FAQs

Business Recovery [-][+]

I was the director of a small business and agreed to be the guarantor of a loan. The company has since gone under and the bank is demanding that I repay the loan. I am worried that I might lose my home. What can I do?
The first step is to fully review the guarantee, as a matter of urgency. Depending on your liability (and your ability to pay) try contacting the lender to arrange a payment plan. If you are fully liable, and are unable to make an offer which the bank will agree to, then it may be appropriate to speak to an insolvency specialist to discuss the various options available to you.

My company is in financial difficulty and there is not enough work for my employees. However, there is some hope that we may seal a large contract soon. What can I do in the interim?
Employers have no statutory right to lay off employees or place them on short-time working without their express consent, unless you have a right in the contract of employment to do so. Any employee who is laid off or kept on short-time working may be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment. If the poor financial situation continues the business may consider a re-organisation or at worst insolvency proceedings if appropriate.

Charities [-][+]

I am a trustee of a small charity which may be losing part of its funding and I can see us having to make redundancies or even close down. What do I do?
Call a Trustees Meeting and ask the accountants to help you with an up to date set of management accounts and a cashflow so that you can all see what is really going on. Have a realistic look at your actual and potential funding and whether it is going to be sufficient for the charity to continue. Do not take on any liabilities or expenses you cannot be sure you can afford. Take legal advice as to initial redundancy steps so you are prepared in case that becomes necessary. Consider whether you might transfer your charities activities to another charity. But take action now - it is not the end of the world if a charity has to cease operations and pass on any surplus assets to another charity.

Our charity has been running for 20 years and during that time the need for our services has changed, and in some cases disappeared, but we see new areas of need opening up. What can we do?
A charity’s ‘objects’ (which are the specific activities it is authorised to carry out and to which donors contribute) cannot be changed without the consent of the Charity Commission. However the Commission recognise that times change and so do the types of need society has. They will usually look favourably on a proposal to alter objects by updating and adapting them - for example by extending care for the elderly into possibly respite care to assist families of dementia sufferers - especially if the changes have the support of supporters and members of the charity.

Our charity was formed as a trust 15 years ago to provide club facilities for children, but we are concerned about the risk of being held liable as trustees if anything goes wrong. What can we do?
First check that the charity and trustees have all necessary insurance. Then consider incorporating the charity as a limited company (or one of the new Charitable Incorporated Organisations). That would allow the operations of the charity to be conducted by the company or CIO rather than by the Trustees themselves, and will proved a measure of protection. The process involves some legal steps but as trustees you serve for no reward and are entitled to have some peace of mind about possible liabilities.

We have had changes of charity trustees at meetings over the years but now none of them have their names on the charity’s property Title Deeds and some of those shown on the deeds are dead. What do we do?
It is important to take advice to record and formalise appointments and resignations so that property titles can be updated, and then make sure that you record them properly in future. Fortunately the dead ones should be the easiest to sort out!

Commercial Litigation & Dispute Resolution [-][+]

I am renting a commercial property and my tenant is defaulting on their rent payments. What can I do?
Firstly, consider whether you want to reclaim the property or just receive payment for the outstanding rent. Also bear in mind the means of your tenant to actually pay the outstanding arrears, as this may affect your strategy. The first thing to do is check your tenancy agreement, as this will help assess the options available, and it may be that your lease contains a forfeiture provision. Even if there is no forfeiture provision, there are various options - you may be able to issue proceedings against your tenant for payment of rent arrears or possession of your property, issue a statutory demand or pursue undertenants or guarantors for the debt.

I have an employee who is ‘bad mouthing’ the company, what can I do?
You may have grounds to discipline or dismiss if the employee is bringing the company into disrepute. You must carry out a thorough investigation as part of the disciplinary procedure in accordance with the ACAS Code to decide on the appropriate action. You may also consider whether the company could bring any other action against the employee in relation to defamation.

My business partner and I wish to go our separate ways. What are our options?
It very much depends on the type of business as to your specific options (eg are you a partnership, a limited liability partnership, a company etc). The first step is to check any shareholder or partnership agreements that may be in place, to see if these contain any procedures for partner exits. It may be possible to simply close or sell the business if there are no outstanding issues or unresolved disputes. If there are any issues (a disagreement over the assets of the business, for example) then the first step is to once again check any shareholder or partnership agreements, to see what dispute resolution clauses are contained within. It is also important to consider any personal guarantees or liabilities you may have in connection with the business (eg borrowings from the bank may be guaranteed by directors of a limited company or the partners in a partnership)

Someone has set up in direct competition using my company name and logo – what can I do?
Has your name or logo been registered as a trademark? If so, it is possible to take action to stop their infringement of your trademark. If not, your main option is to rely on the common law of action against ‘passing off’. This means that you would have to: Have the necessary good will in your name or logo Prove that there is a likelihood of confusion in the mind of the public between the two brands or company names and finally Prove that damage is being caused to your business by their use of your business name / logo. Proving ‘passing off’ is a complex process, and it is therefore much better to protect your brand with a trade mark application.

