Child Custody Advice

in any divorce, separation or break-up, arguably the most important concern of all is the wellbeing of any children involved. This is why professional child custody advice is invaluable. Indeed, a separation affects the lives of your children just as much as your own, and what's best for them should be at the forefront of every decision.

Custody of the children is a difficult and sensitive element of separation. In some cases, it's best for the child to live with just one parents, but in other situations joint residency is the best outcome for everyone. The majority of children will benefit from having the contact of their families, but in some extreme circumstances this is neither possible or preferable. 
 
If there is any violence or substance abuse then the child could potentially suffer by joint custody, and consequently contact might not always be in their best interests, which of course will be the forefront of every decision with regards to child custody. 
 
At Newbold Solicitors, we consider the children's grandparents to be an important part of the custody process too. Many grandparents are left out when families separate, with many children and their grandparents having an incredibly strong bond. We aim to help grandparents have right of contact with their child if at all possible. 
 
Our solicitors can offer expert child custody advice in a completely impartial and professional manner if you're going through a separation or divorce. Contact Newbold today.

Shelter Calls for Rental Reform

Shelter, the UK's most prominent housing charity, have published an in-depth report that criticises the current state of the rental market and calls for major law changes in this sector. The 'Safe and Decent Homes' report suggests that, as it stands, tenants are too vulnerable, with revenge evictions and disrepair cases all too commonplace in the current market.
 
Here are some of the statistics cited:
  • 61% of tenants indicated that they had experienced some form of disrepair* in the last year
  • One-third of privately-rented accommodation does not meet governmental standards
  • Roughly 30% of private tenants now expect to rent for the rest of their lives
*Including damp, mould, leaks, electrical hazards, infestations, and gas leaks.
 
These facts, Shelter claim, are proof that "the private rental market does not function". Their report then goes on to recommend a variety of different solutions, which are split into three different categories:
  • Increased bargaining power for tenants: Shelter are calling for lawmakers to crack down on revenge evictions and the landlords who instigate them. The report also suggests government-funded legal aid for disrepair cases and a change to the 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act, all in the name of ensuring that rented homes are fit for habitation.
  • Better skills and knowledge: The suggestions in this category are based around education, ensuring that landlords are aware of their responsibilities and able to fulfil them. With one eye on the ever-increasing number of 'amateur' landlords, Shelter suggest introducing a 'national register' - this would require all UK landlords to register and undergo basic training for the job.
  • More enforcement powers for local authorities: Shelter's report highlights the importance of punitive measures for landlords who fail to play by the rules, and giving more power to local councils would help to ensure that no rogue landlords goes unpunished.
Shelter's report paints a grim picture (as does the accompanying blog post): the present rental market is overcrowded, poorly regulated, and biased towards landlords, who can currently evict tenants for no reason while ignoring their own duties. Hopefully, we'll see some changes on all fronts as we head into 2015.
Further reading:

Christmas Checklist for Landlords

With Christmas Day just a couple of weeks away, it's easy to get excited and forget about your responsibilities as a landlord. But it is still winter - a potentially troublesome time for property owners - and it's important to keep your eye on the ball even while you're looking forward to turkey and Christmas pudding on the 25th.
 
We've compiled a short checklist for landlords to refer to when wrapping things up for Christmas. Before you put your feet up in front of the telly, make sure you've completed all of the following tasks:
 
  • Find out what your tenants have planned. Is your property going to be unoccupied for a couple of weeks over the holiday period? If your tenants are spending Christmas with their families, you'll need to pop back every day or two to put the heating on, open the windows, and generally keep things ticking over until they get back.
  • Find out when they come back! An important addition to the above point - remember to find out when your tenants are returning from their Christmas holidays, as they may be offended if you're still letting yourself in to check up on things once the property is no longer vacant.
  • Check for cracks. People don't look forward to Christmas for the good weather! Take a thorough look at the pipes and brickwork of your property - if there are any cracks, get them fixed ASAP. If water seeps into those cracks and freezes, the damage caused could be expensive and time-consuming to repair.
  • Lay down some guidelines for decorating. If your tenants celebrate Christmas, they may well wish to put up some festive decorations in your property. Have a quick chat with your tenants to let them know what is and isn't acceptable (for example, are you happy for them to decorate the roof?) and remind them to stay safe while they deck the halls (switch off Christmas lights when unattended, don't leave candles near flammable objects, etc.)
  • Check your insurance policy. If your house is being left unoccupied for an extended period of time, we recommend checking your insurance policy. Your obligations may differ while the property is vacant.
 

