DAU News & Blog

NEWS | DUAL launches Aircraft Title Insurance

DUAL Asset Underwriting, the international asset insurance business, has announced the launch of Aircraft Title Insurance, the latest asset class to join the company’s range of legal ownership insurance services.

DUAL has partnered with AIC Title Service, leaders in the US aviation Title Insurance market, to launch Aircraft Title Insurance in Europe.

The policy insures buyers and/or the financiers of Aircraft for a wide range of legal ownership risks, including:

  • fraud & forgery
  • unknown debts secured against either the aircraft or its engines or propellers
  • third parties claiming to have a better ownership right
  • outstanding rates, taxes, charges and other levies, which often affect aircraft

DUAL can insure either aeroplanes or helicopters and/or in each case their engines and rotor blades with these products.

We can add specific risk insurance to these policies, if a technical glitch in ownership documentation is discovered during the acquisition process.

For more information, please visit our website or contact us for policy forms & a pricing guide

We can insure aeroplanes and helicopters, wherever in Europe they are being traded.

Phil Oldcorn, Chief Underwriting Officer of DUAL Asset commented:

We are delighted to be able to add insurance of Aircraft to our existing range of products for Real Estate, Mortgages, Share Ownership & Probate assets. We have forged an excellent relationship with AIC who have thrown their huge weight of experience behind this initiative. Our expertise in legal ownership insurance, combined with our underwriting skills and excellent broker relations make for an exciting future. As with our other asset insurance products, Aircraft Title Insurance will make it much easier and safer for anyone investing in aircraft as a business or for a hobby to make sure everything is safely in place before take-off!"

BLOG | Probate - When the missing should stay missing

Missing beneficiary insurance is usually obtained following a failed attempt to find a missing person who is due an inheritance. The personal representative, in an attempt to find them, will often instruct a genealogist or tracing agent to write to last known addresses and interview family and friends of the missing person. There are occasions, however, when the decision is made not to try and find the missing person. “In my 20 years’ experience,” says Kate Thorp, DUAL’s Inheritance Protection Manager, “this is a straight decline by most insurance companies. Insurers do not want their insurance policies to be an alternative to research and to worry about reporting claims.

The decision not to find a beneficiary could be seen as being at odds with the personal representative’s responsibility to carry out the administration of the estate. The representative needs to act in the best interests of the estate, including the beneficiaries, and not in their own interest. Yet what if there is a moral reason for not trying to find the missing person and then “backing” this decision up with insurance?

Insurance certainly has a place here,” says Kate Thorp. “There has to be a basis of a defence to any subsequent claim by the missing beneficiary though.” An example being an extremely tragic case where a solicitor was acting for the mother of a deceased soldier, shot and killed in one of the recent conflicts the UK has been involved in. A seemingly hastily-made will turned out to be invalid, even though the intention of the will was clear. The young soldier wanted to leave his whole estate to his mother. The estate, now falling into intestacy, was to be split between the soldier’s mother and father. The problem was, the father had walked out of the family home a few days after his son’s birth and was never heard of again. He had never paid a penny in maintenance.

From a research point of view, it was almost certain the father could be traced if attempts were made to find him. He had an unusual name and his date of birth was known, as well as his former occupation. The decision was made by the personal representative not to try and find him and the solicitor made enquiries as to whether insurance would be possible in these circumstances. “We agreed to insure it” says Kate, “the reason being we believed there was a chance of a counterclaim for unpaid maintenance which would surpass the amount he would be entitled to under the intestacy.” The insurance policy enabled the mother to receive the inheritance her son always wished her to have and took the worry away from her about the cost of any future legal action by the father if he ever made an appearance and tried to claim his inheritance.

Missing beneficiary insurance can come in various forms and DUAL will always think “outside the box” when asked, especially in circumstances such as these.

NEWS | Fracking & Ancient Mineral Rights

Is the Church of England seeking to cash in on fracking?

According to reports in the Times newspaper on the 9th of January 2018, the Church has registered its ancient mineral rights with the Land Registry, and a number of landowners have been informed about the move.

Fracking

The Church may be reviving its interest in such mineral rights because of the recent upsurge in fracking (or hydraulic fracturing) operations across various parts of the company to release valuable deposits of shale gas.

The Telegraph reported that registrations of former Church land which may hold such deposits covers an area the size of Sussex, or nearly 580,000 acres. A total of more than 5,700 separate locations have been the subject of such Land Registry entries by the Church of England since January of 2010.

Ownership of the shale gas itself belongs to the Crown, but the Church stands to profit from selling rights of access to such reserves, which may be extracted by drilling horizontally through the land to conduct the process of fracking.

The Church has said that fracking operations to extract shale gas “could be morally acceptable”, showing that the Church can be just as commercially-minded as it was in the days before Reformation.

Chancel repairs

The assertion of long-held mineral rights is not the only area in which the Church of England may be looking to swell the coffers of its estimated £8 billion of assets.

Under equally ancient legislation, it also continues to lay claim to the right to raise a tax on property that has been built on land formerly belonging to the parish council in order to maintain the parish church. These are so-called ‘chancel repairs’ – in a reference to the main part of the church surrounding the altar

Indeed, there is sufficient risk of facing a bill for several thousands of pounds as your contribution to the upkeep of the church. Anyone buying a property – which need not be anywhere close to the parish church itself – will be interested to note that specialist insurance products have been developed by DUAL Asset Underwriting to provide indemnity against such demands for chancel repairs.

The products are aptly called Chancel Repair and Mineral Reservations indemnity insurance.

BLOG | Claims Corner - Wind Farm access

A difficult wind farm access issue was a breeze for DUAL Asset to solve!

We recently settled a claim relating to unauthorised access to a wind farm in Ireland. The Insured took out a policy with DUAL Asset in June 2016 to cover the lack of a legal easement over the access way, which led to their turbine site.

