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: 

This article from the Office of National Statistics looking at changes in housing tenure over time makes an interesting read. Following the current trend of an increasing private rental sector, it is likely that in the future more people will be private renting into their retirement. Looking at the current 45-54 age group, the proportion of in the private rental sector has doubled over the last 10 years, and these are the population approaching retirement. The problem with this situation is that a market rent that is affordable to someone of working age may cease to be affordable after retirement.  Research by insurer Royal London found that the pension pot required for homeowners of £260,000 would nearly double for private renters to £445,000.

The BRE Academy is offering 3 hours of free CPD on Domestic Retrofit. The course consists of six 20-30 minute modules to raise awareness of key technical refurbishment topics - moisture awareness, air tightness, exposure, external wall insulation, building physics and unintended consequences. The course is consistent with the EHC review recommendations and the proposed technical direction of PAS 2035 Code of practice for the energy retrofit of buildings (and associated standards), which is now being developed. As well as introducing the key technical issues involved, it provides a first step to further training to become accredited under PAS 2035, which will enable practitioners to display the EHC Quality Mark.

To find out more or register to access the course, click here

Last year the UK saw the number of new homes registered to be built rise by 1%, although this meant it actually reached its highest level in the last 13 years. With 161,022 registrations last year, the last 10 year period totals 1.4 million registrations. All builders should register details of the homes they will build with a warranty provider and it’s understood there is an average period of around 15 months between registration and build completion. 

The NHBC statistical highlights for 2019 are:

  • 161,022 new homes registered, up 1%
  • 112,086 new homes registered in the private sector (up 3%)
  • 48,936 new homes registered in the affordable & rental sector (up 13%)
  • 21,726 new homes were registered in London in 2019 (up 37%)

NHBC Chief Executive Steve Wood said: “It is great to see the resilience of house builders over the 2019 year.  This momentum needs to be maintained as we enter a new decade, with the industry ever-more focused on quality and fire safety…. At NHBC we remain committed to our purpose of giving homeowners confidence in the quality of the nation’s new homes and working with house builders as the industry faces into the skills, supply chain and environmental challenges in front of us.”

You can download a full copy of the NHBC report here.

According to the Met Office, in 2019 England as a whole had its 5th wettest Autumn on record. South Yorkshire doubled it’s rainfall at 425.4mm compared to the average of 208mm and Holne in Devon had the highest rainfall levels at 899mm. In fact we also had the 7th wettest Summer on record since 1910, when in June the River Steeping broke its banks in Wainfleet All Saints, Lincs and the RAF dropped over 100 tonnes of ballast to close the breach. Of course, we can’t forget the more recent concerns at the Whaley Bridge Dam, Derbyshire. At one point, Yorkshire received 112mm of rainfall in 3 hours!

Flood checks are an important part of surveying and valuing and this type of local knowledge is invaluable. Not only does flooding endanger life, ruin homes and businesses, cause distress and upset - but it also costs significant sums. The Association of British Insurers estimated last November that insurance pay-outs could go as high as £110 million. At that point over 4,000 claims had been submitted with the average household claim costing £31,000 and for businesses £70,000. You can download the full report from the House of Commons Library here. 

In particular, floodwaters can increase the spread of Japanese Knotweed and other invasive species, when parts of damaged plants get caught up in floodwaters and are deposited elsewhere, taking root and once again flourishing. Buyers and other property professionals must always, where possible, conduct appropriate online and/or visual checks at the property. Whilst a mortgage can go ahead where Japanese Knotweed is present, lenders are likely to release the funds only after they have proof an eradication plan is underway. For other property professionals, it can result in timely and costly claims against their PI insurance if the plant is missed. You can read the article from Today’s Conveyancer’ here. 

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are seeking views on their 'First Homes Policy' which will deliver discounted homes for local people. The consultation opened on 7th February and will run until 3rd April. It covers the following areas:

  • what First Homes are and who should be eligible for them
  • how the scheme should work in practice
  • how to deliver more of these homes through developer contributions
  • the requirements for delivering these homes through planning or legislation

 To read more and submit your response, click here.

