News

3rd March 2021
New Supply Chain Operations Director appointed by FirstPort
New Supply Chain Operations Director appointed by FirstPort

FirstPort has appointed a Director of Supply Chain Operations to ensure that customers and clients are at the centre of its strategy.

Derren Chamberlain has joined FirstPort from ISS where he was Chief Procurement Officer for just over four years, as well as being part of the senior leadership team for UK and Ireland. Whilst there, he led a full-scale transformation of the function, including policy, processes, people, and systems.

Prior to this, he was Supply Chain Director for the Maritime Services at BAE Systems where he designed and executed a supply chain strategy to improve operational performance, with a strong focus on Estates and Facilities Management.

Derren brings to FirstPort 25 years’ experience of procurement and supply chain leadership. His first priority will be to review and transform FirstPort’s full end-to-end supply chain management approach, with a focus on improving engagement with its suppliers to create demonstrable value to customers and clients.

He will also be defining and finessing how the organisation uses its world class procurement system, Coupa, making sure it is providing FirstPort with measurable evidence of good practice as well as areas where improvements are needed so that they can quickly be addressed.

Speaking of his appointment, Derren says: “My first impressions of FirstPort is a committed team which is professional and holds very strong values. I want to make sure that we are seen as a centre of excellence within the business to support colleagues, and across the industry as we refine and measure our progress. Ultimately, it is about being able to evidence to our customers and clients that we are delivering the best quality and value services possible.

“I’ll be looking at how we evolve and enhance our supply chain, making sure our local and national contractors are working in partnership with us and are fully embedded into our teams to provide a first-class service.”

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25th February 2021
First-of-its-kind report reveals key role managing agents need to play in wake of leasehold reforms

70% of Resident Directors currently spend ten hours or less a month on their role, but leasehold reform and industry changes (such as the effects of the draft Building Safety Bill) could increase this if Directors don’t have access to the support they need. 61% are currently employed, and at least a third (33%) are involved in additional responsibilities outside of work or their role as a Resident Director, such as sitting as board and committee members, or acting as school governors, charity trustees and volunteers. 

A first-of-its-kind report conducted by FirstPort has identified eight in ten (80%) Resident Directors go to their managing agent as their first port of call when they need help in their role. The property management company undertook the in-depth report with more than 200 Resident Directors across its network, to better understand their wants and needs. With the introduction of new leasehold reforms offering leaseholders the opportunity to take more control of their homes, and an estimated 4.3 million* leasehold homes in England alone, it is likely the number of Resident Directors will rise in coming months – and with it, the part to play for property managing agents.    

The report reveals the biggest incentive to become a Resident Director is a sense of pride in their development (70%), followed by a desire to support their neighbours (36%). With the home environment having become even more important over recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many neighbours becoming closer, it is likely this figure will continue to rise over the next year. 

Resident Directors’ key priorities when it comes to the day-to-day management of their properties include value for money from managing agents (58%) and contractors (55%), ensuring the property’s service charge budget is accurate (52%) and successfully completing repairs and maintenance (52%).  

New and proposed changes to regulation and compliance are expected to have an impact on priorities, however, as more powers will mean more responsibilities. Some areas of responsibility are a cause of concern. In particular, Resident Directors picked out insurance (75%), building safety (72%) and sustainability (71%).  As residents are granted greater control over finances, insurance, and fire safety, informed advice will become more important. It is likely Resident Directors will benefit from additional expert support in these areas in the coming months and years.   

FirstPort’s Chief Operating Officer, David Young, said: "It’s great to see homeowners engaging with their communities and opting to become Resident Directors. Resident Management Companies are a powerful way for residents to get more involved in the important decision making about the management of their homes and to play an active role in supporting their community. 