In January 2018, the owner of the access way contacted the Insured, claiming that they did not have a right of way over the access. Despite supporting evidence regarding the use of the access in the form of Statutory Declarations from the Insured’s predecessors, it was clear that the claimant was prepared to press on with their claim. This would likely lead to protracted and costly litigation, and little in the way of certainty for the Insured and the operation of their business at the Property.

The insured accepted that there had been some intensification of the access, which was not covered under the policy. With DUAL’s agreement, the Insured’s lawyers engaged with the claimant and the parties reached an agreement for an easement over the access.

The consideration payable for the easement was £30k including legal fees and DUAL agreed to contribute £20k towards this figure, the proportionate payment reflecting the fact there was an element of the claim which did not fall for cover due to the intensification of the use of the access.

The insured was delighted that DUAL took a quick and commercial view, resulting in the claim being resolved within 3 months of the notification and with no interruption to the operation of the wind farm.

BLOG | Claims Corner - Possessory Title

A new month brings another satisfied insured!

We recently concluded yet another unusual claim involving possessory title to a piece of land adjoining the insured’s property, which they and their predecessors had used as amenity land for many years.

The insured received quite an aggressive letter of claim from the ‘true’ owner of the land, challenging their use, occupation and claim to ownership and demanding that the matter be rectified at Land Registry. During the claims handling process it was evident that the claimant was not prepared to accept the position on the ground and intended to proceed to litigation on the question of ownership. This would of course be fraught with risk and excessive costs, with no guarantee of a successful outcome for the insured, not to mention a huge amount of stress which no policy could compensate for.

After a year of negotiations we managed to reach a commercial agreement with the claimant whereby a payment of £30,000 was made in return for the claimant transferring their interest in the land to the insured, and thus the title issue was eradicated. The risk of future litigation has now disappeared and the matter has been resolved with minimum stress.

The insured’s solicitors, whom DUAL Asset employed throughout the process, said:

It was a pleasure working with DUAL throughout a complicated matter, they were often able to provide immediate responses, which meant that the matter could be progressed as quickly as possible through to completion; they were at all times friendly, approachable and commercially minded.

NEWS | Legal Indemnity adds Quick Quote

DUAL Asset Underwriting are pleased to announce they have added a “Quick Quote” section to their online platform My Legal Indemnity Shop. This extension of their service gives users a choice of legal indemnity policy quotes in less than 60 seconds for residential properties in England and Wales.

Home buyers, conveyancers and brokers can log into DUAL’s innovative and user-friendly portal and receive three competitive quotes from leading insurers in just a few clicks of the mouse.

It drafts and issues policies for over 40 different residential title defects with covers of up to £5m, offering a choice of cover options and costs. These quotes are sent directly from the ‘Quick Quote’ portal to the user and their conveyancer for consideration.

Up to four risks can be combined under one quote, typically providing attractive cost-savings on the cover.

Mark Dennis, Head of Residential Risks at DUAL Asset, explains that Quick Quote is "our response to growing consumer interest in My Legal Indemnity Shop. Most of us ‘shop around’ when looking for insurance, and that’s what consumers are increasingly doing when being told that indemnity insurance will be required to complete their house sale or purchase. However, their legal adviser is only offering a single insurance quote from a preferred supplier. Quick Quote allows consumers to obtain a choice of quotes from different insurers to pass on to their legal adviser should the choice of quotes offered prove better value."

For further information or to see a short video of how the service works, please visit my-legal-indemnity-shop.com and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

NEWS | Breach of planning - secret building cases

Recent stories have come to light where secret building works had been found by local planning officers, meaning homeowners should be aware that planning departments will look for potential breaches.

Homeowners looking to extend their property should also make sure they have the correct permissions in place before building begins.

One recent case relates to a planning breach in Leicestershire for building a “secret house” in a garage, where a couple - Reeta Herzallah and Hamdi Almasri - were ordered to pay more than £2,000 each for deliberately trying to hide the "habitable accommodation."

The BBC reported that Ms. Herzallah said the couple were "hard working" and "law abiding" and that they’d been advised by a builder that the conversion, in Old Church Road, was permitted.

With cases like these becoming more common, homeowners should be aware that there are building regulations products that potentially cover local authority enforcement action for breaches.

Building regulations insurance will typically be used by new purchasers where additions to the property are apparent, but in this case there is no evidence that building regulations consent has been obtained.

Wesley Timothy, LLB (Hons), Senior Underwriter at DUAL Asset Underwriting, a legal indemnity and title insurance specialist, says: “From an insurance point of view, whilst there are insurance products available that cover building regulation breaches, this particular case is a bit of a tricky one. We could potentially have covered an innocent purchaser and/or their lender for their respective losses down the line, but not Reeta Herzallah and Hamdi Almasri.

He continues: “It should also be clear that the onus for arranging planning permission should be with the homeowner, or by a reputable builder, who will clearly evidence the agreed planning permission before any work starts. Whilst this may seem like a headache and delay getting started, as we can see from the case above, having the correct planning can save you a lot of potential issues down the track.

BLOG | Probate Insurance - you only live twice?

As an underwriter, I first saw a presumption of death risk 20 years ago. A young professional person had gone missing at sea. A distress call had been made from their boat, but the coastguard was originally sent to search the wrong area. By the time the mistake was discovered, it was too late. There was no trace of the person, or the boat.

What often follows for the missing person’s family, is a roller-coaster ride from hell. Not only have they been denied a proper burial and the chance to say goodbye, but they face a struggle to obtain a death certificate and wind up the estate. Unfortunately, whilst your world may be crumbling, the mortgage still needs to be paid and the children fed and clothed. Also, there must always be the nagging doubt for the family left behind, what if they are not dead? What if they survived?

In the case of the young person missing at sea, the life insurance company would not pay out to the family. They wanted insurance to protect them, in case the person was not deceased and the presumption of death order obtained at court, was challenged.

