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.


  • 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.


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.


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.”


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

Cladding External Wall System (EWS) FAQs

In this article published by RICS it outlines some of the frequently asked questions regarding the issue of cladding and external wall systems. Read the article to find out more information:

1. What is an external wall system?

The external wall system is made up of the outside wall of a residential building, including cladding, insulation, fire break systems, etc.

2. What is the EWS1 process/ form?

The EWS1 form is designed to be used for residential properties such as blocks of flats (including those owned by housing associations and social housing providers as well as privately owned), student accommodation, dormitories, assisted living, care homes and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

The EWS1 form is not specifically designed for use of short-term accommodation such as hotels. EWS1 does, however, apply to an entire building or block so where required, may also be relevant to mixed use.

The EWS process, and resulting form, is a set way for a building owner to confirm that an external wall system on residential buildings has been assessed for safety by a suitable expert, in line with government guidance.

The EWS1 process delivers assurance for lenders, valuers, residents, buyers and sellers. The process was developed through extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including fire engineers, lenders, insurers, valuers, and other cross industry representatives.

The process itself involves a “qualified professional” (see download on this page) conducting a fire-risk assessment on the external wall system, before signing an EWS1 form, which is valid for the entire building for five years.

The form was originally designed following Government advice regarding external wall systems on buildings above 18m and was created to ensure residential buildings over 18m tall could be assessed for safety to allow lenders to offer mortgages. Changes in Government advice in January 2020, brought all residential buildings potentially within scope.

However not every building will require an EWS1 form. RICS has published guidance for valuers on 8 March 2021 and will be working with UK government and other stakeholders to ensure the guidance is implemented by 5 April 2021 and this guidance includes criteria that will be used to help decide whether a particular building should need an EWS1 form. Valuers will always need to follow instructions given by their lender clients.

The criteria considers the height of the building, the type of cladding and (in some circumstances) how much of it there is on the building. There are also criteria relating to balconies and combustible material. You should always have a rationale to justify the request for the EWS1 form.

3. Does the publication of the revised EWS1 form on 8 March 2021, render any existing completed EWS1 forms obsolete?

No, they remain valid until such time as a new EWS1 form is completed.

4. Does each flat/ apartment have to get an individual EWS1 form for selling, buying, or re-mortgaging?

No. Each EWS1 form is valid for an entire block/ building. It is valid for five years.

5. How does the EWS1 form factor into the buying, selling or re-mortgaging of a flat/ apartment?

The EWS (external wall system) process, is agreed by representatives for developers, managing agents, fire engineers, lawyers, lenders, insurers, and valuers, and has been adopted across the industry.

Its purpose is to ensure that a valuation can be provided for a mortgage or re-mortgage on a property which features an external wall cladding system of uncertain make up, something that has both safety implications and which may affect value if remediation is required due to the fire risk associated.

The process results in a signed EWS1 form per building, with two options/ outcomes:
(A) external wall materials are unlikely to support combustion
(B) Combustible materials are present in an external wall with sub options of either, fire risk is sufficiently low that no remedial works are required, or fire risk is high enough that remedial works are required.

The EWS1 form itself certifies that the external wall cladding system has been assessed by someone who is suitably qualified to do so. A list of suggested bodies for a building owner or their agents to contact to source fire experts can be found here.

While the form applies to residential buildings, changes in Government advice introduced in January 2020, mean that all residential buildings of any height with a wall system may need to be risk assessed. RICS has produced guidance to help valuers decide when an EWS1 form should be required.

It is also important to note what the form will not do. It is not a life safety certificate. It is only for the use of a valuer and lender in determining if remediation costs affect value. Where a building is found to need remedial works this will need to be carried out by the building owner, to ensure safety of the building, before a mortgage can proceed unless the lender agrees otherwise.

RICS welcomed the Secretary of State announcement in February 2021,on the additional funding for the removal of dangerous cladding in all qualifying residential properties over 18m. Government funding is something RICS have long called for, and whilst we recognise the complexity of the funding mechanisms, it is critical that any loan scheme for sub-18m blocks should be affordable and viable.

