Justice for Scotland coalition launched

A coalition of Scottish solicitors including Thompsons Solicitors, the Glasgow Bar Association, Govan Law Centre and others, have come together under the principle of 'Justice for Scotland' to reject 'Tesco Law' and call for better legal services for Scotland's citizens and communities.

Solicitor Advocate and Senior Partner at Thompsons, Frank Maguire said:
"We need to refocus our legal services on Scotland’s communities and citizens. They deserve better. We need to send a message to the Scottish Government to think again. We must reform our Law Society as it has shown itself incapable of representing all of those trying to render a legal service in Scotland now and in the future".

"We must seek to re-affirm, through any such reform, the principles crucial to the administration of justice. We must also ensure that the legal service is preserved and improved across the whole range of needs of the Scottish people and their communities. Scottish solicitors can join us to begin to make this happen and ensure you vote NO; NO by noon, 7 April 2010".

The coalition's campaign website is here: Justice for Scotland, and all Scottish solicitors are invited to join, add their voice, and ensure that they vote, 'NO; NO' by noon, 7 April 2010.

News Roundup: March 15-26

NFHA President Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee
(Reading the full testimony is strongly recommended for anyone interested Fair Housing issues.)

On March 11, Shanna Smith of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NHFA) testified before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommitte on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, with a presentation titled "Protecting the American Dream: A Look at the Fair Housing Act."

The testimony emphasizes that in spite of our efforts, the nation still falls "dramatically short of reaching the actual goals of the Fair Housing Act" which is designed to "eliminate housing discrimination and to promote residential integration." "While people are working together in greater numbers than ever before--many go home each night to racially segregated neighborhoods."

Shanna "explores the nature and extent of housing discrimination as it is manifested today, how enforcement action is moving from the individual case by case format to addressing systemic segregation and discrimination, albeit slowly, and why systemic enforcement actions using disparate impact arguments can make important and needed progress in achieving the Congressional intent of the law. I also discuss how the Fair Housing Act could still be improved to fight discrimination against additional protected classes and to address other issues that have arisen since 1968. Finally, I discuss the recommendations necessary to make enforcement of the law effective." (Full Testimony Here)

The issue highlights numerous significant developments in the Fair Housing field.

HUD Launches Website to Gather Public Comment on LGBT Housing Discrimination Study
It is no longer necessary to attend one of HUD's official LGBT discrimination study listening sessions after the introduction of a new website that allows for public comment over the internet (Press Release and "Online Suggestion Box").

Can the FHA prohibit racist expressions where the first amendment does not?
Michael Corrigan, 62, of West Beverly neighborhood in Chicago, had signs on his property for nearly a year which read, "Say no to the ghetto," "White power," "Mt. Greenwood - the next Englewood," a sticker reading "White Pride Worldwide," and a tiny noose hanging from his garage.

Chicago Human Relations Commission chairman Dana Starks stated that the display "may have crossed the line into violations of federal and state fair housing laws that prohibit interferences with the purchase and sale of housing based on race."

The Commission is urging federal and state authorities to take notice of the issue and possibly charge Corrigan for any violations they may find.

Spokesman Kenneth Gunn of the Commission suggested that the signs may have a "chilling effect" on minorities looking to buy a home in the area (Chicago Examiner Article).

Recently, Fox News, through a freedom of information request, obtained a copy of the letter sent to the United State's Attorney General Eric Holder by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations in which "Commissioner Starks said the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance is not applicable in this case, but the federal Fair Housing Act is. The Act allows for the feds to take action when intimidation is used to discourage people from buying a home because of their race."

Can the FHA prohibit offers of "free rent" to females posted on Craigslist?
The Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME) has filed 20 complaints with HUD over Craigslist ads offering free rent to women, some of which detail feature characteristics like light skin, and are thought to be solicitations for sex.

Can the FHA's prohibition on advertisements targeted towards a specific gender help stop these alleged offers of sex for housing? Investigator Amy Nelson of HOME believes it can (Full Article Here).

Another Craigslist Quandary: "Bro Palace-America"
The ad seeks a "bro of epic proportions" to join a group of bros who "like to party hard and bang chicks even harder…in this "Temple to Broseidon." Is there a way around NIMBY? (Full Article Here).

New Book, 'Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City' by Antero Pietila
"The bottom line is this: Gentiles excluded Jews and blacks from their neighborhoods using both legal and illegal means. Unscrupulous speculators took advantage of home sellers and buyers. Mortgage companies redlined neighborhoods where people could not get a regular mortgage, forcing them to rely on unscrupulous rent-to-buy schemes. With blockbusting techniques, flipping, and subprime mortgages, Baltimore neighborhoods and bank accounts were destroyed - to say nothing of people's souls" (Baltimore Sun Review).

News Roundup: March 8-14

LGBT Developments
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force calls on federal lawmakers to amend the FHA.

Congressman Joe Sestak announced the submission of his Housing Non-Discrimination Act to amend the FHA so that it includes a prohibition on discrimination of LGBT persons.

Subsidiaries of American International Group have agreed to settle over allegations of charging higher broker fees for subprime loans to African American borrowers for a total of $7.1 million. This marks the first case in which a lender has been charged for such fee discrimination.

The Miami Valley Fair Housing Center filed a discrimination suit against The Connor Group for posting a Craigslist advertisement that read: "a great bachelor pad for any single man looking to hook up." It is being alleged that the advertisement discriminates against women by showing a preference for single males.

A federal judge has given the city of Baltimore more time to narrow its allegations against Wells Fargo for targeting black neighborhoods for bad loans which have resulted in foreclosures costing the city tens of millions of dollars. See here for analysis of the original dismissal.

"The Green Book" 2010 supplement, the Bible outlining the laws and rights of tenants and applicants of HUD assisted housing, is now available.

‘Tesco law’ open to abuse by gangsters

The Herald reports that plans to allow Scottish law firms to use outside investors would increase the risk of money-laundering and allow drug barons to expand their empires, according to one of the country’s most senior lawyers.

Frank Maguire, senior partner at Thompsons Solicitors, one of the Glasgow’s largest firms, fears the so-called “Tesco law” will undermine his profession’s integrity and independence by allowing firms to be able to raise capital from outside investors, while banks and supermarkets could offer a full range of legal services.

The proposed changes, contained in a Bill currently going through the Scottish Parliament, have divided Scotland’s 10,500 solicitors, and the arguments are becoming increasingly heated. Mr Maguire believes that by allowing non-lawyers to open legal services will be a blessing only for organised crime as it would be impossible to monitor whether those running the new firms had criminal records.

Mr Maguire told The Herald: "If you had a legal firm, or someone wanted to set up a legal services-provider, that could in future be done by a drug baron who could use it as a legitimate front to launder money. If we opened up legal services then sophisticated organised criminal networks would be able to run them or put their own people in place".

"The financial memorandum says there is £1,300 to monitor whether those opening new firms have criminal records. Even £100,000 would not cover it. It means putting in jeopardy the independence and integrity of the legal profession. Those working in such businesses would not even have to be lawyers under the Bill. They could be legal service-providers with just one lawyer".

Complaint to Electoral Reform Society

GLC has lodged a complaint with the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) in relation to the wording of the two questions in the forthcoming Law Society of Scotland referendum on ABS or 'Tesco Law'. The letter to the ERS is reproduced below.

Mr Andrew Burns
The Chairman
The Electoral Reform Society
6 Chancel Street

Dear Mr Burns

Law Society of Scotland (LSS) referendum on ‘Alternative Business Structures’ – internet-based voting system operated by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) on behalf of the LSS

I am a Scottish solicitor, and a member of the Law Society of Scotland. I note that my Law Society has instructed the ERS to undertake an electronic referendum of all solicitors in Scotland on two questions concerning the proposed introduction of ‘Alternative Business Structures’ to Scotland.