Most of these tragic cases do not make the news. Some do though. John Darwin, now more commonly known as “canoe man,” went missing in 2002. He was lost when paddling out to sea in Hartlepool. No body was found. Four years later he was found to be alive and well, living in Panama. In 2007, he and his wife faced charges back in the UK for fraudulently claiming life insurance and defrauding the DWP, teachers’ pension scheme and their mortgage company. It is unlikely these companies and the DWP were able to recover their payments from the Darwin’s and their costs.

In Scotland, insurance is nearly always required by the courts, under the Presumption of Death (Scotland) Act 1977 Section 6, against the risk of a person having an interest in the deceased’s estate and seeking to have the decree varied or recalled. This means an innocent person’s interest is protected.

How does an underwriter go about underwriting such a risk and how can you tell a “canoe man” from a genuine, tragic, death? “It can be difficult,” says Kate Thorp. “Would I have issued a policy for the canoe man’s life insurer if asked, the answer is probably yes. What we do is look into the deceased’s life. Did they have any reason to fake their death? For example, were they in financial difficulties? We look at the circumstances of their death and how they went missing and often police reports are helpful in this regard and also press reports if they exist. We also look at their family situation.”

“I have also seen cases where a presumption of death order has been obtained for a missing beneficiary of an estate, to allow their inheritance to be paid to another family member, even when there is limited, or no information, to show they have died. The person had just disappeared, perhaps of their own choice.”

Presumption of Death insurance from DUAL can protect various interests, from the executors and administrators of the missing person’s estate, to the beneficiaries, trustees of pension schemes, purchasers of the missing person’s property and life insurance companies.

Kate Thorp - Executor & Inheritance Protection Manager at DUAL Asset Underwriting

BLOG | Insight into Restrictive Convenants - all change!

Modifying restrictive covenants leads to unlocking value.

One of the skills which any investor in real property must have is the ability to see the potential in land. Such potential may be present in a number of ways, but this article focusses on the potential to change the use of land despite the presence of restrictive covenants which would otherwise inhibit change.

The law of restrictive covenants is a complex one, inhabiting an uncomfortable berth between land and contract law, rules of Equity and legislation which is nearly 100 years old. This article cannot explain that law. It will be assumed that the hypothetical investor will have been advised that there are binding covenants on the land which are enforceable by neighbouring land owners. But the covenants prevent the proposed development, which has planning consent. If it can be carried out, the net development value will be in millions of pounds. How can that value be unlocked?

The answer is the use of the jurisdiction in the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) (“UTLC”) under s. 84(1) Law of Property Act 1925 (“s. 84”) to discharge, or modify restrictive covenants. There are a number of grounds in s. 84(1) under which this can be done. The one with the greatest chance of success is to show that the covenants impeding the development do not secure a practical benefit of substantial value, or advantage to those who can enforce the covenants. There are many cases about what this means. Invariably each application will turn on its facts on whether this test is satisfied. Applications under s. 84 can be hard to win, but it should be obvious that the reward for success, even after costs have been factored in, can be huge. What makes the applications more attractive now is that the UTLC is conducting final hearings of disputed applications under s. 84 generally within 4 months from the stage when the parties have completed the formal written stages of the application.

The importance of the jurisdiction under s. 84 cannot be over-estimated. The Government’s housing policy seeks to release more land for much needed housing, and there is a new Garden City movement supported by the Government. In addition, as it is economic to develop to a greater intensity, a policy generally favoured under planning law, land values warrant steps to remove covenant problems. Finally, there has been a growth in the “re-use” of sites where obsolescent houses are suitable for demolition with either replacement houses, or a greater number of houses, or flats being built.

The recent decision of the UTLC in Re Theodossiades’ Application [2017] UKUT 0461 (LC) is an example of a successful application to modify covenants which would have prevented a large late Victorian house, Gaisgill on Barnet Lane, Elstree, Herts, from being demolished and replaced by a single new building, with the appearance of a “mansion” house, containing 6 flats. Gaisgill, the objectors land, and other land to the east along Barnet lane, had been sold off in plots between 1886 and 1910 by a common vendor with covenants restricting development on each plot. The objectors (who could enforce the covenants on Gaisgill imposed in 1896 and 1900) were concerned not only with the modest detrimental impact of the development on their houses and gardens to the east of Gaisgill, but also with the effect which any modification would have as a precedent in leading to similar development on sites to the east of their properties. The latter objection was the main ground of objection pursued at the hearing. The Tribunal rejected that ground, finding principally that on the facts, there had been a large number of breaches of the covenants imposed on the land sold off by the common vendor, and technical reasons, based on covenant law, as to why enforcement would be difficult against other plot owners seeking to redevelop in future.

For the investor in land, the lesson to be taken away from Re Theodossiades’ is that it is not impossible to unlock value, despite the presence of covenants which might seem to make investment in land burdened by them a poor prospect. If planning consent for the development can be obtained (generally a prerequisite for a s. 84 application) and if the evidence supports one of the grounds, a skilled team of legal advisers and an expert surveyor should be able to achieve the discharge, or modification required. The task is not an easy one, but the economic benefits of the change can be huge.

ARTICLE BY ANDREW FRANCIS, BARRISTER, SERLE COURT CHAMBERS, LINCOLN’S INN.

© Andrew Francis

BLOG | Claims Corner - Scottish Title claim

DUAL Asset Underwriting prides itself on its practical and commercial approach to claims’ management. Over the last year, we have seen claims across a wide spectrum of our risks and have attempted to deal with these in an understanding and speedy manner, taking the best interests of the insured into account.

We have recently settled a lack of title claim in Scotland. The insured was acquiring a parcel of land that was unregistered. The land was in an area where there were multiple ancient landed estates and the maps of the area were not clear. The area of land that was acquired appeared to have established boundaries and the estate that sold it was adamant it was theirs, but took out the lack of title policy for extra security given the number of split offs from their title.