6. If the building owner has not proactively tested the external wall materials what does the seller need to do?

The seller can request that their building owner or managing agent commission an EWS assessment, and / or enquire as to the make-up of the wall system. The building owner or managing agent is responsible for confirming what materials are on their building, and in respect to the EWS1 form, the person responsible for the building needs to confirm what the wall system is made up of and whether an assessment is required.

7. Can the buyer or seller initiate the EWS process if the building owner has not?

The EWS process/ form is for building owners to undertake. Both sellers and buyers should be in contact with the building owner or their agent to ensure this takes place as quickly as possible.

8. If the building owner will not undertake the required assessment, what can the owner/lender/valuer do?

If the building owner does not acknowledge their responsibility and refuses to undertake the necessary assessment, the local council can provide further advice, or it should be referred to the Fire and Rescue Service. No one should be living in a building which is unsafe, and the building owners are the only ones who can progress this.

Building owners have a clear responsibility reinforced by MHCLG advice to arrange for the wall system to be checked and therefore have a route to remediation where needed. Leaseholders should continue to engage with the building owner or their managing agent to ensure this happens.

RICS is working with Government and other stakeholders as part of the Fire Safety Bill, which is due to gain Royal Assent in 2021

9. Who carries out the EWS assessment, and what is their expertise?

The EWS1 form must be completed by a fully qualified member of a relevant professional body within the construction industry with sufficient expertise to identify the relevant materials within the external wall cladding and attachments, including whether fire resisting cavity barriers and fire stopping have been installed correctly.

In addition, in January 2021, RICS launched a new training programme for chartered building surveyors and chartered building control surveyors, to enable them to undertake external wall system assessments for low to medium rise residential buildings. The newly qualified professionals will help increase the number of professionals qualified to carry out such assessments and support the current market demand. Buildings over 18m or those which are high risk and require specialist testing will still require a qualified fire safety engineer.

We have been made aware that unqualified people may be signing off EWS1 forms. RICS condemns anyone using the current situation for their own personal gain, with potentially dangerous consequences for residents, and would urge that any further information related to this is made available to trading standards and RICS if appropriate.

UK banks and building societies have robust measures in place to protect people against fraud, which would pick up any EWS1 form that is suspicious, but we encourage everyone to check the signatory on a form with the profession’s institution. If an RICS member is completing your EWS1 form, you can check their membership with us on our website. There is a list of suggested bodies to contact to source fire experts. This list is not exhaustive, nor does it constitute an endorsement or approval from RICS, UKF or BSA, and other bodies with relevant expertise may be able to assist. Anybody instructing an EWS1 form must be satisfied that the signatory meets the requirements as described above.

10. How will the assessment be carried out?

This is up to the expert undertaking the assessment, but it must include evidence of the fire performance of materials used in the cladding.

While paperwork submitted by the building’s original developer and/or owner can form part of the evidence, it cannot be solely relied upon. Photo evidence of the cladding will be required, or a physical inspection where this is not available or inconclusive.

In some cases – even where all attempts to establish the cladding system have been taken – the make-up and composition of the external wall system may still be unclear. In such instances intrusive tests may be required, alongside a more detailed review by a professional of a higher level of expertise.

Such tests may involve a hole being drilled into the wall or a section of cladding to identify the external wall system materials and their composition. It is crucially important to identify the whole make-up of the external wall system and how it has been installed.

11. Why is an EWS assessment required every five years?

An EWS assessment is required every five years for each building or block. This means multiple sellers located in one block can use the same assessment to assist with the sale of their property.

Five years is intended to capture any renovation or adaptation work done to the building, as well as maintenance over that period.

However, a new EWS assessment may be required within the five-year period if substantial works have been completed to a property, affecting the original conclusions.

When the Fire Safety Bill comes into force, the building owners of all multi-storey, multi-occupied buildings in England will be required to undertake fire risk appraisals and assessments of their buildings, which includes, where appropriate, an assessment of the external wall system.