Commercial Property [-][+]

I am assigning a lease and have been told I will have to give an AGA – what is this?
When a tenant is assigning their lease, the landlord can ask the tenant to guarantee the new tenant's performance of the obligations contained in the lease. The outgoing tenant may be required to enter into an 'Authorised Guarantee Agreement' or AGA, and this may be necessary to gain the Landlord’s consent to assign the lease. Tenants should be aware that by giving an AGA they will be guaranteeing that the new tenant performs the covenants and obligations contained in the lease - including the obligation to pay rent.

I am buying a commercial property – will I need to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax?
The rate of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) payable will depend upon the purchase price, whether VAT is payable on the purchase price and whether any SDLT relief can be claimed. SDLT will be calculated not only on the purchase price but also on the amount of VAT payable on the purchase price. It should also be noted that SDLT can be payable by a Tenant on the grant of a lease depending upon how long the lease is granted for and the annual rent payable. At present, the SDLT rates on non-residential or mixed use property or land are: Up to £150,000 - 0% Over £150,000 to £250,000 - 1% Over £250,000 to £500,000 - 3% Over £500,000 - 4%

I am looking to buy a commercial property. What searches will I need?
It is up to the buyer to find out as much about the property as possible. This can be achieved by asking the seller to reply to pre-contract enquiries. You should also undertake searches designed to reveal information that the seller may not provide; these include Local, Drainage and Environmental Searches, to name but a few. In addition it is recommend that the property is surveyed, and the survey should reveal any physical defects in the property. However, 'caveat emptor' applies...so buyer beware!

I am renting a commercial property and my tenant is defaulting on their rent payments. What can I do?
Firstly, consider whether you want to reclaim the property or just receive payment for the outstanding rent. Also bear in mind the means of your tenant to actually pay the outstanding arrears, as this may affect your strategy. The first thing to do is check your tenancy agreement, as this will help assess the options available, and it may be that your lease contains a forfeiture provision. Even if there is no forfeiture provision, there are various options; you may be able to issue proceedings against your tenant for payment of rent arrears or possession of your property, issue a statutory demand or pursue undertenants or guarantors for the debt.

I have often heard the term “dilapidations” referred to in relation to commercial leases, what does this mean?
Dilapidations is a general term used to describe items of disrepair, most often used in reference to matters covered by the tenant's obligations contained within a lease to repair a property. The term is often seen in the context of the repair works which a tenant is required to complete at the end of a lease, in order to bring the property up to the standard required when returning the property to the landlord. Parties to a lease need to carefully consider potential dilapidations liabilities before completing a lease.

I intend to sell or let out a commercial property, do I need to obtain an Energy Performance Certificate?
An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is required in almost all cases where a commercial property is being sold or let and should be obtained prior to the property being offered for sale or to let. There are some very limited exceptions where an EPC is not required (e.g. places of worship) and if in any doubt you should discuss the EPC requirements with your agent or legal adviser as soon as possible.

Corporate [-][+]

I am in business with my family, do I need a Partnership Agreement?
Without a Partnership Agreement your partnership is governed by the basic terms contained in the historic Partnership Act 1890. The main issue is that if one party wishes to retire or dies, the partnership will automatically end and their share of the partnership must then be distributed to him/her or under his/her will. On many occasions, this leads to family break ups and partnerships being unable to continue. Having a Partnership Agreement will prevent this, by outlining a strategy on the future of the business and any potential sale and agreeing a clear procedure for the departure of any owner.

My business partner and I wish to go our separate ways. What are our options?
It very much depends on the type of business as to your specific options (eg are you a partnership, a limited liability partnership, a company etc). The first step is to check any shareholder or partnership agreements that may be in place, to see if these contain any procedures for partner exits. It may be possible to simply close or sell the business if there are no outstanding issues or unresolved disputes. If there are any issues (a disagreement over the assets of the business, for example) then the first step is to once again check any shareholder or partnership agreements, to see what dispute resolution clauses are contained within. It is also important to consider any personal guarantees or liabilities you may have in connection with the business (eg borrowings from the bank may be guaranteed by directors of a limited company or the partners in a partnership)

My company is in financial difficulty and there is not enough work for my employees. However, there is some hope that we may seal a large contract soon. What can I do in the interim?
Employers have no statutory right to lay off employees or place them on short-time working without their express consent, unless you have a right in the contract of employment to do so. Any employee who is laid off or kept on short-time working may be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment. If the poor financial situation continues the business may consider a re-organisation or at worst insolvency proceedings if appropriate.

Debt Recovery [-][+]

I had a debt which I pursued through the small claims court. I obtained a judgement, but my debtor has still not made a payment. Is there anything I can do?
You have many options to enforce your debt. The exact option you take will depend upon the debtor’s circumstances and available assets. For example, if they are in full time employment, you could ask the court for an order to deduct a sum of money from their earnings. Equally, if they own a property, you may be able to obtain a charging order against their house.

