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Tips for First-Time Buyers

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Buying a home can be a daunting process and whether you are first time buyer or not, there is a lot to remember and do from the beginning. When you first decide to start looking for a property to buy there are considerations that can make the process simpler and smoother. If you follow the advice below you are less likely to have issues later down the line when you have already invested time and money into buying a particular property.

Buying your home

 

Read on for our top tips to consider when looking for a property to buy.

 

If you are buying a house with a chain, and the vendor is still living in the property when you view it, it can feel strange looking around the house. Some people even feel intrusive as it is filled with the vendor’s possessions and reveals aspects of their life, but don’t let that put you off. You need to turn on taps, flush toilets, take a look at the boiler and generally do a thorough inspection of the property. I advise people to look at the property more than once if possible.

 

Remember it is a good idea to do a physical inspection of the property as close to the exchange of contracts as possible, as the contract states that the buyer accepts the state and condition of the property as at the date of exchange. This helps avoid any nasty surprises…

 

Again, you may worry that it seems nosey to speak to the neighbours of the property you are buying before exchange of contracts, but it is important to do so. They could disclose a dispute that the sellers have failed to disclose in their property information form. Plus, it is beneficial to get a sense of the community and an idea of the people you will be living next to.

 

I would also recommend you drive around the road you are buying in the evening and weekends, so that you can get a feel for the road in which you are buying and check if there is any anti-social behaviour.

 

Get buildings insurance quotes for the property you are buying before exchange, don’t assume the property is insurable on normal terms or without a large premium or excess.

 

The next one is often overlooked but remember that a mortgage valuation is purely for your mortgage lenders benefit and you as the buyer cannot rely upon it. You need to arrange your own survey otherwise issues could come out the woodwork once you have moved in, that are costly to resolve.

 

Research what Japanese Knotweed looks like and keep an eye out for it when you inspect the property, although it is not always easy to identify. If you have any suspicions it may be present, arrange for an experts report.

 

When buying a leasehold property check to see what the lease term and the cost of the current years’ service charge is before you start spending money on searches. If the lease term falls below 80 years, the cost of the lease extension almost doubles and mortgage lenders may not be prepared to lend when lease terms are less than 80 years. See if the sellers would arrange for the lease term to be extended, or at the very least ask them to obtain the cost of the lease extension from the freeholder.

conveyancing houses

 

We hope these pointers prove valuable for you and if you have any questions please contact us on 01992 828114

 

Robert Dawson, Conveyancer, Cheshunt

The Different Types of Joint Ownership

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Joint Ownership

Couple Joint Tenants

 

Joint ownership of property is one of the most misunderstood areas of law by persons purchasing a property or indeed making a will. Time and time again we ask how a property is owned or how it is intended to be owned the answer is “jointly”. But what does jointly mean in terms of property ownership and why should you care?

There are two types of property ownership; property can be held as either joint tenants or tenants in common. How you choose to own the property can affect both how the net sale proceeds are divided (if they are divided at all!) and/or what happens to your interest in the property in the event of death.

Joint Tenants

If a property is held as joint tenants there is a presumption that the property is held in equal shares by the property owners. The other distinguishing feature is that the right of survivorship automatically applies – this means that in the event of the death of one of the property owners the deceased share will pass automatically to the surviving co –owner(s) of the property. The deceased owner can then usually be removed from the land registry records by formally notifying the land registry of the death.

Tenants in Common

If property is held as tenants in common the property can be held by the property owners in equal or unequal shares. This is particularly useful when one party is contributing more to a property than another. The other distinction is that a right of survivorship does not apply to property held as tenants in common. So in the event of death of one of the owners the deceased share will be left to a beneficiary as specified in the deceased’s will or upon intestacy (where death occurs without a will).

In the event of a tenancy in common with unequal ownership it is recommended that a deed of trust is entered into setting out the respective contributions and terms of ownership between the parties to include if required who is responsible for the payment of bills, repairs etc.

You may be wondering how this relates in real life? Consider the scenarios below:

Daniel and Zoe are an unmarried couple. They decide to buy a property together. The property costs £600,000 the mortgage is in joint names for £300,000. Daniel is contributing £200,000 and Zoe is contributing £100,000. Daniel and Zoe wish to hold the property “jointly”.