A recent update to the form which sellers are required to complete when selling their property (TA6) now has the option for "Not Known" in response to the question asking if the property is affected by Japanese knotweed. The Law Society advised that the update was in response to the House of Commons Select Committee on Japanese knotweed which recommended that the wording was reviewed. The Law Society added that it will be reviewed again when the Department for the Environment , Food and Rural Affairs has completed its own research into the treatment of Japanese knotweed in the conveyancing process in other jurisdictions. Other changes regarding Japanese knotweed include:

“highlighting that information ought to be provided to a buyer if the seller is aware that there is a treatment plan in place” and “replacing ‘eradication’ with ‘managing its regrowth’”

Read more here.

A pub in Liverpool has had its listing upgraded to Grade I, joining the 2.5% of buildings with this status. The Philharmonic in Liverpool is one of 11 pubs which have recently had their status upgraded or listing updated as part of a project to protect rare historic interiors. It was built between 1898-1900 and features very ornate and elaborate carvings and strong Art Nouveau features.

Images from Historic England

Another pub called 'The Vines' in Liverpool was upgraded to Grade II* and pubs in West Sussex, London, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Staffordshire  have had their status upgraded or more information added to their listing. 

Chief Executive of Historic England, Suncan Wilson said:

"English pubs are some of our best-loved community buildings and are often threatened with closure so we are delighted to see 11 historic pubs receiving further protection. We are proud that the Liverpool Philharmonic pub, a remarkable survival from the Victorian era, has been given a Grade I listing which will help maintain and preserve its outstanding interior fittings and exterior fabric for the future. The 11 pubs range from the opulent Philharmonic in Liverpool and the picturesque Rose and Crown in Somerset, to a London pub with links to Bartholomew Fair. All of them fully deserve the protection given by listing."

Read more here.

The government published its Environment Bill 2020 detailing a governance framework for a range of environmental matters. Intending to protect and improve the UK’s natural environment, the bill will have a far-reaching legislative impact on the issues it aims to address, including domestic solid fuel burning, flood and coastal erosion and ensuring developers enhance natural spaces for communities. Targets will be issues in four key areas:

  • Air quality
  • Water
  • Nature
  • Waste and resource efficiency

These targets along with Environment Improvement Plans will be reviewed every five years. Policy-makers will be legally obliged to consider policies that cause the least environmental harm and that any damage caused  to the environment must be rectifed. Upon leaving the EU, the government is ensuring we continue to deal with climate change by bringing all associated legislation within the Office for Environmental Protection and enforcement will fall within their remit. You can find the report here.

Could Hydrogen boilers be the future? It seems that boiler manufacturer Worcester Bosch thinks so as they recently unveiled their new Hydrogen Boiler developed in response to the UK target to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. The boiler is designed to run on natural gas but can be switched across to run on hydrogen if energy networks switch to hydrogen. Worcester Bosch also claim that the existing gas engineers will be able to install these new boilers with only limited upskilling.  Will this be the boiler of the future? Read more here.

Wednesday 29th January was the busiest day Rightmove had ever seen and January 2020 has now taken the winning spot for the most amount of visits in one month, surpassing 152 million. These figures suggest that home-hunters are feeling more confident now there is a more certain political outlook. Here’s a few interesting stats provided by Rightmove:

  • The top five busiest days were between 21st and 29th January, with Wednesday 29th taking the lead
  • On the 29th, there were 5.7 million visits, an increase of 9% on the previous record on 24th April 2019
  • The time spent on the site was up by 4%, totalling 1.17 billion minutes!
  • Sales agreed by agents was up 12% compared to the same month in 2019
     (this was the biggest year-on-year jump in any month since July 2017 with London seeing the biggest boost at 26%)

To read more , click here.

Set up at the end of 2018, the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’ has released its report in January 2020 covering their research and proposals for the future. Amongst many other things, the report looks at how beautiful buildings and developments promote healthy and happy lives, suggesting that ugly developments result in unadaptable, unhealthy and unsightly buildings which they believe comes at a social cost to all who live there. Wishing to create greener urban areas, more consideration for the long-term view and neighbourhoods and communities, not just houses, their eight priorities for reform are:

  1. Planning: create a predictable level playing field 
  2. Communities: bring the democracy forward 
  3. Stewardship: incentivise responsibility to the future 
  4. Regeneration: end the scandal of left behind place 
  5. Neighbourhoods: create places not just houses 
  6. Nature: re-green our towns and cities  
  7. Education: promote a wider understanding of placemaking 
  8. Management: value planning, count happiness, procure properly 

