HOUSE AND HOME WI NT ER ED ITIO N 2013 PRI C E: £1. 50
THE COWBOY ISSUE T HE T RICKS THAT A R E PLAYED ON THE PU B LIC
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: Top Tips When Buying Windows And Doors p.14
ASIAN HOUSE AND HOME PRODUCED BY:
How To Get The Right Interior Designer? p.21
At Home With Kish p.12-13
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INSIDE THE COWBOY ISSUE Editor/Publisher: CB Patel Consulting Editor: Suresh Vagjiani Editorial Board Asian House and Home: Kish Bhudia, Mitesh Vekaria, Vijay Chandras, Anna Patel, Satish Patel, Ann Vyas, Pank Parekh, Mayur Vashee, Jayesh Patel Identity Concept and Design: Mo Luthra Branding Consultants www.moluthra.com
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CONTENTS The devil is in the detail P.7 Rental hikes and reviews P.9 Proud to be an Indian? Then enjoy working with Indians not cowboys P.11 At home with Kish P.12-13 Top tips when it comes to choosing windows and doors for your home P.14 Cowboy professionals P.16 Raising the bar P.18 Cowboys in the industry P.20 How to get the right interior designer? P.21 Children in the divorce battle P.22
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Financial Advice and Wealth Management Mortgages Whether you are considering a new home for yourself, for Investment purposes or simply remortgaging we have access to a wide range of lending options for you to consider. We can help you secure the best deal for your circumstances on residential, commercial or buy to let property. Pensions People are more concerned about their retirement provision than ever before. Remember, the right Pension provision can allow you to achieve your dreams and aspirations in retirement. We advise and arrange both personal and company pensions ensuring the best solution to safeguard your retirement income. Insurance & Protection Premature death or serious illness can affect your family, your home or your business. It is important to have adequate protection. At present many people are under insured or have no cover in place. At MPI we can advise and arrange life and critical illness cover, income protection, unemployment cover as well as home or commercial insurance giving you peace of mind in whatever the future brings. Savings & Investments You may be perfectly capable planning your investments but there is no guarantee that you will make the right choice. Also, choosing and watching your investments can be a surprisingly time-consuming business. Whether you want to grow your capital, increase your income or both, MPI have access to a wide range of investment solutions to match your individual requirements from savings accounts to complex investment planning. Inheritance Tax Planning Inheritance Tax is a tax payable by a person, usually a family member who inherits the Estate (money or property) of a person who has died. There are however, ways to reduce this liability which would ensure your beneficiaries receive what’s rightfully theirs. This tax doesn’t only affect the rich. Those with fairly moderate wealth should also be aware of their options. If you are concerned about your children’s inheritance, we can help you reduce your liabilities through effective tax planning.
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COMMENTS FROM THE EDITORS A mortgage on the first home purchase is itself a learning lesson in frugality, almost compulsory saving, tax benefit, some sense of pride and self respect and much more. A content family in their secured home, lives longer and more happily, so says several studies. Where there is rising prosperity, it provides ample opportunities for cowboys. They may be vendors, resource and service providers; they work like leeches on the vulnerable- the great majority of us are susceptible to certain temptations or perceived fears too. CB Patel - publisher/editor
‘home’ is the most valuable possession of most families or individuals. It is also a stepping stone especially in the UK for an incremental wealth creation. A great majority succeed in achieving such objectives.
ear Readers, We are pleased to announce our 2nd edition of Asian House and Home. The theme for this edition is concentrated on cowboys in the industry, exposing what to watch out for when dealing with ‘professionals’ in various sectors. We Asians, in particular the Gujaratis, have a mindset to always ensure we get the cheapest price for everything we buy. This bargain hunting spirit is one reason why Gujarat has been labelled as the growth engine of India. Wherever you place Gujaratis in the world they will excel in business in whichever city they are in, however small their numbers. This trait of getting the best bargain is no doubt a good trait to have when purchasing goods. However when the same mentality is applied to the supply of services it can backfire, as the saying goes: if you pay peanuts you will get monkeys! When going for services whether they be legal, financial
Editor/Publisher: CB Patel Managing Editor: Kokila Patel Associate Editor: Rupanjana Dutta Consulting Editor: Jyotsna Shah News Editor: Kamal Rao Chief Operations Officer: L George Chief Financial Officer: Surendra Patel
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I am happy that the Editorial Board has titled this issue as the ‘cowboy edition’. The various subjects are full of anecdotes and examples, the knowledge of which will surely benefit ‘the man on the Clampham Omnibus’.
recycle or even the cyclone, one’s home can be a strong citadel of financial and family stability. 85% or a bit more of Asians are supposed to be owners/occupiers of houses. Bravo to all of them. Most of us, in fact many are not aware of the opportunistic and cruel landlords of the period between the two world wars. Not that all the ‘rascals’ have gone off, but all of us should never forget that age old advice- ‘let the buyer beware’ (Caveat Emptor). All those 26,000 paid subscribers receiving this complimentary copy have been rendered valuable service by the Editorial board, Liji George, Chief of Operations and the entire ABPL team.
