Saving to buy your first property can be daunting because first-time buyers must typically save for 8 years to afford a deposit to buy a home. According to the Nationwide Building Society the average deposit is close to £20,000 and £80,000 in London. The £80,000-plus cost in London is about £30,000 higher than a decade ago.

Saving for a deposit can seem like a never-ending journey. Having a clear and realistic plan can make it feel much more achievable. Here are some ideas:

  • Reduce the amount you spend on rent

Increasing numbers of people saving for their first home are choosing to move back in with their parents. Assuming this move will mean you pay below-market rent (or even none if you’re very lucky) and spend less on bills and food, you could save hundreds every month and reach your deposit goal much faster.

  • Cut non-essential spending

Trimming down on potentially large expenses related to leisure – for example, holidays and socialising – can help you to save money for a deposit.

  • Cancel subscriptions

Having a subscription means having to make regular payments for something, even when you may not need it. Look into alternatives to regular payments you make. For example, you may find it cheaper to run in the park than pay for gym membership.

  • Saving into a Help to Buy ISA

If you deposit your savings into an ISA, they’ll remain tax-free and, if you save into a Help to Buy ISA you could also get a government bonus of up to 25% on your savings when you buy your first property. Help to Buy is a government scheme first announced in the March 2013 Budget. It is designed to help anyone struggling to save a deposit for their first home. You must be over 18 to qualify for Help to Buy, and it must be used to buy your own home on a repayment basis (not interest only). Further information on the scheme can be found in our dedicated Help to Buy blog post.

  • Help from family

If your parents are willing and able, borrowing some money to help with a deposit could help you buy your own home sooner than you would otherwise be able to.

  • A joint mortgage

A joint mortgage is in the names of two or more people. You may also want to consider buying a home together with friends or family, in order to split the costs. Further information and advice when buying with a friend or partner, read our dedicated blog post.

  • Find a guarantor

If borrowing from your parents isn’t possible, there are several mortgages on the market that allow parents (or anyone else willing) to help you buy a property without having to stump up a cash lump sum. Being a guarantor usually involves using the guarantor’s home as security for your mortgage or placing a large amount of savings in an account associated with your mortgage for a set period of time.

  • Purchase part of a property

If finding money for a deposit is holding you back from buying a property you may find a shared ownership home is a more affordable alternative. Shared ownership and shared equity schemes involve purchasing part of a property and renting the rest, and although you would not own 100% of your home right away, you will have a foot on the property ladder. You will still need a deposit to get a mortgage for a part-buy property, but you would only need to borrow 25%, 50% or 75% of the property value.

If you would like to discuss purchasing as a first-time buyer in further detail, please contact our specialist conveyancing departments today in Walsall, Great Barr Birmingham, London and Shoreham-by-Sea or alternatively email info@lplawfirm.com.

In November 2017, councillors in Brighton and Hove City Council agreed unanimously to back a new scheme designed to regulate and improve property conditions in the private rental sector across Brighton and Hove. The Selective Licensing Scheme proposed that landlords pay for a licence to lawfully rent out their property. Landlords operating in Brunswick and Adelaide, Central Hove, East Brighton, Hanover and Elm Grove, Hollingdean and Stanmer, Queens Park, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, Preston Park, Regency, South Portslade, St Peters and North Laine and Westbourne, would have to pass a ‘fit and proper’ test before being granted a licence.

City councillor Tracey Hill, who worked on the Selective Licensing Scheme, which is expected to affect about 27,000 properties, said: “It’s great that our application to introduce this scheme has been successful. This will allow us to raise standards in more privately rented homes in the city and help us make sure that tenants in the sector can live in safe, healthy and well-managed homes.”

