Right to Buy Scheme, should you be buying your council house?

The Government has today released figures that show the official statistics of houses sold under the Right to Buy Scheme across England. These figures show that there has been a huge increase of 352% of people buying their homes through the scheme in less than twelve months. This increase is partly due to the fact that the Local Authorities are trying to balance their books, but really it’s a win win situation for everyone involved, well pretty much anyway!

If you don’t know much about the Right to Buy Scheme then here is the main points for you. The scheme allows most council tenants to buy their home at a discount. If you are interested to see if you can apply to buy your house then there is a handy tool here on the Right to Buy website that helps you work it out.

You can apply if:

-          It’s your only or main home.

-          It’s self contained.

-          You have had a public sector landlord for example, a council, housing association, or NHS Trust for 5 years, however it does not necessarily have to be 5 years in a row.

You could also apply for a joint application with:

-          Someone who shares your tenancy or

-          Up to 3 family members who have lived with you for the past 12 months (these don’t have to share your tenancy)

The obvious benefit of the Right to Buy Scheme is that you may be eligible for a discount on the purchase of the house. The maximum discount for anywhere in England is £75,000.

The discount is based on:

-          How long you have been a tenant with a public sector landlord.

-          The type of property you are buying.

-          The value of your home.

However, if you decide to sell your home within five years of buying it, you may have to pay back some or even all the discount you received.

More information on how to apply for the Right to Buy Scheme can be found here.

There are pro’s and con’s to buying your house outright from the council. The main problem that people seem to have with it is the fact that they then become responsible for any repairs that need done on the property, which can be complicated and costly to deal with, however, for the fact that you are then on the property ladder and own your own home, many find this a suitable way to do so.

More Pro’s and Con’s:

Pro’s:

Price – the properties usually sell at 20% less than comparable private properties according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Investment – these properties are good for buy to let landlords wanting more for their money.

Location – Ex-council houses properties are usually very central which is perfect for transport and nightlife.

Con’s:

Outside – Tower blocks can look daunting from the street.

Communal Areas – there can be disputes over charges and responsibilities if some flats in a block are publicly owned and others are private.

Ceiling price – Due to the stigma attached, ex council homes will sell at a discount compared to private homes.

For more information about what we can do here for you and your Right to Buy Scheme, click here.

Personal Injury Claims: Cut the cost of insurance premiums by cutting out the middle man.

Last week saw the release of ‘Road to Reform: Reducing Motor Premiums by Reforming the Personal Injury Claims Process’ from Aviva. The report was released ahead of the MOJ Whiplash Consultation closing on the 8th March. According to the report, if insurers handled personal injury claims themselves, an estimated £1.5 billion could be saved from UK motor insurance premiums.

Whiplash claims add approximately £118 per year to motor insurance premiums, which has contributed to the premiums rising by 80% since October 2008.

According to Dominic Claydon, Claims Director at Aviva ‘Our primary concerns are that injured parties receive care and compensation as quickly as possible and that all motorists benefit from a reduction in the excessive costs that have built up in claims over the past few years. We are campaigning for a more efficient system that removes the ‘interested parties’ and requires people to deal directly with the insurer of the at-fault party.’

According to Aviva’s research, there is no difference in the compensation awarded to the injured party whether it is handled directly or via third parties. Therefore, cutting out the third parties, such as personal injury solicitors or claims management companies could cut the costs of premiums by around £60 per year for the average driver.

The changes that the motorists that Aviva surveyed supported are as follows:

-          No cash compensation for minor motor accidents where no one was injured. 85% of motorists surveyed would prefer that the insurance simply covers the cost of repairing the vehicle.

-          55% of motorists asked would prefer the insurance companies provided access to rehabilitation for the injuries sustained, not cash compensation.

-          69% said there should be a ban on excessive legal fees, along with 67% that think there should be a ban on the unnecessary involvement of lawyers or claims management companies.

-          There should be independent medical advisers that are not connected to the person making the claim to assess the injuries, according to 59% of the motorists surveyed.

-          95% support tighter regulation on how claims management companies and personal injury lawyers market their services.

-          A removal or clamping down on exaggerated claims via more stringent procedures to challenge suspicious minor injury claims is supported by 83% of the motorists that were surveyed.

All of these results do point to something needing to be done about the personal injury claims process, however, is getting rid of the middle man such as a personal injury solicitor the way to go?

Dr Monica Goff, personal injury solicitor at Robert Meaton & Co states ‘It is very important for people to use personal injury solicitors to handle their personal injury claim to ensure that they receive everything they deserve from the guilty party’s insurance company. Can we be sure that the Claimant or the injured party would not get brushed off by the insurance company because they did not want to pay out the full amount owed? Also, in terms of using independent medical experts to assess the injuries, that is exactly what solicitors do already, and the adviser who assesses the injuries has to report to the court in an unbiased report so that the court can make a decision, not the insurer or the claimant.’

Craig Budsworth, Chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS), has said ‘AVIVA have identified points of the problem but not come to the right solution. Claimants must have access to independent legal advice.’

The Law Society has also immediately dismissed the proposal. Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, president of the Law Society has said ‘Who do you trust to give you a fair deal? A lawyer working for you, or an insurer working for the person or company in the wrong, who’s main interest is minimising what they pay you? Would you seriously trust the other side’s insurer to give you a fair deal?’

Well you can’t say fairer than that.

Here at Robert Meaton & Co, we will not take on a personal injury claim that has not got a considerable value, so maybe the way to regulate and reduce the false claims is to put regulations in place for those that take personal injury claims on, making sure that the claims that end up in court or paying out considerable amounts of compensation are genuine claims in the first place, rather than removing the people that will fight your corner for you, making sure you get everything you are legally entitled to from the accident.

How the snow affects employment law

As I am sure you are all aware, there have been amber warnings issued for SNOW-300x204snow over the next few days across the U.K. leaving employers with concerns about employee absence levels.

Your staff are obliged to come into the office unless they are sick, on annual leave, or on maternity/paternity/adoption leave. Therefore, if the office is open and your staff do not show up, then you can treat the absence as unauthorised and you do not have to pay them. This is a fairly strong stance to take, especially if they physically cannot get into work because trains have stopped, or the taxi drivers refuse to drive in it. Continue reading

Employment Law: Employee share plans criticised by the Law Society

As you may be aware the government has proposed that employees surrender some of their employment rights in return for shares in the company.  It is not clear who this scheme would benefit and the proposals have been criticised by the Law Society.

The Law Society has warned that the government’s proposals for employee shareholder contracts will add red tape for small businesses and create confusion about workers’ rights.

In a letter to the Lords, Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said there would be ‘substantial confusion’ for employers on the termination of an employee’s contract. Continue reading