Inspite of the vagaries of economic cycle, and so on, it is important to ensure you’re getting the best advice, not the cheapest. This is very apparent in the conveyancing sector; recently there has been a rise in cheap conveyancing firms, companies who convince you that they can handle a property purchase/sale at a fraction of the price of a more reputable legal firm. This is only possible for the company if they employ administrators, not legal professionals; this means the service you get will be compromised in terms of the quality of advice. These outfits are designed as a factory production, and can compromise your property purchase in the long run. We have seen this practically, where after the sale has been concluded issues have arisen later on because the transaction was not conducted as it should have been. The first thing many buyers do when choosing a lawyer is get caught up in their Accounts Executive: Akshay Desai Business Manager: Alka Shah Advertising Manager: Kishor Parmar Business Development Manager: Rovin George, Nihir Shah & Urja Patel Customer Service: Ragini Nayak Graphic Designer: Harish Dahya & Ajay Kumar
Suresh Vagjiani - consulting editor price. This should not be the main criteria when purchasing an expensive asset. This principle should also be applied to other sectors from architects to builders. Hopefully this edition will serve to educate the reader to watch out for some of the pitfalls in each sector. Asian Business Publications Ltd Karma Yoga House, 12 Hoxton Market (off Coronet Street), London N1 6HW. Tel: 020 7749 4085 Fax: 020 7749 4081 Email: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org www.abplgroup.com ©Asian Business Publications Ltd
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THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL
e have all heard that famous idiom “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” With numerous reality TV shows taking viewers through building projects depicting both good and bad experiences with builders, this article aims to address matters often overlooked, but essential when looking to appoint a builder. Most projects that our “Asian House and Home” readers will endure during their lifetime, will entail either major refurbishment or extension of their existing dwelling or if more fortunate the building of a new home from scratch. Whatever the project the selection of the builder (Main Contractor) is almost the bulk of where your project risk lies. If you get this wrong, you are already on a losing wicket! One of the best places to start looking for a ‘good’ builder is via your professional team, friends and family. Your (let’s assume ‘good’) architect, who you may have engaged earlier on in your project, will have a good idea of the quality of builders operating in your area and with the expertise to deliver your project on time, budget and quality. During the selection process these three criteria are the usual yardsticks used to measure. However, other points to be considered and often missed are, track safety record of the builder (depending on their size, you can check the HSE Enforcement register), transparency in pricing, quality and detail provided in the pricing document itself and the type of building contract used to engage their services. Health and Safety during the construction process is paramount and under the P. 7
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Construction Design and Management Regulations, when applicable, the client has important responsibilities during the construction process. The key duty being to check competence and resources of all appointees and to ensure that they employ competent professionals. There are serious implications, touching on criminal punishment for the client, should there be a serious incident arising from poor health and safety practices. The best reference is the CDM Duties chart which specifies the duties of ALL of the different parties involved in a construction project. (http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/cdm/ summary.htm)
“There are serious implications, touching on criminal punishment for the client, should there be a serious incident arising from poor health and safety practices.”
