2011 was mixed year for the UK property market. While prices for prime residential property in select postcodes in central London boomed, average prices across the country as a whole flat-lined.

In this challenging market, Collas Crill recognised the increased need of Channel Island -based investors to have an on-island conveyancing service that understood both the businesses of, and issues affecting, Channel Island individuals, trust companies, funds and banks dealing in land in England and Wales.

At the beginning of 2011, Collas Crill launched a new UK conveyancing practice for residential and commercial property in England and Wales. This service builds on Collas Crill's experience as a Channel Island law firm and the firm's reputation as a top-tier property practice.

As a pan-island firm, we appreciate the need for islanders to be kept abreast of the latest issues and developments that have an impact on them as overseas investors. Over the course of 2011 these issues included:

  • changes to the Stamp Duty Land Tax regime, which saw the introduction of a new relief for investors buying multiple properties by the UK government keen to promote property investment;
  • the Court of Appeal decision in Scullion v Bank of Scotland plc, which held that while a home buyer can rely on a valuation prepared for a bank, property investors will need to obtain and rely on their own valuation (to the relief of valuers across the country). The judge said that "people who buy properties to let are, as a class, likely to be richer and more commercially astute than people who buy property to occupy. People who buy-to-let can therefore be regarded as more likely to obtain, and more likely to afford, an independent valuation or survey"
  • the demise of the Slavenburg Register. This register was introduced by the Companies Act 1985 and required that overseas companies provide details of charges over assets situated in England and Wales to Companies House in the UK within 21 days of creation. These details were then publicly availably on the Slavenburg Register, which was aimed to prevent charges becoming void against a liquidator, administrator or creditor of the company. Now that the register has been abandoned, it means that investors buying overseas companies with UK property assets need to carry out a thorough due diligence process; and
  • the issues affecting high streets across the UK as businesses (particularly retailers) struggle to meet quarterly rental payments in the face of declining sales. 2011 saw a number of retailers teetering on the brink of administration. For some, a practical relationship with their landlords, has meant survival

We appreciate that in the current economic climate, cost-effectiveness is more important than ever. With Collas Crill's ability to offer a 'one-firm' service for Guernsey and Jersey based investors dealing in land in the UK, we have been able to introduce to the island a unique service that can help to reduce the administrative burden, particularly on trust and fund administrators who may otherwise had to deal with multiple sets of lawyers.

With the first quarter of 2012 almost complete, property investors are being offered fresh opportunities. The Queen's Jubilee celebrations and the London Olympics will showcase the very best of London. As a result we are likely to see even more foreign interest, particularly in prime central London residential property. Jersey and Guernsey, with their reputations for excellence, are best placed to service the needs of those investors.

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