Eco-friendly ways to add value and reduce running costs to a property

For property owners looking to make eco-friendly home improvements that might also add value, IPM has provided seven tips.

With the advancement of green heating technology and advancements in materials, homeowners are starting to seriously consider green or renewable ways to run their homes to reduce their carbon footprint.

There are actually a number of ways to run your home while saving some money and doing your bit for the environment. It’s not just the environment that people are concerned with either; energy prices are rising, so it’s no surprise that people are looking for more efficient ways to manage their homes and reduce their costs. If you’re looking for an eco-heating solution, then here are some alternative options available to you:

1. Insulation

Upgrading a home’s insulation, specifically solid wall insulation, is one of the best ways of improving efficiency and reducing energy usage. It costs an estimated £2,750 to do but can boost property value by 3%. Based on the average UK house price of £273,762, this equates to £8,213, adding value to the tune of £5,463. This makes it the most profitable eco-friendly upgrade available to homeowners when it comes to adding value to their home, as well as reducing their carbon footprint.

2. Electric car charging port

Despite the increasing popularity of electric and hybrid cars, it’s still very rare to find a home that comes with its own charge point. Installation is relatively inexpensive, around £800, and can add around 1.5% to the home’s value, adding £3,306 in value.

3. Boiler upgrade

Many homes can still benefit from a good old fashioned boiler upgrade. While notoriously expensive to do, around £2,500, the increased efficiency and longevity that a new boiler provides adds around 1.9% to the home’s value, adding £2,701 in value.

4. Tankless water system

Similarly, if a home uses a tank system for its hot water, in which it uses a large tank to store large amounts of water that must then be heated every time hot water is required, it’s a very good idea to replace it with a tankless heater system. Doing so costs around £1,275 but adds 1.2% to the property’s value, a boost of £1,984.

5. Double glazing

Fitting double-glazed windows throughout the home is very expensive, costing an estimated £6,575. It is, however, an essential step towards creating an energy efficient and warm home and is so important to homebuyers that the improvement adds 3% to the value of a property. Measured against the cost, this brings an added value of £1,638.

6. LED lighting and roof repairs

Increased efficiency and good profits can also be added through installing energy efficient LED lighting throughout the home (£1,069 profit), and addressing any faults or weaknesses with the roof (£987 profit).

7. Solar panels

Despite being one of the most common ways of improving the carbon footprint of a home, it seems they do very little in terms of added value. Installation is expensive, around £5,875, while the value added is estimated to be £1,916, a loss of -£3,959. However, there are obvious savings to be made from reduced utility bills, so if the owner is planning to stay in the home for many years to come, solar panels can still offer good savings.

James Forrester, Managing Director of Barrows and Forrester, comments: “Eco-friendly home renovations and upgrades can be a brilliant way of reducing the running costs of your home, which is something that has been brought into focus due to the spiralling cost of living.

“But they don’t just reduce the day-to-day costs associated with our homes, they can also add value for such a time that you do come to sell.

“In addition to the financial benefits they bring to the home, they can also help us make a positive change with regards to the environment and this eco-friendly conscience is something we are seeing more and more from the modern-day homebuyer.”

Quick tips to save energy

Follow our tips and advice for straightforward ways to save energy, lower your bills and reduce your carbon footprint.

Whether you’re a homeowner, a private or social renter, a student, or you live with your parents, there are many things you can do.

We’re all responsible for the energy we use in our homes. Take a look at our quick tips and see how you could save up to £375 a year* on your bills.

*Savings are for a typical three-bedroom, gas-heated home in Great Britain, using a gas price of 7.4p/kWh and electricity price of 28.3p/kWh (based on April 2022 price cap). Water savings are based on average occupancy. This household is projected to spend a total £1,970 on energy annually, including standing charge. Figures updated March 2022.

Before you start

Understand your energy bill. The information on a typical energy bill can be confusing, but understanding it can go a long way to helping you get to grips with your energy use at home.

1. Switch off standby

You can save around £55 a year just by remembering to turn your appliances off standby mode.

Almost all electrical appliances can be turned off at the plug without upsetting their programming. You may want to think about getting a standby saver or smart plug which allows you to turn all your appliances off standby in one go.

