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Leading law firm Miller Hendry strengthens its teams in Dundee and Perth with six key appointments

Leading Tayside solicitors and estate agents Miller Hendry has announced a raft of six key appointments and promotions, expanding and strengthening its teams in Dundee and Perth.

Aileen Scott and Beverley McMahon have been promoted into the roles of Senior Associates.

Aileen’s promotion enhances the Private Client Department in Perth, underlining the firm’s ongoing commitment to the ‘Fair City’. She boasts experience in the administration of executries, estate and inheritance tax planning, guardianships, wills and powers of attorney.

Beverley is a key member of Miller Hendry’s Residential Property Department in Dundee and is highly experienced in dealing with all aspects of residential conveyancing, including buying and selling properties, equity release arrangements, re-mortgages, boundary disputes and transfer of title, with a particular interest in domestic leasing.

The third appointment is Michael Johnston who strengths the team in Perth’s Residential Property Department. Michael joined the firm after completing his traineeship in Aberdeen.

Elsewhere, Lindsay Kirkwood has graduated from her trainee position within the firm to take up a new role as solicitor in the Private Client department in Dundee.  Claire Pirie has been appointed as a trainee solicitor in the Private Client Department in Perth, while Stacey Culloch moves into the same role in Dundee.

John Thom, Chairman of Miller Hendry, said: “I am delighted to announce these six appointments which underline Miller Hendry’s ongoing commitment to investing in our people to meet the growing demand from clients for our range of specialist services.

“I firmly believe that it is crucial to invest in training and promote from within. By developing our own talent pool we provide the drive for staff to work hard for both clients and the firm.”

4 Shocking Reasons Tayside Businesses Are Failing To Pro-tect Their Intellectual Property

If there is one term that will become the ‘business buzzword’ for 2018, it’s innovation. Businesses are built on good ideas, and great businesses make sure they keep coming up with new ways to push their company forward, staying ahead of the competition.

“Intellectual property is a minefield filled with potential for (expensive) litigation, product sabotage, and risk,” says Alistair Duncan, head of the Commercial Law Department at Tayside-based solicitors Miller Hendry.

“But as British business starts to rely once again on Research & Development, intellectual property is being taken more seriously, and is now regarded as a tangible asset rather than just a valueless concept or idea.

“What may seem a little strange, though, is that although the UK is without doubt one of the most innovative and inventive places in the world, it actually has a considerably lower number of patent and IP protection applications than other EU countries, particularly among SMEs.”

Alistair reveals the 4 Shocking Reasons British Businesses are failing to protect their intellectual property:

#1. Cost

Top of the list has to be cost. While applying for a patent can be relatively inexpensive, hanging onto that protection once it’s been granted can cost a business a small fortune. The ubiquitous ‘Patent pending’ is all but meaningless when it comes to protecting an idea, and the old adage of mailing yourself a copy of the plans and then keeping the envelope unopened is a misnomer – it’s highly unlikely that it’ll win you any court battles about who thought of what first by waving an unopened A4 envelope around.

#2. The Patent Box

To try and get around the concern regarding the financial cost, in 2013 the Government came up with the Patent Box (which was updated in 2016). This is designed to give SMEs with a bright idea some tax incentives to encourage them to register and protect their innovations and IP. The whole point of this was to boost economic growth and promote new business development. Very few businesses are even aware that the Patent Box exists, and even then, it only really rewards businesses once they have gone through the entire IP and patent process.

That still means that the idea needs to be protected initially, and that can cost a lot of money. For SMEs on a very narrow profit margin, the thousands of pounds it can cost just to protect an invention in the UK (let alone the rest of the world) could be the difference between profit and loss. That initial cost discourages many businesses to follow through on what could be a ground-breaking idea, scuppering new developments and potentially brilliant ideas purely on account of the cost.

#3. Potential Earnings Of A Brilliant Idea

However, if an idea, product or service is truly original, innovative and potentially a ‘game changer’, then that initial investment may well be worth it. The potential for a new product to transform the fortunes of an SME could be huge – but only if it genuinely is a ground-breaking idea. A rehash of an existing concept may be cheaper, but in the long run it could have a very limited market appeal, a short shelf life, and could even pollute a company’s existing brand. To turn a great idea into a genuine business asset it needs to:

  • Be 100% original
  • Be something customers actually want
  • Have low production/high return ratios
  • Have the potential for further development
  • Be patentable – not just in the UK but around the world

#4. Thinking Outside The Patent Box

There is plenty of opportunity for UK businesses, especially SMEs, to benefit from the Patent Box and to keep that innovative spirit alive. However, both legal experts and those who specialise in patents and IP all agree that there needs to be more front-end support at the start of the process, in the form of loan financing for the patenting process. Take into account the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) fees, legal costs, searches and global protection fees and you’re talking about tens of thousands of pounds and up to four years’ commitment.

