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Property Litigation News Roundup

2020 has been an unpredictable year and has had a big impact on the property market. It is easy to focus on the negative news, however the have been some positives over the last few months. Below we round up some of the more positive news stories this month:MortgagesAt their recent party conference, the Government has pledged to fix the broken...
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Changes to the Statutory Legacy on Intestacy

Changes to the Statutory Legacy on Intestacy
On the 6th February 2020 the new Statutory Legacy on Intestacy came into force.What are the intestacy rules?The intestacy rules are statutory rules that determine who receives your estate if you die without a Will.How is the Statutory Legacy applied?The Statutory Legacy is the amount your spouse or civil partner will receive if you die without a Wi...
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Dishonesty in divorce no longer tolerated

What can you do if you suspect your spouse concealed some of their assets during your divorce in order to reduce the amount they had to pay you?

When a couple divorce, there is a complex procedure known as disclosure. Both spouses have to sign a financial statement revealing the full extent of their income and assets to each other before they agree how to divide their finances. Previously, once a financial agreement had been ratified by the court as a consent order, it would rarely be overturned, save for very limited circumstances.

In October 2015 the Supreme Court ruled that such concealment amounted to ‘fraudulent misrepresentation’ and permitted two spouses to return to court to renegotiate their divorce settlements.

Catherine Polli, Head of the Family Law Department at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors in Essex, says ‘the implications of these two cases are very important – as they allow any spouse who believes that they have been cheated out of their rightful financial settlement to challenge the original court order. They should speak to a specialist family lawyer for advice on their particular circumstances.’

The two women, Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil, had both made divorce settlements in good faith with their husbands, only later to find out that they had been deliberately misled about their financial worth.

In 2010 Alison Sharland, from Wilmslow in Cheshire, signed a consent order accepting a divorce settlement from her then husband Charles of £10 million and 30 per cent of the net proceeds of the sale of his company, whenever that took place. Charles owned his own software company, which was valued at £47 million at the time of the divorce on the basis that he had no plans to sell it.

Mrs Sharland later discovered the company was actively being prepared for sale on the stock market at an estimated worth of £600 million. The Supreme Court considered the principle that ‘fraud unravels all’ and found that Mrs Sharland was the victim of fraudulent misrepresentation and she would not have consented to the original order if she had known the truth. The case will now go back to the family court for Mrs Sharland’s settlement to be re-examined.

In a separate case heard at the same time, Varsha Gohil from London accepted £270,000 in her divorce settlement only later to find out that she could have got much more. Her husband later admitted to intentionally misleading the court and Mrs Gohil about the extent of his wealth, when he was found guilty of fraud and money laundering of £37 million. The financial settlement was set aside and will again be returned to the family court.

If you believe that your ex was dishonest about their finances at the time of your divorce, you should take legal advice immediately. Pinney Talfourd Solicitors can help you to make further enquiries and even enlist the services of professionals, such as private investigators and forensic accountants.

For more information about divorce settlements and disclosure please click here to contact our Family Law Department or call 01708 299444.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice on their own particular circumstances.

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The Dangers of DIY Divorces

Today the Supreme Court held that an ex-spouse can apply for financial provision - despite the fact they had been divorced over 19 years.

Kathleen Wyatt and Dale Vince lived as new age travellers in the 1980s and divorced after only two years of marriage in 1992. At the time they lived in a caravan and had nothing. Fast forward more than 20 years and Mr Vince's fortune have changed dramatically, and Ms Wyatt is hoping for a very belated settlement.

13 years after their divorce Mr Vince went on to found a green energy firm Ecotricity which now has a turnover of over £40 million a year. In 2011 Ms Wyatt launched a claim for a financial provision seeking a lump sum and maintenance from her former husband.

The court of appeal blocked this stating that the application was too late. Today however the Supreme Court has overturned that decision paving the way for Ms Wyatt to proceed with her claim which she puts a £1.9 million.

A costly mistake

This could have been avoided if the parties, at the time of their divorce had entered into an agreement setting out the division of their finances and dismissing any further claims.