“The proposed changes to regulation and building safety may, understandably, worry some Resident Directors but that is where having a great property manager comes in. Managing agents play an important role helping Resident Directors to successfully navigate and fulfil their responsibilities. We know Resident Directors often take on the legal responsibilities and liabilities that come with this role without any formal training and while carrying on with their day jobs.  

 "Working with a responsible, professional property manager means Directors have peace of mind that they’ve got the right support in place for them and their communities, and a safe pair of hands to take on the technical and time-consuming jobs that come with managing complex residential developments.” 

FirstPort understands the responsibilities, pressures, and complexities that property management creates for Resident Directors. With over 40 years’ experience, FirstPort works with over 1,000 resident managed developments across the UK, helping RTM and RMC Directors meet their management and legal obligations. To read the report in full, and find out more about FirstPort, visit www.firstport.co.uk/resident-director-survey

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8th February 2021
IRPM and ARMA Launch Wellbeing and Resilience Survey for the Property Management Sector
IRPM and ARMA Launch Wellbeing and Resilience Survey for the Property Management Sector

The Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) and the Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM) have today launched a wellbeing and resilience survey, aimed at those working within the residential property management sector.

The results will provide a mental ‘health check’ for the industry and ultimately help towards shaping future mental health and wellbeing support for property management professionals.

Aimed at property managers as well as onsite and back-office support staff, the survey asks recipients to share their current life pressures, their experiences of aggressive behaviour and the implications of coronavirus. It will also highlight the numbers dealing with cladding and external wall systems issues, which are proving to be a regular source of pressure for property management staff.

The survey also seeks to measure current levels of job satisfaction by establishing whether existing employer support is adequate and gauging what proportion of the workforce is likely to seek employment in a different sector in the near future.

ARMA and IRPM state the survey’s results can help the sector develop initiatives which can support the mental health and continued performance of property management professionals.

Nigel Glen, CEO of ARMA, said: “These are tough times for everyone, particularly leaseholders living in flats with unsafe cladding.

‘Our survey seeks to shine a light on the other side of the coin – the property management professionals who often bear the brunt of leaseholder frustrations, despite not being at fault for building defects.

‘Add to this the complications a pandemic brings, and we are almost certainly looking at a workforce that is facing uncapped levels of pressure and stress. We want this survey to flag areas of concern so we can come up with strategies that will ensure our sector’s professionals can remain efficient and appropriately supported.”

Andrew Bulmer, CEO of IRPM said: “Property management has never been an easy profession, but at the moment it’s surely tougher than ever. The cladding crisis and leasehold reform, each on their own, would be huge challenges. That they have landed during a global pandemic is outrageous bad fortune and just keeping up with the changes is exhausting.’

‘A well-trained and highly competent workforce is essential, but today’s employers understand their greatest asset is their people. Supporting your team as they face their daily challenges creates a positive workplace culture, a stable and successful business and better outcomes for our customers. But what is the right kind of support, and for whom? What practical things can employers and individual professionals do to improve our wellbeing and the wellbeing of those we serve? To answer those questions, we need to analyse the evidence and that is why it is so important that every property professional takes part in this survey.’

The survey will close on Monday 1st March, 2021 with the results set to be published in late March.

Survey respondents will remain anonymous. The survey can be accessed and completed here.

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5th February 2021
Future fuels up drive for EV chargepoints in flats
Future fuels up drive for EV chargepoints in flats

Future Fuel, a leading installer of EV chargepoints in residential blocks, has announced that supported by new a finance partner, it is now rolling out an exciting fully-funded charging solution for apartment buildings.

On 2 February, the Government announced a £20M cash injection to boost the number of on-street chargepoints. But flat owners need to charge their vehicles closer to home and it’s not always easy to persuade landlords to invest in car park EV infrastructure until there is buy-in from a majority of residents.

To break the log-jam and make take-up easy and cost-free for block owners, Future Fuel is now able to offer a great new fully financed and maintained solution thanks to its new funding deal.