For any business, that level of financial commitment has to be considered very carefully. But if the idea really is that good, you could be investing in a major business asset that could transform your operation and catapult you to the next level.

For further advice or information on Commercial Law or other legal issues, visit www.millerhendrysolicitors.co.uk

Tayside grand-parents advised how to give cash gifts without falling foul of the taxman this Christmas

Christmas is a time when many parents and grand-parents choose to gift cash to younger relatives – to put towards a car or first home, for example.But before you whip out the cheque book to spread some seasonal cheer, it’s wise to take the taxman into account and be aware of the rules.
That’s the advice from Ernest Boath, Head of Private Client at Miller Hendry Solicitors and Estate Agents, who advises: “While larger gifts may be taken into account, anyone can make smaller gifts or gifts out of surplus income without it being taken into account for inheritance tax purposes, as long as some simple rules are followed.”
Broadly, these come under two headings: gifts where the allowance is automatic if the gift fits the rules, and those where the exemption must be claimed after death, such as gifts out of surplus income. The automatic allowances include gifts to charities or political parties, gifts on marriage or civil ceremony, an annual exemption of £3000, and small gifts up to £250 per person.
Any number of so-called small gifts can be made each year, of up to £250 per recipient, with no limit on the number of recipients, as long as no one person receives more than £250. If anyone receives more than £250, then the whole small gift exemption in relation to that recipient is lost for the year, not just the excess.
Alongside, the annual exemption of £3000 can be used to make gifts to one or more people. There’s an added benefit if the allowance isn’t fully used in any year, as any remaining allowance can be carried forward one year. It cannot be combined with the small gift exemption for any one individual.
In any tax year, you can also give a cash gift when a friend or family gets married or has a civil ceremony. The limit is £5000 for a child and £2500 for a grandchild, or £1000 for those outside immediate family, whether a friend, niece or cousin.
You can also make payments to help with another person’s living costs, such as an elderly relative or a child under 18.
And if giving to charity is important to you at Christmas, it’s worth knowing that gifts to charities and political parties will not count towards the total taxable value of your estate. You can also cut the Inheritance Tax rate on the rest of your estate from 40% to 36%, if you leave at least 10% of your ‘net estate’ to a charity.
Mr Boath continued: “These allowances are automatic, unlike the gifts from surplus income, but even so, it’s a good idea to track any gifts as it will help to ensure that you keep inside the rules, and makes it easier in any later dealings with HMRC.”
When it comes to relief on gifts from surplus income, record-keeping is essential as the gift will only qualify for exemption if it is part of a regular pattern of giving, and if you can demonstrate that you maintained your normal standard of living after making the gifts and all other usual expenditure.
He added: “To make gifts from surplus income, it’s essential you record your intention in writing, setting out that you mean to make the gifts regularly, and then keep a record of income and outgoings to demonstrate the money you gave was indeed out of surplus income. It doesn’t need to be too complicated, just a simple log of your income received during the year and the amount spent, figures which could come from monthly and annual summaries on bank account statements.”
The exemption for gifts from surplus income must be claimed after death, by the executors of a person’s Will, and can be used for any regular payments, such as monthly contributions to a grandchild’s savings account or payment of school fees, or making regular gifts on special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas.
Any other gifts made, unless they go into a trust, will be potentially exempt transfers (PETs), which become exempt if you survive the making of the gift by seven years. Otherwise, the value will be brought into account for inheritance tax purposes.
Said Ernest Boath: “Making gifting part of an annual review is a good idea as the rules do change from time to time, and it’s good practice to check back what you’ve done each year, just as it’s important to keep your will up to date as circumstances change.
“And if you’ve reached the end of inspiration on gift ideas for your spouse or civil partner, it’s worth remembering that you can give them as much as you like during your lifetime, as long as they are living permanently in the UK.”
For further advice or information on Tax Law or other legal issues, visit www.millerhendrysolicitors.co.uk

Massive shake-up: It’s a new dawn for Tayside’s private renters

Massive changes to the law came into force this month for Scotland’s 760,000 private renters.