I am aware of the first class reputation of the ERS and am therefore puzzled as to why you would put your good name and reputation to a referendum whereby the questions posed are biased, conditional and heavily weighted in favour of one particular outcome, namely ABS? This is the favoured policy of the governing body of the LSS, notwithstanding that it is now clearly opposed by many within the Scottish legal profession. For example, the first question posed is thus:

"Do you support in principle the introduction of Alternative Business Structures ("ABSs") to Scotland as long as there are appropriate safeguards to protect the core values of the legal profession and there is an equivalence of regulation between ABSs and traditional firms?"

This question predetermines the answer by making a value judgement that there will be ‘appropriate safeguards’ to protect the independence of solicitors' legal services to the public. But that is the very issue which is being debated amongst solicitors in Scotland. Separately, the question as framed is tautological (‘a statement that is true of necessity or by its logical form’).

Can you please advise whether the ERS had any involvement in the framing of the referendum questions? Can you please advise whether it is you policy as a UK body which promotes fair and democratic elections to take part in a voting procedure which is patently undemocratic by reason of the use of ‘loaded’ or ‘leading questions’?

Finally, can you please advise on your formal complaints process (and please treat this letter as a formal complaint) as I am concerned that the LSS will use the good reputation of the ERS to give credibility and respect to its flawed referendum on this occasion.

Yours faithfully

Mike Dailly
Principal Solicitor

Democracy shamed and silenced

More than 3,200 Scottish solicitors were disenfranchised and silenced today when the President of the Law Society of Scotland, Ian Smart, used a technicality to deny them a vote on whether to embrace or reject ‘Tesco Law’ (Alternative Business Structures or ‘ABS’).

Despite Mr Smart having previously challenged opponents of Tesco Law to ‘bring it on’, he faced a humiliating defeat today which he, Council members, and a small number of multi-millionaire big firm partners refused to face for fear of certain defeat.

Approximately, 2,300 solicitors had granted proxy votes against Tesco Law, with only around 921 in favour of the Law Society’s position. As the prospect of defeat presented itself to the Law Society’s minority elite they tried desperately to nobble the democratic will of the majority opposition.

They called for a comfort break, and asked opponents if they would agree to a restriction on external ownership whereby ABS providers would be required to have a majority of solicitors. The opposition agreed to enter into dialogue after the SGM but refused to compromise their motion, and pressed for a vote.

Facing certain defeat, Scotland’s Law Society President called for the meeting to be adjourned and seized upon a technical rule whereby only those present in the room could vote, resulting in over 3,000 proxy member votes being discounted. The net result was that 70 members of the profession – including around 50 Council members and a handful of multi-millionaires – voted to disenfranchise the democratic will of over 3,200 members.

GLC’s Principal Solicitor raised two points of order at the meeting. The first noted that given over 3,200 members had cast their vote by proxy, it would be undemocratic to deny them a voice in the future of our profession, and that the spirit of the debate required their voice to be heard and respected. This concern was rejected by Vice President, Jamie Millar of Brodies Solicitors, who chaired the SGM.

Secondly, Mike called for a vote of 'no confidence' in the Society’s President, Ian Smart, who had presided over the most undemocratic period in the Law Society of Scotland’s history, and by denying 3,200 members a voice in this debate had brought the legal profession into disrepute. This call was rejected by Mr Millar as incompetent.

GLC’s Principal Solicitor said:
“This is a dark day for Scotland’s legal profession. Democracy has been shamed, denied and abused by a small elite of 70 members, against the clear will and voice of of 2,300 members who had voted against Tesco Law. The Council of our Society has lost all credibility today. You can deny a democratic vote by filibuster or technicality, but the only loser is the reputation of our profession which now lies in tatters after this affront to democracy”.

A report on proceedings at the SGM is in The Times (Friday, 26 March 2010) here, and in The Scotsman here.

Law Society rigs referendum question

As Scottish solicitors cast their votes in the 'Tesco Law' referendum (whether to embrace or reject the external ownership of law firms by non-solicitors) the Law Society has chosen to use a ‘loaded’ question, heavily weighted in its favour.

The referendum question chosen by the Society predetermines the answer by making a value judgement that there will be ‘appropriate safeguards’ to protect the independence of solicitors' legal services to the public. But that is the very issue which is hotly contested in the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill. Also, the question as framed is tautological (‘a statement that is true of necessity or by its logical form’). The question asked is:

"Do you support in principle the introduction of Alternative Business Structures ("ABSs") to Scotland as long as there are appropriate safeguards to protect the core values of the legal profession and there is an equivalence of regulation between ABSs and traditional firms?"

Govan Law Centre’s Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly, said:

"At the heart of the Tesco Law debate is the concern there would be inappropriate safeguards to prevent solicitors being influenced by a vested corporate agenda to the detriment of the public. For the Law Society to phrase its question to assume there would be safeguards is nothing more than a shameless attempt to procure a yes vote."

"The international and UK established practice in referenda is for questions to be framed as neutral, simple and unconditional, and for both sides of the argument to have a fair and level playing field when it comes to campaigning. That hasn’t happened as the Society has deployed all its staff and resources to campaign for a Tesco Law 'yes' vote. But now the referendum itself has been rigged by a loaded question".

"The Law Society’s President Ian Smart should hang his head in shame. The question should be reset in neutral terms, and Mr Smart should resign forthwith for presiding over the most unfair and undemocratic process in the history of the Law Society of Scotland".

GLC suggests the question should be framed in simple, neutral and unbiased terms:

Question: Do you support the introduction of Alternative Business Structures to Scotland?"



A fair and level playing field?

When a Government Minister fights an election, he or she does not do so on Government time, with paid civil servants producing campaign materials. Likewise, if the Scottish Government were to hold a referendum on independence, they would campaign not as Ministers, but as members of their political party. They would not be permitted to use civil servants to produce campaign materials or use their Office to run a campaign. Such referenda are subject to campaign rules.

For example, in 'Scotland's Future' the Scottish Government explain why their proposed referendum would need to be subject to campaign rules: "it is essential that rules are in place to ensure that the campaigns are run in a demonstrably fair and open manner ... The aim is to create a level playing field for those involved in campaigning; no organisation should have an unfair advantage over another. In particular, a single wealthy organisation should not be able to influence the campaign disproportionately".

But incredibly there are no such campaign rules for Law Society of Scotland referenda. Which explains why the President, Council members, and the Chief Executive Officer can help themselves to resources - paid for by the members - such as staff time, organisational facilities, confidential databases, and Law Society financial resources to run their own campaign in favour of 'Tesco Law', and the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill.

Does that give them 'an unfair advantage'? You betcha. Have they been prepared to offer the same resources to Scottish solicitors who have concerns over aspects of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill? No, because they want to win at all costs. It's their game, their rules, and if you don't like it, it's their ball too. This is a very sad indictment on Law Society President, Ian Smart, who is ultimately responsible for this undemocratic process.

GLC's Principal Solicitor's call for Mr Smart to resign is reported in today's The Scotsman here, and concerns over the lack of fairness in next week's SGM is reported in today's The Herald here.

Scottish Government's concession on section 92 welcomed

GLC welcomes reports (Scotsman, 19 March 2010)that the Scottish Government has agreed to delete parts of section 92 of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, which would have given the Scottish Government the power to set the proportion and number of non-solicitor members on the Council of the Law Society of Scotland, and the criteria for such appointments.

Fergus Ewing's intervention is positive, yet it still leaves the irreconcilable problem that non-solicitors cannot 'represent' the interests of solicitors. GLC supports non-solicitor membership of the regulatory aspects of the legal profession, but on the proportions as applicable in England and Wales. The Bill should be amended to exclude non-solicitor membership of the Council of the Law Society.