Looking at beauty in three scales:

  • Beautiful buildings
  • Beautiful places
  • Beautifully placed

New developments should be an improvement and be more beautiful than the area they replaced. The report acknowledges how the increase in cars has impacted developments and the way that people live. In the past, areas were designed with walking in mind as access to transport was so much more limited. It therefore proposes we should rethink the way we design developments. Touching on the change in use of materials over the years, the report recognises that modern materials must be used to meet building regulations and considers how they can be best used to create beautiful buildings. One of the thought processes of the Commission is that mixed-use areas have a better chance of creating communities, with less reliance on the car, people can live together, visit the same shops and facilities and are more likely to get to know each other. There needs to be consideration for affordability and respect for nature and heritage. Find out what the Commission’s proposals are and what they have achieved so far here.

The Legal & General Modular Homes venture was established in 2015 aiming to revolutionise housebuilding using advanced computer aided and automated design techniques. Constructing panels and installing kitchen and bathroom fittings, plumbing and electrics, they have the capacity to build around 3000 off-site homes per year at their factory near Leeds. Whilst modular housing has for a long time been heralded as the solution to Britain’s housing shortage, despite heavy investment from parent company L&G, progress had been slow to start. Read more here. The factory recently received a boost from Minister of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Esther McVey when she visited the factory site and applauded their designs for among other things, taking on safety requirements, environmental needs, quality and the ability for occupants to reduce living costs. You can read details of the published speech here.

Following the regulations introduced in December 2018, the use of combustible cladding was banned on all buildings 18m tall or more. However, it appears that some builders are avoiding the restrictions by building just below 18m according to Chandru Dissanayeke, director of building safety at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

He said “Experts who say there’s a difference between 17.95m and 18m are being dishonest to themselves” adding “We need industry to step up and provide leadership. There are parts of the industry which know about the risks and are closing their eyes and that’s disgraceful.”

Read the story from Building Design here

Following the tragedy of Grenfell, government has taken steps to set up a safety regulator in accordance with their building safety programme. On 20th January, a press release announced a new regime in order to ensure effective oversight of the design, construction and occupation of high-risk buildings. A new regulator will be at the heart of a new regime and will be established as part of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 

The plan is that the HSE will quickly begin to establish the new regulator in shadow form immediately, ahead of it being fully established, following legislation. The intention is to raise building safety and performance standards, including overseeing a new, more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings.

Dame Judith Hackitt will chair a Board to oversee the transition. Read more here.


On average, new homes cost almost 20% more than pre-owned properties of the same size. Research carried out by Monmouthshire Building Society (MBS) found a staggering variation around the country when comparing the cost of new -v- old homes throughout 2019. For example, in Greater London a new detached property cost nearly 25% less than an existing detached. Yet, in the North West, a new terraced property cost almost 55% more than a pre-owned one. New flats in North Wales cost about 50% more than their pre-owned counterparts.

Unsurprisingly, it was in Greater London that the highest proportion of new build sales took place at 13.7%, outperforming the England & Wales average of 11.5%. New build sales in Wales on the other hand reached 6.6%. It’s clear there are some benefits of owning a new home, with various mortgage products to attract first-time buyers, the latest renewable technologies and a 10-year warranty, although other people prefer the character of an older home. It all really comes down to individual worth and preferences. However, with these variations around the UK, some buyers could really benefit from investigating price differences in their region. Find the report from MBS here.

An audit has found that one in five new-build developments should have been refused planning permission outright and that the design of many others should have been improved before relevant permissions were granted. 

The audit, which was carried out by Place Alliance and CPRE (the countryside charity), included 142 large-scale housing development projects in England and the findings suggest that housing design is overwhelmingly ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’, although, there has been small improvement overall since the last audits between 2004 and 2007.

It finds that there is potential for good, affordable design everywhere, 'but we don’t do it'. The reasons given for the variation in practice were:

  • less affluent communities get worse design
  • large developers are inconsistent
  • we are not good at building at lower densities and on greenfields
  • inconsistent use of proactive site-specific design governance
  • poor design is getting through on appeal.

Positive findings were that we are delivering a variety of housing types and designing for safety and security. Read the summary of findings here.

