The PCA (Property Care Association) has jointly authored a new academic paper on diagnosing the causes of moisture in buildings. The paper is called "Building moisture diagnosis: Processing, assessing and representation of environmental data for root cause analysis of mould growth”. The research focuses on the development of a diagnostic tool that helps to streamline root cause analysis. Read the paper here.

The government recently opened the consultation 'Planning for the Future’ in which Robert Jenrick highlights that whilst many people have enjoyed time at home due to COVID-19, for others, it has brought to the forefront of their minds that their home may be sub-standard, doesn’t meet their needs or that the local infrastructure or outdoor space is inadequate. The government is keen to emphasise the proposal is intended to cut red tape and not standards, as well as bring the planning system into the 21st century.

The building industry welcomes the proposal acknowledging reform is long overdue and appear optimistic this could lead to a more efficient approach to meeting England’s housing needs. Melanie Leach of the British Property Federation cautions against bottlenecking the system at the front end and comments that the English planning system has seen spending cuts of over 50% over the last 10 years, whereas in the same period housing targets have increased by 50%. Read more here.

Throughout June there was a 126% rise in enquiries on homes in a village location, according to Rightmove. As average asking prices in villages are often more expensive than cities, it seems the motivation is not money, but rather a quieter lifestyle, especially given the recent shift in working from home. A separate research study by Barclays Mortgages found that the South West of England is a desirable location for those currently living in Birmingham, Nottingham, London and Manchester.

Miles Shipside of Rightmove said: "The lure of a new lifestyle, one that is quieter and has an abundance of beautiful countryside and more outdoor space, has led to more city dwellers choosing to become rural residents.

"The most popular village moves are still within the same region the home hunters are currently in, as it's likely they'll keep their current job but may have the flexibility to commute less often and set up their working space at home."
Read more here.

RICS has released a new policy paper advising the government to look holistically at long-term improvements to the housing market as the harsh economic reality sets in.

Medium-term recommendations for the housing market, some of which will also help the market recover from COVID-19, include:

  • Further investment in MMC (Modern Methods of Construction) with incentives for the construction of MMC factories in areas of high unemployment.
  • Offer financial incentives and support to local authorities and housing associations to meet housing need through MMC.
  • Prioritise work around new build standards, as research has found the quality to be significantly reduced in permitted development schemes.
  • Bring all elements of planning including residential, high streets, transport and commercial into one holistic policy of placemaking.
  • Thoroughly assess Government home ownership offerings to ensure they actually achieve what was intended.
  • Implement Lord Best’s Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) recommendations.

    Long-term recommendations include:
  • A program of consumer education on MMC to promote greener, better quality homes.
  • The introduction of Amberfield as a new land classification – creating a pipeline of ‘ready to go’ land for housing.
  • The creation of a new housing court to simplify the dispute resolution process.

Read the full press release here.

The government has announced a two-month extension for new homes being built under the Help to Buy equity scheme. The previous deadline new homes would need to have been finished by was the end of December 2020, however, the deadline is now 28 February 2021. This allows for delays in construction due to the coronavirus pandemic meaning homebuyers will not miss out. The deadline for completion of the sale is still 31 March 2021, which hasn't changed.
Read more here.

The Government have released a draft Building Safety Bill following the Building a Safer Future consultation response in April 2020. The Bill sets out the measures intended to remedy the systematic issues identified by Dame Judith Hackitt in her review published in 2018 and introduces a new era of accountability. Among other measures, there will be a new Building Safety Regulator to oversee the new, more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings; more responsibility for Building Safety Managers and tougher sanctions for those who fail to meet their obligations; and improvements in the building control sector, such as a register for building inspectors and changes to titles. Read the draft Building Safety Bill here. 

The latest Technical Bulletin for residential surveyors is now available here. 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 issue of the bulletin is a crime special and aims to bring you quality technical information that will help you in your day to day work and includes articles on the following: 

Cannabis cultivations
In this article, serving police officer and Sava student, Chris Moran, explains the signs that suggest a property may have been used to grow cannabis. Chris has provided a helpful case study of a property he inspected with his mentor too.
Read the article here.

Modern day slavery & human trafficking
Human trafficking coordinators Marsha Humphreys and Jana Sherrin have shed light on the modern-day slavery and human trafficking crimes taking place under our very noses. This interesting and unsettling article describes the indicators that may suggest signs of sexual exploitation, forced criminality and domestic servitude within residential property. You can also find useful contact numbers and helplines should you ever encounter such activity.
Read the article here.

Customer service v customer experience
Matt Nally from SurveyBooker has written another article for the Technical Bulletin, but this time focusing on the differences between customer 'service' and customer 'experience'. Matt has broken down his helpful tips which are useful for professionals looking to provide an excellent experience for their customers, without an increase in workload.
Read the article here. 

Valuing new-build property
A hot topic in the valuation world is how to approach valuing newly built properties. This article written by Anne Hinds and Hilary Grayson lays out the considerations needed when valuing newly built property.
Read the article here. 

