Moving House – Your questions answered

Moving house is not renowned for being a stress-free process. At Fairhurst Menuhin we want our clients to have peace of mind in knowing that a professional firm of solicitors is dealing with their property transaction.

There are many questions you may be asking and believe us when we say we’ve heard them all before. We’ve therefore answered your top questions:

Does moving day have to be a Friday?

Many people believe completion of a property transaction has to take place on a Friday – this is a myth. People may choose to complete on a Friday so that they have the weekend to unpack and settle into their new property. However, you can complete your property transaction at any point during the week.

When can I pick up the keys?

Completion of a property transaction has to take place before 2pm on the agreed completion date. This is a contractual term within every property contract. In some cases time of completion is amended within the contract to ensure completion takes place earlier. Once completion has taken place, your estate agents will be instructed to release the keys.

How long until I can move into my new house?

On average a property transaction can take anywhere between 12 to 16 weeks. The length of a property transaction is dependent on the length of the chain, mortgage requirements and the number of enquiries raised by the purchaser’s solicitors. If enquiries cannot be answered by the seller, negotiations may be required to resolve any issues.

When am I committed to purchasing the property?

Once contracts have been exchanged, you are then committed to purchasing the property. We may ask you to sign the contract before we exchange. However, you are not committing yourself to purchasing the property by signing the contract.

Can I rely on my mortgage provider’s valuation report?

You cannot rely on the valuation provided by your lender. Whilst your lender will insist on preparing their own valuation report, is very basic and does not reveal much about the property itself.  A homebuyers survey may reveal anything from small issues to full blown structural problems. It is therefore worth obtaining a survey to ensure you have a full understanding of the property.

Do I need to order searches?

What if, following the purchase of your dream home, you find that there is subsidence, a flood risk, a maintenance charge for the private driveway or that planning permission wasn’t obtained for the conservatory?  You need to be aware of any potential issues and the only way you can do this is by obtaining searches. The standard searches we would always advise clients to obtain are an Environmental Search, a Chancel Repair Search, a Water & Drainage Search and a Local Authority Search.

When should I insure the property?

We would always advise clients to make arrangements for building insurance from the date contracts are exchanged. If you are obtaining a mortgage it will actually be a requirement of the lender that insurance is in place from exchange of contracts.

If you would like to obtain a quote for your property sale or purchase, please click on the following link:


Employment Law – a question of compromise?

Under plans for the introduction of the Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Act, Compromise Agreements will be renamed ‘Settlement Agreements.’  This legally binding agreement between an employer and employee exists to ensure a dismissal or redundancy is conducted in a clean and straightforward way.

The Government hopes that the simplification of Settlement Agreements will encourage more employers, particularly smaller ones, to use these before formal disputes with employees arise. It is hoped that the wider use of Settlement Agreements will empower employers to look at ways of resolving work place disputes rather than resorting to an often costly Employment Tribunal.

The settlement route facilitates an easy, cost-effective and swift resolution to ending an employment relationship with all the terms set out in a single document.

What does a settlement agreement involve?

The agreement usually involves the employee confirming they do not have any issues which have not been raised with the employer over leaving the company and agreeing not to bring any legal action against their employer in future. This agreement is often made in exchange for a tax efficient cash settlement from the employer, which is conditional on the former employee abiding by the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

Settlement Agreements usually include:

  • Details of the settlement offered to the employee
  • Assurances from the employer
  • An agreement to provide future reference for the employee
  • The terms under which the employee agrees to be bound
  • Acceptance by the employee that the Settlement Agreement is in full and final settlement and there will be no further action against the employer.

The importance of a solicitor

Whether you are an employer or employee, it is vital to understand the legal importance of a settlement agreement. Employers will want to ensure that the terms of the agreement are watertight, ending the employment relationship in a certain and clean break.

Employees, on the other hand, will want to understand their obligations and seek reassurance that the terms of the settlement are not a raw deal.  Employees do not sign their rights away when agreeing to a settlement agreement.

For a Settlement Agreement to be valid, an employee must take legal advice from a solicitor before signing it. Most employers will agree to pay for this advice or at least make a contribution towards it as it is in their interests to ensure the agreement is valid.


