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Housing : Social Tenants / BTL & HB Problems / Shortages / Grenfell Tower Fallout - Page 24 - Carers UK Forum

Housing : Social Tenants / BTL & HB Problems / Shortages / Grenfell Tower Fallout

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
316 posts
Rental crisis warnings ramp up as report warns buy-to-let crackdown is taking its toll and buyers are struggling too.

RICS finds the longest sequence of falling landlord interest since records began.

Experts warn that incoming legislation will cut numbers further.

Residential housing market also slows as lack of choice dampens buyer interest.

Alarm bells over the health of Britain's private rented sector have been raised for the second time in two weeks, leading some to worry that a rental crisis is on the horizon.

Figures released today by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors have confirmed that tenant demand is rising across the the country while the number of new landlords entering the market is dwindling.

This extends a run of successive quarterly declines dating back to the middle of 2016 - already the longest uninterrupted sequence of falling landlord instructions since records started in 1998.

Yep ... as predicted over a year ago ... the perfect storm in the B.T. L. sector is almost apon us.

Rents rising , LHA frozen , number of properties available falling ....

The buck stops with successive Governments ... the B.T.L. market would be entirely different if more social housing
had been built since Thatcher's " Right to Buy " policy in the early 1980s.
Follow on from yesterday's article ... emphasising my point :

Minister hits out at UK property firms over £200m cladding bailout.

James Brokenshire says refusal by some to fix Grenfell-style material is morally indefensible.

The behaviour of some of Britain’s biggest property owners has been criticised as morally indefensible by the government after ministers were forced to launch a £200m taxpayer bailout to fix combustible Grenfell-style cladding on private residential towers.

James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, announced he was diverting public money to make safe about 20,000 high-rise homes, in an embarrassing defeat for the government after a months-long standoff with property firms where many refused to pay.

Brokenshire’s plan immediately ran into internal opposition when Melanie Dawes, his most senior civil servant, said it was bad value for money for the taxpayer and regressively diverted money to richer parts of the population. She said: “The public benefits of the scheme do not outweigh the costs of this transfer … the proposal does not meet the normal tests of value for money.”

The government conceded on Thursday that, despite repeated ministerial threats, the owners and developers of 92 high-rise buildings had refused to pay to replace the kind of cladding that helped spread the fire at Grenfell Tower, killing 72 people.

Brokenshire voiced anger in parliament at property owners “dragging their feet” and failing to take responsibility. He said it was “not morally defensible” that leaseholders find themselves vulnerable through no fault of their own.

One of the companies that has refused to pay is ultimately owned by the family trust of the multimillionaire property mogul Vincent Tchenguiz. Viscount Astor, David Cameron’s brother-in-law, is a partner in another firm that manages the freeholds – on behalf of UK pension funds – of tower blocks which have not yet been fixed.

Citistead, the Tchenguiz-linked company that owns the freehold of Northpoint in Bromley, south London, which is covered with the now-banned cladding that leaseholders have been told they could face bills of £70,000 to replace, last year dismissed government attempts to shame freeholders into paying as “a hollow threat”.

On Thursday William Procter, its director, said his company would try to access the taxpayer fund but that Brokenshire’s claim of freeholder inaction was unfounded and “we have committed considerable time and resource to date”.

A spokesman for Astor’s company, Long Harbour, said the firm understood the need to remove the cladding promptly and had been exploring avenues including building warranties and insurance policies, and was in talks with government officials about the new fund. It has also provided interest-free loans to cover costs of interim fire safety measures.

Brokenshire did not name property companies that have refused to pay but praised those that have, including Taylor Wimpey, Legal & General, Mace Group, Lendlease, Barratt Developments and Aberdeen Standard Investments.

The shadow housing secretary, John Healey, said the release of funds was welcome but accused the government of being “frozen like a rabbit in the headlights in the face of these post-Grenfell problems”.

Referring to the latest government figures for removals of similar cladding to that at Grenfell, he said eight in 10 affected blocks in England had not had their cladding replaced and work had not even started on more than half.

“Why on earth have they had to wait for nearly two years,” Healey asked Brokenshire in the Commons. “For two years they have had their lives on hold. And how long will thousands more who are living with non-ACM cladding have to wait.”