Permitted development rights
Chris Pipe, Director of Planning House, has helpfully summarised the basics you should know about permitted development rights and use classes. The article describes some of the conditions and limitations that may apply for various developments and includes a useful reference table.
Read the article here. 

Giant hogweed
Dr Dan Jones, Managing Director of Advanced Invasives and a regular contributor to the Technical Bulletin has written an article on the topic of emerging liability of Giant hogweed. Find out more about the plant that has been making the headlines in recent times, and understandably so.
Read the article here. 

Japanese knotweed case law
In this article, principal lecturer at Harper Adams University, Carrie de Silva, has provided a brief overview of case law relating to Japanese knotweed claims on valuations in recent years and provides the takeaways for surveyors.
Read the article here. 

Initial thoughts on Hart v Large
An important High Court judgment was handed down in recent months and in this article, Carrie de Silva provides her initial thoughts on the case.

Read more here. 

Campaigners are calling for the new Green Homes Grant scheme, due to launch in September, to guarantee ‘high-quality work’. Under previous government schemes many houses suffered from poor quality work and some homeowners are still living with the consequences such as damp homes from poorly installed cavity wall insulation. Many of the companies who installed the insulation are no longer in business meaning those affected have had difficulty rectifying the problems caused. Now another government scheme has been announced, campaigners and MPs have said the government must ensure people are protected from poor installations, adding that CIGA (the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency) is not fit for purpose. Read more here.

Earlier this week the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in the summer statement a temporary cut on stamp duty and a new £3bn green jobs package.

In England and Northern Ireland, the stamp duty tax threshold was previously £125,000 but it has now increased to £500,000; this means homebuyers will not have to pay any stamp duty tax on properties that cost less than this amount. This temporary change will take effect immediately and run until 31 March 2021. By potentially saving homebuyers thousands of pounds it is hoped this will help to “capitalise the housing market” and “boost confidence”. This article explains how the stamp duty cut will work and includes more details.  

The new Green Home Grant Scheme is intended to improve the energy efficiency of the English housing stock, on the road to zero carbon, as well as create new jobs in the green sector. From September, homeowners and landlords in England will be able to apply for vouchers for energy efficiency improvements in their home. Mr Sunak said, “The grants will cover at least two-thirds of the costs, up to £5,000 per household” adding that low-income households can apply for “vouchers covering the full cost, up to £10,000”. This forms part of the new £2bn Green Homes Grant and the vouchers can be used by eligible homeowners to help pay towards loft, wall and floor insulation or double glazing, although the complete list of measures and eligibility criteria has yet to be published.

The remaining £1bn of the package will be spent on improving the energy efficiency of public sector buildings, with £50m going towards retrofitting social housing with insulation, double glazing and heat pumps. Read more about this new scheme from Homes & Property here.  

Read the full government policy paper here, and the press release here.

The Government have announced a 12-month extension to the domestic RHI, which will run until 31 March 2022. It was announced in today’s response following the “Changes to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) schemes” consultation. The extension to the domestic scheme will prevent 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 from polluting the atmosphere over the lifetime of these smaller-scale projects, through converting 18,000 households onto low-carbon heating.

The consultation “Future support for low carbon heat”, where the Gov’t is seeking views on options beyond the Renewable Heat Incentive is still open and closes on  7th July.

Read the full consultation response here.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) have launched a campaign to call for a once-in-a-generation investment in social housing. The ‘Homes at the Heart’ campaign has been produced in partnership with the CIH[1], National Federation of ALMOs[2], Association of Retained Council Housing, and Crisis and already has over 50 supporters. It is highlighted that during the coronavirus crisis, whilst home has been a sanctuary for some, it has been a prison for others and investment in social housing will give more people a safe, secure and comfortable place to call home.

In a blog post Kate Henderson, chief executive of the NHF, said: “We’ll develop this campaign throughout the summer and autumn, with a particular focus around the spending review, and will run media stories, social media activities and targeted engagement with politicians. We can’t do this without our members, and over the summer we will be sharing more resources and asking you to help amplify this message with your local MPs, councillors and stakeholders.”

In a letter to the Chancellor, the campaign partners and supporters ask that good quality, affordable housing is put at the heart of the recovery plans as a driver of economic and social prosperity, and an anchor for strong communities.

Read more about the campaign briefing here.

[1] Chartered Institute of Housing

[2] Arm’s-length management organisations

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have published COVID-19 guidance for landlords and tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England.

It includes information on:

  • Measures relating to notices seeking possession as amended by the Coronavirus Act 2020.
  • Court action on possession cases during the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • Health and safety obligations, repairs, and inspections in the context of Coronavirus. 

Read the guidance here. 

A section of cliff has fallen away in a neighbourhood in Eastchurch, Kent, resulting in one home to be partially unsupported and hanging over the cliff edge. It’s been reported there were two collapses of ground, one last Friday and a further collapse on Sunday morning.  

