Category Archives: Alison Mason

Ridley & Hall Re-accredited Lexcel and Conveyancing Quality Scheme

September proved to be a successful month as Ridley & Hall were re-accredited with both Lexcel and the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS).

Adam Fletcher, Managing Partner, said, “I am delighted to announce that we have been successfully reaccredited Lexcel status. Although Lexcel is well established within the firm, our continued success is as the result of all the staff’s hard work throughout the year, from the office administration staff through to the Senior Partners.

“The Property team has also today been re-accredited for a fourth year under the Conveyancing Quality Scheme. This will ensure that we will remain on all mortgage company panels when acting for our conveyancing clients.”

In 2011, Ridley & Hall became one of the first law firms in the country to receive the CQS accreditation.


How Do You / Should You Hold Your Jointly Owned Property – As Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common?

When you purchase a property jointly, the co-owners should always be asked how they wish to hold the property as joint owners and generally there are two options;

  1. Joint Tenants – this means that the parties are presumed to hold the property in equal shares.  If, on the death of one owner, the method of ownership has not changed then, despite any terms written in a Will, ownership of the property will automatically pass to the survivor named on the title deeds.
  2. Tenants in Common – joint owners of a property can choose to hold in this way and the shares will usually be specific, either equal shares, or percentage shares as the parties may agree.  On the death of one owner where property is held in this way, the deceased’s share will not automatically pass to the surviving co-owner of the property but will pass under the terms of a Will or under the Intestacy Rules if there is no Will.  For this reason we would always advise that parties choosing to purchase as Tenants in Common make a Will as soon as convenient following a purchase although irrespective of how you hold a property it would always be beneficial and advisable to have a Will.

The reasoning behind joint buyers choosing tenants in common over joint tenants can be dictated by personal circumstance, for example, one party wishing someone other than their co-owner to benefit by their share in the property, or by financial input, for example, one party putting in the deposit and wishing to ‘ring-fence’ that in the event of a fall out or subsequent sale.  In this event, a conveyancer may recommend a deed of trust be prepared specifically stating each owner’s percentage or monetary share in the property but in any case where property is held as tenants in common, those owners should make a Will to determine who will benefit by their share on death.

The option reached by joint buyers will ultimately be reflected on the title registers at registration of the purchase with the Land Registry.

A choice initially to hold property as joint tenants is capable of being reverted to tenants in common should circumstances and wishes change, generally termed a ‘severance of the joint tenancy’.

There are, however, circumstances where the joint tenancy can become severed by third parties, changing a joint tenancy to a tenancy in common.  Where there has been borrowing by one party secured on property owned jointly with another and that borrowing is then secured against the property by a legal charge registered on the title, any joint tenancy is automatically severed and ownership reverts to the position where the proprietors then hold the property as tenants in common in equal shares.

Similarly where one of two property owners declares himself or herself bankrupt, the joint tenancy is converted to a tenancy in common and that bankrupt party’s share in the property is held for the trustee in bankruptcy.

If you wish to review the way in which you hold property owned with another and/or are conscious that you hold a property with your co-owner as tenants in common and never got around to making the Will to support that choice, please telephone us on 01484 538421 and ask to speak to Liz Wallis, Alison Mason or Adam Fletcher for your property enquiries.  For Wills, please ask to speak to a member of the Wills & Probate team.

A Knotty Issue!

Is Your Garden Harboring Japanese Knotweed? Know the Issues

The effects of the plant known as Japanese Knotweed on property are becoming a well known issue amongst conveyancers and surveyors and now the question as to whether the same is apparent at a property is a standard question on the Law Society’s Seller’s Property Information Form, being a form completed by all sellers of residential property.

If you are affected it can impact on the saleability of your property and its presence can influence a lender’s decision even if the plant is seemingly well away from the boundary.  It is difficult to eradicate and its complicated root structures can reach far beyond what is visible to the naked eye.

Japanese Knotweed is a highly invasive plant which has long been recognised for its notorious ability to grow through concrete and tarmac, exploiting weaknesses in structures and potentially growing through walls, floors and even roads.  Brought to the UK by the Victorians it was able to thrive away from its natural predators in native Japan and now, according to official records, there is not a single 6 mile scare patch of the country where it is not present.

This extremely destructive plant is classed as “controlled waste” in Part 2 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and it can only be disposed of at licensed landfill sites as even small cuttings can grow into new root systems.  Japanese Knotweed can have dramatic impacts on property asset values and suitability as lending security.  It can be successfully treated with herbicides but to completely eradicate a crop can take many years and is costly.

The only comprehensive method is for a surveyor, with specialist Japanese Knotweed expertise, to undertake a site inspection.

