Knotweed. Bad news for any property. The stuff is notorious for its fast growth, both through its underground roots or rhizomes. On its way through a building it can do some serious damage blocking drains, growing between slabs of concrete drives, disrupting brick paving, garden walls, and ultimately overwhelming outbuildings and conservatories. Worse than that it’s very difficult to get rid of in its entirety.

From a legal stand point, when it comes to selling a property, Japanese Knotweed on land can create a loss to the property’s market value. The Law Society’s TA6 property information form requires sellers to state whether the property is affected by Japanese Knotweed. Whilst it might be tempting to state ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’ on this form, your potential buyer can come back to you and either rescind the contract or get damages from you as the property is now worth a lot less than they thought.

Solicitors should be cautious of this when dealing with properties especially with new builds and properties near public land. The recent case of Network Rail, for example, where they are being found liable for damages to two homes which have halved in value due to knotweed spreading from the company’s land has brought knotweed to the forefront in the press.

My advice: always seek legal advice if you suspect knotweed lurking anywhere near your property or potential land you own or are looking to buy.

Battling against laws on FGM, supressing abusive relationships, conquering mortgage disputes, and slaying the idea of the traditional law practice, we caught up with this popular Leicester solicitor as she approaches her 10th year in business

 

Taking voluntary redundancy in the middle of a recession at eight months pregnant doesn’t sound ideal. Her friends and family told her she was mad but that didn’t stop Bhumika Parmar (41) quitting her job in 2008 to follow her dream – to revolutionise legal practices.

Applying to the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) to open a practice of her own, the regulatory body conducted an in depth assessment into Bhumika vetting her work ethic, experience,
reputation, business plan and five year forecast. She was given the get-go and opened an office with just one computer and one employee.

“I wanted a modern approach so no 9-5 hours, because 9 times out of 10 clients will be calling on their lunch break. We do home visits and have a 24/7 phone line. Clients have a dedicated case
worker but we all use an app to access files so that all of us can pick up any case.”

Within a year they moved to bigger premises in Belgrave Gate during Bhumika’s second pregnancy. Just two days after giving birth she went back to work taking her new born with her.

“I had clients that needed taking care of. It was a lot trying to juggle but I wasn’t going to have flexibility at other practices. I didn’t want to miss all the milestones in my kids’ lives, and I offer the
same thing to my staff.”

BP Legal now has a team of five comprising of solicitors and trainees, has made headlines, and positively impacted the law raising awareness of important issues. Following that dream nearly 10
years ago resulted in a mammoth contribution to the community internationally.

In 2014 the then 38-year-old dealt with a giant media case that enticed BBC and ITV news reporters to her offices. She represented Afusat Saliu who was at risk of being deported to Nigeria after outstaying her UK visa because she feared her children would be at great risk of female genital mutilation (FGM). Despite losing the devastating case, she says the harsh reality of FGM was brought to the UK that year and demanded a call to action. The case gained an international audience but BP Legal’s work began at home.

She told us: “An Asian lady asked for help, she was abused by her husband and in-laws had no national insurance number, no phone, no money, nothing. She didn’t have the money and I could
have easily turned her away but I said ‘you can’t let it go on’.” Bhumika settled her divorce and immigration status. “But I told her ‘when you start working, come back and settle my fees’. And she
worked and paid me back. Because of that I had a lot of women coming to me. It was a risk to carry out work for clients without payment, but I had faith in them. Not one person hasn’t paid me back. You could call it a charity but it’s not because what I’m giving them is an incentive to work and earn it. I don’t want them on benefits I want them to go out and make something of themselves.”

Bhumika’s work has also impacted the education sector having won a declaration of trust case in the High Court. The case has now become a leading example taught to university and college
students. “I actually went on a conveyancing update lecture and they were citing the case in that,” she laughed. All this media coverage and more even led to an amusing stint on Channel 5’s Love Rats Exposed.

What more could Bhumika dream up for the next 10 years?

As a tenant you have certain rights and responsibilities if you’re in privately rented property. As a tenant, you have the right to live in a property that’s safe and in a good state of repair; have your
deposit returned when the tenancy ends – and in some cases have it protected; challenge excessively high charges; know who your landlord is; live in the property undisturbed; see an Energy Performance Certificate for the property; be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent; have a written agreement if you have a fixed-term tenancy of more than three years.

When you start a new assured or short assured tenancy, your landlord must give you a copy of the ‘how to rent’ guide if you live in England; EPC certificate; confirmation documents regarding your deposit; and landlords gas safety certificate.

You must give your landlord access to the property to inspect it or carry out repairs. Your landlord has to give you at least 24 hours’ notice and visit at a reasonable time of day, unless it’s an emergency and they need immediate access. You must also take good care of the property; pay the agreed rent, even if repairs are needed or you’re in dispute with your landlord; pay other charges as agreed with the landlord; repair or pay for any damage caused by you, your family or friends. Your landlord has the right to take legal action to evict you if you don’t meet your responsibilities.