This article on the matter describes how Swale Borough Council are opposed to the Environment Agency’s existing shoreline management plan, which does not include any ‘active intervention’ to defend the area concerned. However, the Environment Agency say that the plan was written in full consultation with Swale Borough Council. Read more on this story here.   

RICS have released a net zero policy position paper on retrofitting to decarbonise UK existing housing stock. The paper explores the current landscape of retrofitting policy drivers, regulations, technical processes and fiscal levers, identifying both gaps and opportunities and aims to identify where industry standards and tools can overcome barriers and enhance the value of retrofitting in both achieving Government targets and in encouraging consumers to invest in their property.

Read the paper here.

CABE members can now access the Building Engineer journal online at The new site contains all of the content from the relaunched Building Engineer journal including technical articles, industry insights and news. To view an article, members just need to enter their membership number for full access. 

Non-members can view some areas, including news, but will need to sign up for a subscription if they would like to have full access to all Building Engineer content.

Read more here. 

Professional organisations in the residential sector have collaboratively produced an important guide for the industry on re-opening the housing market. It contains information to enable professionals to work safely as restrictions begin to ease within the sector, and is relevant to property agents, lenders, mortgage advisors, property lawyers/conveyancers, surveyors, energy assessors, property managers, home removal and associated professionals such as contractors involved in the property development, management and the home moving process. The guidance focuses on physical contact points in the home moving process and consumer guidance is expected to be released soon, so that all parties involved have a clear understanding on how to stay safe during these difficult times. As the situation and guidance in this area is constantly evolving, we intend for this information to be updated regularly.  To download the guide, click here.

Last night’s announcement from Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has caused a surge in enquiries to estate agents today. It was explained that the temporary freeze on home moving would be lifted immediately and those who are not shielding or self-isolating are able to move home. This article from Homes & Property confirms that Rightmove has already reported a 45% increase in viewings this morning and now those 450,000 buyers and renters who were mid-transaction can now progress with their move. While things are certainly not as they were, the ‘new normal’ requires everyone to continue practicing social distancing and new practices shall be put in place with the goal of keeping everyone involved safe. Read more here.

Read the Housing Secretary's statement here. 

Figures released by Halifax indicate what impact COVID-19 has had on house prices since March. Whilst house prices in April fell by 0.6% compared to March, average house prices in April were 2.7% higher compared to April 2019 and 0.7% higher than in the preceding three months. 

Managing director of Halifax, Russell Galley, said: “With market activity currently almost at a complete standstill, the limited number of transactions available means that calculating average house prices has inevitably become more challenging. This will lead to a great deal of volatility until more data becomes available.

“It will not be until after lockdown restrictions are eased that we will get a sense of the new temporary normal conditions for the housing market. Social distancing raises new challenges for home viewings and valuations and this will require the industry to adapt to build and maintain consumer confidence. More immediately, we are likely to see some considerable movement in activity levels as buyers and sellers seek to kick-start previously agreed transactions which are likely to have stalled or been delayed.

“The future remains uncertain and based on our current forecasting we expect short-term headwinds to house prices, although we maintain our underlying confidence in the health of the housing market in the longer term.”

Read the full story from property reporter here

Taylor Wimpey has set a timetable for reopening sites in England & Wales on a phased roll out. Starting on 4 May, management teams are expected to get ready for the new operating protocols to meet social distancing requirements. Sub-contractors can return to work on site from 11 May and will be required to sign up to Taylor Wimpey’s COVID-19 Code of Conduct in order to do so. Pete Redfern, chief executive said: 

“…We will be regularly monitoring and enforcing these behaviours on our sites and will require all staff, subcontractors and suppliers to sign up to this Code of Conduct in advance of starting on site.”…“This has been based on the CLC guidance document which we have positively adapted and enhanced for a house building setting.”…“We welcome the news that, going forward, the Health and Safety Executive will be monitoring safe processes in response to COVID-19 on site.”. 

You can read more about this story reported by Construction Enquirer here.

In an attempt to ease the financial burden caused by the coronavirus, on 17th March lenders reported they would offer a mortgage payment holiday to those whose income had been affected in this difficult time. UK Finance reports that around 392,000 payment holidays were granted at this time. Then in the fortnight following 25th March, the number of mortgage holidays trebled, growing to a whopping 1.2 million. This equates to around 61,000 payment holidays granted on a daily basis and is a stark indicator of the significant economic impact this pandemic is having in the UK.

Commenting, Stephen Jones, UK Finance CEO, said: “Mortgage lenders have been working tirelessly to help homeowners get through this challenging period. The industry has pulled out all the stops in recent weeks to give an unprecedented number of customers a payment holiday, and we stand ready to help more over the coming months…. We understand that the current crisis is having a significant impact on household finances for people across the country. Lenders have a number of options available to help, and payment holidays aren’t always the right solution for everyone. We would therefore encourage any mortgage customers concerned about their financial situation to check with their lender so they can find out more information on the support available and how to apply.”