The council doesn’t hold much information on private rented properties. Budget cuts over several years have hit many council services hard including the council’s private sector housing service, making it almost impossible for the council to be proactive about improving property conditions in private rented homes. Many private tenants do not contact the council to raise issues regarding property conditions as they feel vulnerable, and often Brighton and Hove City Council are not informed about unacceptable conditions until after the person has moved out, which makes it very difficult to act. The new scheme was designed to combat such issues.

If approved, landlords or their agents will need to apply to the council for a licence and adhere to the conditions, which include gas and fire safety, repairs, no overcrowding and a written tenancy agreement. A 3-year license will cost a landlord £460, while those accredited by the National Landlords Association (NLA) will be charged the reduced rate of £410.

The Selective Licencing Scheme was due to come into force on the 4th February 2019, but the scheme faced opposition as it included rules surrounding anti-social behaviour, meaning landlords had to ‘react’ to anti-social behaviour if it affected their property, and covered such a large geographic area.

A South-East landlord association called iHowz have been in dispute with Brighton and Hove City Council.  Since iHowz has disputed the scheme, the Secretary of State for Housing has withdrawn support. This leaves Brighton and Hove City Council in the position to either abandon Selective Licensing altogether, appeal the reversal or to start the process again, possibly with a smaller geographical area not requiring the Secretary of State for Housing’s permission.

A statement released by iHowz said: –

‘We took this action because we felt the decision to license some 27,000 rental properties was unlawful, unnecessary and not justified by the evidence provided, and would almost certainly lead to rent increases for many private sector tenants in Brighton. Licensing was brought in 2006 to allow local Councils to control a small area of rental properties being poorly managed bringing that area into disrepute. We support licensing when used for that purpose. We cannot and have never supported the carte blanche licensing of large areas. We have previously offered to work with the Council to help improve rental conditions for private sector tenants in the City; improve property conditions in a cost-effective manner where required; and most importantly identify the possibility of criminal landlords, and we repeat that offer. Furthermore, we urge the Council to work with us to extend our existing programme of landlord training in the City to improve landlord knowledge so they can give the best and most efficient service to their tenants.’

The future of the Selective Licencing Scheme proposed by the council is uncertain. Brighton and Hove City Council is seeking clarification from the government regarding the removal of permission.

Are you a landlord in the Sussex area? Or perhaps a lettings agent? We would love to hear your point of view on this. Comment on our Facebook and have your say.

If you are a landlord needing advise or are looking to purchase a property to rent out, please contact our team at our Shoreham office.

The homebuying process currently takes on average 19 weeks but can vary depending on many circumstances. During conveyancing transactions, the buyer’s conveyancing solicitor will require documents/information about the property, such as copies of planning consents, electrical safety certificates, warranties or guarantees. If the seller does not hold certain documentation, delays are likely whilst the relevant documents and information are sourced.

In an effort to make the home buying process quicker, cheaper and less stressful The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has pledged to fix what is considered to be a broken housing market.

The government are likely to push sellers to provide more up-front information in the form of a Property Logbook before the property goes on the market. The Conveyancing Association (CA) and Law Society believes digital Property Logbooks could be an efficient way to speed up and ease home buying and the Ministry’s Matt Prior believes it is not unreasonable to expect a seller to provide upfront information to a prospective buyer especially in the case of purchasing a leasehold property.

By providing information upfront in the form of an information pack that describes the property at that moment, people can make more informed decisions, hopefully reducing the number of failed transactions which add up to more than £270 million a year. The plan is to authenticate the data in the Property Logbook and store it digitally so that the information is readily available for the next time the property is on the market.

Earlier on this year, the government discussed whether it should be supporting plans to develop digitalising aspects of conveyancing to speed up the process. Although consultation respondents said ‘yes’, many were concerned about fraud. There are large sums of money changing hands in the conveyancing sector making this an area of law heavily attacked by fraudsters. Any new procedures introduced would, of course, have to be analysed to ensure they pose no threat to the security of a transaction.

The information to be included in the proposed Property Logbooks is yet to be confirmed but it has been reported that information such as search data, title, rights, reservations, restrictions, basic survey information, the seller’s data and leasehold details will be included.

