Property Surveys: To Invest or Not to Invest?

buildingwork.jpgBuying a new home can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience – exciting because it marks a new start in a new home, and nerve-wracking because buying a house is a big expense and commitment. 
It is important that you do your research before money changes hands to know as much as you can about the property you are buying.
Once the offer you place on your new property has been accepted, it is your solicitor’s job to ensure that the legal title of the property is in order.   Your solicitor will therefore carry out all of the necessary checks on the title to the property.

The one thing your solicitor is unable do for you is to inspect the property for physical defects.  Whilst you will of course have viewed the property a number of times yourself, unless you are a qualified surveyor there can be no guarantee that the property doesn’t have underlying physical defects that you are not aware of. 

In order to alleviate any fears in this regard, it is a sensible idea to obtain a survey of the property at an early stage in the conveyance process.

There are three main types of survey:

  1. Valuation Survey

If you are obtaining a mortgage to buy your property, a valuation survey will normally be carried out by the mortgage lender and this survey is solely for their benefit.  Valuation surveys are very basic and restrict themselves to comments of a very general nature only.

  1. Home Buyers Report (‘RICS Survey’)

This survey is carried out by a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and is a much more in-depth survey of your property. The property will be extensively assessed by a surveyor and any defects noted. An indication of the severity of the defect will be provided along with comments about the general upkeep and maintenance of the property.

  1. Structural Report

Occasionally, a defect will be found which is so concerning that you are advised to obtain a structural survey. This will generally look at one specific area of concern, such as problems with suspected cavity wall tie failure, or cracking which may be caused by a poorly constructed extension. Structural reports are also recommended should you be planning extensive renovation works upon buying the property.

All of the survey reports detailed can recommend the need for further specialist investigations, such as a damp proofing or timber report.  If you are buying with a mortgage, the mortgage company may insist that these reports are obtained before they release any monies to you to buy the property.  

The benefits of a thorough survey are hard to overstate as they frequently show hidden problems which may not have been apparent when you first viewed the property. It is therefore something that should be carefully considered by anyone thinking of buying a property.

RFlinnRuth Flinn is a Solicitor in the Property Law Department of Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors. She is experienced in all areas of residential conveyancing. If you require any further information on conveyancing matters, please CONTACT US HERE or contact Ruth on


Holiday Insurance When Travelling Abroad


It’s the holiday season and we are all no doubt eager to escape the grey skies of Northern Ireland and head abroad for a week or two of tropical sunshine and relaxation.

While giving careful thought to what factor of sun lotion to bring, you may also want to ensure you have good holiday insurance in place.

It is important to make sure that you are aware of local laws and customs when you travel, to avoid invalidating any insurance policy you have.

Jonathan Wheeler, Vice-President of The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (‘APIL’)* has said:-

“Just because you have insurance cover does not mean you don’t have to be responsible for your own behaviour. In fact you could unwittingly invalidate your insurance if you break the law or are disorderly,”

“Many travel insurance policies carry exemptions if you do something illegal. Jaywalking for example, isn’t illegal in the UK but it is in some overseas countries,”

“If you cross the road when the light is on red, you face a fine – which you could do without on holiday.”

“But in the worst case scenario, you could be knocked down by a car and find that your insurer is not obliged to cover you for medical bills, or to get you home, or to pursue a case for compensation if someone else is negligent and injures you”.

Jaywalking is an offence in most US states, and destinations popular with hen and stag parties such as the Czech Republic and Poland.

The sun-seekers out there should be aware that Greece also has some strict laws relating to taste and decency, which can carry hefty fines. Even some fancy dress costumes may be regarded as offensive and violate the law.

In Mallorca and Barcelona, sunbathers who leave the beach still stripped to their swimwear could be fined as much as £500. And driving penalties in Spain can be much tougher than in the UK – just 1km per hour above the speed limit can result in a fine of around £400 for a tourist.

“If you’ve had a run-in with the law while you’re overseas, however small, it might be held against you if you need to make a claim for something,” adds Jonathan.

“It’s easy to throw caution to the wind when on holiday but it’s worth knowing the local laws and customs before you set off.

Be responsible for yourself and show respect for your foreign hosts”.

Happy Holidays!

MHannaBy Martin Hanna


Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors

For more information on this area, please feel free to  contact Martin by email at or alternatively please leave us your comments below
*APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) is a not-for-profit organisation whose members are dedicated to campaigning for improvements in the law to help people who are injured or become ill through no fault of their own.

Holiday Pay – Making Sure You Know Your Rights

holidayThe summer holidays are upon us and no doubt you are counting the days until you can dust off the sunglasses , stick your ‘out of office’ on and head off to sunnier climates for a well deserved break!


But before you go, are you aware of what your legal entitlement to holiday leave and pay is? Here we provide you with the answers to some questions you may have about holiday pay…

How much holiday pay am I entitled to?