Read more about this story from UK Finance here.

The RICS  (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) and the NFB (National Federation of Builders) have called for stamp duty to be removed when the current lockdown ends. House prices are expected to fall over the coming 12 months but their hopes are that if stamp duty was removed, it would help to improve the housing market again. This article from Property Wire reports with a quote from Hew Edgar, head of government relations at RICS who said: “RICS is not an organisation that would call for a stamp duty holiday on a whim.

“As we start to emerge from this crisis, however, it is likely that the finances of potential homebuyers will be under strain, and the burden of stamp duty could put buyers off.

“For those who can afford to move they may lack confidence in the market, adding to the slow down.

“A stamp duty holiday could be one of the ways to reactivate the housing market quickly as a short term measure.”

To read more, click here.  

The results of research carried out by the BRE (Building Research Establishment) on the burning behaviours of a range of non-ACM cladding materials has been published. 

The tests were carried out on advice from the Expert Panel set up following the Grenfell Tower disaster, and found that no other materials tested performed the same, or even similarly, to the ACM PE (aluminium composite material with an unmodified polyethylene core) panels that were used on Grenfell Tower. 

The green and blue lines on the graph below represent the aluminium composite cladding with an unmodified polyethylene core and it is very clear they have a higher heat release rate compared with the other materials tested, among which were Classes B and D high pressure laminate, brick slips, zinc and copper composite materials and timber.

The Expert Panel said:

"We welcome the research carried out by the BRE. This research shows that ACM PE presents an unparalleled risk of fire in external cladding. Building owners should act to remove and remediate this cladding type on any building. This important research also confirms the advice previously issued regarding other cladding materials."

Read more here.   

According to the National Residential Landlords Association, it seems that during this crisis some renters are presuming they can stop paying their rent without any agreement between them and their landlord.  

While tenant support groups such as The London Renters’ Union are calling on complete suspensions of rent, it is said this could potentially put some landlords in financial difficulty, leading to possible implications further down the line.

Landlords should be flexible if tenants are struggling financially and should offer a three-month rent holiday for those in real need. Landlords may be able to agree a repayment holiday with their mortgage lender too. Only once agreements have been made can a rent or repayment holiday begin and until such time, rent and mortgage payments should be made as usual. 

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA said "This is not a green light to tenants everywhere to stop paying their rent,"

Meanwhile, homeowners are also being urged not to cancel their mortgage payments unless an agreement had been made with their lender. Bank representative UK Finance said some people have simply cancelled their direct debits, which could result in potential problems remortgaging in the future. 

Read the full article here. 

The government has announced the biggest changes to building safety in a generation. In a letter to all MPs in England, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick explained the government’s plan to reform the building safety system.

The new measures include the provision of sprinkler systems and consistent wayfinding signage in all new high-rise blocks of flats over 11 metres tall, delivering on a recommendation picked up from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

The letter also confirms that £1 billion will be provided in 2020/21 to support the remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding materials on high-rise buildings. As work to remove unsafe cladding from buildings is viewed as critical for public safety, it remains a top priority, even during the current COVID-19 outbreak, and therefore, work continues where it is safe to do so.   

Jenrick explains that surveyors, lenders, insurers and other parts of industry working with building owners, must ensure that the new ‘EWS1’ form is shared appropriately; adding there will soon be a data-sharing portal to enable easy access to information so sales and remortgages can proceed.

There will be a roundtable for mortgage lenders in the coming months so that lenders can agree a rational approach to valuing properties in buildings under 18 metres.

To read the letter, click here.

To read the government's response to the ‘Building a Safer Future’ consultation, click here.

Amidst concerns about the impact of the coronavirus on the building industry and ultimately the country’s economy, Andy Mitchell, Co-Chair of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has written to the Prime Minister with the Council’s plan to sustain the industry and accelerate recovery of the economy. The letter confirms that regular virtual meetings with construction industry bodies has resulted in the publishing and adoption of the following documents:

  • The Site Operating Procedures
  • The Safe Shutdown Process
  • Minimum Essential Works List
  • Covid19 Essential Worker Authorisation Letter
  • Appeal for surplus PPE to be donated to the NHS

The letter includes an appeal to the government to suspend PAYE and CIS tax payments and to defer Apprenticeship Levy payments. Indicating that as part of usual business practice, around £4.5 bn is held in retention and the CLC is urging the government to consider releasing these monies to free up cash at all levels of the construction supply chain. Read the letter in full here.

To support RICS members during this unprecedented and challenging time, the effective date for the RICS Home Survey Standard, which was previously 1st June 2020, has been deferred for 6 months and the Standards will now become effective on 1st December 2020.

The RICS are also offering a selection of online CPD for RICS members free of charge, until the end of July, including the Surveys in Practice Roadshow which accounts for 6 hours of formal CPD.

