Tread carefully in financial investigations, says lawyer

By Rachel Adamson of Adkirk Law

Financial advisers and organisations involved in the finance industry across the region who may be under investigation by the financial regulators for no apparent reason are being warned to seek legal advice.

Rachel Adamson, head of fraud and regulatory at regional niche law firm Adkirk Law with more than 25 years’ experience in her field, is advising independent organisations and individuals to be careful when the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) start an investigation because of alleged breaches of the regulations.

She said: “The original alleged breach may not be serious at all, and in many cases may not represent an actual breach. It may be that one of the organisation’s processes may need amending slightly.

“The investigations can take time to resolve and distract individuals and companies from their core business. Taking good advice can be the difference between being able to carry on in business or being prosecuted and/or closed down in the most serious of cases.

“A current trend for the FCA is to investigate the unregulated market selling investments such as mini-bonds. The best way to describe this is an IOU written to the investor by the company for a fixed rate of interest over a fixed period of time.

“It is essential that those investment companies promoting deals like this only promote to the exempted categories of high net worth investors and those known as sophisticated investors. There are many unregulated companies raising money for property developers in this way and it is these companies who are the focus of attention for the FCA.

“It is absolutely essential that these unregulated companies do not give any financial advice as they would then be in breach of the regulations and open to enforcement action.”

Over the last year, the FCA has undertaken an extensive programme including investigating more than 80 cases of regulated activities potentially being carried out without having the right FCA authorisation and assessing over 200 cases of financial promotions that appeared not to have complied with the FCA rules.
Rachel Adamson has defended a number of cases recently brought by the FCA as well as defended cases brought by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the Serious Fraud Office, HM Revenue and Customs and Trading Standards.

Adkirk Law is a leading UK Law firm offering a niche practice with expertise in serious fraud, regulation and police misconduct, acting for many high-ranking police officers accused of wrong-doing.

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Don’t lose personal touch, says leading law firm

By Linda Kirk, director of conveyancing, Adkirk Law

Housebuyers still want the personal touch despite the move to remote digital property deals, says North West conveyancing leaders Adkirk Law.

Linda Kirk, director of conveyancing at the regional law firm, said: “The market in the region and further afield is busy with some deals still being completed from pre-lockdown and pent-up demand, but the big message from clients is to keep it personal.

“Most purchases are largely handled remotely and efficiently, especially coming through the pandemic, making sure progress is made despite the restrictions.

“Today’s technology provides a platform which allows our clients to manage key documents and verification of identity via a secure portal in the comfort of their own homes. This has been instrumental in our conveyancing process during restrictions.

“We have remained open throughout due to our technology and flexibility for remote working to service our clients and that’s how we will continue to operate. Our clients tell us how they appreciate the communication to make the experience personal.”

Linda said going forward clients appreciate feedback, mobile phone discussions and an ongoing explanation of what is happening to clarify the process during uncertain times.

Those selling a property since mid-May have good reason for refusing to be bartered down – house sales agreed have been up to 54 per cent higher and six per cent up on the same time last year in a recent report by TwentyCI.

Towns in Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West dominated a list of the top 10 most in-demand areas compiled by Rightmove, with Wigan, Rochdale, Wilmslow and Scarborough in the top five.

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New-builds ‘leading regional housing market comeback’

By Linda Kirk, director of conveyancing, Adkirk Law

The new-build housing market is helping to lead the property sector back to pre-lockdown levels of activity across the region, according to conveyancing specialist Adkirk Law.

Linda Kirk, director of conveyancing at regional law firm Adkirk Law, said: “New build properties offer a 75 per cent loan to value mortgage for those buying on the Help to Buy scheme and those mortgages have still been available even when the lenders changed their criteria in lockdown. We’ve seen plenty of activity in this part of the market.

“We need to see whether this is sustainable through this next period and beyond for the longer term but there is certainly a feeling of confidence currently.”

Linda added: “First-time buyers may still be facing the barriers of access to finance and the flexibility of mortgages available but lenders should see the benefits of being more flexible in these circumstances.

“We need to see a stable market through this time for all concerned and the lenders can help ease the situation for many prospective buyers, particularly younger people, through the coronavirus crisis and beyond.”

Help to Buy is the government scheme designed to help people purchase a new property with just five per cent deposit by way of an equity loan from the government of up to 20 per cent. The aim of this scheme is to increase the supply of new homes in addition to the number of lower deposit mortgages.

For first time buyers, the 75 per cent mortgage for a new build property is an easier route to the housing market, while lenders are reluctant to release standard 95 per cent mortgages.

The property portal Zoopla has reported a surge in the number of people making active enquiries, with demand exceeding lockdown levels, while housebuilders including Taylor Wimpey have said they are seeing ‘more sustained demand.’

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Pursue your home dream, say experts

By Linda Kirk, director of conveyancing, Adkirk Law

The housing market across the region is getting back to business as deals are concluded and new offers are being made, according to conveyancing specialist Adkirk Law.

The reopening of the housing market by the government has brought swift activity as buyers continue the deals they left before the lockdown.

