Category Archive: Conveyancing

Conveyancing specialist Sarah Ellis joins Sintons

The growing conveyancing team at Sintons has expanded again with the appointment of a new property lawyer.

Sarah Ellis has almost two decades of experience in the legal sector and has specialised in residential property for a number of years.

She is well known for acting for private buyers, businesses and investors alike and handles the full spectrum of transactional matters.

Sarah, who has relocated to Newcastle having previously worked in Essex and Suffolk, is the latest addition to Sintons’ specialist conveyancing team, which continues to expand on the strength of demand for its expertise.

“I’m excited to join a firm like Sintons, which has an enviable reputation for its residential property expertise and a national presence in the market,” says Sarah.

“Its focus on delivering an outstanding legal and personal service to each and every client is very important to me and I look forward to working with the team to continue to develop that reputation and presence in the field even further.”

The team is led by partner Anna Barton, who adds: “Our department continues to receive increasing levels of new business from across the country, and as this demand continues, we will grow our team accordingly.

“We take immense pride in the quality of service we deliver, and through growing the capacity and capability within our team, we have the opportunity to meet even more demand nationally for our conveyancing services.

“We are very pleased to welcome Sarah to the team and look forward to working with her.”

Tyneside Flats

Here in the northeast, there are a lot of two storey buildings which consist of two flats, a ground floor flat and an upstairs flat.  Each flat will have its own front and back doors, and there are no common areas in the building which are used by both flats.

Most of these types of flats are set up on what is known as a Tyneside flat arrangement. There are two different types of Tyneside flat arrangements, the North Tyneside flat arrangement, which is the most popular, and the South Tyneside flat arrangement.

In a North Tyneside flat arrangement, both of the flats in the building are granted leases which contain the same provisions, rights and covenants. There is a standard lease template which is commonly used. The leases grant each flat owner rights over the other flat to carry out maintenance works and rights over any shared access ways to the front and rear of the building. They also require each flat owner to insure their property in the joint names of themselves and the owner of the other flat.

The freehold title for the building is then divided into two separate titles. The freehold of the ground floor flat is registered to the owner of the first floor flat, and the freehold of the first floor flat is registered to the owner of the ground floor flat. This creates a crossover effect, and means that each flat owner is the other flat’s landlord, and they can therefore enforce all of the same rights and covenants in the leases against each other as and when required.

The leases are often granted for a term of 999 years. The ground rent is a peppercorn, which is of nominal value. The owner of the ground floor flat will be responsible for maintaining their flat and the foundations of the building, while the owner of the first floor flat will be responsible for maintaining their flat together with the roof and roof void. There is shared responsibility for anything like gutters, pipes and drains which service the whole building, so both flat owners would have to contribute towards any maintenance costs required.

The end result is that the owner of the ground floor flat will have two legal titles: the leasehold title for the ground floor flat and the freehold title for the first floor flat. At the same time, the owner of the first floor flat will also have two legal titles: the leasehold title for the first floor flat and the freehold title for the ground floor flat.

It’s really important for this arrangement to be kept up when either of the flats are sold to a new owner. There will be provisions in both leases to make sure that when the leasehold title for one of the flats is sold, they also transfer the freehold in the other flat to the new buyer so that the North Tyneside flat arrangement continues.

There are clauses in the leases called “attorney clauses” which are built in to help resolve any problems with transferring the legal titles should there be an issue, for example if one of the flats has been sold but the freehold in the other flat has remained in the original owner’s name instead of being transferred to the new owner.

This type of arrangement is sometimes used in other parts of the country, but it tends to be most common in the northeast. If you’re selling or buying a Tyneside flat, it can be helpful to instruct a local solicitor as they are likely to have come across this set up many times before and they know what they’re looking for.

Sometimes we do come across a South Tyneside flat arrangement. This is different because instead of creating the crossover effect, one of the flat owners will own the freehold of the whole building subject to a lease of the other flat. This means that one flat owner will have a freehold title, and the other flat owner will have a leasehold title for their flat. The outcome is that one flat owner is the landlord and the other is the tenant.

Although the lease will specify that both the landlord and the tenant have to abide by the same covenants and can enforce the same rights on each other, it doesn’t carry the same feeling of equality between the flat owners as the North Tyneside flat arrangement does. There is sometimes a ground rent payable by the tenant, though this is usually for a small amount each year.

Mortgage lenders tend not to like this type of arrangement as they view the owner of the freehold of the building as owning a freehold flat. Although this is technically not the case, sometimes lenders can refuse to lend as the arrangement does not match their criteria.  If you do have a South Tyneside flat arrangement for your property, it is sometimes beneficial to agree with the owner of the other flat to surrender the current lease and to set up a North Tyneside flat arrangement from scratch.

Tyneside flat arrangements have been used now for many years and have been proven to be a great, workable legal precedent for this type of building. Although the concept can seem confusing at first, once you see it in practice it does all become clear.

Suzanne Dixon is a Senior Associate in the residential conveyancing department at Sintons. To speak to Suzanne, please contact her at suzanne.dixon@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 7805.

Sintons secures CQS accreditation for the tenth time

Law firm Sintons has secured the prestigious Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) accreditation for the tenth time, in recognition of its high standards in residential conveyancing.

The CQS, is a recognised quality standard which acts as an endorsement of outstanding client service and compliance with core practice management standards.

Sintons has now secured the accreditation for the tenth time, confirming its longstanding commitment to delivering the highest standards to every client.

The conveyancing team, led by partner Anna Barton, is regarded in the highest terms for its legal and service excellence.

The team is regularly appointed to handle high-value and complex property matters in the North East and well beyond, with a significant portion of its work coming from London.

“CQS accreditation is a highly esteemed endorsement of the quality of our offering and the fact we have now secured this for ten years is something we are really proud of at Sintons,” says Anna.

“We pride ourselves on delivery of the very highest standards in each and every matter and invest the time and effort to build relationships with our clients. This leads to long-lasting relationships and lies at the root of the trust clients place in our team and in the Sintons brand.

“Regularly, we are appointed by multiple generations of families to oversee their property matters, and we also act for many investors on a national basis, who continue to come to us based on the quality of service they receive.

“We have built our reputation in this field throughout Sintons’ 126-year history and are very proud of the work we continue to do and the progress we continue to make as a department. To secure CQS accreditation again further confirms the quality we are achieving.”

Leasehold Properties

Most flats and apartments, and even some houses, will have a leasehold title. If you’re buying a leasehold property, there will be a lot more paperwork involved in your purchase and a lot more information to consider.

When you purchase a leasehold property, you will own the property for the fixed period of time that is specified in the lease. It is therefore important to know exactly how many years are remaining on the lease when you buy the property, especially if you’re getting a mortgage. Most mortgage lenders will require at least 70 years to be left on the lease, though every lender has different requirements. It’s advisable to extend the lease if the term remaining is getting close to 80 years. Make sure you’re thinking ahead when considering how long is left on the lease, and the impact this will have when you come to sell or remortgage the property in the future.

Your lease will define you as the ‘tenant’ and will make reference to your ‘landlord’ which is the person or company who owns the freehold or superior title out of which your lease has been granted.

Your lease will specify the rights which have been granted to you, covenants which you must abide by, and will identify what’s included in your property with reference to a plan. Please make sure you check the plan as it should show the layout of the property, and if any changes have been made since the lease was granted then you’ll need to ensure that the landlord gave consent for these changes.

Most leases require you to obtain permission from the landlord before making any structural alterations or additions to the property and require you to be responsible for maintaining the property itself. Always remember that you don’t own a leasehold property outright, you are essentially renting it on a long-term basis from the landlord, and so you must abide by the terms of the lease and get consent for works you intend to do.

You may be required to pay an annual ground rent, and you must check the amount of ground rent payable and whether this is due to increase during the term of the lease, as sometimes this can cause problems. You may also need to contribute towards maintenance costs of the building as a whole and any common parts. This is often called a “service charge”.

Check the lease so that you know whether your landlord is responsible for putting buildings insurance or whether this is your responsibility. If the leasehold property is a house or a flat within a small building with an upstairs flat and a downstairs flat, then it is likely that you’ll be responsible for your own buildings insurance. Most other leasehold properties, i.e. an apartment in a large block of flats, should specify that the landlord is responsible for insuring the whole building, and each flat owner has to contribute towards the cost of the insurance.

Before you buy a leasehold property, you need to take into account all of the costs involved with the property and make sure that it is still affordable. Service charges can escalate over time and you need to be prepared for expenditure to potentially increase during your ownership. If the building needs any major works to be carried out, for example roofing works or structural works, then you will be expected to contribute towards the cost of these along with all of the other flat owners in the building.

Some larger blocks of flats will be run by managing agents who specialise in managing developments and will look after things on behalf of the landlord. Smaller buildings might be managed by the owners of the flats within the building on a more informal basis. It may be that some money has been set aside over the months and years to cover any big expenditure that’s needed. This is called a reserve fund. If you’re buying a flat that’s in a larger block of flats it’s a good idea to check whether there’s a reserve fund and, if so, how much is currently in it, as this might be needed to cover the cost of any works.

If your landlord is planning to carry out maintenance works to the building that are going to cost a substantial amount, then they have to consult the flat owners and give them notice of their intention to carry out the works. If you’re buying a property that has ongoing works being carried out, it’s important to establish the cost of the works and negotiate with your seller as to who is going to be responsible for paying for the works.

When you are buying or selling a leasehold property, there will be extra disbursements payable along the way. Unfortunately your solicitor won’t be able to advise you of the exact amounts payable until the transaction is underway. This is because every leasehold transaction is different and it will depend on who the landlord is and how the lease is structured. Generally, a seller will have to pay a fee to the landlord or their managing agents for a management pack to be supplied to the buyer’s solicitors and if there is a licence to assign required the seller will also have to pay for this. On completion, the buyer will have to pay a notice fee to the landlord to confirm that they now own the property and to give details of any mortgage that has been secured over the property. A buyer might also have to pay a further fee to the landlord if a deed of covenant is required or a certificate of compliance is needed to comply with a restriction on the Register.

All of these considerations should be taken into account before you proceed with the purchase of a leasehold property. Make sure you have read all of the information provided to you and ask questions if you don’t understand anything. It can be quite daunting as there’s a lot to take in. Remember, you are not legally committed to a purchase until contracts have been exchanged, so take the time to consider everything in full before you decide to go ahead.

Suzanne Dixon is a Senior Associate in the residential conveyancing department at Sintons. To speak to Suzanne, please contact her at suzanne.dixon@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 7805.

Purchasing a Residential Property

The most Important thing to bear in mind when you are buying a property is to make as many enquiries and investigations as you feel are necessary before you commit yourself to an exchange of contracts. This is probably the biggest investment you will ever make in your life, so make sure you take the time to consider all of the paperwork carefully, ask questions wherever you are unsure, and look into all aspects of the property. Always remember the saying “let the buyer beware”, which means that the onus is on you to make thorough investigations and ask the relevant questions.

Provide your solicitor with as much information about your circumstances from the outset, i.e. how you are funding the purchase, who will be the legal owners of the property, whether anyone else will be living at the property with you, or whether it is a buy to let. This will enable your solicitor to let you know what information and documents you will need to provide early on, so that any issues can be resolved quickly and won’t hold the process up further down the line. If you’re getting a gift or loan from a family member or friend to help you fund your purchase, make sure you disclose full details of this both to your solicitor and to your mortgage lender.

Please bear in mind that your solicitor does not have the opportunity to see the property so you need to let them know about any changes or alterations that have been made to the property so that they can check that all the necessary certificates and approvals are in place. If you have any future plans for the property it’s also really useful to let your solicitor know about these, then your solicitor can check that there are no restrictions on the legal title which could prevent you from carrying out your plans. Examples are if you know you’re going to build an extension or demolish a garage.

You’ll need to pay some money on account so that your solicitor can apply for your searches. We would always recommend that you have a survey carried out too, and your surveyor will be able to advise you on what type of survey best suits the property you are buying.

If you are getting a mortgage, you will need to make a mortgage application and your lender will carry out a valuation. Once your mortgage offer has been issued, a copy will be sent to you and to your solicitors.

You can let your solicitor know if there is anything specific you would like them to look into or find out about the property. It’s important to keep communicating with your solicitor so that they know about any concerns you have or if there’s anything you’re unsure about. They will help to guide you through the process.

Once your solicitor has received all of the contract documentation and replies to enquiries from your seller’s solicitors, your search results, and your mortgage offer, they will send you a written report to summarise all of the information and make you aware of any potential issues. Make sure you read your report carefully and flag up anything that you think might cause you a problem in the future. There are often solutions that can be found and the majority of issues can be resolved.

If you’re buying a leasehold property then there will be a lot more paperwork involved and you will need to take into consideration any ground rent and service charge payable in relation to the property before deciding whether the purchase is financially right for you. Your solicitor will also let you know if there are any anticipated major works which are planned to be carried out to the building, as the owners of the flats in the building will be required to contribute towards the cost of any such works and these can sometimes be significant.

Once you’re happy with everything, sign and return your documents. Your solicitor will hold these on file until a completion date has been agreed and they know that all of your funds are in place. You can then give your authority to exchange contracts, from which point you will be liable for the buildings insurance for the property (unless it’s a flat, in which case the insurance is likely to be put in place by the freeholder or landlord) and you will be legally bound to complete on the agreed date.