12. What happens if the EWS assessment identifies that remedial works are required?

If an external wall system requires remedial work then we would expect the valuer to take this into consideration in their valuation. A valuation will only be possible if there is clarity on cost of the work and a timeline for works to be completed. Lenders are unlikely to lend until remedial work has been completed, but some may choose to do so with retentions and the like based on their own risk appetite.

The EWS assessment is for the building owner to oversee, but the resulting form should be available on request to all occupants in that block in the interests of transparency.

RICS welcomed the Secretary of State announcement in February 2021,on the additional funding for the removal of dangerous cladding in all qualifying residential properties over 18m. Upfront government funding is something RICS have long called for, and whilst we recognise the complexity of the funding mechanisms, it is critical that any loan scheme for sub-18m blocks should be affordable and viable.

13. Does the EWS assessment cover general fire safety measures?

The EWS1 form assessment is to be carried out for valuation purposes only. It’s about the safety of different types of external wall systems used in residential buildings located across the United Kingdom and will determine whether or not remedial works are required, thereby affecting value. It is not designed to assess other fire safety features or risks and should never be used to determine the overall risk of fire to a building. It is not a life safety certificate.

The person responsible for the building (Responsible Person under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) should have a fire risk assessment (FRA) for the building as this is an independent legal requirement that is already in place and does not commonly incorporate assessment of external wall materials. Note this will change with the Fire Safety Bill coming into force in England and FRAs will then need to cover the external cladding.

14. Does a nil valuation mean a flat is worthless?

No. ‘Nil valuations’ are used in the process of valuing a property for mortgage lending purposes, where a valuer is unable to provide a value at that moment in time i.e. when the valuers’ inspection takes place due to insufficient information being available. Often a nil valuation signals that the lender requires further information before a valuation can be made, rather than a property being unsellable.

15. Why are lenders asking for EWS1 forms below 18m?

Changes in Government advice in January 2020, bringing all residential buildings into scope, mean some residential buildings below 18m may now require an EWS1 form. For buildings of five or six storeys, there could be a significant amount of cladding on the building, or a check could be due to the types of panels on the building. For buildings of four storeys or fewer, there may be present the most dangerous types of cladding present. The guidance note for Valuers provides information on criteria where an EWS1 should be required.

A valuer should always have a rationale to justify the request for the EWS1 form.

16. Is the EWS1 form stopping homeowners from selling their flats?

EWS1 form assessments are not the cause of people finding themselves unable to move. In fact, they are helping to keep the home buying and selling market from stalling in exceptional circumstances.

Following Grenfell it became apparent, despite having building regulation certification, buildings may have safety concerns. This halted the market in some areas largely over concerns about the extent of future costs of remedial works, and where they would fall. The EWS1 form review process was introduced jointly by RICS and the two key UK mortgage lending bodies, to inform buyers, owners, lenders and valuers on the extent of works needed on the highest risk properties.

However, since the introduction of the EWS1 form, MHCLG advice to check a wall system has extended beyond the original scope, increasing the number of buildings needing checks.

Some of the issues arising from this change have now been addressed and eased following the latest RICS guidance, which clarifies where EWS1 forms are needed. Given the relatively small pool of fire engineers that are competent and have sufficient insurance to allow them to undertake these reviews, delays are unfortunately occurring in some cases (See Q16 for more on the RICS training course). However, the latest guidance should result in fewer EWS1 form requests which will enable the fire engineers to focus on the high-risk buildings. Ultimately, the EWS1 form process provides much-needed clarity around where works are required, avoids financial loss and helps to keep people safe.

17. In the RICS guidance note published on 8 March, it states the following on page 8:

“For buildings of five or six storeys, an EWS1 form should be required where:

  • There is a significant amount of cladding on the building (for the purpose of this guidance, approximately one quarter of the whole elevation estimated from what is visible standing at ground level is a significant amount).”

