Category Archives: Housing

Ealing Council Award £65m Regeneration Project to Grenfell Tower Contractor

Ealing

Ealing Council approved the award of a large contract to Rydon, the main contractor on the Grenfell Tower development, weeks before the fire broke out.

According to Construction News, Ealing’s main cabinet approved Rydon as the development partner for the £65 million project to build 296 new housing units to replace the High Lane Estate in Hanwell.

The Council authorised the executive director of Regeneration and Housing to finalise the contract with Rydon at a meeting on 25 April. The minutes of the April meeting state that Rydon’s bid was the most “economically advantageous” of the three tenders, with a “very strong financial offer coupled with excellent construction delivery and programming”.

The deal will see the contractor finance, develop and submit a planning application for the new development, before demolishing the existing estate and replacing it with mixed-tenure housing, the majority of which will be affordable.

Rydon was the main contractor on last summer’s £8.7 upgrade of the Grenfell Tower in Kensington. To date 79 people are reported dead or missing following the fire last week and the exact cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

Rydon has insisted all its work on the refurbishment met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.

According to Construction News, although Rydon was selected as the preferred development partner for the Ealing project, no deal has yet been signed.

The latest High Lane Estates contract would be the second development partner deal between Rydon and Ealing Council on a major regeneration, after Rydon’s 50:50 joint venture with A2Dominion Regeneration won the £155m revamp of Green Man Lane Estate.

The government confirmed yesterday it had ordered councils and social housing providers to urgently check whether any panels on their new-build or refurbished buildings are clad with aluminium composite material (ACM), which is believed to have been installed at Grenfell Tower.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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City investors plan to profit from UK social housing

londonstockexchang_634

Increasing numbers of fund managers are looking to profit from social housing and other niche sectors as income investments from the property market continue to stagnate.

Residential Secure Income, a new investment group targetting social housing, is set to float on London Stock Exchange in July. The company plans to raise £300m as part of its initial public offering.

RSI, managed by ReSI Capital Management, plans to acquire homes and lease them back to local authorities and housing associations.  The company claims that it will provide inflation-linked income returns and targeting a dividend yield of 5 per cent.

Residential Secure Income’s announcements means that it will become only the second UK-listed fund dedicated exclusively to social housing investments. Its planned launch follows that of Civitas Social Housing in November last year which raised £350m to acquire properties around London, the Midlands and the south of England to lease back to housing associations. Civitas also targets a dividend yield of 5 per cent.

Increasing private sector involvement

The social housing sector is increasingly attracting private sector money. Pension funds and insurance companies — including Legal & General and Pension Insurance Corp — have been lending to housing associations for several years.

GCP Capital Partners — which runs the GCP Infrastructure fund — said it already holds some social housing and is looking to increase its exposure to the asset class through lending to housing associations.

GCP fund manager Stephen Ellis said: “We’ve got £100m plus and a pipeline of £50m at the moment

“We lend against the acquisition or development of properties by housing associations.”

Mr Ellis added that with 750 housing associations there “ought to be rampant opportunities”, and that retail funds’ small size allowed them to strike deals that bigger players — such as insurers and pension funds — were uninterested in.

Housing associations were also good borrowers, Mr Ellis continued. “Not one housing association has ever defaulted.”

The exemption of housing benefit reductions is a further bonus for investment in supported accommodation.

“Essentially what we’re looking to do is attract public sector-backed cash flows, as long-dated as possible, and wherever possible with inflation linkage,” Ellis said.

However, Andrew Summers, head of research at Investec Wealth, warned that even for private investors there remained risks, notably the possibility of negative press coverage in the event of homes being repossessed. “Housing is a political hot potato,” he said. “There’s a lot of headline risk in [the potential story of] people being thrown out of their homes to fund City investors.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Parliament report: Young Brits will be ‘priced out of housing for years’

generation-rent

The housing crisis for young people is likely to continue for years and the government lacks the ambition to address the need for affordable housing according to a Parliament report produced by the Public Accounts Committee

The report states that England’s housebuilding numbers have fallen well below targets for decades. Consequently, there has been  a long-running shortfall in the number of houses for sale which inflates house prices putting them beyond the reach of first-time buyers.