Check the instructions for any appliances you aren’t sure about. Some satellite and digital TV recorders may need to be left plugged in so they can keep track of any programmes you want to record.

Find out which appliances use most energy in your home. 

2. Draught-proof windows and doors

Unless your home is very new, you will lose some heat through draughts around doors and windows, gaps around the floor, or through the chimney.

Professional draught-proofing of windows, doors and blocking cracks in floors and skirting boards can cost around £225, but can save around £45 a year on energy bills. DIY draught proofing can be much cheaper.

Find out more about reducing home heat loss.

3. Turn off lights

Turn your lights off when you’re not using them or when you leave a room. This will save you around £20 a year on your annual energy bills.

Replacing all the lights in your home with LED bulbs could help you save even more.

4. Careful with your washing

You can save around £28 a year from your energy bill just by using your washing machine more carefully:

  • Use your washing machine on a 30-degree cycle instead of higher temperatures.
  • Reduce your washing machine use by one run per week for a year.

5. Avoid the tumble dryer

Avoid using a tumble dryer for your clothes: dry clothes on racks inside where possible or outside in warmer weather to save £60 a year.

6. Spend less time in the shower

Keeping your shower time to just 4 minutes could save a typical household £70 a year on their energy bills.

7. Swap your bath for a shower

Some of us might enjoy a long soak in the bath, but swapping just one bath a week with a 4-minute shower could save you £12 a year on your energy bills.

8. Be savvy in the kitchen

Kettles are one of the most used appliances in the kitchen. But many of us will admit that we at least occasionally boil the kettle with more water than we’re going to use.

Avoid overfilling the kettle and save yourself £11 a year on your electricity bill.

You could also consider fitting an aerator onto your existing kitchen tap to reduce the amount of water coming out without affecting how it washes or rinses. An aerator is a small gadget with tiny holes – they attach to the spout of taps and are cheap and easy to install – and could save you £25 a year.

9. Fill your dishwasher

Only run your dishwasher when it is full to reduce the amount of water you use. Reducing your dishwasher use by one run per week for a year could save you £14.

10. Top up the insulation

Effective insulation of your hot water cylinder is important: even if you have thin spray foam or a loose 25mm jacket, you can benefit from increasing the insulation to a British Standard Jacket 80mm thick, saving £35 a year in the process.

Insulating your water tank, pipes and radiators is a quick and easy way to save money on your bills.

Government to mandate fitting CO alarms

Agents should act now ahead of Carbon Monoxide alarm laws

Fitting carbon monoxide alarms is to become mandatory in social and private rented properties that use gas boilers or fires, Housing Minister Eddie Hughes MP has announced.

Forthcoming regulation changes will also require CO alarms to be fitted when new appliances such as gas boilers or fires are installed in any home.

Landlords and housing providers in social and private rented sectors will need to repair or replace smoke and CO alarms once they are told they are faulty, and smoke alarms must be fitted in all rented accommodation.

The reforms follow a commitment in the Social Housing White Paper, published last year. The White Paper set out proposals for wide-ranging reforms of the social housing sector which will drive up standards, including giving tenants a clear way to raise concerns and providing the regulator with stronger powers to take enforcement action.

The cost of the new requirements to install and maintain alarms will fall to property owners.

Eddie Hughes MP said: “Around 20 people are killed each year in accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, and many more through house fires – but we know that simple interventions can stop these needless deaths.

“I’m proud that the new rules being proposed will ensure even more homes are fitted with life-saving alarms. Whether you own your home, are privately renting or in social housing – everyone deserves to feel safe and this is an incredibly important step in protecting those at risk.”

Guidance relating to where alarms are fitted and to ensure alarms meet relevant standards will also be updated.

The reforms follow a 2-month consultation, and changes will be brought forward through the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 and the statutory guidance (Approved Document J) supporting Part J of the Building Regulations.

 

Property news in review – the big stories of 2021

What a year it’s been for landlords, tenants and property managers who, as well as coping with the Covid fall-out of rent arrears and court delays, lockdowns, have faced new regulations and an extended evictions ban as well as growing Universal Credit headaches and burgeoning licensing schemes.

With 2022 shaping up to be equally challenging, we take a to look back at the sector’s biggest stories of 2021.

