News

17th December 2017
Major changes predicted in Leasehold sector during 2018
Major changes predicted in Leasehold sector during 2018

ALEP, the professional body for leasehold practitioners, is predicting major changes in the sector during 2018, including the possibility of new legislation, a prohibition on ground rents, amendments to Commonhold and a trend towards open registers on property ownership to increase transparency.

This year has witnessed a step change in the awareness of leasehold issues by the buying public, and Mark Chick, ALEP Director, believes this awareness will only rise further.

"Leasehold issues, especially with new build houses, have really hit the headlines this year and I have no doubt that interest will only intensify further over the next 12 months. The fact that there are currently four live Government consultations on property related issues shows how far issues relating to the leasehold system have risen up the agenda.

"There is every chance that these consultations, especially "Tackling unfair practices in the leasehold market", will lead to legislative changes and possibly a prohibition on ground rents for new leasehold houses.

"I can easily see the introduction of restrictions on the type of ground rent that can be charged, and possibly limits on review periods and over inflationary increases. These changes would have a substantial impact on the sector."

Within the sector there is also growing interest in Commonhold as an alternative form of residential tenure. Despite being on the statute books since 2003, when the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 came into force, Commonhold has now been referred to the Law Commission to see how it can be re-invigorated. ALEP exists to promote best practice in the leasehold sector so, in response to the growing interest in Commonhold, ALEP is organising a Lecture on Commonhold in February for practitioners. The lecture will help attendees to gain an in-depth understanding of the Act and the impact and implications that an uptake in Commonhold could have.

Mark Chick continued: "Commonhold is potentially the red hot issue for 2018. Many believe it holds the answer to address the current issues with leasehold, but it has been relatively unsuccessful to date and will need amendments to the current legislation to encourage take up.

"I also predict an amendment to the status of ground rent that exceeds Housing Act thresholds for forfeiture. Sticking my neck out a little I also predict, in light of the Paradise Papers, the imposition of increasingly open registers in relation to property ownership.

"Whatever happens, the safest prediction for 2018 is that leasehold issues will be in the spotlight and those working in the sector will be following developments with great interest. Whether we see a leasehold reform bill come before parliament will depend a great deal on Brexit, which may well blow all other Government business off the agenda."

For more information on ALEP and the Commonhold Lecture, visit www.alep.org.uk

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17th December 2017
Lack of Flood Cover - A growing threat
Lack of Flood Cover - A growing threat

Over the last few years many insurers have invested significantly in geographic tools that enable them to predict flood exposure more accurate. As this technology evolves insurers are able to predict with increasing accuracy locations likely to flood that may not have flooded before.

The biggest problem is that as this technology evolves more and more insurers are coming to the same conclusions resulting in locations they don’t wish to insure because of the flood exposure. The result is locations where insurers simply don’t wish to offer flood cover unless they are compelled to do such because of a large client connection.

In reality this means more blocks of flats are being offered insurance renewals without flood cover or with an unreasonably high excess for flood. The problem for lessees living in these flats is that lack of flood cover can make it impossible to obtain a mortgage putting many lessees in financial hardship. This even applies to flats on higher floors and not just those on the ground floor.

Together with PM legal services we have developed a solution enabling the leases on eligible blocks to be simply amended to enable owner occupied flats to be ceded into the government backed Flood Re scheme. This makes insurance cover including flood both available and affordable for a large number of blocks.

Last month we were delighted to announce the launch at the ARMA conference and also delighted to see PM Legal Services and Cassandra Zanelli awarded for their involvement in this project at the PMA’s. You may be wondering if this solution is a sledgehammer to crack a nut and possibly that may be a fair question. However we are able to make flood cover available and affordable in many blocks of four or more flats that are otherwise unable to obtain appropriate cover.

With the threat of flooding increasing and insurers gaining a better understanding of where this will occur this is not a problem that is going away. After working on bringing a solution to market for three years I am delighted that finally we have a workable insurance product for many affected blocks.

Paul Robertson MD – 1st Sure Flats and Midway Insurance

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7th December 2017
Louie Burns calls on the Queen to end our feudal leasehold system
Louie Burns calls on the Queen to end our feudal leasehold system

Louie Burns, Managing Director of Leasehold Solutions, has called on the Queen to end her support for the UK's feudal leasehold system, by changing the land tenure for The Crown Estate's vast leasehold property portfolio.