The fund will only pay for aluminium composite cladding to be removed, despite fears over the combustibility of other materials such as high-pressure laminates, which are due to be tested within weeks by government-appointed fire experts.

A spokesperson for UK Cladding Action Group, which represents leaseholders, warned people who live in blocks with other forms of unsafe cladding and internal fire safety defects will be excluded from the bailout and that the costs of interim fire measures such as waking watch patrols are not covered.

“This inadequate response will be looked back on in shame when the next Grenfell tragedy occurs,” the spokesperson said. “The announcement effectively brands this a cladding lottery. Some people win, but many still lose and are mortgage prisoners.”

Grenfell United, the group for survivors and the bereaved that has also been campaigning for money to be released for private tower blocks, met Theresa May at Downing Street last night before the announcement and welcomed the move as a “small step”.

A spokesperson for the group said: “Today’s announcement offers hope to people in dangerous blocks that the nightmare they have been living for nearly two years is almost over.

“This result is a testament to residents themselves, in social and private blocks, who refused to be ignored. The truth is we should never have had to fight for it. It is not a quick fix so we ask the government to also consider what financial support can be put in place while residents continue with night watches and wait for remediation works to start.”
" A terrible shock " : council hands flat owner £146,000 bill.

Nurse faces losing his property after council demands gigantic sum for refurbishment of block,

How would you feel if a council bill for £146,000 landed on your doormat ?


This monster demand – for £146,257, to be precise – was sent to Lloyd Onuoha, a 62-year-old nurse, by Southwark council in London.

Onuoha is the leaseholder of a two-bedroom flat on an estate run by the council, and this is the estimated bill for refurbishing his tower block. But just to be clear, that’s not £146,257 shared between everyone – that’s his share of the cost.
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The gigantic bill will almost certainly lead to him losing the property.

It’s the highest major refurbishment works bill that the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership – a charity that helps leaseholders – has ever seen.

And it could be viewed as a warning to council tenants thinking of using the right-to-buy scheme to purchase their home at a discount. Before going ahead, they need to bear in mind that a few years down the line, they could well be hit with a demand to contribute towards costly repairs or maintenance, particularly if it’s an old tower block.

Onuoha bought his flat on the Tustin estate in Peckham in 2004 using right to buy. Back then, the flat was valued at £93,000 – it’s worth about £250,000 now. In 2010, he moved out of the property and started letting it out, as it was not big enough for his growing family.

Onuoha says: “The flat is in a high-rise block. The whole project is about £27m and, as a leaseholder, my share is nearly £147,000. The bill was a terrible shock. We’ve had major works bills of £5,000 or so before, but nothing like this.”

Southwark council is planning a major regeneration of the Tustin estate, with work including brickwork and concrete repairs, balcony and roof work, drainage repairs, window and door replacement, and asbestos removal.

There are 22 leaseholders who own property on the estate, which is home to a total of around 225 flats spread over three tower blocks. According to Southwark council records, 20 leaseholders have received estimated bills of up to £151,000. The other two received bills of £12,000 or £15,000 as they are in the first five years of their lease. Only two of the estate’s 22 leaseholders are recorded as living on the estate, with the remainder letting out their properties.

Once the bills are finalised, leaseholders will be invoiced in March 2020.

Onuoha simply can’t afford it. “The council has given us the option for it to buy the flat back. It’s more or less the only option – no one else will buy it with a £146,000 bill on the way,” he says.

“Another option is we move back there and the council would buy it back for 40% of the value of the flat. That’s terrible. How can anyone feel good about this? Even if they reduce the bill, it’s unlikely to be to anything reasonable – it would still be about £100,000 or something.”

Southwark council rejects any suggestion that it neglected the estate in the past, and says it saved up work to do in one package to take advantage of economies of scale. It says it has consulted with residents about the work and offers “extensive payment options”.

For those leaseholders who live in their property, the council has offered to buy their home for 40% of its market value and offer them a secure tenancy. Another option for owner-occupiers is an interest-free loan for up to 72 months. But paying £146,257 over 72 months would mean monthly payments of £2,031 – unaffordable for most workers.

Southwark is also offering to buy back properties of both residents and landlords at full market value.

