It makes sense that most markets look to improve their services and products using technology, and conveyancing is no exception. Proposed changes to the current Instant Conveyancing product by ‘Teal Legal’ will see the launch of the Home Owners Passport (HOP) which is intended to improve the customer experience via its consumer app. The HOP app will involve digital transfer of HM land Registry data and also provide a ranking table to identify when everything is in place for the sale to move forward. Intended also to allow estate agents to identify ‘pre-approved’ properties for sale, it can give an idea of how long the conveyancing process may take. Testing will start on the new version shortly and there is an open call for conveyencers who are interested in working with Teal legal on the project. You can read more here.
A recent report from Rightmove shows that landlords are planning to reduce their property portfolios in spite of record asking rents. You may recall there was a change in Stamp Duty charges from 1st April 2016, and anyone purchasing an additional residential property are now required to pay an additional 3% surcharge on existing stamp duty rates. To get an idea of the additional costs, a £300,000 purchase price would equate to an additional £9,000 on top of the regular £5,000 Stamp Duty. New research from Rightmove suggests that this change, along with more recent changes to reduction in tax reliefs and the ban on tenant fees, are not only discouraging landlords to expand their portfolios, but also, making 1 in 10 landlords want to sell all of their rental properties. You can read the full report here.
The average time to sell a property in the UK has increased to more than 12 weeks from an average of just 8 weeks in 2016, according to Zoopla’s Cities House Price Index. It very much depends on where you are in the country, if you live in London you could be looking at more than 14 weeks to sell and in the north it could be as little as 8-9 weeks. The final accepted offer can be around 4% below the marketed price, the hardest hit area once again being inner London homes where homes are selling on average around £50,000 below asking price. And, why is this happening? Would it surprise you that the answer is Brexit? Click here to read more on this story.
Indeed student accommodation has seen a record growth in the UK of 5.3% and with around a further 120,000 beds in the pipeline, it is anticipated that Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) will, for the first time ever, exceed university accommodation. Retirement living has been expanding rapidly and whilst places in cares homes are filling up quickly, many opt for independent living. Due to the ever growing ageing population, homes specifically for the over 65’s is likely to continue to rise. Fore more detail on this story which also covers trends in affordable housing, shared ownership and HMO’s click here.
To read our October newsletter, please click here.
This edition includes articles on the following:
- Modernising Home Surveys
- Comparable evidence in real estate
- House building: a century of innovation
- A clear, impartial guide to fire safety
- NAWIC UK & Ireland
- New Government Property Agency Chair
- A new record for renewables
- ORCA Hub progression on robotics
- RICS Governing Council Elections
Could these Dutch developments be an example of the way developers could approach tricky urban sites in the future? They demonstrate an economical way to deal with contaminated land from old industrial use and an approach to housing where land is at a premium. By repurposing and using clever solutions we can create more sustainable living and working spaces that could be fit for the future.
As part of the governments ambitious plans to make HMLR land registry the world’s best for simplicity and speed, the LLC (Local Land Charges) Register was launched in July 2018 to hold digitised copies of local land charges to reduce costs and provide better customer service. Requiring the migration of around 26 million charges, this was a significant undertaking on the part of local authorities. Whilst some local authorities have completed the task, the overall process is taking longer than anticipated and at its current pace, will take 18 years to migrate all local authorities. The Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) believes the digital system has yet to show any marked change in conducting searches and therefore migration must happen at a faster rate than it currently is. Perhaps inaccuracies in the existing records isn’t helping the pace, with 61% of almost 300,000 charges requiring amendments. Read more about this story and the press release from (CoPSO) here.
There has been record breaking news in the energy sector recently. The third quarter of 2019 saw electricity generated from UK windfarms, solar panels, biomass and hydro plants rise to 40% of the total electricity used across the UK. This amount was 1% higher than the 39% that fossil fuels made up, making it the first time renewable energy has overpowered the combined output from coal, oil and gas power stations for electricity generation. The remainder of the total was mainly generated by nuclear energy at 19%. Carbon Brief describe it as ‘another symbolic milestone in the stunning transformation of the UK’s electricity system over the past decade.’
Austin Baggett, Managing Director at Sava, says:
“This is a staggering achievement, that gives optimism for the future. Back in the early 90s, the CO₂ factor for electricity was 0.832kg of CO₂ per kWh. It’s now something like 0.23kg per kWh due to the move away from coal and of course the massive input from renewables which is a massive reduction. With the right Government incentives and the best engineering, it can be done. That said, it did take 30 years, and we now need to drastically speed up.””
