Archive for June, 2012

Energy Act 2011 and The Green Deal

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

greenenergyIt is now less than 6 months to go until the “Green Deal” launch which is set to revolutionise the energy efficiency of all UK homes and businesses.  The Green Deal stems from the Energy Act 2011 and is designed to enable private firms to offer consumers energy efficiency improvements.  The benefit to consumers and businesses is that there will be no upfront costs and it will result in cheaper warmer buildings and will make them more marketable to tenants.  The cost of the improvements will be recouped through a charge added to the end-user’s energy bill.

It is therefore recommended that consumers and businesses start to think about making energy efficiency savings, otherwise they risk not being able to let out a property that is not compliant or having to carry out costly improvements in tight timescales.

The Green Deal provides that from April 2016 private residential landlords will be unable to refuse a tenant’s reasonable request to consent to energy efficiency improvements where a finance package is available. It also states that by April 2018, it will be unlawful to rent out residential or business premises which do not reach a minimum energy efficiency standard (it is likely that the minimum rating will be “E”).  It is therefore recommended taking advice early when obtaining an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

How does it work?
Energy companies will become “green deal providers” and will employ qualified assessors. A property will be inspected by an assessor and energy efficiency improvements recommended. The green deal provider will then provide an estimate of the savings on the energy bill if the works were carried out and offer to carry out the works based upon instalments added to the energy bill.
The instalments will be paid by “the person who is for the time being liable to pay the energy bills for the property” and “will be made to the relevant energy supplier through the energy bills for the property”.   As tenants are in most cases the bill payer, it will be tenants who pay the instalments by way of their energy bill.  Tenants will need to be aware when they are taking on a lease of a property if it is subject to the Green Deal.
It is thought that in the future EPC’s will disclose all Green Deal arrangements as part of the Government’s plans to allow disclosure of information held on the national register of all EPC’s throughout the UK.  As a result of the database requirements the cost of obtaining EPC’s is increasing.
In summary, energy efficiency is not going to go away.  It is a flagship policy for the Government and it is recommended that both tenants and landlord’s take advice early on EPC’s and the Green Deal in order to reap the benefits.

For further information, please contact Caren Glennie by email at c.glennie@jgcollie.co.uk.

Safeguarding Tenants’ Deposits – Tenancy Deposit Schemes

Monday, June 25th, 2012

cashA tenancy deposit scheme is a scheme – approved by the Scottish Government – provided and operated by an independent third party to hold and protect tenants’ deposits until they fall to be repaid at the end of the tenancy. These schemes will come into operation very soon, advises John Sinclair.

Concerns that some private landlords or letting agents unfairly withhold tenants’ deposits led to provisions in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 allowing Scottish Ministers to bring forward regulations for the approval of tenancy deposit schemes in Scotland. The Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011 came into force on 7 March 2011. These regulations set out the conditions that all schemes must meet before they can be approved by the Scottish Ministers.

Three schemes have been approved by Scottish Ministers and all three will start operating on Monday 2 July 2012. The regulations which impose legal duties on landlords who receive a deposit in connection with a relevant tenancy will also be triggered from 2 July.

The legal duties on landlords are:

(i) to pay deposits to an approved tenancy deposit scheme, and

(ii) to provide the tenant with key information about the tenancy and deposit.

The dates by which landlords must pay deposits to an approved scheme and provide information to the tenant vary, depending on when the deposit was received. Details of these key dates will be published on our website but in the meantime if you are a landlord and have any questions please contact us and we will be delighted to give you the guidance you need.

Most landlords who let privately rented property are required to register with the local authority in which the property is situated. Every landlord who receives a deposit, and who is required to register in the local authority register of landlords (in accordance with the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004) must comply with the Tenancy Deposit Schemes (Scotland) Regulations 2011. This includes landlords of assured and short assured tenancies, university accommodation and various other types of occupancy arrangement.

Landlords must comply with the regulations and there are sanctions for non-compliance. A tenant can apply to a sheriff for a financial penalty to be imposed on a landlord if the landlord fails to submit deposits to an approved scheme and/or provide information to the tenant. Where satisfied that a landlord has not complied, a sheriff can order the landlord to pay the tenant up to three times the deposit. The sheriff has a discretion as to the amount of any financial penalty to be applied.

The schemes will be free in the sense that there will be no charge for tenants, landlords or letting agents to join a scheme. Additionally every approved scheme will provide a free service to resolve disagreements over the return of deposits as an alternative to taking legal action through the courts.

The introduction of these schemes will have a significant impact on the current practice of landlords and their letting agents in relation to tenants’ deposits and hence it is important that both are fully aware of the obligations imposed by the regulations and also the rights of tenants.

