your tenant is a real risk.
We all know that no relationship is guaranteed in life, not least one which involves property. When the relationship turns sour, seemingly it is quite common for one party to go back on their word and deny the existence of any agreement – leaving the distraught party to start court proceedings as the only means to enforce the oral agreement.
In those circumstances what protection does an oral agreement actually offer?
Just because the contract is not in writing or signed, it does not mean that there is no agreement per se. It is the conduct of each party that creates occupation rights and allows certain legal interests in property to arise however there are, as always, limitations. The type of tenancy created will depend on the terms of the oral agreement and how the occupation started / continued during that time.
I have discussed below the differing types of tenancies that can arise pursuant to an oral agreement and how this may affect your occupation rights. These agreements can be a (1) licence to occupy; (2) tenancy at will; and (3) lease:
(1) Licence to occupy
This type of arrangement provides permission to use the premises for a short term period which can either be fixed or can be dependent on payment of rent on a weekly or monthly basis.
The right to occupy the premises is on a non-exclusive basis. This gives the landlord the entitlement to occupy the premises itself and bring the licence to an end, by serving notice to terminate. Essentially a licence to occupy does not grant the tenant any legal interests in property.
(2) Tenancy at will
A tenancy at will is also used for short term lettings. The length of term of the agreement is not specified and simply continues while the premises are occupied (with the landlords consent). It can be terminated by either party at any time. The notice period is negotiable between the parties and is agreed at the outset. The agreement does not grant any exclusive possession to the tenant. Also it is worth noting, the tenancy will automatically come to an end if the landlord sells its interest in the premises or ends its ownership, say by death (or if a company, by way of insolvency).
This type of tenancy can arise either expressly (i.e. specifically agreed between the parties) or by implication (i.e. by virtue of the action of the parties involved) – the latter often arising where an appropriate lease has not been put in place.
A lease offers the most protection for a landlord and tenant however the Law of Property Act 1925 specifies certain formalities must be met for a lease to be validly created by way of an oral agreement. The law requires the term to be agreed at not more than 3 years, the tenant to take possession and pay the best market rent (as opposed to a lump sum premium at the outset).
Where the parties have a term longer than 3 years, the claiming party may have to turn to the courts to determine whether any rights based on the principles of fairness have been created.
Most oral agreements which are akin to a lease will offer security of tenure and are protected in law (by the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954). Security of tenure is the right of a tenant to continue to occupy a property unless the landlord obtains a court order for possession. In business this is more complicated. More specifically the requirements for protection are: (i) there must be a tenancy; (ii) the property consist of or include premises which are occupied by the tenant; (iii) the occupation must be for the purposes of a business; (iv) the business must be carried on by the tenant; and (v) the tenancy must not fall within any of the specific exclusions under the legislation.
When the agreed term of the lease expires, the lease may continue on exactly the same terms without the need for the tenant to vacate. A tenant will gain a legal interest in the property with a right to apply to the court for a renewal of the agreement.
Oral agreement vs written agreement
We recently acted for a tenant whose oral agreement with his landlord commenced in 2003 (for a term of 5 years). The agreement was protected by security of tenure as mentioned above (i.e. as detailed in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954). We successfully argued that our client should be allowed to continue trading despite the landlord changing the locks to the property. The landlord was trying to send bailiffs and was threatening to issue legal proceedings. Our client successfully claimed for aggravated and exemplary damages and is continuing his occupation of the property.
The real key to a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship is transparency and this can only be achieved via formal written documentation. A properly drafted lease will comply with the various technical requirements to create a valid interest in the property and will clearly set out the landlord’s and tenant’s obligations to one another. With the right legal advice, a lease is the best form of protection for both parties.
The legal procedure is a fairly complex and should be left to lawyers to undertake the necessary steps to negotiate the lease on your behalf.
For an overview of how we can assist you with your lease, please click here to see our flowcharts.
Put your trust in us rather than your landlord and let us guide you through the process. Contact our commercial property department to discuss your property matter.