I own a small business. Recently, one of my biggest customers has hit a rough patch and is refusing to make payment. What can I do?
Firstly, try and keep a good relationship with your customer. See if you can settle the matter amicably in order to maintain the business relationship. Should that fail, the first step would be to issue a 'Letter Before Action' advising them that in lieu of payment, the matter will be taken to court. Their response would then dictate how the matter is taken forward, and if further action was needed, there are various options available for pursuing the debt.

I was the director of a small business and agreed to be the guarantor of a loan. The company has since gone under and the bank is demanding that I repay the loan. I am worried that I might lose my home. What can I do?
The first step is to fully review the guarantee, as a matter of urgency. Depending on your liability (and your ability to pay) try contacting the lender to arrange a payment plan. If you are fully liable, and are unable to make an offer which the bank will agree to, then it may be appropriate to speak to an insolvency specialist to discuss the various options available to you.

Employment & HR [-][+]

I am proposing to close one of the company’s sites. What should I do?
If you are proposing to make 20 or more employees redundant you must follow a procedure known as 'collective consultation'. The number of proposed redundancies will determine the time frame of the consultation. You must also submit a HR1 form with the insolvency service. As with any redundancy process a fair and reasonable procedure must be followed.

I have an employee who is ‘bad mouthing’ the company, what can I do?
You may have grounds to discipline or dismiss if the employee is bringing the company into disrepute. You must carry out a thorough investigation as part of the disciplinary procedure in accordance with the ACAS Code to decide on the appropriate action. You may also consider whether the company could bring any other action against the employee in relation to defamation.

I have just discovered that an employee has been stealing from the company. What can I do?
You may have grounds to dismiss for Gross Misconduct and if you wish to pursue that you should follow a fair and reasonable disciplinary procedure. You should consider the ACAS Code of Practice if you do not have your own up to date policy.

My company is in financial difficulty and there is not enough work for my employees. However, there is some hope that we may seal a large contract soon. What can I do in the interim?
Employers have no statutory right to lay off employees or place them on short-time working without their express consent, unless you have a right in the contract of employment to do so. Any employee who is laid off or kept on short-time working may be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment. If the poor financial situation continues the business may consider a re-organisation or at worst insolvency proceedings if appropriate.

My employee has suddenly resigned and I suspect he has taken client contact details and the designs of our product. What can I do?
Look at your employee’s Contract of Employment to check if there are confidentiality provisions or post-termination restrictions in the contract that can be enforced. There may also be Intellectual Property clauses which state that all work the employee has created remains the property of the employer. In the absence of any Contract, there are still some implied terms of confidentiality that all employees are bound by.

Family & Divorce [-][+]

I have worked for all of our married life, whilst my partner stayed at home to raise our children. As a result, I have a considerable pension fund and my spouse does not. Now that we are separating, will my partner be entitled to a share of my pension?
Pensions are considered as part of the assets of the marriage. A pension will either be dealt with by way of a Pension Sharing Order which would mean that the pension would be divided into two separate pension pots. Alternatively, your spouse may be awarded more of the available capital to compensate for the loss of entitlement to your pension.

I want to ask my spouse for a divorce. On what grounds can I do this?
If you have been separated for less than two years, a divorce would either have to be on the basis of adultery or unreasonable behaviour. If you have been separated for more than two years, you can petition on the basis that you have been separated for two years and that both parties consent to the divorce. Should you have been separated for more than five years, you can petition on this basis and will not require the consent of your spouse.

My partner and I are separating. How will our assets be divided?
Your assets will be divided by agreement if you are able to reach a settlement. If not, the court will be asked to decide, and when reaching a decision they will consider the needs of any children, the duration of the marriage, the income of both spouses and their earning capacity, the ages of both parties and the contribution each has made to the assets. Both spouses will be expected to fully disclose their financial circumstances to each other.

My partner and I have decided to get married and it has been suggested that we should get a ‘pre-nup’. What is this and do we need one?
A pre-nuptial agreement records how you agree to divide the assets in the event that the marriage should break down. It is important to seek legal advice about the benefits of a pre-nuptial agreement and to ensure that the agreement is to be binding. Pre-nuptial agreements may be particularly beneficial to couples that have been married before and may wish to protect their assets for their children, or for couples that have received significant sums by way of inheritance.

My son and daughter-in-law have got divorced and the children are going to live with her. How can we make sure we will still get to see our grandchildren?
Grandparents may seek contact with their grandchildren through the courts although, first they must try to reach agreement through mediation.  If no agreement is reached then they require the court’s permission to make an application.

My spouse and I have separated and I want to issue divorce proceedings. What is involved in the process and how long will it take?
Divorce proceedings will usually take approximately 6 months from issuing your petition to Decree Absolute being pronounced. When the proceedings are issued your partner will receive a copy of the petition from the Court and an acknowledgement of service form which they must complete and return. When your partner returns the acknowledgement of service form it will be necessary for your solicitor to prepare a statement on your behalf. Your solicitor will then be in a position to ask the Court to fix a date for your Decree Nisi to be pronounced. Once your Decree Nisi has been pronounced you must wait six weeks and 1 day before applying to the Court for Decree Absolute to be pronounced. When your Decree Absolute is pronounced your marriage is dissolved.