Fergus Ewing has said that the 'without the Bill, Scottish law firms may be less able than their competitors to take advantage of the opportunities arising in areas of law not reserved to Scottish solicitors.” That is hardly an endorsement for the Tesco Law provisions of the Bill which extend far beyond reserved law matters, and include all devolved Scots law issues. If the Bill reflected the Scottish Government's own position, the ABS sections of the Bill would be restricted to corporate law issues.

Go, and go quickly

Call for the President of the Law Society of Scotland to resign, from GLC's Principal Solicitor.

Referenda are a powerful means to provide certainty on important issues. But the democratic authority of any vote depends upon whether it has been conducted fairly and transparently.

The UK Parliament recognised this in enacting the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Part VII of that Act ensures that any UK referendum is conducted fairly, with both sides of an issue having equivalent financial resources, and equal routes of access to influence the plebiscite with their literature or voting message.

The current Scottish debate on Alternative Business Structures or ‘Tesco Law’ is subject to two forthcoming votes: a Special General Meeting on 25 March, and a referendum thereafter. The body responsible for conducting these votes is the Law Society of Scotland.

The Law Society of Scotland is the Returning Officer, charged with operating and conducting the ballot of its members, and counting the votes cast at the SGM and referendum on Tesco Law. The electorate are 10,500 Scottish solicitors, who are members of the Law Society of Scotland.

Yet, have you ever heard of a Returning Officer deploying all of their financial resources and staff to influence a vote? Actually, not just influencing a vote, but aggressively and overtly campaigning for a particular outcome in that vote?

No? Well, incredibly this is what the Law Society of Scotland is doing. It even has a Scottish Government Minister speaking on its platform today to tell us why we must support the Law Society’s and the Scottish Government’s desire to allow external ownership of Scots legal firms by financial institutions and other non-solicitor bodies.

Now, I have no problem with Ian Smart travelling around Scotland to preach the false virtues of Tesco Law to Scottish solicitors. That’s his personal right as a solicitor, but not as President of the body which is conducting the poll of its members on this issue. On his own time and expense only.

Likewise, why is Lorna Jack, the chief executive of our Society, travelling around Scotland to encourage solicitors to vote for Tesco Law? Ms Jack is a paid official, she is not a Scottish solicitor. She has no vote. Why should she use her official position to influence the outcome of a democratic vote?

The Law Society’s view on Tesco Law is what its members tell it; not what the President, Council, or the chief executive think. Otherwise, what’s the point of holding of a democratic plebiscite?

Likewise, I have no problem with Janet Hood promulgating the benefits of Tesco Law to in-house solicitors. But not as Chairman of the Law Society of Scotland’s In-House Lawyers Group, using the Law Society’s resources and confidential membership data to influence the vote of members. Data which is not available to those solicitors who disagree with Tesco Law.

The Law Society of Scotland is presiding over a polling exercise whereby it is also the chief campaigner and PR agent for ‘Tesco Law’. It’s the judge, jury and executioner of the independence of our profession.

Our Office Bearers and officials should be neutral in this debate: they should permit their members to advocate for, or against, Tesco Law. They have failed to do so. Worst still, they have taken it upon themselves to dictate to members how they should vote. This democratic deficit can only be described as Mugabesque. It’s thoroughly unfair and brings our profession into serious disrepute here at home, and internationally.

When I was on a recent Human Rights mission in West Central Africa, the British High Commissioner explained to me how certain vested interests paid for votes by slapping a 5000 CFA note on a voter’s forehead. Such undemocratic practices were utterly deplorable and repugnant, but how different are they to some people who should be impartial using their positions as Office Bearers and officers to sway the vote on the future of Scotland’s legal profession?

Scotland’s solicitors have been placed in a deplorable position. Cometh the hour, cometh the man or woman. Leadership is vital in critical moments. I sincerely believe that our President has sold the purse; he has failed to provide leadership; he has failed to promote and safeguard the interests of our profession. He has been responsible for an undemocratic and unfair voting process. I believe that our President, Ian Smart should go, and go quickly.

Prickly Paw

GLC's Principal Solicitor's note on the Law Society's CEO's position of separating the regulatory and representative functions of the Law Society of Scotland.

Lorna Jack’s reference to the Monkey’s Paw tale is apt. It’s a short horror story where each wish results in an unexpected gruesome outcome. In truth, our Law Society has been wishing on that Monkey’s Paw for the last couple of years: the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill is the consequence.

If the Law Society had truly represented the interests of our profession, and the interests of the Scottish public, it would not have embraced an unrepresentative, flawed, consumer lobby supposition, which proceeded upon the notion that access to justice was a consumer service. Consumerism is based upon choice, and choice is driven by wealth. Justice is based upon constitutional right. Fairness, not wealth.

All people are equal before the law regardless of wealth; in a consumerist world, equality and justice are commodities to be purchased. The moment you see legal services as any other commodity, you end up in the consumer lobby’s Casino, where the house always wins and cash gets you a better service. What then flows is Tesco law, the erosion of what makes a profession a profession, and the commodification of justice itself.

Organisations like Consumer Focus Scotland do not represent the majority of people in Scotland who lack the wealth to purchase ‘consumer choices’. CFS see life through the spectacles of a small, affluent, well educated, cohort. They have a disproportionately large influence on policy in this nation, and its time for Scotland’s communities to be represented by the people who live and work in those communities, and not an unelected consumer elite.

Sadly, we are where we are. Unlike, Lorna Jack, I would suggest the most logical and cost efficient way forward would be to incorporate the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission into a new slimmed down Law Society of Scotland which was purely a statutory regulator, comprised of a mixture of solicitors and members of the public: ‘the Scottish Solicitors Regulator’. That would streamline cost. There is no need for a committee of 60 to regulate 10,500 solicitors. The representative side of the Law Society’s function could be left to existing professional associations and the new networks which would arise.

The Law Society of Scotland has opened Pandora’s box. It’s time for Scotland’s solicitors to close it in the forthcoming referenda.

Rebuff by filibuster

GLC's Principal Solicitor's response to the Law Society's refusal to add the "dual function" question on the ballot of Scottish solicitors later this month.

In the brilliant 1939 Frank Capra movie ‘Mr Smith goes to Washington’ Jimmy Stewart holds up proceedings in the US Senate by filibustering. The filibuster is a dilatory motion to prevent something happening, which often employs an arsenal of objections and obfuscation. While Senator Smith was standing up for democracy, sadly, President Smart is filibustering to deny Scottish solicitors their say on the threat to the independence of our profession in the referendum commencing 22 March onwards.

In the interests of transparency, I have reproduced (below) the formal response from the Law Society’s Chief Executive last night, to yesterday’s requisition for a referendum question on: “Should the Law Society of Scotland as statutory regulator continue to be responsible for promotion of the interests of, and the representation of, solicitors in Scotland?”. Regrettably, our President, Vice-President and Chief Executive propose to kick this question into the long grass. The reasons for this decision can only be described as filibustering.

The Society have said they must ‘formally’ know what is meant by ‘promotion’ and ‘representation’ in order to ‘discuss’ the requisition. Yet Article 24 of the Constitution clearly mandates Council to hold a referendum on a question if at least 50 solicitors make a requisition. The only discussion is timing. The absurdity of the Society’s position is further exposed when one considers that ‘promote’ is the terminology used in section 1 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980, while ‘represent’ is the expression used by the Society itself.

Another reason given for not treating the future of our profession as urgent is because it might be a bit pricey in expense claims for Council members to meet next week? Astonishing. It might be helpful for a full disclosure of all expense claims so we ascertain why we are too poor to convene an extra meeting.

Finally, we are told that the position on ABS (Tesco Law) needs to be ascertained before we can consider changes to the structure of our regulatory and representative body. Lorna Jack says this is because the independent representation issue is subsidiary to the ABS issue. Yet, in today’s statement from Ian Smart, Ian quite rightly concedes that the two issues are ‘distinct’ and separate.

In truth, there is no cogent reason why the ‘dual function’ question cannot be added to the ballot paper. Justice delayed is justice denied. Likewise, filibustering over the democratic and constitutional rights of solicitors is wrong.