So how do you protect yourself from getting this wrong? Ask to see current projects that your builder is working on and NOT just finished projects. When you do visit the prospective builders’ current works site, take note of how you were managed from the point you entered the site. Were you given a site safety induction? Were you provided with personal protective equipment (at the very least a helmet, boots and a high visibility vest)? Was the site clean and tidy and looked well managed? Were there adequate welfare
facilities for the workmen? At the end of the day a good site is clean, tidy and organised. It shows that at the business end of the role, the builder is serious about his works and efficient in carrying out the project in a safe and methodical manner. All of these are signs that distinguish the ‘cowboys from the Indians’! Many builders of ill repute, will cut corners by under-pricing jobs and simply not allowing for sufficient money to do the job as it should be done. Working from heights is a big killer in the construction industry and the number of incidents where activity is undertaken using the wrong apparatus to work at height is alarming. If you see a builder working off a long ladder, you should ask yourself ‘Should there be a scaffold there instead? If you are having to ask yourself this question, as the client, you know there is already a concern and alarm bells should be ringing in your head as to the suitability of that builder for your project. Ultimately the choice of builder you select is one that has managed to tick most of the boxes during your selection process. However, the most important factor to consider is ‘Can you work with him?’ The project will be stressful and demanding of you (and him) and during the difficult times it is important to identify from the outset that you are engaged with a builder (human being) who can work with you and not against you when faced with unknown and unforeseeable challenges that are no doubt thrown into the mix during the building construction journey. Construction Expert Mitesh Vekaria Vascroft Contractors Ltd
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RENTAL HIKES & REVIEWS
he North West London borough of Harrow offers a wealth of shops, schools, transport links and a mix of properties. The area has a very high concentration of Indians, with the UK’s first Government funded Hindu Faith school testament to this. Average rental prices continue to increase in the Harrow area, and the average rental for a standard 3 bedroom house in 2011 peaked at £1400 per calendar month. However, this year that figure has increased by £100 making it £1500. Landlords have been quick to capitalise from this rise whilst tenants are paying the price, quite literally. As the demand for these properties is extremely strong and supply is relatively low, the current trend shows smaller properties tend to be rented immediately, whereas, larger properties may take slightly longer as many families are downsizing. Other factors that encourage fast rentals are: • Location, how close are the transport links and local amenities? • Condition, is the cosmetic appearance of the property appealing? • Furnished, will the landlord provide furniture? • Flexibility, is the landlord prepared to be flexible on the requirement the tenants may have? P. 9
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The types of families that are currently renting in the Harrow area are predominantly from European & Middle Eastern backgrounds. Access to the excellent schools and local amenities are appealing and has drawn these families to the area. Tenancy periods tend to last anything between 2 to 3 years and can go on for longer. As this is a lengthy period, vetting the tenants is imperative. The necessary procedures include credit, employment, landlord, affordability checks. These valid checks reduce the chances of a landlord selecting undesirable tenants, saving time and money in the long run.
“The current trend shows smaller properties tend to be rented immediately, whereas, larger properties may take slightly longer as many families are downsising.” Another vital factor under current legislation is a comprehensive independent inventory. The inventory will document the condition
of the property prior to the tenants moving in. A common mistake is not carrying out an inventory at the start of a tenancy and disputes arising between the landlord and tenant at the end of the tenancy. This document will eliminate any confusion or disputes when the tenants leave the property. Finally, the tenant’s deposits should be protected in an approved deposit scheme. Failure to do so, carries heavy penalties. An unprotected deposit can lead to all sorts of unnecessary problems for the landlord. Following these steps will simplify the rental process and cutting corners will only cause trouble for the future. Properties located in prime locations will always demand a premium rental. It always helps to maintain your property to a good standard as this will attract desirable families that will continue to maintain the property. Over the years, Harrow has become a desired location and as a result landlords have seen the rentals for their property increase. The stability of the area looks to continue and the rental growth seems to be here to stay making the area a good place to invest. Property Buying and Management Satish Patel Infinity Property Solutions
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PROUD TO BE INDIAN? THEN ENJOY WORKING WITH INDIANS AND NOT COWBOYS
fter buying a home or business, most owners want their biggest investment to maximise its return. Obviously as Asians, we have this vision of improving our lifestyle and enhancing the value of our investment concurrently, and we normally succeed. We have all achieved, or are on the way to achieving a comfortable lifestyle on merit. In a capitalist environment success is measured in capital assets or funds; either in liquid cash, properties, stocks and shares. If we are to achieve even greater success, diligently, we need to learn to work smarter and more effectively. This requires a complete change in the mindset for the majority of Asians. Most Asians believe, rightly or wrongly, that instead of paying reasonable fees for the services of a Chartered Architect, that these funds could be utilised into creating a better quality kitchen or a new bathroom. To further add to this misconception, your builder will normally suggest it, because he will then not be supervised by an Experienced Building Professional. A Chartered Architect will not allow the builder to cut corners or use inferior materials at the expense of your project or for builders to make more profit. Most owners will not know this confidence trick employed by most builders or unqualified Architects, until it is too late. Some clients may accept the inferior construction as normal, as they are not trained or qualified to spot the difference. I refer to a genuine case regarding a visit to one of my Asian clients, who recently P. 1 1
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completed a loft conversion with some remodelling to his residence at a cost of approximately £50,000, by employing the Builder and his associated Architectural Consultant who was a ‘Non Qualified Architect’. I had to value his residence for insurance purposes.
