Friday, June 30, 2006

Energy Efficiency Certificates

The government has announced details of the energy efficiency certificates that will need to be included in Home Information Packs ("HIPS"). It is believed that private residential landlords will in due course be required to provide tenants with a similar certificate. See this page regarding this (you will need to scroll down to the bottom).

An interesting opinion report dated 24 June 2006 on the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes website states that the training and qualification for surveyors falls short of the standards required. There is clearly quite a lot of work to be done on the whole energy efficiency front before scheme is in a satisfactory format.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Empty homes regulations – threat or blessing?

Local Authorities are shortly to get new powers to take over empty properties and rent them out to homeless families. Some press reports have greeted this with outrage, as the regulations apparently state that properties in good condition which have only been lying empty for six months can be repossessed.

For example a report in the Telegraph on 17 June points out that bereaved families may be at risk if family homes are not sold within six months, which may be a bit difficult as it can sometimes take much longer than this to sort out probate and the administration of a deceased persons estate. A more alarmist report in the Daily Mail has the headline "Homes of the dead to be seized by the state". Tory housing spokesman Michael Gove is even claiming (according to the Mail) that it could be "a stealthy new form of inheritance tax".

However in fact it is most unlikely that the bereaved will visit their family home seven months after father died, to find the local authority has broken in and let it to homeless families – a scenario implied by the various reports in the press. Indeed the Telegraph report itself states towards the bottom "A spokesman for Ms Kelly denied that the powers would be used to seize homes inherited by relatives. If the issue was not resolved in discussion with the council, he said, it would go to a tribunal".

But is the local authority taking over a property really such a bad thing for property owners? For example in Tower Hamlets, they are handing out grants in an effort to bring substandard empty properties back into use. In Walthamstow some flats have already been offered to tenants on the Councils waiting list after refurbishment funded largely by the authority.

Some people I have spoken to consider that the new rules will not be much used, as Local Authorities will not want the expense and hassle of taking over and running someone else’s property. Clearly though not all Local Authorities will think this way, as can be seen from another report from Swindon, Wiltshire.

We shall have to wait and see whether the regulations turn out to be a threat to bereaved families or a blessing to impecunious property owners.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

All change at the ODPM

I wish government departments would make up their mind what they want to call themselves. Until Mr Prescott’s shenanigans with his secretary, the department with responsibility for housing was the department of the Office Deputy Prime Minister – odpm for short. And the web-site where we found all the stuff was

However now its Ruth Kelly, so the department (or the bit of it that she is in charge of) has changed its name to the Department for Communities and Local Government, and the web-site changed to So, all references to this on my web-site had to be changed so people following them were not at risk of getting the dreaded ‘page not found’ page. Which took a while, because I have a lot of links (many of them only put in quite recently, when I updated the HMO section). However, now I look at the site and see that they have another new website url,

Why can’t they just stick to the one name and the one web-address? Its such a lot of bother for us all keeping up with it. And I dread to think how many man hours have been and will be wasted at the dear old DCLG itself, dealing with these changes, and how much stationary will be redundant because it has the wrong name on it. Such a lot of waste and bother. So unnecessary. So annoying. So typical of government.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Registration in Scotland

All those English landlords moaning about licensing should be grateful that they are not in Scotland. All Scottish landlords now need to register both as a landlord and per property (£55 and £11 per property for a three year period).

A report in Residential Landlord states that some 57,000 have registered over 105,000 properties netting over £2.7 million registration fees.

If you are a Scottish landlord and have not yet registered, you can do so here

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

The cost benefits of building green

Continuing the theme of my earlier entry, there seems to be a contradiction between the conclusions of the Green Value report, which found that the increased costs of green buildings was not as significant as was generally thought, and the conclusions in an article in The Times on Barratts EcoSmart show village in Chorley, Lancashire, where Barratts are trying out environmentally friendly features in normal style houses to see whether they really are worthwhile – the conclusion the article reaches in that they are probably a bit too expensive to be cost effective.

Looking in a bit more detail at the Green Value report (which is worth reading, or at least skimming – to see the full report follow the pdf link in the box at the top right of the green value page linked above) most of the case studies are larger developments, mostly for commercial rather than residential use. There are just two residential developments – one is a large residential apartment development in New York (in fact adjoining the site of the former World Trade Centre) and the other is a owner occupied housing co-operative in British Columbia. However the New York apartments apparently have proved very popular, the indoor air quality in particular proving to be a big marketing plus.

Indeed the general view in the report, is that you cannot just look at strict financial benefits of building green – there are other benefits which are perhaps more difficult to quantify. The commercial developments all reported that the green buildings were pleasanter to work in and resulted in greater worker productivity. Plus a company whose buildings are environmentally friendly has a marketing edge, as it is perceived more favourably by the public.

Going back to the Barratts scheme, I see that none of the houses are actually going to be lived in (at least during the 18 months testing period), which is a shame. The scientists will be analyzing the merits and drawbacks of the various technologies used in the properties on the basis of the general public visiting them. Presumably after this though they will be put up for sale. It will be interesting to see how quickly they are sold, and whether people really will be willing to pay that bit extra for the green features. I suspect that many people will, perhaps more than Barratt and their accountants imagine.

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The future is green

I read an interesting article by Karen Dugdale in the Ob today (sadly it is not online so I cannot link to it), about energy efficiency for rented properties. The conventional view is that it is not worth a landlord bothering to make a property eco friendly, as tenants will get all the benefit and landlords will not be able to recover their investment. However apparently a recent independent study, Green Value , has found that environmental enhancements can add significant value to rental properties by reducing operating and maintenance costs, attracting tenants quickly and reducing turnover while commanding higher rents. AND saving the planet!

Most UK landlords though still feel that the financial incentives are not sufficient, despite the Landlords Energy Saving Allowance having been extended in the recent budget.

However, Urban Splash who specialize in environmentally friendly brownfield developments, told Karen Dugdale that they have found green rentals to be very popular. Having had enquires about their properties from people who could not afford to buy them, they decided to hold some back for rentals, and have found this so popular that they are considering adding more.

If you are interested in environmentally friendly property, website Green Moves which specializes in advertising green properties for sale may be able to assist. Advice can also be obtained from the Bioregional Development Group.

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