"Dear John


I confirm receipt of your letter together with the 65 signed notices requesting a referendum in terms of Article 24 of the Constitution of the Law Society of Scotland and your request under Standing Order 7(1)(a) asking me to request that the President call a special meeting of the Council. Ian Smart, President; Jamie Millar, Vice-President and I have agreed that your requisition will be discussed at the scheduled Council Meeting on Thursday 25th March. Council will then make arrangements to hold the referendum thereafter.

The President asks that prior to the papers being issued to Council for this meeting that, on behalf of the signatories to this requisition, you formally advise him of what is meant by "promotion" and "representation" as contained within your proposed question and the kinds of activities that you see falling within those terms. These explanations would assist the Council's discussion on the 25th March.

For the avoidance of doubt, the Council's proposed referendum is not in connection with the provisions of the Legal Services Bill. It will ask whether ABS has the continued support of the Profession. It directly responds to the issues raised regarding legitimacy of the 2008 vote which established the Society's policy and allows one member one vote in a secret ballot as you and others have suggested should be done. This issue needs clarification before any subsidiary issue, which arises as a result of s92 of the Bill, is dealt with, not least because some in the Scottish Law Agents Society believe that the referendum result may lead to a change in Government policy and the Bill as currently drafted. Partly in consequence of that, we have undertaken to them that the Society's referendum result will be known before the Stage 1 debate on the Bill, likely to take place in mid April. We do not therefore wish to delay the Society's Referendum which we have this week instructed ERS to deliver.

Cost must obviously however also be a consideration. The referendum planned will cost less than 40p per member. The cost of running a second referendum in the same way has been balanced against the cost associated with attempting to secure an additional meeting of Council before 25th March.

For information, our understanding, is that the Society has held referenda before, once in the 1980s in relation to the setting of advertising rules and once in the 1990's in relation to a levy which was raised to carry out an advertising campaign.

Kind regards

Lorna Jack"

What Obama's Proposed Inclusionary LGBT Housing Rule Does and Does Not Do

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department conducted a listening session on Thursday in an effort to gather input on how to design the first-ever national survey of LGBT housing discrimination. The session was hosted at Chicago's city hall and included over a dozen members of the gay community, fair housing advocates and government officials who shared their stories and perspectives on the issue. (Full Washington Post article here).

One concern expressed the need for testers to "think of a way to make it clear that this is a gay couple and not just two men who really can't afford to do anything than get a single apartment with a single room," said John Knight of the ACLU.

This marks one of the first steps by HUD to fulfill their promise made in October of assuring the LGBT community inclusion in HUD programs. (Full Press Release Here).

In that press release HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced, "The evidence is clear that some are denied the opportunity to make housing choices in our nation based on who they are and that must end. President Obama and I are determined that a qualified individual and family will not be denied housing choice based on sexual orientation or gender identity."

The administration intends to achieve this goal in three ways:
1) through the promulgation of a rule that clarifies the term "family" in HUD's public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs to include otherwise eligible LGBT individuals and couples; 2) require grantees and those who participate in the Department's programs to comply with local and state non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation or gender identity; 3) specify that any FHA-insured mortgage loan must be based on the credit-worthiness of a borrower and not on unrelated factors or characteristics such as sexual orientation or gender identity.

As evidence that this is an issue of national concern, Michigan in 2007 issued a report finding that nearly 30 percent of same-sex couples were treated differently when seeking housing (Michigan's full report here).

What does this mean for the LGBT and fair housing communities?

First, the rule does not change the Federal Fair Housing Act to include the LGBT community. LGBT persons can still be denied the sale or rental of housing on the basis of this status under federal law. While many people have expressed disappointment with this deficiency in the proposed rule, such a revision of the FHA would almost certainly be struck down in the federal courts on the basis that the President exceeded his executive powers in an attempt to legislate from the White House. The only promulgation I could conceive of as possibly escaping this Separation of Powers issue is HUD rule defining the meaning of "sex" to include gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender persons. While court's are required to grant Administrative agencies great deference in their interpretations of statutes, the courts would likely strike the rule down as an abuse of discretion in statutory interpretation.

Though the rule does not propose to change the FHA, the commissioned national study likely has that purpose. The release of that report will be used by LGBT and equal rights interest groups to place pressure on the legislature to pass an LGBT inclusive amendment. It is important to note however that while federal law is deficient in this area, 17 states and 80 cities have included LGBT provisions in their own housing laws.

Second, as many are unaware, The Housing Choice Voucher Program refers to what is more widely known as Section 8 housing. The proposed rule would make it illegal for HUD to discriminate against the LGBT community in the distribution of these housing subsidies. Presently, HUD agents could deny such vouchers to LGBT couples on the basis that they do not fit within the program's definition of family; hence the rule clarifying what "family" actually means in order to include LGBT persons.

Third, if my reading of the press release is accurate, the new rule would require landlords receiving section 8 vouchers to comply with those state and municipal laws that have LGBT inclusive provisions.

Finally, the rule would prohibit the Federal Housing Administration, a government agency created in 1934 under the National Housing Act to provide home financing through the insurance of mortgage loans, from discriminating against the LGBT community in the granting of FHA-insured mortgages. More on FHA insured mortgages here.

Referendum on whether Law Society should represent solicitors

This afternoon, solicitors from a wide range of legal firms across Scotland required the Law Society of Scotland to poll its 10,500 members on whether it can continue to represent and promote the interests of solicitors, in addition to its statutory regulatory function.

Sixty-four solicitors from firms in Glasgow and Edinburgh have signed a formal 'requisition' which compels the holding of a referendum under the Law Society of Scotland's constitution. The Glasgow Bar Association, MacRoberts, and Govan Law Centre are concerned that the Law Society cannot continue in its 'dual function' as both regulator and representative of solicitors in light of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill.

Section 92 of the Bill gives the Scottish Government unfettered power to set the number of non-solicitors on the Law Society's ruling 'Council', as well as setting the criteria for such appointments. Solicitors believe this ends the independence of the Law Society, and requires a split in representative and regulatory functions, as has already taken place in England and Wales.

In an attempt to address a Special General Meeting later this month over the proposed 'Tesco Law' provisions of the Bill, the Law Society agreed last week to hold a referendum on Alternative Business Structures ('Tesco Law'). However, this referendum would be restricted to 'Tesco Law', and today's move will ensure that the profession are also polled on the more fundamental question of whether the Law Society of Scotland can continue to represent solicitors. The President of the Law Society has been asked to convene an urgent meeting in order to include this question on their own referendum ballot, due to take place later this month.

The President of the Glasgow Bar Association, John McGovern, Solicitor-Advocate said:
"Law Society reform is a major feature of the Legal Services Bill. It is vital there is a referendum to allow the profession to decide whether, given the threat to our independence from government that the Bill poses, it still thinks the Law Society should continue to represent, as well as regulate the profession".

David Flint, Partner, MacRoberts LLP said:
"We believe that the views of individual solicitors must be ascertained on this critical issue as recent debates and polls suggest that the Law Society Council and Executive may be out of touch with members and an early referendum will allow members to have their say in a democratic fashion."

Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor, Govan Law Centre said:
"The Law Society's role as both regulator and representative of the legal profession is rendered untenable by the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill. Solicitors should be free to choose their own independent body to represent them in the same way that workers are entitled to choose a trade union to promote their interests. A referendum will enable that choice".

Children in Search of a Place to Play

While the bylaws prohibit anyone from playing organized sports on the grounds of the complex, the condo association is being sued for discriminatory enforcement of condo rules against families with children. See full article here.

Royal Faculty debates the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill

Tonight, Glasgow's Royal Faculty of Procurators hosted an informative and passionate debate on the future of Scotland's legal profession in relation to the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill.