Whilst in Appendix B: EWS1 form decision tree, it states in Step 5 “Does the cladding cover more than a quarter of the full elevations of the building (including windows and doors as estimated from what is visible standing at ground level) OR is there any other reason it should be regarded as a significant amount?

What about in circumstances where a building may only have cladding that is less than 25% of the whole building, but that cladding is significant in terms of being greater than 25% of one elevation or concentrated around an exit point?

Is the intention of the guidance note that this reference to a ‘significant amount’ is in relation to just a single façade or the whole building?

Our intention is that cladding that is on one quarter of all of the visible elevations, standing at ground level, equivalent to approximately one quarter of the whole building, is normally a significant amount.

For example, in considering whether there is a significant amount of cladding on a building, cladding that links multiple floors of a building or is around the main route of escape is likely to require remediation

As stated in the guidance, these criteria are guidance and professional judgement will need to be applied.


RICS Training to increase the number of professionals available to carry out EWS1 checks

18. How many more qualified chartered professionals will this course provide?

RICS has secured government funding to train up to 2,000 professionals within six months. Since its launch in late January 2021, the response has been very positive and we have enrolled professionals in the RICS EWS Assessment training programme. There are currently around 500 professionals progressing through the training.

There are a number of factors that will help drive this number including the solution for accessing professional indemnity insurance (PII) that is being developed by the Government and key industry stakeholders.

19. Will you be able to train all these professionals without professional indemnity insurance (PII)?

The training will continue to progress, so yes RICS can continue to train them, it would be completing the forms post training that would be affected by PII. PII is an essential consumer protection mechanism.

However, the Government have recently committed to developing a Government backed indemnity scheme for professionals completing EWS assessments.

The scheme will be open to professionals who successfully complete the RICS’ External Wall System Assessment training. Building on our efforts so far to help develop the indemnity scheme, we will continue to work closely with all parties to ensure that the Government deliver an appropriate and affordable scheme.

Information taken from the RICS website.

Seven simple things you can do to protect your house during the pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic continues across the country, people are undertaking new measures to make sure they’re safe. From washing their hands for 20 seconds at a time to social distancing, the public have become accustomed to the new measures.

Here’s the full list of things you should be doing to protect your home:

1. Safe shopping

Shopping for essentials is one of the only reasons people can leave their home for. While you may be taking every care while your in the supermarket there could be hidden dangers when you get back home. To make sure you’re not inadvertently bringing the deadly bug into your home on packets you are advised to remove as much of the outer packaging as possible. So empty packets of pasta into containers and remove the cardboard box from your cereal. For anything that can’t be taken out of its outer packaging, like beans, tinned soup, or tinned vegetables, wash the cans down with soapy water.

Current guidance tells us that the food itself is unlikely to be a risk, because even if virus particles are ingested, they probably would not survive in our stomach acid.

2. Living with other people

Coronavirus can strike anyone – including people in your own home, which can present problems.

Anyone who is displaying symptoms of Covid-19 has been told they must self-isolate for ten days to prevent protecting anyone else. But how should the people they’re living with cope with someone who should have no contact with others. Breaking the home down into groups – the isolaters, who have symptoms, the distancers, who are also living in the same home but have no symptoms and the shielders, who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, such as the elderly. The shielders should be given their own room if possible to reduce the risk of them coming into contact with the virus. But where this is not possible you can draw up a rota so people know when they can and can’t use communal spaces. Shielders should then be able to use these rooms first, such as the kitchen, before they become possibly contaminated. Then the distancer can bring the isolater food from the kitchen to prevent extra risk to the shielder.

3. How to clean effectively

There are entire aisles devoted to cleaning products in the supermarket, with people stripping shelves bare when it became apparent how serious the pandemic really was. You only really need bleach and soap and you don’t have to spend big to make sure you’re keeping your home clean. A correctly diluted bleach solution (cheapest bleach you can get in the supermarket will work 100% effectively against the virus), or soap and water. To make sure you’re taking every precaution always wear gloves when cleaning and use bleach in a well-ventilated area.

