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Solicitors in London

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

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.

Staff Spotlight – Enfield Head Office Pippa Barnor

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Our Staff Spotlight is your chance to have a glimpse into the lives of our staff. We have a wonderful dedicated team across all of our Barnes and Partners Solicitors branches and every month they vote for who will be featured in that month’s blog.

This month we would like to introduce you to Pippa Barnor, Facilities Manager for Barnes and Partners.

Her colleagues say of Pippa “she always goes above and beyond her call of duty” and “she is always helpful, friendly and easy to talk to” “nothing is ever too much for Pippa and she gets on well with everyone”. She is a well-loved member of the Barnes and Partners team. We all feel Pippa is a fantastic example of Barnes and Partners staff who are not client facing but who are integral members of our team.

Now, over to Pippa to give us some insight into her world and a day in the life of our Facilities Manager.

Pippa Barnor Barnes and Partners

I’ve been with B&P nearly 2 and half years now.

My career was actually as a dental hygienist for 27-years but I wanted a change of scenery and applied for a receptionist role here at Enfield Head Office. After a short time I then became the team leader on reception.

In June 2016 I was offered the opportunity of Facilities Manager because as well as answer the phone I regularly banged nails into walls and built furniture when required!

As a facilities assistant I have to be very organised – in any one day I arrange contractors to carry out repairs and maintenance for our eleven branches.

I organise the storage and archiving and file retrievals. Most recently I have recently overseen the refurbishment of our Pinner office.

Looking after all sites can feel like a never ending job with lots of supplies needed and maintenance required to keep everything ticking over, but every day is different and so it stays interesting and varied.

I feel that everyone is a very important cog in a large wheel that is forever turning. The people I work with are great, very hardworking but fun too!

In terms of life away from work, I have lived locally to the Enfield office all my life so know the area extremely well.

I am a very creative person which can be a useful trait in my work and my hobbies are art and craft when I get the time.

I love visiting and walking in London in the summer months and love skiing in the winter!

Thanks for sharing this with us Pippa.

Though Pippa’s job title is Facilities Manager, Pippa gets involved in so much going on with the firm beyond her job title and is always happy to get involved and support her colleagues. If we have a weekend commitment or a community event Pippa is sure to be there. She is hands-on and cheers others on too, always supporting others and a fantastic team player.

We hope you have found Pippa’s story casts some light on a different area of our internal business, she certainly is a valuable member of our team. We are proud of everything Pippa contributes to the business, from her hard work in her role to her encouragement of others.

Thank-you for reading.

Cyber Crime and Buying a Property

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How safe is your data? Newspapers are full of horror stories about scam emails and homebuyers losing thousands to online criminals.

Cyber criminals often mislead buyers to misdirect their deposits or outstanding monies into the wrong bank accounts instead of to their Conveyancing Solicitor’s account. You might be wondering how they are able to do it? This isn’t likely to be through a breach in the Conveyancers’ security.

Essentially all the criminal needs is the buyer’s email address and a rough idea of when the deposit would be needed. Criminals have technology that intercepts emails, often estate agents’ emails do not have the same security measures in place that you might expect from a legal practice and certainly a client’s email address is unlikely to be encrypted. So, an estate agent sends the memo of sale to the client by email and the client responds or forwards it on and the criminal now has access showing all parties and contact details for the chain. They now just need to estimate when the Buyer will send the deposit or balance of proceeds to their solicitor.

Legal firms are bound by so much compliance and procedures to ensure their clients’ most important details are kept safe. Conveyancers often get the blame but the reality is very different, with information being obtained by the criminals from a number of varying sources.

Social Media - Cyber Crime

Monitoring emails is one option but more often than not a leak of information occurs via social media. A status update on Facebook or Twitter, ‘ So excited, just received my mortgage offer’ is enough to tip off the fraudster. It takes only minutes to set up a spoof email address to enable them to pretend to be the Conveyancer. There are even websites in existence that enable people to create a spoof email address. They then send an email to the client advising that now they have the mortgage offer they must send the deposit to the following account immediately. Caught up in the excitement of moving, the client doesn’t question it.