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Kerry Wigg is a partner at FM&C specialising in Employment Law. She may be contacted on +44 (0)7454 866 133 or +44 (0)1440 761 200.


Where there is a Will…

Contested Wills

Dealing with disputes over family finances or inheritance can be stressful and emotional. No one wants to be in a position of having to fight family members or friends after the death of a loved one. However, there can be genuine reasons for a dispute and Wills can be contested for any number of reasons:

  • If a Will has been improperly completed or executed
  • The testator lacked mental capacity to make a Will
  • Undue influence was brought to bear on the Testator to organise a Will or organise their affairs in a particular manner
  • There is possible evidence of forgery
  • A promise has been made by the Testator prior to their death which has not been reflected in their Will
  • Disputes arising over the interpretation of a poorly drafted Will

If you believe that you have a dispute over a Will the key is to act fast, preferably before the Grant of Probate is obtained which enables the Executor to distribute the Estate.

If you are disputing a Will, you can lodge a caveat which will temporarily prevent any grant of probate issuing, to afford time to investigate and pursue any remedy.

Excluded from a will?

If you believe you have been unreasonably excluded from a Will, and satisfy a prescribed category of persons entitled to claim, you may be able to apply for reasonable provision from the deceased estate. These applications do however need to be made within six months of the first Grant of Probate.

What are your courses of action?

Sometimes litigation may be the only course of action, but it can slow down receipt of Inheritance and can be costly. Before embarking on litigation, we would always recommend exploring other options for resolving any dispute.

Quite often the disagreements which arise are less about money and more about wounded feelings and deep seated animosity between fractured family members. Mediated dispute resolution can often offer a solution.

Whatever the cause, disagreements with family members at what is already a stressful time usually requires sensitivity aimed at preserving relationships, whilst acting in your best interests.


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Kerry Wigg is a partner and disputes specialist at FM&C Solicitors. She may be contacted on +44 (0)7454 866 133 or +44(0)1799 526 849.


What should you expect from the 21st century lawyer?

With the advent of technologies that enable faster communication and increasingly efficient service delivery, clients are in a stronger position than ever to demand more of their lawyers.

The modern solicitor’s more traditional counterpart is often seen as a wise counsellor in an ivory tower. The relevance of this solicitor, who waits to be approached by his client in a book-lined, fixed-site office, should be reassessed.

In view of the modern technologies at our disposal, what exactly should clients demand or expect from the modern solicitor?

Changing expectations

With new and faster forms of communication continuously being developed, the speed of interaction at both business and personal levels has become near-instant. Clients should expect a commensurate development in the speed and efficiency of their solicitor’s communications.

Today, there is no excuse for a lack of frequent and timely feedback between all parties involved in a matter. Conveyancing, for example, demands regular updates from buyers’ solicitors, sellers’ solicitors, and estate agents.

The modern solicitor can also appreciate that family and private client matters, for example, are not restricted to normal business hours. Solicitors should be available at times of client need, whether in the office first thing, on a Saturday morning, or available on their mobile phones outside of business hours.

In fact, the modern solicitor should be available to make ‘house calls’ to see clients in their homes or offices. This can be particularly crucial for those who are frail or elderly.

Solicitors should also take into account an individual’s financial circumstances. Is it really impolite to ask a solicitor for a discount?

The 21st century lawyer

Modern solicitors have left their ivory tower. They are able to empathise and adapt to the needs of their clients. It is no longer good enough for solicitors to rely on a hundred years of history. Solicitors who are committed to quality and thoroughness of service will make the necessary adjustments to meet these increased client expectations.

At the end of the day, you should feel that your solicitor is on your side and there to meet your needs. Isn’t that peace of mind?



Beware of bogus solicitors

This year has seen an increase in ‘scams’ relating to bogus law firms. Conveyancing, the legal process of buying or selling a property, is an area that has been particularly targeted.

The increased use of technology and increased use of online conveyancing services is enabling criminals to perpetrate fraud in a way that was not previously possible. Posing as legitimate law firms, they have succeeded in deceiving both solicitors and the public to obtain large sums of money.