My spouse has told me they want a divorce. What will happen to the children?
When a couple separates, the court would not become involved in the arrangements for children unless there was a dispute. If you and your former partner are not able to agree on arrangements for the children, such as where they will live and how regularly they will see your former partner, then the case will first be referred to mediation.  If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, then the court may be asked to make an order. The court will base its decision on what is in the children’s best interests and may also seek the children’s views, depending on their age.

My spouse is divorcing me. Will we have to sell the house?
This very much depends on the value of the house and any mortgage secured against it. The court’s primary concern when deciding whether a property should be sold will be the needs of any dependent children. If a sale of the property would result in it not being possible to adequately re-house you and the children, then it is unlikely that the property would be sold whilst the children remain in education.

Fixed Cost Probate [-][+]

Do I need Grant of Probate?
If the deceased has left a Will, a Grant of Probate from the Probate Registry may be required. This is to confirm the named Executors’ authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets, particularly if there is a property involved. If there is no will then the deceased’s next of kin may need to apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration to enable them to finalise affairs.

My husband has died and his Will leaves everything to me. Our house is in his sole name. Do I need a Grant?
To be able to transfer the house into your name you need the authority of a Grant of Probate. It is better to do this now, as if you ever decide to move or need to sell the house to fund residential care, you won’t be able to do this if the house is not in your name.

My husband left a lot of debt. Do those debts die with him?
Any debts will have to be cleared from assets in your husband’s sole name and in some cases creditors will apply to have assets in joint names used as well to clear their account.

My wife has died without leaving a Will. What do I do now?
Where a person dies without leaving a Will and has assets in their sole name worth over £20,000 it will be necessary to obtain a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ to be able to deal with those assets. A spouse does not automatically inherit the whole of those assets.

What are my duties and responsibilities as Executor/Administrator?
Your duty is to deal with the estate efficiently and cost effectively and always with the best interests of the beneficiaries in mind. If there is a Will you must gather in the assets, pay all debts, settle tax issues and distribute the estate in accordance with the Will. If there is no Will the same responsibilities apply but the rules of intestacy will apply to distribution of the estate. If you decide to deal with the estate yourself then you are personally responsible for any problems or complaints from beneficiaries or other interested parties. If you instruct Solicitors then it is the responsibility of those Solicitors to deal with any such problems or complaints.

Why do I need a Grant of Probate when there is a Will and I am the Executor named in the Will?
If the value of assets in the sole name of the deceased is less than £20,000 then it is normally not necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate. If the value of assets exceeds £20,000 then a Grant of Probate will authorise the Executors to gather in and distribute these assets. No financial institution will accept any instructions regarding accounts with a balance of over £20,000 without the authority of a Grant. Similarly it will not be possible to sell or transfer any house or land in the sole name of the deceased without the authority of a Grant.

Intellectual Property [-][+]

How can I protect my brand name?
The best way of protecting your brand name is to choose the right one to begin with! Consider searching the Domain Name Register, the register of companies at Companies House and the trade marks register at the Intellectual Property Office to check your brand name isn’t already being used. Then consider registration as a trademark. This is a very simple and relatively inexpensive way of protecting the future of your brand name, especially in comparison to the costly common law action for ‘passing off’.

How can I protect my idea?
Intellectual Property (IP) rights will not protect an idea, only the ‘expression’ of your idea. This means that in order to protect your idea, you have to turn it into something tangible – this can be a prototype, written description, chemical formula etc. You can then use the appropriate form of IP, for example registering the designs for your product using your drawings or apply for patent based on your explanation of the invention.

My employee has suddenly resigned and I suspect he has taken client contact details and the designs of our product. What can I do?
Look at your employee’s Contract of Employment to check if there are confidentiality provisions or post-termination restrictions in the contract that can be enforced. There may also be Intellectual Property clauses which state that all work the employee has created remains the property of the employer. In the absence of any Contract, there are still some implied terms of confidentiality that all employees are bound by.

Someone has copied my entire website under a very similar domain name – can they do this?
No. The content and look and feel of a website can be protected by intellectual property regulations. This includes copyright in both the visible content as well as the underlying source code. Images and graphics are also protected by copyright legislation.

Someone has set up in direct competition using my company name and logo – what can I do?
Has your name or logo been registered as a trademark? If so, it is possible to take action to stop their infringement of your trademark. If not, your main option is to rely on the common law of action against ‘passing off’. This means that you would have to: Have the necessary good will in your name or logo Prove that there is a likelihood of confusion in the mind of the public between the two brands or company names and finally Prove that damage is being caused to your business by their use of your business name / logo. Proving ‘passing off’ is a complex process, and it is therefore much better to protect your brand with a trade mark application.

Leisure [-][+]

I am buying a property that I want to convert into a restaurant. Is there anything I need to consider before I start to trade?
Some form of permission is required whenever you carry on a licensable activity, which includes the sale by retail of alcohol, providing regulated entertainment, the provision of late night refreshment (hot food or drink between the hours of 23:00 and 05:00) etc. For a restaurant where the activities are likely to be carried out routinely on a permanent basis, a premises licence would be the most appropriate permission. A premises licence can take four to eight weeks to obtain and if you intend to sell alcohol you will also need a personal licence which can take longer, so licences should be considered at an early stage when looking to set up a new business.