However, if you still can’t get hold of bleach, don’t panic – soap and water is really effective too.

4. Forgotten things you need to clean

We all know our main living spaces should be as clean as possible, especially at the moment, but there are several other things inside our homes that we all forget about. While you may be frantically scrubbing your home, there are some areas you may neglect which could be a breeding ground for bacteria. The outside of cleaning product bottles, soap and hand cream bottles as they are items that we frequently touch and could transfer coronavirus on to. The simplest way to clean them is by washing them in warm soapy water.

5. Stop coronavirus getting in

While most of us are taking social distancing seriously and following the government guidelines to the letter there are still times when we have to leave home. Shopping for essentials and heading out for a walk or run once a day are allowed so people need to take extra precautions to make sure they’re not bringing coronavirus back in with them. The first thing people need to do when they walk through their front door is take their shoes off as coronavirus could live on the soles for up to five days and on clothes for 24 hours. Shoes should be kept in the hall or if you don’t have one, keep them in the same place every day. Next, if you’ve travelled on public transport or been close to other people, also take your clothes off immediately and throw them straight in the washing machine.

6. Be safe when ordering a takeaway

Treats are important to keep us all sane during the lockdown and there are many takeaways still delivering to give families a boost. Ordering food may also be vital for some people after supermarket shelves were stripped bare as people stockpiled in panic. And while it is small, there is still risk involved with ordering food from outside. When getting your takeaway simply remove outer packaging and get rid of it. For those takeaways without easily discarded packaging, either wipe down with a bit of soap and water or decant its contents into a clean container/plate.

7. Drying your hands

After weeks of being told to wash our hands for 20 seconds as regularly as possible – singing Happy Birthday twice means you can get the timing right – we’re all experts. But when it comes to drying our hands afterwards, don’t make the mistake of using a dirty towel.

Who is responsible?

Who is responsible for things like lights, lifts, lawned areas?

When it comes to the practicalities of looking after lifts, lighting and lawns within blocks of flats and apartments, whose responsibility is it to maintain them?

The best place to begin is your lease as this will have all the details about who is managing what aspect of your building and communal areas.

Your Lease

Your Lease should be the first document you turn to and is vital when it comes to owning your flat through a leasehold. This document will give you an overview of your responsibilities and what conditions you’ve agreed to. Examples of what your responsibilities are include:

  • if you require permission to make alterations
  • how much you’ll have to pay in maintain charges to maintain your property
  • whether you or your landlord has responsibility for repairs and dealing with noisy neighbours

As you will know (or hopefully know!) if you have bought a flat (and that could be a house broken up into flats or a purpose built block of flats, etc), then normally the leasehold you own relates to everything within the 4 walls of your flat.

This obvious leaves out the communal areas which will need to be maintained and this is usually undertaken by a property management company.

The freeholder usually appoints a company of professional managing agents who look after the overall maintenance. That’s where the fees for the maintenance come into play.

It’s well worth reminding yourself what SERVICE CHARGES and GROUND RENTS are and what you are paying for, and that includes knowing who’s in charge of repairs to internal communal areas. We will write about Service Charges and Major Works in this article only.

Service Charges

Have a look back over your lease as it will set out the way your service charges are organised and what can (or can’t) be charged. Most flat owners will pay a service charge, and if that’s you, you have the right to:

  • ask for a summary showing how the charge is worked out and what it’s spent on
  • see any paperwork supporting the summary, such as receipts

Your landlord must give you access to this information – it can be an offence if they don’t. Get to know the property managing agents and what their roles are. Most flat owners will have lights, lifts, gates and other communal services that need to be maintained, not just for aesthetics or convenience, but for safety too. Sometimes these items require additional repairs (outside the normal services charges).

Buildings insurance is normally covered by the service charges (you should stay on top of Contents Insurance) so again, check your lease and make sure you know what’s covered should something happen that requires insurers to cover a problem.