Future can pre-cable EV chargers in block parking spaces, so residents can switch to electric hassle-free. Installation and maintenance of dedicated 7.4kw chargepoints with RFID or app based control plus technical support comes via a range of unlimited charging bundles for residents that start at £79 per month – or they can opt for PAYG. The service charge is completely by-passed and there is no charge to the landlord.

With more than two years in the industry, Future also has plenty of evidence to show that future-proofing blocks for EV charging has a positive impact on both desirability and property values.

To find out more, contact Future Group

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4th February 2021
A new Business Development Manager for London based Property Management firm Crabtree
A new Business Development Manager for London based  Property Management firm Crabtree

We are delighted to announce Crabtree's Business Development Manager - Kieran Clarke

Kieran has been in the property industry for over 8 years and is AIRPM qualified. During his career he has gained experience in block, estate, facilities, and AST management, as well as investment both in the UK and overseas.

Kieran started his career in property in 2013 as a property manager for Atlantis Estates. He was promoted to Regional Manager and then to Sales/Relationship Director looking after all current clients and obtaining new business and working with developers.

In 2017 Kieran moved to Spain and co-started a property sales, lettings and property management company. Initially focussing on Spain, he then branched out to sales and developments in the USA and a development attached to a hotel in Costa Rica. He was also involved in hotel investment/sales in Morocco and Mauritius.

Kieran moved back to the UK in 2019 and assisted in the setup of all company/HR/HSE and facilities management for a portfolio of pub/restaurants. In late 2020 he joined Leaders as Head of Property Management, looking after a team in Cambridge.

With Kieran on board, and with his diverse range of experience we see future growth for the business within the London block management sector. Crabtree is an established Managing agent with over 35 years serving the property industry.

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3rd February 2021
Bishop and Sewell and Monro Wright and Wasbrough LLP announce merger
Bishop and Sewell and Monro Wright and Wasbrough LLP announce merger

The Partners of Bishop & Sewell and Monro Wright & Wasbrough are delighted to announce the merger of their two firms. Monro Wright & Wasbrough (‘MWW’) will merge with Bishop & Sewell with effect from 1st February 2021 and the newly combined practice will operate as “Bishop & Sewell LLP incorporating Monro Wright & Wasbrough.”

The Bishop & Sewell management team led by Mark Chick (Senior Partner and Management Board Chair) and Michael Kashis (Managing Partner – Strategy and Implementation) will be joined by the MWW team, with Nicholas Barlow becoming Head of Private Client and Thom Wilkinson joining the new firm’s Management Board.

Bishop & Sewell was established in 1979 by Stephen Bishop and Jill Sewell and has always been known for its strong property and commercial reputation. Since its foundation, it has steadily expanded to become a full-service firm covering Residential & Commercial Property, Corporate & Commercial, Employment, Family, Immigration, Private Client, Tax & Trusts and Dispute Resolution. Its clients are private individuals, families, businesses and entrepreneurs.

Monro Wright & Wasbrough LLP can trace its history back to the Eighteenth Century in and around the Inns of Court and offers a wide range of legal services covering Private Client, Property, Family, Dispute Resolution, Corporate & Commercial.

The merger is part of Bishop & Sewell’s continued planned expansion strategy and will strengthen its Private Client, Property, Family and Dispute Resolution practices, with a team of people perfectly aligned with its culture and values. The combined firm will operate from Bishop & Sewell’s offices in Russell Square, London, WC1.

Mark Chick Senior Partner of Bishop & Sewell comments as follows:

“I am delighted to be able to announce the merger of our two firms. Monro Wright & Wasbrough is a long-established practice, with a much-valued history of providing traditional Private Client services. This merger comes about as a result of our long-term strategic planning to build and expand the breadth and depth of our client service offering, particularly in the Private Client arena.

The culture and values of Monro Wright & Wasbrough are very much aligned with our own and this is a merger in the true sense. We look forward to learning from our colleagues from Monro Wright & Wasbrough as we move forward together and I am very excited about the opportunity that this brings to move our combined practice forward.