If you’re selling and buying at the same time, you will need to make sure you have removals in place for the date of completion before you exchange contracts. If you’re involved in a chain it can sometimes be difficult to get a date agreed by all of the parties in the chain, and you should be prepared to be flexible wherever possible.

On the day of completion you won’t be able to get the keys for your new property until your seller’s solicitors have received all of the purchase monies from your solicitor. You may also need to wait until your seller has moved out, especially if your seller has an onward purchase themselves. The seller should vacate the property by 2pm at the latest. Once completion has taken place and you’ve got your keys, the property is yours and you can start to move in!

Your solicitor will deal with registering your ownership at the Land Registry, and will send you a copy of the updated Register showing you are the registered proprietor and that any mortgage you have is also registered against the title. The registration process can sometimes take quite a while, so don’t worry if you don’t hear anything from your solicitor about this straight away.

Suzanne Dixon is a Senior Associate in the residential conveyancing department at Sintons. To speak to Suzanne, please contact her at suzanne.dixon@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 7805.

Sintons announces Private Client promotions

The strength and capability of SintonsPrivate Client Department has again been highlighted with the promotion of three of its key people.

Paul Collingwood, a specialist private client lawyer, has been promoted to partner, in recognition of his outstanding technical ability and commitment to providing the highest standard of service for his clients.

Since joining Sintons, Paul – ranked by both Legal 500 and Chambers as an emerging talent in his field – has played a key role in the strong development of the Wills, Trusts and Probate Team.

Also in the Wills, Trusts and Probate Team, Lauren Fraser has been promoted to associate.

In her four years with Sintons, Lauren has progressed strongly, becoming a key part of the specialist, award-winning team.

In addition to her ongoing achievements in her legal work at Sintons, Lauren was named the STEP Excellence Awards Winner 2020 in recognition of achieving the highest marks in the world for her administration of estates assessment.

In Sintons’ Residential Conveyancing Team, Suzanne Dixon has been named as a senior associate.

Suzanne plays a central role in the ongoing development of the law firm’s residential property offering, acting for buyers and purchasers across the country and handling the most complex of transactions with outstanding capability.

Paul Nickalls, head of the Private Client at Sintons, said the promotions help to reflect the excellence that runs throughout the department.

“We have a well-deserved reputation for our strength across all aspects of our private client offering – which comprises family law, alongside residential conveyancing and wills, trusts and probate – and the committed, talented team we continue to develop,” he says.

“Regularly, we are appointed in high value, highly complex matters by clients across the country, who come to us on the strength of the service we continue to deliver in each and every matter – and this is only made possible by the excellent people we have.

“We are very pleased to reward the efforts of Paul, Suzanne and Lauren with promotion. Each of them has developed a very well-earned reputation in their own right as specialists in their field, and we are delighted they are part of the continued development of Sintons’ Private Client Department.”

Sintons continues its expansion with the announcement of promotions

Law firm Sintons continues its expansion with the announcement of six promotions across the different areas of its business.

The promotions, involving two new partners, one senior associate and three associates, recognise the talent, commitment and dedication of the individuals concerned in their specialist fields of work.

Corporate lawyer Emma Pern and private client specialist Paul Collingwood have each been promoted to partner.

Both have been instrumental in the growth and development of their respective teams and in overseeing complex matters on behalf of clients from across the UK.

Sintons has also promoted residential conveyancing specialist Suzanne Dixon to senior associate and has named three new associates – private client solicitor Lauren Fraser, dispute resolution lawyer Adam Hutton and Neurotrauma specialist Nicki Waugh.

The two new Sintons’ partners spoke of their delight at their promotion.

“It feels great to be recognised for all my hard work, but I could not have done this without the support of everyone at Sintons, my clients and my contacts. I’m looking forward to this next stage in my career,” said Emma.

Paul said: “Being promoted to partner means a great deal to me, especially in a firm like Sintons. It is a great place to work and to progress within.

“I have been supported throughout my career here and I really look forward to the future and the different challenges that my promotion will bring.”

On becoming a senior associate, Suzanne said: “I’m so pleased and proud. It reflects my hard work and dedication, and the support that I’ve had from my supervisors and colleagues along the way.”

Sintons’ new associates also spoke of their pride at the recognition of their efforts.

“I am delighted to have been promoted to associate in the private client team said Lauren.

“The firm has been incredibly supportive of my professional development, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of its growth, both regionally and nationally.”

Adam said: “This is a firm that is committed to investing in its employees to allow them to grow and progress in their careers.

“The dispute resolution department has an excellent reputation and I look forward to contributing to its growth and development whilst continuing to work with new and existing clients.”

Nicki added: “It means a lot to receive recognition for the work I do. I thank the firm for the support and encouragement they have given to me in achieving this goal.”

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “We are lucky to have talented and committed people throughout Sintons. As an Investor in People we believe in nurturing and supporting all our people and encouraging them to achieve their full potential. It is a privilege each year to be able to reward the outstanding efforts we have seen with promotion.

“Emma and Paul have been with Sintons for a number of years and have excelled in their respective fields, becoming trusted advisors to clients from across the country and supporting them in some milestone moments in their lives. I am delighted to welcome them both as partners in the firm.

“Suzanne, Lauren, Adam and Nicki have all shown outstanding dedication to their clients and their roles, playing a key part in their growth and development of their respective teams.

“We wish them all the very best of luck as they continue to progress their careers at Sintons.”

Selling a Residential Property

The key to a smooth sale is to supply your buyers with all of the relevant information about your property as early as possible.  It is therefore a good idea to instruct a solicitor early on in the process so that you can start to pull together all of the information you are going to need to supply.

You will be asked to complete a Property Information Form and a Fittings and Contents Form, which is a list of items that are either included in the sale price or that you are taking with you. If your property is leasehold then a Leasehold Information Form will also need to be completed.

Some of the questions in these forms can be quite daunting but most are straightforward. The questions cover everything from who is responsible for maintaining the boundaries of the property, to whether there have been any disputes, what works have been carried out to the property, whether there has been any instances of flooding or environmental issues, and who currently lives at the property. If there’s anyone over the age of 17 who lives at the property and who is not a registered owner then they will be asked to sign the Contract to confirm that they will move out of the property on the day of completion. It’s important that you answer the questions truthfully and to the best of your knowledge and understanding. You should ask your solicitor if you are not sure about anything.

You will need any documents relating to work that has been carried out on your property.  These may be planning permissions, building regulation approvals and completion certificates, covenant consents and guarantees. If your property has had work carried out such as an extension, loft conversion, conservatory added, replacement double glazing, replacement boiler, electrical works, and cavity wall insulation all of these works will have need either planning permission, building regulation approval or both.

If your property is in a conservation area or is a listed building, then further documents will be needed.

If your property is leasehold (i.e. most flats are leasehold) then your solicitor will need to obtain replies to leasehold enquiries from your freeholder or your management company (or their managing agents, the ones who send you invoices for ground rent and service charges). Please note that with leasehold properties, there are often fees payable to the freeholder or management company for supplying their replies to leasehold enquiries and your solicitor will let you know the amount payable once they find out this information.

You can negotiate with your buyer for items of furniture or white goods to be left at the property for an agreed price (on top of the sale price) and it is best to let your solicitor know about any such agreements so that details of the items and prices agreed can be added to the Contract. This makes the agreed prices part of the legally binding contract so both you and your buyer know exactly what items are to be left at the property on completion and the price which is to be paid for the items.

Most properties are registered with HM Land Registry which means that your solicitor will be able to obtain copies of the Register, Title Plan and any other relevant documents directly from the Land Registry. If your property is unregistered, then you will need to find the title deeds for the property (which may be stored with a solicitor or with a mortgage lender).

Your solicitor will send what is known as the “contract documentation” to the buyer’s solicitors, which includes a draft Contract, the registered or unregistered title documents, and your completed Forms together with all of the documents you have supplied.

Once your buyer’s solicitors have seen the contract documentation, they may have some more questions to ask and they will raise some “enquiries”.  Your solicitor will work through these enquiries with you so that they can be dealt with as quickly as possible. If there are any legal issues then your solicitor may be able to deal with these on your behalf, but if the enquiries relate to the property itself then you will need to reply to them.

Your solicitor will send you the Contract and Transfer for signature. You will need to sign the Transfer before an independent witness, who has to be someone who is not related to you or involved with the transaction. Once you have signed these documents and returned them to your solicitor, it does not mean that you have entered into a legal contract as of yet. Your solicitor will hold these signed documents on file until everything is ready and a date has been agreed, and will then ask for your authority to exchange contracts in readiness for completion. Only give your authority to exchange contracts when you are happy with everything and you know that you are definitely able to move out of your property on the day of completion (i.e. you have removals booked and you have somewhere to move to) as once contracts have been exchanged you are legally bound to complete on the agreed date and if you can’t do this you will incur financial penalties.

If you have a mortgage secured over your property, it is important that you provide your solicitor with the name of your mortgage lender and your mortgage account details early in the process as your solicitor will need to obtain a redemption statement from your lender to ensure that there is sufficient equity to redeem the mortgage. Your solicitor will get an initial statement at the start of the process for information purposes and then, once a completion date has been agreed, they will get a statement which is calculated to the completion date so they know the exact figure required by your lender to repay your mortgage on the day of completion.

Finally, on the day of completion, you will need to ensure that you have cleared everything out of the property which is not included in the sale. You must remove all rubbish and leave the property in a clean and tidy condition by 2pm at the latest. Everyone who lives at the property must move out on so that you can give vacant possession (unless the sale is subject to an ongoing tenancy). It’s a good idea to take meter readings for the gas and electricity. You can then either leave your keys with the estate agents or hand them over directly to the buyer, but please don’t have any keys directly to the buyer until your solicitor has confirmed that the monies have arrived safely from the buyer’s solicitors.

Suzanne Dixon is an Associate in the residential conveyancing department at Sintons. To speak to Suzanne, please contact her at suzanne.dixon@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 7805.

Understanding Terminology used in a Conveyancing Transaction

Purchasing a property is potentially the most expensive and stressful experience that you will have to deal with.

Whether you are buying or selling your own home or an investment property, the conveyancing process can be confusing and, at times, intimidating.

In this article, I will explain some of the terminology which you will come across during a conveyancing transaction. Hopefully, this will help you understand the process and let you know what to expect.

Freehold and Leasehold

It’s important for you to know whether the property you are buying or selling is a freehold or leasehold. As a general rule, houses are usually freehold and flats will be leasehold.

A freehold property essentially means that you own the property outright and for most people, this is the preferred option. You do not pay any annual ground rent, you don’t have another party controlling matters such as maintenance and you will be solely responsible for the entirety of your building.

If the property you are buying is leasehold, you will own the property for the term specified in your lease.

Your lease will define you as the ‘tenant’ and will make reference to your ‘landlord’ who owns the freehold title out of which your lease has been granted.

Your lease will specify such things as any rights granted to you, covenants which you must abide by and will identify your property with reference to a plan.

You will be required to pay an annual ground rent, and may also need to contribute towards maintenance costs of the building as a whole and any common parts which is known as a service charge. Your landlord may be responsible for putting buildings insurance in place and your lease will specify the contribution you must make to the cost of the policy.

Searches and Surveys

During the course of your purchase, your solicitor will undertake searches on your behalf and recommend you arrange a survey to be carried out by a suitably qualified professional.

If you are buying your property with the assistance of a mortgage, your lender will require a full set of appropriate searches to be carried out on your behalf. If you are buying the property with cash, searches are discretionary but recommended. It is important that you discover as much information about the property before you commit, so that you can make an informed decision about whether to proceed.

Your solicitor will undertake those searches which are necessary, depending on the location of your property. This will always include a local authority search, a drainage and water search and an environmental search.

Some additional searches may be necessary, for example, if you are purchasing a property which lies within a former mining area, a ground stability report will be required.

Your solicitor’s role is to ensure the legal title to your property is good, marketable and acceptable to you and your mortgage lender. Solicitors are not qualified to advise you on surveying matters so we would strongly recommend you instruct a suitably qualified surveyor to inspect the property.

There are different types of surveys available to you, and you should discuss with your surveyor which type meets your requirements and which report should be undertaken.

Enquiries

If you are selling a property, your solicitor is likely to contact you at some point during the transaction to let you know that they have received some enquiries from the buyer’s solicitors. Enquiries are a list of questions which the buyer’ solicitor has raised to either obtain further information or to ask for information which hasn’t been provided yet. If there are any title issues, these will be raised as part of the enquiries.

When selling, your solicitor will help you reply to these enquiries and to obtain any certificates or other documents which the buyer’s solicitors are asking for.

When you’re buying a property, you should let your solicitor know if there is anything specific which you would like them to raise with the seller’s solicitors. Once your solicitor has received replies to enquiries, they will send you a purchase report to summarise all of the information they have gathered. You can still raise further enquiries up to the point of exchange of contracts.

Exchange and Completion

Exchange of contracts takes place once all of the parties in the chain have carried out all of their searches and enquiries, they have their mortgage offer and balance funds in place, and they have signed all of the relevant documentation.

A completion date also must have been agreed between the parties in the chain as the completion date forms part of the legal contract.

From the point of exchange, you will be legally bound to proceed with the transaction at the agreed price and on the agreed completion date. If you are buying a property, the risk for buildings insurance will pass to you on exchange so you must make sure that you have your own insurance in place.

Completion means the day on which the monies are transferred from the buyer’s solicitors to the seller’s solicitors and the keys are handed over. It is very important that you don’t hand any keys direct to the buyer until your solicitor has confirmed that the full balance monies have been received. Often people find it easier to drop the keys off at the estate agent’s office safe in the knowledge that the agents will hand over the keys to the buyer once completion has taken place.