Stephanie Cryan, a Southwark council cabinet member for housing management and modernisation, says: “Unfortunately, right to buy does not allow councils to means-test tenants when they wish to exercise this right, and they are often those who are least able to afford what can be extremely high bills when estates need repairs.

“Despite this, we have some of the best repayment options for leaseholders in the country. Most leaseholders in this case are not resident leaseholders but private landlords. If they were not to pay their share of the estate bills, council tenants would have to pick up the cost as well as the share they have paid in their rent.

“I feel genuinely sorry for any leaseholder faced with these high bills, and we do our very best to support them with the options we offer to them.”

Southwark has sent section 20 consultation documents to leaseholders on the estate. Normally this notice would give leaseholders the right to nominate contractors and obtain alternative quotes for the work. However, because Southwark has a “qualifying long term agreement” (QLTA) in place with an existing contractor, leaseholders can only make observations rather than suggest other contractors.

The Leasehold Knowledge Partnership is heavily critical of Southwark council and suggests QLTAs rarely offer value for money.

Sebastian O’Kelly, a trustee of the charity, says: “This is by far the highest major works bill that we have encountered, and it is no surprise that it involves local authority leasehold.”

He adds: “There is no contingency fund in social housing blocks, so the private leaseholders face huge bills that come out of the blue. Sometimes councils regard private leaseholders as a useful source of revenue to improve their housing stock.”

O’Kelly points to a case in Oxford, covered by the Guardian, where 50 leaseholders received bills for £50,000 each in 2016. A tribunal eventually ruled that the major works were an enhancement, not repairs, so the council was liable for the costs.

The downside of the infamous " Right to Buy " policy ?
Cladding tests " Allmost certain to fail ", experts say.

Fire safety experts have warned that 1,700 buildings in England are likely to fail a new round of tests into cladding and building materials.

Hospitals, schools, nursing homes and tower blocks are among buildings which could be "at risk", BBC 5 Live Investigates has learned.

The government said it will monitor the test results this summer to decide if any immediate action needs to be taken.

It comes almost two years after 72 people died in the Grenfell Tower fire.

A public inquiry into the fire, which happened in west London in June 2017. heard evidence to support the theory that the highly combustible material in the cladding was the primary cause of the fire's spread.

It took minutes for the fire to race up the exterior of the building, and spread to all four sides.

The government has set up a fund to remove cladding from buildings identified with aluminium composite material (ACM) - the same type used on Grenfell Tower. The new tests, which began last month, are testing other types of cladding and building materials.

One type of cladding, known as High Pressure Laminate (HPL) is believed to be of particular concern. The research group Building Research Establishment said that none of the cladding systems that had passed a standard BS 8414 safety test included an HPL.

Another study, released in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, found that HPL cladding materials released heat 25 times faster and burned 115 times hotter than non-combustible products.

The government says that it recognises concerns about HPL and included them in the new fire safety tests.

Chartered engineer Dr Jonathan Evans was part of the team testing cladding for the government after the Grenfell Tower fire.

He said some of the tests were almost certain to fail and is calling for transparency around the results of the tests when they are released.

In December, the government introduced new fire safety regulations in response to Dame Judith Hackitt's independent review following the Grenfell Tower fire.

The regulations banned combustible materials from the external walls of new buildings over 59 feet tall.

There have since been calls from Clive Betts, the chairman of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLG), for these regulations to be applied to all new buildings, regardless of height.

He added that materials deemed too dangerous for new buildings should not be permitted for existing ones.

An HCLG spokesperson said: "We issued an advice notice on non-ACM cladding systems, reiterating the clearest way to ensure fire safety is to remove unsafe materials."
Grenfell Tower ... the more that is revealed , the worst the stench ?

Grenfell Tower council made £129m from property deals.

The council responsible for Grenfell Tower made multimillion-pound property deals while cutting costs to the tower's restoration, it has emerged.

Seventy-two people died when a fire destroyed the tower block, in west London, on 14 June 2017.

An investigation has found the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) made £129m selling property in the years leading up to the fire.

It spent £10m on Grenfell's repair and fitted cheaper cladding than planned.

According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), documents show the zinc cladding originally proposed was replaced with an aluminium type, which was less fire resistant, saving RBKC nearly £300,000.

