We’ve reported on stories in the past where the information provided on the sellers questionnaire has resulted in a dispute between parties and yet again an ugly situation has arisen over claims that the sellers provided misleading or false information. After a failed property transaction in 2017, the potential buyers are currently fighting the case through the Central London County Court to obtain the return of their non-refundable deposit of £108,000 plus other costs as they were not told about the Little Chef and motel development planned nearby, claiming it would have adversely impacted the price and saleability of the property in future. The sellers on the other hand believe it would have no impact as it could not be seen from the property. It’s hoped the final judgment in this case will clear up any uncertainty around the completion of the sellers questionnaire, either way, this is one to watch. You can read more about this story here.
Most rentcharges have their origins in the late 19th and early 20th Century, where a developer would buy the freehold land for less than market value and make up the deficit by granting the seller a rentcharge. The developer could then pass on the liability to pay the charge onto the new homeowners. The creation of these types of rentcharges was abolished under the Rentcharges Act 1977, although those still in existence will continue until 2037. A typical rentcharge is only a few pounds per year, but not paying this on time gives the owner of the rentcharges the options of a right of entry onto the land to hold the land and take income from it until the arrears have been discharged; or to grant a lease of the land charged on trust to raise arrears. These are enforceable if the payment is 40 days overdue and does not have to be demanded.
This case in Todays Conveyancer relays a landmark case in 2016 where non-payment of the rentcharges led to leases being granted on the land.
Estate rentcharges are similar, although these are a mechanism to pay for and maintain communal areas (roads, car parks, parks) in a new development. The creation of new Estate Rentcharges is an exception permitted by the Rentcharges Act 1977 and will remain enforceable after 2037. This story from the BBC explains how a family are struggling to sell their freehold house which is subject to an Estate rentcharge as a potential buyer was unable to secure a mortgage on the property. A number of developers are now moving away from Estate Rentcharges and creating a ‘contract based’ estate service charge regime which is not a rentcharge and therefore does not risk the enforcement measures detailed above.
- The insurance market
- When is a complaint a notice of claim?
- Know who your client really is
- Cast iron houses
- Carbon monoxide
- SAP 10 - Changes to lighting
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:
The Insurance Market
In this article, Natalie Deacon from Howden Group explains the factors causing insurers to leave the PII sector and gives advice on how best to approach your renewal to get the best possible terms.
Read more here.
When is a complaint a notice of claim?
Kim Allcott from Allcott Associates shares a story about facing a 6-figure claim without an insurer willing to provide cover. It is hoped that by sharing this cautionary tale, others will not experience the same predicament.
Read more here.
Know who your client really is
This case study warns surveyors to know who your client really is after a surveyor received a claim by a different person to who commissioned the survey originally and includes points to consider if you are carrying out a service to someone known to you.
Read more here.
Cast Iron Houses
Ian Bullock, Managing Director of Carpenter Surveyors, takes a closer look at the cast iron house type built in the mid to late 20s following World War 1 and includes considerations for the surveyor reporting on this type of building in the 21st century.
Read more here.
Following Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week in November, this article looks at the dangers of carbon monoxide, the appliances that could pose a risk and the relevant building regulations.
Read more here.
SAP 10 - Changes to lighting
Following our previous two articles looking at changes to SAP 10, this article looks at the lighting changes to SAP 10 in comparison to SAP 2012.
Do you know which of these is the most energy efficient?
3. Halogen low voltage
5. Linear fluorescent
According to research carried out by Hamptons International, incomes have grown faster than inflation, the average salary was £542 per week in Britain in July this year, although once you deduct the effect of inflation, the average wage is down £23 less per week than 11 years ago. House prices have risen 115% since the 1970’s and in the last 10 years, areas such as Woking, Guildford and Tunbridge Wells that used to be more expensive than London are now cheaper and Cambridge, which used to be cheaper than the capital is now more expensive. Year to date property transactions are down 3.6% on the previous year. The number of cash house purchases has fallen to the lowest levels on record at 28% compared with 36% 10 years ago. This could be a sign of people tending to stay put and improve, rather than downsize and a lack of appetite by investors. The percentage of purchases by landlords has dropped to 12% year to date, compared with 16% in 2016. This year saw the lowest average number of days recorded to let a property in Britain dropping to less than 20 days compared with over 23 days last year. For the full report click here.