It's interesting to see the graph showing renewables and fossil fuels just begin to cross over and it visually emphasises the steady reduction in fossil fuels over recent years and the slightly more gradual increase in renewable electricity.
Source: Carbon Brief
Yesterday was World Statistics Day and if you know us, you know we love a statistic, or two. Statistics help us to understand data and view it in a way that can be easily understood, helping to emphasise the scale of a problem, as well as appreciate improvements made. To recognise World Statistics Day, we’ve pulled together a few statistics that may be of interest.
According to Land Registry data, house prices have grown by 213% in the last 20 years. In January 1999, the average house price was £72,903 and in January 2019, the average house price was £228,475. That’s an increase of £155,572!
Houses prices have soared and sadly, homelessness has too, and by quite a lot in recent times. According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government, homeless households in England are up 11.2% from 29,430 in quarter four 2018 to 32,740 in quarter one, 2019.
Whilst the number of homeless households is increasing, the birth rate in England and Wales is decreasing. It’s down 3.2% on 2017 and nearly 10% on 2012! 
Did you know that British workers spend 492 days of their lives travelling to work and back, costing £37,399 over a lifetime?
Can you just imagine the emissions from all that driving? Interestingly, the Centre for Sustainable Energy have found that on average, the richest 10% of households emit three times as much carbon than the poorest 10%.
Since the national minimum wage was introduced in 1999 (starting out at £3.60 for workers 22 and over), by 2019, it has increased by £4.61 to £8.21. That’s a 128% increase! The National Minimum Wage has grown faster than prices, average wages and GDP per head. According to data from the Low Pay Commission, if it had risen in line with average weekly earnings, it would only have reached £6.54.
Did you know that around a third of sales in England and Wales fall through prior to exchange of contracts every year? Following these findings from their research, the Government is looking at adding improvements to the existing transaction process by increasing the level of commitment much earlier. One improvement is known as a 'reservation agreement', which will be in place after an offer has been accepted and is intended to stop gazumping and gazundering, boost confidence in the buying process and reduce the number of transactions that fall through each year. The government response to the research can be found here.
Read more about the research findings and some thoughts from other property professional here.
Today (Thursday 17th October), the Prime Minister announced that he will be chairing a new Cabinet Committee on Climate Change. As we know, we have committed to becoming net-zero by 2050 and the aim is to drive further action across government to protect our environment, reduce emissions and improve our air quality, helping us to achieve our commitment. It will be the first government committee of its kind, which can only be a positive step in the right direction. Boris Johnson said:
"I want us to become the cleanest, greenest society on earth, and inspire countries around the world to follow our lead so that our children can breathe clean air and benefit from the wonderful flora and fauna of this earth. We know that people across the UK are passionate about protecting our planet, and we need to continue building on the excellent progress this government has made in tackling climate change and improving our environment.
"That’s why I’m announcing today that I will personally chair a new cross-government Committee on Climate Change, bringing together my ministers to galvanise action to tackle the great environmental challenges we face."
Read the press release here.
Looking at the price gap between leasehold and freehold property from 2011 – 2018, HM Land Registry data analysis conducted by Benham and Reeves estate agents reveals it has reached its highest point during this period. With the data showing the gap started widening again in 2015, it demonstrates a lack of trust which is likely fuelled by all the stories relating to onerous leasehold charges like those that doubled every 10 years for example. It would seem therefore, that whilst the UK has seen a fairly steady rising trend in house prices over the last 5 years (see here), people are still willing to pay the higher price for freehold for peace of mind. You can read more about this story here.
You can also get an update on the leasehold scandal in an article published in Which? here.
The BRE has developed a Product Standard to provide a route to certification for offsite/modular construction for use as residential buildings.
The Standard (Product Standard (BPS) 7014) sets out performance requirements in a number of technical areas. Some of the requirements are mandatory, such as for fire and structural performance, and are required to demonstrate regulatory compliance. Other performance assessments are voluntary. The requirements have been subject to detailed consultation with the Advanced Manufacturing of Homes Buildings and Infrastructure (AMHBI) project consortium and other industry stakeholders.
The Standard was recently open for consultation, and we apologise that we missed the boat on this for you, but the draft is still available and we will keep an eye out for the finalised standards when they are published. You can read the draft here.
