Warning, if you are a Commercial Property Landlord or Tenant then you need to consider the following five points during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1) If you make the decision to temporarily close your doors then you will need to let your Landlord know. Your Lease may have tenant covenants which require you to trade at certain times and for certain hours. Liaise with your Landlord or the property managing agent and discuss your proposals with them to ensure they agree and you are not in breach of your lease.

2) Consider with your solicitors any cessation of rent clause in your lease, most leases contain a clause that allows you to stop paying rent for the period your premises is uninhabitable, we are in unprecedented territory here, careful consideration of any such clause in your lease needs to be undertaken and you need to communicate with your Landlord.

3) If the government imposes restrictions on trading during this time your Lease will likely contain a clause which says that you must adhere to any legislation or regulation imposed whether you agree to it or not, if you are a tenant you must seek advice. Landlords must also ensure that their Tenants are following any legislation and regulation imposed.

4) You must be extra vigilant and ensure all visitors and employees are following the strict hygiene guidelines and that all employees are protected and are allowed to self isolate.

5) If you must close or decide to close your establishment speak to your insurance company and let them know as there maybe requirements within the insurance policy for there to be personnel on site at certain times for certain periods. Speak to your local council if you have a Premises Licence and about business rates and ask advice.

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Property Update - COVID-19

By Lisa Evans at 00:00

We are all entering the unknown with COVID-19 which is an unprecedented and fast moving situation and will effect you in one way or another, even if you do not become ill or have to self isolate it will have some effect on all our lives. If you are currently a party in a property conveyancing transaction and you are approaching the completion stage you may find that you, some of the parties or all of the parties in your chain cannot complete your transaction because you have to self isolate. You may find that you cannot source a removal company to assist you with your move as their employees are in self isolation.

The legal process does not afford you much protection in the instance that you have already exchanged contracts, and then you or one of the parties involved in your transaction cannot complete due to self isolation. The party that can complete the transaction can serve a notice to complete in the usual way, which gives you a set amount of time to complete the transaction and also means you are liable to pay interest during the notice time until you actually complete. You may loose your deposit and the party that is ready to complete may decide to withdraw all together from the contract, alternatively they may decide to pursue you for specific performance and force you to complete.

We would not recommend drafting or agreeing to specific clauses in your contract to cater for the above types of problem, as this is unprecedented territory any clauses would have to be very carefully worded and all parties in the transaction would need to agree to them.

To avoid these problems we would suggest agreeing to a completion date and all parties working towards that date and agreeing to a simultaneous exchange and completion, where the exchange of contracts and physical completion, (moving in) takes place on the same day thus avoiding the situation where one person cannot complete and their being in breach of contract.

We would recommend communication with us, your agent and your lender/broker at this time is paramount to help decide the best course of action and the best way to proceed for you. Please feel free to contact a member of the property team.

 

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When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, there’s one that often tops many would-be entrepreneurs’ lists; to start their own business.

And while many resolutions will go unfulfilled, this is one that really is achievable, according to James Pressley, Head of Corporate and Commercial at Kirwans law firm.

“People often think that the idea of starting up their own business is little more than a pipe dream,” James says, “but it’s actually more realistic than you might think.

“At a time when many bigger companies are looking to restructure and cut costs, there are opportunities for smaller, more flexible start-ups which can adapt quickly to market conditions to launch and prosper.”

With a record high of more than 660,000 new companies registering last year, it seems that many entrepreneurs feel the same way.

So, if you’re thinking of going it alone in 2020, read on for James’ advice on how to start your own business like a pro.

1)   Decide on your business structure

Consider whether you’re going to register as a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company. Limited companies mean you cannot be sued personally, but there is more paperwork and you’ll need to make filings at Companies House. Acting as a sole trader is much more straightforward, but your personal wealth will not be protected should legal action be taken against you. Whichever structure you decide, make sure you let HMRC know that you’re becoming self-employed. Many businesses fear the tax man, but HMRC offer numerous helpful online training seminars https://www.gov.uk/guidance/help-and-support-if-youre-self-employed to help businesses navigate their way through the tax system.

2)   Speak to an accountant

Whatever business structure you choose, you should seek advice from an accountant https://www.icaew.com/. Not only will they be able to talk you through the various business structures and help find the best one for you, they’ll also advise on whether you should register for VAT. An accountant will also be able to help you with payroll, your tax affairs and general business advice.