In addition, the RICS are also inviting members to join their digital community which will enable you to connect with other members in the field and acts as a channel for advice, tips and guidelines.

To read more, click here.

We often hear about the energy efficiency of new homes compared to old and the numbers we need to build to keep up with demand, but it isn’t often we hear about the loss of the embodied carbon in existing homes through demolition. This article from Historic England compared refurbishing a Victorian house to a new build and found the new build produced up to  thirteen times more embodied carbon.

With around 200,000 empty homes in England and many underused buildings such as old textile mills, there seems to be a lot of wasted potential. Unfortunately, the 0% VAT rates for new build are not applicable to refurbishments where the VAT rate is  20%, and this provides a financial incentive for developers to demolish existing buildings and build new.  Many, including Historic England, are calling for VAT rates to match those of new builds, to incentivise both developers and home owners to refurbish old buildings.

Historic England state that we cannot meet our 2050 carbon targets without improving the energy efficiency of our existing buildings, 20% of which are Pre-1919. Their research demonstrates that adapting an old building could reduce its emissions by 60%.

As well as the impact on carbon emissions, refurbishment reduces the  amount of waste produced as a third of all the waste produced in the UK comes from construction and demolition. 

Read the full article here.

So many businesses are being impacted by the coronavirus and indeed surveyors and valuers are no exception. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) whilst not a regulator, refer to themselves as ‘the voice of the UK’s world-leading insurance and long-term savings industry’. They have a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information Hub that you may find of interest or useful in the current climate. You can find their guide about business insurance here.

The Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) has written to the government as they fear surveyors will be at danger of contracting the coronavirus due to unclear advice. RPSA are stating that  ‘the only sensible option is for Government to pause the progress of property transactions until Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, and for tailored support packages to be put in place for Independent surveyors and other professionals in a similar plight.’ Whilst the government say it might be possible to carry out surveys on empty properties or if the occupants are out, RPSA are concerned that the surveyor is likely to have no idea how long the property has been empty or even if someone who has been in the property has been infected by the virus. 

RPSA Chairman, Alan Milstein says:

“Government Advice for home moving specifically highlights that urgent surveys can be carried out by surveyors, on empty properties or where the occupants are out and free of coronavirus. However, the Advice also suggests that going into occupied homes to carry out surveys can still be considered safe. So, which advice do surveyors follow? And how would one of our members reliably determine if a house has been recently occupied by an infected person?”

You can read more about the story here.

The government has urged parties involved in home moving to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes, advising if the property is occupied, all parties should do all they can to amicably agree alternative moving dates to a time when it's likely the stay-at-home measures will no longer be in pace. 

The advice does confirm there is no need to pull out of property transactions.

This article from the BBC also reports that banks are worried about granting mortgages and lenders are concerned about the effects on valuations. 

Zoopla reported demand in the week starting 16 March fell 40% from the week before, adding that the predictions for housing transactions would drop by up to 60% over the next three months. 

Read the guidance here

Go Report, RICS, Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland and The Survey Association have put together a survey about the role in Surveying. The results will help shape the future support, training and information that will be available to members to help them be better placed to maximise the opportunities PropTech presents. If you have not yet responded, they would appreciate if you could spare less than 5 minutes to complete the survey here: 

The survey closes today (Friday 27th March) so please submit your responses before the end of the day - Thank you. 

The National Landlords Association (NLA) and Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has issued further guidance regarding the recent package of measures announced by the government to protect renters. They explain that although the announcement originally suggested there would be a ban on repossessions, the actual legislation that has been brought forward advises notice periods will be extended instead. The extension on notice periods is currently expected to last until 20th September 2020. 

The NLA/RLA have concerns that these measures will have an impact on neighbours suffering from anti-social or criminal tenants. Their position is that if landlords cannot take action to protect neighbours, the local authorities must be ‘properly resourced and committed’ to take action against any anti-social behaviour.

To read more click here.

House Beautiful have shared findings from Rated People who found that trends such as white metro tiles with dark grouting in a bathroom can be off-putting to potential buyers. As part of working on their new Home Improvement Trends Report 2020, the research team analysed almost one million jobs posted on their website, and conducted a 51-question survey to over 1000 homeowners and 600 tradespeople around the country to establish what people looked for in a new home. They found that current trends, such as dark blue rooms are most likely to put off potential buyers from putting down an offer. Understandably, practical aspects such as having a shower and no bath could put people off, but are you surprised at some of the others on the list?
 Read here.

It will come as no surprise that since the sudden and drastic drop in travel due to the current pandemic, some cities and regions have seen a huge drop in CO2 levels (story from BBC).

Research carried out by Columbia University found that for a few days last week Carbon Monoxide levels in New York (mostly from cars) almost halved compared to the same time last year. By May, scientists predict the levels might be at their lowest since the financial crisis over a decade ago.

Carbon Brief also carried out research and found that there had been a 25% drop in energy use and emissions in China during a two-week period.

