News

A 5-year plan of action is being proposed by The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in response to a declared state of climate emergency. RIBA held a council meeting where it was decided to work towards alleviating the role that architects play in causing climate change.  A report from Chatham House recently revealed that 8% of the world's carbon emissions are from concrete's main ingredient, cement (the chemical and thermal combustion process involved produces large amounts of CO2). The purpose of the 5-year plan is to make sustainable practices standard within the architecture industry, lobby the government to improve policy and reduce RIBA’s own carbon footprint. Read more from futurebuild here.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has warned Government that an over-reliance on traditional building methods will see the UK fall far short of its target to build 300,000 new homes a year by mid-2020s.  In a report published on 3 July, the Committee urges the Government to act quickly to increase capacity and improve investor confidence to ‘unlock the potential’ for modern methods of construction (MMC) to build homes quicker, more cheaply, while maintaining build quality. Read more here.
You may also find our articles on Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPS) and Modern Methods of Construction interesting.

In a recent speech given at the Bank of Portugal, Sir Jon Cunliffe, Deputy Governor Financial Stability at the Bank of England, explained what the Bank has done to learn and to institutionalise some of the lessons of the financial crisis of 2008. He paid particular attention to the evolution of the new, statutory Committee of the Bank, the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) that was established in 2013 and charged with maintaining financial stability in the UK.

The speech explains the approach the bank has taken to manage the stability of the housing market. It's an interesting read for surveyors and valuers.

Read more here.

The latest ECO (Energy Companies Obligation) has been released and responses are required by 6 August 2019.

The consultation proposes to incorporate the TrustMark Government Endorsed Quality Scheme into ECO3, to ensure the relevant PAS standards are adhered to. This should improve the quality of installations of energy efficient measures.

The consultation also includes some changes to the scheme itself, focusing on First Time Central Heating (FTCH) including:

  • Removal of the 400% uplift in the scores for boiler replacements outside of the broken heating system cap of 35,000 per year. This is to encourage the installation of insulation and FTCH
  • Increasing the lifetime (used to calculate the ECO scores) for FTCH, to reflect the fact that a heating system would generally last longer than the 12 years expected for the boiler/heat generator of the system
  • Including FTCH in the eligible measures for F & G Private Rented Sector (PRS) homes. Currently, F & G PRS homes are only eligible for renewable heating or solid wall insulation measures under ECO3. Now that the cap for the landlord contribution under MEES (Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards) has been set at £3,500, ECO3 will include FTCH as the average cost of installing FTCH is above £3,500
  • Extend the in-fill under LA-Flex (Local authority flexible eligibility) to include FTCH. LA-Flex was introduced to allow installation of solid wall insulation into homes where the inhabitants do not meet the ECO3 eligibility criteria, but their neighbours do. This allowed for economies of scale and made project more viable. There is a similar argument for economies of scale when connecting properties to the gas network.

You can read the full consultation and respond here.

It has been reported in Architects Journal that building control is at a crisis point as building inspectors are struggling to find appropriate insurance cover and many private building inspectors have stopped practicing and are referring work to competitors or local authorities (see a statement from approved inspector Aedis as an example). A spokesperson for the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI) said: ‘Statutory regulations on professional indemnity and public liability insurance are currently excessively stringent, meaning many insurers are unwilling to provide cover for inspectors. This is creating a crisis point within the building control industry.

’Urgent consideration is needed from the government to attempt to resolve the situation before large numbers of firms of all sizes are forced to cease trading. Failure to act will severely curtail the industry’s capability to sign off safe buildings.’

Will this result in a rise of buildings with dangerous defects? Read more here.

RICS have published an insight paper discussing the opportunities, rapidly developing applications and compliance challenges when using drones in the surveying industry. It looks at regulatory issues on a national and international level which impact the technology's integration into widespread use in the land, property and construction sectors. Read more here.

