Monday June 3, 2013 at 1:56pm
An interesting recent study from by Imperial College Business School, Leeds University Business School and Durham University Business School has revealed that family businesses are better at avoiding bankruptcy
than non-family-owned businesses. The study looked at what were the particular characteristics of family businesses that led to a better chance of survival. They found they were a larger board size, older and more experienced directors, greater gender diversity, directors w.... (read more...)
Monday June 3, 2013 at 12:05pm
Back in June 2011 I posted a blog on copyright infringement by unauthorised use of photographs.
The explosion in social media and prolific posting of photographs has made it incredibly easy for photos to be downloaded and used by others without consent of the photographer holding the copyright.
A recent case has highlighted the issue, and indicated the sort of compensation which can be ordered.
In Sheldon v Daybrook House Promotions Limited, Sheldon had exclusive backstage rights to a gig to .... (read more...)
Tuesday April 30, 2013 at 4:55pm
I was intrigued when I saw a recent headline announcing that the government was launching a ‘Good Law’ initiative. The cynic in me wondered why we don’t always have good law (as opposed to bad law!), but hopeful of some positive news to counter the overwhelming pessimism we encounter in many quarters these days, I read on. The initiative is from the Cabinet Office and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (OPC) – the people who actually write the laws for the government.... (read more...)
Thursday April 11, 2013 at 10:07am
The recent changes in court cost rules mean that more and more business owners are likely to be forsaking solicitors and putting together their own cases and representing themselves in court. These Litigants in Person (LIPs) have a potential minefield of rules and regulations governing court proceedings to navigate if they are to be successful and get the results they want. Even before the case reaches the courtroom there are some important points for the business owner to consider: The strength.... (read more...)
Wednesday April 10, 2013 at 10:58am
Since I last blogged on the subject in November 2012 (click here to see it), there have been some changes which came into effect on 16 March 2013. The Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2013 only apply to contracts entered into on or after 16 March.
You may recall that if there is no contract credit period for payment, and no convention such as 30 or 60 days has been established, then the default period is 30 days. Because many contracts provide for longer periods for payment, and pu.... (read more...)
Tuesday April 2, 2013 at 9:23am
The first question to ask yourself when you are thinking about making a claim is who you are going to claim against. And sometimes the answer might not be as straightforward as you think, and particularly when dealing with company groups.Imagine the following common scenario. You are approached by a representative of a large and impressive business, say ‘XYZ Group Ltd’. They are established players in the industry and are known to have many assets. They give you a lot of work but, wh.... (read more...)
Monday March 25, 2013 at 1:46pm
Non lawyers are unlikely to have head of the so-called Jackson reforms which will come into force on 1 April, but they will certainly have an impact on you if you become involved in litigation in England and Wales after that date. So what is the fuss all about and how will it affect you? This is all about costs. The first thing all must understand, whether individuals or companies, is that there will usually be a difference between what a solicitor will charge you and what you can recover from y.... (read more...)
Sunday March 3, 2013 at 4:07pm
It now looks likely that the ancient law of distress will be abolished this summer. But what does this mean for commercial landlords and tenants? The proposal was first made 22 years ago, and the legislation passed back in 2007, but it was never brought into force. But the government has recently announced that they will introduce it this summer. What it will mean is that landlords will not be able to send in bailiffs to seize goods without due notice. No longer will tenants in arrears of rent h.... (read more...)
Wednesday February 13, 2013 at 6:09pm
Whenever you go to open a new account at a bank or building society, or want advice from a lawyer or accountant, you’ll have been asked to provide evidence of who you are. This is something we all face, but have you ever wondered what this is really about? Why can’t the bank just set up the account for you, or why doesn’t your lawyer just advise you on the problem concerning you? The reason lies in European legislation designed to prevent what is known as money laundering. Mone.... (read more...)
Monday February 4, 2013 at 6:54pm
It often happens in business: you signed a contract that you later regret. Sometimes it’s because the other party is not performing as expected but, at other times, it’s just because you’ve changed your mind. It’s usually not easy to get out of a contract but what follows are things to consider. Has there been a breach? The first point to consider is whether the other party has done anything wrong. They might, for example, be in breach of a term in the contract or maybe t.... (read more...)
Wednesday January 2, 2013 at 10:20am
Step 1 - Identify your position • look at exactly what has happened and gather together all key documents such as any relevant contract, terms and conditions, correspondence and e-mails. • identify your key personnel who would be called upon to give evidence. Get written statements from them as soon as possible. • consider obtaining early expert evidence on any key points • get early legal advice as this could dictate how you handle the dispute to your best advantage. It will.... (read more...)
Wednesday December 5, 2012 at 5:30pm
There are certainly some measures in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement that will help SMEs. As always, however, the devil will be in the detail (which remains to be seen) and much will depend on how some of the new measures are implemented. There are some measures that could help increase investment and growth, as long as they are handled well. In summary, the measures that will really affect SMEs were as follows: Corporation tax. To be reduced to 21% in April 2014. A new Business Bank to .... (read more...)
Tuesday December 4, 2012 at 10:03am
I often advise companies who believe that a director can be removed from office simply by sending Form TM01 to Companies House. Unfortunately, this does not remove a director and is unlawful unless the correct steps have been taken beforehand. The following procedure should be followed: 1. Look at the Company’s Articles (and any shareholders’ agreements) as these will set out certain requirements that your particular company must follow. They will also set out certain circumstances t.... (read more...)
Monday December 3, 2012 at 2:09pm
Summary A partnership is a relatively simple way for two or more people to own and run a business together. However partners do not enjoy any protection if the business fails and you should definitely get a written Partnership Agreement drafted. How to make a business partnership legal This is a question we’re often asked to consider – but normally only when things have gone wrong in a business relationship. It comes up when business partners or directors want to go their separa.... (read more...)
Thursday November 29, 2012 at 3:51pm
With cash flow problems in a difficult economic landscape, do not forget the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 which could be a useful tool to persuade prompt payment. If the threat does not work the Act provides for the debtor to pay compensation, which can be substantial.
The Act only applies to commercial debt, and so will not help where the late payer is not a business or public sector organisation. For contracts entered into after 2002, all companies are subject to the .... (read more...)
Wednesday November 28, 2012 at 12:22pm
The government has today launched a 10 week formal consultaion on its plans for the minimum price for alcohol, which it sees as a key instrument in its battle against “binge drinking” and the social and health consequences of alcohol abuse.
Basically it is proposing 45p per unit of alcohol. This is 5p more than it was suggesting in March. It is also proposing banning some promotional offers such as 2 for 1 and BOGOF. But more worrying fro wine lovers is that a case .... (read more...)
Monday October 29, 2012 at 1:49pm
It is often said that large businesses are at an advantage when it comes to litigation as they have bigger pockets. From my experience, that’s only part of the reason. They also have more experience of litigation and know how to work with their lawyers as a team in order to minimise their costs. They tend to appoint an individual (or sometimes a team) to help their lawyers prepare their cases. They know that a lawyer is best placed to handle the legal side of things but it’s cheaper .... (read more...)
Tuesday September 25, 2012 at 4:23pm
I am often asked if a Personal Guarantee is unenforceable if independent legal advice was not taken before it was signed. The answer, as with many things, is “it depends”.
It is always worth looking to see if the bank or other person or organisation taking the guarantee has followed their own procedures. It is now rare for a bank or other financial institution to make a mistake, but they can happen. They must prove by their paper trail that they have complied with their own procedu.... (read more...)
Wednesday August 15, 2012 at 10:27am
There are many times that work is carried out where no price has been fixed. Does this leave the workman without a claim? Not a bit of it. It has long been a principle of English law that someone should not have the benefit of unjust enrichment.
There are 3 possible scenarios:
1. Work has been done under a contract that has subsequently been found to be invalid 2. Work has been done for someone who expressly or impliedly requested it but no price was agreed 3. A price was agreed but only par.... (read more...)
Monday July 30, 2012 at 4:03pm
Is there increasing friction between you and your fellow shareholders and/or directors? Are your board meetings starting to bear a striking resemblance to Alan Sugar’s ‘Apprentice’ ones? If so, then you need to take action and start to think tactically. The first points to consider are as follows. Know your legal powers Are you a shareholder, director, or both? The voting powers of directors at Board Meetings are usually equal (although often a Chairman will have the casting vo.... (read more...)
Monday July 2, 2012 at 3:13pm
I’m often asked by business owners for my advice when they are in dispute with a customer or supplier. Unlike the current message we get on everything from t-shirts to mugs to Keep Calm and Carry on! my advice is invariably Keep Calm, but don’t Carry On.
If you’re in dispute with a customer, for example who refuses to pay or disputes an invoice claiming what you’ve delivered was not what they were expecting, didn’t meet quality standards or wasn’t delivered .... (read more...)
