Thursday, 5 February 2015

Debt recovery steps up a gear

Businesses are taking a far more hostile approach to recovering outstanding debts, a Shropshire commercial law specialist has warned.

The risk of being served with a winding-up order by creditors is greater than ever, according to Andrew Oranjuik, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford.

He said: “The traditional way of recovering a debt always used to be bringing proceedings through the county court or High Court. But increasingly, creditors are seemingly more willing to serve a statutory demand, or winding-up petition, to claim the money they are due.

“Although this option has always been available, it has become far more prevalent as businesses step up efforts to recover outstanding debts as quickly and efficiently as possible. Court proceedings can take a considerable time to resolve, but serving either a statutory demand or a winding-up petition will bring the matter before the court much more quickly.”

Under current legislation, a company is deemed to be insolvent if it is served with a statutory demand and neglects to pay the outstanding amount, or reach agreement, within 21 days – even if it’s not actually insolvent.

Mr Oranjuik said: “If it gets to this stage, the creditor can use its demand as a basis to place the business into liquidation.

“There are measures which debtors can take to protect their position, however. If there is a legitimate dispute, they can contact the creditor at the earliest possible opportunity and ask them to confirm in writing that the demand is withdrawn. If this request is refused, then a court application can be made to prevent the creditor from either beginning or continuing winding-up proceedings.

“If a business finds itself being served with a statutory notice or winding-up order, it is important for them to take specialist legal advice immediately. Our commercial team has many years’ experience dealing with cases like this, and companies should ensure they take action as soon as they can or face serious consequences.”


Friday, 30 January 2015

Signing on the dotted line - it's a nightmare!

Be careful who you authorise to sign company documents on your behalf, if you want to avoid a Gordon Ramsay-style kitchen nightmare.

That’s the message from our senior partner Graham Davies, who has been digesting the implications of the celebrity chef’s latest court case.

The TV cook and restaurateur has been landed with an estimated £1.6 million bill after losing a court fight to free himself from a pub contract.

Ramsay accused his father-in-law Chris Hutcheson of secretly signing a deal to make the chef personally liable for the pub’s £640,000 annual lease.

Mr Hutcheson used a ‘ghostwriter’ machine to replicate the chef’s signature, but the court found that he was acting within ‘the wide general authority conferred on him by Mr Ramsay’.

Graham said the case raised important issues which ought to be acknowledged by Shropshire employers.

“It is clear from this ruling that a ghost signing machine can effectively sign a legally binding document. And so, if you give a member of staff authority to act on your behalf and use your ghost signature when a personal guarantee is required, you are likely to be bound by the terms of the guarantee.

“This case emphasises the importance of setting out exactly what an agent can and cannot do on your behalf, right from the outset. The ghost signature machines used to place Mr Ramsay’s signature on documents gave the appearance of a pen signature, with a fine nib being used.

“This judgement indicates that it would not be necessary to confirm that the person indeed made that signature with his own hand, which is a timely warning to all business people that they must take extra care over who has the right to authorise legal documents.”

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What's the deal with flexible working hours?

Can company bosses ignore a request for flexible working hours from their staff?

The answer, in almost every single case, is ‘no they can’t’, according to employment law specialist John Mehtam, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford.

He said: “The law changed last summer to remove the statutory procedure which had to be followed when considering flexible working requests. But the law still requires employers to deal with all applications in what is described as a ‘reasonable’ manner.”

So what does ‘reasonable’ actually mean?

John said: “An employer must look carefully at the benefits of the requested changes in working conditions for the employee and the business, and weigh these against any adverse business impact of implementing the changes.

“Employers must remember that they are under no statutory obligation to grant a request to work flexibly if it cannot be accommodated by the business without causing significant inconvenience.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg found himself in hot water when he said on his LBC radio show that, although record numbers of workers were granted flexible working rights, employers could “ignore such requests if they want”.

John said: “There are a number of acceptable reasons for rejecting an application, but you can’t ever simply ignore it, as Mr Clegg incorrectly suggested. Companies would risk finding themselves facing an employment tribunal, and staff could have a case for a potential discrimination claim.”

All workers have the right to request flexible hours if they have worked for a company for at least 26 continuous weeks, and have placed their request officially, in writing.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Tribunals specialist at Martin-Kaye

 An employment law expert who specialises in tribunals is the latest new addition to a Telford law firm’s growing team.

Lubna Laheria has joined Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, after studying in Birmingham, and working for four years at a leading national firm to complete her training contract.

She has wide ranging experience in representing both employers and employees in a range of tribunal claims, and her knowledge of employment litigation is particularly impressive.

Lubna advises on all kinds of issues including employment termination, settlement agreements, and disciplinaries and grievances.

“I have worked extensively in the world of discrimination law too, including advising employees on how to avoid claims, contractual matters and advising on TUPE issues,” said Lubna.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of building on the strong relationships that Martin-Kaye already has in place with companies all over the local region, and to working with new ones too.”

Senior partner Graham Davies said Lubna’s appointment was excellent news for the company and she had already settled in well.

“Our employment law team is renowned for its effective and straight-talking advice, and it’s great to see Lubna joining such a positive and dynamic department. She has already met many of our existing employment clients, and we’re sure her knowledge and experience will mean she is able to play a key role in the life of one of our busiest and largest teams.”