In an aim to tackle unfair leasehold practices and protect future buyers from ‘exploitative arrangements’, the government have confirmed that all new-build homes are to be sold as freehold and ground-rents on new leases will be reduced to £0. In his speech at the recent CIH Conference, housing secretary James Brokenshire confirmed the plans that will put cash back into the pockets of future home owners. Also, in a bid to stop freeholders and managing agents prolonging the process of providing leaseholders the information they require to sell their home, and charging what they want for it, ministers will introduce a new time limit of 15 working days and a maximum fee of £200+VAT. In addition, it was announced that if buyers are incorrectly sold a leasehold home, they will be able to get their freehold outright at no extra cost. 

Click here to read the press release and here to read the consultation document.

Have you ever come across a brick façade like this on your travels?

The fancy jewel-like façade is located in Amsterdam’s high-end shopping street PC Hooftstraat and the current tenants of the building are luxury goods manufacturer Hermès. Designed by Dutch design company MVRDV in 2016, the project is called Crystal Houses and the intention was for a distinctive store front without compromising on the historical character. The bricks have been replaced by a glass replica and dissolve into the traditional bricks on the upper level. You can read more and look in awe at the photos here. The previous tenants were designer brand Chanel and the original article from 2016 can be found here which explains more detail about the construction method.

So, is anyone up for the challenge of calculating the heat losses of the wall?

With Climate Change in the news and high on the agenda, this guide from Historic England provides information on installing solar photovoltaic panels on historic buildings. The guide gives advice on how to minimise potential damage to the fabric of the building as well as how to reduce the visual impact. It is part of a series of guides produced by Historic England to promote sympathetic, energy efficiency improvements in older buildings.

You can download ‘Historic England 2018. Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Solar Electric (Photovoltaics). Swindon: Historic England’ here.

Photo credit: © St Anns Gate Architects

UK Finance recently released data for 2018 that demonstrated a 13% decrease in the stock of outstanding interest-only mortgages to under 1.5 million loans. The reduction is partly a result of the loans coming to the end of term with borrowers redeeming on schedule and from redemptions ahead of original mortgage term. This latter reason is, according to UK Finance,  in large part due to the industry’s commitment to contact all interest-only customers to ensure they are aware of the need to repay – and have the viable means to do so. Read more here.
 

Just in case you haven't yet participated in the RICS consultation on the new mandatory Home Survey Standard, you can do so here. The consultation invites both consumers and residential professionals to have their say and it is hoped that the new standard will offer better protection for buyers and sellers and to avoid confusion around survey types and standardise offerings. 

To participate follow this link to the RICS website.

Did you know that the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ is the 11th largest mortgage lender in the UK? This is according to research from Legal & General and the Centre for Economics and Business Research. They forecast that parents and grandparents will contribute to the purchase of around £70 billion worth of property this year. Nigel Wilson, group Chief Executive at L&G believes thousands of new affordable homes are needed to change this. You can read more about that here. In fact, it would appear that the number of homes built by government schemes is increasing, such as shared ownership, rent to buy and affordable rented schemes. It comes after some significant decreases in numbers in previous years. You can read more about this here.

With the leadership change and BREXIT on the horizon, the UK is facing economic uncertainty. Numerous studies have taken place to try to predict how BREXIT will impact the economy in the longer term. The projections vary quite widely, some predicting it will boost the economy, others suggesting it will reduce it. So, how will all this affect the housing market? Perhaps all we know, is that time will tell. However, what we can do is look at how it has performed since the referendum took place, read more from Which? here.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in herbicides such as ‘RoundUp’, has been the subject of headlines in recent years because of claims that it has caused cancer to consumers who used products containing the ingredient. An article recently published by The Ecologist, explains the risks to consumer health, how to reduce them and the environmental impact associated to RoundUp. More than 13,400 cancer patients have filed lawsuits against the owning company Monsanto (which was acquired by Bayer AG in 2018) following a case where $78.5 million in damages was awarded to a school groundskeeper in California. The herbicide is also used on agricultural farm land and a German study found glyphosate residue can reach animals via feed and glyphosate found in animal tissue was considered “alarming”, even at low concentrations. Several countries have restricted Glyphosate and RoundUp such as Vietnam, the Czech Republic and Italy. As glyphosate is used to help control Japanese knotweed, restrictions in the UK could cause a huge imapact on the Japanese knotweed industry and those affected by Japanese knotweed in their homes. Read the article here.