Generally speaking, the lease asks the leaseholder to be held responsible for looking after the part of the building they lease, such as:

  • internal plumbing
  • wiring
  • plasterwork and floorboards
  • the paintwork and decoration of their flat
  • any carpets
  • furniture and appliances

Major Works

Some major repairs may need to be paid in addition to services charges. Major works are usually the responsibility of the landlord.

Q. What funds do they come out of?

A. A reserve fund (or “sinking fund”) if available.

Leaseholders may pay into a sinking fund or reserve fund over a number of years. Leasehold law comes under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 so the term “major works” (sometimes known as “qualifying works”) is a term used under this Act. Alternatively, demands for the works may be sent out to leaseholders.

Q. How much do they cost?

A. If the costs of major works are going to be in excess of £250 for any one leaseholder, then the landlord is required to consult with leaseholders under Section 20.

Q. What is a Section 20?

A. There are three main notices that must be served on the leaseholders under a Section 20:

1. Notice of intention: This Notice must describe the proposed works, why the works are being considered and offer an invite to the leaseholders to make written observations within 30 days.

2. Notification of estimates: When the 30 day consultation period expires, it’s time for at least 2 estimates to be obtained by the landlord from contractors to carry out the works.

The landlord must provide to the leaseholder a Statement of Estimates setting out details of quotes obtained together with a summary of observations (received within the consultation period). The leaseholders are then invited to make observations (in writing) of those estimates within 30 days.

TIP: If this ever comes up, speak to a leasehold property lawyer to get more help, and look through Flat Living for more updates and tips on Major Works and what qualifies for the same.

3. Notification of award of contract: If you are not a legal professional or heavily into property law, this can all seem a little daunting and complicated. Essentially, this third part includes the why and what from contractors’ estimates and the leaseholders must be kept informed. Ultimately it’s a notification for you (as a leaseholder) as to why the landlord chose the contractor for the repair the major works. There are many variables to consider when gaining estimates from contractors, and sometimes the cheapest isn’t the best one.

You only have to pay into a sinking fund if your lease says you have to.

When we mention MAJOR WORKS, in property law and in leasehold terms, it means works that are required to maintain the building or premises, at an extra cost by the tenant under the terms of the lease through a “top service charge”.

If you are thinking of buying a flat it is SO important to get really good legal advice or the best leasehold lawyers on it, because there may be some works due, or the building, lift, gate or lighting may be particularly old or in need of some major TLC!


The law dictates that leaseholders paying variable service charges must be consulted before a landlord carries out qualifying works or enters into a long-term agreement for the provision of services.

When you are buying your flat (congratulations!) as a leaseholder, speak to your solicitor or instruct a solicitor of your choice that is recommended to you.

As a leaseholder, there are many aspects of a lease and it’s really worth understanding your requirements before signing on the dotted line. If the stairs, gates, lifts, lighting and other communal working parts, look like they are old, out of date or might be an expensive addition to the usual services to repair, speaking to a specialist lawyer will guide you with the best advice going forward.

Credit goes to LMP Law, for the overview of who is responsible.

Top Tips for Working Remotely

With phase two of lockdown now heading our way, it’s again time to get your motivation back for remote working.  Sounds easy, right?

Not for everyone. The newfound freedom is tough for some employees to adjust to, especially going back into the second phase, so better to have a plan and structure in place to keep up your productivity. Since companies rarely explain effective ways to work remotely, IPM have put together a few recommendations that have helped their team with working from home.

Remote working is becoming more common, so consider the habits below to get the most out of the days you’re not in the office.

1. Find a workspace

First, you’ll have room to spread out your work materials — such as papers, books, and reports — and leave them out the entire day. This beats working at the kitchen table. Then, you have to clean up your materials for lunch; get everything out to work in the afternoon; and clear everything away for dinner. Second, a dedicated workspace can help your motivation. When you go to this designated space, you know that it’s time to work.

2. Invest in work materials

I’ve worked for both type of companies and find that having the right materials, whether or not I buy them, is well worth it. Investing in a few supplies is a relatively minimal cost to do great work and maintain the autonomy working remotely offers.