The deadline of 1st January 2020 is looming ever closer for homeowners to ensure their septic tanks or sewage treatment plant is compliant with the new regulations set down in the ‘general binding rules: small sewage discharge to surface water’. Having come into force on 1st January 2015, owners with existing systems were given a period of grace to complete the changes, but once the deadline is reached, any system discharging to a water course must have been updated or changed. Surveyors and valuers should have been paying attention to these requirements for some time now and no doubt a non-compliant system could quite likely affect value and a buyers decision to purchase. Find the governments general binding rules here. You may also find our article on septic tanks that discharge to surface water useful, which you can read here.
Legal & General (L&G), one of the top global asset managers and provider of life assurance in the UK is collaborating with housing associations to build 3,000 affordable homes a year by 2022 according to a recent report in The Guardian. The affordable housing business arm was set up in April 2018 and now has 3,500 properties set to be built across the UK, of which approximately half will be shared ownership and the rest affordable or social rent. This should help to improve the continuing slide experienced in rental homes in the UK to the point where it’s now thought we need at least 3 million new social homes within the coming 20 years. You can find out more about L&G’s involvement here.
It’s that time of year again when everyone cranks the heating up to get through the grey days and nights that draw in so quickly. You can also rely on the fact that if it’s going to go wrong, it’ll be on the coldest day of the year with snow and ice having snarled up traffic, and on the same day everyone else’s boiler breaks so you can’t get an engineer out to you for the next few days. If that sounds familiar to anyone, we can sympathise. Some of these incidents will require replacement boilers and it’s interesting to hear what the heating engineers have to say about the products on the market. Which? Have completed some research to get opinions from unbiased engineers about which boilers they rate, having countered any association they may have with a particular brand due to incentives. It was interesting to find out that those brands rated most reliable by the engineers had a 17% chance of developing faults within the first 6 years of installation, whereas those rated less reliable were 48% likely to experience faults. This survey included information about accessibility of spare parts and ease of repair and if you’d like to read the full story from Which? Click here.
Wales is experiencing a stronger growth in house prices compared to the rest of the UK, according to the Nationwide House price index for Q3 2019. House prices were up by almost 3% annually compared with 0.2% in the rest of the UK. Cardiff was proving to buck that trend even further by experiencing prices 21% above it’s previous high in the Jan-Aug period. Help-to-buy accounted for 25% of new homes in 2018 but dropped slightly this year. Transaction numbers are stable and remain higher than the average across the UK. Read more on the Welsh Housing Update from Savills here.
The garage is king according to UK house hunters using Zoopla’s website to find a new home. By looking at national variations, Zoopla found that the top search was 'garage', with the exception of London and Scotland whose top searches were for a garden, although parking or a garage came within the top 4. Freehold came quite high on the list indicating that all the adverse publicity around leasehold may have had some impact. The research also shows that the humble bungalow appears to be making a bit of a comeback, being the fourth most searched term - perhaps a correlation to the UK's ageing population? Read more about the research here.
The slow down in the housing market has been widely reported and even those not connected to the property sector are probably aware of this. However, what has come to light is that it seems to have added a small boost to first-time buyers getting on the housing ladder. Coupled with their access to government schemes to assist affordability for first time buyers, this slow down has meant that in some areas property prices are more within their reach. According to Moneyfacts.co.uk, in 2015 there were 7,000 more residential mortgages for homeowner movers than there were for first time buyers. Yet in September 2019, there were 50 more first time buyer mortgages than there were for home movers. Whilst homeowners are tending to stay put at the moment, more of them are re-mortgaging and where they increase their borrowing, it works out at an average of an additional £50,000 indicating they are looking to improve or extend their existing property instead of moving house. Read more here.
An investigation by Unearthed, which is funded by Greenpeace, found that almost 10,000 new homes could be built in areas which are at high-risk of flooding. Some of these include new-builds in the South Yorkshire areas of Sheffield and Doncaster, which have been severely affected by recent floods. The group also found that thousands of homes have been planned for construction in medium-risk areas, defined as areas with between a one in 30 and a one in 100 chance of flooding in any given year.