At a time when legal services are becoming ever more impersonal and traditional client service values are under attack, this new venture gives us the chance to expand our offering to clients, whilst fitting in with our forward-looking vision.”

Nicholas Barlow, Senior Partner of Monro Wright & Wasbrough comments:

“I am tremendously excited that our discussions with Mark Chick, Stephen Bishop, Michael Kashis and the rest of the senior management team at Bishop & Sewell have brought about the merger of our respective ambitious and talented firms.

From the first meeting it was clear that combining the expertise in both practices would result in a merged firm that will provide a first-class service to our valued clients across a broad range of disciplines and allow our colleagues to develop their professional practices in a results-driven yet collegiate and client-focussed environment.”

This merger will see Bishop & Sewell’s team of fee earners increase to 76, with a full-service remit across five core areas of Property, Private Client, Commercial, Litigation and Family.

 
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26th January 2021
FirstPort named a Top Employer for third consecutive year
FirstPort named a Top Employer for third consecutive year

FirstPort, the UK’s largest residential property manager, has retained its status as a Top Employer in the UK, after being awarded the prestigious certification for the third consecutive year by the Top Employers Institute.

Being certified as a Top Employer showcases an organisation’s dedication to a better world of work and exhibits this through excellent people policies and practices.

The Top Employers Institute programme certifies organisations based on the participation and results of their HR Best Practices Survey. This survey covers 6 HR domains consisting of 20 topics such as People Strategy, Work Environment, Talent Acquisition, Learning, Well-being and Diversity & Inclusion and more.

Michael Venus, Chief People Officer at FirstPort, said: “We are delighted to be named among the UK’s top employers for the third year in a row. This award is hugely important to us, because the accreditation process looks at a number of key themes that ensure FirstPort is a great place to work.

“During these challenging times, it has been important to support our employees as they have adapted to the many changes in both their professional and personal lives. In doing so, we have been able to focus on the wellbeing of our employees, whilst continuing to support their professional development throughout 2020.

“At FirstPort, we are extremely proud of our team, who continue to deliver the best possible service for our customers and clients, and it is a credit to this team that we have achieved this award once again.”

Top Employers Institute CEO David Plink says: “Despite the challenging year we have experienced, which has certainly made an impact on organisations around the globe, FirstPort has continued to demonstrate the power of putting their people first in the workplace. We are proud to share this year’s announcement and congratulate the organisations who have been certified in their respective countries through the Top Employers Institute programme.”

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15th January 2021
Five Years of Five-Star Gradings for FirstPort in the British Safety Council Audit
Five Years of Five-Star Gradings for FirstPort in the British Safety Council Audit

FirstPort has achieved a five-star grading in the British Safety Council’s Occupational Health and Safety Audit for the fifth year running.

The organisation received a score of 95.88%, demonstrating its commitment towards the continual improvement of health and safety management systems and processes and recognising it as a best practice organisation.

The audit recognised FirstPort’s continued efforts to implement the highest standards of health and safety management, a clear commitment from senior management, and an enthusiastic health and safety team. It also highlighted that FirstPort has an extensive occupational health and safety management system, with good processes for stakeholder engagement, compliance monitoring and building management.

Mark Varley, Director of Health and Safety at FirstPort, said: “To have achieved five stars in all five years that we have been audited is a tremendous achievement. We have developed a robust health and safety culture at FirstPort amongst our colleagues and contractors – one that we are very proud of. We work hard to make sure our customers see the benefits too, so that they feel safe in their homes.”

Roni Kotecha, Managing Director of Audits, British Safety Council, said: “The award of a five-star grading following our occupational best practice Health and Safety Audit is an outstanding achievement and is reflective of a proactive organisation which is committed to continual improvement in its health and safety arrangements and managing risks to workers’ health, safety and welfare. FirstPort should be very proud of this achievement.”