Monday July 2, 2012 at 11:33am
One thing that struck me about the recent news story when the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that comedian, Jimmy Carr, was “morally wrong” in trying to reduce his tax bill legally was the fact that he had to resort to a plea for morality. As a commercial dispute lawyer, I often come across parties who state that they have a “moral right” to redress. Like all lawyers, I know that a call to morals in a business dispute context is an admission of failure. The subtext I.... (read more...)
Thursday June 21, 2012 at 10:14am
It is a mistake to assume that personal gurantees to banks are always enforceable. It is true to say that these days the high street banks usually have watertight paperwork and have covered off any potential loophole, but one recent case demonstrates how a lender can get it wrong with the result that the guarantee in unenforceable.
My client was a relative of the lender’s client. The lender was not a high street bank. My client guaranteed payment by the borrower to the lender. He obtaine.... (read more...)
Saturday May 26, 2012 at 10:33am
Guarantees by email? You might be wondering if I’m about to talk about another use of modern technology, a new app maybe? You may think that a guarantee has to be a formal document, signed and witnessed by all concerned - not necessarily with a big red wax seal to make it valid, but something along those lines. Well, welcome to the twenty-first century way of giving a guarantee. A recent case which went as far as the Court of Appeal has confirmed that a guarantee can be entered into as a r.... (read more...)
Tuesday May 15, 2012 at 9:08am
The failure of Greece to form a government following elections has led to many believing that a Greek default and exit from the Eurozone is now more likely than not. If this happens, then it is probable that other countries in difficulty, such as Portugal, Italy and Spain, will soon follow, and possibly other countries too. If you trade with any of these countries, then you should now be putting plans into effect to protect your business and minimise your exposure. What a Euro default will look .... (read more...)
Thursday April 19, 2012 at 9:12am
Running a business is stressful; there’s no doubt about that. But new research from business insurer Hiscox suggests that, in spite of increased physical and mental stress, UK SMEs are determined and up for new challenges.According to their SME Health Check research commissioned amongst 502 business leaders in businesses with up to 249 employees, 45% were more stressed than a year ago and 77% reported suffering ailments like lack of energy, headaches and anxiety. That’s the bad news..... (read more...)
Friday March 30, 2012 at 9:12am
As a solicitor who defends directors when they get into problems with liquidators, fellow directors and shareholders, suppliers and customers, as well as government bodies, I am constantly struck about how most of these problems could have been avoided if directors hadn’t made a few basic mistakes. So here’s my list of 6 mistakes that I’ve seen since the beginning of the year that have led to real problems, heartache and unforeseen expense for my director clients.
Going in.... (read more...)
Friday March 16, 2012 at 10:09am
There have been several positive signs in the last few weeks that the economy might have turned the corner. A survey by the Institute of Directors of its members showed that 50% of business leaders expected revenue to increase in 2012 and 40% expected to increase profits over the year. However, when it came to investment plans, only 27% expected to increase investment, with 29% expecting it to be lower. The Federation of Small Businesses reports a survey of its members showing that more tha.... (read more...)
Tuesday March 6, 2012 at 7:19pm
The BBC has today published a letter from Vince Cable to David Cameron and Nick Clegg written on 8th February 2012. In it, Mr Cable states that government policy is “missing a compelling vision of where the country is heading beyond sorting out the fiscal mess”. He argues that the government needs to take a much more active stance in promoting growth by supporting certain growth sectors and their supply chains (including technology, the aerospace and automotive industries, the digita.... (read more...)
Wednesday February 29, 2012 at 10:50am
The 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth has just been marked across the UK and I am reminded of the most famous line from Oliver Twist, “Please Sir, can I have some more?” It has recently been announced that, overall, banks fell short of their Project Merlin lending targets to small businesses by £1.1 million. So what the Dickens is going on? The figuresFigures released on 13th February showed that gross bank lending to businesses overall was £214.9 billion.... (read more...)
Tuesday February 28, 2012 at 2:44pm
The Data Protection Act affects all companies and organisations that hold information about individuals – so that means you, if you keep information about your customers or prospects whether in paper or electronic format. Many business owners are ignorant of their responsibilities, but they shouldn’t be as the censure can be quite severe. The Information Commissioner’s website has lots of detailed information on this topic, but in essence if you can answer ‘yes&rsqu.... (read more...)
Friday February 24, 2012 at 5:43pm
Monday January 30, 2012 at 12:56pm
The iconic red London bus has found itself at the centre of a dispute over copyright.
Earlier this month Judge Birss QC handed down his judgement in the Patents County Court case of Temple Island Collections Limited v New English Teas Limited and Nicholas Houghton.
It is an interesting case because it did not involve publishing a photograph taken by the claimant, but creating a similar photograph taken from the roughly the same viewpoint and using a black and white image of the Houses of .... (read more...)
Sunday January 29, 2012 at 6:09pm
When speaking to our clients recently, it is apparent that most have started the year with a sense of cautious optimism. It’s easy to understand the source of the caution: the economy remains in a mess for the 5th year running, with negative growth back, unemployment continuing to rise and the largest ever national debt. Although there has been much talk of the government reducing red tape, little has been achieved so far and we are still affected by a seemingly endless stream of new regul.... (read more...)
Friday January 27, 2012 at 9:34am
The current difficulties small businesses are having raising finance are well known. One idea that hasn't been discussed so far in the media is one possible solution - the live/work unit.
A live/work unit is a property that combines living space and business space under one roof. The crucial issue for small businesses, though, is that the cost of buying and running live/work units is much lower than the combined cost of buying and running a home and separate business premises.
.... (read more...)
Wednesday January 4, 2012 at 10:34am
Wednesday December 21, 2011 at 5:59pm
I must confess to a fascination with the Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the press. Piers Morgan was in the witness box yesterday answering questions about his time as editor of the Daily Mirror. His evidence echoed that of James Murdoch given to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee: he didn’t know what was going on in his organisation. It’s something I hear a lot from company directors facing claims against them personally arising from the.... (read more...)
Wednesday November 30, 2011 at 8:30am
Whenever I read the business news these days, a picture of Private Frazer from Dad's Army comes to mind: “We’re dooooomed!” But it’s not all bad news. Although net borrowing is not falling as much as the government planned, and there will still be some structural deficit by the time of the next general election, it is falling, and is predicted to continue to fall even when the lower growth rates are factored in. This should keep interest rates low, although the difference.... (read more...)
Tuesday November 29, 2011 at 5:23pm
If you’re considering removing a director, or if you are a director facing the prospect of being removed by your company, there are many tactics to consider to obtain the most favourable result. Taking early legal advice from a solicitor who specialises in directors’ duties is essential, not only to obtain the best outcome you can, but also to reduce the mental and emotional stress that comes with the territory. After all, you spend more of your waking time at work than you do with y.... (read more...)
Thursday October 27, 2011 at 1:35pm
Most small businesses learn early on that there is a difference between being busy producing and selling goods or services and actually getting paid for them. The temptation to extend credit terms to customers so they can buy your goods might seem like a good idea at first but, in reality, you are lending them money, which presumably they have been unable to obtain from their bank or other sources. Do you really have the funds to risk on customers who may never be able to afford to pay? It&rsquo.... (read more...)
Thursday October 20, 2011 at 10:20am
Despite initiatives such as the government’s Red Tape Challenge , all businesses seem to have increasing amounts of red tape that they have to comply with in order to keep on the right side of the law. Solicitors certainly aren’t immune – in fact we are affected by a whole new set of regulations that came into force only recently. One of the details was that we now all have to make it clear that we are not only ‘regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority’ as b.... (read more...)
Tuesday October 4, 2011 at 9:46am
M & S has been fined £1m for breaches of health and safety legislation. The Crown Court said it had failed to protect customers, staff and workers from potential exposure to asbestos whilst refurbishment works were carried out to a store. Ceiling dust possibly containing asbestos fell to the shop floor whilst it was open. M & S were also ordered to pay £600,000 costs after the prosecution by the Health & Safety Executive.
Marks & Spencers we.... (read more...)
Monday October 3, 2011 at 9:00am
One of the consequences we have seen as a result of the current recession is a rise in the number of people who have come out of employment and set up as independent consultants in their chosen field. You may be one of them. If so, then you will also have had a whole range of issues to deal with from setting up an office and your online and social networking presence, opening up a business account and possibly a company, to marketing your new business to bring in those much needed clients. Among.... (read more...)
Monday September 26, 2011 at 5:43pm
It is quite often the case that the most valuable assets of a business are its intellectual property such as trademarks and copyright, but do not overlook the important value of trade secrets.
Trademarks and copyright are out in the open, and any infringements can be protected by appropriate court action. But what about the trade secrets? These could be manufacturing processes, perhaps recipes in the food and drinks industry, and the very important research and development of products which ha.... (read more...)
Thursday September 22, 2011 at 11:33pm
Being a business solicitor based in Northampton I was pleased to hear the news last month that Northampton had been successful with its bid to develop an Enterprise Zone and interested to find out exactly what the benefits for local businesses would be. The Enterprise Zone is a government initiative with the aim to stimulate growth in the economy. This is particularly important given the recent negative indicators.
