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.

Statistics recently published by the Bank of England in their ‘Mortgage Lenders and Administrators Statistics 2019 Q3’, draws information from around 340 administrators and regulated mortgage lenders. It shows that in the residential mortgage market, there is a total outstanding value of £1.486 billion which is nearly 4% higher than the previous year. Gross mortgage advances for Q3 was quite similar to the previous year at £73.3 billion. The proportion of mortgages exceeding 90% loan to value went up to 5.9%, its highest level since the same quarter in 2008. However, the value of mortgages with arrears dropped considerably to £13.7 billion and is 0.92% of all outstanding mortgages being at its lowest level since 2007. Figures show that interest rates have remained low with the vast majority of products at less than 2% above Bank Rate. Gross advances by multiple income remained mostly unchanged and in line with Q3 2018. The share of the mortgage market was split between buy-to-let advances at 12.3% and to owner occupiers at 87.7%. The Bank of England’s key findings can be downloaded here.

Data requested under the Freedom of Information by chartered accountants Price Bailey to the Insolvency Service shows that in the last three years there has been a 67% increase in housebuilder insolvencies. In the last year 343 housebuilders became insolvent, the year before it was 272 and in 2016/17 it was 220. This article describes how SME housebuilders have been affected by the stagnant house prices in London and the South East and increased material and labour costs since the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Paul Pittman, partner at Price Bailey said “The proportion of new houses built by small housebuilders is dwindling and yet there is huge opportunity to build homes on the small parcels of land which the big developers won’t touch. The housing market is highly regulated and capital intensive, making it very difficult for new entrants to gain a foothold.”

Read the story here.

With almost 7,000 homes purchased for £1 Million plus in the first half of 2019, there were over 300 more homes sold in this price bracket in the first half of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. In the North East the figure rose from 8 to 61, in Yorkshire and Humber there was a rise of almost 100 sales, the West Midlands saw an increase of around 90 and in the East Midlands sales rose from 40 to 133. Whilst in London the number of £1M plus property sales fell by 186, it still represented 51% of all million pound property sales. The types of property you can buy in this price range varies around the country and you can get more for your money in some places compared to others. For example, £1M could buy you a flat in the south Bank Tower, Central London, whereas in Birmingham it could buy you a 9 bedroom detached home. Nearly 25% of mortgage deals on the open market had a maximum loan amount of at least £1M. Here is the breakdown of £1M purchases around the country, courtesy of Which?

Louise Santaana, head of private banking at Lloyds Bank said: “While the market in London and the South East has cooled in terms of volume of sales, average prices for million-pound-plus homes in these areas have still gone up by 13% and 19% respectively, which suggests the sales drop could be linked to availability of properties. This may explain why buyers are looking outside of traditional investment areas.” 

Growth in the sale of £2M plus properties also rose this year. In H1 of 2018, Yorkshire and Humber saw 2 sales in this price range and this soared to 63 in 2019. In the North East numbers rose from 1 to 26 and East Midlands sales climbed from 2 to 52. You can find the press release from Lloyds and a copy of the full report here.

Happy New Year to you! How happy is it where you live? Over 22,000 people participated in a survey carried out for Rightmove’s annual Happy at Home Index. Answering questions about feeling safe, community spirit, friendliness of neighbours and what they thought of their local services, residents in Hexham, Northumberland voted it the happiest place to live in Great Britain. To find out more about the survey and perhaps find out how happy people are where you live, click here.

Sandbag, the non-profit climate change think tank, has published a report looking at the impact of burning biomass instead of coal in power stations. Quoting EASAC (European Academies’ Science Advisory Council): “It is of considerable concern that scientific analyses indicate that, far from reducing GHG emissions, replacing coal with biomass for electricity generation is likely to initially increase emissions of CO2 per kWh.

[..] Research has shown that the time needed to reabsorb the extra carbon released can be very long, so that current policies risk achieving the reverse of that intended—initially exacerbating rather than mitigating climate change.”

The reports key findings include the estimate that 36 million tonnes of wood pellets would be needed for current coal-biomass EU projects resulting in 2,700km2 of forest to be cut down each year. This is equivalent to half of the Black Forest.

Their policy recommendations include proposing that Governments should focus policy on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar rather than biomass.

You can read the full report here.

Concluding a landmark legal case recently in Manchester County Court, a judge has ruled that an exchange of emails including the writers sign-off constituted a legally binding agreement in a land law dispute. Neighbours in the Lake District had been exchanging emails over the sale of a piece of land between the two properties and after confirming the sale, the seller pulled out. The buyer Mr Stavros Neocleous took the matter to court and won, meaning buyers, sellers and developers may now want to exercise a level of caution before sending emails. The solicitor for the plaintiff Mr Daniel Wise of Slater Heelis commented: “It is generally understood that the formality in buying and selling land and property is concluded in writing and signed by both parties, more commonly known as ‘exchanging. Despite there being no case law on whether an email sign-off counts as a signature for a property contract the court has found that an exchange of emails in a single chain with a name at the bottom is essentially the same as a hand-written signature on a paper contract”. Read more about this story in the Manchester evening news here.