To achieve the grading, FirstPort underwent a comprehensive, quantified and robust evaluation of its occupational health and safety policies, processes and practices. The audit process included documentation review, interviews with senior management, employees and other key stakeholders, together with sampling of operational activities. The audit measured performance against key health and safety management best practice indicators and a detailed review of over sixty component elements.

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15th January 2021
Is the Ministry of Housings latest announcement actually harming leaseholders
Is the Ministry of Housings latest announcement actually harming leaseholders

Rob Denman, Principal Associate & Head of Real Estate at JB Leitch, comments on the Government’s recent announcements on leasehold reform…

On 7th January 2021 the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, via Robert Jenrick (the Housing Secretary), confirmed that they would be giving all leaseholders the right to extend their lease by a maximum of 990 years at a zero ground rent. This announcement was the Government accepting part of the recommendations on leasehold reform put forward by the Law Commission in their reports from January 2020 and July 2020.

Existing Rights

At present the right already exists for leaseholders of flats (providing they meet the qualifying criteria) to extend their lease for 90 years in addition to the unexpired term at a peppercorn ground rent. Leaseholders of houses (providing they meet the qualifying criteria) can also extend their leases by 50 years at a modern ground rent. Leaseholders of houses (providing they meet the qualifying criteria) also have the right to purchase their freehold.

Lack of Substantive Detail

Although, on the face of it, this announcement appears to be good news for leaseholders it lacks any detail other than the new lease being for 990 years at a nil ground rent. As a rather mischievous aside it would be interesting to see how many leasehold properties that exist now will be in existence in 990 years’ time!

There are no timescales confirmed for this reform other than “legislation will be brought forward in the upcoming session of Parliament”. Even more importantly there is no confirmation as to how the premium for these new forms of lease extension will be calculated. The Government’s announcement simply confirmed that “an online calculator will be introduced”. The Law Commission’s paper from January 2020 gave the Government three options to calculate the premiums for lease extensions and the summary concluded stating “it is now for Government to decide which of the options to pursue”. Given the lack of detail on this point it does not appear that the Government have yet decided which option to pursue despite the options being put to them 12 months ago. Detail on this point is critical here as it the price payable that is the crucial issue for leaseholders and freeholders alike.

Potential impact on the Housing Market

Throughout the Covid 19 pandemic the Government have been keen wherever possible to keep the housing market buoyant. Estate Agents are free to operate in the latest lockdown and a Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday has been in place since July 2020. The holiday expires on 31st March 2021.

This latest leasehold reform statement may significantly impact the current housing market to the detriment of existing and new leaseholders. Anyone who saw last week’s statement on leasehold reform may be forgiven for thinking this reform was either already in place or would come in to law in the short term. That is simply not the case and any such legislation (particularly in the current climate with more pressing issues) is unlikely to become law for at least 12 months if not more. Particularly when you factor in that the Government appears yet to have decided on the key question of the valuation options.

There are an estimated 4.5 million leasehold properties in England and Wales so any sale and purchase chain of transactions is likely to include a number of leasehold properties. This latest statement is therefore likely to have cast doubt in the minds of some existing leaseholders as well as new ones on how to proceed with buying and selling leasehold property. If lease extensions are required now to enable property sales should they proceed under the old regime or wait until the new one is in place? Would a potential leaseholder be happy with a new lease that is for only for a term of 90 years plus the current unexpired term as opposed to a 990 year lease? Why would a leaseholder extend their lease now if it is likely to be cheaper in the future? If so what impact will this potential doubt and indecision have on existing chains of transactions and would some collapse because of this?