The application went off to Registers of Scotland, who accepted the first registration. Some months later, the insured was contacted by lawyers for one of the other surrounding estates claiming that the piece of land was in fact theirs and that they would be applying to Registers of Scotland for a rectification of title.

The documentation that they produced was very thorough and having discussed with our legal advisers, they stood a very good chance of succeeding in their claim.

The insured, who had incorporated the land into their garden, didn’t want to lose the piece of land and wanted to open discussions to purchase it. The limit of our policy was £5,000 (the purchase price when it was bought) and so, after some consideration, we decided to take a practical approach to the claim and offer a full and final settlement to the insured for £5,000. This left them in a position where they could negotiate with the estate and we could close our file.

No claim is ever the same, but the best outcome for all sides are the ones that settle quickly.

BLOG | Property Law & Land Registration - your land or your money

Property Law and Land Registration, in principle, is designed to make the selling and buying of land, as easy as possible. It undoubtedly does this, for the most part. Unfortunately, the reality of conveyancing is that there are many pitfalls and defects that can make what appears to be an easy deal, an uphill struggle.

Whether it’s a multimillion pound development or someone buying their first ever flat, title defects have given many a lawyer sleepless nights. There are numerous defects which could affect the deal, with one of the most common and problematic being the ransom strip.

Ransom strips are small, but vital areas or strips of land, which sit out-with a title, but are integral for the enjoyment of the property. Most commonly, these relate to access to the property, either from a public road or between another property, and can sometimes be as narrow and seemingly ‘insignificant’ as six inches.

Small though the strip may be; these areas are far from insignificant. If the land is owned by a third party and your client does not have documented rights to use the route, they are essentially at risk of trespassing if they enter or cross it.

The problem conveyancer’s face is they are often unnoticed, and can be particularly difficult to spot with rural property and estates due to old titles and maps. Whatever the reason, they are problematic, and if not dealt with appropriately, your client is at risk of a long and expensive legal battle.

In recent years, there have been some highly publicised cases where ransom strips have caused not only costly financial issues, but serious delays to build projects. The development at Edinburgh Accies in Stockbridge being the most topical, where a 2ft wide strip was owned by adjoining land owners, who voted to assert their legal right to the land and a reported £1m ‘ransom’ as a result.

With planning already secured for the rugby pitch and 2,500 seat stand, alongside bars, shops and other facilities, the legal row rumbled on for a more than a year before it was dismissed at The Court of Session last year. More than 12 months delay to the development.

Other most notable ransom strip disputes include:

  • Mapping errors in earlier conveyances
  • The extent of a road, which has been publicly adopted, not quite meeting the land that your client has title to
  • With financial gain in mind

Land purchasers need to be alert to the existence of ransom strips, and it’s down to your legal representative to carry out thorough due diligence ahead of any procurement. If any issues are identified as part of this, there are options that can help resolve them:

  • Find out who the owner is and approach them to try and correct the issue. At Millar & Bryce (Scotland’s premier search provider) they work with clients to identify ownership in the land register; even when the land hasn’t yet made it onto the land register we can usually identify ownership. Prior to land registration, land ownership was recorded in the historic sasine register, and searching this can be complex and requires a high degree of skills and experience. Millar & Bryce have vast experience of searching the sasine register and on a day to day basis deal with complex enquiries on land ownership.
  • Obtain title insurance. That way, should a claim ever happen, the insurers take care of it for the land-owner and either correct the position or provide them with cover for any actual loss suffered due to the ransom strip. They will also usually cover potential legal costs. DUAL Asset Underwriting have some of the most experienced legal underwriters in the market who can assist with this.

The overarching message to take from this is that these things happen, but there are options that will hopefully prevent any risk to the property, and indeed the bank balance.

NEWS | Protecting Development Land - public access implications

Once a public right of way or informal access to land has been established and can be proven, argues Birketts the solicitors, it becomes practically impossible to remove.

As far as any future development is concerned, there is a planning blight on the land – as the solicitors say, it can be fatal for the prospects of its use in the future.

The need to protect development land

Unless the owners of land take active steps to prevent it happening, new public access rights may be established, and the land may be opened up by informal public use.

This might be by way of a direct footpath or bridleway across the land or the informal recreational use of a whole area – for use as a village green or even a new town, for example.

In that event, the solution to any planning blight is a long drawn out and expensive attempt to change the recognised rights of way and public access, in the face of probable opposition to any development scheme based on the rights and uses which have been established in the past. At its simplest, public rights of way get established as the result of long-term public access and use.

Defences

Clearly, the more you know about past land use, the stronger your position for defending it and for preserving its potential for development in the future.

Local authority searches have become ever more fruitful and revealing on information about recorded public right of way, proposed changes to any of those routes and claims for the inclusion of previously unrecorded routes across the privately owned land.

Developers need to use this information – together with inspections of the site itself, of course – to assess whether informal public use, in the past or present, increases the likelihood of new claims for recognised public rights of way to be made.

Local authority searches may also reveal whether advantage has already been taken of the existing statutory measures which may have been put in place against fresh claims to public rights of way or informal uses which have turned areas of the land into a village green or new settlement.

Statutory defences

The principle involved in protecting privately-owned land against new public rights of way or informal lies in the landowner demonstrating an explicit “lack of intention to dedicate” those rights – in other words, an explicit statement denying the creation of any such new rights.

Provision for formal statements such as this is made in both section 31(6) of the Highways Act 1980 and in section 15A of the Commons Act 2006.

In the case of the former, the landowner submits a statement and land use plan to the highways department of the local authority. The statement provides protection against any attempt to assert any new claim of public use or right of way for the next 20 years.

Section 15A of the Commons Act 2006 makes similar provision in respect of any new informal or recreational use of the land in question. Once again, the landowner’s statement gives protection against such claims for the next 20 years.