3)   Draw up a business plan

A business plan provides a written description of your company’s future, and it’s fair to say that you won’t get very far without it. It sets out your business strategy and how you’re going to get there and may also be used to convince funders to invest in the firm. Just writing your business plan will make you think practically about important things like who your customers are going to be.  Look online for some good templates to help you get started. https://www.gov.uk/write-business-plan

4)   Set up a business bank account

One of your first tasks as a business owner should be to set up a business bank account. A business account is so much more than just a place to keep business costs separate from personal ones; it will help your business develop its own credit profile and will be a valuable record of your business income and expenditure.  Compare a number of business bank accounts to find one with bank charges suitable for your business.

5)   Record everything you spend

Business-related spending will form the basis of your tax return, so if you fail to record it, you could be missing out on tax deductions. Record the date and reason for every expense, and keep all receipts. They will all add up to reduce your overall tax bill at the end of the year. There are a number of apps you can use to do this digitally which your accountant will be able to recommend.

6)   Consider a partnership or shareholders agreement

If you are setting up a business with someone else, you should consider a Partnership Agreement or Shareholders Agreement to protect your legal relationship with each other. It may seem too formal at the outset, but a few years down the line you will undoubtedly be glad you did.

7)   Instruct a solicitor

Ask a solicitor to draw up a set of terms of conditions for your business, which protects your business, sets out your procedures, formalises what you have agreed to do and limits your liability. It will also include your payment terms; a vital element, as it tells the customer when you expect payment to be made and gives you a better chance of getting paid.

8)   Consider whether you need insurance

Like house insurance, business insurance is a necessary evil; you might never need it, but it’s absolutely essential that you have it. Check which types of insurance you might need - public liability and professional indemnity are common – and make sure you have the ones relevant to your business.

9)   Check that no-one else already owns your business

Well, not your business exactly, but certainly the name, otherwise a whole lot of time and money could be spent setting up domain names and websites and having logos designed, only for you to discover that someone else already has the same business name.

10)   Choose your location carefully 

If your business involves finding premises of some description, such as a retail unit or office space, then take your time to make sure it’s absolutely right for you.

For example, if your business is a shop, then it’s a good idea to make sure it’s located in an area with as much footfall as possible. If it’s a professional services business, then a location within the financial district would be ideal. Consider who you want your customers to be and where you need to be located in order for them to easily find you. Also think about how much space you’ll need, and whether there’ll be room to expand.

11)   Don’t sign a premises lease until it’s been approved by a solicitor

Taking on a premises lease is a big commitment, and one that, in the early days at least, is likely to form a large chunk of your outgoings. It’s vital that a solicitor checks over it in case it includes obligations and liabilities you don’t know about.

12)   Consider how you’re going to market your business

Marketing is an important element of your business, as it’s a way of letting potential customers know that you’re out there. In the early days, when cash is tight, social media can be a very useful tool. Then, further down the line, you might wish to seek advice from a marketing or PR professional. Think about how you’re going to let people know that your business exists.

13)   Make sure you’re compliant with all regulatory issues

This is an important one, as non-compliance can lead to all kinds of legal problems. Check government websites https://www.gov.uk/browse/business to see if you can find any rules and regulations specific to your industry, for example food safety and hygiene, and make sure that you adhere to them all in order to avoid hefty fines or prosecution further down the line. Ensure you have all the relevant licences in place too.

14)   Check out your employer obligations

If you are going to be employing people, you’ll need to ensure that you – and they – understand their employment status and have the right employment contracts in place. It is also important to understand employment law to ensure that you do not behave in a way that could cause employees to make claims against you at a later date.  Find some helpful advice to get you started here: https://www.gov.uk/browse/employing-people.

15)   And if your business will have a website . . .  There are legal requirements for UK websites, like providing clear contact details so your customers can get in touch with you. Be careful not to use images on your site which belong to someone else, or you could be threatened with legal action. Using words people search for on the internet will boost your site’s ranking, so try to find keywords related to your industry. Finally, remember that if you are collecting customer personal information you need to pay an annual fee to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

 

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Is Your Driving Licence up to Date?