Workers have a right by law to at least 5.6 weeks paid annual leave – this is basically 28 days paid holiday for a five day working week.   This right comes from the Working Time Regulations (NI) 1998.

The main things you should know about your rights to holiday leave are:
  • You should get a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid annual leave if you work full time.
  • If you are a part-time worker, you are entitled to the same level of holiday pro rata.
  • Your entitlement to holiday pay starts to build as soon as you start work.
  • Your employer can control when your holidays are taken.
  • If you leave your job, annual leave days that you have accrued but not taken will be paid.
  • Your employer can include bank and/or public holidays as part of the 5.6 weeks leave.
  • You are entitled to holiday leave throughout ordinary and additional maternity leave, paternity and adoption leave
Should commission be included in my holiday pay?

When you are off on holiday, you are entitled to be paid your normal salary.

However, there was a recent case (known as Z.J.R Lock v British Gas Trading Ltd and Others) where the European Court looked at whether holiday pay should only be based on normal salary or whether it should include commission also.

The Court decided that there was an entitlement to holiday pay based on both normal salary and commission as otherwise it would put people off taking holidays if they were to lose out on commission payments.

This case is still ongoing as the manner in which commission is calculated has yet to be finalised by the Court.

Should overtime be included in my holiday pay?

There was recently the case of Bear Scotland & Ors v Fulton & Ors which concerned whether or not overtime payments should be included in the calculation of holiday pay or not. It was held that guaranteed overtime payments were to be included in holiday pay.

Each case must be looked at on its own facts and therefore it would be necessary to seek legal advice if you had any query about how much holiday pay you are entitled to.
Happy Holidays!
If you require any further information this area, please feel free to contact Mary gavin at MGAVIN@FHANNA.CO.UK or leave your comments below.

Living Wills & Advance Directives

willsThis year from 19th – 23rd June 2016, Belfast hosted the British Medical Association (BMA) Annual Conference.   One controversial topic debated during the Conference was the BMA’s position on assisted suicide. The issue centered on whether the BMA should adopt a stance of being “neutral” rather than “opposed” to assisting a person ending their own life.
The past few years has seen a lot more discussion on this topic, which is not surprising given that most of us will live a lot longer than our grandparents, and as a society we are much more alert and sensitive to individual rights and personal choice.

We are all familiar with heartrending stories of gravely ill people who want to be able to choose their time of going if their suffering becomes intolerable to them.  Such stories can create a moral divide – those who believe in the sanctity of life may find the notion of ending their own or someone else’s life deeply offensive.  However, for others, the idea of being compelled to endure extreme pain or an existence with virtually no quality of life can seem intolerable.

What is the current law in NI on assisted suicide?

The law here in NI is that whilst it is not illegal to commit suicide, it is illegal to assist a person in committing suicide.

If assisted suicide were to become lawful, the fear amongst many is that some vulnerably ill people could feel under pressure to end their lives prematurely.  There is no doubt that if our  legal system were to contemplate the legality of assisted suicide, strong protections would have to be incorporated into the law to ensure that those who are physically or mentally vulnerable, or both, would be identified and afforded very considerable protection against any abuse.

Whilst assisted suicide is not legal in NI, there are ways and means by which a person can indicate how they would like to be looked after and cared for should they ever lose the ability to communicate.

What is a Living Will/Advance Directive?

A Living Will, or Advance Directive as it is also known, is a document that an adult with mental capacity can execute.  The purpose of a Living Will is to set the type of medical treatment you would not want should you become gravely ill and unable to make or communicate your decisions at the time.

A Living Will cannot insist upon medical treatment being given but it can specify if and when medical treatment should be withheld to allow death to occur.  This can include expressing a wish not to be resuscitated in certain specified and limited circumstances.

What are the benefits of making a Living Will?

There are a number of benefits to making a Living Will:

  • It can help you feel more in control of your circumstances and future care.
  • It can help you avoid painful or difficult treatments that may not always be helpful anyway.
  • It means your family will know what you want and can respect your wishes.
  • It can help avoid disagreements about your care and treatment within your family or health and social care team.

A Living Will should not be entered into lightly and should be discussed with both a medical practitioner and experienced lawyer to be fully aware of the implications, and also the practicalities of where this document may be held to ensure that it is available to medical practitioners should circumstances set out in the Living Will come to pass.

Whether there is a change in the law on this issue in the future or not, there can be no doubt that it is a worthwhile exercise to consider what your future wishes may be should you become ill.   A lawyer experienced in this field can offer specialist advice and assistance in this area should you require it.

LJohnstonThis blog post was provided to us by Linda Johnston, Partner in FRANCIS HANNA & COMPANY SOLICITORS.  Linda specialises in the law surrounding ELDER CLIENT CARE, FUTURE PLANNING and LEARNING DISABILITY as well as being an accredited member of SOLICITORS FOR THE ELDERLY. For further advice or assistance on LIVING WILLS, please CONTACT US HERE or contact Linda on