If either party fails to complete on the day which has been agreed then they will incur financial penalties, so you need to be absolutely sure that all of your funds are in place if you are buying a property, or if you are selling that you will be able to move out of the property and clear out everything which is not included in the sale by 2 pm on the day of completion.

Exchange and completion can happen on the same day, but it’s preferable for exchange to take place a few days or sometimes even a few weeks before completion is due to take place so that people can book removals, arrange storage etc.

Please remember that the transaction is not legally binding on either party until exchange has taken place, which unfortunately means that someone could still back out of a deal or lower their offer right up until the point of exchange.  If you’re in rented accommodation, please don’t hand your notice in until you know that contracts have been exchanged. Similarly, if you are moving into rented accommodation, it’s not advisable to sign a rental agreement until contracts have been exchanged on your sale and you know it’s definitely going ahead.

Suzanne Dixon is an Associate in the residential conveyancing department at Sintons. To speak to Suzanne, please contact her at suzanne.dixon@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 7805.

Conveyancing specialist joins Sintons

The residential conveyancing team at Sintons has added further expertise to its team with the appointment of a new specialist.

Dawn Brown becomes the latest addition to the law firm’s growing conveyancing team, which attracts instructions from across the UK.

Dawn has worked in property for a number of years, having initially gained a degree in estate management and working as a minerals surveyor before changing focus to pursue a career in law.

Dawn joins Sintons at a time when its conveyancing team continues to perform strongly, despite the uncertainty in the economy.

“I am delighted to move to Sintons. The firm has a first-rate reputation across the board, and its work in conveyancing is regarded in the highest terms,” said Dawn.

“Its standards of client service are well known, and that particularly appealed to me – in such significant sales or purchases for individuals and families, it is a privilege to be part of that process, so giving the best possible service is crucial. I share Sintons’ commitment to delivering that.”

Anna Barton, partner and head of conveyancing at Sintons, said: “Despite the many challenges of the past two years and the impact that has had on the residential property market, our team has performed strongly.

“We have continued to attract new instructions from across the country, with clients – both new and existing – coming to us on the strength of our reputation and capability in handling matters of the highest value and complexity, and delivering an outstanding service throughout. That is what we are known for at Sintons and are committed to delivering and building further.

“We are very pleased to welcome Dawn to the team, who has significant knowledge of the market through her work both in conveyancing and previously in estates.”

Searches

In the seventh of our ‘Understanding Residential Conveyancing‘ podcast series, Associate Suzanne Dixon discusses ‘Searches’.

Please click on the play button below to listen.

Meet the Conveyancing Team with Emma Stonehouse

What is your role in the team and how long have you been with Sintons

I am the conveyancing assistant within the conveyancing team and have been with Sintons for 8 years. I started in February 2013 when I was 17 years old.

How long have you worked in residential property

Almost 6 years – I joined the conveyancing team in December 2015.

Why did you choose to specialise in this area of law

I originally joined the firm working in the office services team which gave me an insight into all the different departments within the firm. When a job became available to support the conveyancing team I was very interested and thought this would be a good step in my career, and I am very glad I took that step.

What is unique about Sintons’ offering in the market

We offer a high level of service to our clients and do everything we can to make the process as smooth as possible for them.

The department has a very high percentage of repeat business and referred work. Why do you think this is the case?

We form very good relationships with our clients and I think this is because of the service they receive from our team. We always make sure they are kept up to date during the process of their transaction and we always ensure a phone call or email is returned and the client is never left without a response.

How has Sintons and the property market in general been impacted by the COVID pandemic?

The property market has actually been very busy since COVID as a lot of people were buying properties to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday.

What can people expect when appointing you as their conveyancing lawyer?

They can expect a high level of service and a good relationship with their solicitor. We do our very best to keep our clients happy and ensure every client gets the service they deserve.

Emma Stonehouse is a Conveyancing Assistant in the Residential Conveyancing Team. You can contact Emma at emma.stonehouse@sintons.co.uk or on 0191 226 3658.

Meet the Conveyancing Team with Nathan Johnson

What is your role in the team and how long have you been with Sintons

I have been with Sintons since September 2017 when I began a 6-year Solicitor Apprenticeship with the firm.

I run my own caseload in the team, working on:

  • Sales and purchases of freehold and leasehold property, including Tyneside Flat arrangements
  • Sales and purchases of unregistered property
  • Probate sales and sales by attorneys
  • Transfers of equity
  • Assents

How long have you worked in residential property

I began working in the Conveyancing team in September 2019, so just over 2 years.

What is unique about Sintons’ offering in the market

What I believe to be unique about Sintons offering in the market is that we value a quality service over taking on extremely high volumes of work, which could mean the appropriate amount of time is not devoted to each individual client. I think our level of attention to detail in each transaction is unique, as well as our understanding of certain characteristics of the housing market such as Tyneside Flat arrangements.

The department has a very high percentage of repeat business and referred work. Why do you think this is the case?

I think this is down to excellent communication, together with attention to detail and setting all relevant matters out for our clients throughout a transaction, to keep them informed. We don’t cut corners.

What is the outlook in the residential property market. Is this a good time to buy or sell?

Both! Recent articles and research has suggested that the residential market is expected to stay buoyant in 2022.

How has Sintons and the property market in general been impacted by the COVID pandemic?

The residential property market was impacted quite significantly at the very outset of lockdown, as most areas of business. However, it bounced back very quickly and since August of 2020, has been as buoyant and active as it was pre-Covid, if not more so.

Sintons have been well placed throughout the pandemic to deliver our usual service through excellent IT and business continuity plans. We are over the moon to be back in the office, though!

What can people expect when appointing you as their conveyancing lawyer?

Great attention to detail and prompt and clear communication (with all parties) in a way that is easy to understand.

Nathan Johnson is a Senior Solicitor Apprentice in the Residential Conveyancing Team. You can contact Nathan at nathan.johnson@sintons.co.uk or on 0191 226 7885.

Meet the Conveyancing Team with Karl Liu

What is your role in the team and how long have you been with Sintons

I’ve been working at Sintons since January 2018 and I am a paralegal in the Conveyancing Team.  I have a law degree and I’m working towards my qualification as a Chartered Legal Executive.

How long have you worked in residential property

I started working in Residential Conveyancing in 2014. I’ve developed my knowledge over the past 7 years working at a few different respectable firms in the North East, and now being settled at Sintons.

Why did you choose to specialise in this area of law

I actually went into Conveyancing as a recommendation from a friend. I’d just come out of a temporary role in family law, not knowing what to expect, but I always had a passion for property so in hindsight it seemed rather fitting that I decided to specialise in this area. Looking back on the decision now, it has definitely been a wise move for me.

What is unique about Sintons’ offering in the market

As a firm we thrive on providing a good quality service. We ensure we are there to handle our clients affairs and any queries they may have in a timely manner. We are able to maintain good relationships and gaining repeat business from clients and referrals to their family members, friends and work colleagues alike. At Sintons, you will generally have a single point of contact who will have the knowledge and expertise to cater specifically to your requirements.

The department has a very high percentage of repeat business and referred work. Why do you think this is the case?

What we offer in the market is the reason why we have a high percentage of repeat business and referred work. Likewise we have a very close knit network between the firm’s many departments, so clients are able to call upon the expertise of our colleagues in other departments, as required. As our firm has a set base of Visions and Values, we then look at how to materialise on such Vision and Values and this is evidenced in the way we work.

What is the outlook in the residential property market. Is this a good time to buy or sell?

The property market is indeed very busy, however it can also be very unpredictable as well. In light of the recent government Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday, many have looked to benefit from this by aiming to complete by the end of September deadline. We may have expected the market to quieten down slightly. This, however, doesn’t seem to be the case, nor has it been throughout the lockdown. The property market has stood on its two feet in this tough period. There seems to be more demand for new houses to be built, which then creates a rippling effect on houses being sold to potential first time buyers, investors and standard buyers alike.

How has Sintons and the property market in general been impacted by the COVID pandemic?

We continue to thrive on giving quality service to the new work coming into the firm.

Have you been involved in any unusual or unique property transactions you could disclose?

I believe every transaction is unique in its own right. I work on all types of properties, some coming with their own unique aspects such as septic tanks, unregistered land, parts of land that haven’t been properly transferred from predecessors, dealing with grants of easements with neighbours, and so on…

What can people expect when appointing you as their conveyancing lawyer?

My aim is to deliver an excellent service to all my clients. Handle their matter efficiently and in a timely fashion, reporting on possible options and routes that can be taken, where applicable.

Karl Liu is a Paralegal in the Residential Conveyancing Team. You can contact Karl at karl.liu@sintons@sintons.co.uk or on 0191 226 3808.

Meet the Conveyancing Team with Suzanne Dixon

What is your role in the team and how long have you been with Sintons

I am an Associate and I have worked at Sintons since 2014. My role in the team includes assisting Anna with supervision and I coordinate all our training requirements.

How long have you worked in residential property

After my law degree, I started working as a legal secretary for a consultant solicitor who specialised in residential conveyancing. I then completed a training contract, qualified as a solicitor in 2007 and have specialised in this area ever since.  I have therefore worked in residential property for over 20 years

Why did you choose to specialise in this area of law

When I was studying for my degree at university, property law was the first area of law which “clicked” with me. In my first role as a legal secretary following university, the solicitor I worked for had 45 years’ experience in conveyancing and took the time to explain the practical application of the law to me. I really enjoy continuously developing my knowledge and understanding, as no two cases are ever the same.

What is unique about Sintons’ offering in the market

I think what makes us unique is we offer a personal service to each client. Our clients have our direct telephone numbers and email addresses, and we gather as much information as we can from the outset so that we really understand the client’s personal circumstances. This allows us to tailor our service to best suit the client’s requirements and needs.

The department has a very high percentage of repeat business and referred work. Why do you think this is the case?

We get to know our clients and offer a friendly, approachable service which is not only efficient but reliable. By building a strong relationship with our clients, they have the confidence to either use our services again or recommend us to their friends and family, which is the highest compliment we can receive from a client.

What is the outlook in the residential property market. Is this a good time to buy or sell?

The market has been remarkably strong through the majority of the pandemic. This has been helped by the SDLT holiday, which has now come to an end, however our levels of instructions are still strong and the market is still very busy. The market seems particularly good for sellers at the moment.

How has Sintons and the property market in general been impacted by the COVID pandemic?

Here at Sintons we have been able to quickly adapt to working from home, which hadn’t been the case before the pandemic. This has added a lot of flexibility to the working patterns of the team, whilst keeping in touch with each other and offering support wherever needed.

The property market ground to a halt in April and May 2020 while the country was in the first lockdown, but the Government was keen to open the property market back up as soon as possible. By introducing the stamp duty holiday in July 2020 and then extending this to the end of September 2021 the property market has been extremely busy.

Lockdown has led a lot of people to re-evaluate what they want from their homes, and many people have been eager to move to larger properties with outdoor space, especially since more people are working from home now. Prices have been rising, at times quite dramatically, and in some parts of the country properties have been selling within hours of going on the market.

Have you been involved in any unusual or unique property transactions you could disclose?

Every property transaction is unique in its own way, however I recently helped a client in the purchase of an island, at auction, which was quite unusual!

*What can people expect when appointing you as their conveyancing lawyer?

A friendly, approachable service with sound technical legal advice. My experience and legal knowledge enable me to provide practical solutions if problems are encountered, to explain situations thoroughly and set out the available options.

Suzanne Dixon is an associate in the Residential Conveyancing Team. You can contact Suzanne at suzanne.dixon@sintons.co.uk or on 0191 226 7805.

Meet the Conveyancing Team with Anna Barton

What is your role in the team and how long have you been with Sintons

I am the partner in charge of the conveyancing team, so in addition to helping my clients with their property transactions, I tend to oversee most of the work undertaken. Suzanne Dixon helps me to run the team; she leads team meetings and keeps us all up to date with training. I’ve been with Sintons for over 10 years.

How long have you worked in residential property

I’ve been focused purely on residential property for about 15 years, but have worked in property for much longer

What is unique about Sintons’ offering in the market

We offer a highly personal service to each and every client and this makes our offering unique. Our clients appreciate that this represents true value.

The department has a very high percentage of repeat business and referred work. Why do you think this is the case?

It’s easy to generate work; the skill is undertaking that work to such a high standard that clients come back to you again because they know that you will do a good job. It’s always a pleasure to act on behalf of their friends or family when they recommend them to us, because the trust is already there.

What is the outlook in the residential property market. Is this a good time to buy or sell?

We have all been surprised at how consistently busy the residential property market has been since over the past 18 months. There are always busier and quieter periods during the course of a typical calendar year, but there has been such a high level of activity throughout this period, with seemingly no slump…. so far….

As we all continue to work remotely or in a hybrid fashion, I don’t doubt that there will still be a lot of activity in the market, particularly with families looking to move into homes that suit their ‘new normal’.

Have you been involved in any unusual or unique property transactions you could disclose?

The most challenging job I’ve had in recent months was to exchange contracts for my client immediately on receipt of contract papers. This was required in order for them to secure their dream ‘forever home’. There was a lot at stake, and I did my best to gather as much information from public record as I could, in advance. I reported to my client on those findings ahead of receiving any official information from the sellers and we managed to exchange contracts just over two hours after receiving the contract papers.