Linda Kirk, director of conveyancing at Adkirk Law, said: “We’re now seeing a return to business as normal with buyers happy to conduct viewings within the government guidance and social distancing.

“Where a property is vacant there is no issue and certainly where properties may be occupied it only means the vendor either leaving the property for an hour or distancing as they would in normal circumstances.

“There’s no reason why the sale process can’t pick up for all parties as long as people are sensible but it must be within the guidance and with the safety of everyone in mind at all times.

“Virtual viewings are fine as a way of a first view but don’t replace the feel of a personal viewing and being able to see a property in the wider context of its surroundings.”

Linda added: “There may be more barriers for first time buyers depending on access to finance and the flexibility of mortgage lenders but we hope lenders will see the benefits of being more flexible in these circumstances.”

Both purchase and sales instructions fell in April, according to research from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, indicating an element of pent-up demand in the market that could provide a boost to transactions in the coming months.

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Five steps to choosing a conveyancing firm

By Linda Kirk, director of conveyancing, Adkirk Law

You’ve found your dream house and had an offer accepted. The only obstacles standing between you and your new home are the legal formalities.

For many people, choosing the correct conveyancing lawyer is a difficult decision. The legal process can be complicated but also very personal – as you entrust such an important procedure to somebody you might not have met before. With thousands of conveyancing firms across the country, it can be difficult to know where to start in choosing the correct one.

Solicitor or licensed conveyancer?

Not all conveyancers are solicitors, and vice-versa. Licensed conveyancers are regulated property lawyers, who focus on just residential property, whereas solicitors specialise in a wider variety of legal services as well as property transactions. Be sure to check with any firm which they are. All lawyers are regulated and it is important that you check they are registered with their regulator. Solicitors are registered with The Law Society and Licensed Conveyancers with the Council of Licensed Conveyancers otherwise known as the CLC. Both regulators have the ability for you to check out their regulated firms on their websites. Solicitors can be a wise choice for a more complex transaction, when boundaries may be disputed or if other specialist advice is required outside the conveyancing process.

Whether you choose a solicitor or conveyancer the process is the same, however fees can vary from firm to firm. It is important to check that the quote provided covers all the work that has to be carried out. Often accurate information is not present at the time a quote is requested and this can result in not all fees being quoted initially. When requesting the quote ensure you provide as much information as possible about your matter. Firms do have an obligation to be transparent with their fees and if additional work is required you should be notified of the additional fee as soon as this becomes apparent and before the additional work is carried out so there should be no surprises at the end of the matter.

Be wary of recommendations

When your offer on a house is accepted be careful to ensure you choose the right firm for you and ensure the firm you choose can offer the service you require. The cheapest is not always the best and remember that buying a house is the most expensive asset you will purchase so it is important you make the right choice.

Buying or selling a property can be very stressful, especially when you have set your heart on your dream home, so it is important that your solicitor or conveyancer is able to provide the level of service you require together with the relevant support and guidance throughout the transaction.

Many conveyancers are registered on different mortgage lender’s panels so they can act for the mortgage lender as well as you as the buyer. Check with your conveyancer at the outset whether they are on your mortgage lender’s panel or not, as firms which aren’t on the panel could result in you paying an extra fee of up to £300. You may also find you have to change solicitor part way through the transaction. This can cause a delay.

Check the fees

Conveyancers can charge fees in a variety of formats, including hourly rates, fixed fees or a percentage of the property price. Fixed fees are generally charged for the sale and purchase of properties and it is the safest approach, as you should not receive any surprise additions to the bill at the end of the process. The type of transaction can involve different layers of complexity and can result in additional fees being charged, so it is important to be upfront with your solicitor at the start of the process. Your quotation should clearly state all disbursements such as land registry fees, searches and stamp duty.

For many firms, you can find out an initial fee using a conveyancing calculator, which will give you some estimated costs to work from.

Reduce the stress with good communication

Buying a house is such a personal process, it’s important to have a lawyer you can trust. Regular communication with your lawyer can reassure you that the transaction is going smoothly and give you peace of mind that the move is going to plan.

Particularly for a first time buyer, a good lawyer should aim to reduce any unnecessary stress by maintaining a good line of communication and guiding you as the process unfolds – with some even offering a service to track your case online. Speak to family members or friends who have recently gone through the house moving process for recommendations on who has given them a good service.

Local knowledge can be key

While conveyancing can be done remotely through phone calls, emails and letters, understanding the local environment can still be important. The laws around conveyancing in England and Wales differ from Scotland and Northern Ireland, and as such you need a firm who complies with the country-specific legislation.

Similarly, local lawyers can offer an insight into the area, and have experience working with the opposite lawyer before. They typically will also have worked with the local estate agent and developers before and can know the inside track on getting your transaction through quickly and smoothly.

Make the correct choice

When it comes to choosing a solicitor or licensed conveyancer, you want to make sure you are making the right decision. It is worth putting the time in to research as well as speaking to a few firms to make sure you are doing the right thing.

To find out more about choosing the correct conveyancing solicitor, or get a conveyancing quote, visit Adkirk Law, an experienced firm specialising in sale and purchase conveyancing in the North West and throughout England and Wales.

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