“Most Asians believe, rightly or wrongly, that instead of paying reasonable fees for the services of a Chartered Architect, that these funds could be utilised into creating a better quality kitchen or a new bathroom.” The residence, previous to the loft conversion was valued at around £1 million pounds. The loft has increased the value of the residence to just under £1.1 million. So obviously my Asian client is very happy with his investment and I am of the view that most homeowners would be as well. However, when I reviewed the facts a little further, I discovered that had my Asian client employed a Chartered Architect and gotten a professional design, this would have enhanced the value, to above £1.25 million. Therefore, the loss to my Asian client is around £150,000. On top of this, he had to worry whether the project would finish on time and on budget, including undertaking some supervision.
I can confidently assume, in this ‘high end’ locality, a non-Asian would have employed a Chartered Architect, paid the appropriate fee, and gone on holiday or his normal routine. He would not have taken the burden or worry of the construction process as his Chartered Architect would have project managed the loft from start to finish. When I pointed this out to my Asian client, he accepted his error and agreed with my reasoning and evidence, but it was too late. My crucial point is to highlight this impediment to our community, who may need to accept and recognise this intangible value they are missing out on. My personal experience has proved that employing qualified professionals and paying reasonable fees for Chartered Architects, Chartered Surveyors, Qualified & Experienced Lawyers, Chartered Accountants and other Chartered Professionals will benefit you and it pays off. Chartered Professionals have a code of conduct and carry proper insurances, and most importantly have the required skill. The Project, if expertly managed with due care and attention, will allow you to become ever more successful, leading to a bigger return on your investment, without the headache of project managing builders yourself. The Chartered Architects costs are paid by the uplift in value. It is a winwin situation. Architect Expert Mayur Vashee Arc 3 Architects & Surveyors
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rvind and Leena moved into their first home on Kenton Road soon after marriage 15 years ago. However, after years of enduring the busy traffic, noise and air pollution, and several burglaries, they decided it was time to move on. They searched for their ideal home which had to be detached, close to the school and their office. ‘Eventually we found what we were looking for, but it was too small and required modernising’, describes Leena, ‘but as we are both busy with our business, we weren’t sure how we would cope with a major house renovation project on top of this’.
The property was an average 3 bedroom detached house with a side garage, and a long rear garden located in a cul-de-
AT HOME WITH KISH
sac. They needed at least 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, an office and a room for their elderly father, not to mention a large living area for those family get-togethers. A planning application was submitted in earnest, with plans for the interior layouts agreed, and prospective contractors were interviewed. Once the planning committee had granted permission, works started within a few days in July 2011.
The house soon became a full working building site, and was stripped back to the bare walls, with the inside gutted out completely. ‘It was only when we saw the house in this state did it really sink in that we had committed ourselves to a project beyond our thoughts, and things were moving rapidly’, explains Arvind, ‘also I was conscious of the costs of making changes, as it’s very HOUSE AND HOME
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easy to get carried away, and lose track of where the money is being spent’. Having spent considerable time with the designer, they had accommodated most of their requirements in the new house, but a great deal of compromises were made due to the space available and their budget. Also, they had visited several home improvement exhibitions, and obtained lots of ideas. Although they wanted to keep costs down, they didn’t want to compromise on quality, energy efficiency and the modern look. The house was insulated to a high specification, and the fixtures and fittings were frugally sourced via the internet, and Arvind even managed to bring over a suitcase of LED lights from India during a short business trip.
‘Our children wanted a fish tank and a large room to play in, I wanted a full height glass wall and a view of the garden from the lounge, and Leena wanted an open plan kitchen/diner with the largest bifolding doors possible so she can enjoy the view of the garden whilst cooking on the ultra modern induction cooker; so we incorporated all of these into the design. Although we managed to please everybody, this came at a price stretching our budget somewhat, but we’re extremely happy with the end product’ chuckles Arvind.
relationship between the client, designer and the contractor has resulted in a successful development, with the result of a home that you can really enjoy when entertaining family and friends, especially parties and barbeques’.