Neither the Highways Act 1980 or the Commons Act 2006 offer any retrospective protection – the defence comes into effect only once the prescribed statements by the landowner have been submitted. If you are buying land which has not yet been protected against future claims to public access or informal use, therefore, you may want to act quickly to put these defences in place.

BLOG | Probate Insurance - Dirty rotten scoundrels

We all remember the 1988 film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels starring Michael Caine, or if you are a film buff (or of a certain age), the original 1964 version called Bedtime Story starring the debonair David Niven. Both films were comedies and told the story of con men using false identities to swindle unsuspecting victims out of money. The films are fiction of course, but 30 years on, has identity fraud become more prevalent? Recent newspaper headlines, stated in the first half of 2017 there were 89,000 reported cases of identity fraud. Should we fear identity fraud when administering an estate and can anything be done to completely protect administrators and executors, if the worst case happened?

Kate Thorp, DUAL’s Inheritance Protection Manager, sees cases on a weekly basis where family trees contain beneficiaries from all over the world. This week alone, we have seen families residing in the Ukraine, Nigeria, Indonesia and Poland. Sometimes these estates can present challenges for genealogists, who often have to use incomplete records, sometimes as a result of war or conflict. Genealogists can also find themselves researching in a country that has strict privacy laws, making searching official records difficult and sometimes impossible. Quite often, family information alone has to be relied upon to trace family members, which can be imperfect.

If the personal representative makes a mistake and distributes to the wrong beneficiaries, or miss out a beneficiary altogether, it would be very difficult to retrieve the erroneous payment, especially from countries outside the UK and Europe. It will often not be cost-effective to even try. This is where both missing beneficiary insurance and identity fraud cover can assist by protecting the personal representative and the beneficiaries. DUAL’s comprehensive UK insurance policy provides cover for both missing beneficiaries worldwide and also cover for identity fraud committed by UK nationals.

Where there is a UK estate or UK held assets and there are beneficiaries outside the UK, DUAL can also consider bespoke identity fraud cover and have in the last few months provided policies where beneficiaries were resident in Africa and the Middle East. “All cases were similar”, says Kate Thorp. “The solicitor, despite their best efforts, could not categorically say the person claiming to be the entitled beneficiary was actually the right person. The solicitor in each case was not comfortable to make a distribution on this basis. In one case, identity documents had been received, but dates of birth differed on a driving licence and a passport. Different variations of names were shown on the documents and the beneficiary was using an intermediary to communicate with the solicitor. There was an added concern that matters could be lost in translation. DUAL were able to assist in all cases and provide identity fraud cover, just in case the worst case did happen.

How does an underwriter go about underwriting such a risk? ”Well, it’s important to go back to how the beneficiary was traced,” says Kate Thorp. “Did they come forward of their own accord and what knowledge did they have of the Deceased? Have they been able to confirm certain facts? Then there is also the correspondence. It is useful for the underwriters to view this. We also talk to the solicitor. What is their view of the situation?

Maybe we should not think of everyone as a “dirty rotten scoundrel,” but personal representatives should always be on their guard. If they have any concerns about the beneficiaries they are about to send money to, then DUAL are happy to talk to them about ways of safeguarding themselves and the estate.

NEWS | The Scottish Legal Awards

DUAL Asset Underwriting were delighted to be Finalists in the Innovation in Practice category at this year’s Scottish Legal Awards in recognition of our online platform My Defective Title Shop.com

The service provides Scottish conveyancers with a quick and easy way to source and select from a choice of defective title policies for residential property transactions in Scotland.

Our innovative and user-friendly portal offers three quotes for residential property, enabling conveyancers a choice of cover options and cost. It drafts and issues policies for over 40 different residential title defects, covering up to £5m at a few clicks of the mouse

Kirstin Nee, Senior Underwriter at DUAL Asset Underwriting: “We are thrilled that our online platform has been recognised for its innovation. Our aim with the platform was to make the lives of Scottish conveyancers that little bit easier with a choice of policies covering a wide range of risks.

You can read more about My Defective Title Shop here: my-defective-title-shop.com

You can read more about the Scottish Legal Awards 2018 here: kdmedia.co.uk/legalawards/2018-finalists/

NEWS | Three new starters at DUAL Asset

DUAL Asset Underwriting are pleased to announce they are expanding their Underwriting teams in London and Norwich, with three new hires.

Terri Hatton and Naomi Kent have joined the Norwich office and Jessica Ollerhead is joining the London office.

Ian Keith, Managing Director for DUAL Asset Underwriting, commented: “As our business continues to grow, we need to keep expanding the team to deliver on our service proposition. It is great to add three very talented and experienced underwriters, who will be a brilliant fit with our company philosophy.

Bios

Terri Hatton - Underwriter, Norwich office

Terri spent the last two years being a personal assistant to a director of a financial services company and prior to this, spent 5 years working for another legal indemnity company as an underwriter.

Terri says: “In my previous role as an underwriter, I was originally in the administration team and received a promotion after 9 months at the company. Underwriting was completely new to me and I instantly found it engaging! I spent most of my time in the 'Fast Track' team, which was designed to supply quick quotations for basic residential risks."

The way this particular company worked, I was limited to the basics and was not allowed to explore beyond a specific set of risks. When I join DUAL, I will be aiming to start working on these same risks to begin with, so that I can 'get back in the game'. I am looking forward to having the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and hopefully learn more complex risks.

Terri is originally from London, but relocated to Norfolk 7 years ago with her husband and now they have a little girl (4) called Chloe. She adds: “I enjoy fundraising and try to commit myself to doing at least one challenge a year for a charity. Previous fundraisers include volunteering in Africa for a month when I was 19 and more recently I have run the Norwich 10k, abseiled the Archelormittal Orbit and volunteered on the SOS bus for just over a year. This year I have signed up for the SHINE walk for Cancer Research UK."