In order to address this, the Department for Communities and Local Government has put in place a target that could see one million homes constructed over the next five years.

However, it has admitted that England’s housing market is “broken” but has not made steps to improve the market, which is dominated by a select few private developers and could cause issues with meeting this target.

The Department also admitted that even if the one million homes were completed, a large shortfall would still exist to meet current demand. This means that issues relating to availability and affordability are likely to remain for several years beyond this five-year period.

A spokesperson from the Department said: “The Housing White Paper published in February includes measures to deliver more homes. On top of this, 112,338 households have used the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme since its launch.

“The Autumn Statement also included an extra £1.4 billion for affordable housebuilding, taking the total to over £7 billion to deliver more than 200,000 homes. And £550 million has already been allocated to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, with a focus on prevention.”

The positive statement from the Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman stands in stark contrast to the testimony given to Parliament by one of the country’s top civil servants charged with housing.

In February, the Permanent Secretary to the Department for Local Government Melanie Dawes admitted that Theresa May’s new policies will not stop the country’s housing crisis from continuing “as it has done for decades.”

Miss Dawes added that she was “simply being honest” when she revealed that houses prices are set to stay out of reach of those who cannot offered a property and that homelessness will continue to rise.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Electronic tagging order for rogue landlord who waged ‘unforgivable’ harassment campaign against single mother

Rogue trader Derrick Stuart filmed by the BBC
Rogue trader Derrick Stuart filmed by the BBC

A landlord has been fitted with an electronic tag after a “campaign of harassment” against a tenant that including switching off her heating and electricity in the middle of winter.

Joel Zwiebel who waged a campaign of harassment and intimidation against single mother Angela Agyemang received the electronic tagging order after losing an appeal last month against a conviction for illegal eviction.

Miss Agyemang incurred Zwiebel’s ire after she complained that damp conditions, leaks and serious disrepair in her south London flat were damaging her son’s health.

After Mr Zwiebel and his company refused to carry out repairs, Miss Agyemang began withholding her rent prompting Zwiebel to begin eviction proceedings. Zwiebel finally locked her out of the flat with all her possessions inside leaving the pair homeless and forced to find temporary accommodation.

At this point the council intervened and negotiated a compromise agreement in which she would pay the rent she owed and he would carry out the necessary repairs.

However within days Mr Zweibel reneged on the deal. Instead of fixing the defects he sent Mr Stuart – who had previously been the subject of a BBC Rogue Traders investigation – to the property who switched off the gas and electricity supply even though it was the middle of winter.

A few days later Miss Agyemang returned to the flat to find the locks had been changed and she could no longer enter her home. It took her 18 months to eventually regain her possessions, most of which had by that stage either disappeared or been broken.

Conviction

Zwiebel, of Hackney, and his property company Interpage, were found guilty last November of harassment and carrying out an illegal eviction in a case brought by Wandsworth Council at Wimbledon magistrates court.

In February, Mr Zwiebel and Interpage lost their bid to overturn the magistrates court conviction and sentencing when their appeals were thrown out by a judge at Kingston Crown Court.

On Monday this week, the judge imposed a stiffer sentence against Mr Zwiebel. Zwiebel was ordered to wear an ankle tag and comply with an overnight curfew for three months between the hours of 9pm and 7am. He was also ordered to pay £4,000 in costs and £1,000 compensation to his victim. Interpage Limited was fined £4,000 plus costs of £3,500 and £1,000 in compensation.

For his role in the eviction, Mr Stuart, from Newham, was fined £1,500, with £2,500 costs and also ordered to pay a further £1,000 in compensation.

Wandsworth’s housing spokesman Cllr Paul Ellis said: “This was an utterly appalling display by these men. They waged a disgraceful and unforgivable campaign of harassment against this mother and her son.

“To switch off their gas and electricity in the middle of winter showed a shocking lack of compassion so I am pleased the court has upheld these convictions and imposed a stiffer sentence against Mr Zwiebel and his company.

“Let this case and its outcome serve as a salutary warning to other landlords thinking of following the same illegal path.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Rents fall for first time in six years

London House Prices Fall

The average monthly rent for newly let properties has fallen for the first time since late 2010 according to the estate agency Countrywide.