It is thought the highly combustible material in the cladding was the primary cause of the fire's spread.

RBKC said it would "have not intentionally put lives at risk".

An investigation by HuffPost UK, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the LDRS found the council had £37m in the bank, specifically from the sale of property, at the time when funding decisions over Grenfell were being taken.

It also bought £61m worth of property from September 2015 to March 2017 while the Grenfell Tower renovation works were under way.

One of the buildings, a former undertaker's premises in Hewer Street bought for £8.5m, has remained empty since March 2017.

" Playing property developer "

Survivor Edward Daffarn, 56, who escaped from the 16th floor of the tower as it was engulfed in flames, said the investigation has exposed the council's priorities prior to the fire.

"The first job of local government is to keep the people safe but RBKC acted more like a property developer than a local council.

"If they'd been properly focusing on fire safety, rather than focusing on this, then Grenfell might not have happened."

Joe Delaney, who is on the Grenfell recovery scrutiny committee, said the council's involvement in property sales was "absolutely 100% wrong."

"Their job is to serve the public, how is playing property developer serving the public? That's not what we have councils for."

Responding to the findings, RBKC said: "The budget for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment was increased on the two occasions that the council's lead members were asked to increase it - from £6m to £9.7m, and then again to £10.3m."

"Whilst we must let the public inquiry and the police investigations determine what went wrong, we can say that no one at the RBKC would have intentionally put lives at risk and no one at the council foresaw the tragedy that would unfold.

"To report anything to the contrary would be simply wrong."
Rents look set to rise as Government ban on tenancy fees comes in next week - but tenants still have some bargaining power

Five landlords per letting agent branch sold a property last month.

Year-on-year rental supply is up 13 per cent to 202 per letting agent branch.

Rics forecasts a 2 per cent rent rise at the national level over the coming year.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/buyto ... -week.html

For all those who, may live in pre 1950 pre-cast concrete homes ... a local community article.

Rows of these dinosaurs in many villages around my manor , Worksop ... in Manton / Rhodesia , the whole manor's worth.


Leeds councillors fail to come to decision on demolition plans for Oulton housing estate.

Residents of a former mining community in Oulton under threat of demolition are still no closer to learning the future of their homes, after Leeds City Council decision-makers agreed to defer a controversial housing application.

It follows months of protests from campaigners and residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive, who claim a planned redevelopment of 70 homes could “destroy” a community some residents have lived in for decades.

Dozens packed into a Leeds Civic Hall committee room to hear evidence for and against plans from owners Pemberstone, who claimed the 1950s-built pre-cast concrete homes are now so old that refurbishment is no longer realistic.

It added that many older residents in the estate will be rehoused and that it was in talks with housing associations about the possibility of taking over the whole site.

But speakers against the proposals accused the company of “social cleansing”, suggesting that those currently living on the estate would be unable to afford many of the new homes on the site.

Cindy Readman, who has lived in the community with her husband John, a former miner, for 14 years, told the meeting: “They have treated us with contempt since day one of this process. They have expensive legal advisers and consultants – we have our friends, supporters, wits and, above all, passion to survive.

“All Pemberstone are interested in is how to make as much profit as it can. Our houses may not be aesthetically pleasing to some people, but they are our homes.

“We have built a life and a close-knit community, we look out for each other, look after each other’s pets and have friendships forged over many years.

“My husband John looks after his mum. He lies awake at night terrified he will have to move away too far to be able to look after her.

“I recently met [Leeds Central MP] Hilary Benn at a housing event and I told him that Pemberstone claimed our homes were at the end of their lives. He said ‘but you are not at the end of your life’.

“I am a teaching assistant and three children in my class live on the estate. Can you imagine what life is like for them? Not knowing if they have a home. Terrified they’ll be forced to live miles away from their friends and family.”

General secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Chris Kitchen, said: “Our objection is not because we’re dinosaurs living in the past. It is that it will destroy the community that has built up over decades.”

He said that while new homes may well be better quality, it will cause disruption to the current tenants, who may or may not have a home in the new development.

Campaigner and former councillor Karen Bruce speaks said she was “privileged to have worked on this campaign”, adding: “I have wept, and you would weep if you’d met the people and heard their stories.”