The role of the Solicitors Regulation Authority

The Law Society’s webpage ‘Find a Solicitor’ has been considered a trusted source when checking the legitimacy of a firm. However, this webpage cannot guarantee a conclusive substantiation or verification that a firm is legitimate, as bogus law firms have been placed onto this list.

The BBC’s programme ‘Moneybox’ has highlighted a case where a homebuyer lost £735,000 to the criminals who had managed to register themselves on Find a Solicitor.

David Robinson, a solicitor representing these fraud victims, said that “It is unacceptable, in my view, that either a solicitor or a member of the public cannot phone up or email or write to the SRA and get reliable confirmation that X or Y is or is not a solicitor, since it is the SRA who set the criteria and requirements for getting onto the Law Society website.”

This raises the issue of how you can reliably check the credentials of a law firm and ensure that your money is safe.

How do you know that it’s safe to transfer your funds?

There are  tell-tale signs that a firm is bogus. For instance, if the only point of contact is an email account or telephone number and there is no registered firm or a physical address, you should be concerned.

In today’s internet world, the more remote you are from the professional ‘advice giver’, the greater the risk. The risk involved in providing your ID and financial details online to unverified firms is great, especially where your home and large sums of money are involved.

There is enough that can go wrong when buying a house at the best of times, so to ensure that your funds are secure, it is always better to use your local solicitor and meet them in person. This helps to confirm their identity and legitimacy, providing you with peace of mind.


Alessandra Sulzer is a member of the Conveyancing team at FM&C Solicitors and may be contacted on +44 (0)1799 526 849 or +44 (0)7462 404 147.


For a Ha’penny’s Worth o’Tar

Should I do my conveyancing online?

This morning I ordered my food shopping, booked a holiday and read the news online. I even considered purchasing a husband online. Yes, it is possible to rent a husband online. It’s an amazing thing; your husband can cook, clean – who thought a husband could do either of those! Anyway, this is not the point I’m trying to make. Managing your life online is cheap, efficient, and easy.

The same applies to online conveyancing. Many are choosing to undertake the legal side of buying or selling a property from behind a computer screen. In my rockets and aliens pyjamas, I can instruct an online conveyancer to take on the process in a cost-effective and hassle-free manner.

But are there risks? As with an internet husband, the saying ‘what you get is what you pay for’ applies to online conveyancing.

Moving home is, for most, the largest financial investment they will ever make. Conveyancing quotes and fees can be misleading. There are often hidden extras in the small print and the lack of local expertise can lead to greater costs and wasted time in the long run, when additional issues arise.

Short term savings vs. long term gains

Searches are carried out to discover additional information about a property that often isn’t obvious. This part of the process is crucial. Searches identify where planning permission may be granted for a future development affecting the worth of your property, including chancel rights, the quality of the ground on which your house is built, or details of common drains.

These various strands of investigation can bring to light different issues as well as problems common to an area that can affect each property differently. Online conveyancing companies do not guarantee the same conveyancer throughout the process and therefore cannot provide as efficient and locally knowledgeable service as a Saffron Walden- or Haverhill-based solicitor.

But what if all searches undertaken come up clear and you reach completion?

Consider what could happen if in a worst case scenario you discover major legal defects after completion, or even ten or fifteen years later. Sometimes the crucial information is not what is immediately apparent in the documents before you, but what you wouldn’t have the legal knowledge to identify yourself and is therefore concealed. This highlights the need for a qualified local solicitor to undertake the legal side of buying or selling a home.

“A good quality local solicitor who is familiar with the area and has a depth of knowledge is often better than solicitors out of town. In addition cheaper online options can often be a false economy and can cause delays and issues in the conveyance process.” Bruce King, Cheffins Estate Agents.

So, going back to cheap. While it is unwise to pay too much, it is worse to pay too little. When spending £100,000 on a property, is it truly worthwhile to save £100 by going online?

While it is not immediately apparent, your local solicitor can ensure a faster, more efficient and friendly process to guarantee your peace of mind. While the internet means I rarely need to venture out into the cold, there are occasions where I am tempted out of my woolly rockets and aliens pyjamas to visit my local friendly solicitor.

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Hailey Badger is a member of the Conveyancing team and may be contacted on +44 (0)1799 526 849 or +44 (0)7900 492 547.