It explains that when a developer plans to build on a floodplain, the local authority sends the application to the Environment Agency who then sends a note back to the council refusing or accepting the application with conditions. However, councils aren't required to follow the recommendations or do they need to report back to the Environment Agency. You can read more here.
Photo credit: Daily Mail
According to recent figures released by UK Finance, their members have reported a 19% increase in residential repossessions in Q3 of 2019, compared to the same period the previous year. This is still much lower than the numbers seen in 2009 and 2014 and represents 0.79% of all residential mortgages. Buy-to-Let repossessions were up by 40% in the same timeframe and it’s thought that this recent peak may be down to lenders working through their backlogs which were delayed due to compliance with the most recent regulatory requirements and taking possession as a last resort. To see this report and more information on mortgage trends over this time period click here.
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally, formed from radium decaying in rock and soil. It mainly enters the home via a process known as ‘advection’ where the gas moves from the ground to the lowest point of pressure inside the building. So the house is actually sucking the gas in. It also makes its way in through cavity walls, floor and wall cracks, gaps in the floor and around pipes. Research carried out by Public Health England and UCL finds that older homes with retrofitted insulation are likely to suffer increased levels of radon compared to those with no fabric energy upgrades. For example, the research found that double glazed windows had the largest association with indoor radon levels at 67%, compared to a property without the measure. It also found that loft insulation can increase levels by 47% and wall insulation by 32%. You can read the research paper here. The UK Radon Association reports that more than 2000 people die per year in the UK from lung cancer with direct links to radon exposure. You’ll find their useful guide here.
With Sava HQ in Milton Keynes, we were pleased to see Milton Keynes in the top 10 of the PwC Good growth for Cities index. The Index measures UK cities against 10 indicators including income levels, jobs and work/life balance. Oxford and Reading top the table as they did last year, with Bristol nudging ahead of Milton Keynes to take the fourth spot. The drop in Milton Keynes rankings due to housing becoming too expensive and coming below average on work-life balance. Where does your city sit in the rankings?
You can read the full report here.
This article by Jaime Burgess at Streathers Solicitors LLP answers the question “ I have 64 years left on the lease of my flat and have recently been advised to have a lease extension. Why do I need to do this and what impact does it have on my property and its value? Also, is it an expensive process?”. He explains the impact of not extending the lease before it dips below 80 years and the “marriage value”. He highlights that Stamp Duty Land Tax (SLDT) would be payable on a lease extension premium if it is for a second property and over £40,000.
You can read more here.
A report by Navigant commissioned by the Energy Networks Association looking at the ‘Pathway to Net Zero’ concludes not. With 85% of households in the UK using a gas boiler system to heat their homes, a transition to all electrically heated homes could cost £500bn, according to the CCC (Climate Change Committee). The ENA report looks at transforming the gas network and introducing the volume of green gases such as biomethane and hydrogen. By following this pathway, using more low carbon renewable gases together with further electrification, the approach could save £13bn a year compared to a pathway relying on electricity alone.
You can read the full report here.
This weekend the Conservatives published their 2019 manifesto. They pledge to reach carbon zero by 2050 and set up a Blue Planet Fund of £500 million to protect our oceans. They plan to invest £800 million in carbon capture technology and £500 million helping energy-intensive industries move to low-carbon techniques.
In housing, the manifesto states they will continue their progress to build 300,000 homes per year by the mid-2020s and extend the Help to Buy Scheme to 2023. For the rental market there will be a lifetime deposit scheme and abolition of no-fault evictions. Right-to-Buy will be maintained and more homes will be available for local people by offering discounts of up to a third.
You can read the full manifesto here
The month of November generally marks a drop in the number of property sales. Coupled with the ongoing fall out from Brexit and an upcoming general election, the market has seen new sellers nosedive by almost 15% compared to the same time last year. This is the largest drop since August 2009 according to the Rightmove House Price Index. Larger properties are the least affected with just 1.4% less sales than this time last year. Even though fewer properties are coming to market, with the average fall in price of just under £4,000 there could still be some bargains to be had. Read more here.
Labour have published their manifesto, and on the housing front, they have committed to 150,000 new council and social rent homes a year within 5 years. Following the Grenfell tragedy they propose to introduce a £1 billion Fire Safety Fund to fit sprinklers and fire safety measures in all high rise council and housing association blocks. There would be an end to Right-To-Buy and a tax on homes empty for over a year.