I run a brewery and most of my sales are to pubs, but I do allow members of the public to buy beer from me if they wish. A local Police officer has recently told me that I am not allowed to do this. Why not?
Sale of alcohol by retail (i.e. to the end consumer) is a licensable activity and should therefore be covered by a premises licence. The wholesale of alcohol (i.e. the sale to a retailer such as a pub) is not a licensable activity and so does not need a premises licence. Selling alcohol by retail without an appropriate permission is punishable by an unlimited fine and / or up to six months in prison so you should either make a decision only to sell alcohol wholesale or stop selling alcohol to the public until you have obtained a premises licence.

I run a nightclub and the Police have told me that I need to employ door supervisors over the weekend. I have never done that before and don’t see any need to. Do I have to do what they say?
It is common that a premises licence will contain a condition requiring door supervisors to be utilised at certain types of premises. If it is a condition on your premises licence then you would be advised to either use them (given that breach of a premises licence condition is punishable by an unlimited fine and / or six months in prison) or vary your licence to remove the condition. If it is not a condition on your premises licence then you are not legally required to use them, but if the Police feel strongly that door supervisors are needed then they could apply for the premises licence to be reviewed by the Licensing Committee to try to make it a condition. Conditions should only be placed on a premises licence where the committee considers them to be “appropriate” and “proportionate”.

Licensing [-][+]

I am buying a property that I want to convert into a restaurant. Is there anything I need to consider before I start to trade?
Some form of permission is required whenever you carry on a licensable activity, which includes the sale by retail of alcohol, providing regulated entertainment, the provision of late night refreshment etc. For a restaurant where the activities are likely to be carried out routinely on a permanent basis, a premises licence would be the most appropriate permission. A premises licence can take four to eight weeks to obtain and if you intend to sell alcohol you will also need a personal licence which can take longer, so licences should be considered at an early stage when buying a premises or looking to set up a new business.

I run a nightclub and the Police have told me that I need to employ door supervisors over the weekend. I have never done that before and don’t see any need to. Do I have to do what they say?
It is common that a premises licence will contain a condition requiring door supervisors to be utilised at certain types of premises. If it is a condition on your premises licence then you would be advised to either use them (given that breach of a premises licence condition is punishable by an unlimited fine and / or six months in prison) or vary your licence to remove the condition. If it is not a condition on your premises licence then you are not legally required to use them, but if the Police feel strongly that door supervisors are needed then they could apply for the premises licence to be reviewed by the Licensing Committee to try to make it a condition. Conditions should only be placed on a premises licence where the committee considers them to be “appropriate” and “proportionate”.

I run a pub and want to stay open to show the ‘big fight’ which is on later than we normally trade. Can I?
If the pub is an existing business then it should already be covered by a premises licence which will state what activities you are permitted to carry on at the premises, what times you are permitted to carry them on and usually what times the premises are permitted to remain open to the public. There will also be a set of conditions that govern how you carry on the permitted activities. Showing a live television program is not a licensable activity so it is likely to come down to the hours on the licence. If you wish to remain open later than the hours that are permitted by licence then you will either have to vary the licence to extend the hours on a permanent basis or submit a temporary events notice to extend them temporarily.

I work in a bar and the owner has recently promoted me and asked me to become the Designated Premises Supervisor. What does this mean?
Every premises licence which allows the sale of alcohol should have a Designated Premises Supervisor and that is the person who has day-to-day responsibility for the running of the premises. To be a Designated Premises Supervisor you need to have a personal licence. To obtain that you need to sit a course and pass an exam, obtain a DBS check and make an application to your local authority.

Litigation & Dispute Resolution [-][+]

Can someone dispute my Will?
A close relative (spouse, former spouse, child or grandchild) can contest a Will if they have been omitted or believe they are entitled to more of your estate. The Court may redistribute an estate accordingly if they feel any of the above were omitted unintentionally. A Will can also be contested if there is proof that the Will writer was of unsound mind when making a Will, or that the Will has been forged or tampered with. It is very important to make sure your Will is not ambiguous and that your wishes are clear and concise, in order to avoid potential dispute.

I bought a dishwasher online with my credit card, but the item has not arrived and the trader has gone into liquidation. Is there anything I can do?
Yes; if you have paid any of the sum on your credit card, you are protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, and you can make a claim against your credit card company if that single item cost more than £100 (excluding any fees or charges eg delivery). Get in touch with your credit card company in order to make a claim.

I have bought an expensive new stereo system which has stopped working! What are my rights?
The first point of call is to contact the seller and discuss your options. You do have certain rights under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 which state that items need to be fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time. Obviously, ‘reasonable’ is a matter of interpretation, but you may have a potential claim if they refuse to offer a repair or replacement. Of course, do remember to keep your receipt and copies of any guarantees as a record of the transaction.