Liz Wallis at Ridley & Hall comments “In recent weeks I have experienced issues with lenders wishing to identify suspect plants in gardens of property being purchased prior to the issue of Mortgage Offers and whilst this might be seen to be a delay and inconvenience to buyers, clearly the lenders’ caution appears well-founded.”

For further information, please speak to a member of Ridley & Hall’s Residential Property team on 01484 538421.

The Help to Buy Warning – Don’t Get Unwittingly Trapped!!

Mortgage brokers have warned that first time buyers who have purchased a home through a shared equity scheme could be left trapped on an uncompetitive mortgage rate in the future due to little known rules of some of the country’s biggest lenders.

Brokers warn that a handful of banks that are still offering shared equity mortgage deals lend only to either new buyers or their own customers.  As a result, existing home owners have only a limited choice of rates when their current or variable rate deal ends.

Thousands of borrowers who bought their first home with the government backed FirstBuy shared equity scheme between 2011 and 2013 along with similar builder schemes could be affected and, if rules don’t change, first time buyers who have signed up to Help to Buy equity loan deals since the scheme launched could also be hit.

Some of the country’s biggest lenders provide mortgages to new buyers using popular government backed shared equity schemes under which buyers can put down a 5% deposit, take 20% equity loan from the government or builder and then arrange a mortgage for the remaining 75%.  However, lenders can refuse to allow homeowners in shared equity arrangements to remortgage, potentially blocking them from accessing the most competitive mortgage rates available.  Some lenders will only offer mortgages to existing homeowners if they first clear the 20% equity loan.  Unfortunately the loan to value may not be sufficient to provide the funding to clear the equity loan.

Most borrowers expect to simply clear the loan only when they sell their properties and find at a point that they wish to refinance for a more competitive mortgage deal they have become trapped.

The issue is thought to become an increasing problem next year when the early Help to Buy mortgages on two year fixes come to an end.  For many the choice will be staying with current lenders and taking a product transfer unless other lenders change their criteria.

Liz Wallis comments, “I wonder how many participants of the Help to Buy scheme have considered their position going forward in light of the above particularly at a time when the threat of an increase in mortgage rates is on the horizon.  Even if that doesn’t come until 2015 or beyond, how many Mortgage deals on similar schemes will end to coincide with that rate rise and the resultant homeowners find themselves with limited choice on re-finance options?  After all, it is not just about getting onto the property ladder but staying there!”

For more advice about help to buy mortgages, please contact us on 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of the Residential Property team.

How Do You Choose Your Conveyancer?

What follows is the findings of a consumer survey, details of which appear on Today’s Conveyancer, aimed at the conveyancing profession:-

“A recent survey has revealed that most home buyers rely on recommendations from their estate agents when looking for a conveyancer.

The annual report was carried out by the Property Academy in association with the TM Group and more than 4,700 consumers across England and Wales took part.

The findings showed that 68% of home buyers would ask for advice from their estate agent when choosing a conveyancer, with 46 percent making their choice based on an estate agents recommendation, a five percent increase from last year’s survey.

Surprisingly, the results also demonstrated that home movers were less concerned with finding a firm with the cheapest fees and more tuned into how much communication a conveyancer would offer, with only 18 percent of home-movers making a choice based on low fees, whereas 38 percent wanted a conveyancer to keep in touch once a week.

Customer retention fell by four percent from last year’s survey with the data also showing that customer retention is falling, with only 31 percent of home movers returning to a previous conveyancer, down four percent from the previous year’s findings and that online searches only accounted for seven percent of conveyancer selection.

The Home Moving Trends survey did show that an overwhelming majority of 78 percent of consumers said they would return to a previous conveyancer, with positive remarks about the service they had received centering on the words professional, efficient, helpful, friendly and thorough.”

Liz Wallis of Ridley & Hall LLP comments:- “It is interesting looking at the statistics that of those surveyed the percentage of people who would not recommend their conveyancer was similar to the percentage of people whose choice was made by reference to the cheapest price and on the face of it there would appear to be a correlation between the two.

“Those in the profession who pride themselves on a good, professional and efficient service will always have stories of their conveyancing nightmares sometimes arising purely out of unqualified or inexperienced personnel acting for the other party and delays occasioned are not always necessarily arising out of title issues.  We at Ridley and Hall LLP do consider our conveyancing costs to be competitive and take into account the experience of our fee earners and the service we provide and which is expected by our clients but for those seeking to choose a conveyancer on the lowest price alone, there is sometimes truth in the statement ‘You get what you pay for’.

“As with selecting any tradesman to undertake work in your home, it is preferable if possible to choose your conveyancer on an independent recommendation perhaps of friends or family who might have moved in recent history and who might have been impressed with the service they received.  Choice of conveyancer can make a difference to how your matter progresses and a good conveyancer can certainly alleviate some of the stress associated with one of the most stressful events of your life.”