At first I didn’t get it and decided that I didn’t like it. I tried to ignore it but it was everywhere. Eventually it made me giggle. Now it makes me laugh out loud and I have to admit that I find it hilarious. Even the music, which when I first heard it sounded as wild and disjointed as the Harlem Shake itself is now strangely upbeat and dare I say it – addictive?
There is no denying that the Harlem Shake is an internet sensation. No doubt like other dance sensations, it will eventually die out. Do you remember the “Macarena” or Madonna’s “Vogue”? Maybe you just don’t want to. The difference here is that the Harlem Shake involves a lot more people and its spread as a result of the internet has been nothing short of phenomenal.
A mere glance at Youtube will reveal hundreds of examples of people all over the world doing the Harlem Shake. People are “shaking” at home, in the streets, in their offices, in schools and in parks. I have even seen videos of people doing the Harlem Shake in Prison. There is no denying its popularity. It appears to be the height of spontaneous fun and self expression.
The other day I was walking past University College, located just down the road from Saracens offices in Central London when I saw hundreds of students dancing, waving and shaking. Although the whole thing looked wonderful, it did not look particularly safe.
Watching them, I observed the amount of organisation and micro management needed to produce a Harlem Shake video. How ironic I thought. Something whose popularity has grown as a result of its perceived spontaneity is in reality so heavily and delicately stage managed. I had been thinking of organising a Harlem Shuffle at Saracens offices and for the first time, I started to think about what that would involve and concluded that for all these Harlem Shake videos, safety was of paramount importance.
So, of course if you love your dancing and the Harlem Shake (and naturally I assume that you do otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this blog) there are a few words of wisdom that I, as a personal injury lawyer would ask that you consider if you are planning to create your own version or even if you are participating in someone else’s:
1. Wear the right footwear. Wearing high heels on an uneven or extra smooth floor is naturally riskier than wearing lower heeled shoes.
2. Make sure that all surfaces are clear and free of obstruction.
3. Make sure that all participants know exactly what they are doing and the area in which they will be “shaking” in order to avoid collisions or flailing accidents.
4. Don’t attempt overly physical or demanding dance moves. The propensity for pulling a muscle or damaging yourself whilst attempting a back flip should not be ignored.
5. Make sure the floor surface is even and free from spillages.
6. Slippery floors are also hazardous in that they can cause you to move in an awkward way, leading to possible muscle strain, pulls or other injuries.
7. Don’t overcrowd the area in which you are “shaking”
If, even after all this, you find yourself hurt or seriously injured whilst participating in one of these group dances, you should be aware that depending on where the event is taking place, most venues will have public and personal injury liability insurance cover.
Many dance studios, organisations, football clubs and employers in large companies today are allowing their members to freely perform the Harlem Shake. They do not realise that they are exposing themselves to the risk of a Personal Injury claim. I saw a “Harlem Shake” video the other day as performed by the players at Manchester City Football Club. It made me laugh out loud but once again I was struck by the idea that because the Harlem Shake is such a fun concept, people overlook or fail to consider the risks to their own health.
I love a good boogie as much as the next gal. I aim to participate in my first “Harlem Shake” video this weekend. So while I advocate that you all go out there and enjoy your “Harlem Shake” with your friends, family and colleagues do be aware of the associated risks and hazards.
Write to me here now at Saracens, send me your Harlem Shake videos and share with me your experiences of being a “Harlem Shaker”.
As an Immigration specialist, I receive many enquiries from applicants around the world who are looking to enter the UK to study, invest, or just visit during the holidays. The UK has always been an attractive destination for tourists, business people, investors, students and workers.
There are different kinds of UK visas available to visitors. Which visa is relevant to you will depend on the reason for your visit to the UK.
In this blog I will discuss the most common UK visas and things for you to look out for.
Visitor UK visas
As explained, the UK has traditionally been a very popular destination for tourists and visitors. The UK is ranked 7th in the world in terms of visitor numbers per annum. This is astonishing given the size of the island but is testament to the popularity of the country and our welcoming nature.