I also like to tell everyone (repeatedly) that my claim to fame was being taught how to dance by Len Goodman!

Naomi Kent - Underwriter, Norwich office

Naomi has 13 years’ experience in the legal indemnities market and has underwritten a broad range of both residential and commercial risks, as well as missing beneficiary, rights to light, and other bespoke risks.

Naomi also has extensive claims handling experience, having been involved in a number of cases, which have gone to mediation, trial and the Financial Ombudsman.

In her spare time, Naomi likes to ride horses.

Jessica Ollerhead - Underwriter, London office

Jessica studied Law at the University of Cumbria, before moving to London where she studied the Legal Practice Course at the University of Westminster. She then joined a legal indemnity solutions company. She says: “In my previous role, I would mainly look at more complex/dispute style Rights of Light and Legal Contingency cases. I enjoy all areas, but in particular was focusing on more dispute/agreed conduct cases, which to the best of my knowledge hasn’t yet been used too much at DUAL. I am looking forward to collaborating the two styles together.

Jessica is originally from Merseyside and says: “I have got the Northern love in me.

She has been playing hockey (goalkeeper position) for around 15 years, competing in the European Championships in Prague in 2007.

Jessica adds: “I enjoy going out, traveling and meeting new people and am starting a short language course at City University London in May to learn Arabic”.

BLOG | Claims Corner - covenant claim

DUAL Asset Underwriting prides itself on its practical and commercial approach to claims’ management. Over the last year, we have seen claims across a wide spectrum of our risks and have attempted to deal with these in an understanding and speedy manner, taking the best interests of the insured into account.

We have recently settled a covenant claim in south London, where a developer was building a block of apartments on a site where there was previously a single dwelling. The site was burdened by a 1985 covenant, restricting the use of the land to the single private dwelling, which was in favour of the Council.

Shortly after works commenced, the council approached the developer claiming they had the benefit of the covenant. Counsel’s advice was that whilst the Council were unlikely to obtain an injunction to stop the work, as they had not objected during the planning stage, nor when the developer moved on site, they were likely to be awarded compensation at the Upper Tribunal. This could involve a combined legal expense and compensation bill well into six figures.

Working with the insured’s lawyers, we first refuted the validity of the covenant and then quickly agreed a cash settlement with the Council to remove the restriction. The combined payment of legal fees (£15k) and compensation (£40k) was considerable lower than the cost of going to Tribunal and in addition much quicker. This resulted in the insured being able to continue with their development and the swift settlement enabled the claim to be met with minimum legal fees.

NEWS | German voidable lease - new court ruling

The German Federal Court of Justice (“Der Bundesgerichtshof or BGH") has recently published an important decision on 27th September 2017.

In essence, this now increases the possibility of landlords or tenants being able to terminate a written-form lease early, due to a ruling against what are termed “defect-curing clauses” – finding them to be null and void.

The background

In Germany, by law, leases that have a term in excess of 12 months must be fully compliant with what is called the “written form” of lease agreement. By custom and practice, such written form agreements often contained a reciprocal “defect-curing” clause requiring both parties to abstain from terminating the lease early on the grounds of discovered defects in such leases. This essentially gave both parties the opportunity to apply defect-curing amendment activities and avoided sometimes minor errors being used as a “casus belli” and a subsequent early lease termination.

Whilst much of this was based upon goodwill and common sense, nevertheless, in the past, it had created some confusion in court decisions. In some instances, the right of one party or the other to apply defect rectification in the lease agreement was upheld by a court; whereas other courts had refuted the right.

The current decision

The above-mentioned formal court decision appears now to have finally quashed the notion that the defect-curing clause has any legal weight.

Impact assessment

The law retains a provision for what is termed “goodwill” between the parties. The objective of this is to try and avoid tenants or landlords using relatively minor and perhaps extremely technical flaws in the written-form lease agreement, as a justification for early termination. However, as goodwill is notoriously difficult to precisely define, it is anticipated that this will need to be looked at by due legal process on a case-by-case basis when errors are being cited, as a justification for early termination.

It therefore seems intuitively likely that now both tenants and landlords may have a potentially rather easier route through which to justify an early escape from a binding lease. While some will see this as an opportunity, others may see it as a serious concern.

The issues

Although it is impossible to be definitive, it is possible to envisage scenarios such as:

  • a landlord seeking to terminate an existing lease agreement early in order to enter into a more favourable lease with a third party;
  • tenants doing the same, because they no longer wish to be committed to their previous lease undertakings.

In both cases, this may offer advantages for the sponsoring party, but potentially serious consequences for the other.

There is, of course, no reliable forecast at this stage as to how prevalent such occurrences might be.

Implications

This is now the new reality that both tenants and landlords may have to live with. The court’s decision has made the position clearer.

The obvious implication for all parties is that lease agreements must be in perfect conformity to the agreed written form, so as to eliminate or at worst very significantly reduce the opportunities for questions arising under defect auspices. This may well lead to reluctance of investors and lenders to provide funding for real estate assets where doubts about defect lease arrangements exist.

This also further re-emphasises the existing standard wisdom of avoiding informal lease agreements, addenda to them in the form of informal notes or letters and purely verbal agreements relating to items contained within the lease.

Solution

An option for landlords, tenants and lenders to cure defects in lease agreements is voidable lease insurance. The voidable lease cover avoids the problem of the landlord having to approach the tenant to cure the written form defect by an amendment or having to give warranties or other collateral as part of the loan purchase agreement. This can, in many cases, be more practical and cost effective.

This insurance is available for landlords, tenants and their finance partners. Insurance for a finance partner may encourage them to continue to provide finance at an acceptable cost, in even the trickiest cases.

DUAL Asset Underwriting offers this product in Germany, amongst a number of other insurance products for real estate related transactional risks. Should you be interested to learn more about our wide range of insurance products, please contact us.