3. Make a schedule

I also schedule breaks. For example, after writing an article for two hours, I’ll take a 15-minute break. Taking breaks is an important part of managing your energy throughout the day. Leaving your home or apartment for a bit and taking a walk is a great way to boost your energy levels for the afternoon ahead.

4. Communicate with colleagues

I find it helpful to check digital communication tools at designated times during my day. When I create my daily schedule, I note when I’ll check email and Slack, for example. Some people set up an automatic response on their email, alerting colleagues when they should expect a response. And still others, like managers, may find it helpful to tell team members in advance when they’re available to talk or respond to emails.

5. Have designated work clothes

6. Reduce distractions

7. Determine the end of your workday

That’s why it’s important to determine in advance when you’re workday will end. Include this in your daily plan discussed above. Then, close your laptop and place it in your book bag or close your office door so your computer is out of sight.

8. Use your peak hours effectively

The answer to such questions can help you determine your peak work periods. I’m a morning person; I prefer working early in the morning and immediately after lunch. I prioritize my important tasks for these periods and the save less-important stuff for later in the day when I’m mentally fatigued. Knowing when you work best can help you get the most out of your day.

More companies should explain how employees can be effective when working remotely. Until then, try out the above suggestions and see what works best for you.

Green Homes Grant Scheme Now Open

The UK Government announced back on the 30th September, applications had  opened for the Green Homes Grant Scheme, which allows landlords and homeowners to apply for a grant of up to £10,000 towards the cost of making homes more energy efficient.

The Green Homes Grant Scheme

On 8 July 2020, the UK Government announced the Green Home Grants Scheme for landlords and homeowners to help make their property more energy efficient.

Under the scheme landlords and homeowners in England can apply for a voucher to fund at least two-thirds of the cost of hiring tradespeople to upgrade the energy performance of their homes, up to a maximum contribution of £5,000 or up to £10,000 for lower-income households.

The aim of the Green Home Grant is to upgrade over 600,000 homes across England, with the UK Government saying that this will save households hundreds of pounds per year on their energy bills.

The scheme is now open for applications, if you’d like to find out more please click on the link below.

Apply for a Green Homes Grant

Preparing for a change in temperature in your property

Lettings agents’ group ARLA Propertymark has issued a seven point guide for landlords as winter approaches.

The guide ensures the points are Covid-secure, and are:

1. Clear out the gutters: Falling leaves may look picturesque, but they can cause big problems if left untouched in your gutter. Frozen water, heavy leaves and blockages can all lead to leaks and water damage or even broken gutters, so it’s important to keep them clear from any debris to minimise the risk.

2. Keep it breezy: When it’s cold or wet outside, windows usually stay shut; however, this can lead to condensation in your property which can cause damp. You should speak to and educate your tenants on the issue and encourage them to open windows in particularly humid areas such as the kitchen and bathroom. You can also help by ensuring extractor fans are working properly in these areas.

3. Bleed the radiators: If your tenants are feeling cold despite having the heating on, it could mean that the radiators need bleeding. Bleeding the radiators doesn’t need to be a big job and it will make sure the pipes in your property are being heated properly when the temperature drops. The best thing to do is to speak to your tenants and explain that this will keep them warmer too! Alternatively, if local restrictions permit it, you can go to your property and bleed the radiators yourself. Remember to speak to your tenants before visiting to make sure that they are not shielding, self-isolating and do not have any symptoms of COVID-19. It’s also important to remember to socially distance and wear a mask to protect them once inside the property.

4. Trip Hazards: Wet and cold weather leads to slippery drives and icey steps, but this can also lead to cracks in pathways which may cause tenants to trip and fall. In order to prevent this, it’s best to stay on top of any existing cracks from small to large and either get someone professional to fix them or clear the debris and fill them yourself.