It has to be hoped that the attraction of being located in the Northampton.... (read more...)
Monday September 19, 2011 at 10:22am
There are certain things all businesses can do to right now to reduce the possibility of litigation arising (even years before you have a dispute). And they just happen to be the same things that will reduce your legal costs if litigation does occur, and also make it more likely that you will win. Getting the contract right A contract can be in writing but it doesn’t have to be. It can be oral (e.g. “I’ll pay you if you do this for me”), written in a formal contract, or s.... (read more...)
Friday August 26, 2011 at 11:03am
How to negotiate a Lease is one of the most frequent questions I get asked.
Before signing a Lease of business premises Tenants should always try and negotiate the best deal with a Landlord or their agent.
Listed below, in no particular order of importance, are the key things to ask for and check:
1. Get expert advice on the Rent A Tenant should not just rely on the Landlord’s view on the market rent for the property. If in any doubt get your own surveyor to give a valuation 2. Servic.... (read more...)
Friday August 12, 2011 at 10:05am
Many businesses and indeed anyone who has suffered loss as a result of the recent riots may find that they are not insured. Most insurance policies exclude losses caused by riots.
But there is a possible source of compensation, if only for damage to buildings. The Riot (Damages) Act 1886 covers loss to buildings and allows claims against the Police provided they are submitted within 14 days. It has been reported that the Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that this will be increased to 42 .... (read more...)
Wednesday August 3, 2011 at 10:00am
It never fails to surprise me how many small businesses appear to have been misinformed when it comes to how they use their standard terms of business. I’ve seen them printed on the reverse of an invoice, included with a delivery note, even a payment reminder. If you have gone to the trouble of preparing standard terms and conditions for your business, it is usually because you want to cover yourself legally. Whether your business is the supply or purchase of goods or services, your terms .... (read more...)
Monday August 1, 2011 at 12:21pm
Although the noises coming from BIS (the Department for Business Innovation & Skills) are upbeat when it comes to the fight against Red Tape, we have yet to see real changes. I wonder how much is just noise (and distraction from the awful economic growth figures) and whether the government’s Red Tape Challenge will actually prove to be more than just a website and encouraging sound bites. Of course, the real issue with excessive red tape comes from Europe and not the UK government. Mos.... (read more...)
Monday July 25, 2011 at 6:59pm
It’s not just the weather that’s bad this summer; the economy’s not looking too sunny either. Bank lending to businesses continues on its downward track with the reduction in lending in June being faster than the average of the previous six months. Small businesses are particularly suffering; according to the Bank of England, lending to small businesses fell 4.2% in May compared to the previous year. Businesses are blaming the banks for not lending and it’s certainly true.... (read more...)
Monday July 4, 2011 at 12:55pm
A ‘pre-pack’ is a legal process where the business and assets of a struggling company are sold immediately after it is placed into administration. As the name suggests the deal is agreed beforehand meaning that unsecured creditors (including landlords) are not given the opportunity to object.
Pre-packs are now popular as they allow the business to continue without the unprofitable parts or a heavy debt burden and can save jobs. They have also been controversial where they allow fai.... (read more...)
Monday July 4, 2011 at 11:53am
Capital Allowances are a valuable form of tax relief available to commercial property owners who have incurred expenditure on various fixtures and fittings.
Capital Allowances are available in two situations. Firstly when a commercial property is purchased for occupation or investment purposes and secondly when a new commercial property is built or fitting out/refurbishment works are undertaken.
The rules relating to Capital Allowances are typically very complex but in simple terms they are .... (read more...)
Wednesday June 22, 2011 at 1:45pm
The Bribery Act comes into force on 1 July 2011. In February and April I blogged on the implications, but I would just like to recap on the main points and highlight 2 Case Studies.
The Act creates 2 general offences, one of offering, promising, or giving a bribe, and the second of requesting, agreeing to or receiving a bribe. These are offences committed by individuals. There is also an offence of bribing a foreign official, and perhaps the most important offence as far as all organisations a.... (read more...)
Wednesday June 15, 2011 at 12:55pm
It has been a shock to many to receive a demand for compensation for unlawful reproduction of images, such as photographs and other artistic and design work. Usually this comes in the form of a written demand from a stock image house such as one of the world’s biggest agencies Getty Images, who actively pursue such claims.
So what is the law? And how do you protect yourself from such demands?
With the explosion of social network sites on the web has come a corresponding explosion in th.... (read more...)
Tuesday May 31, 2011 at 11:51am
This is always a difficult one to call, because the circumstances can vary so much. But there is one rule of thumb. Can you afford to lose it? If you can’t, don’t do it. There must always be a significant risk in these cases that you will not be repaid.
The emotional pressure is always very great, and this clouds judgement on both sides. Of course, like a marriage, it always starts with optimism and good intentions. What can possibly go wrong? Invariably where lending money is conc.... (read more...)
Tuesday May 31, 2011 at 10:18am
What is Forfeiture? Forfeiture is the landlord’s right to re-enter business premises and bring a lease to an end. In general a lease can be forfeited where the tenant does not pay the rent, breaches the other terms of the lease or becomes insolvent.
Forfeiture is a powerful tool for landlords to use where they wish to remove a tenant and terminate the lease. Tenants should note that the right to forfeit can only be exercised by the landlord if it is specifically referred to in the lease..... (read more...)
Wednesday May 11, 2011 at 5:10pm
Many directors of SMEs are taking huge risks when it comes to paying themselves without realising – and it is often on their accountant’s advice. It is very common that a company’s accountant will advise directors of owner-managed companies to take the majority of their pay as dividends with either no salary or a very low one. This has a financial advantage, particularly as far as national insurance contributions are concerned. The director then simply draws a monthly sum from .... (read more...)
Tuesday April 26, 2011 at 11:18am
Back in February I posted a blog introducing you to the Bribery Act and promised an update when further news was available.
The Ministry of Justice has now published its long awaited Guidance on the Act, and announced that the Act will come into force on 1 July 2011. It has also produced a very useful Quick Start Guide to the Act.
There were 2 big fears. The first, particulary for SMEs, was that here was another piece of legislation with a huge amount of red tape to burden their already over.... (read more...)
Wednesday April 6, 2011 at 12:20pm
From today (6 April 2011) residential property with a purchase price of more than £1m will be subject to a higher Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) rate of 5%. This increase only applies to land which consists entirely of residential property. It does not apply to commercial or mixed used property where the SDLT rate remains at 4%
Steve Petty Commercial Property Solicitor 01926 629 005.... (read more...)
Wednesday April 6, 2011 at 11:02am
If you are a tenant in a multi-let building/estate and reimburse your landlord for the electricity supply then you will be interested to hear about your new rights. Recent changes give tenants the power to demand cheaper electricity costs from a different supplier.
A tenant may now notify their landlord that they want to receive electricity from another supplier and the landlord must respond within 21 days or risk committing a criminal offence.
This will benefit those tenants that believe th.... (read more...)
Tuesday April 5, 2011 at 5:49pm
Over the past few weeks I have received many enquiries from property owners looking to minimise the amount of business rates they pay whilst their property stands empty. This is a particularly important issue since the threshold for claiming Empty Property Rates Relief was reduced from £18,000 to £2,600 this month.
Property owners therefore need to review tactics to minimise liability for business rates by adopting new initiatives.
The Meanwhile Scheme was introduced by the gover.... (read more...)
Tuesday April 5, 2011 at 9:35am
It wasn’t an exciting budget, and it did contain some help for SMEs, but did it go far enough? The government is beginning to realise that sustained economic growth will need to come from the SME sector but should it do more to boost this vital sector? The focus for the economy as a whole remains the reduction of the public sector deficit. This is essential to create the right economic environment. It should create more market stability and keep interest rates as low as possible as well as.... (read more...)
Friday April 1, 2011 at 3:58pm
The Court of Appeal has recently ruled that the demolition of a building can come under the definition of a "project" under EU Law.
Why is this important? Under normal planning rules the demolition of a building does not require planning permission
This case means that where demolition is likely to have a significant impact on the environment planning permission and an Environmental Impact Assessment will be required i.e. in most cases.
Please note there are special protections th.... (read more...)
Friday April 1, 2011 at 3:33pm
As of today (1 April 2011) many property owners and businesses will be hit with a large increase in business rates for empty property.
The rateable value where no business rates are payable by an owner of empty property has been cut from £18,000 down to £2,600.
I have already received many enquiries from worried business people and property owners seeking ways to reduce their liability.
Eligible businesses should not forget to make a claim for .... (read more...)
Friday April 1, 2011 at 3:17pm
The temporary increase in Small Business Rate Relief has been extended by a further year to October 2012 Small Business Rates Relief is available to all businesses whose rateable value is less than £12,000. This means that eligible businesses occupying one property with a rateable value of £6,000 or less will pay no business rates. For those with one property having a rateable value of between £6,000 and £12,000 there will be relief on a sliding scale from 100% to zero. A.... (read more...)