As one of the UK's largest property managers, The Crown Estate's £12 billion property portfolio includes thousands of leasehold homes for which it owns the freehold.

Louie Burns said: "Leasehold properties have generated hundreds of millions of pounds in income for the Crown Estate – and the Queen personally – including through ground rents and the huge charges paid by leaseholders to extend their leases.

"Although there have been lots of encouraging statements from the Government about ending unfair practices in the leasehold system, The Crown Estate's ownership of residential leasehold properties adds a veneer of respectability to our unjust and feudal leasehold system. Their refusal to let go of this leasehold cash cow validates the commitment of other freeholders to retain their ground rent portfolios too.

"Furthermore, even if the Government does follow through on its commitment to reform leasehold legislation, The Crown Estate is protected by a legal caveat that omits its ground rents from being affected by changes to the law.

"How can leasehold ever be abolished or reformed significantly if the law upholds the aristocracy's long-held belief in their entitlement to own other people's homes and property in perpetuity?"

The Crown was the very first freeholder in Britain; more than 950 years ago William the Conqueror declared that all land was owned by the monarch. Despite centuries of change in law and custom, the underlying ownership of The Crown still exists.

The Crown Estate is owned by the monarch for the duration of their reign. Under the terms of the Sovereign Grant Act 2011 the monarch is provided with a stable source of income from the Crown Estate's annual net revenue. The Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, recently agreed to increase the Queen's personal share of the Crown Estate's income to 25% (roughly £76 million a year), with the remaining 75% paid to the Exchequer.
Burns continued: "If the Crown committed to ending residential leasehold as a tenure they invested in, it would send an incredibly powerful message that proved the Government's intentions surrounding leasehold.

"The history of leasehold reform over the last 150 years has been one that repeats itself like a feudal 'ground hog day'. It starts with great public dissatisfaction and anger with the leasehold system, which eventually prompts politicians to take notice and introduce some legislation that tinkers around the edges of the issue, without ever bringing about the changes that are needed – namely the abolition of the leasehold system in the UK.

"It is time to change this depressing pattern of events and abolish this deeply flawed leasehold system for good. The Queen and our Government should show the way, by changing the land tenure on all leasehold properties owned by The Crown Estate and giving the tenants the option to become homeowners."

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6th December 2017
Sam Massey joins SDL Property Partners
Sam Massey joins SDL Property Partners

Sam Massey has joined the SDL Group as launch manager of its brand new property management franchise scheme, SDL Property Partners.  

With over a decade of experience in business development as part of her 20 year career in property, Sam will now play a key role in the property management industry’s first franchise scheme.

After growing up watching both her mother and father work hard as estate agents in North West London, it was no surprise that, at the age of only 16 years old, Sam Massey, along with her two sisters, would follow her parents into the property industry.

After studying a degree in Estate Management at London South Bank University, Sam’s first position in 2003 was as an AST property manager for industry leader, Chestertons. After two years she made the move from individual flats to block management by joining Rendall & Rittner as a junior property manager where she worked for three years.

‘With all the legislation, regulation and technical knowledge involved, especially in the sites I managed across central London, I found block management really interesting,’ Sam recalls. ‘It was hard work and long hours, but I enjoyed meeting residents, listening to them and coming up with the solutions to any problems they had.’

In 2008, Sam was invited to join Willmotts Chartered Surveyors in Hammersmith initially as a senior property manager, but was soon promoted to associate director when she started taking responsibility for the company’s new business opportunities, marketing and advertising.

‘The opportunity to grow the company lit a fire inside of me and I loved being involved in all the business activity that supports property management,’ she explains.

After seven years with Willmotts, Sam took on a similar role at Managed Living Partnerships at the start of 2015, qualified as a Chartered Surveyor and now joins SDL Property Management to launch its new franchise SDL Property Partners.

‘I love the concept of property managers being given the opportunity to take control, develop a professional service with their own style of working and still have the support and resources of a well-respected brand such as SDL,’ she says. ’I am excited to have joined this project at the early stages, working on the training programme and coordinating business development activity.’

Sam has also been a director of the Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM) for the past two years, chairing its Membership Working Group, and is a co-founder of ‘Doyenne’, the leasehold industry’s first women’s professional network providing inspiration and for the continued progression and success of women in our industry.

‘I most enjoy getting involved in projects that have the potential to really change and improve the property management industry,’ Sam says. ‘We have come along way in the last few years to establish ourselves as a profession, but there is so much more that can be developed and explored to ensure the industry’s sustained growth. I believe SDL Property Partners will play a key role in that future.’ 