Chaired by the Dean of the Faculty, Paul Carnan, the audience of experienced practitioners heard from Alan Campbell, Managing Partner, Dundas & Wilson LLP; Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor, GLC; John McGovern, Solicitor-Advocate and President of the Glasgow Bar Association; and Ian Smart, President of the Law Society of Scotland. A wide ranging debate took place with excellent contributions from the audience.

Representatives from the Scottish Law Agents Society advised participants that the Parliament's Justice Committee had announced the Stage 1 report on the Bill would be delayed to allow the SGM on the ABS (Tesco Law) aspects of the Bill to take place.

The contribution from GLC's Mike Dailly is available here.

More Stringent Standard for Organizational Standing and the Need to Keep an Eye on this Issue.

Equal Rights Ctr. v. Post Props. 657 F. Supp. 2d 197 (D.D.C. 2009)

Decided September 28, 2009

This case stands on the principle that organizational standing is not available when an organization's injury is self-inflicted. Whether we are seeing a more stringent principle being promulgated, a refinement in the law or a case of bad strategy is unclear.

Equal Rights Center ("ERC"), an organization devoted to advancing civil rights and fair housing for everyone, brought suit against Post Properties for allegedly failing to bring their buildings into compliance with accessibility provisions in the American Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Fair Housing Act ("FHA"). Post Properties owns and manages more than 21,000 apartment units across five states. According to the Court's description of the facts, ERC, on its own accord, chose to investigate one of Post's buildings to determine whether they were in compliance with accessibility laws.

The issue in the case is not whether Post actually violated accessibility laws but whether ERC had the authority to file suite and come before the court as an organization. To get before a court of law, Article III of the Constitution requires the plaintiff to have "suffered a concrete and particularized injury that is actual or imminent, traceable to the challenged act, and redressable by [the] court." Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555 (1992).

Whether organizations have standing to sue on behalf of injured persons is not at issue here. The issue is whether organizations have standing in their own right, independent of its individual member's injury. While injury to an organization representing the interests of a particular class of persons may seem less concrete and particularized than that of an individual who is unable to rent from Post because a unit's doorway is not wide enough to fit a wheelchair, the Supreme Court has granted organizations standing before the court without necessarily creating a special exception. Haven's Realty Corp v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363 (1982).

In Haven's, the Court ruled that a nonprofit corporation devoted to equal housing access had standing against a defendant's racial steering practices because steering frustrated its mission to assist minorities in accessing housing. Id. Additionally, the nonprofit, in providing such services, had to expend substantial resources in identifying violations of the law in the community they served. Even if no economic resources had been expended, the court noted that an organization is not deprived of organizational standing when the alleged injury results from the organization's non-economic interest in encouraging open housing. The nonprofit merely has to demonstrate that it "suffered impairment in its role of facilitating open housing." Id. at 379.

According to the court in Equal Rights Center, the standing doctrine in Haven's does not however extend to where a plaintiff's injury "merely consists of the impact on its activities caused by their willful diversion of resources in response to the defendants' conduct." Equal Rights Ctr. v. Post Props. 657 F. Supp. 2d 197 (D.D.C. 2009). Thus, organizational standing will not be found when the injury to the plaintiff is said to be purely self-inflicted and arising solely out of their own decision to expend resources. Id. at 201.

Through its interpretation of the discovery proceedings, the court here determined that ERC essentially conceded that its injuries were caused by its own decision to investigate the Defendant. This lead to the finding that ERC's injuries were purely self-inflicted and thus falling outside the scope of standing law provided in Haven's.

Whether this decision marks a tightening of Organizational Standing law or wrong strategy is unclear. It seems that the court should have recognized that ERC's ability to provide the service of referring persons to handicapped accessible housing was impaired by the Defendant's alleged failure to comply with accessibility standards. The fewer handicapped accessible units (required by law) within a community, the more difficult it will be for ERC to fulfill its mission of providing equal housing to persons with a handicap. It is also possible; however, that ERC did not sufficiently plead this injury; in which case, the court is not required to supplement deficiencies on behalf of either party. (While the true facts of the suite are unclear, it is always prudent to file a case with a bona-fide plaintiff who was looking for accessible housing and join them in the claims against Defendant).

On the other hand, this case, if appealed, may change the interpretation of the long standing requirements set forth in Haven's. Perhaps this case represents a movement away from finding organizational standing in situations where the injury to an organization's mission is less concrete.

Referendum: time to protect the independence of Scotland's solicitors

The President of the Law Society of Scotland, Ian Smart, confirmed to BBC 1's Politics Show yesterday that an urgent secret ballot of every solicitor would take place, to determine whether the Society should continue to support the 'Tesco Law' provisions of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill. The Bill would enable non-solicitors to own and control firms of solicitors, and give the Scottish Government the ability to set the number of non-solicitors, and criteria for appointment, on the Society's ruling Council.

GLC's Principal Solicitor challenged the case for Tesco law with Mr Smart on the Politics Show, and argued that the Bill would effectively end over 500 years of solicitor and legal profession independence. Mr Smart's dismissed fears upon the basis that 27% of all solicitors were already employed by banks, companies, and local authorities, and insisted that 'no one would suggest these solicitors were not independent'.

However, GLC's position is that the 27% of solicitors who are already employed by businesses or councils, do not provide advice to the public. They are in-house lawyers providing a specialist service to one client only, the entity that employs them, and therefore, this defence misses the point. The concern is that if the Bill is passed vested corporate interests would be able to provide solicitor services direcly to the public, and those services would not be independent. You cannot have 99% independence, and allowing businesses with track records in unethical and immoral practices to control access to justice is a receipe for moral hazard and disaster.

The debate on the BBC Politics Show can be watched here (105 mins in)

Today's The Scotsman article on this issue is available online here.

Obama's Fannie Mae Mortgage Modification

Getting a president obama fannie mae home foreclosure help is a lot easier than homeowners would think it is. The new federal laws which have come into existence recently provide the opportunity of modifying home loans to suit the financial condition of homeowners. According to president obamas stimulus plan, homeowners with a mortgage from either freddie mac or fannie mae can get see some big benefits. A good loan modification guide will help the homeowner to retain ownership of the home and the bank to recover its loan amount in full. If you are struggling to make your payments with any of these lenders, you must read this article! In some instances, the letter itself is missing from the package!

Lenders are also reluctant to help homeowners stay in their houses by modifying mortgages or offering other realistic solutions to foreclosure bailout loans. You do need to do some homework before choosing someone to assist you! Foreclosure prevention companies need to be avoided. What the obama loan modification help offer is a lifeline for millions of borrowers who are mired in home loans that are becoming unmanageable or for those who are about to lose their homes. This has undertaken a demonstration in the area of automated underwriting before beginning to design its own automated underwriting tool as it saves time and ensures more of consistent treatment to all the applicants. The current problem with these types of articles is that the authors generally possess no practical experience or expertise in the field upon which they are commenting. The bank of america home mortgage assistance approval process is offering help to those who are about to lose their homes. It is easier because there is less financial risk to the lender or bank because they get stimulus money. Although there are certainly benefits, not everyone is eligible for home mortgage assistance.

Isn't this exactly what happened with taxpayer dollars in the whole aig debacle of government mortgage grants -- didn't we learn anything when they continued to use our money to lobby our government? Fha loans the fha specializes in low down payment, easy qualifying mortgage loans. This program did not gain traction as quick as the government had expected. They offer loan modification scams which can help you to wriggle out of foreclosure procedures. Lenders are more interested in talking with a third party when it comes to a loan modification agreement. So before you quit looking, ask the broker how many mortgage lenders they use.