Thursday March 31, 2011 at 1:08pm
Budget 2011 – Property Now that the dust has settled after the Budget Report last week it would be a good time to summarise the main implications for the property world. Business Rates The temporary increase in small business rate relief has been extended by a further year to October 2012 This means that eligible businesses occupying one property with a rateable value of £6,000 or less will pay no business rates for that period. For properties with a rateable value of between £.... (read more...)
Monday February 28, 2011 at 3:44pm
Since it first came to power, the government has promised to reduce the excessive red tape that is strangling British business, and SMEs in particular. It introduced a ‘One In One Out’ system where new regulation would only be introduced where another piece of regulation could be removed. It also created its own red tape regulator, the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), whose job is to scrutinise proposed regulations to see whether their benefits exceed their costs and are fit for pu.... (read more...)
Wednesday February 2, 2011 at 12:24pm
The Government has announced that from 1 April 2011 the empty property business rates threshold will revert to £2,600 from the current level of £18,000.
This will be a matter of great concern for SME’s and commercial property owners who have any empty premises in their portfolio.
The only crumb of comfort is the extension of Small Business Rate Relief until October 2012 for those that are eligible. See here for details.
This will result in businesses with e.... (read more...)
Wednesday January 26, 2011 at 11:26am
Business rates are one of the largest costs to SME’s but many are unaware of the tax relief available.
A business in England that occupies only one commercial property is entitled under the rules to have their bill calculated using the small business rate multiplier where the rateable value is under £18,000 (£25,500 in London).
There is also the temporary business rates cut for businesses occupying one property where the rateable value is under £12,000. See my earlier.... (read more...)
Monday January 17, 2011 at 2:45pm
Are you optimistic or fearful as we enter the first month of 2011? Will it be a year of growth, consolidation, or one in which your business will struggle? I’m a firm believer in taking an optimistic view whilst also preparing for the worst case scenario. With that in mind I was researching the other day some of the main reasons that small businesses fail. The UK insolvency helpline have gone to the trouble of compiling a list of 65 of the most common reasons for businesses failure. These .... (read more...)
Wednesday January 5, 2011 at 11:26am
Current market conditions mean that many business owners and directors are having to face up to the consequences of personal guarantees they signed when they first started their business, took out a loan or signed a lease agreement. I've heard of numerous small business owners who have had their business loan called in by the bank. If they haven't got the money in the business to pay it back they will more than likely be personally liable as a result of having signed a personal guarantee. I.... (read more...)
Tuesday January 4, 2011 at 9:56am
As we enter 2011, one thing is for sure: company directors have never before faced so many duties, responsibilities and potential personal liability for the companies they control. Based on recent trends, we predict that the following 4 areas will be the main ones for directors of SMEs to watch out for in 2011. Directors Pay The law on how and when a director can be paid is complex and there are strict procedures that must be followed. We have seen a large increase recently in the volume of clai.... (read more...)
Monday January 3, 2011 at 6:35pm
Below are my 5 key talking points for the property market over the next 12 months:
1. Interest Rates
With continued high inflation becoming a concern it is likely that the current ultra low interest rates will begin to rise steadily later this year. This could lead to a higher volume of properties being marketed for sale in 2011 as loan repayments increase.
2. Bank Finance
I expect the same hard slog in 2011, with a continued lack of Bank finance availability for property investment and d.... (read more...)
Thursday December 9, 2010 at 4:59pm
When negotiating a lease you should always ask the landlord or their agent whether they comply with the voluntary codes of conduct that aim to promote fairness for tenants occupying business premises. In this blog I have summarised what these are all about.
1. Code for Leasing Business Premises - www.leasingbusinesspremises.co.uk
This consists of 3 parts: • 10 point list for landlords to follow • Guide for tenants and occupiers • Model heads of terms
You should be .... (read more...)
Monday December 6, 2010 at 7:56pm
What surprised me most about the news story of MP Phil Woolas losing his seat for lying is the number of politicians who came forward to say that lying is just a part of the “rough and tumble” of electioneering. Do we, as a society, really think it’s OK to lie in public? As a litigation solicitor with considerable court experience, I have seen many individuals lie in the witness box or, as their lawyers will usually put it, “being mistaken”. That’s why most of.... (read more...)
Thursday November 25, 2010 at 6:27pm
If a director who has loaned money to their company resigns, or is dismissed, can they get their loan back? Many companies, especially in the current economic climate, seem reluctant to repay a director’s loan in this situation. The first thing to look at is the loan agreement itself, if there is one. It may set out the circumstances when a loan can be repaid. If the written agreement doesn’t deal with this point or, if there is no agreement, then the loan will generally be repayable.... (read more...)
Monday November 22, 2010 at 12:06pm
As we approach the end of 2010, the economy is still very fragile. However, most of the small and medium businesses we have been talking to are showing some improvement compared to this time last year. Our clients are saying they are busier now than they have been for a couple of years, although it is fair to say that a lot of this is due to them having cut back on costs and staffing levels to such an extent that they don’t have much spare capacity. Some of the recent official statistics a.... (read more...)
Monday November 15, 2010 at 2:10pm
In my blog of 15th September 2010, I pointed out that breaches of directors’ duties can have serious consequences for a director, particularly if a company becomes insolvent or after it is sold. It is in these situations that directors frequently find themselves facing claims to pay often-huge sums into the company. One of the areas where it is easy for a director to slip up is in ‘conflicts of interest’. The law is complicated but, for SMEs, can be summarised as follows:
.... (read more...)
Sunday October 24, 2010 at 8:27pm
It’s been a long 5 months since the drama and political intrigue of the General Election. Most political debate has been about public sector cuts but, until now, no one had really known what they would entail. As far as small and medium businesses are concerned, are we really any the wiser following the Comprehensive Spending Review? In my view, the three main issues facing SMEs at the moment are the state of the economy as a whole (and in particular demand for our products and services), .... (read more...)
Monday September 27, 2010 at 6:55pm
Property costs are a large overhead for most businesses. Here Steve Petty lists 10 of the best ways to save money both now and when relocating. 1. Time to renew your lease? If you are coming towards the end of your lease then now would be a very good time to take control of the renewal process. It is likely you will have been locked into a lease for a few years paying rent agreed or reviewed at the height of the market. By getting good advice and following the correct procedu.... (read more...)
Wednesday September 15, 2010 at 7:36pm
Company directors are subject to so many duties that, if they are not careful and don’t take proper advice, they can easily find themselves in breach of one or more of their duties. But, in SMEs and family-owned companies, the directors and shareholders are usually the same people; so who cares anyway and how would anyone find out about the breaches? Some breaches are very easy to commit, and many directors don’t even know they are doing anything wrong. For example, there are various.... (read more...)
Wednesday September 8, 2010 at 10:29am
When preparing to sell your business, it is crucial to take the right advice as this can have a big impact on the success of the sale, the amount you receive and any ongoing liability following completion. Here are 10 reasons why it is essential to use a good solicitor when selling your business: 1. Share or asset sale
The two main methods of structuring the sale of a business are to dispose of the shares or the assets. The two are fundamentally different but a solicitor will be able to advise.... (read more...)
Wednesday September 8, 2010 at 10:16am
I am often asked by business owners for help when they are taking a lease of commercial premises. Unfortunately this is after the main terms have already been agreed in principle. Ideally you should get your solicitor involved before agreeing terms as various concessions can usually be negotiated that can save time and money for your business both immediately and in the future. Listed below are the 10 key points to consider when talking to the landlord or their agent: 1. Ask the landlord fo.... (read more...)
Tuesday July 20, 2010 at 9:00am
The Emergency Budget showed that the government are seriously committed to reducing the budget deficit, primarily through public sector cuts and an increase in VAT. Predictably the politicians have since been arguing about whether this is too much too soon (with the risk of a double-dip recession) or exactly what was needed due to the frightening increase in the deficit. Whilst all this argument makes good headlines for the politicians, the truth is that no one can say for sure how the economy w.... (read more...)
Friday July 2, 2010 at 10:04am
The temporary increase in small business rate relief has been confirmed by the new government. The increase will apply for 12 months from 1 October 2010 and means that eligible businesses occupying premises with a rateable value of £6,000 or less will pay no business rates for that period. For properties with a rateable value of between £12,000 and £6,000 there will be relief on a sliding scale from 100% to zero. For more information on how this will affect your business rates .... (read more...)
Thursday July 1, 2010 at 7:58am
I have blogged before about the coalition government's promise to remove excessive red tape and to allow businesses to nominate their most hated business laws.Well, at last our chance is here. The government has now launched its Your Freedom website where we can tell it what regulations we want to see removed.They promise to listen. Now let's see how good they are at acting.Gary CousinsBusiness Solicitor
.... (read more...)