The buy-to-let market has seen a great deal of regulatory change recently; HMO licensing, minimum space requirements and minimum energy efficiency standards are just some of these changes. Of course Brexit is another issue that has caused some uncertainty. The general consensus was that the combination of all these factors would negatively impact the market. And, yet despite all of this, the buy-to-let market appears to be doing very well. Is the buy-to-let market a money spinner for Residential Surveyors?
 To find out more about the recent trends in the buy-to-let market click here.

With lenders constantly looking for ways to reduce costs and speed up the process of buying a home, the Automated Valuation Models (AVMs) continue to play their part in helping the lender achieve this. The question remains as to how this affects the work of surveyors in the future. Read what Mike Holden, Managing Director of Landmark Valuation Services had to say on the matter here.

Did you know that we spend 90% of our lives in buildings? With that in mind, Biophilia (the term used to describe our urge to affiliate with other forms of life) office designs are becoming more and more popular. This article from office designers Morgan Lovell explains that “Recent studies have found a positive impact between biophilic elements (such as the presence of plants and exposure to natural light) and employee wellbeing and productivity”. Biophilic office design can make staff less stressed and promote wellbeing at work because our bodies react positively to exposure to light from the increase in melatonin produced and plants reduce the amount of carbon dioxide from the air which makes us more alert. It is emphasised you do not need to completely overhaul your office design but you could perhaps add some office pot plants which can help, and why not keep those blinds open? We’re certainly in favour of it.




BEIS have announced they plan to implement the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) following the publication of their response to the consultation (read more here).


The Smart Export Guarantee will place a legal obligation on suppliers with over 150,000 customers  to introduce export tariffs. Following in the footsteps of the Feed-in Tariffs scheme (closed in March 2019), the SEG will enable small scale producers of electricity to sell their excess back to the grid. One of the key differences between the SEG and the FIT export tariff, is that the SEG must be metered, the FIT export tariff deemed 50% was exported. 


You can read the press release here.

The temporary rules that allowed larger single-storey rear extensions to be built without planning permission have now been made permanent. Previously, single-storey rear extensions could not extend by more than four metres for a detached house and three metres for any other house. This has permanently increased to double that and is now eight metres for a detached house and six metres for any other house. These larger extensions are still subject to the neighbour consultation scheme, so homeowners must notify the local authority who will consult neighbours who can raise objections if they wish and the local authority will review. Read more from the Planning Portal.  


- Going Off the Gas Grid

- Exploring Leasehold Property

- Thinking About Nuisance

- SAP 10: Hot Water Calculations

- Helpful Processes for Complaints and Claims

The latest Technical Bulletin for residential surveyors published jointly by Sava and BlueBox is now available here. Please note; you will need to be logged in to Sava EDGE to download a copy. If you are not already logged in, please click here to log in. If you do not yet have an account, please click here to register.

This bulletin aims to bring you quality technical information that will help you in your day to day work and includes articles on the following:

Going Off the Gas Grid

This article considers the recommendation from the Committee on Climate Change to ban gas from new-build properties from 2025, as well as the alternative suggestions and incentives for change.

Exploring Leasehold Property

This article explains what you need to know about leasehold properties following the recent report from Propertymark that found 94% of leasehold homeowners regret buying a leasehold.

Thinking About Nuisance

Following the opinion published by RICS regarding nuisance caused by the presence of combustible cladding on a neighbouring building, this article revisits the tort of nuisance and looks at some recent examples.

SAP 10: Hot Water Calculations

This article looks at the changes to the calculations for the hot water demand in the latest Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) developed by BRE. 