Lets & Pets

In January, Housing Minister Christopher Pincher launched an update to the Model Tenancy Agreement to prevent landlords from issuing blanket ‘no pets’ bans. Instead, consent for pets would be the default position, with rejections only made where there was good reason such as in smaller properties or flats where owning a pet could be impractical.

Portfolio savvy sale

In what was thought to be the country’s largest-ever mortgage transaction, one of Britain’s biggest private landlords, Alastair Kerr, transferred ownership of his 330 rental homes in west London into a company structure in February, saving himself more than £10 million in tax and mortgage interest, to take advantage of incorporation relief rules.

Fallen property guru

Property guru Glenn Armstrong, of Property Millionaire Academy, was declared bankrupt, owing £4.9 million to at least 38 creditors, who were queuing up to claim back huge amounts of up to £537,000. Armstrong also had 10 unpaid county court judgements against his related companies as well as 10 unpaid personal county court judgements.

Electrical reports

Landlords were warned not to expect a grace period or extension to the deadline for properties to conform to the new electrical safety standards. They had been told that after 1st April, all existing tenancies would need an EICR (electrical installation condition report) but argued that this would be difficult given the challenges of accessing properties and finding approved electricians to do the work during the pandemic.

Unlimited fines for Fire Safety impersonators

HMO landlords and their managing agents were told in March they could face unlimited fines if caught obstructing or impersonating a fire inspector, or if they breached fire safety regulations under the upgraded Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 legislation.

Stamp duty holiday

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the extended stamp duty holiday would end on 30th June instead of the end of March, but made no immediate change to Corporation Tax or Capital Gains Tax in his spring Budget. Corporation Tax would increase to 25% in April 2023, while small businesses with profits of less than £50,000 would remain at the current rate of 19%. The government also announced that owners of second homes or holiday lets would soon have to rent their properties out for at least 70 days a year in order to pay the cheaper business rates tax, rather than just making the property ‘available to rent’.

Right to rent

The government reassured landlords that they wouldn’t need to evict a tenant without settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme unless issued with a ‘Notice of letting to a disqualified person’ by the Home Office. In April, new guidance stated that from 1st July, if a tenant couldn’t produce evidence of their continued right to rent, landlords had to make a report to the Home Office to maintain their statutory excuse – or face a civil penalty.

Green homes grant end

The government axed its much-maligned Green Homes Grant in May, six months after it was launched. It was plagued by a lack of tradespeople willing to go through the Trustmark approval process to join the scheme, Covid restrictions, confusion over which upgrades and improvements qualified under the scheme and a lack of applications.

Ban extension

The evictions ban was extended by a further two months until at least 31st May, after being repeated several times during the Covid pandemic. It meant that a landlord who gave notice of eviction on 31st May would not be able to physically evict the tenant until November, while those who already had warrants lined up, now had to wait a further two months to evict.

Breathing space

From 4th May, landlords, agents and their solicitors were told to include details of the government’s breathing space debt scheme within paperwork when seeking to gain possession of a property, or risk the eviction being rejected – giving someone in problem debt the right to legal protections from their creditors for up to 60 days.

Renters reform

Eighteen months after she first announced the Renters Reform Bill, the Queen’s Speech included the government’s intention to abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, as well as plans to strengthen repossession grounds for landlords and proposals for a new ‘lifetime’ tenancy deposit model. The NRLA’s Ben Beadle said that within 18 months, landlords in England and Wales would have to register with a redress scheme, be recorded on national database and embrace a new, portable ‘lifetime deposit’ for tenants in order to be legal.

Tax simplifcation?

The Office of Tax Simplification recommended that those selling property should be given 60 rather than 30 days to report and pay their Capital Gains Tax (CGT), to give the 150,000 people who report their property sale to the tax authorities each year more time to work out if they are due to pay CGT, and for the 85,000 who are usually liable to pay it more time to file their UK Property tax return.

Mick’s offer

Nottingham landlord Mick Roberts offered to pay his tenants’ deposit so they could buy their homes, after becoming disillusioned with the sector. In June Mick blamed government policies, licensing schemes and a tortuous Universal Credit system for his decision after 24 years as a landlord housing mainly benefit claimants.