The NHBC has reported a slight dip in new home numbers for July compared to July 2018. However, despite being down on last July, NHBC reports that this year’s total for the month is still above the average seen over recent years. NHBC Chief Executive Steve Wood said: "Despite the uncertainties and concerns around Brexit, the industry remains resilient and you can see that in these figures.”
For more information on the new build statistics, including a regional breakdown, go to the NHBC website here.
The Government has recently published the consultation we have been eagerly anticipating for Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations. The new standard, which once finalised is expected to be implemented fully by 2025 (with uplifts from 2020), will be called ‘The Future Homes Standard’. It’s expected that an average semi-detached home built to the Future Homes Standard (2025) will result in 75-80% less carbon dioxide emissions in comparison to one built to the 2013 Part L requirements. The proposed timeline will see the 2020 uplifts come into force in mid/late 2020.
The proposals for the 2020 energy efficiency standards:
Option 1: Future Homes Fabric - 20 % improvement on CO₂ emissions through increased fabric standards
Option 2: Fabric plus technology - 31% improvement on CO₂ emissions though low-carbon heating and renewables
The preferred option is ‘Option 2’, although this is would have a higher build cost.
Other key points included in the consultation are;
• Introducing primary energy as the main performance metric
• Introducing a new ‘Household affordability rating’, likely to use the SAP rating
• Removing the fabric energy efficiency metric (FEE)
• Removing fuel factors from the target emission rate and introducing technology factors for district heating TER
• Removing sample testing for air tightness and instead all homes will be tested
• Addressing the performance gap by proposing photographic evidence for new dwellings
• Tightening up of transitional arrangements, new standards would apply to all dwellings where the build had not started
• The new standards will use SAP 10 – you can read more about the changes to SAP in Sava EDGE here.
The consultation will be running until 10th January and you can read it and respond here.
In early September, MHCLG announced a new consultation on options to reduce the trigger height for sprinkler provision in new high-rise blocks of flats in England.
This consultation outlines the government’s intention to amend Approved Document B to reduce the trigger height at which sprinkler systems would be required in new high-rise blocks of flats and asks for views on the trigger height options. The consultation proposes that sprinklers should be standard on a wider range of buildings than at present.
At the same time, MHCLG is seeking views on better signs and evacuation alert systems in order to support the fire service.
The consultation is open until 28 November 2019 - read more here.
It's no secret that fraud exists in many different guises and that we need to keep our wits about us when clicking on links and giving out personal or bank account information but what has increased in recent months is email scams using seemingly legitimate and sophisticated information. This article from Today's Conveyancer explains how increased impersonation fraud targeting customers of law firms is concerning.
A UK Finance report indicates that the criminal underworld was reported to have defrauded UK account holders out of over £123 million last year by way of ‘email malicious redirection fraud’. This type of fraud is not about getting an email from a Prince in a far away land, asking you to send him money so he can transfer an even larger sum to you. Instead, this is where a fraudster, for example, sets up an email domain very similar to an existing company and then targets that company’s clients or customers with a different bank account for payment. The difference in the email address can be very subtle; firstname.lastname@example.org could be changed to email@example.com and if someone is expecting a bill from their solicitors, will they be looking that closely?
Find out more about this type of scam and how it is affecting firms here.
All surveyors need to be aware of how different types of soil behave in extreme wet or dry weather, how nearby trees affect the soil as well as the potential to cause damage in buildings and drainage systems. It is also important to know about other issues specific to your local area, for example; coastal erosion, flooding or a history of mining. More recently there was the story about the Whaley Bridge dam that suffered a partial collapse due to high levels of rainfall and resulted in an evacuation of residents whose lives and homes would be at risk if the dam completely failed. So, the surveyor must have a good knowledge and awareness of these types of local risks and report as appropriate to their customer. Climate change has been quite topical for some time now and whatever your opinion, it is at least being reported and discussed. You can read more about this in the article ‘Unforeseen Effects of Climate Change of Ground Stability’ here.
Here's some good news for the 2 million people who work zero-hour contracts. We're all aware of the difficulty in getting on the property ladder and how hard it is to save the large deposit required. Then, even if you do manage to scrape together a big enough deposit, there is the other lending criteria you need to meet in order to get a mortgage, such as credit checks, evidence of ability to pay and continuous employment. For the vast majority, a job for life doesn’t come along very often and that means many have numerous jobs in short periods of time which might hinder their chances of getting a mortgage. For those working on zero-hour contracts out of necessity or the need for flexibility it can be even harder. However, HSBC - one of the major lenders - has made some rule changes to open up opportunities for workers on zero-hour contracts to get a mortgage. Read more about these changes here.