Homeowners who are dealing with the possibility of a foreclosure have become prey for mortgage brokers, loss mitigation departments and help with mortgage payments. The most common types of help with mortgage payments are flexible still government controlled. The federal government, attorney general and state authorities have closed down many unscrupulous companies who charged high fees but provided no service to vulnerable homeowners. Struggling borrowers needing help to lower their mortgage payments need to learn how to find and complete the required loan modification forum. Be on the lookout for companies that that charge high fees. Not providing your lender with a complete loan modification proposal package that includes all the forms and documentation they need to review. This diy kit includes detailed instructions on how to fill out loan modification foreclosure. Even if you are the most deserving applicant, the program can be denied to you if you do not do this properly. Unfortunately, not all borrowers will qualify for help.

The mortgage assistance programs is time consuming and can be a bit overwhelming for people. You will learn the 7 steps to a successful loan modification as well as invaluable negotiating tips to use when working with your lender. Work as closely as you can with your lender, and be as involved in the process as they will allow you to be. Have an agreement in writing for freedom foreclosure prevention services with the borrower before starting on the modification process. Banks are mandated to waive off late fees, penalties and file charges while preparing a new loan plan. Keep in mind, that there is some overlap between foreclosure consultants and freedom foreclosure prevention services.

Contact the loss mitigation department at your financial institution and ask for information regarding the loan modification firm. Qualifying for a modified loan plan requires proof of emergent financial problems. Borrowers have one shot at getting a mortgage modification-get informed before you make a decision affecting your family. With the new federal loans after foreclosure, loan modification is used to fix a much different scenario than refinancing. Take the time to be certain your application is accurate and not missing any documentation-it could be the difference between success and failure. Obama's loan modification plan has a standard debt ratio criteria as well.

The world of commercial loan modifications is complicated and requires the skilled hand of an experienced california options other than foreclosure. And one critical mistake many homeowners make after a successful loan modification. Many of the "attorney based" or "attorney backed" companies actually are not law firms nor will you be represented by legal counsel and could give up many of your legal rights by using such a company. Most lenders modify home loan without government mortgage assistance programs. There are many such programs which offers assistance especially in the united states. Moreover, the federal government offers to finance loans to get the monthly payment to less than 30% of a mortgage holders income. Therefore, the failure to reduce balances via the mortgage modification program, coupled with declining housing values, may account for the u. These months can be key to getting your house ready to sale if it becomes necessary. The monthly payments may be a little higher since there is not government help as there is in the homeowner stability initiative.

Pm saturday the 29th, spoke with dave regarding hamp home foreclosure help, faxing over required documents. This is done initially by submitting a mortgage hardship letter, containing an explanation of the homeowners current state and a description of an event or issue that has caused her to be incapable of paying her financial obligations. When you ask your bank for a home foreclosure help you are essentially telling them that you cannot meet your monthly mortgage payments. I have a friend who shelled out $2800 to an attorney to help him with a home foreclosure help.

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$7.4 Million Retrofitting Case

Retrofitting housing units to comply with accessibility requirements under the FHA for persons with disabilities is expensive. A.G. Spanos Companies, the nation's fifth-largest housing developer, understands this fact quite well after settling for an estimated $7.4 million for non-compliance with FHA building standards.

According to the press release, "Under the agreement, the nation’s fifth largest builder of residential real estate will retrofit properties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, and Texas at an estimated cost of $7.4 million."

The FHA provides that since 1991 new construction of multifamily dwellings with four or more units be required to have accessible ground floor units where there is no elevator and accessibility for all units in buildings with an elevator. This is true for both public and private housing except in rare instances where steep terrain makes accessibility standards impracticable.

It is not uncommon, as was the case here, for city building inspectors to approve new construction of housing developments that do not comply with the FHA. This just shows how disparate local building codes are from the FHA requirements. The Fair Housing Accessibility First Initiative was designed to promote compliance nationwide with the FHA. The present settlement will contribute to this initiative in numerous ways that are detailed in the Press Release.

How To Spot Fraudulent Mortgage Loan Modification Companies

Unfortunately, with so many con artists trying to pretend they are legitimate mortgage loan modification companies or law firms, people are getting taken advantage of because they have no clue what to make of the government payment assistance programs out there. You can also hire an attorney to help you with the loan modification process. The borrower must go in a counseling session with hud approved counselor that provides enough information to the consumer that will help the applicant to get the loan easily. If you find yourself caught up in this situation, you might want to consider hiring a loan modification software to help you save your home. The biggest reason not to go it alone is that banks can be predatory, and they are much less likely to take an individual seriously. These banks are interested in making money only and do not generally have your best interests at heart.

However approval process of chase loan modification can take a little bit of time but if you follow the guidelines of the lender, you will be completely satisfied by the deal and have a successful mortgage modification agreement. Often, with banks that are unwilling to initially agree to a mortgage loan modification, our firm will prepare a forensic loan audit which details violations the bank might have made at the origination of the loan. The new debt modification program can temporarily decrease the interest rates of certain debts. It may be that the best decision for you could be simply contacting a lender that is already operating inside of the current government mortgage bailout programs that are currently available to banks and other financial institutions. For home owners that are currently on time, as well as home owners that have. Under the previous program, the value of the property the homeowner was trying to get a modification on would not go lower than 92 percent. The foreclosure policy plan laid out by obama is to get your housing expense down to 31 percent of your gross income. The recession period is almost over now but the initiatives taken by the government is certainly very pleasing. You must live in the home you own, your debt cannot exceed $729,750 and the loan must have been secured prior to january 1, 2009. Firstly, you are required to be aware of all the fha loan modification agreement made by the agency. Qualifying for a modified loan plan requires proof of emergent financial problems. If you go through the process of applying without having all the requirements, you have no chance of being taken seriously and getting an approval. For example, you may be wondering about sample hardship letter for loan modification law. Additionally these mortgage servicers also have been criticized for not helping homeowners promptly, causing homeowners to pay more late fees which work out beneficially for the companies. Here is some important insider information you need to know.

How can one modify the mortgage with paying much to loan modification for dummies. Think about the fact that the new mortgage will undoubtedly include terms that are dangerous to the homeowner. Crazy upfront fees - some less than honest companies you may run into will require that you pay a ludicrous fee upfront, usually for just a consultation. Depending on your credit score and the type of home you want to purchase, you may qualify for one of the many homeowners emergency mortgage assistance program. After 5 years of the modified home mortgage have passed, the loans interest rates may be raised. The osgoods have begun considering the possibility of launching their own business.

Federal home loan modification plan benefits. This is a new mortgage payment that equals 31% of the household gross monthly income. A loan modification is the best choice if you are in this situation because your ability to get this is not affected by your credit rating. This new government home assistance program were designed for home owners that are currently on time, as well as home owners that have missed a few payments. The failure of every one of these plans so far indicates that, no matter how much money bureaucrats take from one homeowner to give to another, the financial shock that began a year ago will continue at its own pace. For a loan modification you will have to answer the following. The federal government has set some eligibility conditions to apply for the people to prove themselves eligible for a government down payment assistance. However, depending on each case, if it is financially lucrative for the banks or lenders, then the homeowners have some hope of getting assistance. Many homeowners are complaining that they are being left out of the program for no good reason. Search the internet to find home mortgage help in your area. This is equivalent to owning a totaled car, except there is no way out of being under water in your home ownership without losing a huge amount of money. Use credible investors that meet the following criteria. To apply for a help with mortgage payments, you will need to contact the loss mitigation department at the bank. Since the institution itself is backed up by the government and it has definitely showed its efficiency over the years, people looking for their dream home should not miss the opportunity to apply for fha loan program. One of the disadvantages of seeking mortgage assistance is that there is usually and extremely long waiting list. This money allows a bank or lender to ease their restrictions on who is eligible for refinancing, home loan modification program, or other beneficial things that can help a person avoid losing their home. A mortgage modification entails the renegotiation of the existing loan terms. Also, homeowners can refinance or get a better mortgage once they get themselves in a better financial situation, and have recovered from nearly losing their home. With the new federal loan modification group, loan modification is used to fix a much different scenario than refinancing. Depending on what city or state your property is located in, you may be able to take advantage of a local assistance program. This may be an incredibly emotional and stressful time in a person’s life. Unique own accord being offered to many troubled homeowners is a homeq loan modification. One way may not be realistic for most struggling homeowners. By approaching your lender for a homeq loan modification, you take a step toward improving not only your own situation, but also that of the economy. While there are mortgage payment assistance programs for new home buyers which aim to make it easier for first time home buyers to get their mortgage loan, it can still be challenging today to get any bank or private lender to loan money to someone who doesn't have reasonable credit.