By Frank Rogers at 00:00

Your driving licence is a legal document and inaccurate information on it could see you hit with a massive £1,000 fine.

Driving licences must be updated. Photocard licences must be renewed every 10 years and the DVLA says 2.4million people are at risk of heavy fines for not updating them on time. 

Photographs are important because the Police and other enforcement agencies use them to correctly identify whether a driving licence is being used fraudulently. They can be used by disqualified and perhaps dangerous drivers impersonating drivers entitled to be on the road.

Failing to update simple information such as your name, title or address could also be enough to warrant a fine so you should update them regularly. 

Recent research revealed 1.5million motorists in the UK have incorrect information on their driving licence. Moving house is itself a stressful experience but you need to add to the “To-Do List” the need to change the address on your licence & the address DVLA have for vehicles registered to you.

Addresses must be updated for any accommodation you move into even if this is temporary and not a permanent move. This means students and young people are also affected as hundreds of thousands of students will take their vehicles to university each year. Having the wrong details on your licence is an offence. If DVLA has the wrong address for a vehicle registered to you & that vehicle is caught speeding (or committing another offence) the Notice asking the registered keeper for the vehicle to identify the driver will go to an out of date address. If you do not receive the Notice and, as a result, do not comply with it, you could be prosecuted & have your licence endorsed with 6 Points!

Applying for a new photo card is licence is simple and motorists are likely to receive their new one within a week of sending off an application. If you have forgotten to update your address you should do so as soon as possible. You will probably not receive retrospective punishment for coming clean as an offence will no longer be committed. 

Changing an address is free through the official DVLA platform and can be updated within just minutes. However, make sure you are on the official DVLA website as it is easy to be caught out by third-party firms using websites designed to look & read like the real DVLA site. One such site charged £35 for an over 70 licence renewal despite this being offered free from the DVLA’s official site. I was caught out once so be careful!

Tips

· Check the renewal date on your photo card licence;

· Check the address on your photo card licence;

· If the vehicle is registered to an address you do not live at do you have a system in place for mail received there to be checked & brought to your attention;

· Make sure DVLA are aware of any medical condition (including eyesight issues) that may impact on your ability to drive;

· Check that you are on the actual DVLA website when making changes.

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What is Unfair Dismissal?

By Laura Owens at 00:00

Unfair dismissal is a complex area of employment law, but one every employer should understand. In its simple form, the Law in the UK defines Unfair Dismissal as ‘Dismissing an employee without a fair reason to do so’.

There are five reasons whereby a dismissal is classed as ‘fair’. These include:

· Poor conduct
· Lack of capability in terms of health /or performance
· A genuine redundancy,
· A restriction / statutory requirement that prevents employment from continuing e.g. a delivery driver receiving a driving ban
· Some other substantial reason that explains the dismissal.

With this in mind, the following are deemed as Unfair Dismissal:

· A reason whereby the employee has been ‘Automatically Unfairly Dismissed’
· Dismissing an employee when the employer did not have a fair reason to do so and/or failing to follow a fair procedure.

There is a two year (minus one week) ‘qualifying period’ for Unfair Dismissal cases to make a Claim, however, there are instances when this rule does not apply these are known as automatically unfair dismissals. This is when an Employee’s Statutory Employment Rights are violated for example:

· Pregnancy/maternity/paternity matters;
· Exercising your right to receive National Minimum Wage;
· Dismissal related to health and safety representatives;
· Dismissal for refusal to work over 48 hours on average;
· Whistleblowing.

Before an employee can be ‘fairly dismissed’ an employer should generally follow a warnings procedure. This usually consists of:

· An informal meeting notifying the employee they need to improve within the workplace
· A verbal warning
· First written warning
· Final written warning
· Dismissal.

In cases whereby an employee has been dismissed for Gross Misconduct, an employer is legally able to skip these steps and go straight to dismissal – they must however still follow a fair disciplinary process carrying out a reasonable investigation, holding a disciplinary meeting and allowing the employee a right of appeal. Even if the employer can justify a fair reason to dismiss an employee, the dismissal may still be considered unfair if the correct and fair procedure has not been followed. An employee can find out what is classed as Gross Misconduct from their employer by asking for a copy of a staff handbook including policies and procedures.

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