Throwback Thursday: Andrew Greenwood’s Legal Hour

Last week, director Andrew Greenwood joined presenter Richard Stead on BBC Radio Leeds for Legal Hour, answering listeners’ various legal enquiries.

Q: A friend bought a quad bike from me under the pretext of awaiting a cheque. He paid a deposit but has not settled the full amount since June. He has since swapped the quad bike for a motorcycle. Can I bring a police prosecution for obtaining goods under false pretences?

A: The police would certainly get involved. If you could establish that the bike has been taken by the friend with no intention of paying you back for it, then that would be tantamount to theft – this is a straightforward matter under the Theft Act. If you went to the police and informed them of the circumstances, then that is the first thing they would be looking to establish as a matter of Criminal Law.

It’s not so much obtaining goods by deception; it’s plainly and simple theft. The fact that your friend promised to pay you becomes irrelevant once it becomes clear that he was going to retain the bike – that intention is clear since he has swapped it for something else. There are two elements of theft: (1) the criminal intention to steal, and (2) the actual theft of the item. In this case, both are established, so I would go to the police.

Q: Is a handshake legally binding?

A: Yes, a handshake can be legally binding. It’s an oral agreement and entirely binding between the two parties. There are some exceptions: for example, you cannot agree orally to buy or sell land. If you want to make sure an agreement is enforceable, you should also ensure it is confirmed in writing.

Q: My mother-in-law died intestate earlier this year. The letters of administration have been dealt with satisfactorily by my wife with my help. However, my brother-in-law has had nothing to do with my mother-in-law for several years and does not want any part of the proceeds of the estate. I’ve been told that I have to get a deed of variation to legalise the situation, which I believe can cost up to £500. Is this absolutely essential, or are there any alternatives?

A: The advice you’ve received is accurate. The estate needs to pass through the correct laws of intestate, so a deed of variation would provide some proof positive that your wife’s brother is happy to agree to. It comes back to ensuring that an agreement is enforceable – so a deed of variation would be necessary. You could potentially draft a document yourself, but taking advice from a solicitor would avoid any risk of your brother-in-law changing his mind in the future.

If you were to draft something yourself you would need the names and addresses of the parties, you would need to set out clearly what the agreement is, and the agreement would need to be signed and witnessed.

Q: My wage slip has always shown my basic rate plus overtime hours. Now it just states my basic rate and overpayments. I always understood that wage slips should show the hours worked – is this not the case?

A: You would expect a wage slip to show the amount of hours worked for numerous reasons. For example, an employer needs to be able to show that an employee has worked a certain number of hours, as well as ensure that an employee isn’t working more than the regulated amount of time. So, ordinarily, I would expect your hours to be shown on your wage slip. If you’re working overtime and if your contract allows you to be paid an overtime rate, then I would ask your employer to make sure your overtime payments are included on your wage slip to avoid any doubt.

Q: I am living in a flat which currently has around 85 years left on the lease. What are the first steps I need to take to add years onto the lease? The current landlord is in the process of selling the freehold.

A: This is quite common. Under statute you can extend the lease by a further 90 years beyond the remaining term. The first step is to ensure you are in contact with those operating the leasehold and ask them if they are prepared to extend the lease. If necessary, an application to court can be made providing a number of criteria are met – the legislation is reasonably straight-forward, however it is advisable for a solicitor to guide you through this. There will be a cost in extending the lease. The fact that the landlord would like to sell the freehold wouldn’t affect your ability to seek to extend the lease – this process would require a solicitor. It’s also important to begin this process before the term falls below 80 years, which is when the cost of extending would increase.

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