Scenario 1

Daniel and Zoe purchase the property as joint tenants. After owning the property for a couple of years sadly their relationship doesn’t work out and comes to an end so they decide to sell the property. As the property is owned as joint tenants there is a presumption that the equity (if any) will be split equally. You will note that Daniel contributed twice as much to the property as Zoe when the property was initially purchased.

Scenario 2

Daniel and Zoe purchase the property as tenants in common having taken advice due to the unequal contributions being made by each of them. They decide to have a deed of trust drawn up which provides for the initial monetary contributions to be returned to each party in the event of sale with the remainder of the net sale proceeds being split equally. Therefore in the event of sale each party, providing there is sufficient equity in the property, safeguards their initial contributions.

Scenario 3

Daniel and Zoe own the property as tenants in common as above. They do not sell the property and instead live in the house and plan a future together. At the time of buying the property they were advised to each have a will drafted since as we know there is no automatic right of survivorship with a tenants in common ownership. They decided not to do this due to the expenses of buying the property and instead intend do so at a later date. Unfortunately they do not get round to doing it and sadly Zoe dies. Daniel does not inherit as there is no will. Zoe’s relatives now inherit. Daniel is left in the position of owning the property with Zoe’s family who now wish to sell the same. If Zoe had made a will leaving her share of her property to Daniel then this would not have occurred.

The above are examples in their most simplest form and are intended only to outline the different forms of joint ownership and their possible effects relating to both future resale of the property and/or in the event of death.

For advice please contact:

  1. Conveyancing, Nicola Payne
  2. Wills, Kim Boylett
  3. Deeds of Trust, Nigel Barnes

Call us today on 0208 370 2800

Land Registry Fraud and How to Prevent it

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Buying your home

Have you recently bought a property? Did you know property fraud is on the up?

 

In-fact, you may not realise that anyone can obtain a copy of the title to your property by visiting the Land Registry website.

 

In 2002, all registered titles in England and Wales were digitised and the old paper Land Certificates and Charges certificates became redundant. Subject to payment of the necessary fee to the Land Registry, anyone can access the title to a property. This, added to the increased incidence of identity fraud, has opened a new avenue to possible fraudsters.

 

There have been a number of instances reported in the press of fraudsters posing as the owners of registered property and selling it on to an unsuspecting buyer. The innocent buyer stands to lose all of the monies paid over to the fraudster who needless to say will usually disappear into the ether.

 

Initially the fraudster needs to steal the identity of and hold himself or herself out as the owner of the targeted property. By law the estate agent and solicitor must carry out identity checks on potential sellers, however if their processes are less than robust, this makes the fraudster’s task that much easier and adds an air of legitimacy to their scheme.

 

It makes sense for a homeowner to take certain steps to reduce the risk of the property being fraudulently sold or, in some cases, mortgaged. Properties that are particularly at risk are those where the owner does not live there because they live overseas or in some other part of the country, rent it out, the property is empty for long periods and not mortgaged.

 

Obviously, this is a worrying issue, but there are a couple of things you can do to help as a pro-active measure to help.

 

The Land Registry has devised two main ways to try to alleviate the situation – these are as follows:

 

1.The placing of a restriction on a title so that no changes can be made to the Register without a solicitor or conveyancer certifying that the application is made by the registered proprietor. If the owner does not live at the property this is free; if they live at the property there is a fee of £40.

 

2.You can also sign up to the Property Alert Service. If someone applies to change the register to a property the owner will be alerted by e-mail. It will not stop the changes, but makes one aware of activity on the title.

 

If you have any questions about land registry or indeed about conveyancing and the buying and selling process, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – 0208 370 2800.

 

Robert Dawson, Conveyancer, Barnes and Partners Solicitors Edmonton

When an Eye For Detail is Essential – Log Burners

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Want to know why above all things it is essential your conveyancer is thorough and has an eye for detail? Well I am here to tell you. The example I will describe actually happened at the end of last year but it clearly illustrates the point.