I hired a plumber to fix my central heating. The boiler worked for a week and then stopped working again. He is refusing to come back and complete the repair and has told me he will take me to court if I do not settle his invoice. What can I do?
The first step would be to contact the plumber, preferably in writing, advising why you are disputing the invoice. Given that he did do some work, it is probably reasonable to make some offer of payment, but perhaps suggest that you withhold payment of the full amount until he has completed the work to your satisfaction. If you are unable to come to a compromise, you have various options available, including mediation or a potential litigation claim.

My neighbour has moved a fence which now encroaches on my land. What can I do?
The first thing would be to check the Title Deeds and plans of the property to make sure they have actually encroached on your land – it could be that they are simply reclaiming their own land. If they have encroached and you are on good terms with your neighbour, try negotiating with them to resolve the matter with them amicably. Failing that, it may be possible to deal with the matter more formally, with mediation or litigation action.

My neighbour regularly plays loud music well into the night, which is keeping myself and my small children awake. They continue to do so, despite my requests for them to stop. Is there anything I can do?
This depends on the situation. For example, if they rent the house (particularly if they are a council tenant), they will have to abide by certain terms in their tenancy agreement which may be easy to enforce. However, even if they are the home owner they still have a duty to keep reasonably quiet between the hours of 11pm – 7am. Keep a diary of the incidents and report the matter to your Local Authority so that they have a record in order to investigate your complaints.

Personal Injury [-][+]

How long is my claim likely to take?
This depends upon the extent of your injuries and whether liability for the accident is admitted or denied by the defendant. Straightforward cases can usually be dealt with quite quickly but in cases of more serious injury, or where there is a dispute, the case will take longer. We aim to ensure your claim is concluded as speedily as possible and we will keep you informed of progress every step of the way.

How much compensation am I likely to receive, and how is this worked out?
Compensation for injuries depends very much on the medical evidence obtained. We work with the appropriate medical and other specialists to evaluate your claim which is assessed in the light of previous cases decided by the courts. Compensation for injuries is entirely separate from claims for other losses e.g. loss of earnings etc which are claimed in addition.

I am still in a lot of pain and discomfort but my GP has told me that the waiting list for physiotherapy may take up to 6 months. Can Napthens help?
Yes. Where appropriate, we can quickly arrange private physiotherapy treatment and include the cost as part of your claim.

I am unable to work and my wife has also had to take time off work to look after me. Is there anything that can be done to help?
Yes. It is possible to make a claim for all reasonable losses which can be proved to have been sustained as a result of the accident. This can include your loss of earnings and also your wife’s loss of earnings. In cases like this we would usually include a claim with regard to the cost of care provided.

I had an accident last year. Is it too late to make a claim?
If you are over 18 and your accident happened in the UK, you generally have three years in which to start your compensation claim. If you are under 18 (or were at the time of the accident) then the three year period starts from your 18th birthday.

I have been injured by an uninsured driver – is there anything I can do?
You may be able to claim compensation, although it is slightly more complex than dealing with an insurance company. The Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB) is an organisation set up to help compensate the victims of uninsured motorists or untraced drivers eg hit and run, or where the driver gave false details at the scene of the accident. The MIB effectively allows you to claim as if the driver was insured. As with all road traffic accidents, you should report the incident to the police and seek medical assistance where necessary.

I have had a bad back for some years, but this has been much worse since I fell over a raised manhole cover. I will need an operation and as I am no longer able to work I am suffering financially. As I had a bad back already does this mean that I cannot claim compensation?
If your accident can be proven to be the fault of the local authority responsible for the manhole cover, then a claim for compensation can be made for the injuries you suffered as a result of the accident. From what you say it does appear that the accident has certainly aggravated your previous symptoms, making an operation necessary. In this case you should be compensated accordingly.

I suffered serious injury in a car accident when travelling as a passenger in my sister’s car. Although my sister was responsible for the accident I don’t want to claim against her. What should I do?
Any claim of this type will be dealt with by your sister’s motor insurers and so the claim may not really involve your sister at all. Bearing in mind that you have suffered serious injury through an accident which was not your fault, you should certainly take legal advice and find out more about pursuing a claim.

My injuries are severe and I am unable to work and support my family. Is there anything that can be done to help me now?
Yes. It is possible to request an interim payment from the defendants’ insurers in cases where liability for the accident is admitted and where there is evidence available to confirm at least the losses incurred to date.

My motor insurers have said I must use their panel solicitors if I want to make a claim. I am not happy with this, but do I have any choice?
You do have a choice. Insurers often insist upon panel solicitors being used under a legal expenses policy but this is certainly something we suggest you discuss with us. There may be another way of dealing with your case, particularly if the accident circumstances are straightforward and liability is admitted.

My young son suffered a nasty injury when taking part in activities at the local leisure centre. It seems that there was no real supervision. Can I make a claim for compensation for him?
Yes. A claim for compensation can be made if it can be demonstrated that the leisure centre staff failed to provide appropriate supervision and take appropriate care to ensure your son’s safety. You should certainly speak to a legal specialist who can advise you on how to make a claim.

