Here again on a Friday with some recent news items.
Grenfell one year on
It is now a year since the terrible fire at Grenfell tower which claimed 72 lives. What has happened during the intervening year?
An interesting article in the Guardian summarises as follows:
- Re-housing – despite promises that everyone would be re-housed within 3 weeks, 15 households are still living in hotels and 69 households remain in temporary accommodation. Only 82 of the 203 households are in permanent new homes.
- The Tower – we don’t know yet what will happen to it altough a memorial garden is one idea often mentioned, and it looks as if Latimer Road tube station may be renamed, Grenfell.
- Cladding nationwide – we face a £1bn bill for re-cladding at least 311 residential towers, including 159 social housing blocks. Only 11 of these blocks have so far been re-clad, with work having started on 100 others. Central government has reluctantly agreed to pay £400m towards the cost of this. There are big problems in the private sector over who should pay.
- Building regulations – these have not changed and there is, legally, nothing to stop the combustible materials being used again. The Hackitt review seems to have caused confusion on the issue and a new consultation is about to start.
- Police enquiry – it looks like they have the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation in their sights for possible manslaughter charges but none have been brought yet. London fire brigade and its senior officers are also facing investigations over the ‘stay put’ policy which was probably responsible for most of the deaths. The only people who have been actually arrested and charged are several people charged with fraud for having obtained money and hotel accommodation for falsely claiming to have been survivors.
- Public enquiry – this is now underway and it seems could run into 2020. Issues about the enquiry include the failure of some of the companies involved in the refurbishment to provide full statements and the location of the enquiry which some say should be closer to the tower.
- Death toll – this is now believed to be 71 including one unborn baby, although a lady who died in January is being counted by some as a victim of the fire.
There are also several reports showing how religious organisations and ordinary people provided the support that was conspicuously lacking from officials.
MP seeks stronger Freedom of Information (FOI) powers
A private members bill being brought by Labour MP Andy Slaughter and backed by the Campaign for Freedom of Information seeks to make contractors carrying out public works and housing associations – including the body that managed Grenfell Tower, subject to freedom of information requests.
This would also put organisations such as Carillion, G4S and Serco under greater public scrutiny.
There is a strong argument for extending FOI powers in this way as apparently a third of all public spending, is channelled to private companies or charities by local councils, central government and other official agencies.
Maybe if these private organisations were subject to FOI requests, there would be less incentive for this work to be outsourced to them?
Tenant fee ban in Wales
If you are a landlord or agent in Wales, you are not going to escape the tenant fee ban!
The English bill, by the way, is expected to become law next year but this will depend on when the client money protection rules come into force as the government have said they want this to happen first.
Fees have been banned in Scotland since 2012.
Letting Agents Insurance
An interesting post on Property Industry Eye, based on a report from solicitors acting for agent insurers, draws attention to a big increase in letting agents insurance claims.
This is due largely to the fact that tenants are bringing more claims for the deposit penalty payment (awarded when deposits have not be dealt with in accordance with the rules) against landlords, often with the help of ‘ambulance chasers’. After which the landlords will bring a claim against the real culprits – the letting agents.
Apparently, for the first quarter of the year, the solicitors firm acting on claims reports that 25% of its claims related to deposits not being lodged on time. A large proportion of agency claims also relate to property management services and repairs – anywhere between about a quarter and a half.
Which goes to indicate that a significant proportion of letting agents are not providing a good and proper service. This will hopefully change after the governments proposed new laws regulating the industry and requiring proper training have come into force. After which agents may find that their insurance premiums go down.
Another reason for good agents to welcome mandatory regulation.
A ‘rental dought’?
Property search engine Home.co.uk has warned that there is likely to be a ‘rental drought’ due to an exodus of many landlords selling up, deterred by buy-to-let taxes and Right to Rent rules.
It is possible that the right to rent rules may go if the judicial review proceedings currently being brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and supported by the RLA is successful. However, the tax rules don’t look like changing any time soon.
But surely this is what the government wanted? More houses in private ownership, leading inevitably to more grateful property owners voting Tory. I wonder if they are happy?
I suppose it depends on who is actually buying the properties. First-time buyers or other landlords? This report seems to indicate that at least some first-time buyers are benefitting.
- Fitness for Habitation Bill – this has a committee date of 20 June as reported by Nearly Legal with the proposed amendments here
- MP Mark Prisk has admitted that the Tenant Fee bill will result in higher rents but says this is still good for tenants as the system will be more transparent and the payments more spread out and affordable
- The world’s first habitable 3D printed house is to be built in the Netherlands.
You may be interested in a very short interview I did on Radio Norfolk on selective licensing in Great Yarmouth:
— Tessa Shepperson (@TessaShepperson) June 11, 2018
Newsround will be back next week.