Legal Update from Busbys Solicitors 23rd Sept 2019

It is pleasing to know that pension scam reports have shown a marked decrease.  Reported scams have decreased by 75% since 2015 according to information provided by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.  In 2015 there were 1353 reports, and that was reduced to 345 by the end of last year.  In 2015 fraudsters netted £47.3 million from these scams.  Last year the figure had dwindled to £6.9 million.  A ban has now been put in place by the Government to stop cold calling of elderly people, and the hope is that it will have some effect.  Tackling the surge in investment scams on-line is an entirely different matter.  The regulator continues to campaign to make retirees aware of these scammers and we must hope it proves successful.


Research just released confirms that a quarter of homeowners are looking to use the equity in their homes to fund likely future care costs.  They are looking to keep their pension pots intact when looking to fund care costs in old age.  As the vast majority of homeowners want to remain in their homes rather than downsize, the remedy they are looking to use to fund these future needs is to release the money locked in their homes.  Statistics indicate that four in ten homeowners are most likely to unlock money in their homes in the future.  In the second half of 2018 23% more homeowners used equity release to raise funds compared to the first half of 2018.  There are many firms out there providing home finance.  Consumers seem to like the security and the flexibility which later-life mortgages provide.  Certainly my firm has seen a huge surge in instructions for equity release, and there appears to be no decrease in the instructions we receive.


Legal experts want a change in the law relating to identity theft.  Tens of thousands of victims have tried to contact the Police after being sent bills for credit cards, phone contracts and loans which have been taken out in their names.  However, there is no offence of identity theft to protect them.  Under the Fraud Act 2006 it is a crime to make a false statement intending to make a gain.  However, the Home Office rules that in these cases the company giving the credit is the victim, not the individual.  Legal experts are calling desperately for a separate offence of identity fraud.  The downside for any Government might well be that if should such a law be passed there will be hundreds of thousands of victims, and that means the crime figures won’t look good!


You may have seen in the papers recently that an 80 year old has now been cleared of the murder and manslaughter of her husband after being accused of “mercy killing”.  Her defence was that she and her husband had agreed to take medication to end their own lives together, but she actually survived.  Her daughter has now come out publicly to call for a change in the assisted dying law.  She said her father “would be devastated” that his wife was forced to face prosecution.  She went on to say “if there had been an assisted dying law in the UK, our dad would have been able to have the choice to end his suffering with medical support, and with his loved ones around him.”  There is already a fierce debate about the possible implementation of such a law, and it will be interesting to see whether a new Parliament will look to make changes.


BBC News presenters Joanna Gosling, David Eades and Tim Willcox have been told to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in back taxes.  This is despite a High Court ruling that the BBC had used a “unique position” to force the presenters into contracting through personal service companies.  The High Court Judgment said that these presenters had breached RI35 legislation.  This says that individuals who are employees in all but name should be liable for more tax.  As a consequence HMRC pursued them for £920,000.  It is understood that 2/3rd of the bill has already been settled.


The Courts and Tribunal Service have now produced some quite startling figures.  They show that nearly 700 people have been jailed for failure to pay Council Tax since 2010.  A further 7000 have been handed a suspended “Committal Order”.   Local Authorities and TV Licensing have legislation in their favour which allows them to bring criminal charges against homeowners or TV users who have failed to pay up.  The rest of us have to use Civil Court Proceedings, and one wonders what is to be gained by jailing people for debt – it smacks very much of Victorian attitudes which in some quarters still prevail.


Half of private renters, according to Shelter, are only one pay packet away from losing their home.  The charity estimates that three million tenants can’t afford to pay rent for more than one month should they lose their job.  The charity estimates that a job loss for working families with children would put more than half a million instantly at risk.  The charity’s commentator said “by allowing the number of genuinely affordable social homes to plummet, politicians have super-charged our housing emergency.”


Property investors have had burnt fingers in recent years.  This is particularly true with shopping complexes where big retailers have gone bust or gone into administration.  Such landlords have had to take substantial haircuts, and the capital value of many number of these shopping malls have gone down in values, sometimes exponentially.  All is not lost however! It appears that Gym Membership has risen by 42% over the last 10 years.  The number of gyms has increased in the same period by 23%.  Property investors have not been slow to take note, and gyms and health clubs are now the most attractive leisure segments to alternative property investors.  All punters like us now need to see are gym membership charges coming down.


A property developer in North Devon is selling seafront parking spaces for £10,000 each.  The Estate Agents describe them as being in a “superb location” by The Blue in Devon.  These spaces are next to a local authority car park.  The local Counsellor Peter Christie (former Mayor of Bideford) is quoted as saying “the price seems ludicrous”.


If you need help on any legal matters then please do feel free to get in touch with us here at Busbys.  You can contact us on 01288 35 9000 or see also Busbys’ advert on this page.


John Busby

Busbys Solicitors

Bude & Holsworthy

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