Huge fine

Landlord couple James and Catherine Doig were ordered to pay more than £34,000 in back rent to six tenants after sub-letting their unsafe, unlicensed HMO via a rent-to-rent deal – despite insisting that they didn’t know about licensing rules covering their property in Fordwych Road. Camden Council also uncovered numerous safety issues including obstructed fire escapes.

Form relief

Landlords who own leasehold properties in low and medium-rise apartment blocks affected by the cladding scandal would no longer have to supply an EWS1 form when selling or re-mortgaging their properties, the government announced in July.

Landlord register

Housing minister Eddie Hughes told a Conservative party conference fringe meeting in October that both a landlord register and a lifetime rental deposit scheme in England were set to go ahead. However, he indicated the White Paper was unlikely to be published until the New Year and said he was keen that the new measures would “not have unintended consequences” for either landlords or tenants.

Alarming changes

Revisions to the smoke and carbon monoxide detector regulations in November made it mandatory to fit smoke alarms in all rented accommodation regardless of tenure, and required carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted when new appliances such as gas boilers or fires were installed in any rented home. All landlords – in both private and social sectors – also now had to repair or replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarms once told they were faulty.

Looking back over the last 12 months can help give perspective on just what has happened in the property industry and indicate changes needed in the future.

Advice for winter upkeep to your property

With the daylight hours getting shorter, and the weather finally cooling to something like the seasonal norm, it’s worth remembering that your property might need some attention to stay in top condition in the winter months
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Winter months can cause costly and unwanted problems in a property, but if you undertake some winter preparation on your property you could save valuable time and money.It’s important having a well-maintained property, and to keep of any maintenance ahead of the winter months.Here are our top tips for keeping your property in good shape:

Inside your property

A warm home is a happy one. This is important to keep any damp at bay.

Bleeding radiators This is a simple yet effective way that can sometimes be overlooked.

Servicing the boiler Keeping on top of services is far cheaper in the long run compared to the call out fee of a busy engineer for an urgent repairwomen your boiler breaks.

Limiting draughts in the property Sealing them is a quick and easy way to help you stay warm and save money. Check for draughts around the edges of window frames, under doors, and around letterboxes.

Insulate the loft loft insulation can make a big difference when it comes to preserving heat in a property, if there is insulation, it’s worth checking it’s up to standard.

Lag the pipes In order to keep pipes frost-free, you can wrap them in lagging which is nice and cheap but can save a tonne by stopping pipes from freezing and avoid them bursting.

Outside your property

Keeping on top of the exterior maintenance is really important. In order to limit potentially expensive damages before the worst of the weather hits, you should:

Check and clean gutters to limit blockages and prevent water damage.

Repair and maintain garden fences, windows and other features

Check the roof as missing tiles as a bad storm can cause structural problems in the long-term

Your garden

With autumn leaves scattered and gloomy days approaching a well-maintained garden can give a property the burst of colour and tidiness it needs.

Landlords could consider planting new plants, trimming back hedges, and sweeping away any dead debris.

12 rules when extending your lease

Extending your lease – 12 good rules

The Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 (“the Act”) provides leaseholders with the right to extend their lease; subject to certain qualifying criteria being met.

In brief, the Act provides the leaseholder with a right to extend the lease term by a further 90 years and extinguishes the ground rent. This is known as a statutory lease extension. The right is one of compulsion, as historically a Freeholder could demand a premium at its discretion or refuse a lease extension carte blanche.

Unlike a Freehold asset which grants ownership for an infinite period, a leasehold asset is an ownership for a defined number of years. Over the course of time as those years reduce, so does the value of the Leasehold property. Furthermore, as the term of the lease gets shorter, the premium payable for the extension increases. Therefore a lease is often described as a depreciating asset.

For the purposes of this article we are giving you the reader 12 good rules pertaining to the lease extension process. (Almost like the 12 good rules that were framed and displayed in many taverns in the 18th century and derived from a broadside showing a rough-cut of the execution of Charles I).

