Author Archive Michael Morrison

ByMichael Morrison

Highest Ever Conviction Rate For Domestic Violence Announced

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, is expected to announce that the conviction rate for domestic violence prosecutions has reached its highest ever level.

Figures due to be released will reveal that 74.6% of those prosecuted for domestic violence were convicted in 2013-4. This is 58,276 defendants. Domestic violence now makes up more than ten per cent of Crown Prosecution Service‘s total casework.

Prosecutions for offences of violence against women and girls overall also showed the highest ever conviction rate at 74.4%, and an 11% increase in the volume of defendants charged since 2012-13. Over 8,000 more cases than last year were brought to court, with over 6,500 more convictions.

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said:

‘The conviction rate for domestic violence is higher than ever before. Three quarters of people who are prosecuted for domestic violence offences are now convicted. What’s more, nine in ten of the domestic violence convictions arise from guilty pleas meaning that the vast majority of victims are spared having to give evidence in court. I hope victims of these terrible offences will take some confidence from this, and that perpetrators will take note.

I am incredibly proud of what the CPS has achieved in recent years in tackling violence against women and girls. Taken as a whole, referrals from police are up, prosecutions are up, and convictions are up. This is in no small part due to the leadership shown by dedicated specialist coordinators in every CPS area and the determination of our prosecutors and case workers to see justice done for victims of crime. The work of external experts from organisations such as Women’s Aid and rape crisis centres has been invaluable locally and nationally to inform our policies and practice. We remain committed to building on our achievements further and continuing to address areas for improvement.’

The Solicitor General, Oliver Heald QC MP said:

‘Violence against women and girls is not acceptable, and those that commit violence need to know that they are not going to get away with it. Getting that message across is one of our key priorities and the criminal justice system has a key role to play acting as a deterrent to would-be offenders, and punishing those who do commit these crimes.

I’m pleased to see the vast improvement the CPS has made in handling their prosecutions for these sorts of crimes, and that we have the highest ever conviction rate in Domestic Violence cases. There is still more to do, but this is good news and shows what can be done when the whole criminal justice system works together to make improvements.’

Original reporting by Jordans – Family Law 2/7/14

To be recommended to strong family solicitors in London call us at Which Solicitor? – The Solicitors Information Service on 020 7483 4833.

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ByMichael Morrison

Do you HAVE to Pay Residential Service Charges to your Landlord?

All residential flat owners on long leases are faced with the usually bi-annual hurdle of paying service charges to their landlord but are they actually payable?

Leases contain clauses that permit the landlord to recover service charges in this manner on production of accounts certified by an accountant. However these accounts are prepared generally on an accruals basis and are of very little use to the tenant if they really wish to know when they are paying for an item, what they have paid and exactly how much was paid.

Existing legislation however permits the flat owner to force the landlord to produce a summary of costs incurred which also has to be certified by an accountant. This is enshrined in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, section 21. Failure of the landlord to produce such a detailed summary of costs to a private tenant is a criminal offence and can be prosecuted through the magistrates courts by the local housing authority. In practice, though, this is not enforced by many local authorities.

So how does this ‘reveal all’ mechanism work?

Firstly the tenant has to request such a summary of costs in writing either directly to the landlord or to the managing agent. The request can also be made on the tenant’s behalf by the secretary of the tenant’s association if desired. The summary has be to supplied to the tenant either one month after the request or within six months from the date of the end of the usual annual accounting period.

The summary must set out the costs in a way showing how they have been or will be reflected in demands for services charges and, in addition, shall summarise each of the following items, namely:
(a) any of the costs in respect of which no demand for payment was received by the landlord within the period
(b) any of the costs in respect of which:
(i) a demand for payment was so received, but
(ii) no payment was made by the landlord within that period, and
(a) any of the costs in respect of which:
(i) a demand for payment was so received, and
(ii) payment was made by the landlord within that period,
and specify the aggregate of any amounts received by the landlord down to the end of that period on account of service charges in respect of relevant dwellings and still standing to the credit of the tenants of those dwellings at the end of that period.

 If the service charges are payable by the tenants of more than four dwellings, the summary shall be certified by a qualified accountant as:
(a) in his opinion a fair summary complying with the above requirements, and
(b) being sufficiently supported by accounts, receipts and other documents which have been produced to him.

Therefore a clear breakdown of the costs and when they were incurred and paid for has to be produced and certified by an accountant. This would make an inspection of the supporting accounts, receipts and other documents as provided by section 22 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985  a transparent exercise.

The actual text of the section is:-

21. Request for summary of relevant costs

(1) A tenant may require the landlord in writing to supply him with a written summary of the costs incurred;
(a) if the relevant accounts are made up for periods of twelve months, in the last such period ending not later than the date of the request, or
(b) if the accounts are not so made up, in the period of twelve months ending with the date of the request,
and which are relevant costs in relation to the service charges payable or demanded as payable in that or any other period.

(2) If the tenant is represented by a recognised tenants’ association and he consents, the request may be made by the secretary of the association instead of by the tenant and may then be for the supply of the summary to the secretary.

(3) A request is duly served on the landlord if it is served on;
(a) an agent of the landlord named as such in the rent book or similar document, or
(b) the person who receives the rent on behalf of the landlord;
and a person on whom a request is so served shall forward it as soon as may be to the landlord.