If you are thinking of selling, re-mortgaging or buying a property, contact our specialist conveyancing departments today in Walsall, Great Barr Birmingham, London and Shoreham-by-Sea.

 

Last month, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced plans to correct an anomaly from his previous Budget by cutting Stamp Duty for first-time buyers of shared ownership properties worth up to £500,000. It was also announced by the Chancellor that the relief will be applied retrospectively from his previous Budget (November 2017) to shared ownership properties bought in England and Northern Ireland.

Shared ownership schemes are a cross between buying and renting; aimed mainly at first-time buyers. Shared ownership schemes are aimed at people who don’t earn enough to buy a home outright, allowing a buyer to purchase between a quarter and three-quarters of a property.

In the 2017 budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond raised the 0% Stamp Duty threshold to £300,000 from £125,000 in order to help first-time buyers. To qualify for the Stamp Duty exemption given in the 2017 budget to first-time buyers of homes priced up to £300,000, buyers of a shared ownership property had to elect to be taxed on the full market value of the home (up to £500,000) rather than just on the share they were buying. If the full market value of the shared-ownership property was more than £500,000, the buyer would not have been eligible for any Stamp Duty relief at all. Alternatively, buyers could elect to use their first-time buyer exemption on the first share of the property they bought but would have had to pay full rate Stamp Duty on all further shares bought, regardless if the sum of all payments was less than £300,000.

The update to the 2018 budget for first-time buyers purchasing shared ownership homes is a welcomed move and is even better news that this change has been backdated to November 2017.

For further information and advice, please contact us to speak to a member of our property team.

Unfortunately, sometimes when a marriage breaks down things can get complicated. Divorce itself can be a painful process as not only are emotions high, but the legal proceedings can sometimes seem endless. The decision to separate is never easy and is life changing, but with the correct advice and support throughout, the process can be less daunting.

Once the decision has been made to divorce proceedings can be commenced at any time provided that you have been married for over one year and that one partner is domiciled or habitually resident in England and Wales.

Divorce Grounds

The only ground for divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and to establish this one of the following five facts must be relied upon:

  1. Your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to continue living together; or
  2. Your spouse has behaved in such a way that it would be unreasonable to expect you to continue living together; or
  3. Your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of two years or more; or
  4. You and your spouse have been living separately for two years or more and your spouse agrees to the divorce; or
  5. You and your spouse have been living separately for five years or more.

Divorce Process

The spouse issuing the divorce proceedings is called the Petitioner whilst the spouse to receive the Divorce Petition is called the Respondent. The Petitioner must submit a Divorce Petition to the Court with the original marriage certificate and a court fee which is currently £550.00. If there are children of the marriage, then the Petitioner must also submit a Statement of Arrangements about the children to the Court with the Petition.

The Court will then issue a Notice of Proceedings to the Respondent and request that they complete and Return an Acknowledgment of Service within 7 days confirming whether they wish to defend the Petition. If a Respondent does intend to defend the Petition, they must file a defence called an Answer within 28 days of receipt of the Petition.

If the Respondent does not intend to defend the Petition, the Petitioner then files a statement in support of the Petition and applies to the Court for the Decree Nisi. A Judge will consider the papers submitted and if satisfied that the ground for divorce is made, they will certify that the Petitioner is entitled to a divorce and will fix a date on which the Decree Nisi will be pronounced. Neither party needs to attend Court for this pronouncement.

Once the Decree Nisi has been granted, the Petitioner may apply for the Decree Absolute after six weeks and one day has passed. If the Petitioner does not apply for the Decree Absolute, then the Respondent may do so three months later. The Decree Nisi is then made Absolute and the marriage is dissolved.

If you find yourself in need of advice our Family Department has the resources to help you no matter what the issue arising as a consequence of the breakdown of your relationship.