RICS have announced that the Red Book Global Standards 2017 edition will be updated to reflect changes to the International Valuation Standard with an effective date of 31 January 2020. In addition, the RICS are proposing other changes to 'Part 3 Professional standards', 'Part 4 Valuation technical and performance standards' as well as 'Part 5 Valuation'.
The consultation runs until 11 October 2019. You can read more detail here and review and respond to the consultation here.
This article from Reading Chronicle provides some statistics on the research conducted by Environet and YouGov. It seems that despite all the negative media coverage on Japanese knotweed and the damage it can cause, it hasn’t deterred a third of those looking to buy in the UK. This is a promising statistic, as Japanese knotweed is thought to affect 5% of all properties in the UK. The article also describes how Simon Harper from Reading bought a property with a large infestation, agreed a lower purchase price and commissioned an excavation and a root barrier to prevent the plant encroaching from next door. What sort of discount are people after, you may ask? Well, out of those who would proceed at a reduced rate, 26% would expect a discount of 6 – 10 per cent on the price, while 15% would proceed with a discount of only 1 – 5 per cent. Click here to read more.
The gable wall of an end terrace house in Rugby has completely collapsed. Having read several articles on the matter, we understand that there were building works underway on a neighbouring property and on Tuesday afternoon, prior to the whole gable wall collapsing, part of the rear wall had collapsed (photo A below). The area was subsequently cordoned off and thankfully no-one was hurt. It was at 2am on Wednesday morning when the entire gable wall collapsed, revealing the interior from the outside street below (photo B).
Photo B |Credit: BPM Media
You can read more on the story here.
It seems there has been a few instances like this. This story from The Standard reports that a house in Hamstead collapsed from roof to basement in 2018. It was understood to be undergoing renovations also.
Read this story about a £1 million house which collapsed during works to add a basement. Although it hasn't deterred the owner who is attempting to build the house again after knocking it down completely following the collapse.
The trend in these catastrophes certainly seems to be homes undergoing renovations, or at least next door to homes undergoing renovations. It's reported that the tenant of the collapse from Tuesday said no one is accepting liability and that their landlord is "confused what is covered by his building insurance and the contractor doesn't want to accept liability". We can imagine the situation is very stressful for the tenants and landlord, it's not something you would expect to happen at all. We will be interested to find out more about the cause once the investigations have been carried out.
It's Friday the 13th, and did you know that houses numbered 13 could potentially put people off buying and even reduce the value of the property. This article lists 10 turn offs to prospective buyers that could potentially cause the house value to drop. As well as houses numbered 13, other turn offs include evidence of pets (despite 45% of us in the UK owning a pet), illegal improvements and even swimming pools! This article suggests that number 13 could result in a £9,000 reduction of the average house price! Do the valuers and estate agents reading agree? Read more here.
Did you catch the itv tonight programme ‘Britain’s New Build Nightmares’? From blocked drainage requiring weekly maintenance to missing insulation and lack of fire protection, new homes are being found to lack basic minimum standards. Managing Director of Snagaroo, Paul Frost, inspects a £500,000 new build property and finds 363 snagging issues ranging from loose lead, weak mortar and even ridge tiles with unsatisfactory clips! It may not come as a surprise but 99% of new home owners report snags or defects to builder after moving in. You can catch the full programme here - you just need to sign up for a free itv account.
Developed by BRE, the Home Quality Mark (HQM) rates the standard of new homes based on construction quality, design and running costs. This will include an assessment of the comfort provided by the living space, the health and wellbeing benefits and the ability of the home to cope with the changing climate and environmental impact. You can read more about the HQM here.
BRE have recently released details of the first Build to Rent development to achieve certification. Covering 479 homes in the Walthamstow area, it was developed by Legal & General and constructed by Galliford Try Partnership. Achieving the HQM should build a level of trust from landlords and the public in the build quality, running costs and comfort of these homes. They should help to alleviate concerns about fuel poverty and also appeal to anyone concerned about their environmental impact. To find out more about the certification of this development click here.