Wednesday June 30, 2010 at 4:46pm
When entering into a lease of business premises the landlord may require the tenant to provide a rent deposit. This is a sum of money equivalent to, for example, 6 months’ rent. A rent deposit gives the landlord some security in the event that the tenant fails to pay the rent on time or does not comply with its other obligations in the lease. In these circumstances the landlord can deduct sums from the deposit to cover the arrears of rent. It is crucial from the point of view of the tenant.... (read more...)
Wednesday June 16, 2010 at 6:59pm
According to a recent Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) survey, although the level of small business satisfaction with high street banks remains low overall, one of the most important things firms looked for in a bank was a good working relationship with their business manager. There was a strong correlation between the number of business managers a firm dealt with in a 2-year period and the level of dissatisfaction reported. Firms that had the same manager for 2 years had a dissatisfaction l.... (read more...)
Monday June 14, 2010 at 9:54am
The new PPS 3 now defines previously developed land (brownfield land) as follows:
‘Previously-developed land is that which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land and any associated fixed surface infrastructure.’ The definition includes defence buildings, but excludes:
Land that is or has been occupied by agricultural or forestry buildings.
Land that has been developed for minerals extraction or waste disposal by landfill pu.... (read more...)
Friday June 11, 2010 at 5:44pm
Directors are under a legal duty to maintain detailed accounting records of their company. In particular, they must maintain records:
to show and explain transactions, and disclose the financial position of the company at any time with reasonable accuracy;
to enable them to compile balance sheets and profit and loss accounts;
to keep records of all money received and paid out by the company on a day-to-day basis;
to maintain records of the company’s assets and liabilities;.... (read more...)
Wednesday June 9, 2010 at 11:16am
The Government has announced that back gardens are to be reclassified for planning purposes. The effect of this is that it will be easier to for Local Planning Authorities to oppose applications from developers to develop garden land as the developer will not be able to argue that the land is 'brownfield'.
At the same time, however, the Government is also proposing that local residents have more say over development in their area. It may be the case that if a development proposal ha.... (read more...)
Thursday June 3, 2010 at 6:54pm
The government has taken its first steps to reducing the amount of red tape which is stifling business, particularly SMEs. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has announced an action plan to tackle excessive regulation. It includes the following:
The creation of a new Cabinet “Star Chamber”, officially to be called the Reducing Regulation Committee, which will be chaired by Mr Cable. It is tasked with “stress-testing” proposed regulations to make sure that only thos.... (read more...)
Friday May 28, 2010 at 9:24am
April saw two of the UK's best known retailers receive significant fines for breaches of fire safety legislation. On 20 April Tesco was fined £95,000 after admitting 5 breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and on 29 April 2010, the Co-operative was fined £210,000 after entering a guilty plea in relation to six offences. In both cases, the breaches are ones that could have easily occurred in any retail premises. Tesco was fined: £40,000 for two counts a.... (read more...)
Tuesday May 25, 2010 at 9:00am
When the final Coalition Agreement was published last week, Nick Clegg announced that the government would be asking people what laws they wanted to be scrapped. It was a manifesto pledge of both the Conservatives and Lib Dems for there to be a “one in one out” policy as far as business regulation is concerned – in other words, if a government department wants to introduce another piece of regulation, they must abolish as least as much existing regulation – and it has now.... (read more...)
Thursday May 20, 2010 at 6:54pm
Hidden in the governments detailed coalition agreement released today are concrete proposals to limit future back garden development. The plan is to give councils new powers to stop what they call ‘garden grabbing’. Full details to follow but if you are thinking about selling off part of your garden for development now could be the time to take that step. If you have surplus land or are a developer who carries out these types of schemes then contact property lawyer Steve Pe.... (read more...)
Thursday May 20, 2010 at 12:00pm
The long-awaited Full Coalition Agreement has now been published, which sets out what the coalition intends to do during its time in office. Refreshingly, it has a section specifically on business, something which the individual party’s manifestos failed to do. Unfortunately, there are a lot of promises to “review”, “look into” and “consider”, which doesn’t help when SMEs are desperate for help. The government’s main promises, as far as SMEs .... (read more...)
Thursday May 20, 2010 at 11:46am
It was today announced by the new government that the requirement for seller's to provide a Home Information Pack (HIP) will be suspended from 21 May 2010.
As expected Energy Performance Certificate's (EPC's) are retained and will still need to be produced within 28 days of the property being put on the market.
The practical effect of HIP's being scrapped is to shift the cost of paying for searches back to the buyer, which was always the position before they were int.... (read more...)
Thursday May 13, 2010 at 5:58pm
Birmingham is officially the top European city for promoting entrepreneurship It was announced on Monday that Birmingham was number one in the prestigious European Cities Entrepreneurship Ranking for promoting entrepreneurship. This category ranks Europe’s cities as to how they promote and support new business, and create an environment for entrepreneurs and new business growth. In the overall ranking, however, Birmingham came 25th , ahead of Manchester (32nd) and London (33rd), but still .... (read more...)
Wednesday May 12, 2010 at 5:18pm
The new coalition government has published their Coalition Agreement. It is difficult to see what measures remain in place to support SMEs. The agreement does, however, include the following:
* Cancelling some backdated demands for business rates;* Generous CGT exemptions for entrepreneurial business;* Ensuring that the flow of credit to viable SMEs will be a core priority, including: * A major loan guarantee scheme; and * Setting lending targets for nat.... (read more...)
Tuesday May 11, 2010 at 4:17pm
A poll by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) reveals that 54% of small businesses are planning not to expand following the election result. I am not surprised. The simple fact is, that for a small business to expand, it needs confidence that customers will be there to buy its products in the future and have the financial means to do so. The poll also revealed that 52% want action taken by government to reduce the budget deficit sooner rather than later, 44% want to see the banking system r.... (read more...)
Friday May 7, 2010 at 12:30pm
The magazine for small businesses and entrepreneurs, Real Business, reports that a new survey suggests a lack of education and training for entrepreneurs is holding back many people from setting up their own businesses.The research, published by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), shows that only 18 per cent of the UK's working age population has received training in starting a business.The reason this is significant is that apparently those who have had training are much more likely to &.... (read more...)
Wednesday April 28, 2010 at 9:00am
As election fever (as well as volcanic dust) sweeps the country, we have had a look at the manifestos of the 3 major parties to see what they promise to do for small and medium businesses. Our view is that real steps need to be taken to support SMEs through the recession and recovery process, and that means taking measures to help SMEs get the finance they need at a reasonable price, reduce regulation and red tape, and reform the tax system. Big businesses certainly seem to be siding with the Co.... (read more...)
Friday April 23, 2010 at 11:50am
The Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) came into force on 1 April. CRC is a compulsory carbon dioxide emissions trading scheme where large organisations are required to buy allowances based on how much CO2 they expect to emit from their buildings during the year. The CRC will inevitably have a knock on effect to small and medium sized businesses, many of which will be tenants in buildings where the scheme applies. As is the case with any commercial lease
the landlord will be looking to recoup fro.... (read more...)
Thursday March 25, 2010 at 11:00am
To help business owners and managers prevent and manage commercial disputes law firm Cousins Business Law has published a free guide entitled “The Definitive Guide to Solving Business Disputes”. The guide stresses the significant cost to business of badly managed disputes and provides practical advice on how to avoid conflict in the workplace as well as steps to take should a dispute be on the cards. In the guide dispute management solicitor Nigel Musgrove shares his 30 years' worth .... (read more...)
Thursday March 25, 2010 at 10:53am
A temporary cut in business rates was announced yesterday in the Budget. This will give an exemption for businesses occupying property with a rateable value of up to £6,000, and discounts for those with a rateable value of up to £12,000. The measure is intended to last for 12 months from October. The government claims that the cut will mean more than 300,000 small businesses avoid having to pay rates but it is important to check the 2010 valuation assessment when calculating whether .... (read more...)
Tuesday March 23, 2010 at 10:26am
I have heard Alistair Darling described as many things but the majority are not suitable for print! At the very least he would be described as the unluckiest chancellor in history. The role was certainly a poisoned chalice when he took over three years ago as the world stood on the verge of a huge financial catastrophe that we are all still feeling the effects of.
The tide looks to be finally turning with unemployment falling sharply, and the Bank of England predicting that growth in the first.... (read more...)
Thursday March 4, 2010 at 4:47pm
A case reported this week should prompt all landlords to take advantage of our free 20 minute lease review and check that the obligations of a tenant’s guarantor can be legally enforced.
This judgement will affect any lease where there has been as assignment from the original tenant and a guarantor was involved.
In short it means the continuing liability of the guarantor under a lease can be challenged. Should the tenant then fail to pay the rent then this could prevent the landlord fr.... (read more...)
Tuesday February 16, 2010 at 5:07pm
When you take a car in for its service do you ever get the feeling that you have been taken for a ride quite literally?! I certainly do when given the list of parts the garage recommends be replaced. It would be useful to have some way of getting to the bottom of what really is important. This was the inspiration behind my Planning Law Guide that certainly can be as complex as the average Audi.
