News

22nd March 2019
Cross industry support for the launch of new Freehold Management Enquiries form
Cross industry support for the launch of new Freehold Management Enquiries form

ARMA (the Association of Residential Managing Agents) is one of 15 cross industry trade and representative bodies to have come together to create and endorse a new Freehold Management Enquiries form (FME1).

Those involved in the creation of the FME1 form are urging all conveyancers to use this new standardised questionnaire to secure the necessary information if a property being sold is managed freehold. This is where a freehold property has a shared amenity requiring a maintenance either through an estate rent charge or covenants set out in the title.

Dr Nigel Glen, CEO of ARMA, commented:

“With the Government ban on leasehold houses we are likely to see a rise in the number of freehold sales enquiries. Following the success of the LPE1 form it made sense to produce a standard form for conveyancers to use when requesting information for freeholds and ARMA was happy to contribute to what we expect will be a successful process.”

The information required by the FME1 would come from the Rent charge Owner, the Management Company, the Managing Agent or any appointed representative of them, and would provide greater certainty around the provision of the information required to ensure the conveyancing process can progress.

Use of the new FME1 form will ensure that prospective purchasers have full details of any contribution required, who organises the maintenance arrangements for the share areas/amenities, likely increases to these amounts, and who owes what.

Currently, each conveyancing firm raises their own preferred questions in such cases which the group believes can create confusion and extra work, especially where the seller’s conveyancer does not ask all of the questions required by the buyer’s conveyancer.

The new FME1 form has been based on the updated Leasehold Property Enquiries (LPE1) which was also amended by a cross-industry group, and is now used in over 70% of all such transactions.

Organisations which have collaborated, fed into the creation of the FME1 form, and approve the LPE1 include: ARHM, ARLA, ARMA, the BPF, the CA, the Homeowners Alliance, CILEx, IRPM, the Law Society, the Leaseholder Association, NAEA, RICS, RTMF and the Society of Licensed Conveyancers.

This group of organisations and trade bodies will enter into a memorandum of understanding so that they jointly hold the copyright, with the form both freely available and available for free, to those who wish to use it but without the ability to alter the questions or format.

Please click here to access the form.

Regular reviews of the form’s contents will take place to ensure it remains current.

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20th March 2019
FUTURE: PropTech Shows Gender Balance is Possible as it Announces Speakers for 2019
FUTURE: PropTech Shows Gender Balance is Possible as it Announces Speakers for 2019

Setting an industry--event first for the male-dominated property sector, FUTURE: PropTech has today unveiled its roster of speakers - with the gender split being exactly 50 percent. Taking place on May 14th at the Business Design Centre in London, the event promises to be the most comprehensive PropTech conference to date, with a theme focused on ‘Open Collaboration’.

Themes that will be tackled by an expansive roster of more than 80 speakers include :
Solving the Housing Crisis – What role can innovation play?
Institutional Investors – using technology for better decision making
Innovation in Facilities Management
Case studies with major occupiers
Smart Cities & Urban Mobility

Gary Chimwa, Founder & CEO, FUTURE: PropTech commented: “While diversity and inclusion is increasingly being championed in the sector, there’s a big difference between talking about diversity and taking action. I’m thrilled that in our fifth year we have found a balance. I’m delighted to welcome industry experts such as Hendry Group CEO Emma Hendry, RBS Innovation Programme Manager, Jo Saunders, and Dara Huang, Founder of DH Liberty and Co-founder of Viva House, to join us as speakers for this event.

Chimwa continued: “This landmark for diversity is a result of our commitment to excellence and creation of the most extensive PropTech network globally. We’re extremely proud to be championing the change the best we can and we hope that other events across industries can take note of what is possible. This is a great moment for addressing gender inequality at conferences and a strong step to further improve the diversity of our speakers in the future. Many thanks to RE: Women and Women Talk Real Estate for the awesome help so far.”