Over a period of around 10 years, the planning system has seen a drop in spending of 55% per person. The British Property Federation (BPF) believe that politicians should be treating planning as a priority and that improvements to the system are necessary if they are to meet their housing promises. Covering 8 key areas, the BPF has issued its Accelerated Planning Manifesto to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government along with local authorities and are intent on creating a better funded and transparent planning system. Melanie Leech CBE, BPF Chief Executive acknowledges there is no single solution for creating an accelerated planning system, but says that funding must be a priority. Click here to see what BPF has to say and to download the full manifesto.

Today RICS, the BSA and UK Finance published a new industry-wide process for use in the valuation of high rise properties.

This must be a huge relief to those home owners stuck in a limbo where valuers have been unable to provide a valuation due to the uncertainty around the suitability of external cladding systems. The new External Wall Fire Review process will require a fire safety assessment to be conducted by a suitably qualified and competent professional. This should give the required assurance for lenders and valuers. The Review has been developed through extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including fire engineers, lenders, valuers, and other cross industry representatives. Only one assessment will be needed for each building and this will be valid for five years.

And special credit must go to Fiona Haggett of Barclays Bank who, through BlueBox Partners has contributed to the valuation content of both the Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation and the Certificate in Residential Valuation.  Her vision and tenacity has helped make this happen.

You can read more from RICS here and download the form here.

Whilst there are currently no restrictions on planting bamboo, there are more and more disputes over it encroaching onto a neighbour’s property and causing damage in doing so. Solicitor Mark Montaldo who handles legal claims of this nature says that “Due to the increase in nuisance claims it is something that the mortgage companies are closely looking at and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them imposing lending restrictions on properties that suffer with bamboo infestations.”  

This article explains how the different varieties of bamboo can be classed as either running bamboo or clumping bamboo. Running bamboo is the worst offender as rhizomes can grow up to 30ft from the main plant causing new shoots to pop up some distance away. Clumping bamboo, although preferable, can still be problematic if not maintained adequately.

Advice from the experts Environet is to only plant bamboo in containers with root barriers designed to contain bamboo and avoid it spreading. Environet’s advice to estate agents and surveyors is to look out for signs of the plant growing out of control and alert potential buyers to the problem, which usually requires professional excavation.
Read the article here.

John Herron, Managing Director of Mortgages at Paragon writes in Bridging and Commercial that lenders should be given access to the rogue landlord register. The government introduced the rogue landlord database in April 2018 in order that local authorities could share information on banned landlords and letting agencies. The government proposes to give current and prospective tenants access to the register.

John says “Broadening access to lenders for underwriting purposes would be another important step forward. It is in no one’s interest to let unfit landlords operate in the UK’s PRS, and by granting lenders access to the rouge landlord database, lenders can fulfil a vital function in making sure rogue landlords are starved of the oxygen of finance.”

You can read the full article here.

UK Finance have recently published figures ranking the value of buy-to-let mortgages. It shows that members grossed £40.5 billion in 2018 - an increase of 5.5% on the previous year. Ranked at number 1, Lloyds Banking Group held just over 20% of the market share at around £50 billion. With landlords facing the challenges such as tax changes and regulation, these figures indicate that the market remains competitive. To view the published data, click here.

A new report by the charity Shelter has found out that a child becomes homeless in Britain every 8 minutes – this equates to 183 children a day and enough to fill 2 double decker buses. 

Homelessness is at its highest rate since 2006 with the number of homeless children in temporary accommodation up by 51% in the last 5 years.

Temporary accommodation is classed as hostels and emergency B&Bs and has not had the best reputation for being secure, private or comfortable.

Last year the government announced it wanted to end homelessness in England by 2027 and the charity Shelter is calling on all political parties to make housing a top priority on the domestic agenda. Read more from Shelter here. 

Image: Shelter

A new working draft document called “Investigation of Moisture and its Effects in Traditional Buildings” has been prepared by the heritage protection organisations of the UK along with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Property Care Association (PCA). This document describes the  knowledge needed to investigate dampness in older buildings.

The new methodology proposes framework centred around importance of understanding the building and its history, the behaviour of moisture, and moisture-related defects.  It is currently still a draft and the organisations that have collaborated to create the text are committed to its publication and use as a guide, standard or measure of competence. Process and procedure for each of the partner organisations must be followed before there can be any formal adoption or endorsement.