And that is just it, we need to educate the public to think twice and some really simple measures make all the difference:

  • At Barnes and Partners, we tell our clients at the outset our client account bank details and advise them that they will not change
  • We advise you to have a verification process – so if you plan to send monies to anyone and you have received the details by email then telephone to double check the details are correct
  • Be aware of the perils of open WiFi – criminals spend all day sitting in coffee shops cyber spying through open networks enabling them to identity who your Conveyancer is and even obtaining keystrokes for online banking passwords
  • Be careful what you post on social media and generally be vigilant for suspicious emails or communications
  • Identify your callers – make sure before you give any information to anyone on the phone that they are who they say they are…are they really calling from the estate agents’ office or are they trying to find out the name of the person dealing with the Conveyancing?

The majority of cyber attacks are unsophisticated and so by taking these simple steps you can make a real difference in protecting your money.

We hope these pointers prove helpful. If in doubt about any of the above, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

New Year Resolutions – Your Will?

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New Year Resolution - WillJanuary is that time of year again when we make New Year resolutions and consider what we should be doing – reviewing last year and planning for the future. Yet on the list of spending more time with the family, going on a diet, giving up smoking and joining the gym, why do many of us not include making a Will when considering our New Year priorities? Most of us appreciate we don’t know what is around the corner, yet it seems that such an important document does not feature high on our list of things to do in our lives.

A Will is the most important documents that many people will ever sign. It ensures that your wishes are carried out when you are no longer around. A Will has the power to appoint guardians for our children under the age of 18, can express your funeral wishes, including any specific music or other personal preferences, it can also make provision for the security of our pets, perhaps most importantly though, it adds certainty to our wishes of who should benefit from our estate. That said, even if you don’t have many assets, a Will is still important as it can outline how your personal effects (including intellectual property and social media accounts) should be handled and by whom. You can also ensure that people you trust are appointed as Executor to your estate; these are the people that will deal with our affairs after our death and take control of administering our estates.

Signing a Barnes and Partners WillThis is a hugely powerful document and incorporates many benefits, such as Inheritance Tax planning, planning for the future needs of our children and ensuring peace of mind that all gifts, big and small, go to those people who we would want them to.

You may have seen in the media recently that there have been recent changes in the way that our estates are taxed upon death. The government has recently introduced a ‘Main Residence Nil Rate Band’, that provides an additional tax-free allowance to persons leaving their property to a direct descendant.

Here at Barnes and Partners, we recognise how important it is that your home and life savings pass to the people you choose. Wills can be complex and unfortunately, too often, online and DIY Wills cut-corners or do not cover all the legal ground they should. We welcome you to telephone our offices and fix a time to meet with a dedicated member of our Wills and Probate Team, to discuss your wishes for your Will. Alternatively, please feel free to visit one of our ten offices and we will be happy to assist you.

We appreciate how difficult it is to keep to those New Year’s resolutions, but protecting your future is actually cheaper than the gym, easier than going on that diet and has a tangible long-term benefit that won’t be undone with over indulgence or slipping off the band-wagon.

We wish all clients old and new a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Happy 2017!

Kim Boylett, B&P Solicitors Enfield

Staff Spotlight – Ware Office Andrea Greenwood

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Barnes and Partners Solicitors are Solicitors for life. We can take care of your legal needs wherever you are in life – from buying your first home, to managing employment law for business deals, or looking after wills and probate requirements.

We have clients who have been with us for decades who use us for a variety of services; they often refer us to their friends and even their children too.

We pride ourselves on our friendly and skilled staff, who are hand selected for matching our exacting standards for excellence. It is our people who make us the first choice for many clients who are seeking legal advice.

This is why we have launched our Staff Spotlight – celebrating our dedicated team across all 12 of our Barnes and Partners Solicitors branches. We would like to give you a glimpse into the lives of our wonderful staff so you can see what makes them all individually fantastic legal professionals.