How Much Does it Cost to Make a Will?

If you type 'cost of making a will' into Google, you will be presented with the following information from the Money Advice Service:
 
will google
 
This short excerpt would have you believe that a professionally-written will costs £150 at the bare minimum, but we at Newbold Solicitors would like to contest this. Our will-writing services start from as little as £100 (plus VAT), making us one of the most reasonably-priced options available.
 
Of course, some people opt to write their wills on their own, without consulting a solicitor. Beware, though; wills can be something of a minefield, and if any element of your will is improper or otherwise invalid, your wishes will be null and void when you do pass on. It's far safer to consult a professional solicitor and ensure that your will is written properly - why take a chance on something so important?
 
For more information about our Wills & Probate services, contact your nearest Newbold office today.

Shocking New Stats on Revenge Evictions

Revenge evictions are a pretty hot topic right now. Less than a fortnight ago, demonstrations were held outside the Houses of Parliament, with private tenants calling for MPs to crack down on landlords who evict tenants for no good reason; shortly afterwards, the issue was discussed the House of Commons, but this debate was filibusted by a pair of Conservative MPs (Christopher Chope and Philip Davies, both of whom are landlords themselves) and no motion was passed.
 
For now, then, revenge evictions are here to stay, but there can be no doubt that something must be done. Many revealing statistics have emerged over the last few months, and some of them are truly appalling:
  • The number of people who sought help after being evicted (in spite of being up-to-date with rent payments) rose by 20% between Q3 2013 and Q3 2014.
  • In the past year, 2% of Britain's private tenants have been evicted because they complained about disrepair (that's more than 210,000 people in total)
  • 44% of families living in rental properties have been affected by damp. 48% have been affected by mould.
That third point is particularly telling - with so many of us living in unsafe properties, tenants need to feel confident that they can report such issues as damp and mould to the landlord without fear of being kicked out.
 
If you live in rented accommodation and your landlord is refusing to make essential repairs, get in touch with Newbold Solicitors or visit our Disrepair page for further information about how we can help.

Christmas Tree Competition!

The Christmas season is upon us, and we at Newbold are celebrating with a bit of a contest! As you may know, we have four offices throughout South Wales, and while there's usually no hint of rivalry between the offices, we do like to get a little competitive at this time of year.
 
christmastrees
All four Newbold offices have put up a Christmas tree to mark the arrival of the holiday season, and since we've all put so much effort into the decoration, we thought we'd turn it into a friendly competition. Here's where you come in: we want you to decide which tree looks the best!
 
You can see each office's Christmas tree below - let us know your favourite on Facebook or Twitter, and the office whose tree receives the most votes will get some personalised decorations, forest-scented spices for the tree, and a Christmassy air freshener for the office.

Boilers are a Landlord's Biggest Headache

If you're thinking of becoming a landlord and earning a bit of extra money through property letting, you might be interested to know about some of the difficulties that landlords commonly face. After all, you'll have a lot on your plate once that tenancy agreement has been signed, and it's good to know about potential problems as early as possible!
 
According to this article from PropertyWire.com, faulty boilers are the #1 source of tenant complaints in the UK. Roughly 33% of UK tenants can expect to be without hot water and/or central heating at some point, and this means that any budding landlords should be prepared to either hire a gas engineer or fix the boiler themselves.
 
Of course, even when the boiler is working properly, it can still cause headaches for landlords - as we mentioned last week, all gas appliances (including boilers) should be inspected by qualified Gas Safe personnel every 12 months, and in a rental property, it's the landlord's responsibility to ensure that this happens.
 
Other common problems, as reported by Property Wire, include:
  • Roof leaks
  • Mould/damp/condensation
  • Plumbing issues
  • Faulty window locks
Are you ready for the responsibility of being a landlord? If so, get in touch with Newbold's Buy-to-Let team today!

'Right to Rent': The Pros and Cons

The government's new 'Right to Rent' scheme was brought into effect in the West Midlands yesterday, meaning that landlords in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and nearby areas will now be held responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants. Anyone caught letting to illegal immigrants may now face fines of up to £3,000; if this initiative proves successful in the Midlands, there's a good chance that it will be introduced throughout the UK.
 
We've written about the 'Right to Rent' scheme before, but our previous blog post on the subject didn't really discuss whether or not it was a good idea. Now that the new law is in effect, we thought it might be a good idea to look at some of the pros and cons of this scheme...
 