Extend your lease

1. Check the term of years left on your lease.

Warning! Please do not become complacent if you have a lease term over 80 years because you are fortunate. Now instead of putting away your lease and forgetting about the issue you should take the opportunity to at least get advice on the benefits of extending your lease using the Act. The effect is that you will pay a premium to obtain an additional 90 years to the existing term and the ground rent is reduced to a peppercorn. A lease term above 80 years does not attract marriage value.

2. First read up on the basics of qualifying.

Then contact a surveyor and solicitor who specialise in Leasehold Enfranchisement. The solicitor shall investigate whether you and the building qualify pursuant to the Act in the first instance and the surveyor shall provide an opinion on the likely premium to be paid for a lease extension. The surveyor will also provide a range to your premium, a lower premium that should be inserted into the section 42 Notice to allow room for negotiations.

Surveyor’s Tip: The Act states that the leaseholder’s figure stated in the section 42 Notice has to be realistic. A well-known elephant test may be applied as to whether a figure is realistic. This may be difficult to describe but you know when you see an unrealistic figure. Further to case law the test now would be a “genuine opening offer” i.e. a bona fide offer. Notably, the surveyor should be able to justify the valuation for the notice figure if it came to in the Tribunal.

3. The solicitor shall prepare the section 42 Notice which initiates the claim.

To assist the solicitor, you should forward your most recent ground rent and service charge demands, provide details of any managing agent and any further information you have in relation to the Freeholder’s address for service.

4. Once a valid section 42 Notice is served a strict timetable is triggered.

Instructing specialist advisers will mean your interest is safeguarded.

5. It is likely that a landlord will request payment of the statutory deposit once the notice is served.

This will be either 10% of the premium quoted in your initial notice or £250, whichever is greater.

Practical tip: Good finance management is important here. Upon receipt of your surveyor’s report you should discuss the amount to be set aside to cover the statutory deposit, and even consider paying into your solicitor’s client account prior to service of the Notice. The reason being is that upon receipt of the request for the statutory deposit, your solicitor has a period of 14 days to make the payment to the Freeholder’s solicitor to hold the deposit as stakeholder. This may need careful consideration if the quoted premium is high as you may need to have the sum readily available from the outset. Please note the deposit is offset on completion.

6. It is also likely that the landlord’s surveyor will require access to inspect the property for the purposes of completing their own valuation report.

You should bear this in mind if the property is tenanted and perhaps discuss this with your tenant from the outset that on notice you will advise the tenant to grant access.

Surveyor’s tip: Further to gaining access many Leaseholders ask if they should delay works to their property until after the Freeholder’s surveyor has inspected. In short, the answer to this question is no. The valuation principles for a lease extension (and enfranchisement for that matter) is unique in that the Valuer assumes that both the Leaseholder and Freeholder have complied with their respective obligations in the lease, which extends to internal and external maintenance. The Valuer therefore assumes that the property is in what is commonly referred to as “lease maintained condition”, with improvements disregarded, so do not be alarmed when your surveyor’s inspection takes 10-15 minutes rather than a full hour!

7. Once two months have lapsed from the date of service of the section 42 Notice you should receive a Counter Notice from the landlord.

If the landlord fails to serve a Counter Notice, the consequence is that the extension will be granted on the terms set out in your notice (i.e. potentially for the lower premium).

8. The landlord may offer an informal deal alongside the Counter Notice.

This will need some careful consideration, but for some leaseholders may offer the more attractive option, but advice should always be sought before making any decisions.

9. Upon receipt of the Counter Notice your surveyor will typically begin negotiations.

There is a two month period, the statutory negotiation period, whereby the surveyors try to reach an agreement.

Surveyor’s tip: Your surveyor’s report would have commented on lower, realistic and higher range figures.

10. Once the two month negotiation period is complete, your solicitor will reassess the progress being made between the surveyors and consider making an application to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) (the Tribunal).

If the surveyors are making some progress it is usual to allow further time to enable further discussions, however an application to the Tribunal must be made at least two months from, but within six months of the date of the service of the Counter Notice or the Notice will be deemed withdrawn. In other words, you must allow two months to lapse (statutory negotiation period) before having a further four months to make an application to the Tribunal. The timetable in leasehold enfranchisement is very strict and it is imperative to ensure the deadlines are not missed.

11. Once the Premium has either been agreed or determined by the Tribunal, hopefully the latter will prove unnecessary, the solicitors would agree the form of the new lease and proceed to complete the lease extension.