Lots of people these days deal with their own divorce and decide that, as there is no money to be divided or they have already sold their property and divided the proceeds, they need no further intervention from the courts.

This isn’t the case and can be a very costly mistake.

A court order will deal with the division of the family finances and even if there isn’t any money at the time of the divorce will dismiss any further claims that the parties may have against each other.

Even if your divorce is simple and straightforward it is always worth getting legal advice. A good family lawyer can guide you through the potential pitfalls and give advice that is tailored to suit your own circumstances

The Family Team at Pinney Talfourd can advise regarding consent orders to help protect couples and their assets in the event of separation.

Call 01708 229 444 for more information or visit the Family Law webpage to book an appointment online and get peace of mind.

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Civil Court Fees Increase in March

Money claims in the courts are expected to dramatically decrease as the Government increases some civil court fees by over 600% from Monday 9 March. 
These increases will affect both 'specified' (claims for a specified amount) and 'unspecified' money claims.

The Law Society has heavily criticised the fee increases, believing they will have a detrimental effect on legal practitioners, consumers and small businesses alike.

The increases

In order to issue proceedings a court fee is payable depending on the value of the money claim. Whilst small claims of up to £9,999 remain unchanged, a claim of up to £19,999 currently attracts a fee of £610 which is set to increase to £1,000 – up 64%. As the value of the money claim increases so does the new fee increase with a claim of under £190,000 soon to cost 622% more (a rise from £1,315 to £9,500).

The table below sets out some more examples of the increases:

Claim value £

Current fee £

New fee £

Increase £

Increase %

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Increases for statutory paid leave

The Government has recently confirmed some new changes to statutory paid leave, which has been especially welcomed by parents to be.

Pay increases

From April 2015:
  • Statutory maternity, adoption, paternity, additional paternity and shared parental pay will increase to £139.58 a week
This additional paternity leave and pay will not be available in respect of babies whose expected week of childbirth is before 5 April 2015, or for children who are placed for adoption before that date.

From 6 April 2015:

  • the weekly rate of statutory sick pay will increase to £88.45
  • the statutory limit on a gross week's pay will increase to £475
The statutory limit on a gross week's pay is used to calculate, amongst other things, statutory redundancy, the basic and additional awards for unfair dismissal and determining the upper limit on the compensatory award for unfair dismissal.


Shared Parental Leave

These pay increases have come at an ideal time for parents to be, coinciding with the introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP).

Shared Parental Leave allows parents to share leave following the birth or adoption of their child (if due, matched or placed for adoption after 5 April 2015). After an initial two weeks, up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared. The pattern of leave must be agreed between the employee and employer with eight weeks' notice.

It is estimated that about 285,000 working couples would be eligible to share leave under the new rules, although uptake is expected to be slow if the main breadwinner in the family is the father and only entitled to statutory paternity pay.

How this will affect employers

Whilst the statutory pay rises are part of the government’s annual review and will have no real effect on employers, the complexity of the shared parental leave initiative is expected to cause many a headache for employers.

The government has allowed individual employers to decide whether to extend enhanced maternity pay (a payment over and above the statutory minimum) to all new parents taking shared parental leave. It may be the case that some employers decide to withdraw enhanced maternity rights and pay rather than extend the same to new fathers. Enhanced paternity pay as well as maternity pay could increase staff costs considerably.

This sharing of leave may also make it more difficult to find quality cover staff as it will be more difficult to find specialist staff for a few months instead of a typical 10-12 month ‘maternity contract'.
Employers are therefore urged to introduce a shared parental leave policy as soon as possible which will assist both employers and employees going forward.

Employers are therefore urged to introduce a Shared Parental Leave and Shared Parental Pay policy as soon as possible which will assist both employers and employees going forward. 

Find out more 

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has developed an online calculator in light of all these new changes. The calculator is designed to help prospective parents calculate their eligibility for shared parental leave and their pay entitlements.

Acas has also produced a Good Practice Guide for employers and employees.