Visitors to our shores spend approximately £18 billion a year in the U.K. This represents a huge input into our economy, especially at a time of austerity and recession.
Believe it or not, the UK actually saw a slump in tourist visitors during the London Olympics last summer. One of the reasons cited for this was the long and complex application process to apply for a visa.
It is true that the application form is long and complex. I have seen many people’s applications for a UK visa being rejected simply because they misunderstood a question in the form.
Also it can take up to three months for the Home Office to make a decision on your application. This means that visitors must apply three months in advance of their planned travel date! This can put a lot of people off as it is not always possible for everybody to plan their trips abroad three months in advance. These obstacles have resulted in a reduction in the number of people making applications for a visitor UK visa.
Both the tourism and legal industries have been urging the government to eliminate some of the more difficult parts of the application process in order to simplify and streamline it. Will the government listen? With all of the negative press recently surrounding UK immigration, I’m not going to hold my breath for a quick resolution.
Student UK visas
The UK has always been a popular choice for international students who wish to study here. A degree from a UK University is still recognised around the world as being of the highest quality and carries with it a certain amount of prestige. International students bring an estimated £8bn to our struggling economy and with the higher tuition fees introduced by the government, this figure is expected to double in the coming decade. This is good news for the UK economy as a whole.
In order to obtain a university degree in the UK, a student is usually required to study for three years. However, in other countries an equivalent degree may take four or five years. This fact alone attracts more students to the UK as they can save a substantial amount of money and time on completing their education. As an Immigration Specialist I have seen an increase in the number of applications made by students who want to come and study in the UK.
Again, applying for a UK visa to study can be very complex for students. This is why I always advise potential students to seek professional legal advice before submitting an application for a UK visa to their local embassy, High Commission or consulate.
Investor UK visas
With the painfully slow recovery of the UK economy, the government has recognized that the UK is in urgent need of investors and entrepreneurs from abroad who can contribute to the economy by paying taxes and creating work opportunities for some of the 2.5 million unemployed people in the UK.
In May 2012, I wrote an article about the importance of attracting these types of investors to the UK. In my article, I discussed the English Language test which is a requirement for entrepreneurs seeking to emigrate to the UK. The English language requirement was in my humble opinion, far too difficult and seemed to demand that applicants display an understanding of the English language beyond the level required to successfully run a business in the UK. Back in May last year, I suggested that the government reduce the English Language requirement to a more realistic level.
It seems that the government has been listening to the calls of investors and professionals like me. In December 2012, the level of English required was reduced accordingly. This change has been welcomed by many investors who now feel that they are in a better position to successfully apply for a UK visa to invest in the UK.
Despite this improvement, the application forms to obtain an Investor Visa are still complex and technical. Investors are advised to seek professional legal advice before applying for a UK visa. Most applications must now be completed online and a fee is usually payable online.
The irony of this payment method is that whilst paying online, you may be asked to pay the application fee either by Mastercard, Switch Amex or Visa. One of my clients, not fully understanding what was meant by this, asked me the question:
“Why are they asking me if I have a VISA… If I already had a VISA, I would not be applying in the first place!”
Last week at my local supermarket, whilst browsing through a colourful and interesting array of new fruits that had just arrived, I found myself reeling and the next thing I recall was grabbing onto a side shelf to stop myself from falling and sustaining an injury. I looked down to see what had caused me to slip and noticed that the floor seemed a little wet. Luckily the store wasn’t very busy at the time and I saved myself from a potentially embarrassing moment by avoiding a fall and a potentially serious injury.
As an accident injury lawyer, my immediate instinct was to look around and see whether there were any warning signs out on display. Surprisingly there were none. I immediately alerted the staff to clean up the hazard and thankfully no one was injured as a result of the wet patch. However many people are not as lucky as I was. Many clients of mine have suffered various bodily injuries from sprains to serious fractures of the limbs and back injuries, some with serious debilitating consequences.