Take the following example. The word “Development” in planning terms does not just mean .... (read more...)
Tuesday February 16, 2010 at 3:56pm
The Government has begun a consultation process to consider granting special stamp duty concessions on the bulk buying of residential property.
At present if a buyer purchases a number of properties at the same time then potentially they will be classed as “linked transactions”. As a result stamp duty would be payable on the total amount paid rather than treating each purchase individually and this can increase the tax bill hugely. For example stamp duty for a one off purchase at &.... (read more...)
Thursday February 4, 2010 at 10:07am
To mark my arrival at Cousins Business Law I've put together this list of dos and dont's for businesses to help them avoid the potential pitfalls and capitalise on opportunities during 2010.
Landlords should be proactive on recovering rent arrears to avoid being left high and dry by struggling tenants. Look out for warning signs that might mean a tenant has financial issues, like delays in payment or publicity surrounding the performance of the organisation. If it goes into admin.... (read more...)
Wednesday February 3, 2010 at 10:12am
Belatedly, in the Blog anyway, I'd like to welcome on board Commercial Property Solicitor Paul Harrison.
Paul joins us from a firm with offices in Milton Keynes and Northampton and from his own Northampton base will provide legal advice to business and property owners thoughout the Midlands.
Paul, who joins Steve Petty in our Commercial Property Team
acts for a wide range of property owners and occupiers. He's especially experienced in:
Advising on all aspects of acquirin.... (read more...)
Thursday January 21, 2010 at 10:49am
I have previously posted on the issue of back garden development. It looks as though the Government may be finally waking up to the fact that flaws in its planning guidance have caused rather more of this type of development than may have been desirable.
Housing and Planning Minister, John Healey, has announced that he will be strengthening national policy advice to make it clearer that garden land is not necessarily suitable for development and that decisions to stop building on it shoul.... (read more...)
Thursday January 14, 2010 at 5:26pm
The surprise banks’ overdraft charges victory could leave landlords’ exposed to a new challenge by estate agents. The High Court originally ruled that millions of pounds of residential tenancy “renewal” fees charged by Foxtons to landlords were unfair resulting in expected refunds running to millions of pounds. The new interpretation of the law means that buy-to-let investors may now face delays in their claims for a rebate whilst any appeal is heard.
Please get in touc.... (read more...)
Thursday January 14, 2010 at 4:45pm
A recent Supreme Court decision will be of keen interest to developers. It was decided that a sewerage undertaker had no power to refuse a builder the right to connect a private drain to the public sewer at the point most convenient to the developer. Welsh Water had argued that it could refuse the connection on the basis that it would overload the system at that point. This would have meant the developer having to connect to the public sewer at a manhole some 300 metres away. The Court rejected .... (read more...)
Tuesday December 22, 2009 at 3:43pm
This must have been a question Lloyds Banking Group's customers were asking themselves this morning with the announcement that Lloyds agreed to pay at least $3.6 billion over 15 years to raise $2 billion in capital. According to Bloomberg, the bank sold hybrid Tier 1 securities on Dec. 15 that cost 12 percent, or $240 million a year in interest, until 2024. That’s a higher interest rate than bicycle-rack maker TriMas Corp. paid to sell senior notes, which Moody’s Investors Service ra.... (read more...)
Monday December 14, 2009 at 2:59pm
Cousins Business Law licensing specialist Nigel Musgrove has been named as a leader in his field in Chambers UK 2010.Nigel specialises in licensing and gaming law advising breweries, pubcos, hotels, pubs, restaurants and clubs. He has acted as legal adviser to a local authority during the licensing transitional stage.
Nigel is an Affiliate Member of the British Institute of Innkeeping and teaches monthly on their personal licence holder qualification.
Nigel, who joined Cousins Business L.... (read more...)
Wednesday December 9, 2009 at 6:37pm
Giving with one hand, taking away with the other? The chancellor’s pre-budget report is perhaps no big surprise in delivering both pluses and minuses for the small business owner. Along with The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), I welcome the chancellor's decision to defer the one pence rise in corporation tax for small firms. This increase had been due to come into effect from 1st April next year, but will now be delayed until April 2011. I’m sure this deferral will help some sm.... (read more...)
Tuesday December 1, 2009 at 9:32am
The rate of VAT returns to 17.5% on January 1, 2010. What VAT treatment applies to quarterly rental payments due on December 25? Where contracts are exchanged in 2009 to complete in 2010, and VAT becomes payable on the contract deposit, what VAT treatment applies at exchange and at completion?
December 25 rent payments The tax point for standard-rated leases is the date the landlord issues a VAT invoice or receives payment of the rent, whichever happens first. Hence, on Decemb.... (read more...)
Wednesday November 18, 2009 at 11:28am
According to Land Securities in a report by Bloomberg today. The company has announced that it has made offers to buy £500M of assets.
Investment Property Databank had now recorded three straight months of price rises for UK Commercial Real Estate although vacancy rates have continued to rise to a 4-year high.
With commercial property values still 42% below their peak, now may be the time for cash-rich investors to step back in.
For further details of our servi.... (read more...)
Monday November 9, 2009 at 1:31pm
A Federation of Small Business survey showed that an average SME spends 7 hours every week coping with red tape; and a Federation of Private Business survey revealed that the cost to SMEs of compliance was £9.3 billion each year.With so many SMEs struggling in the present economic climate shouldn't the Government be dealing urgently with reducing the regulatory burden on the SME sector? Whilst some of the red tape comes from UK Government initiatives, most originates in the.... (read more...)
Thursday October 15, 2009 at 12:20pm
It’s heartening to read in the Independent that small and medium sized firms are ‘poised to lead the country out of recession.’ Our experience of SMEs – our clients – is that they are indeed innovative and determined to succeed as the Independent’s research suggests. But it’s more than that; with many being owner managed, we see a real spirit of enterprise coupled with grit and determination. Many of our clients have spent a lifetime working in or on the.... (read more...)
Monday October 12, 2009 at 9:00am
Unfortunately business owners are often so keen to secure a sale or start working on a big project that they fail to get all the paperwork in place.
Disputes in business can happen for many reasons, but so often they blow up because those involved have a different opinion on what was agreed. You know the situation – you’ve had some work done or purchased a piece of equipment and you’re not happy with what you’ve received. You scrabble around for the paperwork but there i.... (read more...)
Thursday October 8, 2009 at 10:26am
The new Companies Act has made some changes as to who directors are and registration requirements. Most of these new rules came into effect on 1st October 2009 but it seems many Directors know nothing about them.Who is a director?A director is anyone who has either been formally appointed as a director (by the shareholders or board as set out in the company’s Articles), occupies the position of director (even if they are called something else) or someone whose directions or instructio.... (read more...)
Friday October 2, 2009 at 11:58am
Following a change to planning rules which took effect on 30 September, developers can now extend their existing planning permissions to give them more time to weather the economic downturn.
Developers with planning permissions granted up until 30 September 2009 where the time limit for implementation has yet to expire may apply to extend their permissions. The move has been made to boost the industry and to save costs for developers badly hit by the recession. Many developers have put pr.... (read more...)
Monday September 14, 2009 at 10:24am
After my article in last month's ezine, you wouldn't expect me to be surprised by this but there seems to be a growing consensus that the worst is not yet over.
This is an extract from a report on Bloomberg:
U.K. banks are less than half way through posting 240 billion pounds ($398 billion) of losses on loans and securities, a reflection of the U.K.’s economic weakness, according to Moody’s Investors Service Ltd. British banks are likely to record 130 billion pounds of losses .... (read more...)
Thursday August 27, 2009 at 11:43am
A couple of stories have broken this week suggesting that the calls for transparency in the banking sector are going unheeded.
The first appeared in the Times on Monday and concerned the resurrection of the practice adopted by banks in the last recession of selling repossessed properties to their own subsidiaries to avoid having to mark down their value by selling in the open market.
You can.... (read more...)
Wednesday August 26, 2009 at 3:47pm
I am sure that all buyers (and most sellers) will want to make sure that goods sold are of satisfactory quality and do the job intended. But what is the remedy when things go wrong, for example the steel supplied is not up to the job, the cattle food makes the cattle ill, the computer does not live up to its billing, or the machinery keeps breaking down?
Sale of goods law provides remedies for buyers where the goods are not of "satisfactory quality". A recent High Court case conf.... (read more...)
Friday August 21, 2009 at 7:00pm
There’s a new feeling in the air in certain quarters – one of optimism – and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s feeling it. For those of us who follow all the research statistics about SMEs and the recession, this summer has been full of conflicting news. There have been many days where the good news statistics were evenly balanced by the bad news statistics. It looked like green shoots had germinated but would they grow or can we expect them to whither in th.... (read more...)
Tuesday August 18, 2009 at 4:28pm
As businesses continue to struggle at the moment, there’s been a recent increase in the number of SMEs who are making Directors redundant. It can often make sense: if a company’s activities have shrunk, with fewer sales and a reduced workforce, it can now appear too top heavy and under performing directors might be at risk. Handling a Director redundancy can be much more complicated however than making a staff member redundant as we explain in the more detailed article on Director Re.... (read more...)