If you are an employer and want to include this new policy in your staff handbook please contact our Employment Department for advice. We can offer a fixed fee service for policies and procedures.

Many of our clients have welcomed the opportunity to have aspects of their employment structure reviewed; from the contracts and policies in place, to grievance procedures and disputes and various other employment related issues. We are happy to have an initial meeting with employers FREE OF CHARGE to assess your requirements and provide a fixed price or menu of charges for any work or advice needed.

This article was written by Alex Pearce, Associate Solicitor in the Employment Department at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at March 2015.

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Green shoots to firm roots in commercial property

As the UK economy continues to flourish will confidence and investor interest in the commercial property sector continue to grow?
Spring is almost upon us, the sunshine has made an appearance clearing the grey skies of February and we can look forward to bursts of colour on the horizon this month.  The economy continues to flourish but will the commercial property sector grow with it?

2014 saw new life

According to a report issued by Schroders(*), London experienced the strongest rental growth in 2014 and they expect another solid performance from the UK commercial real estate this year as low levels of development means that the balance between demand and supply is now swinging in favour of commercial landlords. 

2015 to continue to grow

Commercial real estate advisors CBRE(**) also predict a return of confidence and investor interest in prime commercial and industrial property.

CBRE is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm. They do warn however that the prospects for retail property remains uncertain which would appear to be an accurate forecast considering the blight currently faced by the larger grocery retailers with the planned closure of many stores.  


Overall, the commercial property market seems to have sprouted new life in 2014 and  continues to grow. Last year was certainly an exciting and busy year for our Commercial Property Department and we hope that the market continues to bloom in 2015 and beyond. 

If you want to join the investment property revival make sure you have an experienced commercial property lawyer in your team. Our Commercial Property Department is recommended by The Legal 500 UK and would be happy to discuss your needs.

(*) Outlook 2015 UK Commercial Real Estate
(**) CBRE Outlook for 2015

This article was written by Keeley Miller, Associate Solicitor in the Commercial Property Team at Pinney Talfourd. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at February 2015.
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Resolving disputes in 2015

"The Jackson Reforms" look set to continue to change the litigation landscape in 2015. Head of Dispute Resolution, Stephen Eccles, looks at what to expect.
There have been key changes in the rules of litigation over the last couple of years and new rules and procedures are currently working through the civil justice system. These have become known as “The Jackson Reforms”

It is the development of these new rules and procedures that represent change anticipated through 2015.


  • the expansion of permitted contingency fee arrangements
  • increases to damages where a Defendant fails to beat a Claimant’s settlement offer
  • cost budgeting
The rules of procedure (CPR) have been amended to promote the avoidance of delay and a saving of legal costs. There will be a much stricter approach to 'parties to litigation' complying with each and every part of Court Orders made in the management of cases with stricter deadlines and timetables.


The reforms have resulted in a vast increase in applications to the Court, an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the reforms. This comes at a time when the County Court system is suffering considerable difficulties in dealing with existing workloads and no additional resources for the County Court system, indeed rather the reverse.

We do not expect to see any increase in the funding of the Court system save through the increase in Court fees. We expect to see Court fees increase significantly both for issue of proceedings, and all applications, including Trial fees. The government’s aim is to make the Court system self-funding through the Court fee structure.  It is a particular worry that the Court system will not be able to cope and we are seeing considerable delays in the Court system in obtaining dates for hearing of applications and Trials. 


There continues to be considerable emphasis by the Judiciary on attempting to settle disputes without recourse to the Courts via alternative dispute resolution (ADR) which includes both arbitration and mediation. 

The Judiciary have made it clear that parties unreasonably refusing to mediate may well face cost sanctions. Cost sanctions are the primary method by which the Judiciary will seek to limit litigation and encourage parties to use ADR.


It is more important than ever to obtain legal advice at a very early stage in dispute resolution. If litigation is commenced, the combination of cost sanctions and the Jackson Reforms mean that a case must be ready to proceed to Trial on issue. Therefore we expect to see much more pre-action correspondence and fewer issued cases as prudent litigators will not wish to issue proceedings prematurely.