Labour promise to invest £250 billion into a Green Transformation fund, dedicated to renewable and low carbon energy, with an increase in wind turbines and solar energy. They also pledge to upgrade Uk homes to the highest energy efficiency standards on the way to zero carbon, although stopping short of promising this by 2030.
You can read the full manifesto here.
GMB London (the General, Municipal, Boilermakers trade union) has called for local authorities in London to be given powers to use vacant properties left empty for prolonged periods to be used to house people on ‘unacceptably high’ housing waiting lists. A study by GMB London showed that in 2018 London had 22,481 vacant properties and 232,409 households on local authority waiting lists. Although the only solution to the housing crisis is to increase the supply of council housing, utilising these empty properties is not something that should be discounted.
Vancouver (Canada) introduced an empty homes tax in 2017 to relieve pressure on their rental housing market.
Warren Kenny, GMB Regional Secretary said “Property owners knowing that councils had such powers would be a big incentive for these owners to keep properties occupied. It would also reduce the incentive for overseas investors investing in buy to leave empty to do so.”
Read the full story and statistics here.
Did you know that a quarter of us live with a neighbour either side? From classic Georgian buildings to Postmodern masterpieces, the terraced house has helped shape our country and heritage. This post from Historic England looks at the timeline of terraced housing in England and includes some excellent examples. What’s your favourite terrace period? Read the article here.
The Liberal Democrat manifesto pledges to build at least 100,000 homes for Social Rent each year and ensure total housebuilding increases to 300,000 per year. The also propose to link the Stamp Duty to the energy rating of a property and to introduce a Stamp Duty surcharge on overseas residents purchasing second homes. Properties bought as second homes would also to be subject to allowing local authorities to increase council tax by up to 500%.
For the rental market the Lib Dems plan to introduce a Help to Rent scheme providing Government backed deposits for first-time renters under 30 and to promote longer tenancies of 3 years or more with an inflation-linked annual rent increase.
On climate change and renewables they plan to get the UK to zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and set up a new Department for Climate Change and Natural Resources. All new homes will be built to a zero carbon standard by 2021. They propose an increase in the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) and removal of the cost cap.
You can read the full manifesto here.
Anyone selling their property will be asked to fill out a SPIF (Seller Property Information Form) which amongst other things asks about flooding at the property. Sellers may be wary that declaring a previous flood may impact the saleability of their property, but it is not in their interest to mislead the purchaser. Indeed it resulted in legal proceedings against one seller who hadn’t considered all the photos they had uploaded to a social media site when their home flooded. When the new owners found them, they had evidence the seller was aware of the problem. See the story covered by the Telegraph in 2017 here.
With 147 warnings posted across Britain by the Environment Agency, the disruption to travel, damage to homes, upset for residents and danger to life cannot be underestimated. After the waters have receded, the clean up begins and discussions start about how to avoid it in future and the impact on contents and buildings insurance.
The Environment Agency has published a flood and coastal risk plan to cover the next 50 years believing around £1 billion will need to be invested every year until 2065. You can read more about this here.
For those who may be struggling to obtain insurance, a joint initiative between the government and insurers called ‘Flood Re’ focuses on affordable flood insurance and you can find more about this scheme which plans to run until 2039 here. It should be noted, however, that the scheme does not cover businesses in the same way, as explained in this story.
The RICS published the new ‘Home Survey Standard’ on the 18th November. Members offering condition based home surveys will have to follow the mandatory requirements set out in the new standard but have until 1st June 2020 to do so.
The statement aims to significantly increase consistency, transparency and competency across all Residential Surveying in the UK and will stand alone as the single standard for home surveys.
All requirements are divided into 3 main areas of home survey services: setting up the service, carrying out the service and the report.
These are significant changes and the RICS is offering a series of seminars to explain the changes and help members prepare.
Read the new standard here.
The Green Party have today published their manifesto in the lead up to the General Election, dubbed by some as the ‘Climate Election’.
They are committed to a net zero UK by 2030, introducing a ‘renters rights bill’ and building 100,000 new zero carbon homes for social rent each year. The also propose to implement a Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) escalator to raise the current minimum of an E to an A by 2030.