The fall in rents is believed to be caused by a large recent increase in  the supply of properties becoming available. This was possibly attributable to some landlords rushing to buy last year before a 3% stamp duty surcharge came into effect.

In contrast to the usual pattern of rent rises in London and declines in the rest of the country, nationwide rents have continued to rise. Rents fell by nearly 5% in the past year in the capital to an average of £1,246 a month. In  South East England they fell by nearly 3% to £1,152. The average cost of a new tenancy in England, Wales and Scotland is £921 a month, down by  0.6% in the year to February.

Brexit effect

According to Countrywide’s research director Johnny Morris, “Rents are growing in most of the country but falls in London and the south east are dragging down the national growth rate. Early signs point towards 2017 being a rare year where rents rise faster in the north of the country than in the south.”

Morris also added that brexit and economic uncertainty also appears to be weighing on London house prices. “Economic and housing sentiment – both in sales and rental markets – has been affected by our vote to leave the EU, in London more than anywhere else. This uncertainty causes tenants to be more cautious, meaning less likely to move and more likely to look for cheaper accommodation, eg sharing. With the private rented sector home to around three-quarters of new migrants, any future substantial shift in migration patterns would likely have a knock-on effect on rents.” Morris said.

Countrywide’s data does conflict however with the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Its latest figures for the year to January 2017, the ONS showed that across the UK rents for private tenants had risen by 2.2.%.
When the figures were published last month, the ONS commented that “inflation in the rental market is likely to have been caused by demand in the market outpacing supply.”

Countrywide said it expected the apparent over-supply of rental properties to be flushed out of the market in the coming year. Average national rents are then expected to start to grow again after that.

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Seven disgraceful statistics about renting in London

Rent Costs London

1. London Renters spend 60% wages on rent

The English Housing Survey reports that Londoners spend an eye-watering 60% of their gross earnings on rent. Excluding housing benefit this figure rises to 72%.

Even more shockingly, 16-24-year-olds are forced to pay 88% of their income on rent in the capital. When housing benefit is included this falls to 81%. However this age group is particularly vulnerable to reductions in housing benefit.

2. It is cheaper to commute from Madrid each day than rent in Camden Town

Renting a flat in Camden Town and working in Liverpool street will cost a Londoner £2,128 monthly or £25,532 yearly.

If the same Londoner rented a flat in Madrid’s city centre and booked return flights from Madrid to Stansted from Monday to Thursday, he or she would spend £1,725 a month or £20,708 a year.

3. The average rent on a two-bedroom flat is £707 a week or £100 a day  

Figures from property investment firm London Central Portfolio (LCP) show that the average rent on a two-bedroom flat in central London is a whopping £707 a week.

Average rental prices of rooms in a flat-share in Paddington (Zone 1), can cost around £1100 a month.

Council taxes are also a significant  consideration. Areas like Richmond and Kingston tend to be the most expensive at around £1929 a year.  Cheaper areas include Wandsworth where council tax averages £823 a year.

4. London professionals are being forced to live “12 to a house”

According to Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq, London professionals are being forced to live “12 to a house”, thanks to the soaring rents.

In a House of Commons debate Huq said: “Renting is no longer just a transitory thing for those who are in their twenties. It’s becoming routine for people further up the age scale.

“Many in my constituency in their 30s on good money find themselves sometimes 12 to a house with shared sitting room and kitchen.

“At that age, ‘who stole my cheese?’ should not be a way of life.”

5. By 2025, more than half of people under 40 will be living in property owned by private landlords

Over half of 20 to 39-year-olds will be renting from private landlords by 2025, according to accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers.

PwC economists state that: “For 20-39 year olds, we would expect over half to be renting by 2025, implying a continuing rise in the size of ‘Generation Rent’.

The report suggests that home ownership levels will continue declining to dramatic new levels, dropping below 60% by 2025, as the rise of ‘tenant nation’ looms.

6. The UK has the highest private rents in Europe

A study by British Housing Federation found that rents in the UK are the highest in Europe.