Residential Property [-][+]

I am a first time buyer looking to purchase a house. The particulars say there is a ‘chain’. What does this mean?
As a first time buyer, you are essentially at the bottom of the chain as you do not have a property to sell. A chain means that your seller is also buying a property, and it would be sensible to check with the estate agents whether the owner of that property is in turn buying onwards. This way, you get an idea of how many ‘links’ there are in the chain and how many parties need to co-ordinate the various sale and purchase transactions to work towards a mutually achievable exchange and completion date.

I am building an extension to add value to my property before I eventually sell. Is there anything I need to consider?
When undertaking any work of this kind, it is important to keep copies of all relevant certificates, as these will be required when you come to sell your property. These include copies of any planning permission and building regulations approval and completion certificates, guarantees and service agreements for your gas and electrical installations, and a copy of the landlord’s consent if the property is leasehold. Of course, before commencing any work, it is important to really consider how much value will be added to your house, and it may be worth having a survey conducted.

I am buying a house. Should I consider having a survey done?
Yes. There are three main options available. The most basic type of survey is a mortgage valuation, which your lender will require if you are planning on obtaining a mortgage. If you are buying a relatively new property, it may be satisfactory but it will not give a particularly in depth report. This report is done on behalf of the lender and the buyer may not be able to rely upon it if it is incorrect. The next option is to have a Homebuyer’s Report and Valuation conducted. This will give you a greater degree of insight into the state and condition of the property, but will also say what has not been checked (eg the carpets have not been taken up to inspect the floorboards). Finally, you could have a full structural survey. This is the most expensive option but is sensible to consider, especially for high value or older properties, listed buildings or properties in need of serious renovation. Additionally, make sure you have thoroughly inspected the property yourself and don’t solely rely on the estate agents particulars.

I am keen to sell my house as quickly as possible. Is there anything I can do to speed up the process whilst I am trying to find a buyer?
There are several things which can be done up front that could speed the process along once you have a buyer. Arrange the Energy Performance Certificate, which must be done before you market the property. Next, find the deeds to the property, and further documentation such as building regulations and planning documents, guarantees, ground rent receipts and utility bills – having these to hand can save a lot of time in the future. List the contents of your home which could be left at the property (curtains, wardrobes etc) and consider which you would like additional money for and which can be used as a bargaining tool. This is not an exhaustive list, but should go some way towards preparing for a quick sale once a buyer has been found.

I have been told I will need to do ‘searches’ before buying a property. What does this mean and what do they include?
There are various searches you can undertake before buying a property which your mortgage lender may require. Searches include: Local Search – gives information about the local area, including any planning entries, tree preservation orders, adopted roads etc. Water & Drainage Search – shows the location of sewers, drains and pipes and whether or not they are adopted. Mining Search – if the area has a previous or current mining history then this search highlights any likelihood of mine shafts in the area. Envirosearch – shows if the property may stand on an area of seriously contaminated land, flooding, landslip or subsidence as well as showing any land fill sites nearby. Chancel Repair Liability Search – shows if you may be liable to fund repairs to your local church, and if there is a potential responsibility, an insurance policy can be taken out to protect against this. Subject to the location of the property, additional searches such as Mining, Tin and Brine Searches may also be recommended.

My partner and I are buying our first house but have been told there are two different ways of owning a property. What are our options?
When you buy a property jointly with someone else, it can be held as ‘Joint Tenants’ or ‘Tenants in Common’. In a joint tenancy you will each own the property together and, if one owner dies, their share of the property automatically transfers to the other owner, even if a Will has not been made or says something different. It is common for married couples to buy as joint tenants. With Tenants in Common, each party owns a ‘share’ of the property, usually as a 50/50 spilt (although it is possible to have more than two owners or an uneven split). This means that should one owner die, their share of the property is passed on to whoever is specified in their Will, which is not necessarily the other owner. Co-owners who are not married or who have contributed unequally to the price of the property may buy as tenants in common. In this case, it is very important that co-owners make Wills.

Rural [-][+]

A company has contacted me with a view to erecting a wind turbine on my land. What should I do?
There has been a noticeable increase in the number of planning applications for wind turbines being submitted, with more than 3,000 turbines currently in operation in the UK. Farmers are frequently approached and offered a relatively low sum of money, and perhaps free electricity, for the use of their land to site a turbine. However, wind turbines can be worth far more to investors, and land owners should seek expert advice before making a decision.

As a farmer, why is it important to make a Will?
A Will is important as it ensures that on your death your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes, rather than through the laws of intestacy. Dying without a Will could mean that your assets are distributed in a way that could be detrimental to the continuation of a farming business. Although Agricultural Property Relief may be available to a lot of farmers, there are exceptions to that relief and carefully formulated Wills can help to alleviate the potential burden of Inheritance Tax.

I am in business with my family, do I need a Partnership Agreement?
Without a Partnership Agreement your partnership is governed by the basic terms contained in the historic Partnership Act 1890. The main issue is that if one party wishes to retire or dies, the partnership will automatically end and their share of the partnership must then be distributed to him/her or under his/her will. On many occasions, this leads to family break ups and partnerships being unable to continue. Having a Partnership Agreement will prevent this, by outlining a strategy on the future of the business and any potential sale and agreeing a clear procedure for the departure of any owner.

