Here are some news stories over the past week starting with my favourite story:
A council estate in Norwich wins the Stirling Prize
I was really delighted this week when a small Council Estate in Goldsmith Street, Norwich of some 105 properties won the prestigious Stirling Prize.
The modest estate has rows of small terraced houses with gardens, all beautifully designed and all built to the demanding ‘PassivHaus’ standard – the highest environmental standard possible in housing.
“A modest masterpiece” is how the RIBA Stirling prize judges described the project, designed by London firm Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley, representing “high-quality architecture in its purest most environmentally and socially conscious form”. The 105 creamy-brick homes are designed to stringent Passivhaus environmental standards, meaning energy costs are around 70% cheaper than average. The walls are highly insulated and the roofs are cleverly angled at 15 degrees, to ensure each terrace doesn’t block sunlight from the homes behind, while letterboxes are built into external porches, rather than the front doors, to reduce any possibility of draughts.
All the properties are rented to social tenants at affordable prices and the development is a wonderful example of what social housing could be if only Councils were allowed to raise the finance to built more of it.
Sadly most of these houses will probably be sold off to residents under the right to buy and so will be lost to the social sector.
I wrote about the development on my Eco Landlords blog.
Call for Electrical Check requirement to come into force
Despite the fact that the 2016 Housing & Planning Act contained a provision for regular electrical checks to become mandatory there is still no sign of the legislation coming into force.
Indeed when Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick tabled a parliamentary question asking when the checks would come for landlords, the housing minister Esther McVey has revealed there is still no start date in mind, saying
This will be achieved through secondary legislation, subject to parliamentary time
David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, told Property Industry Eye:
The first duty of any landlord is to ensure the properties they rent out are safe.
It is essential that the electrics and associated installations in homes are in good working order, and we would advise landlords to make use of safety appliances such as residual current devices.
The law already gives ministers the powers to require five-yearly electrical safety checks in private rented property.
All that is required is for the regulations allowing this to be approved by Parliament.
The RLA argues that this should happen swiftly to provide much greater clarity for the sector on what is expected of it. Remaining in a state of limbo helps nobody.
A sexist and drug-taking industry?
Several articles are reporting comments made by a former London sales agent in an interview in the Sun:
Estate agency is like something out of a 1980s time warp. It’s incredibly sexist and belittling towards women.
It still goes by the attitude that ‘sex sells’. It is also quite elitist. In parts of London, employees who attended private schools are preferred. The salary is often below minimum wage — you’re expected to work on Saturdays without complaint — and the hours are brutal.
She also talks about
- Women being encouraged to wear makeup and low cut tops to ‘persuade men to sign on the dotted line’
- Cocaine use being rife with some people taking it almost every day
- ‘Staggering’ levels of sexism, and
- Constant tales of male managers having affairs with female staff
- Fake viewings and fake feedback to encourage vendors to reduce their prices
You can read the interview here. It puts the development of tenant fees into a whole new context – presumably, they needed the money to pay for their drug habits …
It also means that the reforms suggested in Lord Bests working party group cannot come soon enough.
The CMA warns about ‘No DSS’ adverts
The Negotiator tells us that the CMA has issued a warning to agents on the use of ‘No DSS’ wording in adverts, saying that this sort of wording cannot be used unless there is a specific contractual requirement within a landlord’s mortgage.
The clarified advice is they tell us in the CMA’s updated ‘Guidance for lettings professionals on consumer protection law’.
Last chance for two important consultations:
- The Consultation on the end of section 21, and
- The Consultation on the Rogue Landlord database reform
Make sure you have your say. The consultations will close this weekend.
- Nearly Legal explains how a long leaseholder lost their flat through forfeiture
- Agent is fined £80,000 over HMO failures discovered after blaze in attic
- TDS report a growth in their traditional custodial deposit scheme despite alternative deposit schemes being available
- Government accused of wrecking plans to build more social housing
- Tenant fined £20,000 for illegally subletting an HMO
- Interesting article on landlords responses to rent caps in California
- The Home Office has produced a new right to rent factsheet
- Airbnb launches an enforcement portal in the UK