(4) The landlord shall comply with the request within one month of the request or within six months of the end of the period referred to in subsection (1)(a) or (b) whichever is the later.

(5) The summary shall state whether any of the costs relate to works in respect of which a grant has been or is to be paid under section 523 of the Housing Act 1985 (assistance for provision of separate service pipe for water supply) or any provision of Part I of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 (grants, etc for renewal of private sector housing) or any corresponding earlier enactment, and set out the costs in a way showing how they have been or will be reflected in demands for services charges and, in addition, shall summarise each of the following items, namely:
(a) any of the costs in respect of which no demand for payment was received by the landlord within the period referred to in subsection (1)(a) or (b).
(b) any of the costs in respect of which:
(i) a demand for payment was so received, but
(ii) no payment was made by the landlord within that period, and 
(a) any of the costs in respect of which:
(i) a demand for payment was so received, and 
(ii) payment was made by the landlord within that period, 
and specify the aggregate of any amounts received by the landlord down to the end of that period on account of service charges in respect of relevant dwellings and still standing to the credit of the tenants of those dwellings at the end of that period.

(5A) In subsection (5) “relevant dwelling” means a dwelling whose tenant is either:
(a) the person by or with the consent of whom the request was made, or 
(b) a person whose obligations under the terms of his lease as regards contributing to relevant costs relate to the same costs as the corresponding obligations of the person mentioned in paragraph (a) above relate to.

(5B) The summary shall state whether any of the costs relate to works which are included in the external works specified in a group repair scheme, within the meaning of Chapter II of Pt I of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 or any corresponding earlier enactment, in which the landlord participated or is participating as an assisted participant.

(6) If the service charges in relation to which the costs are relevant costs as mentioned in subsection (1) are payable by the tenants of more than four dwellings, the summary shall be certified by a qualified accountant as:
(a) in his opinion a fair summary complying with the requirements of subsection (5), and 
(b) being sufficiently supported by accounts, receipts and other documents which have been produced to him.

 

Many residential landlord companies in London produce certified accounts that bear an accountants certificate with the accountant declaring that the attached accounts comply with section 21 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 when the attached document is just a plain set of accounts produced in an accruals format with some misleading wording taken from the Act. Therefore the accountants ‘misdirect’ themselves.

If such accounts did in fact give all the required information as required by a summary of costs (and given your right to inspect all of the supporting documents  i.e. everything that the accountant saw) would the accountant actually be able to certify them at all?

 

For advice on leasehold issues including enfranchisement contact us at Which Solicitor? – The Solicitors Information Service on 020 7483 4833.

 

 

 

 

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ByMichael Morrison

How to Cut the Cost of Moving – Cut Fees Not Corners

SOLICITORS conveyancing fees range dramatically. The Solicitors Information Service (020 7483  4833) provides a list of recommended solicitors.
The Solicitors Information Service says: “it is most important for you to find someone who is competent. Anyone charging less than £400 may not be offering a particularly good service, but very expensive firms are probably not any better than moderately priced ones.”

The Sunday Telegraph (May 1999) and The Times (October 1999)

 

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ByMichael Morrison

Moving – and Shaking at the Thought of the Cost

In the past, solicitors based their conveyancing fees on a percentage value of the house, but now, because of cut-throat competition, most offer a flat-rate fee . But be careful the cheapest are not necessarily the best, says Michael Morrison, director of the Solicitors Information Service. The service has a database of reliable solicitors and those on whom they receive negative comments are withdrawn from the list there are some firms who offer cut-price conveyancing and are known to you secretaries to do some of the work. They rely on volume and can afford the odd slip up. Just don’t let that slip up be you.

The Daily Telegraph (May 1999)

 

For a recommended conveyancing solicitor in London contact us at Which Solicitor? – The Solicitors Information Service on 020 7483 4833. formation Service on 020 7483 4833.

 

 

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ByMichael Morrison

End Of The Nightmare?

Two legal rulings will help thousands of flat owners caught up in service charge disputes with their landlords.
Two judges have now confirmed that service charge disputes between flat owners and their freehold landlords should be heard by a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal’s (LVT’s) not by county courts, in landmark judgements that should help thousands.
The second case involved Michael Morrison, who owns one of 133 flats in Oslo Court, Prince Albert Road, Regent’s Park London NW8. The freehold is owned by City and Country Properties, part of the Freshwater Group, one of the biggest landlords in London.
Morrison refused to pay a service charge demand for more than £6200 claiming that the cost of the works was unreasonable, and resulted from the landlords’ neglect of the property over many years.
Morrison, who runs the Solicitors Information Service, represented himself in court against Freshwater’s barrister, who opposed the case being transferred to the Tribunal. But Judge Lawrence had no hesitation in ordering that the case be heard by the LVT and awarding costs against Freshwater.
Solicitors are hoping that these judgements will begin to stop landlords using threats of expensive court action

Evening Standard (March 1998)

 

For a recommended solicitor in London for landlord and tenant, leasehold and enfranchisement matters contact us at Which Solicitor? – The Solicitors Information Service on 020 7483 4833.

 

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