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Employment Law - What is ACAS early consideration?

Posted: 22nd April 2021

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), is a non-departmental public body which provides free advice to employers, employees and their representatives. ACAS can help resolve conflicts in the workplace.

If you believe you have grounds to bring a claim against your employer/former employer in respect of a workplace dispute, you MUST informed ACAS before making a claim to an employment tribunal.

ACAS will then offer you 'early conciliation'. This is the formal procedure in which ACAS will attempt to speak with you and your employer about the dispute with the aim of helping the parties reach an agreement.  The early conciliation process used to last for 4 week however, it was recently extended to 6 weeks.

If you cannot reach an agreement then ACAS will issue you with a certificate to prove that you have attempted early conciliation.

You can then issue a claim at an employment tribunal.

A tribunal claim MUST be issued within 3 months less 1 day from the date of dismissal or the date the dispute arose. This time frame can be suspended during the ACAS early conciliation process. Calculating the time limits relevant to your claim can be complex and you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity, in order to protect your position.

If you miss the deadline for issuing your claim at a tribunal, it is only in rare and exceptional circumstances, that you would be granted permission to file your claim out of time. Originally if you miss the deadline to issue your claim, you would not be granted an extension of time.

This article is intended for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon in place of specific legal advice. If you have an employment related query then please do not hesitate to contact our litigation team for advice and assistance.

 


LANDLORD REMINDER

Posted: 23rd March 2021

STATUTORY REQUIREMENT TO PROVIDE ALL EXISTING TENANTS WITH AN ELECTRICIAL SAFTEY CERTIFICATE BY 01 APRIL 2021

On 01 June 2020 the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 were introduced which now require you to have the electrical installations in your rental properties inspected and tested by a person who is qualified and competent, at least every 5 years. You must provide a copy of the electrical safety report to your tenant, and to in some circumstances to your local authority if requested. The report must be provided to your tenant within 28 days of the test and inspection.

For new tenancies, entered into after the introduction of the regulations you must ensure your tenants have the certificate prior to tenancy commencing and for existing tenancies, you must ensure your tenant has a certificate no later than 01 April 2021.

Landlords who fail to comply with the regulations may face a civil penalty up to a maximum of £30,000, with the potential for multiple penalties to be imposed for a continuing failure.

The government has published a helpful guide for landlord which can be found here; Guide for landlords: electrical safety standards in the private rented sector - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

This article is intended for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon in place of specific legal advice. If you are a Landlord and are unsure of any of your legal obligations, please do not hesitate to contact our litigation team for advice and assistance.

 


COVID-19 SHIELDING UPDATE

Posted: 18th March 2021

 

From 01 April 2021, any person categorised as “extremely clinically vulnerable” by Public Health England, is no longer advised to shield. Guidance recently published provides that from this date;

 “Everyone is currently advised to work from home where possible. If you cannot work from home, you should go to work.”

Any person categorised as “extremely clinically vulnerable” will not be entitled to claim statutory sick pay as a result of previously being advised to shield.

 

This article is intended for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon in place of specific legal advice. If you have an employment related query then please do not hesitate to contact our litigation team for advice and assistance.


UPDATE - THE GOVERNMENT HAS ANNOUNCED AN EXTENSION TO THE MORATORIUM ON FORFEITURE OF COMMERCIAL LEASES FOR NON-PAYMENT OF RENT.

Posted: 15th March 2021

What does the law say?

Section 82 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 restricts a landlord's ability to forfeit a commercial lease under a “relevant tenancy”, during the “relevant period”, for non-payment of “rent”.

 

What is a “relevant tenancy”?

  • A tenancy to which Part 2 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 applies, or
  • A tenancy to which that Part of that Act would apply if any relevant occupier were the tenant.

 

What is the “relevant period”?

“relevant period” means the period— (a) beginning with the day after the day on which this Act is passed, and (b) ending with 30 June 2020 or such later date as may be specified by the relevant national authority in regulations made by statutory instrument (and that power may be exercised on more than one occasion so as to further extend the period);

 

What is “rent”

“rent”  includes any sum a tenant is liable to pay under any relevant business tenancy.

 

When does the moratorium period expire?

On 23 March the government announced that the moratorium would be extended further. It was due to expire on 30 March 2021 and has now be extended to 30 June 2021.

 

This article is intended for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon in place of specific legal advice. If you have a landlord and tenant related query then please do not hesitate to contact our litigation team for advice and assistance.

 


Stamp Duty Land Tax Holiday Extension

Posted: 3rd March 2021

The Chancellor has announced today that the current Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday, which means no stamp duty is paid on the first £500,000 of a property purchase, will be extended until 30th June 2021.

This relief will subsequently be reduced to the first £250,000 of a purchase until the end of September, before returning to pre-pandemic levels from the start of October.

There are different rules for second properties, and from 1st April 2021 different rules are coming into force for non-UK residents. 

 

Please contact a member of our Conveyancing Department for more information. 


FURLOUGH UPDATE

Posted: 3rd March 2021

The furlough scheme (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) will now be extended to 30 September 2021. It was due to expire at the end of April 2021.