In countries like Germany and Holland, private rents are around 50% cheaper than in the UK.

David Orr, chief executive at the National Housing Federation, said: “British renters get a raw deal in comparison to their continental counterparts. Not only do they face crippling rents, but renters in the UK have almost no certainty about whether they will be able to stay in their home from one year to the next.”

7. One in three rented homes are “not fit to live in”

One in three British three homes do not meet the government’s decent home minimum standard, according to 2014/15 English Housing Survey.

A Parliament report published last year admitted that there have been no minimum property standards for private rented housing in England since 2006.

Furthermore, more than 170 tenants are being evicted every day according to 2015 Ministry of Justice figures.  In total 42,728 evictions recorded in England and Wales in 2015.

According to Gillian Guy, CEO of Citizens Advice, “It’s hard to feel at home in the private rented sector. People can struggle to lead a normal life when their home is in a state of disrepair and they could be told to leave at any time. But many feel powerless to speak out.”

The Renters Alliance helps renters with bad landlords and letting agents. If you have a story you would like to share, please contact the National Renters Alliance through our website or email us at contact@nralliance.co.uk

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Britain’s biggest landlord bans ‘battered wives’ and zero hours workers as tenants

Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith CREDIT: REX FEATURES
Fergus Wilson and his wife Judith CREDIT: REX FEATURES

Britain’s biggest landlord, Fergus Wilson has banned “battered wives” from his properties claiming he does not want to risk ex-husbands or boyfriends returning to destroy his houses.

Perhaps Britain’s most notorious buy-to-let landlord, Wilson is no stranger to controversy.  In 2014 he sent eviction notices to over 200 of his tenants, many from low income backgrounds, claiming that he was “sending battered wives back to their partners to be beaten up again”.  He was also convicted in the same year for assaulting an estate agent over a broken boiler which he denied, claiming that he was “too fat to punch anybody or even tie his own shoelaces”.

Posted for residents of Ashford (Kent), the list of unacceptable tenants include:

  • Zero hours workers
  • Battered wives
  • Tenants on housing benefits
  • Tenants with children under 18
  • Single parents
  • Plumbers
  • Smokers
  • People with pets
  • Low income workers

Despite Mr and Mrs Wilson’s estimated wealth of £200 million, the couple are known for penny-pinching. In 2014 Fergus Wilson lost a court battle to charge a tenant £3,000 for a broken toilet lid even though the tenant had offered to replace it out of his own pocket. Judith Wilson is also believed to owe £3,000 in court costs after a failed attempt to sue a gas engineer for £5,000. The Wilsons had claimed that the engineer’s decision to issue an “At Risk” notice on gas equipment in one of their properties had made the house unrentable. Such considerations factored into Fergus’ decision to ban plumbers as tenants in his latest letting criteria since he believes they “rip him off” about repairs and “invent” problems with the properties which he says they bill him for.

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Fergus Wilson’s ban of domestic abuse victims comes after the 69-year old’s unsuccessful bid  to stand as an independent candidate for Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner last year which was blocked  for incorrect submission of nomination papers. It was also expected that Wilson’s candidature would be deemed ineligible for a conviction of assault for which he was fined £500. Wilson, who planned to stand as an independent, intended to run on a platform of tackling domestic violence saying that he was particularly concerned by two domestic abuse cases involving Kent Police and would have used his £85,000 salary to fund a rapid-response team of four officers.

Commenting on the tenancy rules Fergus said the criteria are revised every year and are concerned with “financial fine tuning of the business” adding: “it is just economics… I live in the big bad world of reality, if I do not let properties and do not get the rent then I do not eat, I starve to death… it is the Government’s job to help poor people.”

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London house prices predicted to fall 5% in 2017

London House Prices Predicted to Fall 5 per cent

Property prices in central London are expected to fall by 5 per cent in 2017 according to property data firm Rightmove.

The situation across London as a whole however was mixed with a significant variations between market conditions in prime central London and peripheral areas.  Outer London property prices are expected to see an approximate 3% increase in prices in 2017 Rightmove suggests with prices across England and Wales expected to rise by two per cent as a whole next year.