Helpful Processes for Complaints and Claims

We have put together some helpful tips and case studies to explain how your evidence and processes can help defend you in the event you receive a complaint or claim.

Mentoring a Sava Learner

Hilary Grayson explains what mentoring a Sava learner might entail and what to do if you are interested in mentoring.

To read the full bulletin, please click here to download a copy. You will need to log in or register to view the bulletin but it should only take a minute to create an account; we simply ask for your email address and name and we will never pass your details on to a third party. By signing up, not only will you have access to all editions of the Technical Bulletin, but you will have access to a growing library of technical information and news articles which are fully searchable.
If you have any queries regarding setting up your account, please contact our support team on 01908 442105 or at support@sava.co.uk

The UK House Price Index data for March shows that prices have fallen on average 0.2% compared to the previous month. Annually, there has been a price rise of 1.4%, making the average property value in the UK £226,798. It got us thinking, what could this kind of money could buy you…
 In London, you could get you this nicely presented 1 bedroom flat for £225k. In Doncaster, the same amount of money could buy this unique, 4-bed converted schoolhouse. Although, it wouldn’t quite bag you this Birkin handbag that sold for £236,750!

The government have stepped in and announced they will cover the £200 million cost of replacing the cladding on the 170 privately owned tower blocks that currently have the same type of cladding that caused the Grenfell Tower fire to spread so quickly, where the freeholder has failed to do so. Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said: "While some building owners have been swift to act, and I thank them for doing the right thing, I am now calling time on the delay tactics of others. If these reckless building owners won’t act, the government will."

Pemberstone, Aberdeen Asset Management, Barratt Developments, Fraser Properties, Legal & General and Mace and Peabody are those owners and developers who have willingly funded the replacement works on their blocks themselves.

It will be two years next month since the disaster happened, hopefully this news means those still living in blocks with unsafe cladding are a step closer to feeling safer in their homes. Press release here.

A recent article from the BBC explains that an investigation has found homes from well-known developers Persimmon Homes and Bellway Homes to have ‘potentially dangerous fire safety issues’.  A resident at one Persimmon Home Development in Exeter talks of a fire that started at ground level which spread up to the roof of the house and then to adjacent properties. It was this fire that triggered an inspection programme which found 650 homes in the South West region lacked correct fire barriers and subsequently, further inspections outside of the South West are being made and the company assure us that "if these inspections indicate that we need to inspect every timber frame property then we will do so."
 
 

Bellway Homes have also faced similar issues where inspections following a fire indicate that there are fire safety issues. The article quotes surveyor and expert witness Greig Adams who carried out checks: “What we've unfortunately found is that there are fire breach issues in every house we've looked at. It's a legal requirement that the cavity barriers are to be there. It's not optional- and with good reason: it saves lives". Click here to read the full story.

The Committee for Climate Change have today released their report on the UKs long-term emissions targets. This report was requested by the UK Government and proposes the UK should be net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050.

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark said: “Few subjects unite people across generations and borders like climate change and I share the passion of those wanting to halt its catastrophic effects.

One of our proudest achievements as a country is our position as a world-leader in tackling this global challenge, being the first country to raise the issue on the international stage, introduce long-term legally-binding climate reduction targets and cutting emissions further than all other G20 countries. Today’s report recognises the work we’ve done to lay the foundations to build a net zero economy, from generating record levels of low carbon electricity to our ambitious plans to transition to electric vehicles.

To continue the UK’s global leadership we asked the CCC to advise the Government on how and when we could achieve net zero. This report now sets us on a path to become the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to global warming entirely.”

Read the report here.

The following article from RICS was quite an interesting read on money laundering and the UK property market. It explains a little bit about the draft ‘Registration of Overseas Entities’ bill, published in July 2018 and how this could help tackle the problem of overseas money laundering in the UK property market. The establishment of a register of overseas owners of property is welcomed by many, but there is a fine balance between acting against money laundering and keeping the UK an attractive proposition for overseas investment. You can read the full article here. 