For more information on SDL Property Partners, visit www.sdlpropertypartners.co.uk, call 03336 663 111 or email info@sdlpropertypartners.co.uk

 
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18th October 2017
Sell out ALEP conference sees delegates call for more 'enfranchisement education'
Sell out ALEP conference sees delegates call for more 'enfranchisement education'

The Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners (ALEP) hosted its first ever annual conference on Monday 9 October 2017 at The Barbican Centre, London.

Following feedback from ALEP members, the new-look conference format was split into morning and afternoon sessions, with delegates able to attend either session or the entire event. Topical debate and interactive voting featured in presentations delivered by expert speakers offering a comprehensive insight into the sector's intricacies.

A key topic from the conference was a call for sector-wide education on all practices concerning leasehold and enfranchisement.

Michael Tibbatts, Senior Partner of Scrivener Tibbatts discussed ground rents and their impact on marriage value during his afternoon presentation. This sparked lively debate amongst delegates when Michael raised the point of more education across the sector being needed about freehold, leasehold and ground rents from estate agents to surveyors, valuers and consumers.

Interactive voting saw 51% of delegates agree that the current leasehold system should be maintained, but reforms should be considered to limit the quantum of ground rents that can be charged in certain situations. In contrast, 33% of delegates felt that a complete overhaul of the 1967 and 1993 Acts was required to produce, amongst other things, a common and simplified approach to enfranchisement.

Other leading lights of leasehold enfranchisement presented at this year's conference, including:

  •  Harriet Holmes, Tanfield Chambers
  •  Eleanor Murray, Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP
  •  Peter Beckett, Beckett and Kay
  •  Mark Chick, Bishop & Sewell and ALEP Director
  •  Piers Harrison, Tanfield Chambers
  •  Michael Tibbatts, Scrivener Tibbatts
  •  Katherine Simpson, Pemberton Greenish
  •  James Culley, Knight Frank
  •  Dr Mark Andrew, Real Estate Finance and Investment, Cass Business School
  •  Martin Rodgers QC

ALEP's Director, Anna Bailey, said: "A key theme from this year's conference was sector-wide education and this is where ALEP comes in to promote best practice and raise standards collectively not only for the clients of our 215 members, but for other bodies within the wider property industry, such as estate agents.

"In just 10 years ALEP has grown to be an influential organisation and our conferences offer invaluable sector insight for young professionals new to the sector, as well those wanting to brush up on their knowledge or keep up to date with key developments in leasehold.

"This event heralded a change to ALEP's usual conference pattern, as the Association will now streamline the usual twice yearly conferences into one all-encompassing annual event. This will enable ALEP to offer even more training to our members through informal educational events and regional training and networking throughout the year."

The Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners (ALEP) brings together barristers, managing agents, project managers, solicitors and valuers working in the leasehold sector under one, all-encompassing professional membership organisation. For more information, visit www.alep.org.uk

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18th October 2017
Call for Evidence: Protecting consumers in the letting and managing agent market
Call for Evidence: Protecting consumers in the letting and managing agent market

The Department for Communities and Local Government has today called for evidence to protect consumers in the letting and managing agent market.

The survey which opened today is open for six weeks until the 29th November 2017.

Now is the time to have your say!

You can respond to the survey as an individual or an organisation here.

Plans announced for new measures to help create a fairer property management system that works for everyone.

Plans for new measures to help create a fairer property management system that works for everyone have today (18 October 2017) been announced by the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

With over 4.2 million leasehold homes in the country and service charges reaching between £2.5 billion and £3.5 billion a year, the Communities Secretary will say the government is determined to fix the problems in the property management industry, drive down costs and protect consumers from the small minority of rogue agents.

The problem isn’t just for leaseholders, but for some of the 4.5 million tenants in the rental sector too – with overcharged costs for repairs and services often passed down to tenants.

Since 2010, government has taken action to require all letting and management agents to belong to a redress scheme, and we have introduced a range of tougher measures to target rogue landlords and agents in the private rented sector.

As part of this new call for evidence, government is seeking views on:

  • whether regulatory overhaul of the sector is needed
  • measures to protect consumers from unfair costs and overpriced service charges
  • ways to place more power in the hands of consumers by giving leaseholders more say over their agent

It will ask if a new independent regulatory body is needed - and if separate bodies should be established, for both leasehold and private rented management, and letting agents.