The private residential tenancy rules – rolled out as part of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 – scrap fixed-term rentals, meaning leases will effectively be open-ended.
Rent increases can only be made once every 12 months, and tenants who believe them to be unfair can take them to a new tribunal which deals with disputes.
Leading Tayside solicitors and estate agents Miller Hendry have landlords and tenants as clients. Jeffrey Hope, property law expert with the firm, says it is “vital” for everyone involved in private renting to understand their new rights and responsibilities.
Anyone signing a tenancy from December 1, 2017, will be covered by the new rules, and all landlord and tenant disputes will be heard in a new specialist tribunal.

Jeffrey Hope said: “These new rules have been described as the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation, and it is vital that landlords in particular take early legal advice.
“While the paperwork will certainly be simplified for both tenants and landlords, many owners will be concerned that there is no initial minimum period of rental. In essence, the tenant has long-term security.”
In areas like Dundee and Perth, Mr Hope said there may be problems for landlords who rent to students during term-time, then to visitors in the summer. Some landlords may decide to pull out of the student letting sector if they cannot be sure of students moving out at the end of the academic year.
Mr Hope explained: “Strikingly, the new Private Residential Tenancy has no end date, and landlords will no longer be able to recover possession of their property just because the lease has reached its end date.

“If a tenant does not want to leave, a landlord will have to rely on one of the grounds for eviction set out in the new Act, otherwise the lease continues.”

Grounds for eviction range from criminal and anti-social behaviour to overcrowding and change of use. The Act also makes changes to existing criteria and introduces a number of new grounds for eviction. These include:

• The landlord wants to sell the property or use it for a non-residential purpose.
• The landlord or a family member of the landlord intends to live in the property. Unlike previous legislation, a family member is now more widely defined and includes a spouse, civil partner, cohabitant, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or sibling of the landlord;
• The tenant is in one month’s rent arrears for three or more consecutive months. If such arrears amount to at least one month’s rent the tenant will be evicted, if the arrears are less than one month’s rent the new Tribunal will have discretion on whether to evict the tenant. This is a significant change as presently the mandatory ground of possession requires three whole months’ rent arrears but the Act means the tenant will be evicted if they do not pay a full month’s rent and those arrears are outstanding even if over the next two months they pay the full monthly rent.

The new Act also establishes a new tribunal to deal with disputes, and includes safeguards to stop landlords bypassing the eviction grounds by, for example, putting the property on the market at an unrealistically high price.

Holiday lets and social, police and military housing are not covered by the new legislation. Student accommodation will also be exempt from the new rules if it is classed as Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) including at least 30 bedrooms or is provided by an academic institution. This will allow universities, colleges and PBSA providers to continue to offer fixed-term lets to students.

During the lengthy debate of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill 2016, former Housing Minister Margaret Burgess said new legislation was necessary to “rebalance” the relationship between landlords and tenants. The Minister also said it would prevent unfair eviction and big rent increases.

For further advice or information on Property Law or other legal issues, visit www.millerhendrysolicitors.co.uk

Employment law specialist Alan Matthew urges locals to register tribunal fee refund claim

Employment tribunal fee refunds are now being processed paving the way for millions of pounds to be repaid to claimants.

The opening phase – which saw around 1,000 people contacted individually – rolled out in October/ November with the full scheme now fully open In December.

The repayment scheme was introduced in response to a Supreme Court ruling which found that the UK Government acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the charges of up to £1,200 in 2013 in a bid to reduce the number of malicious and weak cases.

Ministers will now have to refund up to £33m to claimants after trade union Unison argued successfully that fees prevented workers accessing justice.

The news has been warmly welcomed by Tayside employment law expert Alan Matthew who has publicly lobbied for a rethink on tribunal charges since 2013, strongly supporting the right of employees to access justice.

Alan Matthew, a consultant with Miller Hendry solicitors and estate agents, with branches in Dundee, Perth and Crieff, said:

“Scrapping employment tribunal fees has restored the principal of employment rights for all and I warmly welcome their removal and the introduction of the current scheme to refund the fees.”

For those who have paid Employment Tribunals fees, the Westminster Government has set up a registration scheme so that claimants can register an interest. Those who wish to do so can register either by email at: ethelpwithfees@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk; or alternatively by post to the following addresses: Employment Tribunals Central Office Scotland/Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) Fees, PO Box 27105, Glasgow, G2 9JRX.

Mr Matthew continued: “When fees were introduced they had the fairly immediate effect of creating a financial barrier to proceeding with a claim for those wishing to take their employer to tribunal.