Where proceedings are issued, we expect to see much more detailed timetabling by the Courts which, combined with the much greater sanctions available for non-compliance with Orders, will substantially discourage the issue of speculative or under prepared litigation cases.

I will keep you up to date on developments with these reforms in the monthly Pinney Talfourd newsletter. If you are not already on our mailing list you can subscribe here.

In the meantime, if you need to discuss what these reforms will mean for any of your current disputes please contact me.

This article was written by Stephen Eccles, Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at February 2015.
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The growing trend of cohabiting couples

Cohabiting is on the increase and many people believe they have "common law" rights. But this is not the case.
On 28 January 2015 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its Household and Families 2014 statistical bulletin, providing annual statistics on the number of families by type, people in families by type and children in families by type.


  • In 2014 there were 18.6 million families in the UK. Of these, 12.5 million were married couple families. This is the most common family type in the UK.
  • Cohabiting couple families grew by 29.7% between 2004 and 2014. This is the fastest growing type of family in the UK.
  • In 2014 there were 2.0 million lone parents with dependent children in the UK. Women accounted for 91% of lone parents with dependent children.

Cohabiting couple families account for 16.4% of all families in the UK.

51% of respondents to the British Social Attitudes Survey in 2008 thought that unmarried couples who live together for some time probably or definitely had a “common law marriage” giving them the same legal rights as married couples.

This is not legally the case.


There is a bill which addresses the rights of cohabiting couples which is in the early stages of passing through the parliament and therefore the law may change in the future.

However, right now, couples who live together have very few rights in law in the event of relationship breakdown.  There is no such thing as a 'common-law' husband or wife and there is no length of co-habitation that will change this.

The Family Team at Pinney Talfourd can advise regarding cohabitation agreements and trust deeds to help protect couples and their assets in the event of separation.

Call 01708 229 444 for more information or visit the Family Law webpage to book an appointment online and get peace of mind.

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More employment changes in store for 2015

2014 saw a number of changes in employment law and 2015 looks to continue at the same pace.

Our employment law solicitor Alex Pearce has been providing regular updates throughout 2014 on the changes in employment law. Now he looks at what's in store in the coming year.

A look back

Employment law has always been a fast paced area of law with frequent changes.

As we enter into a New Year, 2014 saw a number of major changes to employment law including:

  • changes to TUPE 2006
  • ACAS Early Conciliation became mandatory
  • discrimination questionnaires were abolished
  • financial penalties imposed by Tribunals for employers who lose in the Employment Tribunal where there are aggravating factors 
  • the right to request flexible working for all employees with 26 weeks service come into force

A look forward

2015 will bring about further changes.

This month we have already seen the new clawback provisions which apply to any variable remuneration awarded by PRA-authorised firms since 1 January 2015 and a ban on "overseas only" recruitment by employment agencies.

On the 5 April 2015, a new system of shared parental leave will be available to parents of children due to be born or placed for adoption with them on or after that date. Eligible employees will be entitled to a maximum of 52 weeks' leave and 39 weeks' statutory pay upon the birth or adoption of a child, which can be shared between the parents.

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Property Prospects in 2015

With the dawn of a new year, what should we expect 2015 to bring for property practitioners? Head of Commercial Property, Julien Pritchard, gives us an insight.
The influence of the approaching general election on 7 May 2015 was evident through much of the 2014 Autumn Statement, not least the surprise restructuring of Stamp Duty Land Tax. 

Political commentators have enjoyed characterising the changes as canny, a sharp attempt to outmanoeuvre the proponents of a mansion tax. For those working in the residential property market it will be interesting to see what effect the change in rates has on the spring market in 2015.