While the sector is partly self regulated - through professional bodies such as the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA), ARLA Propertymark (formally Association of Residential Letting Agents) and the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), which have a code of conduct – other property agents operate outside of any system and can provide a poor deal for consumers.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said:

This is supposed to be the age of the empowered consumer – yet in property management, we’re still living in the past.

Today we are showing our determination to give power back to consumers so they have the service they expect and deserve, as part of my drive to deliver transparency and fairness for the growing number of renters and leaseholders.

Our proposed changes to regulate the industry will give landlords, renters and leaseholders the confidence they need to know that their agents must comply with the rules.

Research by consumer group Which? shows that unfair practices can lead to as much as £700 million of unnecessary service charges being paid each year, and others such as the All Party Parliamentary Group on leaseholds believe the total could be as much as £1.4 billion.

The government will consider changing the law so that all letting and management agents, across both the private rented and leasehold sectors, must be qualified and regulated in order to practice.

Measures to be considered as part of the call for evidence include:

  • how consumers can be empowered in the market, including whether leaseholder tenants should have a greater say over the appointment of managing agents
  • how transparency can be increased in the system so that tenants and leaseholders know what they are being charged for and why
  • ensuring fairness and openness around relations between freeholders and agents
  • looking at what qualifications are needed by agents to practice and how regulation can be improved

This piece of work is part of wider government action to bring power back to the tenant and leaseholder.

In summer 2017, government launched a consultation setting out radical proposals to cut out unfair abuses of leasehold to deliver a fairer, more transparent system for homebuyers. Plans include banning new build homes being sold as leasehold as well as restricting ground rents to as low as zero.

Earlier this month the Secretary of State also announced measures to help make sure tenants are more secure in their homes; requiring all letting agents to be regulated; and consulting with the judiciary on the case for a new Housing Court – a specialist court with the aim to save time and money resolving housing disputes.

Government has also confirmed it will legislate to ban letting fees so that tenants aren’t hit by unfair charges.

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2nd October 2017
Property Leader Moves into Management
Property Leader Moves into Management

One of the property industry’s most successful and respected figures is launching a new arm to his multi-facetted business network, with the intention of providing the opportunity for others to follow his entrepreneurial path.

In 2006, having earned his reputation for entrepreneurship through founding the digital banking division HSBC, First Direct and then the online bank Egg, Paul Gratton returned to a business he had founded 17 years previously, entitled Direct Valuations, a company that carries out valuations for some of the UK’s biggest banks and insurance companies.

After a merger with chartered surveyors J&E Shepherd to become ‘Shepherd Direct Ltd’ in 2011, Gratton led a whirlwind of business development, acquiring the UK arm of global estate agent franchise ‘Century 21’, launching services in lettings and embarking on a series of buyouts and mergers with companies involved in mortgages, insurance, auctions and estate management.

Now the SDL Group is launching its first ever home-grown franchise for Property Managers looking to follow in Gratton’s footsteps and strike out on their own.

SDL Property Partners came as a result of a well-timed meeting between the SDL Group, who were researching opportunities for expansion, and Nick Faulkner, a well-known and highly respected figure in the property management industry. Having built management businesses independently and for other property brands, Faulkner agreed to merge the Alexander Faulkner Partnership with the SDL Group to strengthen SDL Property Management and launch a franchise which had long been one of his professional ambitions.

‘Coming from a similar professional approach, Nick and I both understood what we wanted to create,’ says Gratton. ‘In the current climate, there is not enough support for entrepreneurship within the property industry and the creation of new businesses is key to the sector’s growth and prosperity. People understandably find the prospect of starting out on their own a daunting and risky proposition, so SDL Property Partners has been designed to address those concerns.’

Franchisees are offered a seven day intensive training course, Qube licence, company set up and VAT registration with ongoing advice and support directly from experienced professionals within the SDL Group. They can also access a full range of marketing materials, including online presence and digital marketing.

‘I am very excited about SDL Property Partners, because it takes me back to when I was first given the opportunity to create a new enterprise from scratch,’ explains Gratton. ‘I had resources at HSBC that I could tap into when I needed them, and the association with an established industry brand, so I am delighted be in the position to create something similar for the next generation of the Property Industry.’