Having an accident injury which was caused by slipping on a substance, liquid or item of fruit on a supermarket floor generally gives you grounds to make a claim for compensation. Whilst not every fall results in a compensation payment, here is some advice on what you should be aware of and the pitfalls to be avoided.
Supermarkets today stock a wide variety of products boasting aisles laden with various goods. There are many potential risks for the unsuspecting shopper. Spillages, stray trolleys, unstable shelving and heavy cages are also common hazards for members of the public and staff.
By law, a Supermarket must make sure that anyone who goes into their store is kept reasonably safe. They manage potential hazards by preparing risk assessments. If you have suffered an accident injury, I normally ask the supermarket to show me their risk assessment documents. This how I check if they have taken all proper steps to control those risks in accordance with health and safety law.
When I make an assessment, I try to imagine all the different types of store user including children, adults, persons with disabilities, those using walking aids, the vulnerable and the elderly. I try to put myself in their shoes and view life from their perspective.
There are many risks in a store to consider, some obvious, some not so obvious. For example, mats should be provided at entrances, so in wet or damp weather, people who enter the store aren’t creating a slipping risk for others. If the floor is wet from rain or spillage, there should be clear and visible “caution – wet floor” signs to alert shoppers to the danger. Cleaning schedules should be maintained to show that the floor is kept clean.
Generally, most supermarkets do maintain good records and cleaning schedules. Early access to these after you have suffered an injury is vital to assess whether the accident could have been avoided. The store is very likely to be held responsible if they knew there was a hazard and they did not take suitable steps to stop it from occurring. Early disclosure and photographs are essential to any accident injury claim. Lack of documentary evidence can mean a failed claim.
If you suffer an accident injury – What do you do?
Despite the best of endeavours by a Supermarket store to keep the place safe, when an accident does occur, we recommend the following:
- Remember that above all else, your safety is paramount.
- Take prompt action.
- Staff will be at hand and you should ask for a first aider to help you.
- If the injury is serious, ask the store to call you an ambulance.
- If there is a suspected fracture, head or back injury, do not under any circumstances move.
- If anyone saw the accident, write down their name telephone number and address.
- Take a photograph of where you fell if you can.
- Ask the Store Manager or the member of staff for the Accident report book.
- Follow up with the Supermarket store after the accident and find out if they have sent off the accident injury report to head office.
At Saracens, we have many years of expertise in this area of law and have successfully settled claims where there has been an accident injury at a supermarket.
If you have had an accident injury in a Supermarket or want to share your experience of what happened to you when you fell in a store or injured in any other way write to us here. We will offer you a free consultation and advise you on your rights.
Personal Injury Department
“Will you marry me?”
“I’m so excited darling”.
“You have made me the happiest person in the world”!
“Just one thing sweetheart, before we tie the knot, would you mind signing a legal contract saying that if we get a divorce, you won’t try to claim any of my money”?
Whilst it may not be the most idealistic or romantic start to married life, prenuptial agreements have become an essential part of preparing for a modern marriage or partnership. Love them or loath them, there is no doubt that prenuptial agreements suffer from what I call the “marmite effect”. Some people see them as an essential part of getting married and starting a family together in a sensible manner but others see them as distasteful example of how we have moved away from romantic ideals of love and lifetime commitments towards a more pragmatic approach to relationships.
People associate prenuptial agreements with the world of celebrity and the lifestyles of the rich and famous but this is no longer the case. More and more, prenuptial agreements are being used by ordinary individuals to help prevent costly, lengthy and hostile battles at court if the relationship comes to an end.
What is a prenuptial agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into before marriage which outlines how a couple wish to divide their money and property should the marriage end in divorce.
Divorce has become commonplace in society today and as a result, the number of prenuptial agreements and their significance has also increased. I tell all my friends, family and colleagues who are considering tying the knot to carefully mull over the concept of a prenuptial agreement before they say the big “I do”.
Are prenuptial agreements binding in the UK?
Common misconceptions about prenuptial agreements mean that many people do not understand how they work and how to go about entering into one. As a result, many are skeptical about using prenuptial agreements.