Impact of Pension Funds and Investments

I have made this point several times previously but it is still a pertinent one. Like it or not, most people are invested in ground rent income in one way or another through their pensions. Ground rent investments have proved very popular for pension funds as they offer steady returns with a low risk profile. If this asset class ceased to exist through this proposed reform it would likely have a significant impact on the value of such investments and pension funds would have to source an alternative asset class that mirrored these current low risk returns. The lack of detail regarding the premium calculation and timescale of implementation may have an adverse effect on the value of pension funds and investments within which we are all stakeholders.

Conclusion

Uncertainty is the enemy of any market and this Government statement with its lack of detail, as detailed above, may actually do more harm than good in the short term for both leaseholders and freeholders.

As many have already commented, it may have made more sense for the Government to comment further on leasehold reform once they had made the key decisions on how premiums would be calculated and the intended timescale of implementation. Rhetoric does not benefit anyone. Well considered, detailed and clear messaging on leasehold reform is what is needed for all sectors of leasehold property otherwise the law of unintended consequences will continue to apply.  

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13th January 2021
Fexco Property Services joins forces with industry leaders to push Unique Property Referencing
Fexco Property Services joins forces with industry leaders to push Unique Property Referencing

Leading residential property bodies have today published an open letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and copied to Thalia Baldwin, Director of the Geospatial Commission highlighting the potential benefits from a widely adopted Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) and steps that Government needs to take to make this happen. The signatories of the letter,  which includes leading bodies from across the residential property sector, believe that the wide market adoption of the UPRN will deliver substantial benefits to UK society, the residential property sector, and to Government.

Andrew Bulmer, CEO of IRPM comments: “The UPRN is like attaching a number plate to a car, instead we attach a unique number (up to 12-digits) to all things related to properties (fittings, fixtures, paperwork, surveys etc), so that each property can be uniquely identified with unparalleled accuracy.

If all the conditions outlined in the letter were to be met, we could proactively work towards the wholesale adoption of the UPRN. Implemented effectively, this could help position the UK as the world’s leading property market”.

Dan Hughes, Founder of Alpha Property Insight and the Real Estate Data Foundation noted that; “The property sector is at the heart of the economy, people’s wellbeing and our impact on the environment. There are huge opportunities for technology to help with improving every aspect of this, but to do so requires the effective use of data. The wide adoption of the UPRN would be a big step towards providing the foundations to enable this.”

Theresa Wallace, Founder of The Lettings Industry Council (TLIC), notes that “widespread adoption of UPRN’s could revolutionise the property market, this is a really exciting initiative which has industry support and we now need the Government to add theirs.”

The letter details the benefits of widespread market adoption of the UPRN to society, the economy, and the property sector. These include:

Improved building, consumer, and market safety

More targeted and cost-effective enforcement of legislation

Increased protection for tenants and a reduction of rogue landlords

The ability to speed up conveyancing and transparency in home buying and selling

The opportunity to reduce waste, save time and empower the consumer

However, the letter also calls for steps by Government and for certain conditions to be met to really enable these benefits:

All public sector data sets relating to properties and buildings should include the UPRN and a clear roadmap is needed to get to this point

All future Government tenders and policy relating to residential properties and associated data should mandate the use of the UPRN

There must be clear agreement about the ethical use of data in the housing market

The UPRN must be in a clear and useable format that allows the UPRN to be widely identified, and freely used and shared

This must include the tools, the support materials and the explanation needed by the whole sector for adoption, not just the solution providers

Following the profound findings in the RoPA report, that outlines the phenomenal need for compliance within the property agents’ sector, Lord Best states that “the UPRN is an excellent concept and could be a game-changer.”

The impact of the universal adoption of the UPRN can be immense, The National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agents Team (NTSELAT) explain that, “the widespread use of a Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) has the potential to deliver many benefits across the residential property market. Importantly, a UPRN can offer tenants a greater level of protection against rogue landlords and help to reduce consumer fraud when buying or renting a home. The NTS Estate and Letting Agency Team supports the work of The Letting Industry Council in driving the adoption of the URPN across the property sector”.

A copy of the letter and a full list of signatories is available HERE

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