Read the document here.

A number of businesses and organisations from the construction and property sectors have come together to urge the next UK government to slash VAT on home improvements and maintenance. This coalition which includes the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) predict that a VAT reduction from 20% to 5% would provide sufficient stimulus to the economy to shift it towards a net zero carbon economy. The ‘Cut the VAT’ campaign believes it will trigger a green housing revolution and free up investment for domestic housing which creates around 20% of carbon emissions in the UK. Highlighting also that the build-to-rent (BTR) sector has rocketed from 30,000 to 148,000 homes in 5 years, the coalition believes the reduction of VAT paid on maintenance and management can help the sector improve delivery. Find details of the organisations involved in the coalition and read more about what the FMB has to say about the campaign here.

LV= GI (London Victoria General Insurance) has published some research looking at how and when people achieve their ‘forever home’. The forever home being that home you intend to stay put in, but with house prices on the rise, many homeowners are creating their forever home by making the following changes:

  • Redecorating
  • New kitchen
  • Landscaping the garden
  • Add an extension
  • Painting the exterior

They have produced a tool for you to put in your age and area to predict when you will buy your forever home.  

You can read the full article here.

Onerous ground rent provisions in leases has been widely reported and with fears it could render many homes unsaleable in the future, the government created a consultation paper to tackle issues such as doubling ground rents every ten years. That opening sentence will not come as news, however did you know that it has now come to light that freeholders who would have traditionally owned the land their home sits on and been free of ground rents and service charges, are finding costly covenants contained within their title deeds? Freehold householders are being charged thousands to contribute to the upkeep of shared green areas and open spaces, on top of the taxes they already pay to local councils. Read more about this story from Today’s Conveyancer here.

Research commissioned by OVO Energy has shown that 'unnecessary' emails contribute over 23,475 tonnes of carbon to the UK's footprint.  These are the carbon footprints of different emails (from the book by Mike Burners-Lee: How Band are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything):

Average spam email: 0.3g CO2

Standard email: 4g CO2

Email with 'long and tiresome attachments': 50g CO2

Mike Burners-Lee explained "When you press send it goes through the network, and it takes electricity to run the network. And it’s going to end up being stored on the cloud somewhere, and those data centres use a lot of electricity. We don’t think about it because we can’t see the smoke coming out of our computers, but the carbon footprint of IT is huge and growing."

We all need email communication, but do we really need to send that 'one liner'? OVO Energy is calling on the UK to 'Think before you Thank', if we all sent one less email per day, we would save 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year.

Read more here.

RICS, Historic England, PCA and Cadw have been working together since the beginning of 2019 with the aim of developing a best practice approach to damp and moisture in traditional buildings. PCA report it is the first time that building surveyors, preservation specialists and heritage organisations have ever worked in collaboration to adopt a single approach to dealing with dampness. The methodology is based around 7 key stages outlining what level of knowledge the surveyor should have and what elements should be considered throughout diagnosis and repair. It includes legal requirements such as planning, building control as well as other associated legislation, regulations and standards. Currently released as a working draft document, the ‘Investigation of Moisture and its Effects in Traditional Buildings’ may be subject to further changes before it is finalised, so cannot be currently used to benchmark competence or duty of care. We’ll continue to watch developments with interest and await the final outcome once all the involved organisations have concluded their consultation process. If you’d like to see the document in draft, click here.

The Hometrack UK Cities House Price Index for October 2019 shows that London property prices may be 'showing signs of life' as average prices increased by 1% over last year. This is likely to be due to a drop in supply and more realistic asking prices. Leicester top the cities index table with and increase of 4.7% over 2018, and Aberdeen house prices continue to fall with a drop of 5.9%.

You can read the full report here.

You may also find this report by Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE) of interest. It offers some positive news for homeowners and investors in and around the key regeneration areas of London such as Southbank, North Greenwich and Paddington Basin. The research conducted in these areas identified an annual property price growth of 4.7% above average with Stratford benefitting from an 8.5% uplift. The report focusses on seven of these areas in London and found that overall, the average annual house price growth was boosted by 3.5% due to regeneration. You can read the report here.

Despite the numerous news stories over the years showing the devastating effects of flood waters, it comes as somewhat of a surprise to learn that almost two thirds of people in Britain have not conducted a flood check to determine the risk to their home. In London 71% have never checked the flood risk and in Scotland 77% confirmed the same. For those moving house, only 23% of people had carried out a flood check for their new home. With predicted wetter winters to come and over 5 million homes in the UK at risk of flooding, some may want to pay closer attention to the risks. Read the full results here.

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. 

    Carbon Monoxide
    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?

1.  Incandescent

2. Halogen

3. Halogen low voltage


5. Linear fluorescent

Click here to find out. 

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, 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.