You can read the full manifesto here
For the first time in the last 2 years, mortgages are being offered at around 1% or lower according to an article by ‘MORTGAGE STRATEGY’. Could this help in some areas experiencing a slow-down in the market? Only time will tell. Without knowing what will happen with the Bank base rate in the future, or how long lenders can sustain these low rates, some may snap up a good fixed rate offer while it lasts. You can find the full article here.
The recent fire at the student accommodation in Bolton has again raised fears over the use of cladding. Although ‘The Cube’ does not have the same ACM cladding that was on Grenfell Tower, it does have a form of cladding that is of concern and that will have to be addressed to give families peace of mind. Salford mayor Paul Dennett said he would be asking the government for more money to remove flammable cladding, adding there was "an industrial crisis" around the issue. Roy Wilsher, chief of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said the fire "once again highlights how changes to building regulations need to be moved on at a much quicker pace".
As the days get shorter and colder we thought this story might brighten your day. Scientists in California have developed a material that can help solar panels capture even more solar energy. Similar to the way a sunflower follows the sun, the material can bend towards light and self-regulate to re-adjust and always be in the right place. As the light hits the polymer it absorbs the light and converts it to heat, this causes the material to shrink and bend towards the light. As the stem bends it causes a shadow over the underside shading the spot and preventing further bending.
Read more about SunBOTs here.
With Election fever upon us and Parties publishing their manifestos, it is interesting to read the National Audit Office (NAO) report on the Starter Homes policy announced in the run up to the 2015 General Election.
Following various articles published by the media which criticised the progress of the government’s ‘Starter Homes’ Programme, the National Audit Office (NAO) undertook an investigation to establish the status of the Starter Homes policy and legislation, and the impact of the Department’s (The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local government) investment in Starter Homes.
The government committed to the Starter Homes Programme in 2015, which promised a minimum discount of 20% on 200,000 new homes worth up to £250,000 (£450,000 in London) for first-time buyers aged between 23 and 40. It would be financed by three funds; Starter Homes 2015 funding, the Starter Homes Local Authority Funding Programme (LAF), and the Starter Homes Land Fund (SHLF). The report looks in detail at how these funds have been spent and how many 'affordable' properties they are likely to produce.
The report published by NAO found that there have been no Starter Homes built to date and that the original funding has been used for buying and preparing brownfield sites for housing more generally, although not all for ‘affordable housing’. The NAO report that "at present, no new homes can be built or sold as Starter Homes as they cannot exist until the regulations are approved." Whilst some developers do market discounted homes as ‘Starter Homes’ and count them towards their contribution to affordable housing, they do not necessarily conform to all the requirements of Starter Homes. The Department expected the regulations to be introduced in 2019, but they have yet to lay them in Parliament.
It’s apparent from government publications that policy has shifted and rather than building 200,000 Starter homes, the target now is to help 200,000 households into home ownership through a range of government-backed schemes instead.
To read the full report, click here.
It makes sense that most markets look to improve their services and products using technology, and conveyancing is no exception. Proposed changes to the current Instant Conveyancing product by ‘Teal Legal’ will see the launch of the Home Owners Passport (HOP) which is intended to improve the customer experience via its consumer app. The HOP app will involve digital transfer of HM land Registry data and also provide a ranking table to identify when everything is in place for the sale to move forward. Intended also to allow estate agents to identify ‘pre-approved’ properties for sale, it can give an idea of how long the conveyancing process may take. Testing will start on the new version shortly and there is an open call for conveyencers who are interested in working with Teal legal on the project. You can read more here.
A recent report from Rightmove shows that landlords are planning to reduce their property portfolios in spite of record asking rents. You may recall there was a change in Stamp Duty charges from 1st April 2016, and anyone purchasing an additional residential property are now required to pay an additional 3% surcharge on existing stamp duty rates. To get an idea of the additional costs, a £300,000 purchase price would equate to an additional £9,000 on top of the regular £5,000 Stamp Duty. New research from Rightmove suggests that this change, along with more recent changes to reduction in tax reliefs and the ban on tenant fees, are not only discouraging landlords to expand their portfolios, but also, making 1 in 10 landlords want to sell all of their rental properties. You can read the full report here.