Tip: Once the premium is agreed and no changes to the terms of the lease are proposed, terms of acquisition are agreed at this point and you have four months to complete the lease extension. This is a strict deadline and failure to complete within this timescale would result in a deemed withdrawal (in the absence of an application to Court). We mentioned above the importance of finance management. If you are remortgaging it is important your solicitor and broker communicate regarding the timing of making an application for the remortgage and the drawdown of funds as you need to ensure the money is readily available to complete within the four months deadline.

12. A completion date will be agreed for the lease extension.

The property register at the Land Registry will be amended and you would have successfully completed the process and protected and added value to your leasehold interest.

SOURCE: http://www.flat-living.co.uk/advice/1901-extending-your-lease-12-good-rules

What You Need to Know About Type 4 Fire Risk Assessments

Do you carry out Type 4 Fire Risk Assessments?

One of the questions we are being asked more recently is whether or not we carry out Type 4 Fire Risk Assessments. The answer to this is yes. However, there is a lot to consider before instructing an intrusive risk assessment in your property.

What exactly are Type 4 Fire Risk Assessments?

The most common type of Fire Risk Assessment is the Type 1; which is non-destructive and of the common areas only.

Type 1 Risk Assessments are usually sufficient for most blocks of flats and you would have probably had one carried out fairly recently.

Type 4 Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) however, include an intrusive assessment of both the common parts of the building and inside of the tenant’s demise. They are often referred to as a Compartmentation Survey, as they are usually suggested if there may be serious defects such as inadequate compartmentation and fire stopping.

Why are they becoming more popular/ asked about?

Type 4 Fire Risk Assessments are becoming more prevalent, particularly after the Grenfell tragedy. This is mostly due to the recommendations from the Hackitt Review and the Building a safer future: proposals for the reform of the building regulatory system: Consultation. For example, one of the recommendations from the ‘Building a Safer Future’ Consultation is to ensure “that fire compartmentation from the inside of a flat, including the front doors, is maintained to a suitable standard…” Type 4 FRAs may well be needed to determine further works to improve compartmentation, additional fire stopping measures or improvements to protect the means of escape from smoke or fire.

Concerns may be originally raised in the type 1 FRA about the compartmentation, especially in areas that cannot be easily accessed such as: ceilings, under floor boards, roof voids, risers, service cupboards or boiler rooms. In circumstances such as these, there may be reason to believe there is high risk of fire spread in both the private and common areas of the property and therefore a more intrusive assessment may be needed.

Furthermore, if a new landlord takes over a site that has little or no history of the construction and consequently no information on the compartmentation or fire stopping, they may ask that a Type 4 Fire Risk Assessment is carried out.

Dame Judith Hackitt has specified that there is a need to ensure that sufficient information is recorded throughout a building’s life cycle; known as the ‘Golden Thread of Information’. Some examples of the information that should be recorded, maintained and available include: full material and manufacturer product information, design intent and construction methodology, and escape and fire compartmentation information.

What do you need to consider?

A Type 4 Risk Assessment may be completely necessary in some circumstances, however, there are still some aspects to consider before you instruct one to be carried out.

For instance, the disruption to residents, the overall cost vs. benefit, and whether you will be able to gain access to the necessary flats.

Type 4 FRAs are more complicated than the other types of assessments. Access to flats can be difficult and the intrusive nature of the assessment will involve a contractor to open up and repair damage after the inspection.

In addition to this, if the building was constructed prior to 2000 it may contain asbestos and this will need to be carefully considered before any destructive works are carried out. If the building is Pre 2000 if it is then you must carry out a Refurbishment and Demolition (R&D) Asbestos Survey. An R&D survey (previously known as a type 3 survey) is required when materials are being disturbed as part of a refurbishment, demolition project (or other types of construction work any intrusive works). This type of survey is fully intrusive and the building or areas which are being surveyed will usually need to be vacated so that extensive surveying and samples can be taken.

Will It Get Cheaper For Leaseholders To Buy Freehold Or Extend Leases In The Future?

We wanted to share this article as we know many of our customers have asked us this questions and the future of this is still uncertain. In this article Laura Severn, Director at LMP Law, answers this question.