BLOG | Probate Insurance - Don't look back in anger

Writing a will gives you the peace of mind that when you die, your estate will be divided up just as you wish – whether between your children or grandchildren, charities, your spouse...writes Kate Thorp, our Executor & Inheritance Protection Manager...

Yet, surprisingly in recent years, the number of cases of wills being challenged after a loved one’s death has increased.

Recent disputes around the estates of celebrities include:

  • Singer Michael Jackson’s siblings claiming his will was fake after being left out of his will following his death in 2009.
  • Actor Robin William’s third wife and adult children going to court in 2015 over his “celebrity memorabilia,” despite his estate being carefully left in trusts between them all, prior to his death.
  • Singer James Brown. His case is still ongoing since his death in 2006. The singer reportedly left most of his estate to a number of charities – yet his family are disputing this.

It’s not just celebrities who fall foul of will disputes when they die, however, in an ever increasingly litigious society, disgruntled people are challenging wills where they believe they are entitled to inherit – even if a will does not make provision for them and does not comply with the wishes of the deceased.

What about the well-publicised Ilott v Mitson case? This dominated the press for nearly a decade and finally concluded last year. This is the case of an estranged adult daughter being left out of her mother’s will. The deceased left her estate worth around £500,000 to three charities, which the daughter, Heather Illot, challenged.

A district judge made an original settlement of £50,000 to Mrs Ilott who appealed against it saying the amount was not generous enough. This went to the Court of Appeal who then ruled that Mrs Ilott should be awarded £160,000, including £143,000 to buy her housing association home.

The three charities who were due to receive the monies as per the deceased’s wishes took the case to the Supreme Court, who overturned the Court of Appeal decision and reverted to the original settlement of £50,000.

Why are wills being challenged?

In the last decade, soaring house prices have turned families on relatively modest incomes into property millionaires almost overnight. And the introduction of pension freedoms in April 2015 means that families may have more cash to leave to relatives when they die.

This, coupled with modern family dynamics, with divorce, second marriages, stepchildren and half-brothers and sisters etc., may mean that grieving is put to one side while those left behind battle for what they think is theirs – even if that doesn’t agree with what a will says.

I find this all very sad. We are often asked to insure against will disputes at DUAL. In this day and age, perhaps it is now more important than ever not to look back in anger but to accept the final wishes of the testator.

NEWS | 2017 in review - a year of growth

DUAL Asset Underwriting is pleased to announce another spectacular year of growth, which has seen our Gross Written Premium for 2017 rise to just under £40m! Our global coverage now extends across 35 countries, making us one of the most international title insurers in the world.

Our innovative online comparison site continues to go from strength to strength. We recently launched the commercial version in England & Wales with four insurers providing competitive quotes. Please keep a look out for commercial coming soon in Scotland and Northern Ireland and also our newly rebranded homepage with quick quote functionality and training videos.

We continue to look at new market opportunities and have successfully grown our US reinsurance program over the last year. We have also worked to put the foundations in place for our new Indian reinsurance market, which we expect to grow rapidly over the coming years.

2018 is already shaping up to be an exciting year - the team continues to expand in London, Norwich and Manchester, with the underwriting team now up to 25. Next month’s newsletter will be announcing that we have another four great recruits joining the team……We will also be moving to new offices in November, where we will be taking the top floor at One Creechurch Place (http://onecreechurchplace.com) and we will be celebrating our 5th birthday in the usual DUAL Asset style!

As always, this success couldn’t be achieved without our key partners at Hyperion, XL Catlin, Fidelis, Evolution, Liberty and RSA. Finally and most importantly, a huge thanks to our insurance brokers, lawyers, conveyancers and customers - we certainly couldn't have done it without you!

NEWS | DUAL Asset Underwriting nominated for Innovation Award

DUAL Asset Underwriting are delighted to announce that they are a Finalist in the Innovation in Practice category at this year’s Scottish Legal Awards in recognition of their online platform My Defective Title Shop.com.

The service allows Scottish conveyancers a quick and easy way to find and buy online a choice of legal indemnity policies for residential property transactions in Scotland.

Their innovative and user-friendly portal - provided by DUAL Asset Underwriting - offers three quotes for residential property, enabling conveyancers a choice of cover options and cost. It drafts and issues policies for over 40 different residential title defects, covering up to £5m at a few clicks of the mouse.

Kirstin Nee, Senior Underwriter at DUAL Asset Underwriting, commented: “We are thrilled that our online platform has been recognised for its innovation. Our aim with the platform was to make the lives of Scottish conveyancers that little bit easier with a choice of policies covering a wide range of risks.”

You can read more about My Defective Title Shop here: https://my-defective-title-shop.com

You can read more about the Scottish Legal Awards 2018 here: http://kdmedia.co.uk/legalawards/2018-finalists/

NEWS | Evolution Insurance joins My Legal Indemnity comparison site

Recently Elite Insurance have stopped writing legal indemnity insurance. As a result we have now replaced Elite with Evolution Insurance Group, so the My Legal Indemnity Shop is now back up to providing quotes from three different insurers.

Evolution have been providing legal indemnity insurance capacity for Guaranteed Conveyancing Solutions (GCS) for several years, so will already be a familiar name to many of you.

In addition to the above change, we have worked hard to improve the functionality and offering that the site provides. Key benefits are:

  1. Premiums have been revised, offering still greater value and particularly so on higher limits of indemnity.
  2. Contingent Buildings, Maisonette/Flat and Contaminated Land Indemnity all now have extended periods of insurance.
  3. ‘Live Chat’ has been added, giving you ‘real time’ access to underwriters.

Existing policies provided by Elite Insurance are unaffected and all claims will be honoured by Elite, who will continue to meet its liabilities to policyholders and claimants alike. Any questions or feedback on any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact us.

NEWS | Meeting at MIPIM? DUAL Asset Underwriting will be there!