Brexit uncertainty continues to be a serious issue  with respect to property price forecasting. As yet the government’s desired outcomes and the negotiating position it will adopt following the triggering of  Article 50 to begin the two year countdown to leave the European Union remains unknown. Prime Minister Theresa May says she is committed to triggering the start of formal Brexit negotiations by the end of March next year and is expected to make announcements on the Government’s preferred future relationship with the EU in the New Year.

The disconnect between property prices in central London and the rest of the UK may be symptomatic of London’s traditional early reaction to changes in the British economy. During the 2007 global financial crisis and subsequent recession, prime London properties were the first affected by the downturn but were also the fastest to recover.

To date predicted negative economic data following the UK’s decision to leave the EU have failed to materialize. The British Chambers of Commerce revised up its forecast for economic growth next year but downgraded the outlook for 2018 due to inflation pressures and ongoing economic uncertainty about Britain’s future trading relationships with the EU. In terms of GDP forecasts, the Chambers revised upwards UK GDP growth forecast to 1.1% from 1% for 2017 after stronger-than-expected economic performance following the June Brexit vote.

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Buy to let landlords exploiting tax loophole to invest in property

landlords-continue-fight-against-george-osborne-rental-tax-changes

Increasing numbers of landlords are using a tax loophole to avoid buy-to-let tax changes announced by former Chancellor George Osborne in 2015.  Under the rules set to be introduced next year, private landlords face restrictions on their ability to offset mortgage  interest payments against tax bills.

However, the new rules will not apply to landlords who invest through a company rather than as an individual.  Accordingly in anticipation of the changes, 63 per cent of applications for landlord loans are now being made through limited companies, up from 21 per cent before the announcement was made. Many landlords are also setting up companies and selling their existing properties to them.

According to Chief Operating Officer Steve Olejnik of the mortgage brokering firm, Mortgages for Business, the number of landlords using limited companies will rise since it will be  “more tax efficient for the majority to buy property.”  Investors who hold properties in limited companies will continue to benefit from tax relief and will be able to write off all costs of running buy-to-let properties (including mortgages) as  ‘allowable expenses.’ Incorporation would therefore effectively circumvent the rate relief restrictions.

Furthermore, despite having to pay stamp duty at the increased rate, incorporated landlords would be eligible to pay just 20 per cent corporation tax on profit as opposed to up to 45 per cent income tax if the buy-to-let were operated by an individual.  Incorporated landlords would also benefit from more relaxed affordability checks compared with individual landlords since since lenders will take into account the fact they will still benefit from tax relief.

The increase in landlords registering as companies comes following the successive failure of legal and Parliamentary challenges against former Chancellor George Osborne’s restrictions on the amount of tax relief private landlords will be able to claim on mortgage interest outlined in last year’s summer budget.

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House Prices in Chelsea fall 9.8% annually in September

London House Prices Fall

House prices in Chelsea have fallen by 9.8 per cent annually with prices for high-end homes in central London falling by 2.6 per cent in September.

Property consultants Knight Frank claims that changes in stamp duty rather than the effects of the Brexit vote in the EU referendum is the main factor for the house price decline. The firm also claims that the Brexit vote may have been “a catalyst for overdue price reductions” in the sector.

Overall the picture across London as a whole has been mixed. Some parts of prime north London have seen price falls of 7.5 for Hyde Park and 5.3 per cent for Notting Hill.  Islington on the other hand witnessed an increase in prices by 3.6 per cent. In the high-end rental sector the picture has been similarly varied with rental values for prime central London properties falling by 4.7 per cent on an annual basis with rent falls of 9.9 per cent in Marylebone and 8.3 per cent in Chelsea.

Properties are also spending more time on the market with the average number of days taken for a property to sell increasing by 14 per cent between January and August compared with the same period last year.

There are also advantages for renters in the capital with rental values also falling for high-end homes. In September, rental values for prime central London fell by 4.7 per cent on an annualized measure.

Chelsea and Marylebone notably saw rents falling by 8.3 per cent and 9.9 per cent annually.  The picture for areas further out was quite different with Areas further out saw less dramatic rent falls with King’s Cross and the City Fringe seeing average rents rise by 1.9 per cent and one per cent respectively.

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