What can people expect when appointing you as their conveyancing lawyer?

My clients can expect to be guided through the process step by step, receive pragmatic advice and hopefully a stress free experience!

Anna Barton is a partner in the Personal & Family Department and heads up the Residential Conveyancing Team. You can contact Anna at anna.barton@sintons.co.uk or on 0191 226 3743.

Sintons again recognised for capability across the board by Chambers 2022

Sintons has again been hailed as one of the leading law firms in the North of England in newly-released rankings from Chambers and Partners UK.

The firm, consistently praised for its strength and capability throughout the business, again wins recognition for its legal expertise, deep experience and first-rate levels of client service.

Practice areas across the business win recognition as leaders in their field, with healthcare again being confirmed as one of the key advisors nationally for its work with growing numbers of NHS Trusts, organisations, professionals and healthcare businesses across the UK.

Chambers and Partners 2022, published today, also highlights 17 of Sintons’ lawyers as being stand-out names in their specialism, many of whom are recognised in the legal marketplace as being leading figures regionally and nationally.

The rankings come only weeks after Sintons won similar praise across the board from Legal 500, which also recognised the wide-ranging expertise, legal capability and service excellence the firm delivers to its clients.

Both Chambers and Legal 500 are independent publications which assess and rank law firms and lawyers throughout the UK, based on interviews, examples of work, and client and peer testimonials.

“For over 125 years, Sintons has built a well-deserved reputation as a first-rate legal advisor delivering outstanding levels of service to its clients, and those values have remained at the heart of the firm since our foundation in 1896,” says managing partner Christopher Welch.

“That these key features are consistently highlighted by independent legal publications like Chambers and Partners, and recently Legal 500 too, is a huge endorsement of what we do here at Sintons. Businesses, families and individuals put their trust in us to deliver an outstanding legal and personal service and that is what we deliver.

“Chambers again confirms our strength across the whole Sintons business, with capability and talent running throughout the firm, and a shared commitment by everyone here to continue to build Sintons so it can be the best it can be. We are all delighted to again have our efforts recognised in this way.”

Financial remedy on divorce

Sophie Dodds, Solicitor in the Family team at Sintons recently recorded a podcast, which is another in the series of Family related podcasts. In this episode, Sophie discusses financial remedy on divorce.

Please click on the play button below to listen.

Sintons once again wins praise from Legal 500 2022

Law firm Sintons has again maintained its reputation as one of the leading law firms in the North of England in newly-released rankings from Legal 500, winning plaudits for its strength and expertise across the firm.

Legal 500 2022, released today, renews its praise of Sintons and confirms them as being a go-to legal provider in the region in many key practice areas.

The independent publication – which ranks law firms and lawyers across the North, compiled as a result of examples of work, interviews and client and peer testimonials – names eight of Sintons’ lawyers as leading individuals, three as next generation partners and a further six as rising stars. One of its lawyers also secures the highly coveted accolade of being named in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame, in recognition of consistent achievement throughout their career.

The latest Legal 500 rankings add further to the long-standing reputation of Sintons – winner of five awards at the most recent Northern Law Awards, including overall Law Firm of the Year – as a leading player in the North of England, with national reach and capability in many of its departments.

The leading individuals at Sintons, as identified by Legal 500, are:

The next generation partners, as identified by Legal 500, are:

The lawyer named as member of the Legal 500 Hall of Fame is:

The rising stars at the firm are:

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “We are very proud of the reputation we have built during our 125 year history as being a law firm which consistently offers legal excellence and an outstanding service to our clients, and for these two factors to again be recognised by Legal 500 as being a staple of Sintons’ offering is very pleasing.

We are delighted to maintain our position as one of the leading law firms in the North of England, with strength, capability and experience running throughout our practice areas.”

Sintons secures CQS reaccreditation

The specialist conveyancing team at Sintons has again secured accreditation which confirms its ability to deliver outstanding legal advice and client service.

Sintons has been reaccredited by the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) after an annual assessment to verify the law firm’s ongoing capability and commitment to delivering the highest standards.

The CQS, run by the Law Society, is a recognised quality standard for conveyancing which Sintons’ award-winning conveyancing team has held for a number of years.

It acts as an endorsement of Sintons’ capability and technical ability, verifying its reputation in the marketplace as an advisor capable of handling high-value and complex residential property matters.

The team, led by partner Anna Barton, is known on a national basis and regularly attracts work from private buyers and investors well beyond its native North East, and particularly from London. The majority of its work comes through recommendation and repeat instruction.

“CQS accreditation is something which recognises the highest standards in our area of practice and we are very pleased to have been reaccredited,” says Anna.

“This is an endorsement of our legal capability and the significant effort we invest in building relationships with our clients and delivering the best possible service to them. Many of our clients have been with us for many years, and routinely we act for multiple generations of families, which is testament to the trust we earn and strong bonds we build.

“Our team is known nationally for the quality of our service and we have a long track record in completing transactions of significant value and complexity for clients from throughout the UK. We are very proud of the work we do and the reputation we have built and this latest accreditation from the CQS is further evidence of what we are achieving.”

New leadership and promotions for Sintons’ Personal & Family team

The Personal and Family Department at Sintons is moving forward with new leadership, as it seeks to push on with plans to grow its presence in the North East and wider UK.

Through a series of high-level promotions, which build the reputation and expertise of Sintons even further, the highly esteemed department is now better placed than ever to drive forward its ambitions nationally.

Under the new leadership of Paul Nickalls, the Personal and Family Department – which brings together Sintons’ Family, Residential Property, Court of Protection and Wills, Trusts and Probate Teams – will continue to develop its range of services, while bringing in new talent and developing its existing team of lawyers.

Paul, regularly named as one of the leading solicitors in the North of England by both the Legal 500 and Chambers, is a highly experienced private client lawyer who is appointed to work on complex, high value administration of estates and inheritance tax planning matters.

He continues in his role as head of the Wills, Trusts and Probate Team, which was named Private Client Team of the Year at the most recent Northern Law Awards.

The Personal and Family Department is further boosted by the appointment of two new partners in Louise Masters and Emma Saunders.

Louise, a specialist family solicitor who regularly works in high-value matrimonial matters and in cases involving children, has also become the new head of the renowned Family Team which won Family Law Team of the Year at the Northern Law Awards.

Emma, hailed as a leader in her specialist area of contentious probate work by the Legal 500 and Chambers alike, has significantly raised the profile and capability of Sintons in the field of contentious private client work since her relocation from a top 100 London law firm.

Additionally, Sophie Robinson-Davies, who leads the Court of Protection Team, has been promoted to associate in recognition of her achievements in growing the team and its national reputation.

“Our Personal and Family Department is one of the strongest and most highly-esteemed in the North of England, and we are regularly instructed in matters from across the UK in all four of our specialist teams, particularly those of significant value and complexity,” says Paul.

“Through the new senior appointments and leadership changes, we are better positioned than ever before to continue to progress. Backed by a team of dynamic and highly capable lawyers, I will work alongside Louise, Emma, Sophie and our head of residential property Anna Barton to develop our presence on a national level even further.”

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “Our Personal and Family Department comprises the expertise our private clients need, with the levels of unrivalled client service which means we have become the trusted advisor to generations of families across the UK. Sintons as a firm is built on this ethos, and we are very proud of our reputation for consistently delivering this.

“Through the appointment of Paul as head of department, supported by the promotions of Louise, Emma, and Sophie to reflect the leadership roles they fulfil within the firm, coupled with the outstanding service they continually deliver to clients, we are again demonstrating our commitment to investing in our people and offering opportunities for professional development.

“We will continue to invest in the progression of our personal and family team as we press on with efforts to grow further both regionally and nationally.”

‘We’re proud to have helped make Sintons the firm it is’

As Sintons celebrates its 125th anniversary, some of its team share their thoughts and experiences of being part of the firm and playing their role in its growth. From those who have been at Sintons for over 30 years to those who have joined more recently, here they discuss what makes the firm stand out in the competitive legal marketplace, while also being a great place to work.

Amanda Maskery, partner and head of NHS healthcare

“I have been at Sintons now for nearly 20 years and during that time I have progressed from trainee to partner level and more recently to head of our fast-growing NHS Healthcare team. Many of my clients have been with Sintons for years and grown with me and I think a large part of that is because we have built such strong and trusting relationships with them.

The firm has grown significantly since I first started working here – it has doubled in size.  However, the same culture, values and traditions are still imbedded which means whilst the firm changed in size, it still embraces the supportive nurturing culture you only find at Sintons which cascades from the top down.

As I began life as a trainee at Sintons, it’s fantastic to be able to support others in progressing and achieving their goals. We have a strong team and great dynamic and that is evident to our young lawyers who bring with them a refreshing approach to the Sintons culture.”

Leah Greenwell, solicitor apprentice

“Starting my career, it was important to find a firm with local roots and a reputation for providing high quality training. The first-class levels of service Sintons provide is testament to the standard of training they deliver, and there was no question which firm I wanted my career to start in.

Sintons have always focused on ensuring that my development is put first and have laid the foundations for a successful career as a solicitor. Being a full service firm has given me the opportunity to experience all areas of law and has exposed me to a variety of high value and complex work. I look forward to what the future holds for me at Sintons.

Although the marketplace is competitive, Sintons longstanding history and their presence, both locally and nationally, will always place them at the forefront.”

Anne Smith, secretary

“I started at Sintons in 1986 and this year in November will have been here for 35 years.

I still remember my first day like it was yesterday. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and it is still like that today – almost like a second family to me.

“I have mainly worked in private client and worked for lots of fee earners and partners. In 2000 I started working for Steve Freeman who then went on to become a Partner and Head of the Private Client Department. I have now worked for him for 21 years this year and I can honestly say it has been a pleasure and an honour to work for such a lovely man – we have a great working relationship. I also work with the rest of the Family Department and work for such lovely fee earners.

I am also very proud to say that my daughter Emma also works for Sintons in the Conveyancing Department and she also loves her job and the team she works with.

I have seen many changes over the years but one thing remains constant – Sintons is a great place to work. I have made lifelong friends here and they will remain so.”

Emelie Vardon, solicitor

“Sintons’ heritage was very important to me when choosing to join Sintons. I came here as a trainee solicitor in 2017 and making the right choice for my future career was crucial. Knowing Sintons’ reputation and history, I couldn’t have made a better decision.

This is such a great place to work with a warm and welcoming environment. Following the completion of my training contract in 2019, I joined our developing Wills, Trusts and Estate Disputes team. Under Emma Saunders’ excellent leadership and support, my first year as a qualified solicitor has been excellent groundwork for my future career in this specialist area of law.

As a full-service law firm, I consider that Sintons is well-placed in the competitive market.”

Mark Dobbin, partner and head of real estate

“I joined Sintons as a trainee in September 1997. At the time the firm consisted of about 80-90 people. We were operating from an office in Portland Terrace in Jesmond, it was like a rabbit warren for a new starter as it was multiple old terraced houses converted and joined on different floors.

The main changes have been the massive growth in size and expertise, plus multiple office moves until finally landing at the Cube. When I qualified in 1999 myself and the partner at the time (Andrew Walker) were the Sintons commercial property department. Since then we have grown significantly.

Sintons has always been and remains a great place to work, we have an excellent team in Real Estate and will continue to succeed because of the efforts of our staff.”

Pippa Aitken, senior associate

“Sintons was much smaller when I joined in 1998. It was a friendly, family firm renowned for its reputation in private client and personal injury work. There was no dedicated corporate and commercial department.

“I was the only trainee and was sent on all sorts of weird and wonderful jobs – witnessing wills, attending infant settlements and the odd trip to the bank for the accounts department!

Sintons has become a lot more sophisticated in its working procedures and there is a much faster pace of life with emails being the most popular form of communication. I have seen some great lawyers leave and some great lawyers arrive but everyone soon seems to inherit the ‘old’ Sintons sense of fun, respect and teamwork.

Sintons is in a great place going forward. Virtual working has opened up some great opportunities to spread our wings and engage with clients even better than before.”

Sarah Smith, partner and head of licensing

“The firm has almost doubled in size since I started in  2005. The range of services offered by the firm has expanded quite significantly since then too, making the firm much more attractive to commercial clients.

When I first came to Sintons, I headed up the department with Lucy Winskell (now chair of NELEP and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Northumbria University). Since her departure I have headed it up myself. In spite of that, the department has grown in its client base and the amount of work we deal with on an annual basis.

With the growth in size and services we continue to see, I think Sintons are very well placed in the market to take advantage of opportunities going forward.”

Astrid Stevenson, secretary

“I joined Sintons on 21 October, 1997, and will have been here for 25 years this year.

I think when I started there were only about 80 people working at Sintons. We were based in Portland Terrace then moved to Osborne Terrace. We didn’t have open plan working like we have now, we had little rooms with approximately 3 secretaries in each room. I shared a room with Anne Smith from the first day I arrived and we have been firm friends ever since. Fee earners all had their own office. Basically, it was like a rabbit warren.

The staffing levels were very much smaller then, as I say about 80 staff then and now we have more than double that number. The computer system (Word Perfect 5.1) and equipment were top of the range for the time, and I think that has carried on until this day, our IT department have the latest of everything and are basically top notch.

Since I started 25 years ago, the firm has changed and has always moved forward with the times.  When I started there were no female partners. Hilary Parker and Karen Simms became the first, which was a very welcome breakthrough for Sintons.

We were like one big happy family with lots of social events, which thankfully still happen to this day, keeping the ethos of Sintons going.