Wages for millions who are unable to work due to the restrictions will continue to have up to 80% of their salary subsidised by the government, with a maximum of £2,500 a month.

This will gradually be lifted, with the government reducing its contribution to 70% from July and employers having to pay 10% for hours not worked.

In August and September, the government will pay 60% and employers 20%.

Employers can put someone on furlough, as long as they were employed on or before 30 October 2020. They do not need to have been on furlough before.

Employers should document the agreement reached with the employee in a written and signed agreement.

This article is intended for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon in place of specific legal advice. If you have an employment related query then please do not hesitate to contact our litigation team for advice and assistance.


LANDLORD AND TENANT UPDATE

Posted: 1st March 2021

Extra changes and protection for tenants during national lockdown;

 

Landlords must give tenants longer notice periods and there are numerous new court rules which apply during the national lockdown which is in force in England.

 

Tenants will continue to be protected from eviction during the national lockdown period.

 

Even where an order for possession is made, measures have been brought in which may prevent enforcement, subject to certain exemptions including anti-social behaviour and rent arrears of 6 months or more.

 

The government previously introduced legislation to ensure bailiffs did not serve eviction notices, except in the most serious circumstances. Initially this was to expire in January and then subsequently the stay on eviction notices was extended to 21 February 2021. On 14 February 2021, the government further extended the stay of evictions until the end of March 2021.

 

From 22 February 2021 until 31 March 2021, The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021, prevent attendance at a dwelling house for the purpose of executing a writ or warrant of possession, or delivering a notice of eviction, subject to certain exemptions.

 

The exceptions include anti-social behaviour and rent arrears greater than 6 months. The initial notice served by the landlord on the tenant must be a Section 8 notice, served in accordance with The Housing Act 1988. A Section 21 notice will not meet the exception test.

 

This article is intended for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon in place of specific legal advice. If you have a landlord and tenant query then please do not hesitate to contact our litigation team for advice and assistance.

 

 


LEGAL UPDATE - DEBT - BREATHING SPACE ORDERS

Posted: 25th February 2021

 

On 04 May 2021 the Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 will come into force. The government has issued guidance in respect of these new regulations and we have summarised some of the key points below to assist you, should you find yourself in need of a debt breathing space.

The Regulations will give someone in problem debt the right to legal protections from their creditors.

There are two types of breathing space:

1 - A standard breathing space is available to anyone with problem debt. It gives them legal protections from creditor action for up to 60 days. The protections include pausing most enforcement action and contact from creditors and freezing most interest and charges on their debts.

If you are struggling with problem debt, you can only access a breathing space by seeking debt advice from a debt adviser. Anyone who cannot or is unlikely to be able to repay their debts can apply to a debt adviser for a standard breathing space.

2 - A mental health crisis breathing space is only available to someone who is receiving mental health crisis treatment and it has some stronger protections. It lasts as long as the person's mental health crisis treatment, plus 30 days (no matter how long the crisis treatment lasts).

If an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) certifies that you are receiving mental health crisis treatment, the AMHP’s evidence can be used by a debt adviser to start a mental health crisis breathing space. Other people involved with your care may also be able to apply to the debt advisor on your behalf.

Do you qualify for a breathing space?

Before a debt adviser can start the breathing space, they must confirm you are eligible and meet all the conditions. These are that you must:

  • be an individual
  • owe a qualifying debt to a creditor
  • live or usually reside in England or Wales
  • not have a debt relief order (DRO), an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA), an interim order, or be an undischarged bankrupt at the time they apply
  • not already have a breathing space or have had a standard breathing space in the last 12 months at the time they apply

The debt adviser must also be satisfied that you meet both of the following conditions:

  • you cannot, or are unlikely to be able to, repay all or some of your debt
  • a breathing space is appropriate for you

 

For a mental health crisis breathing space you must also be receiving mental health crisis treatment at the time the application is made. There is no limit to how many times a debtor can enter a mental health crisis breathing space.

You have at least one qualifying debt owed to a creditor, and this must be included in the application. You must tell your debt adviser about all of the debts you know about and give them the contact details you have for each creditor. If you know about a debt collection agent acting on a creditor’s behalf, you might also give the debt adviser those details.

What debts are included?

Debts included in a breathing space must be qualifying debts. Debts are any sum of money owed by you to a creditor. Most debts are likely to be qualifying debts. These will include:

  • credit cards
  • store cards
  • personal loans
  • pay day loans
  • overdrafts
  • utility bill arrears
  • mortgage or rent arrears

Government debts like tax and benefit debts are all likely to qualify, unless they are included in the list of excluded debts.  Joint debts can be included in a breathing space, even if only one person applies for a breathing space. Qualifying debts can include any that debts you had before the Breathing Space legislation came into force on 4 May 2021.

What debts are excluded?

