Could the heartache of gazumping finally be about to end?

Imagine the scenario, you have found the home of your dreams, and in your mind’s eye, you have the colour scheme mapped out, you start shopping for furniture and you’re on cloud 9.

Then out of the blue, you get a phone call to say the sale is off as the seller has found someone else prepared to offer more.

Its gut wrenching, and all too common. An estimated third of all property sales fall through, resulting in hundreds of millions of pounds a year being wasted and putting people through the emotional cement mixer.

Whenever we at Keelys talk about house buying as experts in conveyancing in Lichfield and surrounding areas, we generally find ourselves telling our readers that buying property is one of the most stressful situations a person can find themselves in. We also say how it is the biggest financial commitment that most people are likely to undertake, hence the reason for ensuring it is legally sound.

However, now is a good time to focus on gazumping, where a previously accepted offer is rejected due to someone offering more money.

We won’t get involved in the ethics of this, but like many who work in the property market, we have found it frustrating that buyers are left so vulnerable to such happenings.

However, there has been talk in the national press of a new scheme that would require a homebuyer or seller who pulls out of a transaction, without a strong reason, to pay compensation and it may be trialled by the government in the next few months.

The new type of agreement, announced before the election was called, would lock people legally into the process earlier and make it tougher to move the goalposts because of a change of heart or accepting a higher offer.

The proposed agreement would involve one or both parties putting down cash at the outset.

Called a reservation agreement the government has been mulling it over for a while, but is now moving closer to it becoming a reality.

Currently, this type of agreement is used by a small number of estate agents, whilst those buying new builds are often asked to put down a reservation fee.

We do not as yet know what acceptable reasons for pulling out are, but we can only guess at perhaps a job loss or bereavement seem to be reasonable excuses.

However, as yet the information on this initiative is still quite sketchy.

Following government research a trial could happen as early as the first quarter of next year, but of course, much depends on what happens in the General Election, as it is a Conservative initiative.

It does seem, however, to be a sensible step forward, which can only help give peace of mind at a stressful time.

We shall look at the developments closely.

If you wish to talk to us about property transactions, please contact our residential conveyancing team today for an informal chat.

Don’t stress about stress – 21 November 2019

In conjunction with Strategi Solutions, we are running an event full of practical advice on dealing with stress and other mental health issues in the workplace.

The seminar is on Thursday 21 November at our offices in Lichfield.

It will start at 11 and the presentations will be followed by lunch and networking.

To book your place, please click here:

Hospice UK HR Conference 2019

Tom Parkes from Keelys’ employment team gave an employment law update earlier this month at the Hospice UK HR Conference. It was great day and very well attended by hospices from up and down the country. If you are interested in receiving employment law training or subscribing to Keelys’ employment health check plan, please get in touch with Tom ( or 01543 420029).

Are separation agreements a divorce alternative?

When marriages end, the general view is that it leads to divorce, but one subject connected to this, which barely gets mentioned is separation agreements.

Some may see it as a sensible financial alternative to divorce, and it is worthy of mention as they give a framework for important matters, such as maintenance payments for children and other issues including property and other marital assets.

As family law experts in Lichfield, it is worth mentioning that you may not need to take legal advice when you write one, but, as we will explain, it is sensible to speak to a solicitor.

For instance, you’re entering into what could be a potentially legally-binding agreement, so you need to know whether there are any mitigating factors why you should refuse to sign a separation agreement.

Also, having one is more likely to be legally binding if you and your ex-partner have shown that you have provided full financial disclosure, and both parties have been seen to have taken independent legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

It is especially sensible to take legal advice if your break-up is causing underlying issues, for example, if one party is financially much better off or one believes they are under duress to sign an agreement.

Separation agreements can be applied fast and as they are very flexible, so this gives them additional benefits.  They can be very detailed including issues which the court does not have the power to order, such as repairs on property.

It is worth adding also that the downside is that either partner can request from the court further arrangements at a future date, also they are not to be seen as the final step to ending a marriage. They are instead considered an interim step for couples who no longer live together, but have not commenced divorce proceedings, for their own personal reasons.

So, to make it clear, separation agreements aren’t technically legally enforceable, but remember they do carry weight and so long as you have shown that you have taken independent legal advice, it could be tough to say in court that you should not have to stick to the details agreed in it.

If you wish to know more about separation agreements, or any other family law issues, we at Keelys are happy to help, contact us today.

Who is the unexpected major player in the mortgage market?

If you were to list the biggest mortgage lenders in the UK, there’s a fair chance most of us would be able to guess the big names.

However, just outside the top 10 is a lender, who not everyone can access – it’s the Bank of Mum and Dad, which is now thought to be the 11th largest mortgage lender in the country.

Putting its position into context, it’s more of a player than the Help to Buy schemes in aiding younger buyers to step on to the property ladder.

Parents will lend almost £7 billion to potential homeowners this year, which is a 10% increase on 2018, according to Legal & General’s ‘Bank of Mum and Dad 2019’ report.

In 2018, 316,600 properties were bought using family deposits but this has fallen to 259,400 in 2019 as many wait to see what Brexit will do before committing.

The report showed friends are set to lend their loved ones £6,000 more in 2019 than they did a year earlier with £24,100 being loaned to their younger relatives in total.

This helping hand is £6.26 billion worth of lending, which will fund home purchases worth £68.51 billion.