A lawyer who sued estate agent Savills after he fell from climbing the locked gates outside his home has had his case thrown out by a judge. Mr Perez returned home one evening at 10:30pm to find the spiked security gates locked and then proceeded to climb them, resulting in him falling and suffering spinal fractures and a ‘moderate’ brain injury. He sued Savills (who were acting for his landlord) for £100,000 arguing that they should have provided him with a key fob, however Savills claim they were not aware the gates would become operational that day.  The judge found his decision to climb the locked gates rather than book a hotel or stay at a friends house to be ‘reckless’ and dismissed his claim. Read more.

Whilst gross mortgage lending was down by between 1-2% in 2019, the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA) predict 1.4% growth to £268 billion this year, with a further rise to £275 billion in 2021. Reporting that reduced interest rates have provided mortgagors with an additional £32 billion in their pockets compared to 10 years ago, IMLA believe this alongside less political uncertainty and earnings growth could motivate more people back to the mortgage market. Kate Davies, IMLA’s Executive Director believes modest growth over the next two years is possible if a trade deal can be negotiated with the EU. She also comments on how product transfers will further boost the market with fixed rate mortgages coming to an end. Stating that the housing market is still far from perfect, she highlights the need to look at innovative solutions to help the market after the closure of Help-to-Buy. Read more about this story and see the full statement from Kate Davies here.

Highways England have published a guide for property owners relating to blight. Blight is when the value of a property is substantially reduced because of a proposal to carry out public works, such as a new road or improvement to an existing road and the owners are unable to sell it at unaffected market value. If a blight notice is accepted an offer will be made to purchase the property.

The guide includes information on when a blight notice can be submitted as well as how blight notices are processed.

The guide is available here.

On the 20th January the government announced a new regime in order to ensure effective oversight of the design, construction and occupation of high-risk buildings.  A new regulator will be at the heart of a new regime and will be established as part of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The plan is that the HSE will quickly begin to establish the new regulator in shadow form immediately, ahead of it being fully established, following legislation, with the intention of raising building safety and performance standards, including overseeing a new, more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings.

Dame Judith Hackitt will chair a Board to oversee the transition.

Read more here.

New research marking the start of Big Energy Saving Week 2020 (20-26 January) has revealed a significant gap in consumer understanding about managing their household energy use and the simple steps people can take to reduce their carbon footprint.

The survey revealed that 36% of British households have made no changes to their energy usage in recent years and 73% were surprised to hear that British homes are responsible for 25% of UK carbon emissions.

Analysis by the Energy Saving Trust found that 4 simple changes could help towards the UK target of net zero emissions by 2050:

  • Turning your thermostat down by 1 degree would cut 3.3 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year
  • Changing all your lightbulbs to LEDs would save 430 thousand tonnes of carbon emissions every year
  • Turning appliances off rather than keeping them on standby would  curb the release of 1.3 million tonnes of carbon emissions
  • Only using the right amount of water in your kettle would stop 2 million tonnes of carbon emissions being released annually.

You can read more here.

The Welsh Assembly has introduced a ban on the use of combustible cladding. The ban, which came into effect on the 13th January 2020, will apply to all new buildings, and to existing buildings being refurbished and will cover blocks of flats, care homes and hospitals over 18m high.

A BBC post quoted Housing Minister Julie James: "The fire at Grenfell Tower in London was a tragedy that will live long in the memories of so many of us in this country. 

Our homes should be 'the' safest of places. The action I have taken today will help ensure we make people safer in their homes, and leaves no room for doubt as to what is suitable for use on external walls of relevant buildings 18m or more in height."

More detailed information can be found at the National Assembly for Wales website here. 

Further to our news item ‘Valuation of high-rise properties’, we can now bring you an update relating to a ‘Certificate for valuations’ which is about to be finalised and will hopefully solve the problem for the thousands of people that have been unable to sell or re-mortgage their flats since the introduction of Advice Note 14 at the end of December 2018. This Certificate will enable a valuation and therefore means that a mortgage application can go ahead. The Certificate was initiated by Fiona Haggett, Head of Valuations at Barclays, who involved fire engineers, RICS, UK Finance and the Building Societies Association to bring an industry wide solution to the problem. Once finalised this should free the bottle neck in the marketing of flats and alleviate some of the stress it has caused many flat owners. To find out more about this story, click here.