5. Check the boiler: It’s good practice to get your boiler serviced around once a year, but with lower temperatures outside, tenants will be making the most of their heating, especially as many will be working from their homes, so it could be worth getting an extra service. As long as your tenant is not self-isolating, they can allow a plumber into the property to check the boiler works efficiently which will keep them warm and your property in good condition.

6. Safety first: With long dark nights drawing in, it’s worth double checking that the burglar alarm and security lights are working in your property. Tenants might not be out and about as much as expected due to social distancing restrictions, but with less natural light, a visible alarm can still be a good deterrent. You may also want to consider chatting to your tenants to make sure they don’t leave expensive items on display which could attract thieves when they are out the property.

7. Insurance: Even with all of these checks, things can still go wrong particularly if the weather really takes a turn, so you should ensure your current home insurance is up to date and check the policy gives sufficient protection for any weather-related damage particularly to your boiler and roof.

Jenrick extends ban on evictions and notice periods

The ban on evictions extended for another 4 weeks and new 6 month notice periods to be in place until at least 31 March 2021.

Renters affected by coronavirus will continue to be protected after the government extended the ban on evictions for another 4 weeks, meaning in total no legal evictions will have taken place for 6 months, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced on the 21st August 2020.

The government also intends to give tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter by requiring landlords to provide tenants with 6 months’ notice in all bar those cases raising other serious issues such as those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators, until at least the end of March.

The government will keep these measures under review with decisions guided by the latest public health advice.

When courts do resume eviction hearings they will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, ensuring landlords are able to progress the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as where landlords have not received rent for over a year and would otherwise face unmanageable debts.

The government has taken unprecedented action to support renters during the pandemic, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries – meaning no tenants have been evicted since the start.

As a result, according to independent research, 87% of tenants have continued to pay full rent since the start of the pandemic, with a further 8% agreeing reduced fees with their landlords.

The vast majority of landlords have shown understanding and leadership, taking action to support tenants.

With coronavirus still posing an ongoing risk to public health, the government will continue to take action where necessary to further protect households in both the private and social rented sector are supported over winter, helping to keep them safe.

Today’s extension to the stay and 6 month notice periods will ensure those most at risk are protected. If tenants are unable to afford their rent we encourage them to speak to their landlord to agree a solution, and some households may decide to consider moving.

Government will continue to work with the judiciary and stakeholders to ensure that the courts are prepared for eviction cases to be heard safely.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said:

I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of COVID-19. That is why today I am announcing a further 4 week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for 6 months.

I am also increasing protections for renters – 6 month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.

However, it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.

Further information

Case listing, including prioritisation, is a judicial function and we are working with the judiciary through the Master of the Rolls’ Working Group on possession to consider the categories of serious cases that would be prioritised when hearings resume. Further detail on those categories will be set out in due course and we will engage with key stakeholders on this.

Independent polling for the National Residential Landlords Associationrecently found that 87% of private tenants have paid their rent as normal throughout the pandemic so far. An additional 8% said that they had agreed a reduced rent, a rent-free period or made some other agreement with their landlord or letting agent.

The extension to the ban on evictions and prioritisation of the most serious case applies to courts in England and Wales

The intention to extend notice periods to 6 month applies to England only.

On 5 June the government announced that the suspension of housing possession cases in the courts had been extended by a further 2 months.

To support those on Universal Credit or Housing Benefit in the private rented sector, Local Housing Allowance rates have been set to the 30th percentile of rents in each area. For those who require additional support Discretionary Housing Payments are available.

As announced at the spending round for 2020/21 there is already £180 million in Discretionary Housing Payments for Local authorities to distribute for supporting renters with housing costs in the private and social rented sectors.

We remain committed to bringing forward reforms to provide greater security to tenants, but it is only right that this is balanced with an assurance that landlords are able to recover their properties where they have valid reasons to do so. This is vital to ensuring the future supply of good quality housing in the rented sector.

We will bring forward legislation in due course, once the urgencies of responding to the pandemic have passed, to deliver a better deal for renters and a fairer more effective rental market.

SOURCE: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/jenrick-extends-ban-on-evictions-and-notice-periods