 

Front Door Country Home with Log Burner

 

I had a particular client who was purchasing a new property. She had found the place she wanted to buy and had her heart set on the house. She was thrilled that after house hunting for a while she had found her “dream home” and once her offer on the property was accepted she had got the ball rolling and appointed Barnes and Partners Solicitors in Ware. This woman wasn’t a first time buyer and had been through the process before so it wasn’t completely new or unfamiliar to her.

 

As you probably know, mortgages are approved subject to surveys and we as conveyancers have to also do a number of searches so that we cover off all potential red flags and issues.

 

I was carrying out the process as I usually would and found that this particular property had a log burner. Some conveyancers may not pick-up on log burners as an issue but I followed due diligence and looked into it. I found this log burner had been installed but at first it was unclear when exactly.

 

After some digging, the team managed to trace back that the log burner was installed sometime in the late 1980s to early 1990s. However, no HETAS certificate was available.

 

The following is official HETAS information that is applicable to log burners:

“A HETAS Certificate of Compliance (Building Regulation Compliance Certificate) demonstrates that the installation complies with the relevant Building Regulations. The information on the certificate is used to record your installation, and in England & Wales it is used to notify your Local Authority Building Control Department (LABC) of the work that was undertaken.

 

HETAS Notice Plate

Additional Information

 

Where a hearth, fireplace, flue or chimney is provided as part of the work information essential to the correct application and use of these facilities should be permanently posted in the building. A way of meeting this requirement is for the installer to provide a Notice (or Data) plate.”

 

Obviously, we raised this with the seller’s solicitors and they said they would insure with an indemnity insurance policy. They also stated that the seller would pay for this.

 

Our client seemed satisfied and some firms may leave it at this but we argued that although the indemnity policy would hopefully cover local authority enforcement action for lack of building regulations/HETAS certificate that it would not cover faulty workmanship or improper installation.

 

 

I advised our client (buyer) to gain a specific log burner inspection, which she did. The log burner was then found to be faulty – incorrectly installed and breaching building regulations due to incorrect flue linings and leakage of carbon monoxide – the plumber actually condemned the log burner!

 

The vendor had to pay £1,500 to rectify this and then the sale went through. Everyone was happy and it was a good outcome for all.

 

Just a month later, our local paper reported news of a cottage fire caused by a log burner nearby, which new buyers of this home had lit for the first time since moving in.

 

The article can be read here

 

Fortunately no one was hurt, but the home was destroyed. Obviously there are no pointing fingers and we don’t know exactly how or why this happened. Potentially all necessary checks were followed through and showed nothing but this devastating news really shocked us and drove the point that the details really are so important.

 

We were so thankful that the log burner inspection was carried out thoroughly for our client and all preventative measures were taken.

 

If you have a question for and are buying or selling a home in and around Ware contact Andrea on 01920 460823.

– Andrea Greenwood, Senior Conyevancer, Ware

New Build Homes, What Are Your Thoughts?

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There are generally two camps for new builds – those who absolutely love the idea of purchasing a new build and those who are terrified of the prospect of purchasing a new build property. You could call new builds the Marmite of the housing market.

 

New Build Conveyancing

 

Are you in the pro-new build camp and are tempted to buy a new build home? Is the lure of help to buy too good to pass-up? Maybe the stress free part-exchange route to deal with your existing property is the appeal, or could it be you are excited to have a say in the specification?

 

Or are you a new build hater? Have you heard horror stories of problems that arise with buying a new build home? Maybe you have seen news articles about delayed completions or don’t understand when buildings regulations sign-off is. Perhaps for you the pressure of a quick exchange is simply too overwhelming.

 

It doesn’t have to be this way…

 

Barnes and partners have a designated department to deal with your new build purchase and part-exchange sale or sale on the open market. Our new build department is equipped and ready to work quickly to achieve the timescales afforded by developers.

 

Want to ensure you are prepared and know what to expect for a new build transaction? Here is our checklist for a smooth running new build purchase:

 

-Firstly communication, your solicitor must keep in regular contact with the developer and advise them of the current position. When it comes to a potential delay this is something that would be preempted with regular updates.

 

-In relation to completion and potential delays that come with the nature of buying off-plan, this is something we advise on from the outset. It is so important to check with the broker about the extendibility of the mortgage offer, have a Plan B in the event there are delays and ensure you are always prepared.