Tuesday August 11, 2009 at 6:42pm
It is estimated that the first serious wave of Swine Flu will hit the UK between August and November this year with the cities being affected more than the countryside. This means that approximately 12% of the workforce nationally is likely to catch it during this period. The impact on SMEs is likely to be particularly severe. The problem is that it spreads easily from person to person, which is likely to mean that, once it takes hold in a particular workplace, far more than the 12% average coul.... (read more...)
Thursday August 6, 2009 at 2:58pm
The Credit Crunch is inevitably contributing to a delay in payment to businesses, particularly vulnerable SMEs. Money owed to small businesses shot up by 40% from £18.6 billion in 2007, to £25.9 billion in 2008, according to Bacs. And who knows where the figure is at this time, no doubt substantailly higher.
This attack on cash flow is probably the biggest single cause of company failure. For example Barclays state that more than 750 companies failed in the South East in 2008 due t.... (read more...)
Friday July 24, 2009 at 4:37pm
Solicitors firms outside London are showing no signs of a recovery. According to an article in The Times this week, many such firms saw their profits fall by more than a third last year. The Article reports that many firms are imposing salary cuts of 10% or so in return for longer holidays as a way of cutting costs. I have seen this happen in firms in the Midlands area too and many very able solicitors are finding their route to an equity partnership blocked – why would existing partners w.... (read more...)
Wednesday July 22, 2009 at 4:56pm
Yes, according to new research published today by Creditsafe. They say that 33% of British firms are planning to stop using cheques to pay other businesses within the next 12 months, and that 11% are planning to stop accepting cheques altogether! Instead, they plan to rely on direct bank transfers (such as BACS) and debit and credit card payments. Reasons given were that these were more traceable, more efficient and reduced the need for manual processing. They estimate that the savings to the Br.... (read more...)
Friday July 17, 2009 at 9:45am
The economic news continues with its mixture of good and bad statistics as to the state of the economy. The bad news is yesterday’s unemployment figures. These revealed that unemployment rose by 281,000 over the three months to May. There are now 2.38 million unemployed, which is the highest level since 1995. 7.6% of the economically active population are now unemployed, according to the Office for National Statistics, which compares with 6.9% over the three months to February. There is so.... (read more...)
Thursday July 9, 2009 at 4:45pm
In the past 2 weeks I have been the victim of large scale internet fraud on 2 credit cards, and so I have taken a keen interest in liability and in ways to protect against future fraud.
I have been very careful to use only on line stores who encrypt customer details, but fraudsters have still managed to obtain my credit card details including security number, as well as my address, telephone number, date of birth. This can only be a result of sophisticated hacking, or criminal activity by an e.... (read more...)
Thursday July 9, 2009 at 10:55am
The Cranfield School of Management has identified six behaviours that successful owner-managers possess. Why not test yourself against their list of behaviours which are about:
making wise decisions
being ready to take advantages of opportunities that others will miss.
Nothing particularly novel in the list I don't support but the video on their website explaining these behaviours certainly makes y.... (read more...)
Tuesday July 7, 2009 at 11:11am
Today's British Chamber of Commerce figures suggest that British business is over the worst of the recession. Let's hope they've got that right.
The survey data from 5,600 companies shows progress in both the manufacturing and service sectors with most key indicators improving in the last quarter.
Looking more closely at the data however I wonder how much of this is just trying to talk ourselves out of the problem. Not that I am against that - afterall some businesses I t.... (read more...)
Tuesday June 23, 2009 at 1:37pm
It's a question that seems to be concerning many business commentators and it's one we often debate with our own clients. In the legal profession we see many small, high street legal firms struggling as parts of the business are wiped out with the collapse of the housing market and the frailties of their financial systems are exposed. Conversely entrepreneurs and innovators seem to be welcoming the downturn as an opportunity to launch challenger brands, innovative products and solutions. But wil.... (read more...)
Wednesday June 17, 2009 at 2:45pm
Responsibility for fire, health and safety issues rests with the operator of the business. Since 1 October 2006 it has been necessary for all businesses to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The Order applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales. If you are responsible for business premises, an employer or self-employed with business premises, or responsible for any part of a dwelling used for business purposes, or indeed a contractor with some control over .... (read more...)
Monday June 1, 2009 at 6:32pm
Another sign that the recession might have bottomed out is a recent survey by the Forum of Private Business. Their survey reports that confidence in the SME sector has shown a slight improvement: 26% of respondents said the viability of their business had improved in over the past month, double those who thought it had got worse. Dissatisfaction with banks was still reported as a problem, with 18% saying that the support offered by their bank had deteriorated in the last month compared with 12% .... (read more...)
Tuesday May 19, 2009 at 7:32pm
A right of way is normally enjoyed along a specific route over someone's land. Sometimes the route of a right of way can be inconvenient to the owner of the land over which the right is enjoyed (particularly if the landowner wishes to develop the land) and a recent case has examined whether the landowner has a right to re-route a right of way.
The case has confirmed that a landowner has no right to re-route a right of way (unless the terms of the right of way expr.... (read more...)
Monday May 18, 2009 at 12:46pm
A couple of recent reports have suggested now might be the time to consider stepping back into the UK commercial property market.
Last week, Cushman Wakefield indicated in its Business Briefing that prime yields for UK property have stabilised in the last two months with 21 of its 24 key yield outlook indicators flat-lining between March and April.
Today, Schroders called UK property "a screaming buy" particularly for overseas investors due, in part, to Sterling's weakness.
With com.... (read more...)
Thursday May 14, 2009 at 7:08pm
When can we expect a recovery? This must surely be the question all SMEs are asking themselves. Most have adjusted to the recession as best they can, costs have been cut, cash flow managed more effectively and surplus labour made redundant. It has been painful, profits have been slashed, if they exist at all, but we hear of more and more businesses saying that they think they will survive the recession. But just how much longer until the belts can be loosened? There has been some talk in recent .... (read more...)
Friday May 1, 2009 at 6:06pm
The Insolvency Service today published their statistics for the number of company insolvencies for the 1st quarter of 2009. These show that there were a total of 4,941 liquidations in England and Wales (an increase of 56% compared to a year ago). Of these, 1,579 companies were wound up by a court (an increase of 43.6% over the year) and 3,362 companies put themselves into liquidation (an increase of 62.5% over the year). From our experience, the main cause of liquidations is cash-flow problems o.... (read more...)
Thursday April 30, 2009 at 11:10am
Licensing solicitor Nigel Musgrove has joined the Cousins Business Law team this month, to strengthen our litigation team and offer specialist licensing advice.
Nigel brings a wealth of experience in both licensing and dispute management and litigation.
As well as being a solicitor, Nigel is a published author having penned The Licensing Handbook, a plain English Guide to licensing law
Anyone about to open a licensed premises would be well advised to read Nigel's article - Opening licensed p.... (read more...)
Wednesday April 22, 2009 at 3:35pm
If you were hoping for assistance for the hard-pressed property sector from the budget then today's announcements will have left you feeling very disappointed.
The schemes such as they are consist of:
a three month extension of the SDLT holiday for houses sold for £175,000 and under
extra money for existing Government schemes to support first time buyers
a scheme to kick-start stalled housing projects
With the price of an average house still falling every month .... (read more...)
Monday March 9, 2009 at 6:00pm
According to a recent poll by SmallBusiness.co.uk, 80% of those polled said their banks have failed to offer support; 48% said their bank had no understanding at all; 28% said they had been supportive verbally but not in action; and 10% said that their overdrafts had been cancelled. On the positive side: 7% said their bank had been more supportive than expected, and 4% said they had been very constructive and helpful. With these sorts of client-care statistics, you’d expect any modern busi.... (read more...)
Friday March 6, 2009 at 5:41pm
The latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) suggest things aren’t quite as bleak for retailers as the media have been suggesting. The Retail Sales Monitor January 2009, from the BRC and advisory services firm KPMG, shows values increased by 1.1% on a like-for-like basis when compared to the same month last year. This represents the best performance since May 2008, when sales were spurred by sunny weather. Interestingly food sales were the driver of the increase, displaying .... (read more...)
Wednesday March 4, 2009 at 7:17pm
As cash flow is becoming an increasing issue for SMEs, we are finding that more and more creditors are issuing Winding-Up Petitions. These can be a very effective way of getting a company to pay its debts. A Winding-Up Petition will be delivered personally to the company’s office but, unlike most court proceedings, the documents do not state exactly what should be done when one is received. What must be done is to take immediate action and legal advice. If the matter is not resolved within.... (read more...)