I think if I didn’t enjoy working here I wouldn’t be celebrating my 25th years this year at Sintons. I’ve worked for the head of dispute resolution Angus Ashman for 24 of those years, and I think we work well together because we work as a team.

This is a very nice place to work, the people are all friendly and If anyone needs help with anything there is always someone there to help. I always think we are only as good as the tools we work with and I must say Sintons do provide all the best equipment and people and it makes the job so much easier if you have things like that in place.”

Sintons’ development – reflections from the Chairman

Sintons’ chairman, Alan Dawson, is one of the firm’s longest-serving people, having joined in 1980. Here, he shares his thoughts on some of the biggest changes and advances he has seen in the past 41 years.

Technology

When I joined in 1980, we used manual typewriters, although thankfully electric typewriters had recently become available. There were no screens at that time, but over the years we added one-line screens to the typewriters, then that went up to three or four lines. It was the early 1990s before we introduced computers.

There were no colour photocopiers so all of the plans we copied were in black and white. We would have to go over them with coloured pens to make them the same as the original.

The introduction of fax in the 80s was a game changer, everything before then was done by Telex or telegram if we needed ‘instant’ communication. The only problem was that due to the paper fax machines used at that time, the print would fade – we’d go back to the file six months later and the sheet would be completely blank! We had to remember to photocopy the fax when they came in for use in our records.

With property completions, all bank-to-bank transfers involved getting an actual cheque from the bank, and then going to the office of the other solicitor in the transaction to inspect the deeds and then complete the deal. Fridays, the traditional completion day, were often spent going between solicitors’ offices in Newcastle.

When mobile phones were introduced, we had one mobile for the firm to use, we didn’t have one each. It was one of the brick-like phones with a huge battery, but it was a huge novelty.

Thankfully things have moved on hugely, and Sintons now has a first-rate technology and IT infrastructure, which enables us to offer a very efficient service to our clients while keeping their data fully secure.

Size of the firm

Back in 1980, we had about 36 people – now we have around 170.

We really started to grow from the mid to late 90s, and in 1998 we moved our offices from Portland Terrace in Jesmond to bigger premises in Osborne Terrace, which comprised three and a half houses next to each other with an overspill office further down the road. We imagined that would give us room to grow for the next 15 years – but within the next two or three years, it was already too small.

We came to The Cube in 2004 and at first didn’t use the top floor of our four-floor building, although within the next couple of years we had expanded into there.

Over the years, we have added many outstanding lawyers to our team, both through recruitment from other firms as well as training young people-in house. Our commitment to supporting aspiring lawyers through their training contract has been unfaltering – I joined as an articled clerk (or trainee, as it’s now known) and have progressed through the ranks.

As the firm has grown then so too has our back-office and support functions developed. We didn’t have the infrastructure we have now, so no HR, IT or marketing department.

Our accounts system was all manual, the cashier had to write everything by hand. There was one card per client, so if you had to borrow it, then they couldn’t make any more entries for that client until you returned it.

Our HR function was our office manager, who kept a record of who was off and the reasons for their absence – reading it now, some of the reasons are quite amusing!

Law firms weren’t allowed to advertise at all until the late 1980s, so the only kind of marketing we could do was through the Yellow Pages. Now, we operate at the very forefront of the sector, adopting digital way before many of our competitors, and that early investment is helping us to stay ahead in the marketplace.

Practice areas

In the 1980s when I joined, Sintons had a very significant insurance litigation practice which acted for four or five of the major national insurers. The revenue from that area of the business probably accounted for two thirds of our entire income. However, in the early 1990s, we recognised that reliance on a few large clients or a particular work stream was not the best way to develop the firm and could make us vulnerable. We therefore made concerted efforts to radically change our business model and to further grow the other practice areas we had operated in for many years, including private client, corporate and commercial and real estate, and they proved to be areas of strong development for us. They continue to be key areas of the business for us and will be central to our ongoing progress as a firm.

We also moved into claimant personal injury work, which really took off in the late 90s and early 2000s. More recently, we have developed our national reputation as specialists in catastrophic and serious personal injury work with a thriving specialist neurotrauma department which handles life-changing brain and spinal cord injury work.

National reach

In the early days, we were more of a regional firm with clients mainly across the North East, and some in the wider North. Occasionally, clients moved to elsewhere in England which helped us to reach out nationally on a small scale, but we didn’t have much of a national reach.

However, as we grew as a firm, we started to work on a more national basis and now on an international basis as well. The improvement of technology was also an important factor in enabling us to communicate with people wherever they were by phone or fax, but more recently by mobile phone, email or even video calling which has proved so important during the pandemic.

Through our efforts to grow individual areas of the business – which in many instances have demonstrated substantial growth over the course of a number of years, underpinned by the hard work of our people – we have been able to add outstanding new lawyers to the team, whether they have moved to Sintons from elsewhere or have been trained in-house.

Now, we have a number of areas of the business which are regarded in the highest terms nationally, including our healthcare team, which has grown its presence over the past 10 to 15 years to become a national leader in its field.

We continue to receive growing numbers of instructions from across the UK and wider afield in almost all areas of the business, as our capability and reputation as a firm builds further still.

Building on our heritage to create a strong future

1896 marked a year of historic new beginnings and breakthroughs.

The year that saw the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens;

The introduction of the X-ray;

The development of the first Ford vehicle, the Quadricycle.

And in such a landmark year as 1896, with events taking place which went on to change history, it is fitting that this was the year when Sintons was founded and the foundations laid for the firm that it would become.

Having been founded as Sutton Cheshire & Thompson on February 8, 1896, to serve the people of Newcastle, the firm then merged with John H. Sintons & Co in 1971 – later becoming Sintons – and has grown into one of the leading law firms in the North of England, acting for ever-increasing numbers of business and private clients both regionally and across the UK.

Over the past 125 years, Sintons has developed a reputation for the quality of its advice, and crucially, the deep and trusting relationships it builds with its clients borne out of the outstanding service it delivers to them.

There are so many momentous events and developments which have taken place over such a long period of time and the world has changed, and continues to change, beyond recognition.

However, throughout that period Sintons has been working alongside individuals, families, businesses and organisations for 125 years, adapting and changing to meet new challenges and will continue to do so for the years to come.

As a law firm for changing times, Sintons continues to evolve, as it has done since 1896, to ensure it stays at the forefront of the legal market and in the best possible position to deliver excellence to its clients.

“Over the past 125 years, we have continually shown we are innovators, we are leaders. We have never been afraid to take bold decisions,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“A great example of this is when we invested in our head office, The Cube, in 2004. We were moving to an area of the city which was largely undeveloped and were, largely, surrounded by the old Scottish and Newcastle plant. Looking around us now, this is a thriving, fast-growing and sought-after area, which is the site of huge investment from both business and academia. We had the foresight to buy into these brave future plans and the ambition to want to become part of it.

“In these changing times, we will continue to evolve and develop, as we have done throughout our history, to ensure that at all times we are delivering the very best service to all our clients while also building and investing in the firm from within.

“We have stood the test of time for 125 years and are committed to ensuring Sintons maintains the reputation and presence that has been built so carefully into the future.”

For Christopher, who joined Sintons in 2003, the main differentiator between Sintons and its competitors is its unfaltering commitment to clients.

While continuing to attract new clients nationally, the firm is rightly proud of its longstanding client base, which includes many who have been with Sintons through multiple generations of their family or business ownership.

“The firm’s absolute priority from day one has been our clients and ensuring they receive the highest standards of legal and personal service. Our reputation is built on those foundations, which were laid by our previous generations of Sintons’ lawyers, and is one we are proud to continue to develop further,” says Christopher.

“At Sintons, we care about what we do, how we do it and we never forget that the clients we are working with are depending on us for, often, some of the most momentous decisions of their lives. As a firm, we recognise both the privilege and the responsibility that goes with this, it is fundamental to how we work and to our values as a business.

“Our clients are the front, back and centre of everything we do. We’ve been there for them whenever they’ve needed us for 125 years and that will continue to be the case as we move forward.”

And building further on its reputation for leading the way in the legal marketplace, Sintons continues to innovate to stand out from the crowd.

Having carried out a full rebrand in early 2020, to give the firm a fresh yet timeless identity, Sintons continues to invest in its future.

“Our rebrand was a significant step for the firm,” says Christopher. “Our branding represents the firm that we are; bold, innovative and providing clear and confident advice to our clients – a firm that stands out from the crowd.

“The use of technology to better serve our clients has always been an essential part of our growth strategy. Our founding partners would be aghast at the thought that we were able to have virtually all our colleagues working remotely – with some as far away as the Cayman Islands and Texas – without any impact on client service.

“By investing heavily in our website and online presence, we have created a resource which is available to clients wherever they are in the UK or indeed the world, giving them immediate access to information and support in ways which weren’t available before.

“The legal sector isn’t always the first to embrace change, but we are rightfully proud of the reputation we have built for standing out in that respect. For 125 years, we have taken bold moves, we have never shied away from making investment to equip the business for the long-term, and we have shown foresight and innovation to make the firm what it is today.

“This is a landmark anniversary for us, and in uncertain times, the investment we have made for many years in our infrastructure, development of our people and strategic recruitment means we remain confident in our future and the service we can continue to provide to our clients and to the regional community of which we are a fundamental part.

“These truly are changing times – but with 125 years behind us then we must be doing something right!  We know that our business will continue to evolve, with further investments in technology and infrastructure changing how and where we work. However, as we move forward, what is clear is that Sintons will always be right there, by the side of our clients, as we have been since 1896.”

Law firm Sintons is marking its 125th anniversary

Since its foundation in 1896, Sintons has grown to become one of the leading law firms in the North of England with a client base which extends across the whole UK.

It has become known as a key advisor to businesses and individuals acting on major, complex matters, regionally, nationally and internationally.

In many of its practice areas, including business, healthcare, private client and neurotrauma, Sintons is regarded as one of the UK’s leading specialist advisors.

Sintons has built a well-deserved reputation for delivering expert legal advice and outstanding service to every client, which is at the heart of the trusting and long-lasting relationships it has built during the past 125 years.

Testament to the quality of service provided is the fact that many of the firm’s clients have been with Sintons for decades, with the firm routinely being trusted to advise multiple generations of families and business owners.

Now, in its 125th year, and despite the ongoing challenges being presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sintons remains confident in its future as the firm continues to develop and grow.

The firm can trace its roots back to the formation of Sutton Cheshire & Thompson on February 8, 1896, which merged with John H. Sinton & Co in 1971 to become Sinton & Co, and later Sintons.

The expansion of the amalgamated firm has seen it move offices a number of times in order to house its growing number of employees, moving from Portland Terrace in Jesmond to bigger premises in Osborne Terrace which were soon outgrown, resulting in the relocation in 2004 to its current purpose-built home, The Cube, opposite St James’ Park in Newcastle. A second site was added with the opening of a consulting office in York two years ago to help the firm service its increasing demand for work from around Yorkshire.

The move in 2004 acted as a springboard in the development of Sintons, with many people not having realised how big the firm had grown and heralded a period of strong growth across the firm as a whole, with legal talent continually added to build its expertise and capability further still.

This has been backed by continued investment in its IT infrastructure, digital offering and people, to ensure Sintons is well positioned for the future.

“We are very proud of the reputation we have built over the past 125 years, which has seen us become known on a national scale as a law firm of the highest capability which is absolutely dedicated to its clients,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“We have never been afraid to be leaders and to take bold decisions, which have frequently put us at the very forefront of the legal sector. We were, for example, building our online presence and digital business development platforms way ahead of our competitors and long before it was something that was embraced widely within the legal sector.

“Going forward, we are in a strong position, having built on the heritage and legacy of Sintons over the past 125 years to create a law firm with a national reach, regarded in the highest terms for the quality of both our legal and personal client service.

“This is a very significant milestone for us as a business, and while we reach it during some of the most challenging economic conditions in the country’s history, we remain confident in the future of Sintons.”

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Conveyancing

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

We will bring you a question and answer per day for the next few weeks.

Q – Much has been made of the fact the property market is now moving again, with in-person viewings of properties now possible and estate agents and removal companies returning to work. Does this mean the process has largely returned to normal and my house purchase can go through soon? 

A – Yes things are slowly starting to get back to normal. Social distancing still provides some challenges and everyone has to remember the importance of staying safe at the current time but its becoming easier to sell or buy a property again.

 

Q – I have read that house prices may decrease significantly over the coming months so I’m keen to sell mine as soon as possible. Once I have a buyer, how long is the process likely to take?

A – Its impossible to predict what will happen with the housing market in the coming months and there are no signs that anyone needs to panic. Its difficult to say how long a transaction will take but at the current time somewhere between 6-10 weeks would be reasonable estimate.

 

Q – Do the delays that are likely to occur in property purchases during the pandemic also apply to new build properties? Will this process move more quickly given that there is no onward chain? 

A – Some aspects of a new build purchase will face the same delays; searches are taking longer at the moment and access for surveys can provide difficult due to social distancing measures. Due to a newbuild property being vacant it certainly reduces some of the challenges faced when buying an occupied property though. It should be easier to arrange a completion date and the moving in process is a lot smoother without the need to wait for the seller to vacate or have to clean the property before moving in.

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Conveyancing

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

We will bring you a question and answer per day for the next few weeks.

Q – Is there any point in putting my house on the market at the minute, are people still buying?