 

-As a foundational rule of conveyancing we of course advise our clients properly on the purchase contract they are entering into, but we also make sure your new build contract has a long stop date so there is a get-out in the event that the delays become unwarranted – this affords protection during a difficult time.

 

-You must look for advice on the warranty that you will be receiving on completion. We offer this and even guide you to the specific providers’ website where you can learn all about the cover and its benefits.

 

Purchasing a new build can be a great opportunity for those looking to purchase for the first time through a help to buy scheme or an individual wanting to have a say in their homes’ final finishes. There are many appeals of purchasing a new build and the purpose of this blog is to make it known that with a good solicitor you can ensure the whole process is smooth. What’s more, a solicitor with an understanding and personal approach can make the journey a whole lot more enjoyable.

 

We hope Barnes and Partners will be your choice when coming to appoint a solicitor for your new build purchase.

 

Call us on 0208 370 2800 and ask for Kimberley Osborne for more information.

Kim Osborne, New Build Conveyancing Solicitor

Staff Spotlight Enfield Office Elaine Linton

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Every month we shine a spotlight on a member of our Barnes and Partners team to share with you a day in the life of our professionals and to publicly recognise their excellence. Each member of our team is unique but all embody the values we hold dear. Legal aptitude and knowledge are skills that are imperative as is a mature and professional attitude but we also place a high importance on our staff being proactive and “people people” – people that care about helping others and our communities. Often our people feel law was a calling and a vocation rather than simply a job.

 

Barnes and Partners

 

This month we shine the spotlight on Elaine Linton from our Enfield Barnes and Partners Solicitors head office. She is the first port of call for all our clients on the phone and who come in and visit our Enfield office.

Elaine is an extremely popular member of staff as she is so warm and welcoming to all who meet her and work with her. Her colleagues describe her as “kind and friendly” and say she is “so helpful and professional even when faced with challenging situations.”

Elaine is very modest but has agreed to share a little about herself for you to have a snapshot into the life of our wonderful reception staff. Here is Elaine’s story in her own words:

My name is Elaine Linton. I am married with three boys ages 31, 15 and 12 years old. I enjoy athletics, travelling and reading as well as meeting and speaking to people both on the telephone and in person.

I previously worked for Department of Work and Pension for 18 years where I worked my way up from an Administrative Assistant to an Executive Officer. I also worked for a Charity called Detention Advice Service for a further 8 years as an Administrator.

I’ve started working at Barnes and Partners in May 2015 as a receptionist at the Enfield branch. I was made to feel welcome by members of staff and management alike. On a daily basis I speak with clients from all different walks of life, staff members from other branches as well as senior partners. Clients are made to feel welcome and spoken to with respect whatever their ages, race or nationality. I am polite and well mannered by nature and I hope this comes across in everything that I do.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate me in the Staff Spotlight.

Barnes and Partners Desk

 

Thank you to Elaine for sharing this with us and to our readers until next time, thanks for reading.

Dress Codes at Work

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You have probably seen there has been a lot in the news recently about dress codes at work.

High Heels - Dress Code

An employee who had been sent home for refusing to wear heels at work launched an e-petition calling for it to be made illegal for an employer to make women wear high heels. This attracted more than 150,000 signatures and a debate in parliament. More recently, two cases were taken to the court by women who were fired for refusing to remove their religious headscarves.

So, by law, what can and can’t an employer tell staff to wear?

 

  • Whilst a dress code could be implied into the employment contract of a particular job, if an employer has certain requirements or expectations about what their employees are to wear to work then this should be made a term of the employment contract
  • When formulating a dress code, its advisable to have a term dealing with appearance and a separate one dealing with dress, so as to cover situations where employees attend work with bizarre haircuts, facial tattoos etc.
  • A dress code must not be discriminatory, that is being seen as treating an employee less favourably due to one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, such as sex, race, religion, age or disability
  • Dress codes should relate to the job and be reasonable in nature
  • Dress codes may have different requirements for men and women, for example when requiring conventional appearance for a particular job, but the employer must enforce compliance of the differing requirements in the same way for both genders
  • Even where a dress code is justifiable, an Employer should consider any legitimate objections from an employee, e.g. due to ill-health
  • An employer must make reasonable adjustments must be made for disabled people when dress codes are in place
  • Employers may have health and safety reasons for certain standards of dress
  • A dress code should take into account the racial or religious requirements of workers

That said, going back to the case of women being fired due to failure to remove religious symbols (headscarves), the court ruled against them: ‘An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination.’