Friday February 27, 2009 at 6:59pm
There’s hardly a day goes by without a further announcement of solicitors being made redundant or being forced to accept a drop in salary. Those worst affected are the more senior solicitors, as solicitors’ firms push more trainees and newly-qualified lawyers forward to handle the day-to-day casework that more experienced lawyers used to do. In recent weeks, we are also hearing of partners being made redundant, which means that employment protection legislation can be side-stepped. I.... (read more...)
Wednesday February 25, 2009 at 6:24pm
Not according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) whose recent survey claims measures like the cut in VAT, pledges on payment practices and bank lending guarantees have done little to improve the situation facing small companies. Half of the 4,000 respondents in the FSB survey had experienced a fall in trade over the past two months, with getting paid still one of the biggest complaints. With this, and a new study from the Confederation of British Industry showing firms expecting the fin.... (read more...)
Wednesday February 11, 2009 at 2:00pm
This blog is a plea to all business owners.
Please, please, please - if you see a business dispute on the horizon, NEVER ignore it and leave it to fester. I can tell you from nearly 20 years of dealing with business disputes that the sooner you tackle problems the better.
We covered the topic in our January Ezine (Spotting a Business Dispute on the Horizon), when I suggested three obvious signs that a dispute might be looming: payment delays, communication drying up and guilt.
In.... (read more...)
Thursday February 5, 2009 at 10:46am
Cousins Business Law has published a Guide to doing business in the UK. The Guide covers:
The issue of jurisdiction and the laws of England and Wales
Trading laws and regulations
Employment and staff issues
Handling business disputes
Although written for overseas business owners who are either currently doing business here or are considering trading in the UK it’s also a useful ‘quick guide’ for British busines.... (read more...)
Tuesday January 27, 2009 at 11:40am
Under the new Companies Act, Companies House are entitled to charge penalties for the late filing of Annual Accounts . These will come into force on 1st February 2009. Yesterday, they announced that new penalties will be as follows: For Private Companies (Ltd's):Less than 1 month late: £150Between 1 month and 3 months late: £375Between 3 months and 6 months late: £750More than 6 months late: £1,500For Public Companies (PLCs): Less than 1 month late: £750 Between 1 m.... (read more...)
Thursday January 22, 2009 at 4:02pm
The Government has recently made further changes to the Home Information Pack Regulations. With effect from 6 April the following changes will come into effect:
1. All HIPs must include a Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ) which will provide some basic information about the property.
2. In relation to leasehold properties, the PIQ will include a summary of things such as rent and service charge and as a result the requirement to include certain leasehold documents in the HIP .... (read more...)
Wednesday January 7, 2009 at 7:20pm
If the last 5 years are anything to go by, businesses will continue to face pressure from new rules and regulations, especially around employment policies and practice. Let's just hope that some sense prevails, given the current challenges faced by all firms.
In the meantime, this extract from our December ezine details some of the known legal changes coming into effect in 2009.
The Health and Safety Offences Act comes into force in January 2009. The Act will increase penalties for b.... (read more...)
Wednesday November 26, 2008 at 3:07pm
Having previously advised that now is the time to renogotiate your lease, the GMB union has announced that MFI is attempting to do just that by asking its landlords to agree a rent free period to stave off administration. It will be interesting to see whether MFI is successful but it is another example of a major retailer seeking to renegotiate terms with its landlord.
If you are considering renegotiating your lease then now is the time to take advantage of Cousins Business Law's free lea.... (read more...)
Monday November 24, 2008 at 5:33pm
Here is the relevant extract from today's Pre-Budget Report:
The Government is temporarily increasing the threshold at which an empty property becomes liable for business rates. For financial year 2009-10, empty properties with a rateable value of less than £15,000 will be exempt from business rates, exempting an estimated 70 per cent of empty properties. This one year relief for lower-value properties is best targeted at helping small businesses manage short-term pressures due to di.... (read more...)
Friday October 17, 2008 at 1:32pm
Construction companies withhold £1 billion in payments to suppliers. That's according to the National Specialist Construction Council (NSCC) which calculates that the amount of money owing to suppliers by construction companies is now 50% more than two years ago.
Just 15 percent of the NSCC's members are paid within 30 days of completing a job. The average is about 60 days while Carillion Plc, averages 86 days.
At a time when managing cashflow is more important than ever, small and mediu.... (read more...)
Friday October 3, 2008 at 2:04pm
Yesterday marked a historic day in the civil courts. Civil court judges will no longer wear wigs. I must say, it has always appeared strange to me that we expected our judiciary to support headwear dating back some 300 years. Those in favour of wigs tended to argue that they helped judges command respect, and provided a degree of anonymity, which is useful when judges have to make difficult decisions. However, most of the work done in the civil courts, and especially in the business-related cour.... (read more...)
Tuesday September 30, 2008 at 6:48pm
The latest issue of the Cousins Business Law ezine with a feature article entitled 'Should you rely on a gentleman's agreement' is generating lots of interest. It is amazing how many business owners and managers fall foul of the fact they didn't have the details of a commercial deal in writing.
The example we talked about in the ezine (of a multi-million pound property deal that went ahead based on a verbal agreement) may seem extreme, but you'd be surprised how often this happ.... (read more...)
Monday September 22, 2008 at 11:56am
The latest ICAEW UK Business Confidence Monitor for the West Midlands reinforces many of the messages that we read daily in the national press and confirms the commentators' predictions for the impact of the credit crunch on the ‘real economy’. What started as a Financial Service sector problem has now started to impact all sectors in the ecomony.
Business confidence is in decline – showing a decline for the fifth consecutive quarter to reach a new record low.
Th.... (read more...)
Monday September 15, 2008 at 6:08pm
It now seems accepted that Sharia Courts are legal alternatives to the traditional court system in the UK – as long as all parties agree. The UK courts have for a long time now been promoting ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’ – whereby parties to a legal dispute are encouraged to settle their disputes out of court. Often this is achieved by negotiation, sometimes by Mediation (whereby an independent 3rd party tries to broker a settlement between the parties) and more rarel.... (read more...)
Tuesday September 9, 2008 at 8:51am
The Government has published further details of the measures announced last week to support the housing market.
Let's take each of those proposals in turn: Home Buy Direct - the Government's scheme to help first time buyers. That 30% loan is interest free for 5 years but from year six, a 3 per cent charge will be levied. From year ten onwards, the Bank of England Base Rate will be charged, increasing by RPI plus 0.5 per cent each year. That's a real sting in the tail. Notice even the Government.... (read more...)
Tuesday September 2, 2008 at 12:25pm
The Government has recently announced that the UK will be opting in to the Rome I Regulation. This Regulation aims to clarify whose laws are applicable when a dispute arises concerning a contract between people or businesses based in different EU countries. The Regulation is due to come into force in December 2009. A similar Regulation, known as Rome II, applies to non-contractual disputes and comes into force in January 2009. The Regulations aim to give parties to a contract the freedom to deci.... (read more...)
Monday August 18, 2008 at 4:19pm
It's been pretty commonplace over the last ten years for people to sell off part of their back garden to a property developer. With the construction of new homes effectively mothballed at the moment, you might be forgiven for thinking that you've missed the boat if you are keen to sell off some surplus garden land. The good news is that developers specialising in certain types of property are still in the market for land and one such area is bungalows. This market is holding up rather better tha.... (read more...)
Tuesday August 5, 2008 at 4:33pm
As if there weren't enough issues to worry about when you're buying a business, a recently decided case has given business purchasers another headache. The case was Sodexho Ltd v Gutridge and others. The decision in this case was that where an employer fails to give equal pay then a contractual liability exists in respect of those employees to whom the failure relates, even before any action has been taken to determine the existence of the pay inequality. The ramifications for anyone buying a bu.... (read more...)
Wednesday July 23, 2008 at 4:44pm
When it's a cat. Confused? So were the people who thought they were buying a piglet only to find that when they opened the bag (or poke) that there was a cat inside. This gave rise to the well known phrase 'buy a pig in a poke' meaning to purchase something without examining it first. It's also thought to be the origin of the phrase 'to let the cat out of the bag' meaning to reveal the secret. Purchasing a business can be like buying a pig in a poke. Very often all you know about the business is.... (read more...)
Thursday July 10, 2008 at 4:52pm
The Government's definition of a zero carbon home is contained in the snappily titled The Stamp Duty Land Tax (Zero-Carbon Homes Relief) Regulations 2007. This is not merely of academic interest. The first purchaser of a zero-carbon home will pay no Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) on the purchase if the price is £500,000 or less and will have their SDLT bill reduced by £15,000 if the house costs more than £500,000. The house must satisfy three tests: 1. The Heat Loss Parameter of th.... (read more...)
Thursday July 3, 2008 at 4:57pm
Many of us love living in a 'character' property but with energy costs rising exponentially, many of us could be paying a heavy price for the privilege. The problem with many older properties is twofold: they tend to be very poorly insulated and the method of heating them can be very inefficient. The extreme example would be heating an old farmhouse with an oil-fired Aga but even the traditional gas-fired boiler is desperately inefficient compared to some of the alternatives now on the market. T.... (read more...)