This month we would like to introduce you to Andrea Greenwood, Senior Conveyancer, at our Ware Barnes and Partners Solicitors office.

Andrea looks after conveyancing. She has been with us since the summer of 1992 and despite her long years of service she isn’t complacent and still goes above and beyond in her daily work. She is knowledgeable, helpful and supportive to her team and an encouragement to others in the Barnes and Partners family.

Andrea-Greenwood-Ware

Andrea Greenwood – Senior Conveyancer

Here’s Andrea’s story in her own words:

My career originally began in London where I started work as a receptionist for a small family firm of solicitors in 1985 – I am proud to say that within just 6 weeks I was promoted to Partners’ Secretary. I was there five years and I enjoyed my time with them but I left London in 1990 to set-up a letting agency for an estate agent friend.

The letting agency is still a successful business retaining some of the same clients I dealt with back then! It was a great experience to help set this agency up and it provided me with an insight into how estate agents operate; this has been valuable to my role as a conveyancer. However, after helping establish the letting agency so it was up and running and doing well, I realised I missed working in the legal realm and that is when I left to work with Barnes and Partners Solicitors. 

I started at Barnes and Partners Solicitors in June 1992 at the Cheshunt Branch. Viv Jennings (Poutney) employed me as a secretary to Joe Baily (now retired). I loved my work and in 1993 I was given an amazing opportunity – Joe and I opened a new branch of Barnes and Partners in Ware. The team obviously saw something in me because with training and personal development, I progressed from legal secretary to a fee earner. 

Currently at Barnes and Partners Ware office there is a team of three of us, so it’s always all hands on deck. We have new high street offices now so our clients love to pop in to visit us for updates. They know our door is always open. 

At our Ware branch we are all hard working but there isn’t a day that goes by without a giggle or two. Our team is close-knit and fun to be around. 

I have a great relationship with Founder and Senior Partner Nigel Barnes and Managing Partner Nancy and in fact the other partners too. The partner in charge of our Pinner office, Martin, was really supportive when I lost my mother and Nigel and Nancy are always on the end of the phone if I need a chat. 

Coming to work and getting people moved to their school catchment areas or because they are planning a wedding and a new life, is so satisfying. I think our clients know we take pride in this work and enjoy it – they are usually very grateful and come back when they move again!  

I live in Hertford (north) as I moved there from Ware nine years ago when I married as my husband works in London and the train lines are more frequent from there. We are proud parents to a 6-year-old daughter. Our home is close to some lovely countryside, Broxbourne woods and the Lea Valley path/canal, which is great for bike rides. Hertford and Ware both have some great restaurants and pubs so our weekends are mostly me working for a couple of hours, then a bike ride or walk and then a treat in the pub for a late lunch. 

andrea-greenwood-2

As for many in our line of business, this time of year I am busy working but I hope to get back on the running machine in January! We are lucky to have family in Southwold so any free weekends we have will be spent there playing on the beach and walking along the pier. We are there for Christmas this year and are all really looking forward to the break. 

After the holidays I will be back to work with my team ready to hit the ground running in 2017.

Merry Christmas everyone and thank you for reading!

Christmas Baubles

Thanks to Andrea for sharing this with us. Her journey from receptionist to Senior Conveyancer is certainly inspiring, but we feel it demonstrates that with hard work and encouragement you can get to where you want to be. Andrea is an asset to our team and to you, her clients! We feel her experiences make her a valuable and insightful conveyancer to have on board and we hope you agree.

She is the first staff member celebrated in our staff spotlight and we hope to share many more with you in 2017.

If you have a question for Andrea or any of our conveyancing team at our Barnes and Partners Solicitors Ware branch then please don’t hesitate to get in touch – 01920 460823

CMA to assess quality of UK legal services

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For a long time the legal services industry has seemed confusing and often expensive for customers, but it has been revealed that many firms themselves find the complex and overly stringent regulations system a nightmare to navigate.

The framework is seemingly just as complicated for solicitors and barristers as it is for the customer. But there is some hope for all parties in the form of a new CMA (Competitions and Market Authority) investigation.