The average time to sell a property in the UK has increased to more than 12 weeks from an average of just 8 weeks in 2016, according to Zoopla’s Cities House Price Index. It very much depends on where you are in the country, if you live in London you could be looking at more than 14 weeks to sell and in the north it could be as little as 8-9 weeks. The final accepted offer can be around 4% below the marketed price, the hardest hit area once again being inner London homes where homes are selling on average around £50,000 below asking price. And, why is this happening? Would it surprise you that the answer is Brexit? Click here to read more on this story.
Indeed student accommodation has seen a record growth in the UK of 5.3% and with around a further 120,000 beds in the pipeline, it is anticipated that Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) will, for the first time ever, exceed university accommodation. Retirement living has been expanding rapidly and whilst places in cares homes are filling up quickly, many opt for independent living. Due to the ever growing ageing population, homes specifically for the over 65’s is likely to continue to rise. Fore more detail on this story which also covers trends in affordable housing, shared ownership and HMO’s click here.
Could these Dutch developments be an example of the way developers could approach tricky urban sites in the future? They demonstrate an economical way to deal with contaminated land from old industrial use and an approach to housing where land is at a premium. By repurposing and using clever solutions we can create more sustainable living and working spaces that could be fit for the future.
As part of the governments ambitious plans to make HMLR land registry the world’s best for simplicity and speed, the LLC (Local Land Charges) Register was launched in July 2018 to hold digitised copies of local land charges to reduce costs and provide better customer service. Requiring the migration of around 26 million charges, this was a significant undertaking on the part of local authorities. Whilst some local authorities have completed the task, the overall process is taking longer than anticipated and at its current pace, will take 18 years to migrate all local authorities. The Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) believes the digital system has yet to show any marked change in conducting searches and therefore migration must happen at a faster rate than it currently is. Perhaps inaccuracies in the existing records isn’t helping the pace, with 61% of almost 300,000 charges requiring amendments. Read more about this story and the press release from (CoPSO) here.
There has been record breaking news in the energy sector recently. The third quarter of 2019 saw electricity generated from UK windfarms, solar panels, biomass and hydro plants rise to 40% of the total electricity used across the UK. This amount was 1% higher than the 39% that fossil fuels made up, making it the first time renewable energy has overpowered the combined output from coal, oil and gas power stations for electricity generation. The remainder of the total was mainly generated by nuclear energy at 19%. Carbon Brief describe it as ‘another symbolic milestone in the stunning transformation of the UK’s electricity system over the past decade.’
Austin Baggett, Managing Director at Sava, says:
“This is a staggering achievement, that gives optimism for the future. Back in the early 90s, the CO₂ factor for electricity was 0.832kg of CO₂ per kWh. It’s now something like 0.23kg per kWh due to the move away from coal and of course the massive input from renewables which is a massive reduction. With the right Government incentives and the best engineering, it can be done. That said, it did take 30 years, and we now need to drastically speed up.””
It's interesting to see the graph showing renewables and fossil fuels just begin to cross over and it visually emphasises the steady reduction in fossil fuels over recent years and the slightly more gradual increase in renewable electricity.
Source: Carbon Brief
Yesterday was World Statistics Day and if you know us, you know we love a statistic, or two. Statistics help us to understand data and view it in a way that can be easily understood, helping to emphasise the scale of a problem, as well as appreciate improvements made. To recognise World Statistics Day, we’ve pulled together a few statistics that may be of interest.
According to Land Registry data, house prices have grown by 213% in the last 20 years. In January 1999, the average house price was £72,903 and in January 2019, the average house price was £228,475. That’s an increase of £155,572!
Houses prices have soared and sadly, homelessness has too, and by quite a lot in recent times. According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government, homeless households in England are up 11.2% from 29,430 in quarter four 2018 to 32,740 in quarter one, 2019.
Whilst the number of homeless households is increasing, the birth rate in England and Wales is decreasing. It’s down 3.2% on 2017 and nearly 10% on 2012! 
Did you know that British workers spend 492 days of their lives travelling to work and back, costing £37,399 over a lifetime?
Can you just imagine the emissions from all that driving? Interestingly, the Centre for Sustainable Energy have found that on average, the richest 10% of households emit three times as much carbon than the poorest 10%.