All personal debts and liabilities are qualifying debts, except for:

  • secured debts (like mortgages, hire purchase or conditional sale agreements). You can only include arrears on these debts that exist at the date of an application for a breathing space. 
  • debts incurred from fraud or fraudulent breach of trust.
  • liabilities to pay fines imposed by a court for an offence.
  • obligations from a confiscation order
  • child maintenance or obligations under an order made in family court proceedings
  • a crisis or budgeting loan from the social fund
  • student loans
  • damages you need to pay for death or personal injury caused to someone else
  • advance payments of Universal Credit
  • council tax liabilities which have not yet fallen due.

When will the breathing space start?

A breathing space will start the day after your details are put onto the breathing space register. Once your details have been put onto the register, your creditors will receive a notification, telling them the breathing space start date and details of the qualifying debt. If the debt adviser is aware that your creditor is owed more than one qualifying debt, they will receive a notification for each debt. 

What must your creditor do?

They must make sure to stop:

 

A breathing space is not a payment holiday. While a creditor cannot enforce a breathing space debt during a breathing space or charge interest or fees on it, you are still legally required to pay your debts and liabilities. During the Breathing Space, you should continue to pay any debts and liabilities you owe to your creditors.

What happens when a breathing space ends, the creditor can:

  • start applying interest, fees, penalties and charges to the debt from the date that the breathing space ends. They cannot backdate or apply any interest, fees, penalties or charges that accrued or would have accrued during the Breathing Space period, unless a court allows them to do this
  • take any action to enforce their debt, including contacting you
  • start or continue any legal proceedings about their debt

 

This article is intended for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon in place of specific legal advice. If you have a civil litigation query then please do not hesitate to contact our litigation team for advice and assistance.

 


Latest updates - What information must a landlord provide to his tenant before they can serve a Section 21 intended eviction notice?

Posted: 27th January 2021

What information must a landlord provide to his tenant before they can serve a Section 21 intended eviction notice?

From 01 October 2015, big changes were made to Section 21 Housing Act 1988 for tenancies in England. These changes were brought in by the Deregulation Act 2015 and The Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015.

The regulations state that a landlord will not be able to serve a valid Section 21 Notice unless the following prescribed information has been provided to their tenant.

 

  1. You must provide a copy of the government’s “HOW TO RENT GUIDE”. This can be obtained from the government website direct at  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-rent. This guide can be provided either as a hard copy or via email, if the tenant consents to receipt by email.

 

  1. You must provide your tenant with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). There is no time limit specified in the regulations for providing this certificate however, it must be provided to your tenant prior to serving the intended eviction notice.

 

  1. You must provide your tenant with a gas safety certificate prior to their tenancy commencing and annually thereafter. The certificate must be provided to your tenant within 28 days from the date the check was carried out. The certificate must be given to the tenant, it is not sufficient to simply leave a copy in the premises for the tenant to find. You must make sure all gas appliances fittings and flues in your rental property are safe for your tenants to use and they must be checked every 12 months by an engineer who is approved by Gas Safe.  

 

  1. If you have requested that the tenant pay a deposit, the deposit must be registered in a government approved tenancy deposit scheme. Failure to do so within 30 dates of receiving the deposit may result in your tenant bringing a claim against you at the local county court for compensation.

 

Additionally, although currently not something that prevents services of a section 21 notice, you must also comply with new legalisation in respect of electrical safety.

On 01 June 2020 the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 were introduced which now require you to have the electrical installations in your rental properties inspected and tested by a person who is qualified and competent, at least every 5 years. You must provide a copy of the electrical safety report to your tenant, and to in some circumstances to your local authority if requested. The report must be provided to your tenant within 28 days of the test and inspection.

For new tenancies, entered into after the introduction of the regulations you must ensure your tenants have the certificate prior to tenancy commencing and for existing tenancies, you must ensure your tenant has a certificate no later than April 2021.

Landlords who fail to comply with the regulations may face a civil penalty up to a maximum of £30,000, with the potential for multiple penalties to be imposed for a continuing failure 

This article is intended for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon in place of specific legal advice. If you are a Landlord and are unsure of any of your legal obligations, please do not hesitate to contact our litigation team for advice and assistance.

 


********* CORONAVIRUS UPDATE *********

Posted: 4th January 2021

4 JANUARY 2021

In line with Government guidance our offices will remain open during the new Tier 4 restrictions commencing on Monday, 4 January 2021.

We are able to offer face to face appointments but only in exceptional circumstances.

We can and will continue to provide the full range of legal services and are able to offer appointments and advice by telephone or on any of the video message systems such as Teams, Zoom, Skype, etc.

Our team will continue to deal with your new and existing legal affairs promptly and efficiently via our secure remote working technologies.

If you have a legal problem you wish to discuss or you require an urgent appointment please contact us on one of the following numbers.

Hartlepool           01429 235616

Peterlee              0191 5865711

Durham                0191 3830111

Wingate               01429 838225

If you wish to pay a bill please contact our Accounts Department on 01429 230040.  Our current preferred method of payment is bank transfer or card payment.

Please do not attend our offices if you or anyone you live with are displaying symptoms of Coronavirus.

Wishing good health to you, your friends and family and assuring you of our best attention at all times.


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