Archives for 2016

Do you understand your contracts and contractual rights?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published research which reveals that 54% of UK businesses surveyed didn’t understand the rules on unfair terms, and how they can lawfully treat their customers.

A signed contract is not final – you can’t enforce a term against a consumer if it’s unfair.  Unfair terms are those that give businesses an unfair advantage over consumers, often by reducing their rights or ability to complain if things go wrong.  The rules on using unfair terms are set down in the Consumer Rights Act (CRA) 2015.

The CMA found that 67% of UK businesses sell to consumers, with most of these using some form of terms and conditions.  However, only 15% said they were familiar with the CRA when asked.  Others copied terms from larger businesses or competitors, assuming incorrectly that these will be fair and legally binding.  Only one in five had their contracts reviewed by qualified lawyers.  The CMA believe most businesses want to do the right thing by their customers, but said “it’s worrying that many businesses are not familiar with the law”.

In response the CMA has today launched a new campaign, consisting of simple videos and guides, to inform businesses about what makes a term ‘unfair’ and help them understand how to treat their consumers fairly.  These short guides complement the more detailed guidance on unfair terms that the CMA produced in 2015.  The guides show how fair terms can help save time, avoid disputes with customers and enhance a business’ reputation whilst still protecting them if things go wrong.

The guidance is available at Writing fair contracts: guidance for businesses.

Harris & Harris have advised many businesses on their Terms & Conditions, both for B2C and B2B relationships.  We recommend that these are reviewed regularly, and specifically when there is any change in the law.

Airbnb

We’ve all heard of Airbnb, some of us have used it as guests and some may have been hosts or thought about it.  It is one of the many things that look easy to do because it is online.

Owners, especially long leaseholders, have a range of legal obligations that may apply to them.  Airbnb won’t give you legal advice about these, and disclaims all liability for the conduct of hosts, so it is up to you to get it right.  If you are thinking about being an Airbnb host you need to plan and protect yourself.

Here are some of the pitfalls owners and leaseholders should be aware of before offering your property on Airbnb:-

  • Health & Safety – Fire Safety, Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
  • Insurance – Both Household & Property.  Be aware that if you are in a flat with a block contract you may not be able to change that or it may cost you money.  Airbnb warns that the cover it offers does not replace this.
  • Mortgage Lender – Most mortgages exclude subletting, or require permission to be obtained, which may be at a fee or require higher interest rate.
  • Your Lease – Most leases contain restrictions on use and sub-letting.  Many restrict flats and houses to “a single private residence”.  There is already a court decision that lettings for days or weeks is a breach of this restriction.  You are also likely to be responsible to other leaseholders and neighbours for noise or nuisance caused by your guests.
  • Planning – Subletting may be a breach of planning law.  Special rules apply in London.
  • Taxation – Income from Airbnb is taxable.  There is a limited exemption for letting part of their main residence.  There are indications that the Treasury and HMRC will be asking more questions about this type of income in future.

Some of these laws have criminal sanctions, some may lead to substantial personal liability.  At the least you may face a lot more stress and cost than you anticipated.

There is more detailed advice from the Leasehold Advisory Service here.  This was set up in 1994 to provide free information, initial advice and guidance to members of the public about residential leasehold law. Lease’s advice is independent and impartial.

Bank Details – WARNING

There is a risk of bank details sent in an email being intercepted and altered.  To avoid this risk:-

  • We will NOT send you our bank details in the text of an email.
  • Please DO NOT send us bank details in the text of an email.
  • We will ask for your bank details in writing at the outset of the transaction, and preferably face-to-face.
  • We will treat with caution changes to your bank details and will take additional measures to authenticate these.
  • If you have any doubts about the bank details provided for payment to use please check with us before you send any money.

Harris & Harris Team “Moaty McBoatface” Paddle for Victory on Wells Moat!

A team from Harris & Harris have again taken part in the annual Wells Moat Boat Race on the August bank holiday Monday (29th). This is the fourth year running that we have entered a team in the event.  This year the team was made up of solicitors Joshua Eva (Team Captain) and Andy Hambleton, trainee Legal Executive Emma Wiltshire, trainee solicitor Maisie Kelly, Law Student / Office Clerk Ethan Mercer and local farmer Joe Stradling.

Our theme this year was inspired by the “Boaty McBoatface” story concerning the naming of the Antarctic research ship. An online poll had resulted in the name with most support “Boaty McBoatface” (in the end the ship was named RRS Sir David Attenborough). Hence the team were dressed as Polar Bears, Penguins and Seals. The team were very successful again, winning 5 out of 6 races and coming away with 2 trophies.

The team’s efforts were sponsored and funds raised by the event go in equal shares to support the Wells Lion Club and Wells Dementia Alliance.  Harris and Harris were also sponsors of some of the event categories.

A video of the action below:-

 

 

LLP Conversion

On 1st July 2016 the structure of Harris & Harris converted from a partnership to an LLP. Many law firms and other professional practices now operate as LLPs.  An LLP is a more flexible structure for management and ownership.

The LLP is called Harris & Harris Legal Services LLP but we will continue to trade as Harris & Harris.  The partnership Terms of Business provided that in the event of a conversion all contracts would transfer to the LLP.  Apart from some minor changes to record this change on our notepaper, you should not see any change to the service we will continue to provide. It should be business as usual.

At the same John Clare retired from the Partnership and Joshua Eva joined the LLP.  We will continue to refer to Members of the LLP as Partners.

If you do have any questions about this please contact Neil Howlett.