Interestingly, it would seem that all age demographics are becoming dependent on their relatives for handouts when making financial commitments like home ownership. Over a fifth (22%) of people aged between 45 and 54 years old have asked their ageing relatives for help .

Worryingly, parents are having to stretch themselves beyond their means to help their offspring. As a result, over a quarter (26%) of this lending group are not confident they have enough to live on in their retirement.

It is safe to say the need for family help will continue to grow regardless of Brexit and it’s repercussions, with property so much more unaffordable compared to a generation ago.If you are moving home and need help, please contact our highly respected conveyancing team, in Lichfield who will assist in making a stressful time as smooth as possible.

Lichfield 10K 2019

Keelys running team was out in force at the recent Lichfield 10K with newbie to the team Paul beating rival in the Employment department Tom on his debut run.

Current divorce rates hide truth of modern family life

Here in the UK, the divorce rate has hit a low not seen since the early 1970s, but this is a classic case of where statistics give a somewhat skewed view of the subject.

Scratching beneath the surface, it appears this means that marriages are surviving, but the truth of the matter is that this is not the case at all.

There were 8.4 divorces of opposite-sex couples per 1,000 married men and women in 2017, which is a six per cent decrease from the previous year, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, these new figures are simply down to the diminishing popularity of marriage as an option for many couples.

For instance cohabitation, living together without marriage, has grown hugely in popularity in the past generation.

Further analysis shows the divorce rates between same-sex couples have surged, increasing more than threefold in a year, from 112 to 228.

Of course, same sex marriage have only recently been allowed in the UK shedding more light on the issue.

Among heterosexual couples, the divorce rate was highest among men between 45 and 49 years of age, and women between 40 and 44 years. The average duration of marriage at the time of divorce is 12 years for opposite-sex couples.

Divorce stats can uncover all manner of talking points including the fact that they began to rise in the 1960s and, more than three decades later, hit a peak in 1993.

Now though, a generation later, society has changed greatly, where marriage is not seen as the norm that it once was.

It is fair to say we have a more complex society with family structures being somewhat different to the 1960s, 1970s etc.

Of course, divorce is still a topic of interest to those choosing to marry. But it is part of a bigger issue of legal protection in relationships whether married or not.

We, as family law experts, have seen many come to us about legal protection in the form of cohabitation agreements and prenuptial agreements. Many, although it is an uncomfortable subject, see the sense in such action.

This approach has to be told frequently to the public and trusted family law experts like ourselves need to keep reinforcing this.

If you need any advice about the points raised in this blog or any other family law matter our family law team are here to help.

Employment Team Expands

We are delighted to announce that Emma Spandrzyk has joined our employment law team. Emma is an experienced employment solicitor and joins us from the police, where she was working as an in-house employment lawyer. Emma will help service our growing client base of over 290 clients who subscribe to our Employment Healthcheck Plan. Please contact us if you would like a quote for that service.

Budgeting for Business & Pleasure plus HR Roundtable

On 9th October 2019 we are hosting this event for the Blackcountry CIPD. It will equip delegates with the tools they need to budget at work, and at home. It will include lunch and also an HR Roundtable session, giving delegates the chance to discuss issues with colleagues from other organisations. The event is free, whether or not you are a CIPD member. For more details and to book, click here:

Covert Recordings by Employees

With the necessary technology available at the push of a button on a smartphone, it is common to discover that employees have covertly recorded meetings with their employer. What can employers do about this? The recent Employment Appeal Tribunal case of Phoenix House Limited v. Stockman provided some helpful guidance on the issue.

It is important to make clear that a recording of an investigatory meeting or disciplinary hearing will almost always have to be disclosed to the other side and included in the hearing bundle for tribunal proceedings, regardless of how that recording was obtained. Put simply, if a recording like that exists, it will be a highly relevant piece of evidence and a tribunal will want to hear it. That can have advantages for both sides. It may help an employee show that the employer has not accurately noted in its minutes all the key points of a disciplinary hearing, which could render a subsequent dismissal unfair. On the other hand, it may help the employer to show that it has not hidden anything in its own written record of meetings.

However, in Phoenix House the EAT clarified that to covertly record a meeting will generally amount to misconduct on the part of the employee. The key relevance of this is that, in circumstances where there has been a finding of unfair dismissal, a tribunal should then assess the likelihood that the employee would have been dismissed had the employer known of that misconduct and can reduce the award for unfair dismissal accordingly. A reduction in an award won’t always result. For example, a tribunal might fairly conclude that an employee had no choice but to record the meeting simply to ensure that an accurate record was kept and to avoid the employee being misrepresented by the employer. However, if the recording is made for the purposes of entrapping the employer or to gain a dishonest advantage, that could result in a substantial reduction in any award.

Our advice, in the light of this case, is:

1. to make clear, at the beginning of any meeting, that the employee is not permitted to record the meeting (and that it is a disciplinary offence to do so);  and
2. to revisit your disciplinary procedures and include in the list of gross misconduct offences the offence of “recording a meeting or conversation without the employer’s prior consent”.

Not only will that act as a good deterrent to employees adopting this practice in the first place, it will potentially help you avoid a substantial tribunal award.

Subscribers to our employment health check can get unlimited advice from us on day to day employment law matters from just £85 plus VAT per month. If you are an existing subscriber to our employment health check plan and you wish to discuss this in more detail, please feel free to contact one of our employment team: Paul Roberts, Tom Parkes or Ravinder Sandhu. If you do not yet subscribe to that service please don’t hesitate to contact the team for a quote.