While governments around the world have a lot to consider, Professor Le Quéré from the university of East Anglia says "Governments now have to be really cautious on how they re-stimulate their economies, mindful of not locking in fossil fuels again,"

"They should focus those things that are ready to go that would lower emissions, like renovating buildings, putting in heat pumps and electric chargers. These are not complicated and can be done straight away, they are just waiting for financial incentives."

Read the full story here.  

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has unveiled proposals to update the planning system in an attempt to get Britain building again. The government is putting aside £400 million for Mayoral Combined Authorities and local areas so that brownfield land can be developed and will establish a register of brownfield sites in April this year. Calling for a more inventive approach to meeting the country’s need for more housing, developers will be encouraged to redevelop high streets and build upwards and above stations; making quicker and better use of unused land and demolish disused buildings. In addition the government has announced that in order to meet the target of 300,000 homes a year, there will be more help for self-builds and £12 billion for affordable homes, the highest injection of funds in the last 10 years. A ‘bold and ambitious’ Planning White Paper is set to be published in Spring which will propose measures to accelerate planning, including a reform on the planning fee structure. 

Speaking about this latest announcement Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “I want everyone, no matter where they live, to have access to affordable, safe, quality housing and live in communities with a real sense of place – as part of our mission to level up, unite and unleash the potential of this country. We must think boldly and creatively about the planning system to make it fit for the future, and this is just the first step, so we can deliver the homes communities need and help more young people onto the ladder”. You can find the government’s announcement here

Emergency legislation will protect renters and landlords affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. New evictions from social or private rented accommodation will be suspended and no new possession proceedings through applications to the court will start during the crisis. Landlords will also be protected as 3-month mortgage payment holiday is extended to Buy to Let mortgages.   

“The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts. These are extraordinary times and renters and landlords alike are of course worried about paying their rent and mortgage. Which is why we are urgently introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private accommodation from an eviction process being started. These changes will protect all renters and private landlords ensuring everyone gets the support they need at this very difficult time.”

Read more here.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) recently issued a notice for RICS regulated members conducting valuations and the affect the COVID-19 outbreak will have on the work carried out.

“RICS reminds Regulated Members that - in addition to following the directions of Government authorities - they should act in a transparent and professional manner.  Where there are changes to the way RICS Regulated Members normally proceed with instructions, this must be agreed with the client and any agreed changes must be recorded. RICS Regulated Members should make detailed file notes to support the rationale that underpinned the changes.”

Ben Elder, RICS International Director for Valuation said: “The current unprecedented circumstances are challenging for everyone.  RICS expects its members and firms to act professionally and transparently at all times and this is particularly important when market conditions are changing rapidly.

“The effects of the COVID-19 Virus will affect the work carried out by RICS Regulated Members and firms in a variety of ways, with varying impacts. Inspecting property may be difficult and access to evidential data such as comparables, less freely available.

“RICS Regulated Members and firms may therefore be considering whether a material uncertainty declaration is now appropriate using the Red Book Process.  If material uncertainty is declared, this should be explicitly stated, and RICS has suggested today, a form of wording that can be used.

“These are to assist where a valuer feels that the unknowns are so significant that the valuation produced would be less reliable than in normal circumstances.”

You can find the full notice here

If you live on a road full of painted houses, your home could be worth an average of 20% more than a nearby plain house. Using average valuation figures, Home Owners Alliance (HOA) research found that the painted homes came in at between 2%-65% higher than their unpainted counterparts. In Norwich a painted 3-bedroom house was worth 65% more than a similar property just a couple of streets away. Where a seller might now be considering lobbying all the neighbours to get painting, buyers may make shrewd savings by buying that plain house just around the corner from the painted street. An earlier survey conducted by HOA found that nearly 70% of buyers thought kerb appeal was important, including an attractive front garden. Read the story from HOA here.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry Panel have confirmed there will be no further hearings for the time being given the latest advice from the Government regarding COVID-19. They will be giving careful consideration to whether it is possible to continue hearings using electronic means but regardless, the work of the Inquiry will continue and hopefully it isn’t too long until they can continue taking evidence. Read the statement from Martin Moore-Bick here.  

It may not come as a surprise given the coronavirus pandemic and the potential for major disruption to the country, that concerns have been raised by property professionals about its impact on the property market. Whilst new home sales are up for a third consecutive month in February, estate agents have noticed a drop off in viewings this month.

This article from Mortgage Solutions quotes Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman: “The usually reliable RICS survey suggests that house-price inflation, demand and new listings have been increasing for the past few months, which is good news, even though it is based largely on pre-virus responses.

“It confirms what many of our buyers and sellers are telling us – that the impact will be serious but short term. Our viewings are about 25 per cent lower than we might have expected at this time of year but sales are not being cancelled so far and we have even seen exchanges of contract immediately post-Budget.”

You can also read the press release from RICS here.