Andrea Carpenter, Director, Women Talk Real Estate commented saying, “We are delighted that our industry partner Future:PropTech has shown real commitment to gender diversity with a 50/50 line-up of male/female speakers. It demonstrates that with forward planning and a thoughtful approach, the result can be an amazing array of female leaders on stage sharing their expertise.”

Across the stages, the conversations will explore the fundamental changes taking place in people’s living, working, and recreational lives. These are changes driven by global shifts such as urbanisation, demographics, and technology, and how the real estate industry should adapt to meet these challenges. With the currently uncertain investor market, FUTURE: PropTech will address where investors should allocate their capital for the highest return. The focus will also lay on occupiers, modern workplaces and the tenant experience. With such an array of topics, diversity of opinion is welcome at the conference.

Speaking on trends in the market and some of the discussions you can expect to see at the show, speaker at FUTURE: PRopTech, Orla Shields, CEO and Co-Founder of GetRentr adds: "Property Licensing is a major government lever designed to raise standards and protect tenants. We have seen the number of Additional and Selective schemes in place across the UK increase over the last few months. Simultaneously, councils are investing and ramping up their enforcement to ensure that legislation is connected to the real world and making a genuine impact. We expect this trend to continue of government taking a much larger hands on role in raising standards across the PRS and prosecuting rogue landlords and agents."

The show will be full of forward-thinking real estate executives and property industry figureheads. The event will also include two new features, the International Zone and the Residential Agent Zone, in association with Spark Energy. The packed agenda sees 30 hours of content, with a further 121 meeting opportunities through the booking app. FUTURE:PropTech has partnered with over 80 companies, of which, sponsors & exhibitors include Aberdeen Standard Investments, Asset Mapping, Arup, CBRE, Cherre, VTS, Open Box Software, Coyote Software, GetRentr, Hubhub by HB Reavis, Innogy Innovation Hub, Mishcon de Reya, Re-Leased, Stokr, Spark Energy and W-Tech.

After the event, all speakers and exhibitors are invited to a complimentary afterparty.

For more information, go to https://futureproptech.co.uk

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20th March 2019
Who is going to pay for the removal and replacement of the cladding on your building?
Who is going to pay for the removal and replacement of the cladding on your building?

In the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, on 14 June 2017, the Department for Communities and Local Government (“DCLG”) issued initial written guidance on cladding testing. The initial tests, conducted at the British Research Establishment on behalf of the Department for Communities and Local Government, consisted of a screening test to identify which panels contained fillers (in the core of the panels), which were of limited combustibility (Category 1) and which did not (Category 2 or 3).

For those landlords, management companies, RTM companies and managing agents who manage buildings with combustible cladding, and the leaseholders who live in those buildings, one question will have overshadowed all others over the last 18 months: who is going to pay for the removal and replacement of the cladding?

Roger Hardwick, Brethertons Residential Leasehold Partner has written a white paper to explore the extent to which the cost of removing and replacing cladding which has been found to have no fire-retardant properties can be recovered as a service charge, under the terms of the lease.

The contents of the white paper, covers:

Introduction
Issues not covered
General Principles
Repair or Improvement?
“Statutory Compliance” Clauses
“Sweeper” Clauses
Service Charge Mechanism
Cases
Conclusion

The white paper, entitled: ‘Recovering cladding costs as a service charge’ is available by email.  If you would like to receive your free copy, email theknowledgehub@brethertons.co.uk with your name, company and email address.

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19th March 2019
FirstPort announces acquisition of Barratt Residential Asset Management (BRAM)
FirstPort announces acquisition of Barratt Residential Asset Management (BRAM)

FirstPort has today announced the acquisition of Barratt Residential Asset Management (BRAM), Barratt London’s property management company.

Nigel Howell, FirstPort’s Chief Executive, said:

“We are delighted to be welcoming Barratt London’s 11,000 customers whose homes are cared for by BRAM, as well as BRAM’s 200 employees to FirstPort. As a full service, specialist residential property manager with over four decades of experience, FirstPort has the skills and expertise to support customers across the range of Barratt London homes that BRAM manages. We look forward to continuing and building upon BRAM’s work in delivering great service to customers in their homes and their home environment.” 

Gary Ennis, Regional Managing Director, Barratt London and Southern, said:

“Over the last seven years, through the efforts of our excellent team, BRAM has grown to become a successful property management company across London and we are very proud of the work and progress made. We were determined to ensure that any acquiring party must have a strong reputation and track record, and must share our customer focus. We are therefore delighted that BRAM has been acquired by FirstPort and we are confident in their commitment to continue to provide excellent service to our customers.”  

FirstPort and BRAM have written to all customers, clients and suppliers to make them aware of this transaction, and will now be working closely together to ensure a robust and detailed transition plan is in place to aid as smooth a handover as possible for both companies’ employees, customers and suppliers.

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19th March 2019
50 professionals gather for ALEP and Royds Withy King seminar
50 professionals gather for ALEP and Royds Withy King seminar

The Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners (ALEP) has held its first regional training event in Bath.  

The half-day session was organised by ALEP and hosted by law firm and ALEP member, Royds Withy King at its Midlands Bridge House office in Bath. The free event brought together 50 professionals from Bath’s property scene including enfranchisement solicitors and valuers, managing agents, estate and letting agents, portfolio owners and developers.  

The common aim for all who attended was to learn more about the forthcoming changes to legislation that will impact the leasehold enfranchisement sector over the coming months, and the implications these reforms will have for the wider property industry.  

Sarah Taylor, Associate and head of the enfranchisement team at Royds Withy King hosted the event. An expert panel delivered presentations focussed on key issues in the leasehold enfranchisement sector, which included:   

  • Nicola Muir – Barrister at Tanfield Chambers who outlined the Law Commission’s work on enfranchisement reform, its impact on leaseholders and professionals alike.  

  • Piers Harrison – Barrister at Tanfield Chambers presented an insight into recent leasehold cases. 

  • Andrew Pridell – Valuer, surveyor and ALEP Director and Committee Member hosted a session on the roles of valuers and solicitors and highlighted the importance of working together as a team.  

Sarah commented: “We were very pleased to work with ALEP and organise an event dedicated to education and insight into the leasehold sector for professionals in Bath. Leasehold is such a high-profile topic which is impacting firms and leaseholders across the country. This event brought together colleagues to put a spotlight on important issues and deliver a crucial look at what’s ahead for the sector and, indeed, the wider property industry.”  

Post-event feedback highlighted how delegates welcomed the seminar being held in a regional location which was easily accessible to them. Speakers, delegate handouts and the networking were also commended by attendees. Comments from delegates included:  

“Thank you very much for hosting such a good and accessible event. I am a Valuer based in Newbury and early evening London ALEP events are sometimes just not so achievable, so regional events are most welcome.” 

“Excellent conference. Thank you for the regional location – very much appreciated” 

“Many thanks for an excellent enfranchisement conference. It is much appreciated that Royds Withy King and ALEP combined to provide a regional seminar of such quality.”  

Clare Grove ALEP’s Marketing Manager, said: “As the issue of leasehold enfranchisement has become an intense topic over the last year, we made a strategic decision to broaden our engagement with our regional members. So far, we’ve had great success with our regional seminars in Manchester and Bath which saw the sector’s top counsel and highly-respected valuation experts deliver valuable insight and promote best practice to other professionals across the country. Our recent networking event in Southampton also proved to be a hit, so watch this space for further regional events throughout 2019.”  

For more information on ALEP and membership, please visit http://www.alep.org.uk/  

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7th March 2019
Askporter launches new look after securing backing from Google
Askporter launches new look after securing backing from Google

Property management platform askporter has rebranded, the first major change in its identity since the company launched in 2017. The new askporter branding reflects the company’s innovative and fresh approach to property management and has been rolled out across its website and social media platforms this week. Askporter is an AI driven property management platform with Porter at its heart, an AI digital assistant who eliminates mundane tasks and delivers instant, efficient customer service.

The rebrand comes at a significant time for askporter, who since receiving backing from Google as part of their Google Assistant Investment Program late last year, are now set to launch their ‘Porter Pioneers’ project in the coming weeks. This will see them partner with 15 property agencies and institutional landlords across residential, commercial and other specialist property sectors. Lasting six months, the programme will allow the askporter technical and property team to automate their unique workflows and challenges.

CEO and Co-Founder of the company, Tom Shrive, says: "We felt that with our recent investment milestones and impending launch of our Pioneers Programme, that it was time to look at the askporter brand. It was a brand that my Co-founder Sam and I had very quickly scratched together during the second week of PiLabs, who are Euorpe’s first property VC firm that played a part in our initial funding, when we realised our original name 'AskPam' was already trademarked. AskPam originally stood for Property Account Manager - in retrospect it's a good job the name was taken!”

Tom continues: “We quickly decided that we loved the askporter name. For us, the 'ask' symbolises the 'instant response on request' aspect of residents and occupants interacting though our platform. We did however decide that the identity and style needed to be updated to make the brand more representative of our ambitions. The 'a' of askporter takes the form of a stylised 'chat bubble' that can be displayed in our clients colours on their websites and apps. We feel it is representative of our partner driven approach and works independently of the wordmark 'askporter’”.

The new askporter branding is an accurate depiction of the company itself with key colours comprising of electric purple with the addition of black and white to convey a premium feel with an energetic edge. The black and white in particular demonstrate the clean, no-nonsense aspects of askporter’s approach to its clients and product.  At the core sits ‘Porter,’ a digital artificial intelligence assistant for agents, property managers, and landlords that eliminates mundane tasks & delivers fast, efficient customer service.

The branding has been designed to reflect this fresh approach to property management. From one single platform, property & facilities managers, and landlords, can automate their workflows with AskPorter which over time learns and improves how they work in a completely customisable way. For tenants & occupants, Porter provides a 24/7 response accessible by text, voice & more providing them with a personal concierge.

The askporter rebrand has been masterminded by Goji Graphics. Their founder, Rob Rivett, says: “I set out to create a striking and energetic identity that speaks heaps about the brand at hand, while maintaining a minimal digestible style that can make a home in the tech and property industries. The askporter rebrand effortlessly pulls it off and more”.

For further details, please visit www.askporter.com and to apply to the Porter Pioneers programme please email: curran.mckay@askporter.com

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26th February 2019
FirstPort appointed as the new property manager of further Build to Rent phases at Wembley Park
FirstPort appointed as the new property manager of further Build to Rent phases at Wembley Park

Developer Quintain and Build to Rent operator Tipi have appointed FirstPort UK to be the new property manager of further Build to Rent phases at Wembley Park.

Wembley Park is set to be the largest concentration of Build to Rent homes on a single site in the UK. Working closely alongside the Tipi team, FirstPort will provide asset management services to the blocks. Jamie Jenner will continue his role as the on-site Estate Manager. 

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22nd February 2019
New Appointment for Brethertons Employment Team
New Appointment for Brethertons Employment Team

Brethertons is pleased to welcome Roy Magara as an Associate to their Employment team.   

Roy brings a wealth of expertise in both contentious and advisory elements of the law including discrimination, whistleblowing claims, restrictive covenants, breach of contract claims, settlement agreements, unfair dismissal claims and harassment claims.

He is a specialist Associate with Higher Rights offering our customers seamless representation from the onset of a matter through to representation at an Employment Tribunal (up to the Supreme Court) should the matter progress to that level.

Amy Edwards, Head of Practice Area – Employment at Brethertons, says of the appointment “I’m delighted to welcome Roy to our expanding Employment team.  His experience and expertise will be a true asset and greatly enhance our full service offering to our customers.”

For more information on Brethertons’ Employment services, visit https://www.brethertons.co.uk/site/individuals/employment-law-solicitors/

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30th January 2019
Would you know how to help a young person sleeping rough? Centrepoint does!
Would you know how to help a young person sleeping rough? Centrepoint does!

By Mandy Ferries, HR Director, FirstPort UK

We’ve all seen a young person sleeping in a doorway but what’s the best way to help them? Our corporate charity partner Centrepoint has been supporting homeless young people since 1969. It began as a shelter in the basement of a church in Soho, London, but now has over 60 accommodation services across the UK. 

As our charity partner for 2019 Centrepoint’s reach and expertise continues to impress me and all my colleagues. But rather than call the Centrepoint helpline, there are six ways they recommend we can help a homeless young person, especially now it’s winter.

1. Refer them to Streetlink

StreetLink allows members of the public to connect young people sleeping rough with the local services that can support them. This is the best way to find young people out on the streets immediate support in cold weather. You can download the StreetLink app from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store.

You can also call their 24 hour helpline on 0300 500 0914 or visit their website. When you send an alert, you should include:

  1. A specific location where the young person is sleeping.
  2. The time you saw the young person at this location.
  3. Any information about the young person that will help outreach workers find them (for example, gender, age, what the person looks like, what they’re wearing).

If you can, it’s probably best to let the young person know you’re referring them, as they may not want their details shared with other agencies. You can also ask them if they’re happy to pass on their mobile number so it’s easier for outreach workers to contact them.

2. Stop and talk to the young person to see if there’s anything they need

This could include food, drink, thermals, bedding, a travelcard or a reusable water bottle. While long-term help makes the biggest difference, having a conversation with a young person over a cup of tea can be really important.

3. Get in touch with your council and ask about SWEP

SWEP stands for Severe Weather Emergency Protocol and provides emergency support for rough sleepers when the temperatures drop drastically. During SWEP councils open extra beds in night shelters as well as other services.

This is dependent on guidelines, but it’s worth checking with your council to see if SWEP is in operation and how those sleeping rough can access it. Find your local council here >

4.   Refer young people to day centres

Day centres offer practical help such as a hot meal and access to showers and laundry facilities. You can find your nearest day centre by using Homeless Link’s directory or calling the Centrepoint Helpline on 0808 800 0661.

5.   If you have some spare time, you might also be able to volunteer at a day centre if they need an extra pair of hands

If someone appears to be in immediate danger or seems unwell, please call 999.

6.   Call the Centrepoint helpline

Centrepoint’s helpline is there to offer advice to anyone in England aged 16-25 who’s homeless or at risk and connect young people to the right services. Call them for free on 0808 800 0661 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm).

You can also talk to them online (Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm) here: https://centrepoint.org.uk/youth-homelessness/get-help-now/

Centrepoint has been supporting homeless young people since 1969. It began as a shelter in the basement of a church in Soho, London, but now has over 60 accommodation services across the UK. 

They've made a big difference to the lives of many young people, but there's still more to be done. Centrepoint estimates that 86,000 young people asked their local council for help in 2016/17 because they were homeless or at risk of homelessness. 

This isn't acceptable. That's why we're committed to helping vulnerable young people break the cycle of homelessness.

https://centrepoint.org.uk/

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24th January 2019
Den Automation launches its Smart Home product range in the UK after raising 5 million in funding
Den Automation launches its Smart Home product range in the UK after raising 5 million in funding
  • Den Automation was founded by Yasser Khattak in 2014 at the age of 17. He remains the youngest founder to ever raise funds on Seedrs
  • Den is the first and only brand who have designed smart light switches and socket outlets, without changing the way they look, enabling consumers to control them remotely and by hand as normal
  • Den’s smart device suite is controllable via the SmartPhone App, Amazon Echo and Google Home hubs from launch

Den, the startup reinventing the common switch, has announced its latest funding round of £2m, bringing its total investment to £5 million. The company also launched a suite of smart products designed to change the way we control and monitor electrical equipment, lighting and power usage in the home.

Notable investors include Thomas James, investor in ZenDesk, the Founder of Computers Unlimited, James Sanson, YESSS Group, the parent company of YESSS Electrical which is the UK’s fastest growing electrical wholesalers with over 100 branches in the UK, Mark Davies, a founding member of Betfair and Ian Marchant, former CEO at SSE for 10 years.

Den’s vision is to use smart home devices to change the way we control and monitor power usage in homes. Its first wave of products includes Smart Light Switches, Smart Sockets, Motion Sensor, Smart Remote and Den’s Smart Home Hub. Den also includes its revolutionary Smart Tags for tracking the location of appliances even if they are moved around the home & monitoring appliance power usage - whether laptops or phones from room to room or the location of high-risk appliances like irons and hair-straighteners, Den can track them at all times.

Den is the only firm in the world with the patent for truly smart switches and plugs that fit seamlessly into the home - deliberately identical to the plugs and switches the UK is most used to. Den deliberately adds modern tech driven functionality without changing the habits and rules of the household.

Den’s Founder and Chairman, Yasser Khattakcomments on the newly launched product range saying that,“Conventional light switches and socket outlets have been around for more than 100 years and have barely changed - we’re not the first to build wireless switches, they have been available for more than 20 years, however every single wireless switch in the world today has replaced the switch we’re familiar with for buttons or touch pads that are complicated and hard to use. We’re the only company in the world who’ve built wireless switches without taking away the original switch we’re so familiar with. Super excited having released products today. We are looking forward to following up with additional features and products in the coming months and years.”

All devices can be controlled and monitored via a smartphone app, and can integrate with both Amazon Alexa and Google Home as of today. Den’s Smart Tags allow users to track which appliances are draining the most energy and alert users to safety concerns. In the case of irons and hair straighteners, for example, Den can inform users about what they’ve left running too long, and if not responded to, automatically switch them off.

The idea of Den was that of Yasser Khattak in 2012, when tasked with going around the family home powering off lights and appliances. At just 15 years old, he saw an opportunity for change. Khattak believed there must be a more efficient way to control power in the home, being able to turn things off with a single tap. This firmly planted the vision of connecting everything on his evening route to an integrated smartphone app. Since then, Khattak has built Den from a one-man operation into a team of 28 in the UK and Poland. Central to the company’s vision from the onset has been the core ideal of inclusive design, adding extra functionality that works for everyone, be they able-bodied users, or people with physical or mental impairments.

The latest round of funding will be used in the production of the next range of devices for the home, which will include Den’s Smart Dimmer Switches as well as the entire range with chromed metal finishes. Funds will also be used to expand operations and the team, to enable further product integrations such as Homekit and explore opportunities with further integrations like IFTTT.

Speaking on the new round of investment, Founder and Chairman Yasser Khattak commented: “Since we first announced Den to the market four years ago, we have had an incredible amount of support from the Seedrs community, angel investors, and strategic partners. We’re delighted to welcome our new investors on the journey. Their expertise is incredibly valuable as we move from product development to market and look to further grow the team. We have a lot of plans for Den and it’s incredibly exciting to see our first products shipping this week!”

On his recent investment in Den, Ian Marchant, Director of Dunelm Energy and former longstanding CEO of SSE adds that: Den is providing a simple and elegant solution to bring our existing housing stock into the 21st century, allowing everyone to benefit from the advantages of the smart home revolution. As a long-standing believer in the future of home automation, I have been on the lookout to add to my investment portfolio. Den Automation was a no-brainer. I am not only delighted to have been able to invest, but I am also very much excited about the future it offers, both for work and for my home setup.”

Khattak's vision has helped him gain the trust of investors and notable tech leaders. In February 2017, Robert Watkins Joined the team as CEO. Watkins is a well-established stalwart of the tech world having notably been Sir Alan Sugar’s CEO at Amstrad for five years as well as being the firm’s director for over 20. Watkins was also notably the Managing Director at Euro Swiss International Ltd. in Hong Kong. 

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