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Multi-million pound sales boom is good news

Property experts at a Telford law firm have announced a record-breaking year after handling a staggering £300 million worth of business in the last six months alone.

Partner and head of residential property at the Telford offices of Martin-Kaye Solicitors, Nita Patel, said the figures were truly astonishing.

“We’ve had an incredible year so far, and if things continue to follow this trend, we’ll have beaten every single record we’ve ever set in almost 30 years of business which is phenomenal for such a small team.”

Since April this year, the team has cleared 1,170 transactions, with an average financial value of £250,000 per transaction.

“When we sat down to review our performance and calculate the figures, we realised we’d hit the £300 million mark, and we were just amazed. I’m just so incredibly proud of the team for working so hard and for showing such dedication to our clients throughout a financial period that everyone knows has been more than just a little difficult.”

Nita said the rosy financial picture was supported by excellent feedback from customer satisfaction survey results which echoed the stunning figures. Now the team is looking forward to the next six months with the aim of building on the impressive start they’ve already made to the year.

“We’ve been working on property transactions further afield across the UK too, as well as in Shropshire, and it’s been interesting to compare the different markets. It’s clear that compared to the wider UK, prices in the South are continuing to increase, but we’ve found the actual level of activity in the property market is pretty consistent across the board.

“One of the elements keeping the markets in check is that building societies are now being extremely cautious in the way they assess people’s ability to borrow, even down to asking precisely what people are spending their money on. This has resulted in lots of people extending their existing property rather than taking the plunge to buy a new one.

“But all the indications are that the property market will continue to remain buoyant into next year, and with such positive signs on the horizon, we’re looking forward to continuing our success.”

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Landlords get a helping hand

 Landlords who need to repossess a property don’t need to struggle on alone, a local law firm has said.

Jason Round, from the commercial team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said the firm had launched a new three-stage service with no hidden surprises when it came to fees.

“The actual process of repossessing a property can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive, but it doesn’t have to always be that way.Our experts have created a package of support that will help landlords to take back their property as quickly as possible and at a reasonable cost.”

Jason said the Fixed Price Possession scheme had been designed to help landlords avoid the pitfalls of the repossession process.

“Sometimes, if things don’t go according to plan, the whole process may need to start again which of course incurs precious time and significant extra costs. Our specialised team has many years’ experience in property claims, and we can act quickly and at a very cost-effective fixed price rate so there are no surprises when the landlord gets the final bill.”

Jason said the support package offered a three-stage process in order to secure repossession of the landlord’s property.

“Stage one is where our team prepares and serves a notice on the tenant, giving a fixed date by which they need to leave – in reality, this is often the only step that is needed.

“If however, that first step isn’t enough, we will begin court proceedings against the tenant – the price will reflect whether or not the case actually goes to court – and if a possession order is granted, the court will insist your tenant leaves on the fixed date. The final stage comes if the tenant still refuses to leave despite the possession order – at this point, we will instruct enforcement officers to step in.

“At Martin-Kaye Solicitors, we pride ourselves on delivering advice that really makes a difference. We believe this clear and concise approach to repossession will be an attractive proposition for any landlords who are struggling with difficult tenants, and we’re sure it will prove to be a popular service.”

Thursday, 27 November 2014

School support package unveiled

A Midlands law firm has launched a new package of support designed to help schools and colleges take a more hands-on approach to human resources issues.

Award-winning Telford practice Martin-Kaye Solicitors has tailor-made its new HR Care For Education package for schools, academies, and colleges.

John Mehtam, from the company’s employment law team, explained: “The education landscape has changed significantly in recent years, with schools being encouraged to become more self-managing.

“When it comes to topics such as absenteeism, performance and recruitment, schools and colleges are now expected to handle these issues themselves, when previously they would have been handled by the local education authority.

“This is placing extra pressure on headteachers, principals and their support teams who are now facing the challenge of dealing with the stresses of HR for the first time.”

John said: “We acknowledge that for many schools, employing a full-time HR professional is expensive and unfeasible. Using the Martin-Kaye package allows schools to ensure that all HR matters are dealt with in an efficient manner which is fully legally compliant, without the burden of a full-time staff salary.

“And schools which sign up to the programme receive a free employment audit from the Martin-Kaye team, plus access to complementary services such as payroll support, training, occupational health and employment law advice.”

He said: “Our HR Care for Education package provides support and advice for schools as and when they need it, at a cheaper rate than employing an in-house HR professional. And it means schools can concentrate entirely on delivering high quality education to students while our experts deal with any HR issue that might be required.”

Martin-Kaye Solicitors is an award-winning law firm with offices in Telford and Wolverhampton, handling a wide range of issues including high value deals, heavyweight commercial litigation, complex employment law issues and commercial property transactions.

The independent firm has been in business for nearly 30 years delivering specialised services to all kinds of companies across the UK, and its Telford headquarters is one of the largest legal firms practising under one roof in the Midlands region.

To find out more about the HR Care for Education package contact John Mehtam on 01952 272222, email johnmehtam@martinkaye.co.uk or visit www.martinkaye.co.uk