In last year’s article in Flat Living, I have become acutely aware that consumers are become savvier with their knowledge of the property management industry and leasehold ownership, which I think can only be a good thing.

The Government has been really busy of late (I wonder why….), but they are still progressing with leasehold reforms for better consumers’ rights, meaning that great property managing agents and genuinely hard-working landlords will be safer in their place in law. With more transparency it gives the agents and leaseholders more awareness and understanding of the law and the rights surrounding leases.

More than six million properties in England and Wales are leasehold, according to the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, so it’s imperative the law, property managing agents, developers, surveyors and leaseholders work closer together.

Law Commission

You may or may not have read or heard the latest news from the Law Commission, which has published options for reforming valuation in leasehold enfranchisement. It’s a subject that has been widely discussed over many years now, and we’ve seen experts parachuted in from international sources to speak and educate our UK system whilst dovetailing talks with the Government, developers and property management professionals.

The policy objectives of enfranchisement reform identified by Government are:

  • to promote transparency and fairness in the residential leasehold sector
  • to provide a better deal for leaseholders as consumers
  • to simplify enfranchisement legislation

Why now?

For a long time now the subject of residential leasehold has been the subject of prominent policy debate. Concerns have been raised about many aspects of the leasehold market.

Why?

  • Mainly because of some escalating ground rents (such as the imposition of rents which can double at periodic intervals during the term of the lease). Another reason why we, as property law specialists, advise managing agents and leaseholders on the value of understanding their lease and when extending a lease to instruct a qualified lawyer who is a specialist in property law;
  • leasehold homes being hard to mortgage or re-mortgage because of escalating ground rents, making the properties deemed unsaleable and trapping the owners in their homes;
  • houses being sold on a leasehold basis, as opposed to freehold, basis, for no apparent reason; and
  • charging by landlords of unreasonable permission fees to carry out alterations to a property.

So, What Are The Options?

The options have been researched in essence, to make it cheaper or at least “fairer” for leaseholders to buy their freehold or extend their lease. Not only are the reforms looking to help provide potential cost reductions for the leaseholder, but also to provide clarification about the valuations provided in leasehold enfranchisements.

Options:

A review of the process regarding leaseholders’ rights to:

  • participate, with other leaseholders, in the collective purchase of the freehold of a group of flats
  • extend the lease of their house or flat
  • purchase the freehold of their house

So What Does This Mean For Flat Owners?

Flats are generally owned on a leasehold, as opposed to freehold, because of certain obligations required to pay money or to perform an action in relation to that property (such as to repair a wall or a roof).

The reforms aim to benefit leaseholders by reducing the cost that they have to pay to buy the freehold or extend the lease of their homes (known as “enfranchisement”), plus making the process simpler.

Comments

Further to the Law Commission’s report, there have been many comments, including:

The Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP commented:

“…We have already committed to addressing the abuses of leasehold seen in recent years, by reducing ground rents to a peppercorn level and limiting new leasehold to apartments, save in the most exceptional circumstances. The Competition and Markets Authority is examining the alleged misselling of leasehold properties and I will also await their findings with interest.”

Professor Nicholas Hopkins, Property Law Commissioner said:

“We were asked to provide options for reform that save leaseholders money when buying their freehold or extending their lease, while ensuring that sufficient compensation is paid to landlords. This is what we’ve done.

“We are ready to help the Government in implementing whichever options for reform they choose.”

Conclusion

Transparency and fairness can only be a good thing for UK residential living. We are a nation of home lovers and to be able to understand our property, our lease term, ground rent and general legalities surrounding it, can only be a positive step. So many of the flats we live in are managed by exceptional property management agents and as I’ve mentioned before, knowing the value of a lease is vital to ensure that all steps are taken to protect or enhance it.

Ultimately, anyone thinking of buying a leasehold property should go through the contents of the lease with a solicitor to understand what is expected of them. Have open chats with your managing agent and be sure of all the terms and conditions before you sign on the dotted line, it could avoid disputes arising in the future and watch this space as to whether the proposals will be put in to action.

 

Storage solutions for your flat

If you live in a house there are always options to  extend your living space, whether it’s a conservatory, extension, loft  or even cellar conversion.