A recent press release from the Government announced new funding will supply £3 million to Jobcentres in order to help support homeless people. This money will see staff from the Jobcentres assisting people living on the streets, on the streets, or in charity run day centres where people without homes may be using the services. Building on the Governments Homelessness Reduction Act, this work could further support verifying identification to set up claims for benefits, assisting with opening bank accounts, pausing requirements to look for work while finding stable housing, making regular payments to help pay for housing and signposting to drug, alcohol and other support services.

Minister for Homelessness, Luke Hall said:
 “As Minister for Homelessness, it’s my priority to ensure that we reduce all forms of homelessness and rough sleeping.

 “And while our interventions are working there is still more to do. Today’s announcement will mean homeless people get the support they need to get back on their feet and find new work.”

Read the full press release here.

The Scottish Government have released a consultation seeking views on proposals to set a standard for energy efficiency in owner occupied homes. Scotland has set in law a target for reaching net-zero emissions by 2045, with 75% reductions by 2030. In 2017 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland were from the residential sector. The 2018 Route Map included the ambitious target of all properties achieving EPC band C by 2040 at the latest.

Targets for the Social Rented Sector (SRS) already exist, with 85% meeting the EESSH 2020 target and a new target of band B by December 2032. For the Private Rental Sector (PRS), all tenancies must meet minimum energy efficiency standards of EPC band D by march 2025 and band C by 2030. As most homes in Scotland are owner occupied (62%) and only 32% are EPC band C or above, the consultation proposes introducing an Energy Efficiency Standard for these homes. The consultation proposes introducing a regulatory requirement in 2024 to meet band C at point of sale or major renovations.

You can read the full consultation here.

Storm Brendan has certainly left a mark on the country this week. In Slough, Berkshire, a large section of roof was blown off a block of flats and scaffolding from a 10-storey block in Orpington, London, collapsed on Tuesday night due to the high winds. Elsewhere, brick walls have collapsed, trees have blocked roads and rising rivers have led to flood warnings.

The RICS provide some interesting guidance documents on flooding and who is responsible for the cost of repairs due to fallen trees (see here)

A story from the BBC shows images of the havoc caused by the storm here. 
Image: BBC via @SAUDI89

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick is pushing for landlords to allow responsible tenants to keep well behaved pets in their homes. He will be removing restrictions in the government’s model tenancy contracts for renters, which can be used as the basis of lease agreements and a revised agreement will be published this year. 

The press release describes how currently only 7% of landlords advertise homes as being suitable for pets and with more people renting this should hopefully increase the options available for those who have pets. The government highlight that properties of landlords should be protected from damage caused by pets but there should be a balance so that responsible pet owners are not penalised. Complete bans should only be applicable where there is good reason, such as in smaller properties or flats where having a pet would be impractical.

Read the press release here.

With first-time buyers being the vital element that keeps the mortgage market alive, lenders participated in fierce competition to attract new customers to their fixed rate products throughout 2019. This resulted in the fixed rate sector seeing the largest interest rate cuts last year. The biggest drop was associated with the 10-year fixed deals which would have helped to sustain the first-time buyer market. These longer fixed terms offer some security for those stepping onto the housing ladder and the challenge will be finding out at the end of the term whether they’ll be able to shop around when the time comes to re-mortgage. See the Moneyfacts research and mortgage analysis here.

It was another challenging year in 2019 amidst uncertainty in the property market and we are all left wondering whether a definitive leaving date for leaving the EU will provide any level of clarity for the year ahead. Propertymark spoke to their estate agent members to get their thoughts on the housing market in 2020 and it appears they remain undecided on the matter. Whilst almost a third of agents thought house prices would drop,  just over half expect them to stay the same. When asked about expectations for housing demand, 32% believe it will decrease and 28% expect it to increase. So perhaps it is still a little too early to see where the market will go this year. Read more about this story and see what Mark Hayward, NAEA Propertymark Chief Executive has to say on the matter here.