This article from the BBC makes for an interesting read, focusing mainly on the story of house buying from 1968 and covering each decade through to 2009. The trip back in time provides an insight into how the changing economy affected house prices, interest rates, the ability to buy, employment and even the price of a pint of milk. In 1970 a third of all UK homes were council properties and getting a council house wasn’t the impossible task it has become now. We can however, at least be grateful that we have more than 3 TV channels to choose from today! Read more here.
The National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) have announced that following the endorsement of both boards, they will be putting a vote to their members this month (September) for a merger of the two organisations. Should the plan be accepted, the newly named 'National Residential Landlords Association' or NRLA, will go live in early 2020.
A combination of the NLA and RLA will result in a membership of over 80,000 landlords who account for around 10% of the private rented stock in England & Wales. It seems that having run the two organisations side by side in competition for a number of years, they hope to achieve a stronger voice to government and on behalf of their members. You can read more about the announcement here.
- Moisture Balancing Act
- Unsafe Gas Installations
- Finding and Converting Leads
- SAP 10 – Heating Patterns
- Septic Tanks Discharging to Surface Water
The latest Technical Bulletin for residential surveyors is now available here. Please note; to download and view the full bulletin, you will need to be logged in to Sava EDGE. 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:
Moisture Balancing Act
In this article, James Berry from the Property Care Association looks at the considerations for surveyors when it comes to moisture related issues such as condensation and mould.
Read more here.
Japanese Knotweed – Where are we now?
Dr Dan Jones, Managing Director of Advanced Invasives and Honorary Researcher at Swansea University, takes stock of where we are with Japanese knotweed following the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report and considers how our approach to knotweed may change in the future.
Read more here.
Unsafe Gas Installations
In this article, Andy Flook reviews Regulation 29 and Appendix 5 of the ‘Gas industry unsafe situations procedure’ and gives some examples of unsafe gas installations.
Read more here.
Finding and Converting Leads
Matt Nally, founder of Survey Booker and Surveyors Near Me, has helpfully put together three simple steps that could help boost your leads and increase your conversion rates with hardly any cost involved. The article includes quick tips, tricks and knowledge and is broken down into bite-sized, digestible pieces.
Read more here.
Changes to Heating Patterns in SAP 10
Dr Lisa Blake explains the changes to the heating patterns in SAP 10, which will eventually supersede SAP 2012.
Read more here.
Septic Tanks Discharging to Surface Water
This article describes how septic tanks work and the general binding rules in relation to septic tanks discharging to surface water.
A paper recently published by Ian Mulheirn, Executive Director and Chief Economist of Renewing the Centre at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, claims that the undersupply of housing story is unconvincing and boosting housing supply does not offer a solution to the housing crisis and a “fundamental rethink is badly needed”. It suggests that the number of houses has grown faster than the household count and the methodology used to calculate household projections uses questionable assumptions which can obscure the figures (something the Office for National Statistics has recently addressed).
The paper explores trends found in survey data and considers the reasons for house price increases between 1996 and 2018 and claims that the dominant cause of the collapse in home ownership appears to lie in the mortgage market with the abrupt slowdown in mortgage lending to FTBs, which almost halved between 2007 and 2008, and did not recover until around 2014.
Read the full report here.
The overall level of satisfaction with the quality of housing in the UK has reduced over the past 5 years. This is according to ‘The Homeowners Survey 7th Annual Report’, which found that 63% of adults felt this was becoming a serious problem and it is the fastest rising issue. A high proportion of new-build home owners feel the snagging process is not properly resolved, and almost nine in ten support a snagging retention fee until housebuilders rectify faults.
It’s not all bad news however, more positive results in some areas suggest there is a certain level of confidence returning in the ability to get a mortgage and being able to move up the property ladder. Read more from HomeOwners Alliance here.
A council tenant has been evicted and fined over £100,000 for renting out his council flat in Victoria, London on Airbnb. Airbnb is an online marketplace where ‘hosts’ can advertise their space for guests to stay and it seems the tenant has had the council flat advertised on Airbnb since 2013 and has received more than 300 reviews, Westminster City Council confirmed. This should be a warning to anyone who is abusing the system, especially given the shortage of council homes currently available for those in need. More than 100,000 children are living in temporary accommodation according to this article we previously posted about. Read more about the story here.
Experts state that more than 100 more tower blocks still have unsafe combustible cladding when they were previously believed to be safe. The cladding on the new blocks is high-pressure laminate (HPL) which can be made of wood and paper and experts, including chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said that following fire tests it had become clear that many HPL panels were “very unlikely to adequately resist the spread of fire”.