If you live in a flat how can you extend your living space?

Clever interior design can assist in  getting better use of the space you have, and you can create extra space  by remodelling awkward spaces.

Most flats struggle with storage space,  in mansion blocks and converted properties which enjoy high ceilings  the space can be better used with floor to ceiling cupboards. You can  use the higher sections of the space for things used less often and the  lower cupboards for items you use regularly.

Cleaning up your internal space by  putting clutter in strategically placed cupboards will make your  apartment feel much bigger automatically.

In older converted blocks of flats and  apartments the layout often wastes space. Unnecessary corridors and  walls, which could make rooms much larger and useable once removed  (always check with the terms of your lease before you make any  alterations.)

When making alterations to an older  property it is always worth spending a little more on good plastering  and reinstating period features such as coving and architrave and always  try to obtain skirting that matches that in the original part of your  property to finish.

Before moving or removing an internal  wall you should consult a structural engineer to see whether they are  load bearing. If the walls are load bearing its prudent to consult a  structural engineer to ensure that adequate Rolled Steel Joists (RSJs)  are used to hold the weight. You do not need planning permission to make  internal alterations to a flat, but you will need to complete a  Building Notice with your local authority to ensure you comply with  Building Regulations. Inspectors will visit you at each stage to ensure  that the work is carried out correctly.

Any alterations to shared walls or  structures will also require a party wall agreement with the owner of  the neighbouring property.

Don’t think you have the space in your small living room for storage? Struggling to make your studio flat work? Make every inch of your home work hard with well-thought out and space-saving storage solutions. Every nook and cranny is crying out for your clutter, so take charge of your belongings and banish them to hidden or well-organised areas.

For more inspiration and ideas check out Ideal Homes blog –

Storage solutions for small spaces – 22 brilliant ideas to store more in limited space

Storage solutions for small spaces

If you are renovating your house, think about building storage space into the walls: Cubbyholes in the bathroom wall will create space for all of your toiletries, without using up valuable room around your bath or shower.

Alcoves are the perfect space to build storage units and shelves that will fit seamlessly into your rooms, without taking up lots of space. Design a new kitchen with storage solutions in mind. Sliding cupboards that can hold hundreds of ingredients before slotting back in line with your units are a great storage idea for a contemporary scheme.

If you aren’t completely redecorating your home, invest in multi-purpose storage units that will only take up a single area in one room, but will store everything you need for the whole house. Here are some of our other storage solutions for small spaces.

Tory MP demands rental MOTs and compulsory landlord accreditation

A Conservative MP claims there is a major power imbalance between tenants and landlords and widespread reforms are required to stop renters being ‘left out on a limb’ because of poor property conditions.

Jo Gideon, Tory MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, says in a report by think-tank UK Onward that there are three areas of improvement urgently required.“First, we must ensure that adequate housing standards and living conditions are applied to the private rented accommodation, in the same way they currently apply to social housing” she says.

Gideon suggests this could take the form of a housing MOT that assesses the quality of private rental sector accommodation and stops poor landlords “shirking their responsibilities.”Secondly she says landlords should be required to join a local accreditation scheme.

“Currently, around 500 landlords in Stoke-on-Trent are part of the local accreditation scheme, but this represents a small proportion of the overall sector. The scheme needs teeth to encourage better management, quality and supply of housing in the sector.”

Thirdly, she says the imbalance between renters and landlords in general should be addressed.

“On the one hand, many renters do not complain of poor living conditions out of fear of eviction. On the other hand, landlords need the power to acquire their property in the event of a bad tenant. The upcoming [Renters’ Reform Bill] must get the balance right for both renters and landlords and not tip too far in favour of one or the other.”

In her contribution to a roundtable hosted by the think-tank – alongside campaigning charity Shelter – Gideon says one of the housing issues in her constituency is what she calls ”absentee landlords.”

She adds: “The problem is that some of those landlords do not provide housing that is decent or fit for purpose. Much is old or in poor condition, and problems are often not dealt with quickly, leaving renters out on a limb. The upcoming Renters’ Reform Bill provides an opportunity to make a series of fundamental changes to fix these problems – and give my constituents a secure place to live.”

Source: Landlord Today