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Unlawful tenancy premiums: a tenant's perspective

Here, GLC publishes a client's experience, in his own words, of being required to pay 'service charges' when he let a flat in Glasgow, and how he was able to obtain a full refund.

"When I moved to Glasgow 2 years ago I needed somewhere to stay. Having found a flat in the city through an agent, when I went to sign for it there were the usual rent in advance and deposits to pay but the agent also added £235 for a “service charge”. When I challenged this I was told it was to cover “preparation of the lease, credit checks, preparation of the furniture inventory” and other items they could not remember. It was also made clear that if I did not pay it then they would not sign me up for the tenancy and the whole search process would start again".

"I signed up and paid the £235 but decided to check on its legitimacy while I was a tenant. The charge is clearly a premium which is an unlawful charge in Scottish law. Not only that, but charges to the tenant for preparation of the lease are explicitly prohibited in Scottish law. At the end of the tenancy I again challenged the service charge and requested its return. The manager of the agency advised me that they were free to charge what they liked and it was a legitimate charge. He is wrong on both counts".

"Govan Law Centre clarified the legal position and agreed to contact the agent for me. At this point the agent offered to return £120. This was returned to them requesting a return of the full amount. They later offered £120 again which was again returned and an action for payment was raised at the Sheriff Court under the small claims system".

"The immediate response was for the agent to refund the charge in full and the costs of lodging the claim with the court. However they still maintain this is a good will gesture and they are entitled to charge premiums in this way. Interestingly the letter says “any prospective tenant has a choice whether they wish to take up the services we offer” so clearly they still intend to refuse tenancies unless this premium is paid".

"The message from this claim is that agents and landlords will probably hold out to the bitter end but if challenged through court, will refund your money."

Days of 'debt farmers' numbered as Parliamentary consensus emerges

A strong consensus emerged in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, for the statutory regulation of property factors, in a debate led by Patricia Ferguson MSP, sponsor of the Property Factors (Scotland) Bill. The Official Report of the debate can be read here. You can watch the debate here.

The bill is assisted by GLC's Parliamentary Unit, and in our experience there is a dire need to protect homeowners from rogue factors, poor practice, and in many cases, financial exploitation. Housing Minister, Alex Neil MSP, said he wanted to sit down with Ms Ferguson, and MSPs from other parties, and would give serious consideration to supporting her bill. The Minister advised that resolving the problems around property factors was a 'priority issue' for the Scottish Government.

In opening the debate Ms Ferguson gave examples of the practices of one factor, whom she described as a 'debt farmer':

"Mr and Mrs A are being sued by their factor for almost £3,000. They have been sued several times over the last few years by the company, each time for several hundred pounds that is, ostensibly, due for administration charges, compound interest and legal fees. Their factors are, in my view, nothing more than debt farmers who grow vulnerable customer's debts on a weekly basis by applying excessive administration charges, compound interest and expenses".

"In this case, decrees prevent the family from opening a bank account. Their elderly and frail parents were sued by the same company and were made bankrupt. The family had to find £5,000 to pay the factor, even though the bulk of the sums that were due were for not the original debt but for administration charges, compound interest and legal fees".

Ms Ferguson's motion, as amended, was agreed to by the Parliament:

That the Parliament notes that the Office of Fair Trading market study into the property management market found that the market is not working well for consumers in Scotland; welcomes the recent cross-party support for proposals to require property factors to register and to make provision for an accessible form of dispute resolution between homeowners and property factors; further welcomes this positive progress toward the introduction of legislation to ensure better accountability of property managers for their standards and the services that they provide; seeks to ensure that the appropriate authorities are given the powers necessary for effective enforcement of any new legislation, and calls on the Scottish Government to give consideration to the introduction of a mandatory accreditation scheme to cover private, public and voluntary sector property managers.

GLC believes we are now considerably much closer to securing statutory protection for Scottish homeowners against bad and exploitative factoring practices.

How To Choose Your Loan Modification Company

It has been proven that since its foundation in the early 1930, the federal housing administration has helped many people to live in their dream homes in california or anywhere else in the country throughout the means of home foreclosure help. As i said earlier, the interest rate will be higher than the normal value. Regardless of the homeowners' financial situation and the current real estate market, the house should be listed on the market just on the off-chance than an interested buyer wants to purchase it before the foreclosure goes through. The federal government has incentive programs in place for the lender to stop foreclosure attorney. This is especially true if you can no longer get a refinance. Use credible investors that meet the following criteria.

There are a couple reasons why a home loan modification scams is good way to go. Due to the very nature of their business, they will know lawyers who have had experience with the procedures involved in foreclosure, financial disasters, and loan modifications. You might even have some friends who needed to use the service of this specialist before and because of this; you can get their honest referral. Also, you can try to research about the best loan modification example on the net. That my friend is a total rip off, especially since most people in this situation don't have extra money right now. Including mortgages are a type of private contract. The state restrictions on providing loan modification process fall into five separate categories. There's still plenty of money to be made in the loan modification business. Should a homeowner use a lawyer or a company that 'specializes' in loan modification? They are turning to the national loan modification program for help. Homeowners who are either in default or at risk of default may be able to qualify for a very aggressive loan modification-the trick is to be able to complete your application forms so that your lender can verify that you meet the standard approval guidelines. However, you need to act fast and think about every step.

One of the first steps in the loan modification programs is to draft a loan modification hardship letter to explain to your lender why you need it. Companies such as altegra credit co are appealing because the loans they gave were much better than subprime loans that other lenders were giving, but interest rates are still high, and many people are having a hard time paying back. Factors you need to consider for mortgage loan modification. A very good source of information to assist you in this process is the complete loan modification guidelines handbook. It is essential for you to know exactly how to present your case as it could make a huge difference to the ultimate outcome of the application. It is better to submit an initial proposal to your lender. Carefully complete the required loan modification florida so that you clearly demonstrate that while the current payment is a hardship, the new lower modified mortgage payment will be affordable and sustainable. You can do this by completing your forms, itemizing your expenses and demonstrating that you have a new target payment that meets the lender's requirements. This is where you show the lender your current financial situation, including an itemization of your income and expenses.

Loan modification forms are a good way to do this, if you choose the right one. Think about the fact that the new mortgage will undoubtedly include terms that are dangerous to the homeowner. But does a loan modification really require a law firm? People in or facing foreclosure are targets for foreclosure scams from stop foreclosure companies, loss mitigation companies and attorney based loan modification lawyers. Even if you to to an attorney firm there will be some expenses. The later type is less common because it exposes them to substantial financial risk. Good american mortgage modification do not ask for any money upfront until they verify that you have a case, which means they have taken in your information and verified that there are respa or tila violations through a forensic audit of your original loan file. However, there is a good possibility that the families who need this help the most will not be able to use it. Unlike in mortgage refinancing, qualifying is a lot easier in mortgage modification and it is less expensive too. However approval process of chase loan modification can take a little bit of time but if you follow the guidelines of the lender, you will be completely satisfied by the deal and have a successful loan modification software. Once you've secured a loan modification, be wise in your budget. And once you finalize the deal, make sure you honor the repayments as agreed. When submitting your loan modification and requirement, it is important that you complete these forms and present your situation properly to your lender. You will be asked to follow certain steps to apply for a loan workout with your bank. Unfortunately, not all borrowers will qualify for help.