In relation to the matter of high-heels at work, the requirement to wear high heels had been included in the employer’s dress code, which the employee had signed.   The employer considered it was promoting a certain level of smartness consistent with present law on dress codes.

However, there are a number of health concerns regarding the wearing of high heels, which can cause damage to the joints of the feet, increases wear and tear round the knee joints, which might increase the risk of arthritis and also puts people with a weak lower back at risk of slipped vertebrae.

The employer in question has since revised its dress code, so as not to require women to have to wear high heels and there is expectation that the government will introduce new dress guidelines this summer.

Think your contracts or handbooks may need reviewing in relation to dress codes and uniform? We can help. Call Andrew Brett on 020 8884 2277

 

Andrew Brett, Solicitor

Staff Spotlight Stevenage Office Kim Osborne

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Barnes and Partners

 

Every month our team nominates colleagues at Barnes and Partners to feature in our Staff Spotlight. It is a way we can celebrate the excellence of our staff and give you a glimpse into the day-to-day life of our fantastic legal professionals.

This month we shine the spotlight on Kimberley Osborne, New Build Conveyancing Solicitor, at our Stevenage Barnes and Partners Solicitors office.

Kim has a real passion for the law and helping people, which is obvious from how she operates in her daily role.

This is Kim’s story in her own words:

From a young age the police/legal arena inspired me and this influence came from my parents who wanted to see me do well as an only child. I was born in Hertfordshire but grew-up in Manchester before I then moved back, to attend the University of Hertfordshire, where I studied for both my law degree and postgraduate diploma in legal practice (LPC). In my LPC I graduated with a distinction and then I knew I had what it took to be qualified!

I embarked upon a series of interviews with various firms and secured a training contract with a family run firm in Potters Bar Wason Lawrance Holder Solicitors. I loved my time there and I was treated as part of the family – I went from paralegal, trainee solicitor to qualified solicitor in my four years with the firm. After one year being qualified I felt it was time to move on and accept new challenges. I interviewed and was recruited for the job at Barnes and Partners.

A day in the life of me is a very varied. Dealing with emails, taking calls and meetings with my clients. I specialise in residential conveyancing new build acquisitions and some landlord and tenant advice. I can be doing anything from dealing with large scales of completions, once thirty in a day, to many exchanges of contracts. At the heart of everything I do is acting in my clients’ best interests – being the friendly, approachable and a reassuring voice at the end of the phone. I have seen the stresses and strains moving home can bring and I just want to make that process as easy as I can for my clients.

I love being a solicitor and I bring that passion to the table everyday. I love to help motivate my colleagues by making them laugh and I really enjoy the team spirit in our Stevenage office. I feel my colleagues at Stevenage are my work family. I would be lost without them; our latest recruit, my assistant Rebecca, has settled in seamlessly too and now she is such a support, as is everyone else.

It perhaps helps we have the perfect location working next door to a Wetherspoons and a Cinnabar as sometimes Friday after work drinks bring us all together too. An espresso martini is something I look forward to at the end of a busy week.

Espresso Martini

In terms of my home life, I live in Codicote – a little village near Stevenage.

My hobbies are pink, nails, hair and makeup. I’m a real girlie-girl, bows factor always in my outfit which stems from my childhood my great grandmother would always tie ribbons in my hair so I wasn’t mistaken for a boy as my hair didn’t grow until I was older. Since then I haven’t felt ready for my day without my bow or glittery hair clip. I like to dispel the myth that a solicitor has to look a certain way, and amongst my friends I am known as legally brunette!

Kim Osborne New Build BPS

 

Many thanks to Kim for sharing this with us. Her colleagues say: “from day one she has been nothing but helpful and always smiling”and “she is always teaching me new things and nothing is ever too much trouble.”Kim has a reputation for exceptional service and we are proud to say she has achieved completions for purchasers of new builds within extremely tight timeframes.