‘The project was completed in 7 months and due to running over budget, the landscaping and furniture had to be delayed until next year. Careful planning, project management and a good working
We’d love to hear from anybody who is currently or has recently undertaken to build their dream home and would like to share their story, please get in touch with the Asian House & Home editorial team at the Asian Voice. Building Design Expert Kish Bhudia KDB Design P. 1 3
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TOP TIPS WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING WINDOWS AND DOORS FOR YOUR HOME DO look for the best value When looking for windows and doors you’ll often find a huge range of prices for what looks like similar products.
DON’T buy cheap Some installers start at very high prices and offer huge discounts to place an order straightaway. Gimmicks like this could be an early warning sign.
DO check what deposit is required Most reputable suppliers will ask for a significant deposit – after all, they are supplying a totally bespoke product and have to make sure they cover their initial costs. What seems a good deal at first may not turn out to be in the long term.
DO buy from a reputable local installer Ask for recommendations from friends and family, or approach 3-4 reputable local companies. All quotes should be provided in writing with enough detail so you know what you’ll get.
DON’T make the mistake of thinking that all windows and doors are the same There are a huge number of options and a lot of variation in quality. If you choose a very cheap supplier, the likelihood is you’ll get poorer quality. Often poor quality doesn’t show immediately, but can cause you problems after a few years.
DO look for legal accreditations Some accreditations are required by law - installation companies have to be a member of FENSA or the equivalent.
DO look for professional accreditations The top accreditation is the BSI Kitemark for Window Installation. This means that every year the British Standards Institute audit the company to ensure they meet very high standards. Accreditations like Investor in People (IIP) show the company take care in recruiting and training staff. ISO9001 and ISO14001 show that the company manufacture to the best standards. The more independent accreditations a company has, the better they’re likely to be. After all, it costs a huge amount of time and money to put the right processes in place to meet these standards, and if a company is willing to do all that hard work to get these accreditations it shows they’re serious about quality and service.
DO the design and specification right We’ve all seen houses where the windows don’t look right. So when you’re looking at the design make sure it suits your property. Properties with poorly designed windows are worth less. An estate agent told me that poor quality windows and doors can
lose you large amounts when selling property so it pays to get it right first time. Visit your local installer’s showroom to see what options are available.
DO get energy efficient windows and doors This can make a big difference to your fuel bills. By choosing energy rated windows you can save hundreds of pounds a year. You may have to pay a little more initially but the long term savings make this really worthwhile.
DON’T forget about security Security is very important too. Ask for BS7950 accredited products. This could also save you money on insurance premiums.
DO look for a comprehensive 10 Year Guarantee Look for a company that’s been in business for at least as long as the guarantee period. Ten years is the standard guarantee term. If something goes wrong, don’t panic. Give the company a chance to put things right. Ensure you advise the company of problems in writing, and ask for written responses to avoid any miscommunication. If your efforts to resolve an issue fail, you can always refer to FENSA, the Glass & Glazing Federation and similar organisations for independent help and advice. Windows & Doors Expert Jayesh Patel Everglade Windows HOUSE AND HOME
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e’ve all heard horror stories about Cowboy builders and rouge traders who prey on the unsuspecting and leave behind a can of worms, and a mentally distraught client. What we hear little about is the incredulous Professional that is the Architect, Surveyor and Engineer that operates behind the façade of their professional associations. For the residential market they are banded together and called ‘Agents’. Their primary role is to obtain Planning Permission, Building Control Approval, and arrange for Structural drawings, and Party Wall Agreements, and for more complicated schemes, you may also require detailed specifications and contract documents. To become a member of such an organisation usually requires a University Degree, followed by years of experience and further examination, and then there is the ongoing continuous professional development that they must adhere to. There are of course many so called ‘Architects’ who have no affiliation with a professional body, but from years of ‘experience’ they have become fluent with the local rules and regulations and are very capable of carrying out the duties required for a small project. If you are considering engaging the services of an Agent, the following is a checklist that will assist: • Take recommendations & references from friends & family; this is consistently the best advice for all matters in all respects. • Check their credentials, qualifications and Insurance. • Ask for a detailed breakdown of fees
and their services, and check the small print for hidden charges. Don’t rely on a gentleman’s hand shake. • Get a written fee proposal and clarify who is paying the council fees, and whether they are VAT registered. • It is quite common for Agents to charge extra each time the plans are amended. This can become an open cheque book scenario so check their hourly rate. The unscrupulous Agent will advise to apply for a bigger extension knowing that it will be refused. This gives them opportunity to charge extra for revising the plans.
“What we hear little about is the incredulous Professional that is the Architect, Surveyor and Engineer that operates behind the façade of their professional associations. ” • Ask to see examples of their work, most will carry a set of plans with them. A set of drawings will indicate their level of competency and professionalism. Ultimately you are paying for the plans, so it is important that they are clear and concise, and not a hand drawn sketch that can’t be understood. • There are different plans required for Planning permission and for Building Regulations, and it is likely that Structural details may also be required – Is the Agent going to organise all of them? If not, how will you sort out
the rest? Some Architects specialise in Planning approval and don’t do the rest. Some Agents have a full time job, and they do what is termed as ‘private work’ in their spare time. This is completely acceptable, but their availability will be restricted to evenings and weekends. Do they carry out site visits? If there are queries on site during the works, are they available and experienced to deal with such issues. Many Agents are competent in drawings plans, but have little or no practical knowledge of construction technology on site. It is common to see extensions designed without practicality in mind, and often it isn’t until works have started on site that this is recognised. Most projects involve serving a Party Wall Notice to adjoining owners – so probe them about this service. If you fail to serve the requisite notices, you as the building owner are liable to legal action should any damage be caused to the adjoining land/property as a direct result of the works to your house. If the Agent is recommending a builder, don’t rely on this; insist on visiting houses they have recently completed and are currently working on. Irrespective of this, get additional independent estimates from other reputable contractors.
If you follow these simple guidelines, you reduce the risk of encountering Cowboy Professionals. Building Design Expert Kish Bhudia KDB Design HOUSE AND HOME
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RAISING THE BAR
he service industry is by far and away the largest sector of the UK economy. For many years the legal industry would not have fallen into this category as it is traditionally perceived, as acting to advance its own interests, and not having the clients interests at heart. Over the last six years the property/conveyancing sector of law has become densely saturated with many new practices joining. The introduction of bulk conveyancing practices along with the likes of Tesco, the Co-op and the AA having all recently looked to enter the legal services market offering conveyancing services through estate agents has made the area very competitive. It is questionable as to whether these types of legal providers are the best options for the clients. A very small number of high street practices are now stepping up service levels. For many reasons, clients are reverting back to the high street. These practices are now coming to the conclusion that offering the client a personal oneone service is equally as important as the solicitors’ legal knowledge. Through a unique approach, practices are now moving forward to meet the expectations of clients and continue to push the level of service within the sector. Navinder Singh, one of our experienced solicitors explains:
“We looked carefully at what the client went through during property transactions and ways in which we could improve the client’s experience. The main aspect that we found clients wanted throughout their transaction was simple communication. The ability to be in contact with their chosen solicitor at any given time. We have come to understand clients fears during the
property transaction and the undue stress that results from minimal communication which many of the bulk conveyancers/ property practices provide. The model that we have looked to implement can only work in an environment where we do not entertain working for bulk numbers of clients. It is our simple belief that the more transactions you deal with at any one time, less the service you provide to the client in both legal terms and from a service perspective.”
“Over the last six years the property conveyancing sector of law has become densely saturated with many new practices joining. ”
Navinder also highlighted an innovative approach to providing high levels of client care, which includes the ability for clients to contact the solicitor dealing with the matter directly on their personal mobile numbers and being able to visit clients at their own properties or estate agents in order to sign and collect paperwork or to simply explain paperwork to the client. It has been suggested that by providing these additional services the profession is being devalued. However Navinder Singh disagrees and states that: “It is our strong belief that this is not the case and that this level of service will in time add value to what we as solicitors do. By doing this we have seen a positive
effect on the clients. It reassures them that they will always be able to get in touch with their solicitor.” Over recent years you will have seen solicitors charging basement fees. The first thing most clients do when looking for a solicitor is to look for the cheapest possible quote. A term often used when purchasing a property is ‘caveat emptor’ (buyer beware). This principle certainly applies for both buyers and sellers when searching for your solicitor. Beware of cheap solicitors because invariably you will find is that they offer a cheap service. This is because many of these firms are volume based and many practices have a tendency to quote a minimal price at the outset of a transaction and then add significant additional fees at a later stage. A model that has proven successful is one that works on the basis that clients are quoted as up front as possible from the start. It is inevitable that some additional fees for unforeseen work may arise. However in quoting clients, solicitors have to be very conscious that the end bill is not out of sync with what has been initially quoted. In working in such a manner solicitors are not looking only at the short term relationship with clients but to also establish long term relationships with them. In applying this model it is believed that the sector is coming into a period of transition in the way that clients perceive their solicitors and the way in which practices work. It is hoped that implementing these methods of working will raise the bar in terms of service levels within the property sector. Conveyancing Expert Vijay Chandras Mark & Co Solicitors HOUSE AND HOME
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COWBOYS IN THE INDUSTRY
rior to the credit crunch of 2007 the number of mortgages sold was at a record high. Most of these were correctly sold, with many of those customers given good and accurate advice by brokers. Unfortunately, there were also a significant number of unscrupulous brokers who sold mortgages that were more beneficial to them and did not have the best interest of the customer at heart. There are a few red flag signs that if you experience you should seriously consider finding another broker: • If you are encouraged to falsify details on your loan application such as income or credit history, you could find yourself taking on a mortgage that you cannot afford. • No mortgage quotation. This is something you should receive before an application takes place. • If you are asked to sign documents without reading them, most things that you sign are legally binding; you should always be given the opportunity to read a document before signing it. • Not putting anything in writing – when in doubt ask for clarifications in writing, if this is refused, assume the worst. There are some common tricks and traps: • Mortgage bait and switch – The bait is the low rate offered in advertising. The rate is then switched once the customer has been hooked into the process. • Mortgage mis-selling – some brokers
are desperate to get clients through their doors. There are a wide range of borrower and property characteristics, and sometimes the broker may not sell the products that most suits the customer for the best price. • Incomplete variable rate mortgage disclosures – if offered a variable rate mortgage the customer should always ask – How long will the rate quoted last? What will happen to the rate after the initial rate period? • No Cost Mortgages – there is NO SUCH THING as a no-cost mortgage. • Mortgage churning – brokers encourage clients to refinance with little or no real benefit to the borrower, simply so that they can collect fees or commissions.
“Unfortunately, there were also a significant number of unscrupulous brokers who sold mortgages that were more beneficial to them rather than the consumer”
However, the good news is that the Financial Services Authority is making changes to the way that they regulate financial organisations from 2013. This aims to protect customers from dishonest and badly run firms and to ensure that customers are always treated fairly.
From 1st January 2013 to use the word “Independent”, an Adviser is even more rigorously monitored by the FSA and will have to complete a series of examinations to ensure they are competent. In addition they will be regularly checked, by taking part in a system of “Continuous Professional Development” to ensure they maintain that level of competency. These changes in regulation aim to raise the quality of financial advice and give you a much clearer understanding of the type of advice you are getting and what it costs. To summarise, mortgage brokers are there to help you secure the best mortgage for your circumstances. He or she will single out the mortgage most suited to your circumstances, negotiate on your behalf with the lender and, ideally, get you a better deal than you could have done yourself. When having a meeting with your broker, you should be as prepared as possible in order to get the maximum benefit. Make a list of your circumstances and what you need from your mortgage. You should always ask questions if anything the broker says is unclear. Ask him or her to explain exactly why they are recommending a particular product or provider. Afterwards, if you have any further questions, do get back to your broker as they will be happy to help, or just provide reassurance if that’s what you need. Brokers generally prefer feedback from clients, as this will improve the quality of advice they provide. Financial Advisor Pank Parekh MPI Investments Ltd HOUSE AND HOME
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HAVE YOU GOT THE RIGHT INTERIOR DESIGNER?
rusting a stranger to help you channelise your vision of a dream home into reality can be quite intimidating. As much as you expect a professional Interior Designer to make your life a bit easy, beware; randomly picking an interior design firm from the Yellow Pages can bring disaster. Not only can it lead to disastrous spaces but also waste your time, money, energy and efforts. But how to find a good interior designer at a fair price? Well, it will not be an easy task but it is not impossible to get a quality service at a reasonable price. Following are a few tips one can follow to AVOID ending up with COWBOY Interior designers!!!!
Identify the scale and scope of work First of all you have to establish what exactly you expect a designer to deliver in terms of results. Are you looking for just cosmetic changes (new layout, colour schemes, furnishings, lighting etc) or the work may involve some structural changes (relocation of rooms, kitchen, toilets, etc).This will help you shortlist the right professionals with relevant background .
Identify your style It can be a bit frustrating to choose one particular style out of so many options available, but a little bit of soul searching will go a long way to ensuring you hire the right person. A simple trick is to browse through various design magazines for ideas and inspirations. And then look for designers who have a similar style of portfolio.
Interview prospects Some basic questions you must put across are: P. 2 1
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• What are their educational backgrounds and experience? • What is the structure of the company? • What size/type of projects have they done? (This will give you a sense of their shopping styles, and also indicate if the size of your project is compatible with their experience) • What are the criteria for choosing subcontractors? • What is their style of project management? • Who is responsible for insurance, bonding and licensing?
