Disputes

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Disputes

When a disagreement between individuals, organisations, businesses or neighbours cannot be easily resolved, legal assistance may be needed.

Disputes take many forms. For example, property boundaries, service delivery, contract performance, unexpected charges, probate problems, professional negligence. The list is endless.

Our dispute resolution service is comprehensive, and we will help you to take a pragmatic approach to resolve your dispute. This could be by negotiation or by court action. We will advise and support you to reach a satisfactory and cost-effective solution.

It is important for us to understand the reason behind the dispute. Then, we’ll talk to you about your aims and objectives so that we can give you the best advice about the options available.

We have built a reputation on advising clients on what are the realistic and attainable outcomes, discussing all the facts so that we can help you to make a fully informed decision.

We can help you to find a solution where you had assumed there was none available to you. We do this through a combination of skill, knowledge and tactics in litigation as well as a thorough understanding of the alternatives to litigation.

Very often early consultation with us (before positions have become entrenched) can be more useful than waiting until relations have deteriorated. Choosing a legal advisor with sound judgment and years of experience is half the battle. Ask someone you trust to give you a recommendation, a good adviser will talk to you first, before deciding whether to take on your case, and they will not mind if you want to take some time to think things over before committing to their firm. We want you to feel confident that you have the right team of experts around you, acting in your best interests.
Our dispute resolution service covers the full range of issues in both consumer and commercial matters.

Contract disputes
Commerce is built on contract law and in a perfect world the contract would be so clear that there is no room for a dispute to arise, but in reality it is inevitable that when something goes wrong the person that has lost out will look for someone to blame and that is when disputes can arise. When the unthinkable happens, you need advice that is sensible, achievable and commercial. You also need it quickly and not at a cost that you simply can’t afford. We will work with you to try to come to a cost-effective settlement of the matter, including salvaging the business relationship if that is also an important factor for you.

Partnership & shareholder disputes
Speed can often be an important factor when dealing with this kind of dispute. Sometimes it involves a family business, where family members simply cannot see eye-to eye, on a certain issue (such as whether to accept the next generation into the business and on what footing). Sometimes the business relationship has simply gone sour, due to differences of opinion as to the direction the business should follow. It’s an all too common problem, which can cripple a business if not addressed quickly and decisively.

We have lots of experience of this type of dispute. Regardless of the structure or size of the business, solid advice on how to resolve the deadlock is key to success in this context.

Claims against deceased estates
Whether you wish to make a claim against the estate of a relative or are responding to a claim brought by somebody else we can help you at what is often already a very difficult time. We can advise you as to the strength of your position and the options available to you.

These kinds of claim often settle without court proceedings, and if possible, we will help you to reach a settlement of the claim, or in many cases ensure an unmeritorious claim never gets off the ground.

Validity of a will
The rules surrounding the validity of a will are detailed and the case law is extensive. So, if there is a question mark over whether the formalities were followed or that the will writer (known as the Testator) did not possess the necessary mental capacity when the will was signed then the will could be ruled invalid, If this happens the deceased person’s estate will be distributed in accordance with the provisions of the previous will (if any) or if there is no will the intestacy rules will apply.

Disputes over the administration of a deceased persons’ estate
Even if a will is valid, disputes can arise. This could involve a dispute over who administers the estate, or how estate funds are invested. Many disputes can be readily resolved through negotiation, but if agreement cannot be reached it may be necessary to make an application to the court for specific directions.

Claims for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.
Applications must be made within six months of the Grant of Probate. Otherwise, you will need the permission of the court, which has a wide discretion whether to grant permission out of the time limit or not. Because of this, there is only very limited amount of time in which to either negotiate a settlement or start court proceedings to secure your position.

Trouble with trusts
Disputes often occur when the conduct of trustees (or one of the trustees) comes into question. This is a complicated area of law, which has its roots in common law, the principles of equity and various Acts of Parliament including the Trustee Act 1925 and the Trustee Investment Act 1925.

Beneficiaries can become unhappy with the trustees and whether they have discharged their duties correctly. Disputes between the beneficiaries themselves are also common, the interests of the life interest holder can be at odds with the needs of those whose interest only comes to the fore on the death of the person with the life interest. This is a very complex area which requires specialist advice.

Neighbour disputes and boundary disputes
Falling out with your neighbour, be it over the boundary between your properties or whether someone has the right to park in a certain area of ‘shared’ land is a perennial problem. It’s a problem made worse by the fact that very often the deeds are simply ‘silent’ on the matter and are of no use at all. If that is the case, you may need to obtain legal advice to consider all your options. But if agreement can’t be reached you can issue proceedings at the county court or have the matter referred to the property chamber first-tier tribunal. The costs of doing so will be expensive and you may still wind up paying some or all your own costs even if you win.

The other common problem with neighbouring land often involves the rights of others (often our neighbours) over your land (known as Easements). Common examples of easements are rights of way, and a right to drainage. Easements can be created by express agreement or acquired over a long period of time. They can be especially troublesome in rural areas and or where the properties have been around for many years and the easements are not very clearly worded or have been eroded over the passing years.

Claims under Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (often referred to as TOLATA claims)
This type of claim often arises when a relationship between cohabiting partners breaks down and the property that they live in is owned by one of them, but the other thinks they should have rights over the property. For example, they have both contributed to the mortgage, or the non owner has improved the property by providing the money for improvements. Even if there is nothing in writing, the non owning person can apply to the court to obtain an interest in the property.

As with all things, prevention is better than cure. Before moving in together the couple could have agreed their respective positions in writing in an agreement called a Declaration of Trust.

Disputes with builders and contractors
Problems with builders are very common, but you can limit your risk by getting a written agreement drawn up with your chosen builder at very little cost. Think of it like this: if the cost of the building extension is £40,000, just two percent of that would be £800. That’s a typical fee we would charge to do this for you. It could just save you a lot of problems later.

But what if you don’t want to go to the expense of getting something in writing, well here are a few things you should always do before agreeing to let any contractors into your home.

• Ask to see a copy of the insurance cover. They should have public liability insurance, at the very least.
• Ensure that all work and the price is confirmed in writing.
• Agree to only pay in stages, rather than pay all in one go. In particular, be clear as to what are the triggers for the next payment

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David Dow
David Dow

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