Since the national minimum wage was introduced in 1999 (starting out at £3.60 for workers 22 and over), by 2019, it has increased by £4.61 to £8.21. That’s a 128% increase! The National Minimum Wage has grown faster than prices, average wages and GDP per head. According to data from the Low Pay Commission, if it had risen in line with average weekly earnings, it would only have reached £6.54.
Did you know that around a third of sales in England and Wales fall through prior to exchange of contracts every year? Following these findings from their research, the Government is looking at adding improvements to the existing transaction process by increasing the level of commitment much earlier. One improvement is known as a 'reservation agreement', which will be in place after an offer has been accepted and is intended to stop gazumping and gazundering, boost confidence in the buying process and reduce the number of transactions that fall through each year. The government response to the research can be found here.
Read more about the research findings and some thoughts from other property professional here.
Today (Thursday 17th October), the Prime Minister announced that he will be chairing a new Cabinet Committee on Climate Change. As we know, we have committed to becoming net-zero by 2050 and the aim is to drive further action across government to protect our environment, reduce emissions and improve our air quality, helping us to achieve our commitment. It will be the first government committee of its kind, which can only be a positive step in the right direction. Boris Johnson said:
"I want us to become the cleanest, greenest society on earth, and inspire countries around the world to follow our lead so that our children can breathe clean air and benefit from the wonderful flora and fauna of this earth. We know that people across the UK are passionate about protecting our planet, and we need to continue building on the excellent progress this government has made in tackling climate change and improving our environment.
"That’s why I’m announcing today that I will personally chair a new cross-government Committee on Climate Change, bringing together my ministers to galvanise action to tackle the great environmental challenges we face."
Read the press release here.
Looking at the price gap between leasehold and freehold property from 2011 – 2018, HM Land Registry data analysis conducted by Benham and Reeves estate agents reveals it has reached its highest point during this period. With the data showing the gap started widening again in 2015, it demonstrates a lack of trust which is likely fuelled by all the stories relating to onerous leasehold charges like those that doubled every 10 years for example. It would seem therefore, that whilst the UK has seen a fairly steady rising trend in house prices over the last 5 years (see here), people are still willing to pay the higher price for freehold for peace of mind. You can read more about this story here.
You can also get an update on the leasehold scandal in an article published in Which? here.
The BRE has developed a Product Standard to provide a route to certification for offsite/modular construction for use as residential buildings.
The Standard (Product Standard (BPS) 7014) sets out performance requirements in a number of technical areas. Some of the requirements are mandatory, such as for fire and structural performance, and are required to demonstrate regulatory compliance. Other performance assessments are voluntary. The requirements have been subject to detailed consultation with the Advanced Manufacturing of Homes Buildings and Infrastructure (AMHBI) project consortium and other industry stakeholders.
The Standard was recently open for consultation, and we apologise that we missed the boat on this for you, but the draft is still available and we will keep an eye out for the finalised standards when they are published. You can read the draft here.
The NHBC has reported a slight dip in new home numbers for July compared to July 2018. However, despite being down on last July, NHBC reports that this year’s total for the month is still above the average seen over recent years. NHBC Chief Executive Steve Wood said: "Despite the uncertainties and concerns around Brexit, the industry remains resilient and you can see that in these figures.”
For more information on the new build statistics, including a regional breakdown, go to the NHBC website here.
The Government has recently published the consultation we have been eagerly anticipating for Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations. The new standard, which once finalised is expected to be implemented fully by 2025 (with uplifts from 2020), will be called ‘The Future Homes Standard’. It’s expected that an average semi-detached home built to the Future Homes Standard (2025) will result in 75-80% less carbon dioxide emissions in comparison to one built to the 2013 Part L requirements. The proposed timeline will see the 2020 uplifts come into force in mid/late 2020.
The proposals for the 2020 energy efficiency standards:
Option 1: Future Homes Fabric - 20 % improvement on CO₂ emissions through increased fabric standards
Option 2: Fabric plus technology - 31% improvement on CO₂ emissions though low-carbon heating and renewables
The preferred option is ‘Option 2’, although this is would have a higher build cost.
Other key points included in the consultation are;
• Introducing primary energy as the main performance metric
• Introducing a new ‘Household affordability rating’, likely to use the SAP rating
• Removing the fabric energy efficiency metric (FEE)
• Removing fuel factors from the target emission rate and introducing technology factors for district heating TER
• Removing sample testing for air tightness and instead all homes will be tested
• Addressing the performance gap by proposing photographic evidence for new dwellings
• Tightening up of transitional arrangements, new standards would apply to all dwellings where the build had not started
• The new standards will use SAP 10 – you can read more about the changes to SAP in Sava EDGE here.