“While this was good news for employers who faced significantly less litigation and costs, the balance of power in the employment relationship was affected and not for the better.

“A significant number of people found these fees unaffordable and this latest judgment has helped restore that principle of employment rights for all, including the lower paid.

“However, now that the charges have been scrapped employers will have to brace themselves for a large increase in such claims.

“I would advise anyone seeking to pursue an employment tribunal claim against an employer to seek legal advice on this matter as soon as possible.”

For further advice or information on employment law or other legal issues, visit www.millerhendrysolicitors.co.uk

Miller Hendry’s Angel Trees help the Salvation Army in Perth and Dundee

Leading Tayside solicitor and estate agent, Miller Hendry, has been encouraging staff at its branches in Dundee, Perth and Crieff to get involved in its festive charity campaign, which sees the collection of small gifts for underprivileged children, with donations being delivered to The Salvation Army today (Friday, December 15).

The Miller Hendry Angel Tree takes pride of place in the reception areas of the three offices and is decorated with little angels. Each angel contains the catalogue details and price of a child’s Christmas gift costing between £3 and £10 from a high street store and staff have been asked to take an angel of their choice and donate the gift to help vulnerable families this Christmas through The Salvation Army.

2017 marks 152 years of The Salvation Army helping people facing difficulty from all walks of life across the United Kingdom. The work that they do to help local communities is completely reliant on donations and so campaigns, such as the Miller Hendry Angel Tree, are what enables them to help on average around 15,000 parent and toddlers a week and provide over three million nourishing meals throughout the year.

John Thom, Chairman of Miller Hendry, commented:

“The festive period gives us a great opportunity to help those a little less fortunate than ourselves and make sure they’re able to celebrate this wonderful time of year. The staff have jumped at the chance to help and we’ve seen a great collection of children’s gifts that we can donate to The Salvation Army.

“As solicitors, we deal with many different cases involving families and young people so we are very aware of the difficulties facing children in the local area. It’s the little things that can really make a difference and we’re thrilled to have been able to give a little back to our local community.

Tayside families advised to set up Power of Attorney as Visa beefs up its biometric security in bid to beat the fraudsters

A leading Tayside solicitor this week advised local people to set up Power of Attorney instead of relying on informal arrangements with family and friends to manage financial affairs.

Ernest Boath’s comments came after it emerged that Visa customers in Tayside could soon be using selfies, fingerprints and voice records to approve their purchases as the international payment processor beefs up its biometric security in a bid to beat the fraudsters.

The increased use of biometric identification is designed to prevent anyone other than the named account holder from using the credit/debit card.

Mr Boath, Head of Private Client with Miller Hendry, explained:

“There are many reasons why you may want to allow someone else to manage your finances. The obvious situation is if you are elderly or ill, but it’s just as likely to be needed by someone undertaking long-term travel or working overseas for a corporate employer. Even day-to-day management of family finances may see couples sharing access to their single named bank accounts.

“But it’s not a good idea to have informal arrangements in place, even when it’s family left in charge, as you’re likely to be breaching the terms and conditions of your account, and leaving yourself exposed.  Combined with stricter requirements by banks and others, it’s something that should be dealt with through formal agreements.”

By using a Power of Attorney people can appoint someone to look after their financial affairs on their behalf. While many imagine these are something for the elderly to consider in case of dementia, they have an increasingly important place, for asset protection and to manage today’s strict security procedures.

Mr Boath continued: “By granting a Power of Attorney and appointing an attorney to manage things for you, they will have power to enter into any transaction, unless you have specifically forbidden it, so they will be able to deal with investments and to write cheques.

“But the important consideration is choosing the right person to be an attorney.  So, think about how well they look after their own finances, how well you know them and how sure you are that they will make the right decisions for you.  As an added precaution, you can appoint two or more attorneys who must each be involved in each decision, although that can make transactions more complicated if they must all be involved at the same time. Another option is to appoint a family or friend to act, but also appoint a professional, and they can undertake regular checks on how matters are being handled.”

As well as financial Powers of Attorney (known as ‘Continuing’ Powers of Attorney), used to appoint someone to look after your finances, there are also ‘Welfare’ Powers of Attorney, used to appoint someone to deal with issues such as where you live and medical treatment if you become mentally incapable.

Any Power of Attorney must then be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (which has a statutory responsibility in Scotland to supervise attorneys), before it can be used, and involves a fee of £75 per power of attorney.  The registered document can then be submitted to any institution such as a bank or utility provider so they can deal directly with any appointed attorney named.