For more information on SDL Property Partners, visit www.sdlpropertypartners.co.uk, call 03336 663 111 or email info@sdlpropertypartners.co.uk

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12th September 2017
Earl Kendrick Associates open new office in Manchester
Earl Kendrick Associates open new office in Manchester

Multi-award-winning surveyors Earl Kendrick Associates are delighted to announce the opening of a new office in Manchester. The move allows the firm to help existing clients with properties in the area, as well as taking on instructions from new clients in Manchester and the wider northwest. It also marks the further expansion of the London-based surveyors, who opened an office in Brighton last summer.

Earl Kendrick’s Manchester office will offer the full range of surveying services, from flat buying surveys to planned maintenance and major works in residential blocks. It will also embody Earl Kendrick’s signature working philosophy, with a focus on treating clients first and foremost as people, and using technical expertise to meet their needs.

Earl Kendrick’s managing director Julian Davies said, “The team and I are really excited about the opening of our Manchester office. Following the expansion to Brighton last year, it shows that we’re very much on a roll, and we look forward to helping clients in Manchester and beyond.”

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5th September 2017
The Association of Freeholders
The Association of Freeholders

Recently launched, the Association of Freeholders (TAF) aims to be a united voice for freeholders, to ensure public perception is accurate and reflects the professionalism of members and to offer self regulation as an alternative to potential government regulation.  There has never been a better nor more critical time to focus our energy to protect our reputations and our industry and to strengthen our mutual interests. Through TAF you can now have a united voice, a code of conduct and a stamp of approval to show the public members are responsible and professional. 

TAF plans to hold it'sfirst conference on 28th September 2017 following the government's consultation. The focus will mainly be on their own consultation with members and potential members who attend. They want to know how our sector would like TAF to represent them, to counter the anti-leasehold sentiments and organisations and to voice all the positives and security freeholders offer. We will discuss and set out a structure for self regulation through TAF and will be inviting industry experts to speak and give their views on how self regulation should work, the governments consultation and what we can expect going forward. 

If you would like to find out more about TAF, click here.

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14th August 2017
Bishop & Sewell and Fisher Meredith Agree to Merge
Bishop & Sewell and Fisher Meredith Agree to Merge

The Partners of Bishop & Sewell and Fisher Meredith are pleased to announce that Fisher Meredith has joined forces and merged with Bishop & Sewell. The combined practice will operate as “Bishop & Sewell LLP” with effect from 14 August 2017. Bishop & Sewell will continue to be led by its current management team comprising Stephen Bishop (Founder and Managing Partner), Michael Gillman (Senior Partner) and Mark Chick (Partner). Following the merger, key partners from Fisher Meredith including Eileen Pembridge and Louise Barretto will join the Bishop & Sewell team.

Bishop & Sewell was established in 1979 by Stephen Bishop and Jill Sewell and was originally known for its strong property and commercial reputation. Since then the firm has steadily expanded into a full service firm covering Residential & Commercial Property, Corporate & Commercial, Employment, Family, Tax & Trusts and Dispute Resolution services for families, businesses and entrepreneurs.

Fisher Meredith was founded in 1975 by Eileen Pembridge, current Senior Partner and Head of Family, and offers a wide range of legal services covering Family, Property, Immigration and Employment law, serving individuals and businesses.

The merger is part of Bishop & Sewell’s continued planned expansion strategy and will strengthen its Family and Dispute Resolution practices, as well as creating a new Immigration department for the firm, with a team of people perfectly aligned with it culture and values. The combined firms will operate from Bishop & Sewell’s Russell Square offices in London WC1.

Michael Gillman, Senior Partner of Bishop & Sewell commented:
“With Fisher Meredith, we have found a firm which complements and strengthens our existing offering and will enhance our commitment and ability to serve our clients in Central London, nationally and abroad. There are great synergies between our two firms which will enable us to continue to serve our new combined client base with a wide range of legal services and generate further growth.”

Eileen Pembridge, Senior Partner of Fisher Meredith said:
“We can now build on our success of the last 42 years by merging with a larger law firm and look forward to supporting and expanding our footprint with the deeper resources of Bishop & Sewell. This merger allows us to provide more comprehensive legal services to our clients, together with the same high quality, competitive and caring service our clients expect.”

This merger will see Bishop & Sewell’s team of fee earners increase to over 50, with a full service remit across five core areas of Property, Commercial, Private Client, Litigation and Family, with an international reach via our membership of Pragma, an international network of lawyers and consulting firms.

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