The consultation will be running until 10th January and you can read it and respond here.
In early September, MHCLG announced a new consultation on options to reduce the trigger height for sprinkler provision in new high-rise blocks of flats in England.
This consultation outlines the government’s intention to amend Approved Document B to reduce the trigger height at which sprinkler systems would be required in new high-rise blocks of flats and asks for views on the trigger height options. The consultation proposes that sprinklers should be standard on a wider range of buildings than at present.
At the same time, MHCLG is seeking views on better signs and evacuation alert systems in order to support the fire service.
The consultation is open until 28 November 2019 - read more here.
It's no secret that fraud exists in many different guises and that we need to keep our wits about us when clicking on links and giving out personal or bank account information but what has increased in recent months is email scams using seemingly legitimate and sophisticated information. This article from Today's Conveyancer explains how increased impersonation fraud targeting customers of law firms is concerning.
A UK Finance report indicates that the criminal underworld was reported to have defrauded UK account holders out of over £123 million last year by way of ‘email malicious redirection fraud’. This type of fraud is not about getting an email from a Prince in a far away land, asking you to send him money so he can transfer an even larger sum to you. Instead, this is where a fraudster, for example, sets up an email domain very similar to an existing company and then targets that company’s clients or customers with a different bank account for payment. The difference in the email address can be very subtle; email@example.com could be changed to firstname.lastname@example.org and if someone is expecting a bill from their solicitors, will they be looking that closely?
Find out more about this type of scam and how it is affecting firms here.
All surveyors need to be aware of how different types of soil behave in extreme wet or dry weather, how nearby trees affect the soil as well as the potential to cause damage in buildings and drainage systems. It is also important to know about other issues specific to your local area, for example; coastal erosion, flooding or a history of mining. More recently there was the story about the Whaley Bridge dam that suffered a partial collapse due to high levels of rainfall and resulted in an evacuation of residents whose lives and homes would be at risk if the dam completely failed. So, the surveyor must have a good knowledge and awareness of these types of local risks and report as appropriate to their customer. Climate change has been quite topical for some time now and whatever your opinion, it is at least being reported and discussed. You can read more about this in the article ‘Unforeseen Effects of Climate Change of Ground Stability’ here.
Here's some good news for the 2 million people who work zero-hour contracts. We're all aware of the difficulty in getting on the property ladder and how hard it is to save the large deposit required. Then, even if you do manage to scrape together a big enough deposit, there is the other lending criteria you need to meet in order to get a mortgage, such as credit checks, evidence of ability to pay and continuous employment. For the vast majority, a job for life doesn’t come along very often and that means many have numerous jobs in short periods of time which might hinder their chances of getting a mortgage. For those working on zero-hour contracts out of necessity or the need for flexibility it can be even harder. However, HSBC - one of the major lenders - has made some rule changes to open up opportunities for workers on zero-hour contracts to get a mortgage. Read more about these changes here.
RICS have announced that the Red Book Global Standards 2017 edition will be updated to reflect changes to the International Valuation Standard with an effective date of 31 January 2020. In addition, the RICS are proposing other changes to 'Part 3 Professional standards', 'Part 4 Valuation technical and performance standards' as well as 'Part 5 Valuation'.
The consultation runs until 11 October 2019. You can read more detail here and review and respond to the consultation here.
This article from Reading Chronicle provides some statistics on the research conducted by Environet and YouGov. It seems that despite all the negative media coverage on Japanese knotweed and the damage it can cause, it hasn’t deterred a third of those looking to buy in the UK. This is a promising statistic, as Japanese knotweed is thought to affect 5% of all properties in the UK. The article also describes how Simon Harper from Reading bought a property with a large infestation, agreed a lower purchase price and commissioned an excavation and a root barrier to prevent the plant encroaching from next door. What sort of discount are people after, you may ask? Well, out of those who would proceed at a reduced rate, 26% would expect a discount of 6 – 10 per cent on the price, while 15% would proceed with a discount of only 1 – 5 per cent. Click here to read more.