 

Want to ask Kim a question about new builds? Call on 0208 370 2800

Know Your Neighbours

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The Daily Express have recently reported that “7 out of 10 Britons admitted never speaking to those living around them”. Some may say it is a sign of the times.

 

Neighbours Disputes - Barnes and Partners Solicitors

 

As a solicitor specialising in residential conveyancing the moving process for both buying and indeed selling can be stressful not least in relation to the upheaval in peoples own lives whether it be moving for jobs or schools but the whole upheaval of moving from a place you have known and people you have known.

 

Here at Barnes & Partners we endeavour to reduce the stress wherever possible and are on hand to update you through your transaction or answer any questions you may have. With the same solicitor overseeing your transaction from start to finish there is always an expert who can help.

 

Whilst of course it is necessary for Sellers to disclose neighbour disputes when asked the question for the most part people are saddened to leave neighbours behind and the remaining neighbours may be restless until they know who is moving in next door!

 

If looking for a property to buy to live in it is always a good idea to visit the property/area at different times and speak with the neighbours, we find that most people are always keen to have a good chat.

 

Good neighbours can be hard to find but when found are worth their weight in gold. Personally I’ve been lucky with my neighbours, especially my very first neighbour who obviously thought he would be living next to a quiet single woman (me!) and over the next five-years found that situation turned into something quite different with the introduction of my partner and then two small children in the mix. The odd glass of wine shared in the kitchen with my neighbour then turned into the conspiratorial eating of chocolate buttons with the kids! Recently, now as a family, I have moved again. I consider myself fortunate to have found another set of wonderful neighbours. Unfortunately they are not so lucky to have us, especially as my older daughter has discovered baking and the neighbours get to sample the results (having seen the neighbours recently I am glad to say that they still seem relatively healthy).

 

Having conflicts or issues with your neighbours can be extremely stressful. One member of staff from our head office recently moved home and, whilst told it was a family friendly area with lots of children around, has actually found himself neighbouring some particularly energetic students, who love heavy metal music at all times of day and night.

 

If you are not as fortunate as I have personally been and find yourself the subject of a neighbour dispute then our litigation department is on hand to assist having a wealth of experience in this area. You can reach Andrew Brett on 0208 370 2800.

 

Nicola Payne, B&P Solicitors Chingford

 

Staff Spotlight Enfield Head Office Andrea Kamaris

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Welcome to April’s Staff Spotlight. Staff Spotlight gives you the opportunity to glimpse into the lives of our workforce and the special people who make Barnes and Partners the Solicitors firm that it is.

Every month at Barnes and Partners we take votes to nominate one of our exceptional staff so that we can publicly recognise and celebrate their excellent qualities. Once a winner is announced internally we provide a spotlight on that member of the team, something we call our “Staff Spotlight.”

Our winner this month is from our Accounts team at Enfield Head Office – Andrea Kamaris.

She is great asset to the team and she is described by her colleagues as “a joy to work with” “approachable” and they say she “always takes her job seriously and gives 100%” as well as hardworking and always going above and beyond“.

Andrea is a wonderful woman to have in our Accounts team, find out a bit more about her in Andrea’s own words below:

“I have been working for the firm for one and a half years working for the Accounts Department.  My day to day work is very busy as I work for a number of different branches, managing their client account information, dealing with bank queries and client account reconciliations. 

Accounts at Barnes and Partners

I started working as a receptionist in a firm of Accountants and I left there because it was only a part time role and I really wanted a full time position.  I had a friend who worked for Barnes and Partners Solicitors who told me that a position was available in the Accounts Department and I went for it!  I have been working for Barnes and Partners ever since.

In terms of what I love most about my role, I really enjoy working here because of the people I work with. 

In my spare tome I love to socialise and go out with friends and family, taking some time out to have fun and relax.”

Thank-you for your words Andrea.

It is wonderful to know that it was a Barnes and Partners’ team member who recommended the role to Andrea in the first place but Andrea was a fantastic fit and a valuable member of the Barnes and Partners family.

Accounts Departments are obviously an integral part of business and we are really proud of Andrea and our whole Accounts personnel who do a great job for our clients and us.