Anyone who has looked at the price trends and house price indices published over time will know that London continues to be the most expensive city in Britain to buy a house. Indeed, areas just outside the capital also come with their own lofty price tag. According to Zoopla, the average house price in London stands at £657,154 as of December 2019. With average deposits ranging from 5% to 20% it can render both the deposit and the remaining mortgage payments unaffordable for most people. It was therefore interesting to find that technology is being used to scour areas on the outskirts of London, using data mapping and analysis of 500 datasets to identify land and then work with developers to build affordable homes. The data used includes commuting patterns, migration trends and house prices - one such company is District 34. To find out what Jenny Sargeant, Partner at Fladgate LLP had to say on the subject click here.

When the government took steps to prevent the wholesale collapse of banks like Northern Rock or Bradford & Bingley, their customers were caught up in the austere measures put in place to bring the books back into the black. Many of us will recall the news images of the queues outside the banks as information started trickling through to customers that their bank was about to go belly up. After nationalisation, customers complained about the severe measures being taken to recover mortgage arrears and others believed they were subject to unfair mortgage rates. One customer claims to have overpaid by around £32,000 as he was forced to pay standard variable rates when other banks were offering much more competitive deals. With the situation causing financial hardship and distress to many customers and some having lost their homes to repossession action, the UK Mortgage Prisoner Action Group is bringing legal action against the banks to claim back the extra interest. See the full story here and read more about the nationalisation of the banks here.

The latest updates to the RICS Valuation – Global Standards (Red Book Global) come into force on 31st January 2020. The main reason for issuing the update is to take account of the changes to the International Valuation Standards (IVS) - which the Red Book Global adopts and applies. However, the opportunity has been taken to make some other changes and refinements to the Red Book Global in the light of experience and developments since the current edition was issued in June 2017.

The IVS-related changes include:

  • Title: The year of publication is no longer included in the title of the standards. Instead, the 'effective date' (the date at which the standards come into effect) will be clearly set out on the cover.
  • Effective date: The latest IVS becomes effective from January 2020. However, the IVSC encourages early adoption from the date of publication. Valuers will need to make clear which edition of the IVS they are using when preparing a valuation report.
  • New chapter: The updated IVS includes a new chapter, 'IVS 220 Non-Financial Liabilities' as part of the intangible asset standards.
  • Technical revisions: Updates also include the technical revisions consulted on throughout 2018 and 2019.
  • Glossary: The IVS glossary has been updated to include new terms and to provide additional clarifications. These changes also reflect the IVSC's ongoing efforts to align valuation standards, terminology and definitions.
  • Notable updates: Other key updates have been introduced in relation to 'development property' (IVS 410), 'limitations' (IVS 102), and 'valuation models' (IVS 105).

 In addition to the above, the following RICS-initiated changes to the Red Book Global have also been made:

Part 3 Professional standards: 

  • PS 1 Paragraph 1.3: the text has been expanded to clarify that "written" encompasses all forms of communication other than purely oral.
  • PS 2 Section 1 Paragraph 1.5: a new second sentence has been inserted, tying this in with Section 3 that follows and adopting the widely used phrase "professional scepticism" as an aspect of objectivity which is growing in importance in relation to information and data.   

 Part 4 Valuation technical and performance standards:

  • VPS 3 Section 2.2 (l): A new paragraph 3 has been added under Implementation stressing the need to signal the relevance and significance of sustainability and environmental matters wherever appropriate.
  • VPS 3 Section 2.2 (o):  The wording of paragraph 4 has been strengthened to ensure that where material uncertainty applies, it is explicitly signalled

 Part 5 Valuation: 

  • VPGA 1: New material on the valuer's role in preparing financial statements has been added in Section 5.  This draws attention to a number of mandatory requirements in earlier parts of the Red Book Global and may serve as a useful reminder or checklist.     
  • VPGA 7: Some additions to, and strengthening of, the guidance in relation to arts and antiques has been inserted, with further emphasis on the issue of provenance.
  • VPGA 8: Some additions to, and strengthening of, the text in relation to environmental matters including sustainability.

 The valuation of assets, both tangible and intangible, plays a crucial role in global financial and real estate markets, as well as the global economy. The changes to IVS and the Red Book reflect the growing importance of combining professional, technical and performance standards to deliver high quality valuation advice.  

Compliance with RICS Red Book Global is mandatory for all RICS members, providing confidence to clients, governments, regulatory bodies, and the public that RICS professionals deliver consistent, independent, and transparent valuations.

You can find the latest standards here.