Moving house can be a very stressful time, especially during a pandemic. From the neighbourhood to the honesty of the seller, there are many worries to be had. To reduce the number of concerns a buyer has, they’ll often invest in a conveyancer, and for good reason. ‘It most certainly is ‘better to be safe than sorry’ when it comes to making what’s possibly the biggest purchase of your life.

It’s important to select a conveyancer that is part of a Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS); a recognised quality standard, which means their service is overseen by The Law Society. BP Legal is of course CQS accredited, and here we give you our official moving home checklist to make sure it’s the right house for you.

Your conveyancing solicitor should:

  • Make sure the property title is marketable and verify ownership
  • Advise on freehold and leasehold
  • Draw up a contract of sale and send it to the buyer’s solicitor
  • Check for restrictive covenants or rights of way
  • Check buildings have correct planning permission, licenses and warranties
  • Check there are no debts owing against a property
  • Carry out local authority searches for zoning restrictions or debts due
  • Arrange additional property searches
  • Check mortgage documents
  • Ensure the deposit has been paid
  • Exchange contracts making the deal legally binding
  • Lodge an interest in the property so it cannot be sold to another
  • Calculate the final figure to pay
  • Arrange for the title to be transferred to the new owner’s name
  • Pay Stamp Duty Tax on your behalf
  • Lodge the title deeds with Land Registry
  • Send a copy of the deeds to your mortgage lender

At a time when statistics are presenting high percentages of failed SMEs within their first five years, a small independent law firm has sailed the stormy seas of success into its 10th year – its director tells us how

Words by Kerry Smith

 

The office is hyped at BP Legal with celebrations afoot for the anniversary that will take the firm over 10 years in business.

After five years just four in ten small businesses will still be trading, Ormsby Street research suggests. Bhumika Parmar, director of BP Legal, has persevered through tough times and made it out the other side of the dreaded five-year sentence.

“Every morning I come into work and still pinch myself that I launched the business,” she told us. “Even after 10 years I still cannot believe I took the plunge to open BP Legal.” The legal practice was set up when Bhumika subsequently took voluntary redundancy from her previous employment after starting a family. She had a particular vision in mind.

“I wanted a modern approach to legal work and I wanted to instil the principal of doing right by what the client wants. It came to mind that if I was a client then I would want flexibility, so I opened my practice with the intention of avoiding 9-5 hours.

“I took away the whole ‘closed one hour for lunch’ thing as this is the prime-time clients wish to speak to us, and I adopted home visits after 5pm as well as opening on the weekends by appointment.”

In 2009 the 32-year-old started with very little. Just Bhumika and her computer in a small office was the opening chapter to her 10-year story. She now employs three solicitors, one trainee, two paralegals, and one receptionist.

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary, the office will be treated to a special gathering inviting all staff and clients, along with those who have supported the firm along the way. The team will also be jetting off for a weekend stay abroad in a surprise location.

On the reasons behind the success of BP Legal, Bhumika commented: “I have never told myself that I can’t do something. I instead ask myself ‘how can I do this?’ Where there is a will there is a way. I never give up and most importantly, the backbone of my success – my husband and children – have never given up on me either.

“My parents are my biggest inspiration to this day. My father always says to me ‘you can, you will, and you have.’ You need to believe in yourself. Be prepared for sleepless nights and hard work but it is so rewarding.

“It’s important that all businesses support each other. Working together is the way forward. This is how we grow our strength and community. I often have companies calling me for advice and I’m always happy to assist.”

In between anniversary festivities, Bhumika is producing plans to generate more jobs and become affiliated with more businesses taking BP Legal far beyond its 10-year mark.

If you’re preparing to move to a new house, you’ll understand how stressful the process can be.

When you move home a conveyancing solicitor will make the legal transfer of a house to the person buying it from the person selling it. There are many things that can complicate the process
and create delays. This can all result in disappointment on your buying journey. Our team of dedicated staff are there to ease your concerns and explain matters without the complexity of legal jargon.

We help reduce the stress of your transaction by keeping you informed and working with other professionals such as the estate agents, mortgage broker and other solicitors in the chain.

A solicitor will ensure you know as much about your new property as possible from planning permissions to land boundaries so that you know exactly what you’re getting for you money. Your solicitor will take all the steps needed to complete your purchase including stamp duty all the way through to registering your property at Land Registry. They will deal with the legal steps required to complete the transaction and keep you informed by dedicating a Fee earner to deal with your transaction.

Our step by step guidance will help you through each stage of the transaction and our ‘checklist when moving’ will make sure everything is transacted smoothly. And to ease any tension for first time buyers, at BP Legal Solicitors, we are offering those buying their first house a 10% discount to help with their conveyancing fees.

Conveyancing is how a property is legally transferred from one owner to another

You’ll need a conveyancing solicitor when moving home

If you don’t hire one, you run the risk of ending up out of pocket by thousands of pounds

It’s no DIY job

A good conveyancing solicitor will conduct the complex transaction on your behalf and carry out checks and searches against the property with a fine-toothed comb alerting you to any issues they may find.

Buyers gain an added level of protection by hiring a conveyancing solicitor. Conveyancing solicitors are required by law to hold professional indemnity insurance covering any loss to clients, resulting in a stress-free service.