Foreclosure bailout loans help make repayment of the loans feasible for student or parents - without the hassle of having to deal with multiple loan payments every month. Fha insured loans permit the seller to pay all of the closing costs, but the buyer must make a 3% contribution in some way, whether it is toward down payment, closing costs or pre-paid items. Usually an attorney will charge more than the foreclosure bailout loans will because an attorney is on retainer. You may be able to buy a house through hud, and hud has several hud assistance for you to consider. A special need trust shelters assets of a disabled person so they can qualify for or maintain their ssi and medicaid benefits. Financial prudence, topped by personal credit rating considerations, compels one to stop foreclosure at all costs.

There are also grants and new homeowner loans that can also provide reassurance to a lender that you can make payment on the loan for your home. The mortgage situation in california has worsened rapidly since that survey was taken just a few months ago. A good place to start when looking for real estate grants for homes is to contact your local government agencies. Wells fargo has implemented two programs that promise to give delinquent borrowers options to home foreclosure help and stay in their homes.

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Solicitors call for split in Law Society roles

The Herald reports that the regulatory body for Scotland’s 10,500 solicitors faces a damaging schism following news that three major law firms want to break away. The Govan Law Centre, MacRoberts and Thomsons claim the Law Society of Scotland’s independence has been compromised.

They have now allied themselves with the Glasgow Bar Association (GBA), and have warned that the society’s backing of so-called “Tesco law” threatens to undermine ­centuries of independent legal representation in Scotland. The GBA has called for a ­referendum of the country’s solicitors, questioning whether the Law Society should continue to represent them.

The row is about two different parts of the Legal Services Bill which is currently going through the Scottish Parliament. In addition to the ability of banks and large vested corporate interests to control solicitors, concern is focused on section 92 of the Legal Services Bill which provides for direct Government control over Scotland's legal profession. In relation to membership of the legal profession's governing body, section 92 provides that:

"The Scottish Ministers may by regulations— (a) specify—
(i) such additional criteria as they consider appropriate for
appointability as non-solicitor members,
(ii) the number of non-solicitor members, or proportion of the nonsolicitor
part of the membership, in relation to whom the criteria are to apply,
(b) prescribe a minimum—
(i) number of non-solicitor members, or
(ii) proportion of the membership that is to comprise non-solicitor
members, if they believe that such prescription is necessary for ensuring that the
number or proportion of non-solicitor members is adequate".

John McGovern, the president of the Glasgow Bar Association, said: “The public and profession expect solicitors to be ­independent – and that should be non-negotiable. Unfortunately the Law Society seems to have negotiated a bill which gives the government certain control over the profession.”

There will be a “special ­general meeting” of the society later this month at which the GBA and others want to overturn the ­decision to support “Tesco law”. Mike Dailly, head of Govan Law Centre, said: “People are starting to realise the bill will be a disaster because it will end the independence of legal firms.

“The key problem is that ­ministers will be able to affect the membership of the council and could have direct control of the number of non-lawyers. It is peculiar for a progressive nation to be introducing ­measures you are more likely to find in a developing country where you have complete ­government interference and political bias in all walks of life".

“It is completely regressive and strikes at the heart of what the profession stands for. The cases we take are often ­unpopular and may also be against the government.”

Understanding Predatory Lending Laws & How To Get Government Mortgage Programs

Are here any type of government mortgage programs? This is equivalent to owning a totaled car, except there is no way out of being "under water" in your homeownership without losing a huge amount of capital. This housing plan is meant to help homeowners regain their financial grounding and not designed for long term assistance. In some cases emergency foreclosure data providers can be found. The most common types of foreclosure data providers are flexible still government controlled. The collapse of the housing market and illiquid nature of real estate assets has made banks reluctant to proceed with foreclosure, as they are certain to lose lots of money. Depending on your credit score and the type of home you want to purchase, you may qualify for one of the many financial mortgage help. Another benefit to motivate homeowners is that, if you can be punctual on your modified monthly mortgage installments for 5 years consecutively, you will get a total of $5000 financial incentives to reduce their remaining mortgage loan. At this point, you will need to write a loan modification hardship letter.

These people are greatly depending on help with mortgage payments programs or projects that may lighten their burden, if not completely solve it. The osgoods recognize that they need to make a radical change in their lives. A good place to start when looking for real estate grants for homes is to contact your local government agencies. Be suspicious of pushy salesman and loan modification companies that require up front fees. As the name specifies, the loan modification is a permanent change in the terms of borrower's home loan. For your standard mortgage modification you will need to have a mortgage payment that exceeds 38% of your current income and you must have had the mortgage prior to january of 2008. Don't pay a someone to do a home loan modification for you until you try it on your own first. How do you qualify for the loan modification bailout program. As you approach the situation of getting the desired adjustment to your home or property loan, it is helpful to put together a well thought out plan focused on helping you meet your financial goals and obligations in the future.

To start the process of loan modification, you need to seek out a loan modification scams. There is no certification or licensing process that a person must go through to offer such services. The most important advantage of loan modification scamss is their expertise and connections with the lenders. Statistics show that mortgage modification program that are not backed by attorneys wind up providing little to nothing for their customers and they cannot offer the customer any legal security due to the delays. Let's first look at going through the process on your own. Barack obama made an announcement on february 18, 2009 that there would be incentives to lenders to consider people for mortgage modifications provided they met certain guidelines.

The fdic even issued a warning to "beware of foreclosure rescue and loan modification specialist," out of concern for the growing amount of people who have become victims. Note that you are required to attest that all information you have provided is true and accurate and misrepresenting is a serious violation of the federal law. Your lender will be compensated by the new $75 billion homeowner affordability and stability plan if they will modify your loan. Search the internet to find mortgage loan help in your area. There are many such programs which offers assistance especially in the united states. Your counselor will be able to help you work through the process.

Feldman with the feldman law center who provides loan modification process for troubled borrowers. Quite frankly, having some guidance when pursuing a loan modification can be quite beneficial. In most cases these companies can only obtain an unaffordable forbearance agreement from your bank. With the new federal loan modification guidelines, loan modification is used to fix a much different scenario than refinancing. Qualifying for a modified loan plan requires proof of emergent financial problems. Make sure you do not waste additional time and be sure to get started on your loan modification immediately.

An excellent source to foreclosure policy is the national housing alliance that provides a publication developed by fannie mae identifying your rights for how can you stop a foreclosure action. If these criteria are met, let them work on your behalf with foreclosure policy since you need to know how can you stop a foreclosure action. Which means that it has possession of stocks of other companies that develops residential. These informed and practiced individuals know what lenders are looking for, so they can help you put together the correct documentation to help you get an approval on a loan modification or other agreement to options other than foreclosure. All the needy and customers with default history can apply for the help and keep in their homes by following some simple guidelines. So real estate prices are still overvalued compared to the rents that properties are generating, and foreclosure rates are higher than they would otherwise be if banks willingly worked with homeowners. Get the information you need, learn about the whole loan modification package step-by-step, and you'll feel more secure and in control of the whole situation. Changes that can be made in the agreement are interest rate, length of the mortgage, amount of monthly payments and principal amount.

Attorney james parsa from the citimortgage loan modification center. If your loan does actually contain federal violations relating to apr or interest it is unlikely but also possible to have your loan removed completely. Almost anyone that is having a hard time making their mortgage payments will qualify for some kind of loan modification. If you call an attorney or a loan modification help some of them will charge a couple of thousand dollars. This is necessary for you to be sure that it is reasonable and will not only free you from foreclosure for a month or two. Loan modification is a step-by-step process which, when done in the prescribed manner, will even be a welcome proposal for your lender.

The federal government has incentive programs in place for the lender to loans after foreclosure. Here is a basic outline of the programs that may benefit borrowers. You can of course choose to go through the steps on your own, but having an expert who has saved thousands of homes belonging to other financially unstable people is a great boost for your confidence.