It is a widely held view that prenuptial agreements are not worth the paper that they are printed on. People see them as ‘useless’ as they do not bind a Judge, who is entitled to overrule them and make any type of financial settlement that s/he deems suitable following divorce.
If this is true, then why do we even have them? Are they binding and enforceable? They appear to be valid contracts – What is the true position here?
The truth is that although prenuptial agreements are not binding on a court of law (i.e. the court does not have to follow the exact content of the agreement), they are still used by Judges and Courts when deciding what type of financial settlement or order to make upon divorce.
As a matter of fact as time has gone by, prenuptial agreements are being given more weight in divorce/separation proceedings. Judges now view these agreements as a useful indicator of the couple’s intentions at the time they entered into their relationship. I always advise my clients that when deciding who gets what, the courts will consider a range of factors such as the income and earning capacity of each party, their individual needs and lifestyle, the number of children and more.
If the prenuptial agreement is valid and was entered into properly, it is likely that the Courts will use it or at the very least follow it as a guide to what type of financial settlement to make. Therefore, it is arguable that prenuptial agreements are now essential for your financial security.
But bear in mind that the courts will always have the final say when deciding upon financial settlement in divorce cases. This is why it is important to seek independent legal advice when entering into a prenuptial agreement.
What are the advantages of prenuptial agreements?
It is worth looking at the advantages of prenuptial agreements and how they can benefit you.
- Prenuptials encourage parties to discuss finances from the outset and can help resolve financial issues before the marriage has started.
- Prenuptial agreements are also a good way of protecting family assets or property acquired before the marriage.
- They can also help provide financial security if there are children from previous relationships or marriages. As long as such provisions are fair, they will be upheld by the court.
- Prenuptial agreements can also save time and costs. Having a prenuptial agreement which is valid and fair will help avoid long financial settlement proceedings, thus saving legal fees and expenses, tension and heartache.
What are the downfalls of prenuptial agreements?
- One of the disadvantages of having a prenuptial agreement is that vulnerable parties may not benefit as much from these agreements as during negotiations, they may allow themselves to be forcefully persuaded or cajoled into agreeing something that is not in their best interests. This is why it is important to seek independent legal advice before signing such an agreement, to ensure that you can receive the best possible outcome if your marriage breaks down.
- Another point to consider is that as the marriage progresses, key factors may change. For example the parties may have had children together or the income of the parties may have changed dramatically. In these cases the prenuptial may no longer reflect the current positions of the parties and becomes outdated. Therefore it is important to instruct solicitors to draft prenuptial agreements to ensure that these possibilities are accounted for in the prenuptial.
Overall as the attitude towards marriage and divorce has evolved, so has the attitude towards prenuptial agreements changed.
Asking for a prenuptial agreement is no longer taboo. People are more comfortable discussing finances and the possibility of divorce and many agree that given the potentially life changing nature of a divorce, it is sensible to prepare for such an event. The courts are giving more consideration to prenuptial agreements when making financial orders.
Prenuptial agreements have also become more popular as people seek to retain control over their own finances. The Courts will always try to ensure the financial outcome of a divorce is fair for both parties but having a valid prenuptial agreement means that you can achieve a fair outcome, faster, with less hassle and on your own terms.
No one likes to be pessimistic when entering into a long term relationship or a marriage but it may be better to be financially safe than sorry. These discussions may be embarrassing to begin as most people are romantic at heart and want their relationships to last. They do not want to consider financial arrangements when they are falling in love. Divorce is probably the last thing on their mind. They may resent the very idea of reducing their feelings onto a piece of paper.
To some extent, I agree with them.
Affairs of the heart cannot be governed by contracts. Falling in and out of love will not depend on the content of a contract. But for those who have been married, they will tell you that love, although an essential ingredient is not the only factor in building a successful marriage. Prenuptial agreements however can control and govern all of those other more material factors, leaving you to concentrate on falling in love and building a life together.
Now that is actually very very romantic…
Family Law Department
Saracens Family Law Solicitors