The hope is that the investigation from an official body can help to tidy up a lot of the things which make the industry so complicated. One huge worry for The Law Society (representing over 130,000 solicitors for England and Wales) has been the overregulation of its members. It claims that regulations are too heavy compared to newer entrants in the law industry, who appear to go unregulated.

There is an added incentive for the legal sector to ensure everything is in order and that there is plenty of competition. Currently, there is around £30bn (estimated) in turnover for the economy tied up in the industry. In fact, a lot of the country’s foreign earnings come from the legal work done, with financial traders and oil traders among some of the top spenders.

A whole host of legal services are available across the country, with everything from family law to employment law involving multiple parties. The CMA investigation is set to study how the market currently works, with a possible referral for a more focused investigation to go deeper if it feels one is required.

The investigation comes on the back of survey results which saw customers claiming that the advice and service given to them was poor. Additionally, many small businesses claimed they only used legal services as their very last resort, with few finding them very useful for the money they have to spend.

Regulations currently work to protect the public when taking on board legal services, but with many operators feeling they are unduly scrutinised in comparison to others; there is a huge call for the regulation to be applied in a fairer manner across all organisations.

The Legal Services Act 2007 sets out some very specific rules on what customers can expect and how professionals within the industry should act. It’s hoped that these are upheld and strengthened by the CMA’s involvement, promoting access to justice for all and for professionals to work in the best interests of their clients.

At Barnes and Partners we know how important it is for customers to get value for money when obtaining legal services from solicitors. That’s why we welcome the CMA investigation and hope that the industry as a whole can be improved. We believe we already provide the best service, with experienced and compassionate solicitors. Simply contact us today for more information on any of our services.

Families to pay highest inheritance tax in 35 years

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The last thing you want to be worrying about, either as someone leaving wealth behind to loved ones or as a loved one facing the loss of a family member, is the amount of tax placed on inheritance. With this is mind, the news that we are at a 35-year peak for the highest levels of inheritance tax will be unwelcome news.

The news comes only two years after Prime Minister David Cameron told the public that inheritance tax should only be paid by the rich. 1979-80 was the last time tax levels on inheritance were so high, with Margaret Thatcher at the helm. Back then the percentage stood at 75% on assets over £25,000.

It’s thought that over 40,000 families will face tax on inheritance, with the figure climbing over the next few years. The reason so many families could be taxed is thought to be down to the housing market. Where many people leave property in their wills, the fact that house prices have continued to rise over several decades means many people now slip into the taxable bracket.

The figure of 2.6% deaths in 2009-10 being liable for inheritance tax has risen dramatically, standing at roughly 7.1% right now and estimated to rise further to 8%.

Why the high rates?

Some have claimed that the rise in tax on assets left behind after a person’s death has been a cash grab for the tories, particularly after the economic crash in 2007. However, Chancellor George Osborne has outlined plans for a new relief programme to take effect from 2017. This relief shapes up to put the family home in a tax-free, transferable position, with the amount estimated to be £1m when a couple jointly passes on a home to those assigned as their heir in their will.

Back in 2014 it was reported that the UK had the second highest inheritance tax rate in the world, behind only Ireland. This news could be a driving force behind the Conservative government’s plans to introduce tax-relief, but still looks somewhat harsh when numerous other countries have scrapped their inheritance tax altogether – Australia and New Zealand being the two notable examples.

What should I do with my will?

One trend which has emerged, as people try to shield their children from the heavy inheritance tax, is to “gift” property years before death. This has led to the suggestion that the high tax rate in the UK – because of the value of property which is inherited – is too high, with families who aren’t supremely well off fearing that their heirs will not see the benefit of their accumulated wealth.

With the turmoil surrounding inheritance tax, it’s always best to seek professional advice when organising your own affairs.

At Barnes and Partners we are always on hand to assist you with will writing, helping you to provide the best arrangements for your assets – we even cover will disputes. So don’t let your will weigh on your mind, contact us today for professional, compassionate assistance.