How to comply with the rules on the Register of People with significant control (PSC)

As of 6th April 2016 Companies and LLPs must keep PSC register, which must be available for inspection at their registered office. The aim to increase transparency of control of corporate entities.

A person will be a PSC if they:

  • own more than 25% of the company’s shares, or
  • hold more than 25% of the company’s voting rights, or
  • hold the right to appoint or remove the majority of directors, or
  • have the right to, or actually exercises significant influence or control, or
  • hold the right to exercise or actually exercises significant control over a trust or company that meets one of the first 4 conditions.

For many SMEs this will be simple – the PSCs will be the owner proprietors already recorded on the Share Register and Annual Return. The PSC register should include their name, service address, country of residence, nationality, date of birth, usual residential address, date of becoming a PSC, and nature of control. This information is likely to be in the company’s registers already, but should properly be recorded in a separate register too.

From 30th June 2016 Annual Returns will be replaced by “Confirmation Statements” which will require this information. Companies can then elect not to keep a separate PSC register but simply to record this information at Companies House through their Confirmation Statements.

For entities with complex structures, corporate owners, shares in classes with different voting rights or with “shadow directors” identifying PSCs and completing the register may require professional help.

For guidance see keeping your people with significant control (PSC) register and the link in that to the guidance on the Small Business Enterprise and Employment Act.

Dementia: Celebrating Day Services Conference 2016

Harris & Harris are pleased to support Somerset Partnership’s Dementia: Celebrating Day Services Conference on Tuesday 5 April 2016.

The conference which will be held at the Cheese & Grain in Frome will focus on dementia care and is an opportunity for those working in dementia care and carers to come together to share best practice and meet others involved with dementia care.

Guest speakers at the event include Dr David Sheard, CEO and Founder of Dementia Care Matters who will be discussing why changing care cultures matters and Mark Poarch, Chief Executive of BRACE, a registered charity which funds research into Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Registration is from 9.00 AM for a 10.00 AM start, with various speakers scheduled throughout the day. The afternoon programme includes the Dementia Care Market Place where our Solicitors Joshua Eva and Caroline Fletcher will be available to talk to you and provide information and resources regarding dementia care.

Tickets cost £75 per person, to include refreshments, lunch and certificate of attendance. Booking forms can be downloaded from the Somerset Partnership’s website or by telephoning 01278 437141.

http://www.sompar.nhs.uk/learning-curve/dementia-celebrating-day-services-conference-2016/

Harris & Harris Discuss & Do

We are starting off the latest series of events to support businesses in Frome.

Frome Chamber of Commerce together with Frome Town Council are to re-start the popular ‘Discuss and Do’ series of monthly evening sessions for businesses and social enterprises keen to enhance their skills and share best practice. If you are a small company or organisation trying to make the best use of social media, understand employment law, pension regulations or get to grips with accounting systems such as Sage then these regular sessions could be very useful.

The new ’Discuss & Do’ sessions will be held on the 4th Tuesday of every month at the Cornerhouse. The first evening on March 22nd will kick off at 6pm with an informal buffet followed by a talk at 6.30 by Neil Howlett and Andy Hambleton of Harris & Harris, who will share more than 30 years practical experience. There will then be time for further discussion and networking.

Neil Howlett  says, ”Business people worry about Employment Law. You can make your life as an employer a lot easier if you are aware of the things you must and the things you can do. I aim to alert you to the issues, help you find reliable sources of information so you can protect yourself as an employer and ensure you don’t breach your employees’ rights. There will be a guidebook you can take away to help you set up your procedures as you grow.”

Town Centre Coordinator Mark Brookes said ‘We already have the popular business breakfast events as well as retail group meetings and through those it has become obvious that constructive and informative sessions on subjects that affect the small business owner would be very popular in Frome’

Book here.

Avoiding unintentional discrimination

It is often overlooked that rights to equal treatment don’t begin when an employee starts work. They start with the recruitment process, and even with the job advert. The right to equal treatment in the provision of services also covers advertising.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published new guides on advertising, for organisations who advertise jobs or services. They are written in plain English, and give helpful examples.

Have a look at the ECHR guidance, their ECHR Checklist and ECHR FAQ document.
The risk of a claim for discrimination through advertising may be small, but the costs of defending a claim may be significant. There have been examples of vexatious claimants who have brought claims based on discrimination on the job application process who have issued claims against multiple employers. Even where these have been struck out and the litigants barred from issuing more claims that has involved costs for employers which have rarely been recoverable.

As there are many claims about the UK being deluged with laws required to meet EC requirements we would point out that the Equality Act 2010 was a consolidating Act which helpfully out in one place laws introduced by the UK Parliament over the previous 40 years. Although it had the same goals as the EC Equal Treatment Directive 2006/54 that was a case of the EC catching up with UK law in the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and three statutory instruments..

Supporting the Royal United Hospital, Bath by Making a Will

Harris & Harris are pleased to announce that they have raised over £1,000 in support of the Royal United Hospital, Bath’s charity The Forever Friends Appeal.

The month of September 2015 saw people across the Royal United’s catchment area being urged to put their affairs in order and make or update their Wills as part of the hospital’s first ever Make a Will Month scheme which raised a total of £33,000.

The Forever Friend’s Appeal provides a vital service to help improve the hospital’s environment, providing additional medical equipment, facilities as well as all the finishing touches and extras that help care for patients more effectively, together with its ongoing research and development.  Every donation raised by Harris & Harris as part of the Make a Will Month will help to continue providing this care.

We are delighted to have made a contribution towards the Appeal and would like to thank all our clients who made generous donations.

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