DUAL Asset Underwriting will be at MIPIM between Tuesday 14th and Friday 17th March. We would be delighted to arrange a meeting to discuss how our insurance solutions can assist and add value to your real estate transactions. Our team specialises in legal indemnity, defective title, title to shares and W&I insurance.

In the last three years, we have insured in 25 countries, so if you have a rights of light issue in England, a donation issue in Italy, a challenge to building permit in France, an ongoing restitution claim in CEE or a zoning problem in Spain, we will be able to tailor a bespoke insurance solution to facilitate your real estate deal.

Please contact a member of our team to arrange a meeting:

Ian Keith Managing Director
Mobile: +44 (0)7846 572 524
Tel: +44 (0)207 337 6477
Email: IKeith@dualgroup.com

Fergus Davey Senior Underwriter
Mobile: +44 (0)7779 320 327
Tel: +44 (0)207 337 6492
Email: FDavey@dualgroup.com

Kirstin Nee Senior Underwriter
Mobile: +44 (0)7894 867 476
Tel: +44 (0)20 7337 9875
Email: KNee@dualgroup.com

Natalie Leversedge Head of Operations
Mobile: +44 (0)7917 367 698
Tel: +44 (0)207 337 6462
Email: NLeversedge@dualgroup.com

BLOG | PWC's Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2017

Very well done to Gareth Lewis and the PWC team for producing their Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2017.

Here’s a link to the report and a quick summary of the main findings:

  • Most participants continue to see real value in Real Estate
  • Unsurprisingly given political developments, many are happy to sacrifice yield for less risk
  • The main urban destinations for investors - German cities dominate; Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich sandwich Dublin (yes Dublin-great recovery guys) in the top 5
  • By 2030 demographic changes will transform the real estate market (see my post of 09/01/17)
  • 92% of participants think that UK will fall, but how much of this contribution was before the Trump vote and clear signals that the UK’s Special Relationship (and not the EU) is a priority for the USA?
  • The Nordics are on the rise again

Happy hunting in 2017 - but be careful out there!

BLOG | The results are in!

In 2013, we started DUAL Asset Underwriting with a simple, but audacious goal. By now, we wanted to be the most international asset insurer, with the broadest level of coverage.

We came to the end of that initial 3 year business plan at the end of September.

During this period, we have insured over £70billion worth of real estate, mortgage and inherited assets, spread across 24 countries around the world. In our third financial year alone, we wrote £17.2million of premium!

As you can imagine, with the team that we have at DUAL, we are not ones to sit back and rest on this success. In the last 2 months, our team have been with our customers in the UK, India, US, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Kenya, Poland, Czech Republic and Romania! Please do not hesitate to call us if you need assistance on a property, share or probate transaction anywhere in the world.

It has been a hugely successful 3 years and I have just picked out a few of the key highlights below.

A massive thank you has to go to our business partners at Hyperion, XL Catlin, Fidelis, Elite and RSA for all their support - and most of all to our brilliant insurance brokers, lawyers and customers - we certainly couldn't have done it without you!

We look forward to more fun and games with you over the coming years.

Regards,

The DUAL Asset team

Share Ownership Insurance

With more and more property deals now being transacted through a share purchase, the ownership and title of shares is just as important as the title to the property. We are the first insurer to combine a property ownership insurance with a share ownership insurance. This can work as a standalone product or as a hybrid product with a warranty & indemnity insurance.

Comparison Site

We waited 2 years to look closely at residential property risks, because we wanted to introduce something of real value for brokers and conveyancers and not just launch the same old online purchasing site. Over the next few years, consumer and micro SME regulation will demand that consumers understand options around insurance. Legal defence cost variants, the option to have an excess and pay less and the option to insure their lender and not themselves will become easy choices. Tied agency, single insurer solutions will become as "current" as self-issue packs...

We launched my-legal-indemnity-shop.com in England & Wales earlier this year to provide exactly this solution – a choice of 3 insurers online with different coverage options makes the purchase of legal indemnity insurance a much easier, compliant and attractive solution. Northern Ireland will be launching this month, Scotland in January and then commercial to follow shortly after.

India

The DUAL team has worked with the Indian market since 2005 to try and introduce Title Insurance there. India is now ready! The Real Estate Bill 2016 introduces it, the regulator and insurers are nearly there and REIT legislation is on the way. Please get in touch if you act for any investors looking at the Indian property market.

USA

The Title Insurance industry was born in California in the 1880s and has been dominated by three major players. DUAL is now shaking up the norm, bringing financially strong, rated reinsurance capacity to this market, whilst delivering innovative underwriting solutions for property investors.

NEWS | Title Insurance arrives in India

As part of the much heralded Real Estate Act 2016, the Indian government encouraged the insurance industry to offer Title Insurance for investment in Indian Real Estate.

The government expects the security that Title Insurance provides to boost Indian Real Estate investment and help buyers and sellers better manage their liabilities.

I am delighted to announce that DUAL & Fidelis, with our local partners, are ready to start Title Insuring Indian Real Estate.

If you would like to discuss your projects with us, please get in touch.

BLOG | 2017 Uncertainty, 2030 Megatrends

So happy new year everyone! What will 2017 bring?

  • More Trump Bump or a Trump Dump?
  • A Brexit Bounce or a Brexit Bundle?

Of course no-one knows any more and one thing that 2016 should have taught us, is that we should be wary of people who think they do.

Over the long run, only one thing about real estate is certain; demographics will influence property prices over time.

So here is a link to an interesting piece of work from TH Real Estate which analyses macro demographics and come to a “Famous Five” conclusion.

The view is that by 2030:

  • 2/3 of the world’s population will live in our cities
  • Asia will contribute more to the global economy than US and Europe combined
  • The number of middle and high income households will double
  • The elderly (>64) will double as a % of the global population
  • Internet users will double (>4.3BN)

Happy hunting in 2017!