Those wishing to buy or sell property, or indeed anybody wishing to remortgage property, are invited to contact either Alison Mason, Liz Wallis or Adam Fletcher to discuss your conveyancing needs.  We do pride ourselves on repeat instructions which, in our minds, speaks for itself. Please feel free to call us on 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of the Conveyancing team.

Ridley & Hall Leads the Way in e-Conveyancing

In an age of ever increasing use of modern technology, solicitors firms can sometimes be seen as lagging behind other professions in making use of modern technology. However, at Ridley & Hall we are always looking at ways to make better use of technology for the benefit of our clients.

Land Registry, as part of the governments’ digital strategy have been one of the departments who have made considerable efforts to streamline their workflow by offering services to customers online, through a Portal.

The latest development from Land Registry is the electronic Document Registration Service, or e-DRS. This allows conveyancers to submit applications online through a portal, with the results being sent back electronically.

Currently, whenever we act for a purchaser, an application must be submitted to Land Registry following completion to register you as the new owners of the property. Traditionally, these were paper applications which were sent to Land Registry through the post; Land Registry processed the application and sent an updated copy of the register back to us through the post. In Autumn last year, Ridley & Hall trialled the electronic application process internally, with huge success.

The electronic application process allows us to submit applications much safer, with no risk of original documents being lost in the post. The application is received by Land Registry on the same day and processed much quicker. We have found that completed applications are being sent back to us within 24-48 hours.

As an incentive for all firms to move onto electronic applications, from the 17th March 2014, Land Registry are introducing a new fee structure with reduced costs for applications submitted electronically.  Currently, all applications attract a fee which depends on the value of the transfer (ie. the price you paid for your property.) Effectively, the new fee structure provides a 50% reduction in the application costs if submitted electronically. This is a saving we can pass on to you directly as our client.

In addition to electronic applications saving our clients money, there is also a positive impact environmentally because we no longer need to photocopy documents; we simply scan them and upload them to Land Registry portal.

To find out more information regarding our conveyancing services, please contact Ridley & Hall on 01484 538421 or fill out our feedback request form online and we will contact you.

Do you Have Property at Risk of Fraud?

On 4th March this year Land Registry launched a new service called Property Alert aimed at anyone who thinks their property could be at risk of fraud.

Property fraud can happen in many ways. For example, fraudsters may attempt to acquire ownership of a property by using forged documents, or by impersonating the registered owner. The fraudsters may then raise money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge before disappearing without making repayments, leaving the owner to deal with the consequences.

Land Registry’s award-winning Counter-Fraud Unit works closely with the police and other agencies to reduce the risk of property fraud. Between September 2009 and January 2014 they stopped fraud on properties worth more than £62 million.

Land Registry hopes that many homeowners will want to sign up for this new free service to help them protect what is probably their most valuable asset.

People can sign up and register up to three properties to be monitored. E-mail alerts will be sent when Land Registry receives an application to change the register as well as for official searches. They can then judge whether or not the activity is suspicious and if they should seek further advice. For example, if you receive an alert that a bank has lodged a search on your property but you have not applied for a mortgage, you may want to seek legal advice, contact Action Fraud, or contact the bank in question to tell them you are the owner and have not applied for a mortgage. Investigations into the authenticity of the mortgage application can then begin much earlier in the process.

Liz Wallis at Ridley & Hall LLP comments:-

“Those in the conveyancing profession are alive to the risks of property fraud and this new service launched by Land Registry should be a useful tool in the fight against this particular type of fraud.

Land Registry’s criteria are:-

  • The property you want to monitor must be registered with Land Registry.
  • You must create a Property Alert account to use the service
  • Alerts are sent by e-mail
  • Alerts are sent when official searches and applications are received against a monitored property
  • If you receive an alert about activity that seems suspicious you should take swift action. The alert e-mail will signpost you to who to contact.
  • You don’t have to own a property to set up an alert
  • The same property can be monitored by different people.”

In the event you want to apply for the service but your property is currently unregistered, Ridley & Hall can assist with your voluntary registration of property at the Land Registry.  Enquiries in this regard should be directed to Liz Wallis, Alison Mason or Adam Fletcher.

My Property is Unregistered – Should I Worry?

Some time ago it became compulsory to register a transfer of ownership of property – in this area the trigger date was in the early 1970’s.  Therefore, property that has been sold subsequently is now registered at Land Registry.  The modern format of deeds is a title information document which includes registers of the property detailing the property itself and its address and the matters benefitting the property and those matters to which it is subject, the current registered proprietors and any mortgage lender with a financial charge on the property.  Registration was brought in with the intention that, eventually, all property will be registered and it will be possible to readily identify property owners.

