Ask-a-lawyer: Cost of legal help and 'credit notes'

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This week we turn to

Alexis Waller

, a partner in of

property practice, answer some questions from readers.

The first question has to do with the point at which the benefit of hiring a lawyer outweighs the cost and the second deals with the issue of "credit notes" in the property market.

Send us more questions and we'll get them answered next week.

Answers after the jump:

Question

: I'm having difficulties with the developer of the villa I bought in Dubai. I want to get legal help, but I'm having financial difficulties. At what point do the benefits of hiring a lawyer outweigh the costs?

Alexis Waller

: I would always advise a buyer to put aside part of his/her overall purchasing budget to go towards legal fees, and would advise doing so at the time of buying property. This way the buyer goes into the transaction fully aware of (a) his/her commitments (b) any risks (c) the developer's/Seller's commitments and (d) any laws or practice that might impact the purchase.  A lawyer will also be able to confirm your position and available options should you encounter any difficulties with the purchase along the way. Without knowing the value of the property or the situation at hand it is impossible to assess the extent of the benefit this will be to you, but I would suggest you seek legal advice at this point, even if it is limited to telling you what your legal and practical options are in relation to the difficulties you are experiencing. You can then decide whether you want to take it further, but will have the comfort of knowing what help is available. Try to fix a cost at the outset for the lawyer's time in looking into this for you and explain your position. Speak with firms in Dubai that deal with the type of claim or difficulties which you are experiencing.

Question

: Is there any legal basis for exchanging my equity in a project to another person for money? There has been a lot of talk about "credit notes" and I don't want to get pulled into something risky.

Alexis Waller

: There has been talk in the press about Emaar and Nakheel issuing credit notes. I believe that Nakheel representatives have confirmed in recent press articles that credit notes are not being issued by Nakheel. In relation to Emaar, I believe that they, as with other developers, are in some cases offering investors the opportunity to transfer their interests from one project into another, but that this is part of a larger process and commitment to work together with end-users and taking account of market conditions. Even if a credit note is issued by a developer it is likely to be for the benefit of the recipient only and not for exchange. You should therefore proceed with caution in relation to any such exchanges being offered and seek legal advice.