The average cost for replacing each household being at least £20,000 and this article from futurebuild suggests there is no sign the government is planning a bailout meaning there will be new rows over who pays the bill. However, in May the government released a press release saying they will fund and speed up vital cladding replacement for 170 privately owned high-rise buildings with a £200 million fund. So perhaps they will take a similar approach with the newly discovered blocks with unsafe cladding? Read more here.
During the first half of 2019, a rise in the value of UK homes added £60 billion to our housing stock. This is an average of £11 per day for an average home, although this average comes from a wide spectrum in trends. For example, West Midlands averaged a £36.58 per day increase and London saw a fall of £71.23 per day. The table below is an interesting insight.
You can find out more about these valuation trends around the country by reading the article from Nicky Burridge in Zoopla here.
According to the BCIS Private Housing Construction Price Index, housebuilding costs for Quarter 1 2019 are up by 4.3% compared to Q1 in 2018.
81% of private housebuilders' confirmed costs increased. Of those;
- 50% stated labour and material had increased;
- 29% said that labour increased and;
- 21% said material cost rises was the cause.
The most common materials that were reported to increase were plasterboard and insulation.
It won’t come as a surprise to say there is a housing crisis in this country and everyone is aware of the need to build more affordable homes to ease the pressure. According to Adam Cunningham, managing director of Public Sector plc, numbers have dropped substantially over the years. In 1953 local authorities built nearly a quarter of a million homes in one year, but by 2004 this had dropped by more than 99%. There is a sense of urgency around the need to deliver new housing and many local authorities have set up Local Housing Companies (LHC) to build new homes for private affordable rent. The benefit for the local authorities here is that these homes cannot be sold at a discounted rate under the Right to Buy scheme. Some LHCs intend to construct modular homes which are suited to fulfilling the large scale and fast turnaround requirements. Another has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon new builds by 2028. To find out more, read Adam Cunningham’s article here.
Following our news post on 100 years of council housing, be sure to catch George Clarke’s programme on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm. He is campaigning to build over 100,000 high-quality, low carbon council houses every year for the next 30 years to replace all of the state housing that has been lost, either through Right to Buy or passed to housing associations. Only 2 million homes are now under council control compared to 6 million in 1980. We are in the biggest housing crisis the country has ever seen and George Clarke intends to start a housing revolution! Read more here.
The 1919 Housing and Town Planning Act (also known as the Addison Act) was signed into law 100 years ago today on 31 July 1919.
It was one of the most significant pieces of domestic legislation passed after the First World War and created a comprehensive, nationwide system of public housing provision for the first time, paid for largely by central government and delivered by local authorities and Public Utility Societies (Housing Associations in today’s terminology). It was also known as the Addison Act after Dr Christopher Addison, the Minister for Housing at the time.
A petition has been started in an to attempt to get the government to look at removing VAT on deep retrofit/eco refurbishment building work on all homes. This could act as an incentive to homeowners to carry out retrofit works that could improve the performance of the building. The idea was explored in a report in July 2013 by the Green Building Council called ‘Retrofit Incentives’. A section of the report discussed reduced VAT for energy efficiency and highlighted that reduced or zero rates of VAT are often applied to goods and services that are considered to be essential or of social benefit. Five per cent VAT already applies to conversion work and renovations to residential properties which have been empty for more than two years and already applies to some energy-saving measures. The petition hopes to readdress the matter and you can find more details and sign the petition here.
The Open Communities EPC dataset has proved to be a valuable source of information about the energy efficiency of housing. This has recently been updated as previously the data only included EPCs produced up until December 2016. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have said:
“Just over two years ago, we published Energy Performance of Buildings (EPB) data as an open dataset, along with tools for browsing, searching and downloading the data. The three datasets (Domestic, Non-domestic and Display Energy Certificates) have been well-used, and have stimulated discussion throughout the open data community, and beyond. We have now updated those datasets, so the site currently contains energy performance data up to 31 May 2019. You can access the new data at https://epc.opendatacommunities.org/”
The intention is to update the data more regularly and initially, publication will be two to four times a year. To view the data, you simply need to sign up using your email address and follow the link in the email received. You can specify certain criteria and the results can be downloaded and viewed in a spreadsheet. With the additional EPC data, there are now over 18 million EPC datasets available to bulk download. Click here to register.
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.
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 houses 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.
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.