The government have published a response to the recent consultation on electrical safety in the private rented sector.

It is clear that the government takes the safety of tenants very seriously and according to the document, the next steps will be introducing regulations that require landlords to have electrical installations in privately rented homes checked every five years and consider new guidance to determine who is competent to carry out the electrical safety inspection. Government states this will happen as soon as parliamentary time allows and will begin with just new tenancies. We’ll update you when we know more. 

The idea of floating cities has been raised at a UN roundtable, as explained in this article. It states that this may be a “viable” solution to issues such as climate change and the shortage of affordable housing. The concept is that each sustainable neighbourhood will be built on 156m wide hexagonal blocks and will have communal corners for food production and docking areas. Oceanix are looking to build the floating structures, designed by architect Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and they co-convened the meeting along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Centre for Ocean Engineering and the Explorers Club, based in the USA. 

What do you think to the idea?

Read more here.


Credit: Oceanix - BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group


Our Managing Director Austin Baggett was recently quoted in an Estate Agent Today article where he explains the benefits from gaining an industry related qualification. Austin advises that being ‘ahead of the game’ and improving your skills before government reforms could generate higher fees for estate agents. He says "The government's plan to introduce a mandatory qualification highlights the value and importance of professional qualifications in our industry. A mandatory qualification will help consumers to identify the reputable agents in their area and avoid those that aren't offering the required level of service.

"However, more importantly, an additional industry qualification or diploma can help agents to provide a more comprehensive service, generate more income and differentiate themselves from competitors"

Read more here.

In this article from Housebuilder & Developer, it highlights that a recent report by New London Architecture says 2019 will be ‘The Year of the Tall Building’ in London, as 541 towers with at least 20 floors are planned to be built, providing up to 110,000 new homes. The article emphasises that whilst a lot of recent developments were in inner London and fell into the luxury development bracket, there will be more towers built in outer London, making for a more realistic price range for those wanting to get on the property ladder. Read more.

It’s Friday and for a bit of fun, check out this carnival inspired home that’s for sale in East Sussex for £1.5 million. Rightmove describe how it was formerly a Victorian bathhouse and has been renovated by the current owner and we agree that it’s certainly quirky! I wish I could fit a bowling alley in my living room…
Check it out here!

HSE have provided health and safety guidance on the risks of lone working. The information leaflet is aimed at those who employ or engage lone workers or self-employed people who work alone.

It covers;

  • Is it legal to work alone and is it safe?
  • Who are lone workers and what jobs do they do?
  • How must employers control the risks?
  • What must employers consult on?
  • Which particular problems affect lone workers?
  • Can one person adequately control the risks of the job?
  • If a person has a medical condition are they able to work alone?
  • Why is training particularly important for lone workers?
  • How will the person be supervised?
  • Monitoring
  • What happens if a person becomes ill, has an accident, or there is an emergency?

Click here to read the guidance.  

Two property developers have been fined £18,000 for demolishing a bungalow which was being used as a roost for protected bats. The Court heard that experts reported there were Pipistrelle bats present however the demolition went ahead regardless. The Directors of Landrose Developments Ltd pleaded guilty to damaging or destroying the site and the Judge said "In my judgment, the act of demolition was clearly deliberate and flew in the face of advice and knowledge of the existence of the bat roost.

"The most obvious effect is local but it also has national implications because these bats are an endangered species by the very fact of being protected."

Read the story here.

A fox cub has been rescued from a cavity wall in a shop! The story from the BBC reports that the cub was rescued by the London Fire Brigade from a ground floor wall in Queensway Market , Kensington. The advice from the RSPCA was to leave the baby fox, now named Ian, in a box with some water so Mum can come and pick him up that evening. We imagine that will be the last time he goes inspecting cavity walls! Read more here.


Photo: London Fire 

Homes England have announced there will be a £63 million funding injection to help speed up the build of around 3,500 new homes in the Northern Arc at Burgess Hill in West Sussex. The money, which came from the Government’s Land Assembly Fund, will mean important infrastructure such as roads, a bridge, landscaping, drainage and utility works can be developed at either end of the site. 1,250 homes can then be built then another 2,250 homes will be built from 2023. 30% of the homes will be affordable and the first developer, Countrywide Properties UK has been appointed. Read more here.

An article from Homes & Property confirms that a flat owner in London has been awarded damages against their surveyor who failed to identify Japanese knotweed growing in the garden. According to the report, Environet confirmed the plant had been present for at least three years in three different locations. The owner sued the surveyor, who had completed a full structural survey for them, for the cost of removal of the invasive plant from their property and making good the garden as well as inconvenience. The judge also took into account the diminution in value of the property and it's reported the amount equates to tens of thousands of pounds.
You can read the full story here. 

You may also find our Technical Bulletin featuring several articles on Japanese knotweed interesting. You can download it here.

A homeowner has been ordered to pay the value that his home increased after he cut off long branches on the oak tree in his back garden that blocked sunlight from his bedroom balcony. The large oak tree was subject to a tree preservation order and Samuel Wilson pleaded guilty to a charge of causing wilful damage to a protected tree. He was fined £1,200 but also ordered to pay back the increase in value of his home (£21,000) and the costs, totalling almost £40,000. This is the first case of this kind where a person has been fined under the Proceeds of Crime Act in relation to damage of a tree for the benefit of light.

Read more.

You can read more about tree preservation orders on the gov.uk website here.

Our Director of Surveying Services, Hilary Grayson, recently wrote an article for Estate Agent Today. With potential disruption to the estate agency industry caused by online agents, Hilary suggests one way independent agents can become true 'local property experts' to give the customer a service that online agents such as Purplebricks cannot provide. Click here to read more.

The government have published guidance on approved Client Money Protection (CMP) schemes, aimed at letting and property management agents in the private rented sector. Agents who hold client money are required by law to be a part of a government-approved CMP scheme by 1 April 2019 following proposals made in April last year that have now been passed by Parliament.

Other requirements include:

  • hold client money in a client money account with a bank or building society authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority
  • hold and maintain appropriate professional indemnity insurance
  • have appropriate client money protection handling procedures
  • obtain a certificate confirming membership of an approved CMP scheme and display this prominently in each of their offices where they deal with the public and on their website
  • provide a copy of the certificate to any person who may reasonably require it, free of charge

Read more here.

In England, there are 376,000 listed structures in our built environment, and as you can imagine they require a lot of costly maintenance, but they are also vital for tourism which contributes £106bn to the economy. In this article written by Grant Lipton, it explains Britain must commit to renewing and restoring its heritage, but high construction costs and skills shortages make this a daunting challenge. However, to preserve our history, technology can help through using ‘digital modelling’ . Click here to find out more.

Halifax have issued a press release advising that the gap between the costs of buying and renting is at the lowest in almost a decade and the gap is down 59%. This is according to the latest Halifax Buying vs. Renting Review where figures show that buyers are saving £366 per year whereas in 2017, they were saving £900, although homeowners are still better off than renters when all costs are taken into consideration. 

It adds that new Buy to Let mortgages have slowed down and first-time buyers are driving the number of house purchasers with a mortgage. Read more.

Did you know you can check to see when you home will be worth the big £1million using Zoopla’s £1m property calculator?

The calculator looks at how the estimated value of your home has changed over the last 20 years and uses this data to calculate an average past annual growth rate. The average is then applied to the home’s current estimated value to forecast when it could reach the £1m mark. The data is weighted based on growth rates across the UK to align with qualitative predictions. The data is based on Zoopla’s Automated Valuation Model (AVM) which draws on a number of sources, including government figures, data from our estate agents and information provided by our users.

You can read more about Zoopla’s value estimates here.

Conservative MP Stephen McPartland spoke in parliament on Wednesday 27 February regarding rising ground rents, a topic which has received a lot of attention recently. In the discussion he focused on leasehold and shared ownership and used a residential building called Six Hills House in Stevenage as an example.

To set the scene, the government are acting to improve the situation around leasehold and onerous ground rents and announced that ground rents would be reduced on new build homes to zero or a peppercorn rate of £10. Whilst this is a positive step forward, it doesn’t help those who are already in leases with onerous ground rents.

The leaseholders in Six Hills House are trapped in leases with a clause that the ground rent can be doubled every 10, 15 or 20 years and this is preventing mortgage companies offering mortgages on these homes. Many of the leaseholders own only a small percentage of the home but are responsible for paying 100% of the freehold fees.

Stephen McPartland explains: My real concern is that these are shared-ownership properties, but the tenants seem to be responsible for 100% of the freehold, even though they will often only own 10%, 15% or 25% of the actual property. That does not seem fair. All the barriers to moving forward in their lives seem to be loaded on the people who are 75% tenants and 25% homeowners.”

Adding that the simplest solution would be for the freeholder to change the details on the deed to something more appropriate which would resolve all the issues with the mortgage companies and social housing providers.

Heather Wheeler, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government responded with:

“The Government are committed to improving consumer choice and fairness for the increasing number of leaseholders. That includes our work to make it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to enfranchise, the support we are providing for those with onerous ground rent terms, and our aim to make service charges more transparent for all. That work should act as a guard against the practices that form the subject of this debate, namely, where freeholds are sold on to a third-party investor without the leaseholder’s knowledge.”

Adding “I want to see support extended to all leaseholders with onerous ground rents, including second-hand buyers, and for customers to be proactively contacted. We will continue to work with the industry on a way forward to help existing leaseholders with onerous leases. I want to stress that leaseholders should seek impartial legal advice about potentially onerous ground rents contained in their leases. Free advice is also available from the Government’s Leasehold Advisory Service—LEASE.”
Read more here.
You can also read more about ground rents in our article written by Duncan Greenwood, Partner at DAC Beachcroft last year here and an article from Chris Rispin here.

Savills have released figures on the UK housing stock value for 2018 and it reached a record of £7.29 trillion. Despite all the talk about a slowing housing market, the value of property increased by just over £190 billion since the previous year. More than a quarter of this came from new housing development which is higher than it has been since 2011. Another record was set for the private rented sector which saw a 4.1% increase taking it above the £1.5 trillion mark. The value of housing stock in London fell for the first time since 2009 at a £26.2 billion loss (down 1.5%). Although, it’s still worth more than 24% of the total at £1.77 trillion. Wales had the biggest percentage gain of 6.3%, so it’s not just the rugby they’re winning at! Click here to read more. 


Have you seen the new heatmap that highlights Japanese knotweed sightings across the UK? It’s designed to inform homeowners and homebuyers of the local Japanese knotweed presence, but it can also be useful for property professionals. Users can search by entering a postcode and the map will confirm how many 'reported' occurrences are within 4km of the area. There is also a function for you to add a sighting of Japanese knotweed. Click here to read more from Environet.

A homeowner who bought his flat under Right to Buy from Islington Borough Council has been told that the property was incorrectly valued when he bought it from them 2 years previously for £340,000 and is actually worth double the price he paid. It seems the price difference is because it is a 2-bed when they thought it had just one. Anthony Zomparelli is now being taken to court by the council and believes even if he wins, he’ll still need to sell the property to pay for fees incurred.
Read more here.

By way of background, in October 2018, the government published the ‘Homes England strategic plan 2018 to 2023’. Described as the governments ‘housing accelerator’, Homes England are a new non-departmental public body sponsored by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Their role, as described in the document is “to ensure more people in England have access to better homes in the right places.” To make this happen they state they will intervene in the market to get more homes built where needed, accelerate delivery, tackle market failure where it occurs, and help to shape a more resilient and diverse housing market.

It seems like love certainly was in the air on Valentines Day as there were several press releases announcing funding across certain parts of the UK. See below for a summary.

  • 10.6 million Local Authority Accelerated Construction funding was awarded to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council to prepare three sites to build 670 new homes. Click here to read more on this story.
  • £78 million of Homes England funding will bring 1500 homes to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at Stratford, creating two new neighbourhoods. More than 40% of homes in the first phase will be ‘affordable homes’. Click here to read more.
     
  • Also, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and MP James Brokenshire announced £250 million of housing deals struck to deliver tens of thousands of homes including £157m for housing infrastructure in Cumbrian and Devon. Click here to read more on this one.

The UK HPI has been released for December and it shows that compared to November, house prices have increased by 0.2%. This makes the annual price rise 2.5% and the average property value £230,776. In England alone, the price rise was 2.3% with an average value of £247,886.

In England, the East Midlands, North East and the South West all saw price decreases while other regions saw increases. Click here to read more. 

Following this, an annual review of 2018 was published which shows that the UK has seen the slowest annual growth since 2013:


This graph shows the annual house price growth per region for the last 2 years:


Click here to read more.

Could hemp be used as a building material in our homes in the future?

Hemp has been used as a construction material dating back to over a thousand years and it is currently gaining some momentum in the building industry today. Benefiting from being zero-carbon, airtight, breathable and having excellent thermal performance, hemp as a building material does seem like a good idea. It has a couple of drawbacks though, one being issues with shrinkage after drying and the time it takes to cure (four to six weeks in fair conditions). Although, Ian Pritchett, managing director of Greencore Construction, has developed the world’s first modular system of prefabricated hempcrete panels where the panels dry under factory conditions and do not suffer from shrinkage after installation, which is positive news. The panels were used on a Marks and Spencer’s which opened at Cheshire Oaks in Ellesmere Port in 2012. Take a look at the environmentally-friendly plan of the store below which is part of their ‘Plan A’ – “…a way to help build a sustainable future by being a business that enables our customers to have a positive impact on wellbeing, communities and the planet through all that we do.”


Photo Source: Daily Mail

Nice work M&S. You can read more from RICS here.


Insurance broker Howden have put together an article highlighting that Japanese knotweed claims have been on the rise and two firms of solicitors in particular, are bringing most of these claims. It looks at a case from October 2018 where the claimant discovered Japanese knotweed on her property and on the adjoining property. The claimant sued the owner of the adjoining property for the losses she had suffered, as well as Connells, who prepared the residential mortgage valuation of the property. The basis for the claim against Connells was that they were professionally negligent in failing to inspect the adjoining property and failing to inspect Japanese knotweed on the property itself. 

Was the claim successful? Click here to read more and find out what happened.

…expect to wait at least four months. That is according to research conducted by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). Taking this into account and the time it takes for works to be completed, homeowners will have to wait a total of:

  • Seven months for an extension;
  • Six and a half months for a loft conversion;
  • Five months to paint the entire interior of your home;
  • Five months for a new bathroom;
  • Five months for a new kitchen;
  • Five months to convert part of a master bedroom into an en-suite;
  • Five months to convert a cupboard under-the-stairs into a downstairs toilet; and
  • Just under five months to remove an internal wall to create an open plan kitchen/diner.

The article from Housebuilder and Developer includes some helpful advice for homeowners from FMB Chief Executive, Brian Berry, including "Ask for references from the builder’s previous clients and if possible, speak to them directly about the builder. Furthermore, always use a written contract and never pay for the whole project up-front. If a builder is reluctant to use a contract, and demands a disproportionate amount of money up-front, alarm bells should sound. Professional building firms do not work in this way. In the longer term, we need to end the cowboy builders’ reign of terror once and for all. Currently, anyone in the UK can set themselves up as a builder and start offering their services to consumers and this is why there are so many dodgy outfits. We’re calling on the Government to introduce a licensing scheme for builders so that consumers know that all building firms have a basic level of skill, competence and professionalism.” 

Click here to read more from Housebuilder and Developer.