It’s a Budget we will certainly not forget, but what is the reaction of those in the construction industry? Housebuilder and Developer report that Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), Brian Berry, said:

“Understandably, the Chancellor has delivered a ‘first aid Budget’ to overcome the short-term crisis caused by COVID-19. But he has missed an important opportunity to announce interventions that would support the sustainable, long-term recovery construction needs. The autumn Budget must include measures to cut VAT on repair and renovation, and a National Retrofit Strategy to promote decarbonisation and create jobs and growth.

“Builders are increasingly concerned about the impact COVID-19 will have on their businesses. Today’s package of measures to support SMEs through refunding Statutory Sick Pay, making temporary loans and grants available, and support for the self-employed will provide welcome relief to small building businesses and their workers alike.”

To read more thoughts from those in the industry, such as Melanie Leech, Chief Executive of British Property Federation and Charles Bettes, managing director of architects gpad London, click here.  

According to the ‘Home and Dry’ report  completed by the ‘Centre for Ageing Better and Care and Repair England’, the number of non-decent homes, i.e., those that do not meet basic standards of decency, stands at an eye watering 4.3 million. The health and wellness of 10 million occupants could be affected by ‘serious hazards’, such as excess cold or a fall hazard. Over 75% of these homes contain at least one vulnerable adult and nearly 50% occupied by the over 55’s also included a child in the home. The report found that the over 65’s occupied 2 million homes that were hard to heat and contained serious hazards. Over 75’s are disproportionately likely to live in a non-decent home and over the course of 5 years (2012-2017) this figure rose from 533,000 to a shocking 701,000. Homes with a person aged 85 and over is the fastest growing household type, it’s also estimated that over 65’s will increase by 30% to 16 million by 2043. It is estimated the cost of non-decent homes in England costs the NHS approx. £1.4 billion and that £4.3 billion could cover the repairs in all of these homes which would be paid back in around 8 years. You can download a copy of the full report outlining the need for decent homes later in life here.

The gap between the cost of renting and buying a home has narrowed to its smallest size in the last decade according to the latest Halifax Buying vs. Renting Review. By comparing mortgage related costs on a three bedroom home against the average rental for the same property type, the research identified homeowners saved an average of 3% (£227 annually). Five years ago, homeowners were saving an average of 17% ( £1476 annually), a substantial change from 2009 when it was renters who saved an average of £209 per year. As with all things property related, the regional swings are staggeringly different with London homeowners making annual savings of 18% (£3727) and in the Yorkshire & the Humber area savings are 3% (£235). You can find a copy of the report here.

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:

Grenfell Tower – what have we learnt from the Phase 1 Inquiry?
Hilary Grayson BSc EST MAN (Hons), Sava

In October 2019 Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower report was published by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and this article focuses on the building, it’s construction and management, and the learnings the surveying and property management professions can take from the tragedy at this stage.

Read the article here.

External wall fire review – an update from RICS
John Baguley BSc (Hons) MRICS, RICS

In December 2019, RICS introduced a new industry-wide initiative with the aim of helping people living in high-rise property who had been left in limbo as a result of the fall-out from the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The intention of the new certificate is to help buyers, sellers and re-mortgagers of homes in buildings above 18 metres (six storeys), where there has been uncertainty about the cladding, and get the market moving again.

In this article we look at the development of the new certificate and how it will work in practice.

Read the article here.

Local Authority landlords – when can leaseholders be charged for fire safety remediation?
Susan Bright, Oxford University

This article looks at whether the costs of fixing and making safe local authority blocks can be recovered from leaseholders. The things that need fixing can include replacement cladding; fire breaks; replacing fire doors etc. but there may also be additional services, such as the provision of a waking watch.

Read the article here.

An introduction to listed buildings – what you should know
Ian Bullock, Carpenter Surveyors

When carrying out pre purchase surveys and valuations, the law of averages suggests you are likely to encounter historic buildings at some stage, some of which may well be listed. It’s important to consider what to look out for and what considerations are important when advising your client.

Read the article here.

Radon gas – how to test and mitigate
Robert Owen, propertECO

In this article, Robert Owen from propertECO explains how radon testing is carried out and how high levels of radon can be mitigated. This information may be useful for clients if a property is found to be in an area where radon levels may be higher than average.

Read the article here.

SAP 10 – battery storage and PV diverters
Dr Lisa Blake, Sava

Following on from our previous articles about the changes expected in SAP 10, in this article we cover the addition of diverters and battery storage for PV systems in the next version of SAP.

Read the article here.

Big data – challenges for housing providers
Andy Flook, Sava

This article discusses the challenges housing providers face with respect to the data and legislative changes and addresses the journey of overcoming the issues presented.

Read the article here.

The requirement to increase the rate at which new homes are being built to accommodate the growing population is well known. But where are the most new homes being built?