A – There is still some movement in the market, and we are still receiving enquiries and new instructions from our clients, but recent events have certainly slowed down the house buying process.

Unless a property is vacant and social distancing measures are adhered to, it is difficult for a buyer to attend properties for viewings.

However, estate agents have been adapting to the situation and have been offering 360-degree virtual tours online, to showcase properties being marketed for sale. This means buyers are still able to view properties, and in some cases, allows them to make a decision.

While the usual anticipated timescales for completion may not be realistic at present, it is still possible to proceed with your sale and get as much of the preliminary work undertaken at this stage so that completion can take place quickly once restrictions are eased.

* For advice on this or any other residential property matter, please contact Anna Barton, head of residential conveyancing at Sintons, on anna.barton@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 3743.

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Conveyancing

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

We will bring you a question and answer per day for the next few weeks.

Q – I am a landlord and am looking to sell some of my properties. Can I still proceed with this?

A – If you are selling investment properties which are vacant, you may still be able to proceed to completion. Similarly, if your properties are subject to existing tenancies and the tenants do not need to move, completion could still take place.

One local agent who we regularly deal with says he has started to offer 360-degree virtual tours online, to showcase vacant properties, so potential buyers are still able to view the property. Where a property is being sold with a tenant in situ, he explained that some landlords are offering their tenants a financial incentive to tidy the house and upload a video so that buyers can also view tenanted properties online.

It should be noted, however, that new mortgage applications are likely to be delayed, and the local authority search will not be conducted until lockdown conditions have been relaxed. If your buyer is dependent on mortgage and / or searches, you may not be able to set a completion date at this stage.

* For advice on this or any other residential property matter, please contact Anna Barton, head of residential conveyancing at Sintons, on anna.barton@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 3743.

Capital gains tax on the sale of UK residential properties – a COVID-19 update

On 6th April a new deadline for paying capital gains tax following the disposal of a UK residential property which did not qualify for main residence relief came into force.  The new regime gave individuals and Trustees 30 days from the date of completion to pay the tax due and lodge the new on-line return form.  If no tax is due there is no need for a report to be made.

In the light of the current COVID-19 situation HMRC have confirmed that they are allowing a period of time to adjust to the new regime and they will not issue late filing penalties for CGT payments on account where returns are received late up to and including 31st July 2020.

For UK residents this means that transactions completed between 6th April and 30th June 2020 and reported up to 31st July 2020 will not be subject to late filing penalties but transactions completed after 1st July 2020 will receive a late filing penalty if they are not reported within the 30 day period.  In all cases the guidance makes it clear that interest will accrue on the outstanding tax if it is still unpaid after 30 days.

HMRC have indicated that they will be flexible where payment is difficult due to the COVID-19 crises but this is unlikely to help sellers where they have received proceeds on the sale of the property and where they would be expected to pay the tax from the sale proceeds.  HMRC have indicated that they understand that there will be situations when payment is difficult, for example, where the disposal of the property was by way of gift and where there are no actual sale proceeds being received or if the seller is disposing of the property to find money to invest in a business in response to the COVID-19 crises.

Owing to the fact that the new regime is an on-line payment regime you will need to register with HMRC first and sufficient time should be allowed to enable this to be completed and the information returned before the deadline.  For trustees disposing of UK residential property they can also use the new on-line system but personal representatives disposing of a deceased’s property will need to file a paper return.

* For advice on this or any other related matter, please contact Alan Dawson, Chairman at Sintons, on alan.dawson@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 7811.

COVID-19 Q&A | Sintons | Residential Conveyancing

During these unprecedented times, where the situation is changing on a daily basis, we are aware that individuals and business owners will have many questions and uncertainties about how these developments impact on them.

Here, through a series of Q&A with expert lawyers from across our firm, Sintons hopes to be able to answer some of those pressing questions, and provide some certainty and clarity for people who are unsure how to proceed.

We will bring you a question and answer per day for the next few weeks.

Q – I am in the process of buying a property but have seen the recent advice against moving to a new house at this time. Should I proceed?

A – The Government has issued advice to all parties currently involved in the conveyancing process to adapt and be flexible. While this may mean that you cannot move house immediately, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to withdraw from your transaction and that matters cannot progress. As long as you adhere to the guidance which has been set out (stay at home and away from others at all times, prioritise the health of individuals and the public) then the buying and selling process can still continue, though matters will take longer than usual to complete.

If the property you are intending to move into is vacant, then you may, in certain circumstances, be able to proceed to exchange and completion, on the proviso that the removal process does not breach guidelines.

If the property you are moving to is currently occupied, then we would encourage you to agree alternative completion dates so that house moves can take place when the stay-at-home measures are no longer in place and it is safe to move. Contracts should not be exchanged unless provision has been made for the risks in connection with the virus.

* For advice on this or any other residential property matter, please contact Anna Barton, head of residential conveyancing at Sintons, on anna.barton@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 3743.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Residential Conveyancing Transactions

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all parts of everyday life. So, with the country in lockdown, what is going to happen to any ongoing residential conveyancing transactions?

The Government have issued advice to all parties currently involved in the conveyancing process to adapt and be flexible. While this may mean that you cannot move house on the date originally agreed, it doesn’t mean that you should pull out of your transaction and that matters cannot progress. As long as you adhere to the guidance which has been set out (stay at home and away from others at all times, prioritise the health of individuals and the public) then the buying and selling process can still continue, though matters are likely to take longer than usual.

If the property you are intending to move into is vacant, then you can proceed to exchange and completion on the proviso that the removal process does not breach guidelines.

If the property you are moving to is currently occupied, then parties are being encouraged to agree alternative completion dates so that house moves can take place when the stay-at-home measures are no longer in place. Contracts should not be exchanged unless provision has been made for the risks in connection with the virus.

If contracts have already been exchanged then it is of vital importance that all parties work together to reach an agreement and resolve the matter in the safest way possible. There are exemptions in place for critical home moves. Also, UK Finance have today confirmed that all mortgage lenders are looking to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to allow flexible on completion dates.

At Sintons we have an experienced team who are on hand to assist you with any queries you may have. During this period of lockdown, our staff are working remotely but are contactable by email and telephone. Our team can offer you practical guidance on how to progress your conveyancing transactions while abiding by the advice issued by the Government. The team are monitoring the guidance carefully to ensure that clients are given the most accurate, up-to-date advice.

The overall message to all parties currently involved in the conveyancing process is to be flexible, considerate and patient. It is important to keep the lines of communication open with your seller/buyer, estate agent and solicitor so that the best possible solution can be reached.

Conveyancing team expands further with new appointment

The residential property team at Sintons has expanded further with the addition of a new specialist to help accommodate its fast-increasing workload.

Sintons’ growing conveyancing team has added Suzanna Hawkes to its ranks, as it continues to win new work both regionally and nationally.

The award-winning team is widely regarded as one of the most capable in the North of England and the majority of its work comes from repeat business and referral. It is known as having particular strength in acting in complex and high-value matters, and has a sizeable client base of property investors, many of whom are based in London.

Suzanna joins the team to help it keep pace with instructions, and will add to Sintons’ capability in acting for individuals in property sales, purchases, transfers of equity and remortgages.

Sintons is seeing strong growth across all areas of its business, including residential property, as its Strategy for Growth continues to deliver the rewards of the firm’s investment and ongoing recruitment drive.

Anna Barton, head of conveyancing at Sintons, said: “We are well known as being a leading advisor in the specialist field of residential property and are regarded in the highest terms for the most complex of transactions, particularly those of high value and for owners of multiple properties. The volume of work we have is continually increasing on the back of recommendation and our team continues to expand to accommodate this.

“We are very pleased to welcome Suzanna, who will bring additional capability and capacity to the team to help us build further on our reputation for delivering an exceptional legal and personal service to every client.”

Leading the way for private clients

Sintons’ private client team has built a reputation as one of the major players in the North of England, with the department’s recent success at the Northern Law Awards confirming its position as being at the very forefront of the field.

 (This article was featured in the June 2019 edition of North East Times.)

With a heritage of over 120 years in acting for families and individuals, supporting them with many of the most significant events and milestones in their lives, Sintons has become one of the best-known, most trusted and highly-rated private client advisors in the North of England.

The specialist private client department, which brings together excellence in family law, wills, trusts and probate work and residential property, works far beyond its native North East, with clients coming to Sintons from across the UK on the strength of its stellar reputation.

Renowned for its legal expertise and the clear, direct advice it gives to clients, Sintons also offers an unrivalled personal service, which has set the firm apart in the marketplace since its inception in 1896. The majority of work into its private client department comes from referral, recommendation or from long-standing clients who return to the firm time and again – with several generations of families routinely being Sintons clients – which is testament to the quality of service it provides.

The private client department was recently named as winner of two of Sintons’ five accolades at the Northern Law Awards 2019 – with the firm also winning the highly-coveted overall title, law firm of the year – with its family and wills, trusts and probate team both being named as leading the way in the North of England. The residential property team is a previous Northern Law Awards winner.

And to increase its capability further still, Sintons’ private client department is growing strongly, with strategic new appointments across the board to strengthen and develop its offering, creating a department that few can rival in the North East or wider North of England.

Sintons is well-known as a leading advisor to high net worth individuals and families and is regularly instructed in matters of great complexity and involving significant levels of assets.

The family law team is known across the UK for this very reason, and is why it is appointed in so many high value divorce and separation matters. Regularly, the team act for professional sports people, high-profile public figures, senior medical and legal figures and other high net worth individuals. The specialist team, led by partner Steve Freeman – one of the region’s leading matrimonial lawyers – is known for advising clients sensitively yet directly, and fights hard on their behalf to achieve the best possible outcome.

To help meet client demand, the team has grown significantly in the recent past, with family law specialists Elizabeth Gallagher and Louisa Bestford both joining from senior positions with rival firms. Senior associate Louise Masters has also become a key name both in Sintons’ department and the region’s specialist matrimonial law field, through her work in many high-value complex cases.

Similarly, the wills, trusts and probate team has also grown strongly, with its reputation now making it a go-to advisor for matters of the greatest complexity, which other firms often do not have the expertise to handle. Under the leadership of partner Paul Nickalls – regularly named as one of the Leading Individuals in the North by the independent Legal 500 legal rankings – the team has developed strongly.

Senior associates Emma Saunders and Paul Collingwood have become leading names in their field, with Emma relocating from London to join Sintons, bringing her significant expertise in handling litigation through wills, trusts and estate disputes to the firm. Paul Collingwood plays a key role in developing junior members of the team, and has also helped to build Sintons’ specialist Court of Protection offering.

Alan Dawson, chairman of Sintons, remains one of the most sought-after advisors in this area with over 30 years’ experience in acting for families, many of whom are from farming and rural communities.

The conveyancing team also has national reach, and as well as its instructions from home buyers and sellers across the UK, it is also the long-standing advisor to many investors with significant portfolios of residential property. Clients regularly use Sintons for many years, returning time and again for their property purchases and sales, having been impressed by the levels of service and diligence from the department.

Led by partner Anna Barton, the team has developed strongly during her time at the helm, becoming a specialist in a wide array of areas, including high value transactions and new-build property purchases. Associate Andrew Graham has helped to develop Sintons’ new-build specialism since joining the team, and the department continues to grow on the back of demand.

An overview of the Conveyancing process

So what happens once you have had an offer accepted on a property and you have your mortgage in principle lined up? The next step is that you need to instruct a conveyancing solicitor to deal with the legal process. The average conveyancing transaction should take between 4 – 6 weeks, but it all depends on how complex the legal title for the property is and if there are any issues which need to be resolved.

Once you have chosen and instructed a solicitor, you will need to provide your solicitor with your identification documents and pay some monies on account to cover the cost of searches. Also, your solicitor will ask you where the monies for the purchase are coming from. This is known as “evidence of source of funds” and the sooner you can provide this information the better to ensure that this does not delay matters further down the line. It is very common for people to get some or all of their deposit monies by way of a gift from a family member. While this is not usually a problem, please be prepared for your solicitor to ask you for identification documents and bank statements from the person who is giving you the gift, as well as asking the family member to sign a letter confirming that the monies are a gift and they aren’t expecting the money to be repaid in the future.

There are three main elements to a conveyancing transaction: title, searches and mortgage. Your solicitor will check through the title documents which come in from the seller’s solicitors, and will raise any enquiries which they think are necessary to fill in any gaps in the information provided.  At the same time, searches will be applied for. These are searches with the local authority, the water authority, an environmental search and, in some areas, a mining search.

Once the replies to enquiries and search results are back, your solicitor will send you a report to summarise the information about the property. It is important that you ask questions if you don’t understand or are concerned about anything, as this is the time to get any queries cleared up.

By this time hopefully you will also have received your mortgage offer from your chosen mortgage lender. Your solicitor will report to you on your mortgage, and explain the risks involved in taking out mortgage finance and any special conditions which you have to comply with.

Once you are happy, you can sign and return the documents for your purchase and provide your deposit monies, and then your solicitor can look to agree an exchange and completion date with the rest of the chain. If you are living in rented accommodation, please don’t hand in your notice to your landlord until you are sure that your purchase is under contract and a completion date is set, as unfortunately things can go wrong and nothing is guaranteed until contracts have been exchanged.

It is very important that you are aware that the onus is on you as the buyer to make as many enquiries and investigations about the property before exchange of contracts. The rule is “let the buyer beware”, so please take the time to look at any valuation and survey reports thoroughly, to read the reports sent to you by your solicitor, and to ask anything that you need to as early on in the process as possible.

Until contracts are exchanged, nothing is definite and unfortunately it does sometimes happen that chains fall apart or people get gazumped. From the moment of exchange, the purchase price, completion date, and all other terms of the contract are legally binding and cannot be changed. If something then happens to prevent you from buying the property, you will be in breach of contract and subject to paying interest, penalties and, worst case scenario, losing your deposit monies.

On the day of completion you will be able to get your keys as soon as the purchase monies are received by the seller’s solicitors. Your solicitor will then deal with registering your ownership of the property and any mortgage secured over it, and will send you a copy of the Register once this has been done.

Overall, the conveyancing process can be a very stressful period, but if you take things step by step and ask questions when you need to, your solicitor should be able to guide you through it.

If you require any further information please feel free to contact us.

Help for First Time Buyers

Buying a property can be very expensive and its often difficult to save the deposit if you are paying rent, but if you have never owned a property before there are schemes available to help you get on the property ladder:

Help to Buy: Equity Loan Scheme – Under this scheme the Government loans you up to 20% of the cost of a new build home. In addition it means you only have to pay a 5% deposit as opposed to 10%, which is usually the minimum in a property transaction. This means you can buy your home with a 5% deposit, 75% mortgage and the remainder being loaned by the Government.  No interest is payable on the loan for the first 5 years of ownership but a £1 per month administration fee is payable. The loan must be repaid when you come to sell your home, or you can repay the loan in part or in full at any time after taking it out.

Help to Buy ISA – These are available from many of the main banks and building societies. A first time buyer can open an account with an initial deposit of up to £1,200 and then pay in a maximum of £200 per month thereafter. When your property purchase is nearing completion you need to close your Help to Buy ISA and provide us with your closing statement which will enable us to apply for your bonus payment. The bonus you are due is 25% of whatever your closing balance is. The maximum bonus you can claim is £3,000 and the minimum is £400. Help to Buy ISA’s are only available on purchases with a price of up to £450,000 in London or £250,000 in the rest of the country.

Shared Ownership Properties – Under this scheme you are able to purchase between 25%-75% of a property and pay rent on the remaining share. You can later purchase further shares of your home (this is referred to as staircasing) and eventually own 100% when you are in a financial position to do so. This scheme is available on various types of properties through resale programs run by housing associations.

Stamp Duty Land Tax: relief for first time buyers – This provides an additional incentive to buy your first home and get on the property ladder. If you have never owned a property before you don’t pay any stamp duty on a purchase with a price up to £300,000 and there is a reduced rate if the price is between £300,001 and £500,000.

If you require any further information please feel free to contact us.

Residential property specialist Andrew Graham joins Sintons

A highly experienced residential property lawyer has joined the award-winning conveyancing team at law firm Sintons.

Andrew Graham has joined Sintons’ specialist conveyancing department as an Associate. The team has built a reputation as one of the most accomplished of its kind in the North of England and attracts work from across the UK, particularly from London, with most coming by recommendation. High value properties are a particular specialism for the team, but they are also well known for their expertise in new build properties, acting for first time buyers and handling property matters for their investor clients.

With more than 13 years’ experience of working in residential property, with particular expertise in the field of new build properties, Andrew adds further strength to Sintons.

The conveyancing team, led by Anna Barton, was recently named Residential Property Team of the Year at the Northern Law Awards, in recognition of its outstanding technical ability and excellent client service.

Andrew said: “Residential property has been my specialist area since I qualified as a solicitor in 2005, and working in the North East legal sector, Sintons has always stood out for its reputation for being able to handle the most complex of property transactions, while always delivering an excellent service to its clients. I am delighted to join such a capable and dynamic team at this exciting time of growth and development for conveyancing, and for the firm as a whole.”

Anna Barton, Partner and Head of Conveyancing at Sintons, said: “Andrew is a well-known name in North East residential property and a valuable addition to our team.

“We are known for our professionalism and the outstanding personal service we offer, which is why so much of our work comes via recommendations and from long-standing clients such as investors; it was also cited as a key reason for our recent success in the Northern Law Awards. We are continuing to grow as a department and I am very pleased to add Andrew’s experience and expertise to help continue our development.”

Sintons scoop two Northern Law Awards

Law firm Sintons has been named winner in two categories of the prestigious Northern Law Awards.

In a ceremony held last night, Newcastle-based Sintons won the accolade for best residential property team and the law practice management award went to David Pritchard, Sintons’ marketing manager.

The firm was shortlisted in six other categories of the Northern Law Awards – corporate and commercial, employment, family, personal injury and private client, as well as the overall Firm of the Year – in recognition of its strength and growth throughout the business.

The Northern Law Awards, now in their third year, celebrate and acknowledge the very best of legal excellence, talent and success across the whole North of England. The winners were revealed last night at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead, and were decided by an independent judging panel following interviews with each of the shortlisted firms and candidates.

Mark Quigley, managing partner of Sintons, who attended the event, said: “We are delighted to have won two Northern Law Awards, in what is a huge endorsement of the work and progress we have made, and continue to make, in these practice areas and indeed across the whole firm.

“Our residential property team, led by Anna Barton, has seen significant growth in recent times, and regularly wins work across the whole UK, particularly from London, such is the capability and client service it offers. Similarly, David Pritchard has been transformational in our marketing department, spearheading a number of digital initiatives in particular to promote Sintons on a national scale and win work from across the whole country. My congratulations go to David and to Anna and her team.

“It was an honour to also have been shortlisted in six other categories, which comes in recognition of our capability and dedication in offering the best possible legal service to our clients. Our vision is to set the standard for legal excellence, and through winning and being shortlisted for such prestigious accolades at the Northern Law Awards, this helps to show the efforts we are making in achieving this.”

Sintons shortlisted in eight categories at Northern Law Awards

Law firm Sintons has been shortlisted in eight categories of the Northern Law Awards 2018.

Newcastle-based Sintons has been named as a finalist in mutiple categories, in recognition of its strength across the firm.

Sintons has been shortlisted for overall Law Firm of the Year, Team of the Year in six different practice areas – corporate and commercial, conveyancing, employment, family, personal injury and private client – as well as Marketing Manager David Pritchard for a Law Practice Management award.

The Northern Law Awards, now in their third year, celebrate and acknowledge legal excellence, talent and success across the North of England. This year’s winners will be revealed, following interviews by a judging panel with all of the shortlisted firms, at an awards dinner at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead on June 7.

Mark Quigley, managing partner of Sintons, said: “We are delighted to be shortlisted eight times for the Northern Law Awards – which is indicative of the strength and capability we have throughout the firm.

“At Sintons, we pride ourselves on offering first-rate legal advice coupled with unrivalled bespoke client service, and it is very pleasing that our commitment to this has again been recognised, particularly by an independent judging panel of legal professionals.

“The Northern Law Awards are a highly-respected endorsement of legal capability and excellence, and we are very proud to be shortlisted.”

Sintons scoop two awards

Law firm Sintons has been confirmed as being one of the leading conveyancing firms in the UK after winning two prestigious awards for its work.

The Newcastle-based firm was named as the Northern Conveyancing Firm of the Year at the Modern Law Conveyancing Awards, and its digital marketing manager David Pritchard was also named as Business Development Professional of the Year.

The awards, held in Liverpool and attended by law firms from across the UK, hailed Sintons for its client-focused approach and technical capability. David, who joined Sintons in 2014, was praised for his work in integrating a digital approach into the firm’s offering.

Sintons’ conveyancing team, led by Anna Barton, has grown significantly in recently years, and works with clients across the UK. It deals with a range of property transactions, from first-time buyers and family homes, to handling complex high-value portfolios on behalf of investors.

Anna Barton, head of the conveyancing team at Sintons, said: “We take great pride in the level of service we provide to our clients and the relationships we build with them, so we are absolutely delighted our work has been acknowledged with two coveted accolades in the Modern Law Conveyancing Awards. 

“Sintons have long had a reputation for the high quality of its work in conveyancing, and we are again at the forefront of the market by introducing a high-quality digital offering, which David has led and developed to great success.

“These two awards are yet another endorsement of our work and the very high quality of our service to clients we offer here at Sintons.”

Sintons shortlisted for the Modern Law Conveyancing Awards 2016

Sintons are delighted to be shortlisted in the Modern Law Conveyancing Awards 2016, in the following four categories:

  • Conveyancing Firm of the Year – North of England
  • Property Team of the Year
  • Client Care Award
  • Business Development Professional of the Year

The event will take place on Thursday 14th July at the Rum Warehouse, Liverpool.

The winners will be chosen by an esteemed Judging Panel, who have been selected based on their knowledge and experience of the industry. These new awards will recognise those taking the lead in innovating to find unique solutions for their businesses and clients, those who have achieved successes as teams or individuals, and those championing client care.

Sintons secures Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme again

Sintons LLP in Newcastle upon Tyne has once again secured membership to the Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme – the mark of excellence for the home-buying process. This is the third year in a row that Sintons has achieved CQS accreditation.

Sintons underwent rigorous assessment by the Law Society in order to continue to hold CQS status, which marks the firm out as continuing to meet high standards in the residential conveyancing process.

Law Society President Andrew Caplen said that the CQS accreditation is the hallmark of high standards and establishes a level of credibility for regulators, lenders, insurers and consumers.

"CQS is the quality mark of the home-buying sector and enables consumers to identify practices that provide a quality residential conveyancing service. With so many different conveyancing service providers out there CQS helps home-buyers and sellers seek out those that can provide a safe and efficient level of service."

Alan Dawson, Chairman, says: "Sintons is delighted to have secured CQS status once again. Buying and selling a home can be a stressful time. By looking for a CQS firm like Sintons the public can seek out a firm that has proved its commitment to quality.

“The overall beneficiaries will be clients who use Sintons when buying a home. They will receive a reliable, efficient service as recognised by the CQS standard."

The scheme requires practices to undergo a strict assessment, compulsory training, self-reporting, random audits and annual reviews in order to maintain CQS status. It is open only to members of the Law Society who meet the demanding standards set by the scheme and has the support of the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the Building Societies Association, Legal Ombudsman and the Association of British Insurers.

If you require any further information please feel free to contact us.

Declaration of trust & joint ownership

There are two ways in which property can be owned jointly, joint tenants or tenants in common. These terms have a different legal meaning to the type of tenant who rents a property from a landlord.

Joint Tenants

If you hold the property as joint tenants, both parties will own the whole of the property. You will not each have a quantified share in the property and will not be able to leave a share of the property in your will. If you sell the property, or if you separate, it will be presumed that you both own the property equally, regardless of your respective contributions to the purchase price. On the death of one co-owner, their interest in the property would automatically pass to the surviving co-owner without any further action. The surviving co-owner would then own the whole property and on their death it would form part of their estate. This is known as the “right of survivorship”.

Married couples or those in civil partnership commonly use this method of co-ownership because the right of survivorship makes it straightforward to inherit each other’s shares in the property.

However, there may be reasons why you would choose not to hold a property as joint tenants. For example, if one of you has made a large contribution to the purchase price of the property and you would want this to be recognized if the property is sold or if you separate. A joint tenancy is also not suitable if you have family from an earlier marriage and wish to leave interest in the property to them, instead of passing it to the co-owner. There may also be tax advantages of owning a specific share in the property and you should take appropriate advice in this regard prior to completing on your purchase.

Tenants in Common

If you hold the property as tenants in common, each of you will own a notional share in the property. Your shares may be equal, but they do not have to be. Your share of the property can be passed on to another person, either during your lifetime or under your will. If you do not have a will at the time of your death then your share will pass in accordance with the rules of intestacy.

If you wish to hold as tenants in common, then you should sign a declaration of trust. Holding the property as tenants in common may be appropriate if you have children from previous relationships and would prefer them to inherit your interest on your death rather than your co-owner. Holding the property as tenants in common in unequal shares may be desirable if you have made unequal contributions to the purchase price of the property.

Next Steps

Newcastle residential property expert solicitors Sintons Law discuss declaration of trust & joint ownership, including joint tenants & tenants in common

How you wish to hold the property must be your own decision and is something that you should keep under review following the purchase of the property. If you decide to hold the property as joint tenants but then wish to split your interests, the joint tenancy can be “severed” and turned into a tenancy in common at any time.

You also need to consider whether there is a mortgage on the property. If there is, then the trust deed should provide for this to be paid off before dividing the sale proceeds, or if one party is to be responsible for all or part of the mortgage capital payment out of their share then this should be stated in the trust deed, the trust deed should also go on to define the proportions in which the joint owners would make the mortgage payments.

As a further option you may wish to consider whether the document should contain a right of first refusal in the event of one party wishing to dispose of their share in the property. This is called a right of pre-emption. The arrangement would be that if one party wished to sell the property they would first give notice of this intention to the other parties who would have the right to buy that persons share at market value. It is important to specify now how you wish to hold the property, to avoid any uncertainty in the future.

 

By instructing Sintons you can be confident that we will handle your matter diligently, providing you with all the information you need to understand the process from start to finish.

If you require any further information please feel free to contact us.

Noisy neighbours

We are all taught to love our neighbours, but what would you do if they turned out to be the noisiest neighbours you have ever had the misfortune of living next door to?

When you have a neighbour who makes a lot of noise it is no laughing matter and can intrude into every area of your life. Excessive noise affects your quality of life, preventing you from fully enjoying simple activities in your home, such as watching TV, listening to music or reading a book. Excessive noise can affect your sleep, preventing you from getting a decent eight hours which can be detrimental to all areas of your life.

Even houses and homes that have good insulation are often affected by modern noise. Sound equipment such as amplifiers and DVD surround sound can even cut through good insulation. While creating a loud noise is not an immediate criminal offence in the UK, it can become a “statutory nuisance” if it is not challenged. Noise would become a nuisance when it is an unlawful interference with the persons use or enjoyment of land or of some right over, or in connection with it. Determining what level of noise constitutes a nuisance can be quite subjective. For instance, the level of noise, its length and timing may be taken into consideration in determining whether a nuisance has actually occurred.

Talking to your neighbour should be the obvious starting point, if your neighbour is polite enough they will comply with your request to bring down the level of noise, but if the noise levels remain unchanged or are increased you will have no choice but to make the complaint formally to the Local Authority Environmental Health Department, the landlord of the property or call the police. Local authorities have a duty to deal with statutory nuisance under the Environment Protection Act 1990. If the Local Authority is satisfied that a noise problem amounts to a statutory nuisance then they can serve an “abatement notice”. The notice can be served on the person responsible for the noise – they then have 21 days to appeal. The notice may require that the noise be stopped altogether or limited to certain times of the day. Complaints can be made in person, by telephone or by email to the Environmental Health Department of the local authority where your name would normally be kept in strict confidence and would not be released to the person causing the noise. However if the council decides to take legal action, you should be prepared to give a statement and attend court to give evidence.

Although noise nuisance is an environmental health matter, the police can also deal with a complaint if the noise amounts to a breach of the peace, or when it is associated with threatening, violent or other anti-social behaviour. In very serious cases of anti-social behaviour the police and the local authority can work together to seek anti-social behaviour orders (ASBO’s) against residents causing alarm, harassment and distress to others.

By instructing Sintons you can be confident that we will handle your matter diligently, providing you with all the information you need to understand the process from start to finish.

If you require any further information please feel free to contact us.

Looking to buy a property? Watch out for any hidden surprises…

When you buy a house, your solicitor or conveyancer must undertake certain searches on your property, so that you discover as much information as possible prior to your commitment to the purchase.

Some searches are compulsory; others are optional depending on where you live and how much additional information you require. If you happen to be in the enviable position of being able to buy without the assistance of a mortgage some searches are discretionary. Of course, it is always our advice to carry out the searches so as to minimise your exposure to risk and ensure that when you come to sell the property you won’t encounter any problems, but if you don't need a mortgage then the choice is ultimately yours.

This article sets out the various searches that may be required as part of the investigation process. The investigation will be carried out by the buyer acquiring the property and focuses on "pre-exchange" searches. The searches that should be undertaken in every transaction before a buyer is contractually bound to purchase the property are as follows:

Local Authority Search

This is the one search that is essentially non-negotiable; even if you are buying without a mortgage it is highly recommended. The result will tell you, amongst other things, if the local authority is planning to do any road expansion works that could affect the property or if the neighbour has permission for a two-storey extension that will plunge your garden into shadows! The benefits cannot be stressed enough, but you should note that the results of this search are only valid for six months for mortgage purposes, and relates only to the property you are buying, not the whole area and it can't disclose any future proposals so if any changes are made to the local authority’s registers after the search is issued then you don't have the right to complain.

It is important that you understand the limitations of the local search. This will not be a search of the whole local area, but will relate purely to the property you are buying. It will not tell us about any developments which may planned or are already approved in the immediate vicinity of the property, other than a construction of a new road within 200 meters of the property. It will not routinely tell us about the location of public paths or bridleways or traffic schemes which may affect the roads where your property lies.

If there is any particular reason that you are buying this property, such as a view, its location, next to open spaces etc, then you should make either your own enquiries of the local authority relevant to your reason for purchase or ask your solicitor to do this, particularly if it relates to any known planned works on adjoining land or development in the area as a whole.

 A local land charges search will identify all the local land charges registered in the local land charges register that affect the property, such as conditions in planning consents, tree and building preservation orders and planning enforcement notices and should be part of every investigation of the property.

Drainage Search

Drainage and water enquiries need to be raised separately and should be part of every property investigation. The enquiries are in a standard form and are raised directly with the relevant Water Authority. The replies will reveal important information about the water and drainage services at the property under investigation. The public sewer map will indicate if there are any public sewers, disposal mains or any other lateral drains within the boundaries of the property.

Index Map Search

An index map search should always be made, where the property is unregistered or includes unregistered land or where the property is being sold by reference to a contract plan that is not the title plan and so may include unregistered land or land comprised in more than one registered title. An index map search will reveal if the property is affected by a registered rent charge or a caution for example.

Mining Searches

This is totally dependent on the area you are buying in. If the area has a previous or current mining history then the search must be carried out for the benefit of you and your mortgage lender. There are various mining searches available depending on the type of mining carried out in the vicinity and your conveyancer will be able to tell you which you need, if any. Coal mining searches are largely concerned with finding out whether the property is affected, has been affected, or may in the future be affected by subsidence as a result of coal mining activity.

Environmental Search

All Local Authorities are obliged to identify any areas of land that may be deemed contaminated land. All of these areas are registered and any works required to rectify it are the responsibility of the land owner. If the site has not previously been identified and you buy a house which is affected, if the person who caused the contamination cannot be identified, it could be you who is required to foot the bill for clean up costs. This search will give you some information about the previous land use so you can decide if there is a risk. It will also tell you if the house is in an area affected by flooding, landslip or subsidence.

Flood searches

It is becoming increasingly important to consider whether a property is at risk of flooding. A flood risk search can assess the risk from river, coastal, surface water and ground water flooding. If your property suffers from flooding this may affect your ability to obtain buildings insurance on acceptable terms.

Chancel Check/Chancel Repair Search

Chancel Repair Liability has become increasingly controversial. The Church of England is entitled in some areas to enforce an ancient right to demand money from landowners as contributions towards the repair of its parish churches. If the property you buy has a liability attached to it,  you could be forced to contribute to such repairs. A simple indemnity policy can protect you against this liability and we can arrange this for you at a relatively low cost.

The information above outlines the most commonly required searches, there are others that are slightly more obscure but it is unlikely that you will need them.

By instructing Sintons you can be confident that we will handle your matter diligently, providing you with all the information you need to understand the process from start to finish.

If you require any further information please feel free to contact us.

Shared equity the first step on the property ladder

Many house builders offer ‘shared equity schemes’ to first time buyers, helping them onto the property ladder and enabling them own their home for as little as 75% of the price.

This scheme is only available to first time buyers who will live in the property (so you cannot rent it out to tenants) and is usually offered on certain estates and on selected properties.

The majority of these schemes operate in a similar fashion. Normally you will pay a 5% deposit on exchange of contracts, and then pay 70% of the purchase price via a prearranged mortgage and the remaining 25% would be paid by the builder with this proportion being secured as a second charge usually over a term of 10 years.

Most of the builders do not charge interest on the second charge for the period of the loan however; some do charge a low rate of interest after the first 5 years of the loan, so it is important to check this point as it could affect your mortgage application.

After 10 years you would have to repay the second charge by either selling your property or increasing your mortgage to cover the outstanding balance. This can be done during the 10-year period, or the loan can be repaid in up to 3 instalments during those 10 years.

The amount repaid will depend on the ‘market value’ and this will be determined by the actual sale price where there is a sale, or if mortgaging this will be determined by taking the average of two independent valuations. The cost of these valuations and solicitor fees will have to be paid by you.

If the market value of the property increases due to improvements made to the property such as conservatories or an extension, the value of these improvements will be excluded from the market value. However if the market value falls, you will only pay back 25% of that value.

In the current economic climate where 95% mortgages are very rare, these schemes offer first time buyers the opportunity to get their feet onto the property ladder.

By instructing Sintons you can be confident that we will handle your matter diligently, providing you with all the information you need to understand the process from start to finish.

If you require any further information please feel free to contact us.

Having Problems Paying Your Mortgage?

A mortgage is a loan you take out using your home as security. This means that if you do not make the payments or fail to comply with the terms and conditions of your mortgage, your home could be repossessed by your lender.

If you are struggling to pay your mortgage you must take action quickly to stop yourself from falling into debt.

The first step should be to talk to your mortgage company. It may be possible to negotiate a reduction in the monthly repayment amount, for example by agreeing a repayment holiday, switching to an interest only mortgage or extending the mortgage term.

Your first priority should be to meet your mortgage repayments, ahead of any payments to credit card debts. Credit card debt is not secured against your home. In some cases credit card debts can be reduced or frozen and this includes the interest if you can show that you have worked out a budget and cannot afford to make these payments.

If you cannot afford to pay the full mortgage repayment you should pay what you can afford.

You should also check whether you have a mortgage payment protection policy in place, if so, this may cover your mortgage repayments in the event of unemployment, accident or illness.

If the above steps do not help then you could consider the following options:

  • Selling your home – if your income and outgoings cannot be improved and future mortgage arrears are inevitable, you should consider selling the property voluntarily to avoid repossession. If you are in negative equity (where the value of your home is less than the amount secured on it) the mortgage company will need to consent to the sale and agree with you how the shortfall will be repaid;
  • Renting out the property (or renting out a room) – you will require consent to do this from the mortgage company;
  • A sale and rent back scheme – under a sale and rent back (or sale and lease back) arrangement, you would sell the property at a discount in return for the option of remaining in the property as a tenant. Selling your home in this way may allow you to clear your debts and stay in your home, but you should proceed cautiously with this option and take the appropriate legal advice before committing yourself, because:

    • (a) you will normally be paid less than the full market value of your home;
    • (b) you may still have to leave after the fixed term of your rental agreement ends;
    • (c) you could still be evicted if you breach the terms of your tenancy; &
    • (d) if the person or firm buying your home gets into financial difficulties the property could still be repossessed.
  • Voluntary Repossession – would be where you would vacate the property and hand the keys to the mortgage company. This should only be used as a last resort as you will:

    • (a) continue to be responsible for the existing mortgage arrears together with any interest that accrues on these arrears until the property is sold;
    • (b) have to pay the mortgage company’s sale costs;
    • (c) still owe any remaining mortgage balance following the sale by the mortgage company;
    • (d) may have difficulty obtaining loan finance in the future; &
    • (e) may become homeless.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) regulates these schemes, so make sure you deal with a regulated firm. Think carefully before choosing this option and ensure you read up on all facts.

If you require debt advice some local authorities offer free face to face debt advice to borrowers in financial difficulty. You can check whether this service is offered in your area by calling the local council offices.

Should you have any complaints against any mortgage company, The Financial Ombudsman Service will deal with these. However you must go through the formal procedure, having first complained to the lender via their internal complaints procedure.

By instructing Sintons you can be confident that we will handle your matter diligently, providing you with all the information you need to understand the process from start to finish.

If you require any further information please feel free to contact us.

Flat Owners – Is Your Lease Term Long Enough?

If you own a leasehold flat where the lease has fewer than 80 years to run, you should give serious consideration as to whether to extend the lease. Leasehold extension is the process of extending a lease on a property by paying the landlord or freeholder a sum of money which is sometimes referred to as ‘compensation’.

This might seem strange, given that you are probably not going to be around when the lease expires, but if you do not act, you could find that the value of your property may be reduced considerably.

The remaining length of a lease is often overlooked in the early stages of marketing a leasehold property estate agents often don’t see a lease extension as much of an issue, but buyers do. The reason for this is that most potential buyers will take out a mortgage to buy a property and most lenders require a lengthy amount of time remaining on any leasehold property before they will consider providing a mortgage on it.

The required length of lease varies from lender to lender and it will be the policy of an individual lender which will determine the length of a lease required. Problems have arisen over the last few years because mortgage lenders keep increasing their requirements for the length of an unexpired term. For instance Halifax Plc ( one of the largest lenders) require there to be at least 70 years left on the term of the lease, while many lenders require the mortgage term plus 35 years.

Owners will find that even in fairly modern properties the unexpired term of their lease is too short for lenders’ requirements, or that buyers are worried that they will be affected when they come to sell and frequently ask for sellers to arrange for an extension of the lease term.

The Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 (as amended) allows almost all owners of leasehold property once they have owned their property for two years to extend their lease on the same terms as their existing one. This 1993 Act gives leaseholders the right to ask for the landlord/freeholder to add 90 years to what is left on their existing lease. The landlord/freeholder will not necessarily be willing to give 90 years extension and they may require a regular increase in the yearly ground rent payable. Of course these terms may not concern you as you maybe intending to sell the property, but you should take legal advice before agreeing to this as it may affect the sale of your property.

The amount you pay will depend on the landlord/freeholder and may involve negotiating with the landlord/freeholder and then proceed with having a new lease drawn up.

You may have to employ the services of a specialist surveyor to carry out a lease extension valuation. They will be able to provide you with the best and worst scenarios, and advise you on the amount of money you should offer the landlord/freeholder and help you to negotiate an agreement.

The surveyor will look at a number of things during the valuation process, such as the length of the lease, the location of the property, ground rent, demand for the property and the term of the lease before advising you of what should be offered to the landlord/freeholder.

If you are thinking of selling a leasehold flat, you should get advice from a solicitor or a conveyancer before marketing the property.

However, If you are the owner of a leasehold house, you will be entitled to purchase the freehold of your property. The information detailed above applies only to leasehold flats.

By instructing Sintons you can be confident that we will handle your matter diligently, providing you with all the information you need to understand the process from start to finish.

If you require any further information please feel free to contact us.