Mr Boath added: “Powers of Attorney are often thought to be for older people, but they can be just as important when you are younger – for example, it can be invaluable if someone is involved in an accident which leaves them incapable of managing their affairs, or if you are travelling or working out of the country for long periods and unable to manage your affairs directly.”

The other advantage of an Attorney is that without one, where someone has become mentally incapable, for whatever reason and at whatever age, their financial and personal affairs will have to be managed by a Guardian appointed by the Sheriff Court. This is a slow and expensive business for most families, the guardian is required to produce annual accounts, and there are legal and Court fees throughout the process.

Snow time like the present! 7 things Tayside employers need to know if your staff take the day off because it’s snowing

With bookies slashing the odds of a White Christmas this week, Scotland and the rest of the UK is braced for the coldest winter in five years.

But while a generous sprinkling of the white stuff looks fabulous when you’re tucked up inside, it also brings with it a whole host of challenges for employers, not least its ability to bring your business to a standstill.

But what happens when schools close, public transport grinds to a halt and your staff can’t get into work?

Alan Matthew, employment law expert at Tayside solicitors Miller Hendry, said:

“In an ideal world, employers should communicate what is expected ahead of any forecasted bad weather, and make sure their employees know the procedures.

“Of course, that’s not always possible. So here’s seven things employers (and employees) need to know if the weather turns nasty over the festive season …”

  1. Do I have to pay my staff if they can’t get into work because of travel disruption?

There is, in principle, no obligation for employers to pay staff if they cannot physically get to their place of work. This is, technically speaking, an unauthorised absence. Employers must ensure your contracts entitle you to make deductions from staff wages in the event of unauthorised absence, otherwise you risk claims for unlawful deductions.

  1. Can I make staff take weather-related absence as paid leave?

In theory you can always ask, but you should review contracts in advance and clearly communicate your approach to weather-related absences. Do not force employees to accept this retrospectively. Instead, consider alterations to contracts with consent to permit you to deduct from employees’ holiday entitlement in such circumstances.

  1. Is there is any obligation to pay employees if a workplace is closed?

Yes. When severe winter weather has made it necessary for an employer’s business to close and employees remain willing and able to attend for work they are, in principle, entitled to be paid.

  1. What if employees are able to get in to work, but need time off to care for dependants?

Employees are entitled to unpaid time off to care for dependants, but this is only to deal with emergencies. If closure was foreseeable, or continues on, employees should make alternative childcare arrangements and return to work.  If they do not, such absences would then become unauthorised.

  1. Whose responsibility is it to clear the way to keep businesses open?

Our local councils are on standby to ensure they are ready to clear ice and snow on thousands of miles of local roads, to keep emergency services running smoothly, and to improve conditions so that people can get to and from work safely.

  1. What happens if I clear pavement outside my business and someone slips?

Pavements are not such a critical priority for council workers, but important nevertheless. There is actually no law preventing snow and ice being cleared from pavements which means, in fact, that anyone can do it! And the message rings loud and clear: the council needs your help.

But … if you clear the pavement and it ices over, and someone slips and falls, does that mean you are liable?

Well, the good news is: No, this is very unlikely.

Provided that you are careful, use common sense and do not do anything which would be likely to cause harm or distress to others, it is very unlikely that you will be found responsible for any accidents.

  1. Should I have a Bad Weather Policy?

Yes! Employers should consider introducing a Bad Weather Policy. This can save a lot of frustration and business disruption if it’s well thought out and clearly backed up by systems and processes that can keep your business running, even through the darkest and deepest snow storms.

Tayside families urged to make a will after new report reveals that half of UK families have never discussed inheritance

A leading Tayside solicitor is urging local families to discuss estate planning with their nearest and dearest.

Speaking ahead of Will Aid month this November Leann Brown, a senior solicitor with Miller Hendry’s Dundee office, says it’s vital that families discuss estate planning, not just so that wishes are known, but also to allow time to plan any tax mitigation, and to ensure that matters are as straightforward as they possible in the event of someone losing capacity, or dying.

She continued: “Sometimes it takes a specific event to occur before people will consider discussing their finances and what happens when they die. We see lots of clients who have been prompted to perhaps put a Will or Power of Attorney in place because a family member has had a health scare, or someone known to them has died.”

Ms Brown’s comments follow a recent report by Brewin Dolphin, which revealed that nearly half of UK citizens have never discussed inheritance with their families.