Whilst the government set a target of 300,000 new homes to be built in England every year, the current figures tell us there are actually 247,000 more houses built than demolished each year. The vast majority of these newly built homes are within large towns and cities where numbers have increased by 803,000 since 2011. It won’t come as a surprise to hear that proportionally, more homes have been built in London, most being in the Tower Hamlets area.  Percentage wise, the largest growth has been seen in Cambridge, where numbers have increased by 15% (7,000 homes). This is followed by Telford at 12% (8,400 homes) and Milton Keynes by 11% (11,700 homes). The lowest growth area is York at 3% (1,025 homes). The perception has been that newer homes are getting smaller, however a new home has averaged 92sqm during this period, slightly larger than the average 89sqm of an existing home. It goes without saying the smaller homes averaging 64sqm are found within city centres, outside the city they average 101 sqm. The largest homes can be found in Blackpool (101sqm) and the smallest in Luton (62sqm). When posing the question of whether these houses are being built in the right places, one asks whether the local economy should be considered. For example in Oxford where a home will cost approx. 17 times the average 2019 salary and Burnley 4 times the average salary, both areas have had similar numbers of new homes. Read the full story here.

Despite the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy investing £6 billion in the upgrade of homes to an energy rating of C by 2035, results are falling short with over 65% of UK homes still rated between D-G. 

Schemes such as ECO and Green Deal were introduced to provide affordable or government funded improvements to homes, but these came with their own problems. It can be complicated for a tenant or owner to work out their eligibility under ECOwhich is dependent on the measures required, savings that could be achieved and receipt of certain benefits. Whilst such schemes were intended to assist those experiencing fuel poverty, as well as contribute to the carbon reduction of the housing stock, it is the latest version of ECO (ECO3) that has increased the eligible benefits. The Green Deal Scheme was short-lived, covering just 3 years, closing down after a lack of take up, which was blamed was on its over complicated process.

The government recognises it needs to make changes to improve homes in the UK and if it’s to achieve the net zero carbon target by 2050. Homes built prior to 1990 will likely need some level of improvement and modern building regulations mean newly built homes must meet a certain standard, but should the developers also be considering the resulting running costs of these homes? See the story by Rob Halden-Pratt here.

Having just experienced the wettest February since 1862, a recent study by Cardiff University’s Understanding Risk Group indicates that the percentage of people concerned about climate change has doubled since 2016. 

Whilst Dr Mark McCarthy, head of the National Climate Information Centre, says that three exceptional rainfall events in the same month are extremely rare, he goes on to say "Met Office ground-breaking research has contributed to a growing body of evidence that [suggests] extreme rainfall is a significant risk factor for the UK, and that climate change has increased the likelihood of extreme rainfall events." Storm Dennis alone gave us the second highest UK average daily rainfall since 1891. The UK also had Storms Ciara and Jorge to contend with, once again flooding homes and businesses, disrupting travel and causing distress and loss to those affected. Read the BBC’s story here:

The government has announced that an independent ‘New Homes Ombudsman’ will protect homebuyers from rogue developers. New rules will mean that homebuilders must join the Ombudsman and will need to pay out compensation for ‘shoddy’ work, such as sloppy brickwork and faulty wiring. Not only will the new ombudsman have the powers to make builders pay compensation, but they will also be able to order developers to fix poor building work and even ban rogue developers from building. They also advise that new measures have been confirmed to ensure all homes sold under the future Help to Buy scheme meet higher standards and developers put quality first. These rules form part of the work the government are doing to raise the standards of new homes across the country. You can read more here.

We reported earlier this month that Rightmove saw such an increase in traffic on their website, that enquiries reached record numbers in January. This initial sign of more interest in the housing market is substantiated by sales agreed between 13 Dec 2109 and 15 Jan 2020 rising by 7.5% compared with the same period the previous year. (Source). Rightmove report that sales agreed across the UK are up by 12.3% year-on-year and in London it’s increased by 26.4%. Buyer demand is high and the number of new sellers coming to market is up 2.1% on last year, 110,000 homes were introduced to the market between 12 Jan and 8 Feb this year. Despite this rise, buyer numbers currently outstrip sellers which usually has the effect of increasing house prices. Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst said “…Owners coming to market this spring face the best selling prospects for several years, with good demand for the right properties at the right prices. However, sellers should be careful not to get carried away with their pricing, as this is still a price-sensitive market with stretched buyer affordability.” You can find the Rightmove House Price Index for February 2020 here.

Private landlords in the UK have needed to keep up to date with several changes over the last year or so. There has been the introduction of The Tenant Fees Act 2019, which effectively banned them from charging for inventories, references, phone calls etc., to the reduction in the amount of mortgage interest they could use to offset income tax, effectively increasing the amount of tax landlords have to pay. Now it seems further tax changes are on the horizon, which will hit landlords in the pocket at the point they sell the property. The tax overhaul of Private Residential Relief phases out the capital gains tax relief on properties the landlord has formerly lived in (£40,000 for sole owners and £80,00 for joint owners). Whether this results in landlords rushing to sell these properties prior to the 6th April cut-off date remains to be seen. You can read what Gary Priest, a partner at MFG Solicitors has to say here.

Other sources: