News

2nd April 2019
LEASE announces launch of Project Open Door data sharing
LEASE announces launch of Project Open Door  data sharing

The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) is pleased to announce today (2nd April, 2019) that it is making available data from its extensive database on Residential Leasehold enquiries.

LEASE’s interim Chair, Wanda Goldwag, stated that “LEASE in its role as a provider of advice on Residential Leasehold law naturally collates vast amounts of data, some of which is likely to be of interest to a wider audience. With the hard work of our staff, and the invaluable contributions from our Advisory Board, we are now making that data available to the world.” 

Chief Executive Anthony Essien further commented “LEASE firmly believes that in sharing the data we will be helping to educate, inform and empower leaseholders”.

Data is freely available on LEASE’s website (https://www.lease-advice.org/about-us/media/data/). It is the most current, relevant and comprehensive data relating to real issues being experienced by those in residential leasehold properties. In addition to a summary page, summarising the past five year’s data for those categories with the largest number of enquiries, the geographic region from which the enquiries originate, and the type of property (flat or house) about which enquiries are made, the underlying data is available to download as a csv file.

Following the first release, LEASE intends to publish data quarterly thereafter with the data offering being shaped through LEASE’s continuing collaboration with the likes of the Law Commission and the National Leasehold Campaign, representatives from both of whom currently sit as members of the project’s advisory board.

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29th March 2019
Brokenshire announces industry pledge to crack down on toxic leasehold deals
Brokenshire announces industry pledge to crack down on toxic leasehold deals

A new industry pledge to stop leaseholders being trapped in unfair and costly deals has been unveiled by the Communities Secretary, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, today (28 March).

More than forty leading property developers and freeholders - including big names such as Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Homes - have already signed the government-backed pledge, which commits them to doing away with onerous ‘doubling clauses’ that can result in ground rents soaring exponentially over a short period of time.

The freeholders who have signed have committed to changing the terms of leases for those who are affected. Other industry bodies such as managing agents and trade body ARMA (the Association of Residential Managing Agents) have also put their names down, vowing to act fairly and transparently in their dealings with leaseholders.

Ministers have also today announced plans to close the legal loopholes that force leaseholders to pay unjustified when they take their freeholders to court over pernicious service charges. This includes consultation with industry on whether these changes should apply to existing leases too.

Under current rules, leaseholders who wish to take their landlords to court to challenge exorbitant fees or unfair hikes in annual charges also run the risk of being forced to pay their landlord’s legal fees. This applies even if the court rules in their favour – hitting some tenants with bills of tens of thousands of pounds. 

Scrapping this loophole will reset the relationship between freeholders and leaseholders – stopping tenants being unfairly burdened with legal fees and ensuring they can access justice. 

The Communities Secretary, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, said:

“Since becoming Communities Secretary, I have repeatedly made clear my ambition to end those exploitative and unfair leasehold arrangements that have no place in a modern housing market.

“The new industry pledge - signed by leading freeholders and property developers - will further support existing and future leaseholders by protecting them from onerous fees. It’s great news that leading names such as Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments have already signed up to the pledge, and I want to see others who have not yet signed up do the right thing.”

Dr Nigel Glen, CEO of ARMA, said:

“The Public Pledge for Leaseholders gives leaseholders reassurance that their landlord will act fairly and responsibly towards them. Addressing the problem of doubling ground rents is a welcome central theme to the pledge. ARMA is delighted that a part of this responsible approach is to ensure that managing agents acting for participating freeholders or developers should be regulated by a formal industry body, such as ARMA. This will ensure that leaseholders are given the highest standards of service.

 

“We hope to see as many developers and freeholders as possible sign up to the pledge.”

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22nd March 2019
askporter appoints a CTO to step up innovation
askporter appoints a CTO to step up innovation

askporter, the property management and concierge service powered by artificial intelligence, has welcomed Stefan Sabev as its new CTO. Stefan will be responsible for helping to redefine the property management sector with his work on askporter’s product team.

Stefan brings to askporter six years of experience at Skyscanner where he led a team that built integrations with Messenger, Skype, Alexa and Cortana. This was the first travel search bot in the marketplace across a multitude of platforms. His most recent role was Product Lead at TravelNest and as their first product hire, Stefan worked with their CEO to define their vision, mission and strategy as well as being crucial to hiring. In addition to rebranding this new vision, Stefan worked on setting up an R&D grant, which resulted in £1.7 million in funding for the company from Scottish Enterprise.

Stefan has a background in Software Engineering and Data Science prior to working in product, to which he attributes his excellent understanding of technical decisions, married with an obsessive drive to achieve the best outcome for both the user and the business. This is something that he is excited to bring to his new role at askporter.

Stefan now plans to use his expertise to drive growth for askporter and develop the product, data science, design and engineering side of the business. He is excited to progress his career to the next level with a more leadership focused role. Stefan says: “I am massively excited to be joining askporter at this time, as the business is situated in a market that is ripe for disruption. Tom and Sam have built the company with amazing drive and obsession over the end user and I am excited to help them expand this.”

Since being backed by Google in December 2018, askporter is about to launch its ‘Porter Pioneers’ programme, a by application group of 15 property agencies and institutional landlords across Residential, Commercial and other specialist property sectors. The programme will provide these clients, who are soon to be announced, with an unparalleled opportunity to transform their business in a low-cost, low-risk way.

Lasting for six months, the askporter technical and property team will work closely with these agencies, property managers and landlords in automating their unique workflows and challenges. The programme will cover anything and everything involved with world class asset management: from qualifying potential leads and issuing bespoke AST’s, to collecting service charge payments, reconciling invoices and dealing with no heating.

CEO of askporter, Tom Shrive welcomes Stefan’s appointment and says: “It’s rare you meet someone with such a strong technical understanding of AI, customer centric approach and astute commercial awareness. I can’t wait to see the impact Stefan makes on both the company and product.”

Askporter was founded by childhood friends Tom Shrive and Sam Tassell in 2016 and provides an end-to-end AI property management platform for residential, commercial and other forms of real estate companies. At its heart sits Porter, a 24/7 digital assistant who automates workflows & responses for property managers and a concierge for tenants. Askporter is a portfolio company of PiLabs, the UK’s leading PropTech accelerator and the first international portfolio company of Google Assistant Investments.

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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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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