Pros:

  • It makes it more difficult for illegal immigrants to settle in the UK. Obviously, this is the main aim of the 'Right to Rent' scheme, and it's hard to deny that illegal migrants will have fewer places to hide when landlords are law-bound to refuse them.
  • It punishes careless landlords. Landlords have many duties, of course, but anything that encourages them to take a little more initiative is a step in the right direction. Hopefully this scheme will encourage property owners to be more responsible in general.
 

Cons:

  • It may lead to racial profiling. West Midlands landlords now face a hefty punishment for housing illegal immigrants, and some have suggested that this will inevitably lead to racial discrimination. There is some concern that landlords wishing to avoid the fine may start turning away legal migrants and even native Brits on the grounds that they looks or sound 'foreign'.
  • It's expensive for landlords. That £3,000 fine aside, it costs money to check a person's immigration status, and landlords will have to pay this fee themselves if they wish to steer clear of far larger financial punishments. Again, there are fears that seemingly 'foreign' tenants will be dismissed out of hand so as to save landlords the cost of a proper check.
What do you think? Is the 'Right to Rent' scheme a step in the right direction, or will it cause more problems than it solves? Tell us what you think on Twitter!
 
Related Pages:

'Part-Time' Landlords: Are You Breaking the Law?

Renting can be a great way to make some extra cash, but it shouldn't be taken lightly. Being a landlord is a huge responsibility, even if you're only doing it on the side, and there is growing concern in the housing sector that many of Britain's landlords may be failing to meet the necessary legal requirements.
'Part-time' landlords (i.e. people who rent as a means of supplementing their primary income) now make up a huge portion of the rental market; a recent report from ThisIsMoney.co.uk states that 1 in 7 British adults now make a second income from renting, collecting an average rent of £678 per month. Light landlording has grown into a huge industry, reportedly turning over a total of £28 billion every year, and so it's not hard to see why so many people want to get involved and try renting for themselves.
But letting a property isn't like selling clothes on eBay. It should never be seen as a quick 'n' easy way to make money, but as a real job that comes with real duties. Here are some things that all landlords must address:
  • Insurance: Standard building insurance usually isn't sufficient for a tenanted property. A lot of part-time landlords don't take out the correct insurance policy, and if you make this mistake, it could well land you in hot water if the property becomes damaged.
  • Maintenance & Repairs: With few exceptions, keeping the rented property in a good state of repair is the responsibility of the landlord. Will you be able to maintain your rented rooms and fix any problems that might arise? If not, your tenants could file a disrepair claim against you.
  • Health & Safety: Rented properties have to comply with certain health and safety regulations, and if the building that you are planning to let is not up to code then it is you who will pay the price. Also, bear in mind that health and safety is an ongoing concern - for example, rental homes should be inspected by a gas safety engineer every 12 months, and yet hundreds of thousands of landlords fail to meet this requirement.
As you can see, the life of a part-time landlord isn't always an easy one. Still, it can be extremely lucrative, and we don't wish to put anybody off the idea of letting - we just want to remind potential landlords of the commitment they're about to make!
 
Ready to become a landlord? Contact Newbold now, or visit our Buy-to-Let page for more information.

How to Evict a Tenant

As a landlord, you may occasionally find yourself faced with an unpleasant task: evicting a tenant from your property. This is never easy, but if done in the proper manner, the eviction should be a reasonably quick and straightforward process.
 
The correct steps for evicting a tenant do vary depending on specific circumstances, but for the sake of this example, let's assume that your tenant has breached the tenancy agreement in some way. Perhaps they haven't paid the rent, or maybe they've caused serious damage to your property - whatever it is, you have a very good reason for wanting them gone.
 
Here's what to do in a situation like this:
  • Get in touch with a solicitor and explain your situation. If appropriate, they will draw up the proper eviction notice (usually a Section 8 notice).
  • Serve this notice in the manner advised by your solicitor. Confirm that the tenant is fully aware of their impending eviction, and be sure to give the appropriate period of notice (14 days for Section 8 notices).
  • If your tenant refuses to vacate the property, you may be able to take further legal action. Consult your solicitor for further advice on this front.
When evicting a tenant, it is essential to make sure that everything is done by the book. If your notice is improperly served, or if you do not have solid grounds for eviction, the tenant may use this to defend their case and remain in the property for longer. Whatever you do, be sure to consult a legal professional at every stage!
 
For further advice regarding eviction, contact your nearest Newbold office today.