Credientials and references It is highly recommended to secure references before you employ any interior designer. You can demand a list of previous clients they have worked for who can be contacted for cross reference. Being actively associated with professional organizations (BIID, IDA etc) adds to the credibility criteria. This also gives you an option to approach the associated organisations in case of any disputes.
Identify the job deliverables and fee structure You will know you have spotted a cowboy designer if he/she does not sign the agreement! Ask the following: • How do they charge for their services and what will it include? • What visual representation will they provide of how the project will look like. AutoCAD or Sketch Up (programs providing 3-D modelling), hand-drawn renderings, project boards etc. Decide which type of presentations you’ll be most comfortable with, and determine if there are additional costs associated with your preferred method.
• Are there any hidden costs (for example some designers charge extra for site visits)
Identify conduct of the interior designer The fact-finding and interviewing can take weeks to months. It is time-consuming, yes, but choosing the right designer is critical to the long-term success of your project. The most obvious questions an interior designer should ask you are: • For whom is the space being designed, and what activities will take place there? • What is your desired completion date? • Do you have a fixed budget? • Do you know which style(s) you like? Dislike? • Do you have an interest in environmentally sensitive or “green” options in your space? • And most importantly what is your preferred style of working?
The final mantra The real work starts when you choose your designer. Communication is the key throughout the process. Demand to be updated on a regular basis and don’t hesitate to discuss ideas at all stages. This will ensure your supreme control over the project. With this time-tested advice, you won’t have to worry about wasting your time, money and efforts on an interior design nightmare! Interior Design Expert Ann Vyas Ann Designer Living
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CHILDREN IN THE DIVORCE BATTLE
he children are the most important aspect when married couples with children separate. The parties will have to decide with whom the children will continue to reside until they are old enough to take care of themselves. In most cases this will be the mother, but not always, it will be the parent who is best suited to take care of the children. It is sadly the case that in some cases the parties will lose sight of this and the children will get caught in the battle between the couple. The age of the child at the time of separation is very important and usually a child under the age of 3 - 4 will usually grow up not knowing that the parents did live together. However children past this age will be more sensitive to adapting to the change and teenagers in particular will find it more difficult to accept this, as they will be emotionally traumatised since they have a better understanding of the family unit. I have often had to advise clients that it is already difficult for the children to adapt to a new life and learn that their parents will not be living together and that they most probably will not be seeing one parent everyday, which they have been use to as they grew up. The Court will want to know what living arrangements have been made in respect of the children within the divorce proceedings. The Courts take the view that they would rather not make Court Orders in respect of the children, in regards to their living arrangements or contact
arrangements unless it is absolutely necessary and only will make such orders if the parties cannot come to an amicable agreement themselves.
â€œThere is generally much ambiguity on the right a parent has to see his child, when residence of the child is with the other parent. â€?
A case that I have dealt with involved a married couple who got divorced with a son, who was only 4 years old at the time and resided with his mother upon the parties separating. The father wanted to have regular contact with his son and this contact commenced amicably upon the parties separating. However after a few months, the mother made it extremely difficult for the father to have contact with his son. I was instructed by the father and represented him in attempting to negotiate contact arrangements with the mother. After failed attempts in written correspondence to negotiate contact arrangements with the mother, I made a contact application on behalf of the father at Court. The biological father of a child
can make an application for contact and has the right to see his child, despite the fact of whether or not he is married to the mother. After submitting the evidence and after several hearings, the Court granted the father contact with his son, every Wednesday evening to be collected after school and returned to the mother by 6.30pm, every alternate weekend from Friday after school until 6.30pm on Sunday evening. Further contact was granted for half of all the school holidays. These contact arrangements are common and will usually be granted by the Court where the Court establishes that the father does not pose any risk of harm to the child. There is generally much ambiguity on the right a parent has to see his child, when residence of the child is with the other parent. The Courts want to make sure that the children are settled back into a normal family life with the least disruption. In fact the Courts will actually encourage all grandparents to continue to have reasonable contact with their grandchildren. If this is not the case then they should consider making a contact application to see their grandchildren. The Courts believe that it is equally important for them to have a continued fruitful relationship with their grandchildren. Family Law Expert Anna Patel Ansham White Solicitors HOUSE AND HOME
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Mark & Co_A4 Temp 19/07/2012 14:50 Page 1
Asian House and Home, The cowboy issue