Rothwell councillor and Leeds Liberal Democrats leader Stewart Golton said: “This development is inherently unsustainable in planning terms as well as in moral terms.”

“In principle it is unsustainable to destroy 70 homes to replace them with the same number.”

He added that despite the increased energy efficiency of the new homes, the development would not be sustainable.

A Leeds City Council planning officer had told the meeting that landlords wanted to redevelop “due to viability issues and concerns about standards of habitation that the houses currently provide”.

She added: “Countrywide, you will find houses of this nature. They are quite small houses, but they just about meet the guidelines for a three person three bedroom house under current space policies.”

“They were originally designed with a lifespan of 10 years. We renovated them back in the 80s. Today’s living standards for improvements and environmental impact, the properties would need to be brought up to a much higher standard than they currently are.”

“The council has a duty under public sector equality law to ensure we are not harming any residents who are forced to leave their homes under these proposals.

“We found that there are some. Many in regulated tenancies have protected characteristics such as being elderly and having a disability. Elderly people, living there a long time they will have networks of families and friends, and a social grouping that they will not want to leave behind.

“For the majority people on this estate they are living under assured tenancies only. This means the landlord can evict them within four weeks – the landlord has not decided to do this yet.

“We have determined that in planning terms this is acceptable, the houses will meet national space standards, they will be built to a high quality and they align with our core strategy policy.

“We should be recommending this for approval subject to conditions.”

During a discussion on the plan, Bruce: “Officers have not come forward with as much help as we would have liked.

Golton: “effectively it is social cleansing.

Bruce: “It is social cleansing and gentrification. These people are on affordable rents. You are replacing a whole community with people who can afford to buy executive housing and will be out of reach to the people who live there.

Kitchen: “Is is social cleansing. The people will not be in the same social class and earnings bracket as those moving in.”

Cindy: “People are going to be moving away from neighbours and there will be a very small amount of people who currently live there who will be able to continue living there.

“You are going to move in people who can afford these types of housing – they may not be from Oulton, so it is social cleansing.”

Coun Kayleigh Brooks (Lab) asked: “Are you concerned many people will be made homeless?

Mrs Readman said: “I am very concerned at this. We have elderly people who aren’t protected on the regulated tenancies. We thought we would be able to live there for the rest of their lives.

“We have other people who are affected. Mavis, who isn’t here today, was panicking this morning about this

“It’s affected us for two years and has had a great impact on all our lives.

“We always were led to believe that these were long term homes.

“There has been mention of the fact it is a transient community, even the people who have just moved in have indicated that they would like to live there long term. People have not been offered long term tenancies.

“Just because you are renting a home, it should not mean you should not live there for the rest of our lives. We are treated like second class citizens.”

Representatives of Pemberstone were then invited to address the panel.

Laura Mepham, planning consultant for the company, said: “This afternoon is the result of more than two years’ work.

“We believe this will offer a long term and sustainable blueprint for Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close. We need to think about how best to provide homes for the medium-to-long term.

“We need to plan for the future as the houses are approaching the end of their lifespan. While habitable in the short term, doing nothing is not an option.

“The best solution, we believe, is to build new. All regulated and assured tenants will be in adaptable housing. It creates modern, comfortable and energy efficient homes.”

She added Pemberstone contacted 27 housing associations, 10 expressed an interest and two have said they would be interested in taking on the site but not in its current state. She added that negotiations would continue should approval be given.

Coun Brooks asked when the last time major maintenance work had taken place on the homes.

Another representative of Pemberstone said: “It’s a continuous maintenance process. They are not maintained en masse.

“We spend tens of thousands every year maintaining the properties.”

This was met with scoffs of laughter from residents and campaigners.

He added that a letter from Leeds City Council estimated the cost to bring the properties up to a decency standard could be £45,000 per house.

Coun Colin Campbell (Lib Dem) asked: “These houses were declared defective in 1985. You bought them as defective housing in 2000, and have maintained them for 18 years.

“Why now do we suddenly need to pull the plug on this estate because the houses are defective?”

The representative said: “The nature of the way they become defective is the construction of the concrete and the rods within the concrete. Over time it deteriorates and the structure deteriorates.

“The deterioration of the structure continues, and we will have to do something. It is not something that is in our control. The reason it has come forward 18 years after we required them is the need to improve the thermal properties of the houses and the continuing deterioration of the properties.”