Highlights to look out for in 2015 include:

  • A year behind schedule, the new Common Agricultural Policy regime will get underway with the commencement of the Basic Payment Scheme and work to flesh out the successor Rural Development Programme continuing. We shall have to wait and see the impact this has on the agricultural sector.
  • Landlord and tenant lawyers will be delighted if the Supreme Court hears the appeal in Marks and Spencer plc v BNP Paribas Securities Services Trust Company (Jersey) Ltd and another [2014] this year. This is a case which required a lease to contain an express clause to refund rent paid in advance following the exercise of a break in a lease and is viewed as unfair by many practitioners. As leave to appeal was only granted in November 2014, having this decision reviewed in 2015 may be optimistic.
  • The immigration pilot requiring residential landlord's to check the immigration status of prospective tenants and occupiers is likely to be expanded across further regions.
  • The Law Commission published its final report, Rights to Light (Law Com No 356) and draft Right to Light (Injunctions) Bill, in December 2014, recommending significant changes in the law relating to rights to light. The government's interim response is anticipated by late spring, and its final response before the year ends. This will impact on developers in the coming months and years.
  • The Stamp Duty Land Tax Bill 2014-15 (which has been given provisional statutory effect by virtue of a House of Commons resolution under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968).
  • In the 2014 Autumn Statement, the government announced both a structural review of business rates (to report by Budget 2016) and publication, for comment, of a paper on business rates avoidance (now published). Various sections of the business community had been lobbying for the structural review and will be eager to participate in consultations and evidence gathering during 2015. As we all know business rates and their application can make or break a business and are of particular importance to some entities such as Charities who currently have an exemption.
I will be keeping you up to date on developments within the world of commercial property in the monthly Pinney Talfourd newsletter. If you are not already on our mailing list you can subscribe here.

In the meantime, I wish you all a prosperous 2015.

This article was written by Julien Pritchard, Partner and Head of the Commercial Property Team at Pinney Talfourd. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at January 2015.
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2015 - the year of the consumer?

2014 saw the main focus of commercial law on consumer protection legislation. Terri Corti looks at what this means for you the consumer.

The Consumer Rights Directive

The Consumer Rights Directive came into force on 13 June 2014 and strengthens the existing Distance Selling Regulations. This means that consumers cannot be subject to unwarranted and additional charges e.g. credit card payment surcharges must now not be ‘excessive’.

It also adds additional automatic rights of cancellation for consumer contracts, so that, for instance, ancillary contracts are also automatically cancelled at the same time.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations

The Government added a new right to sue for aggressive or misleading selling practices from 1 October 2014; this is again a protection limited to consumers.

This give you new rights to redress - specifically if you've been the victim of a misleading action - for example a false statement - or aggressive selling.

These break down into three key areas:

  • A right to undo the contract. You will be able to end the contract as long as you haven't fully consumed goods or digital products, or received a service in full. To get a refund you will also have to exercise your right to unwind the contract not more than 90 days from when you received the goods or the service started.  This is on the provision that any goods supplied to you are made available for collection by the trader. 
  • A right to a discount on the price paid. You will be able to seek a discount in respect of past or future payments due under a contract. The new regulations entitle you to a 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% discount on the payments depending on whether the trader's breach is considered to be minor, significant, serious or very serious.  The level of seriousness of the trader's actions will depend on their behaviour, the impact this has had on you and how long it has been since you signed the contract.
  • An entitlement to seek damages. If you incur a financial loss that you wouldn't have done if it weren't for the trader's actions, you will be able to make a claim for damages.  A claim can also be made if you have suffered alarm, distress or physical inconvenience or discomfort as a result of the trader's actions. Be aware that these regulations give the trader a defence to a claim for damages in certain circumstance, for example if they can demonstrate that their actions were accidental, due to a mistake or factors outside their control. 
Generally, this emphasis on consumer legislation is set to continue in 2015 with the Consumer Rights Bill and the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill both originally scheduled to receive the Royal Assent (and so become law) in this Parliamentary session.

However, the General Election of 2015 is fast approaching, and it may well be that this ‘housekeeping’ legislation goes by the wayside in the face of an incoming Parliament’s new legislative programme.


The Company and Commercial team will be providing regular updates and information in the monthly Pinney Talfourd newsletter. If you are not already on our mailing list you can subscribe here.

This article was written by Terri Corti, Consultant Solicitor in the Commercial Team at Pinney Talfourd. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at January 2015.
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