Leann Brown added: “Some families prefer to keep their personal affairs private and do not wish to talk to their children about their finances and what happens on their death. Others simply do not view this as a priority, or believe they are too young to discuss this. Others simply do not care and take the view that whatever happens happens!

“However, Wills lacking clarity can throw up an array of issues for the deceased’s family. This can be stressful and expensive to resolve, not to mention very time consuming. To avoid the pitfalls of unclear Wills, always consult a solicitor when putting your Will in place. For further advice contact a member of Miller Hendry’s Private Client team.”

Miller Hendry – which has offices in Dundee, Perth and Crieff – has taken part in Will Aid month every year since 1996 and, in that time, has raised an impressive £79,503.

Will Aid is a special partnership between the legal profession and nine of the UK’s best-loved charities – SCIAF (Scotland), ActionAid, Age UK, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC, Save the Children, Sightsavers and Trocaire (N. Ireland).

Every November, participating solicitors waive their fee for writing a basic Will. Instead, they invite their clients to make a donation to Will Aid. The recommended donation for a basic Will Aid will is £95 for a single will and £150 for a pair of mirror wills.

Ernest Boath, Partner and Head of Private Client Department, commented: “People are often unaware of the difficulties they can be leaving behind for loved ones if something were to happen to them. Wills give people peace of mind that their families are taken care of and it is the only way to put you in control of your estate after death.”

Rookie renters advice: What every student (and parent) should know before choosing university or college accommodation

Students are arguably the most vulnerable demographic renting today.

The majority are living away from home for the first time, and are often unaware of the pitfalls of renting accommodation.

While parents can help guide the rookie tenants through the process, they may themselves not be aware of how things have changed since their uni days or first-time flat rental.

All too often both parents and students get focused on the emotional upheaval or logistics, rather than the important details of checking out the property and making sure the landlord is a safe bet.

Privately-owned student accommodation is likely to be an HMO – or house of multiple occupation – if it accommodates three or more students, which places extra obligations on the landlord.

For example, an HMO will need to satisfy special requirements regarding fire and general safety, utility supplies and management of communal areas, which could include fire alarms, extinguishers and fire blankets on every floor.

You can also ask to see the landlord’s HMO licence. If a landlord doesn’t have a licence when they should, they can be prosecuted and fined up to £50,000.

Whether the property is classed as an HMO or not, all landlords should ensure that gas appliances are covered by an annual check, that all electrical installations are checked every five years by a qualified electrician and that any appliances like washing machines, kettles or toasters have a PAT certificate.

By law, any deposit must be held by the landlord in a registered deposit protection scheme and you should ask to see evidence of this being done within 30 days. The deposits may be held in the name of one or more designated tenants.

The property should be checked carefully against the inventory, and whether this is a comprehensive record of all contents and the general condition of each aspect of the accommodation or a simple list, it’s worth taking photographs of the condition of everything, including any damage or poor condition that you pick up as you go round the property, to ensure that you have a strong case for the full return of your deposit at the end of the tenancy.

Recently, a group of student tenants in Bristol took a letting agent to court and managed to overturn a deduction of £780 worth of charges which was being taken from their deposit to cover redecoration and cleaning. The students had photographic proof of the state of the accommodation when they took it on and could show it was cleaner when they left, as well as having evidence to demonstrate that works claimed for by the letting agent had not subsequently been done. Their attention to detail helped them secure a County Court judgement, and the return of the deposit.

Housing law expert Jeffrey Hope, from leading Tayside solicitors and estate agents Miller Hendry, said:

“Thanks to the huge rise in demand for university places over recent years, many different types of investors and private landlords have entered the student accommodation sector. There’s been a big shift away from the scruffy digs that people used to experience at university, but there are still many older properties that may be more likely to pose problems in terms of repairs and general condition, and no sector is immune from difficult landlords.

“The important thing is to make sure young people have some guidance, and if necessary get the contract and terms checked out professionally. It’s likely to be the parent who is on the line as guarantor, so it’s worth taking time to be sure, and not just jumping to secure a property.”

Some tips from Jeffrey Hope include:

  • Ask to see the relevant licences, such as for a House in Multiple Occupation, and for any gas or electrical installations and appliances
  • If the letting agent or landlord says that any work will be undertaken as a condition of you taking on the tenancy, get it in writing before signing any agreement
  • Read the small print on the tenancy agreement and if anything doesn’t sound right then get it checked out, as once you’ve signed, you’re committed
  • Check the inventory – dispute anything that’s not accurate and take photographs when you move in
  • Make sure the deposit is being held in a Government-backed scheme.