It looks like my neighbour has encroached onto my land with his boundary or building. Is there anything I can do?
In essence you may have a civil claim for trespass against your neighbour and if your claim is successful this could result in your neighbour being evicted from your land and/or the building being removed. If however, you have been notified of the encroachment due to your neighbour's claim for adverse possession over the land, then the procedure will be slightly different. Of course, it is always better to try and resolve such matters amicably wherever possible.

Should I register my land?
Whilst it is not compulsory to register your land until certain dispositions are completed (eg a gift of land) there are advantages to voluntary registration of your land. Land Registry registration fees are cheaper for voluntary registration than they are for compulsory registration. Farms can often have large deeds packets containing complicated conveyances and it is wise to consider registration at a relatively quiet time, rather than dealing with the unregistered title deeds at a time when you wish to complete a transaction urgently. A further advantage is that once your land has been registered it is harder for other people, for example squatters, to obtain title to your land.

Trade Mark Registration [-][+]

Can a trade mark be altered or added to in the future?
No. Once a trade mark has been accepted for registration it cannot be altered except for the owner's name and address and the removal of goods and services, in the event of an objection.

Can anyone stop me registering my trade mark?
Anyone who has a registered trade mark, or uses an unregistered mark which is the same or similar to the mark you are applying for, can choose to issue an objection to your application.

Can I register a name without a logo as a trade mark?
Yes, you can register a name on its own (known as a ‘word mark’) or as part of a logo. Filing a word mark gives you wider and stronger rights than registering a logo and words combined, as it prevents your name being registered by someone else in future. Registering both separately gives you the maximum protection but this is seen as two separate applications, so two sets of costs and fees must be paid to the IPO.

How long is the trade mark registration process?
The procedure for obtaining a trade mark registration in the UK usually takes approximately 4 to 6 months depending on whether you have any opposition or objections.

I’ve got my brand protected by registering the name at Companies House and as a domain name (.com and .uk) so do I still need to register it as a trade mark?
Registering your brand as a company name or with variations of domain names is a great first step in protecting your brand, but it is not trade mark protection. It will not give you civil or criminal sanctions to use against someone using your mark and it does not give you any protection if you haven’t used your mark at all as yet or you’re a small start up business.

Once my trade mark is registered do I have the rights to that name anywhere?
Only in the course of business in the UK for the goods and services in which you have registered your mark. Outside of the UK, you must consider a similar process in that country or region. We can still help you with this if you might need this type of protection.

What happens if someone objects to my trade mark registration?
It is possible to seek to negotiate an agreed position with the objecting party, put your case to the IPO as to why the objection should not be upheld, or simply withdraw your application altogether.

Wills & Estate Planning [-][+]

Can someone dispute my Will?
A close relative (spouse, former spouse, child or grandchild) can contest a Will if they have been omitted or believe they are entitled to more of your estate. The Court may redistribute an estate accordingly if they feel any of the above were omitted unintentionally. A Will can also be contested if there is proof that the Will writer was of unsound mind when making a Will, or that the Will has been forged or tampered with. It is very important to make sure your Will is not ambiguous and that your wishes are clear and concise, in order to avoid potential dispute.

I already have a Will – will I ever have to change it?
You should think about reviewing your Will every time your circumstances change, or at every ‘life event’. For example, if you buy a home for the first time, have children, get married or divorced, if your personal finances change or if one of the main beneficiaries of your Will has passed away.

I have just bought a property abroad – does my existing Will cover this?
If you buy a property abroad, it is essential to ensure that an appropriate Will is put in place to avoid future complications and legal fees, as in many countries the rules on distribution of estates is different from the UK.

I have lived with my partner for years, but we are not married. What will happen if I die without making a Will?
If you are unmarried but die without making a Will, your partner will not automatically be entitled to anything from your estate. Generally, your entire estate will pass to your children or, if you have no children, to your blood relatives. It is therefore important to make a Will that reflects your wishes.

What happens if I get married or divorced?
If you get married, any existing Will automatically becomes invalid, so you and your partner should both make new Wills if you are planning to marry. However, if you divorce or separate from your spouse the provisions of your Will are not affected. It is therefore important to review your Will following a divorce or separation to reflect your new wishes.

What will happen if I die without a Will?
If you die without making a Will you will be ‘intestate’ and the law will automatically determine how your property is distributed and who administers your affairs after death. This may not necessarily be in a way you would have wanted. Generally the bulk of your estate will go to your spouse or your children. If you are unmarried and have no children, your estate will pass to your blood relatives or, in some cases, to the Crown.

Why should I make a Will?
Making and reviewing a Will should be a priority for most people, as it enables you to say exactly how you wish your estate to be distributed after your death. It is particularly important when considering any major personal and financial decisions, such as buying a house or setting up a business, or a change in personal circumstances through marriage, starting a family or divorce. Careful planning when making a Will can also minimise the effects of inheritance tax.