For further information or guidance please contact John Sinclair by telephone on 01224 581581 or by email at j.sinclair@jgcollie.co.uk

Family Law

Monday, June 25th, 2012

kidA matter which is becoming increasingly prevalent, particularly in the North East of Scotland which houses a fairly transient population, is the situation whereby after a couple have separated, one of them requires to move either to another part of the United Kingdom or possibly with more profound consequences, to another Continent.  Clearly, this is a matter with potentially deep lasting effects not only for the parent with care of the children but also the parent with whom the children do not live and, more importantly, the children themselves as this will not only involve the children moving to a different part of the country but potentially a different part of the world.

It goes without saying that matters such as these should, in the first instance, always be discussed between the parties.  Obviously, this, in many instances, is neither practical nor conducive to matters being resolved by agreement and, unfortunately, as is becoming all too prevalent nowadays, the matters must be decided by a Court.  Until fairly recently, there were scant few recorded cases on this subject but these are starting to filter through.  In deciding such cases, the Judge will consider a number of factors including the reasonableness of the move, the motive of the parent with care wishing to take the children away, the importance of the children’s relationships with the family who will be left behind, the amount and frequency of Contact with the parent who remains behind, the children’s views (if they are of an age to express them), the effect of the move on the children, the effect of refusal to move on the parent with care and the effect of refusal to move on the welfare of the children.  The Court also have to satisfy themselves that a satisfactory level of continuing contact would realistically be achievable.  At the end of the day, the best interests of the children are of paramount consideration.  It also goes without saying that such a move affects a considerable number of people and it is best that any possibility that these may be raised, be raised at the earliest possible juncture to avoid, as far as possible, as a Court action can not only be financially expensive but also emotionally destructive.

For further information, please contact any of our Family Lawyers,

Graham A Garden, Telephone Number: 01569 763555, Email: gag@kinnearandfalconer.co.uk, Duncan M Love, Telephone Number: 01224 581581, Email: d.love@jgcollie.co.uk,

Susan Waters, Telephone Number: 01224 581581, Email: s.waters@jgcollie.co.uk,

Hayley Mitchell, Telephone Number: 01224 581581, Email: h.mitchell@jgcollie.co.uk.

Minimum Alcohol Pricing – a costly business?

Monday, June 25th, 2012

wineThis measure is coming although the start date is not yet known. Janet Hood considers the implications for customers and retailers.

Janet was having a chat with her local shop keeper on the realities of minimum pricing – set in Scotland at 50p per unit. The shop is part of a well known UK wide convenience store  chain. They had a very good offer on her favourite Shiraz at £4.90 per bottle. The percentage alcohol per volume was marked as 14%. When minimum pricing comes in that bottle will not be able to be sold at less than £5.25.

How was that worked out? Well not in her head, but by applying the Scottish Government formula:

MPU x S x V x 100

where MPU is minimum price per unit in £’s, S is the strength of the alcohol as a percentage, and V is the volume of the alcohol in litres.

Initially it was a bit tricky trying to work out what these terms meant as the bottle was labeled as follows

14% vol – this is the strength of the alcohol and means the amount of alcohol in the wine

75cl – is the volume or amount of alcoholic liquid in the bottle or the wine

£0.50 is the minimum price per unit

Therefore the minimum price is:

0.50 (MPU) x 0.75 (Volume) x 14/100 (Strength, as % per volume) x 100 = £5.25

A litre bottle of whisky at 40% strength currently being sold for £13.00 per bottle will have a minimum cost:

0.50 (MPU) x 1.00 (Volume) x 40/100 (Strength, as % per volume) x 100 = £20.00

If we were in England or Wales where minimum pricing is likely to be set at 40p per unit the wine would be able to be sold at £4.20 and the whisky at £16.00.

If you sell alcohol together with other products for a single price – say in a hamper – the alcohol must be sold at minimum price however the other items can be priced as you wish.

Takeaway food premises are being targeted by HMRC across Scotland – a potentially costly business

On a separate matter, a word of warning for the operators of takeaway food premises:

HMRC officers are intending unannounced visits to takeaway premises across Scotland. Visits are likely to be at weekends or after busy trading days, late at night after they have observed how targeted premises are trading. They will be looking at numbers of customers going in and out of premises and calculating the likely number of transactions made.  The HMRC officers can interview staff, check tills and run a “Z” report to ensure that all monies likely to have been made have gone through the till. They are entitled to take copies of documentation.

The aim of this initiative is to identify undeclared income. They will charge a penalty of 100% of any VAT not declared and will likely take criminal proceedings if they find discrepancies.

If you or someone you know would like detailed advice on how to prepare for these visits, or if you have already been targeted and require assistance in dealing with HMRC

DON’T DELAY

Contact James and George Collie, Solicitors, 1 East Craibstone Street, Aberdeen, AB11 6YQ

Tony Dawson 01224 581581; e: a.dawson@jgcollie.co.uk or

Janet Hood 0771 888 2837; e: janethood@me.com