There are, however, a number of properties which remain unregistered and these are generally properties which have remained in the same ownership since before compulsory registration came about or which, initially, may have transferred ownership by means other than a sale.

Provided the bundle of unregistered deeds remain safe and accessible and the bundle is ‘complete’ and no single document has become lost over time, there is no reason why the property cannot be successfully sold by reference to such documents.

There are, however, benefits to be had by registering presently unregistered property at Land Registry :-

  • It offers you easily accessible proof of land ownership which can be obtained from Land Registry for nominal cost.  Once registered, ‘losing’ the paper copies of your deeds is not ‘the end of the world’.  Unregistered title deeds are crucial to land ownership and the loss of these documents can create time consuming and expensive problems then re-constituting a title;
  • It may help prevent others claiming ownership of part or all of your land since Land Registry would notify a registered proprietor if another party was endeavouring to ‘claim’ part of your land/property;
  • It helps to identify your property since modern deeds include a plan of property based on Ordnance Survey maps (although not definitive) – unregistered title deeds may not be clear in this respect particularly if they are very old.

It is not necessary to transfer property for it to become registered.  It is possible to voluntarily register unregistered property at Land Registry.  Whilst this will incur a Land Registry fee, voluntary registrations are subject to reduced fees, the fee payable on the value of the property concerned.

If you know your property to be unregistered and is presently free of any mortgage and you would like us to assist in the registration of your property at Land Registry or for any other conveyacing enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact Liz Wallis, Alison Mason or Adam Fletcher at Ridley & Hall LLP on 01484 538421.

Flood Misery for Home Owners

House purchases are falling through in flood zone areas because buyers are unable to arrange buildings insurance.

Many lenders require evidence that buildings insurance is in place before mortgage funds will be released.  Previously many lenders accepted assurances from buyers that insurance will be place.

Buyers trying to arrange insurance before the completion of a purchase are either finding that they are unable to obtain insurance or that insurance is much more expensive than they thought.

The problems are arising due to the fact that Britain continues to be effected by storm damage and flooding, leaving insurers exposed to potentially high payouts.

Many buyers believe that they will be able to get insurance cover and at a reasonable price so leave the process of finding a policy until the last minute.  We are now however seeing more house sales fall through due to the fact that buyers are unable to obtain insurance.

There are now thousands of homes in Britain that are at a high risk of flooding.  Lenders reserve the right to check that buyers have cover in place.  Whether or not the check is carried out can vary according to the Council for Mortgage Lenders (CML).

You can check the risk of flooding using the Enviroment Agency’s flood maps and then enter your postcode.

If your insurance premium escalates at renewal or if you are rejected for insurance go to the British Insurance Brokers Association for help in order to find a specialist broker.  The National Flood Forum is also a helpful website for information.

For more advice on buying property in flood zone areas, please contact Alison Mason, Liz Wallis, Adam Fletcher or Helen Dandridge in the Conveyancing department at Ridley & Hall on 01484 538421.

Bought a Property This Year?

Are you still affected by potential chancel repair liability?

Chancel repair liability is an ancient interest benefiting many parochial church councils in England and Wales. Owners of former rectorial land may be obliged to meet the cost of repairing the church chancel.  Frequently, property to which the liability originally attached will have been divided into many separate ownerships, but each individual owner (and potentially any tenants) may be liable for the whole cost of any repairs.

Completed your purchase before 13th October 2013?

Your property, and therefore you, may still find yourself potentially liable for chancel repair.  You may have undertaken a chancel check in advance of your completion date to ascertain whether there is a potential liability associated with the property.   In any event, your property may still be at risk of the church registering an entry in your title registers at Land Registry to note the property owner’s obligation to contribute towards chancel repairs.  Should this happen in advance of any subsequent sale, your buyer will have take the property subject to such liability.

The liability will, however, be extinguished on the first transaction for value, ie, a sale, following 13th October 2013, provided the church has not in the interim registered the obligation on the property’s title deeds, but this may well be some time from now.

Generally insurance can be obtained to cover the potential risk of liability although it can be expected that premiums will be lower whilst there is no registered liability against the property’s title.

Completed your purchase after 13th October 2013?

Any potential chancel repair liability is extinguished following the first transaction for valuable consideration after 12th October 2013, provided there is no notice on the property’s title indicating there is such a liability.  In these circumstances your property will free and clear of any potential liability for chancel repair.

If you have purchased property recently, your conveyancers should have provided you with an opportunity to undertake the chancel check to ascertain a property’s liability in advance of completion but clearly if you have purchased after 13th October 2013 and your conveyancer has not indicated any note on the property as to chancel repair liability, you will have escaped future liability.

If you are not sure whether you are affected, we would invite you to contact Liz Wallis, Alison Mason or Adam Fletcher who can discuss your concerns.