Coun Peter Gruen (Lab) asked: “Either these properties are deteriorating or they are not. Because you wouldn’t keep people in unsafe homes.”

The representative responded: “We need to do something. It will take some years to do, but the alternative is that we get to a point where the properties are uninhabitable and we still have to decide what to do.

“They don’t get to the end of their lives on a day, but we have to plan what we do next.

When asked for a guarantee that the houses not yet demolished would be maintained. He responded: “We are required by law to maintain properties tenants live in.”

When asked about the possibility of finding a housing association to take over the whole site, he responded: “We were asked to find a housing association to see whether any would be interested in taking over the whole site. At the point that they would take over the site, we would step away from the site.

“We approached housing associations, initially about the 11 affordable houses. We talked to see whether any wanted to take on the development and do it themselves.

“Two expressed an interest but neither would take it on before a planning decision is reached.”

Coun Campbell added that, normally, housing associations come along with the developers and say they are prepared to take it on.

He said: “We are being asked to give permission to a private developer with no guarantees of this.”

The representative of Pemberstone said the housing associations felt there was a potential for “reputational damage” in getting involved with the scheme before a planning decision was reached.

He added: “They have indicated they would renew discussions with us and see if there is common ground.”

Coun Kayleigh Brooks asked whether their decision even mattered, as the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government was currently looking at the referring the application to the Secretary of State after the panel’s decision.

A planning officer added that a request was made to the Secretary of State from “a third party”.

Commenting on the application, Coun Paul Wray (Lab) said: “No matter what we do today, the landlord has ultimate power to evict these people.

“We are asking our deliberations that whatever we do today, the Landlords have the power to evict these tenants.

“If we do what we feel is the morally right thing, we would make the situation much worse for the tenants, and we can face a sizeable bill from the sec of state. The risk is there in law whether we like it or not, and we are constrained by the rules we have.”

Coun Brooks said: “I disagree with Coun Wray, because it is where you put the weight of policies. There is a lack of clarification around carbon footprint, the houses will not be like for like. I disagree.”

Wray: “We have to balance the policy considerations – they will exist no matter what we do. In the end the landlord has the power to do effectively what it wants to.

“If we do what we feel is natural justice, there is a consequence. We will potentially accelerate the harm done to these residents.”

Coun Robert Finnigan (MBI) said: “This is a type of gentrification and social cleansing. It’s ripping the heart out of a community, and I don’t think planning policy covers this.

“The NPPF is clear about promoting healthy communities and promoting social interaction – I don’t think it does that.

“This is a speculative opportunity for a company to get very rich from the local community. I won’t be supporting this recommendation.”

Coun Campbell said: “The blandness of the design – if it were not such an emotive subject we would have spent a longer time on this.

“The judgement call we have to make hinges on sustainability. It is the balance between knocking down houses that aren’t in tip-top condition, but can relatively be brought up to standard, or knocking it down, destroying the community, and rebuilding a type of house that does not reflect those there at the moment.

“I am not convinced the refurbishment is not possible.”

Coun Sharon Hamilton (Lab): “At the end of the day, they have renewed their tenancy yearly. There is concern about what could happen. Serving notice in four-eight weeks, they could do the bare minimum of what is required until it becomes a derelict site. We are damned if we do and we are damned if we don’t.

“People have lived there a long time. It is there home, but we have to consider planning policy.

“Those who they have to rehouse they will rehouse first. It will be done in phases. We are in a difficult decision. Whichever way it goes, nobody will be happy,”

Coun Caroline Gruen added: “This is the most difficult decision the panel have had to make in its history.”

Coun Peter Gruen said: “We have spent several hours on community issues. I am disappointed we have not spoken about planning. I am disappointed with them. They look pretty bland. I wouldn’t necessarily want them in our ward.

“We didn’t ask for this planning application – we have to consider the application as it is. It’s an act of faith. If this had been an avaricious landlord, they could have given notice two years ago, and yet they are pursuing these discussions. How many applicants would have done that?

“They have tried to find the best solutions that they could but, because of the aspects of community cohesion and what will happen to families, I don’t think we have yet had sufficient information.

“Where are these interim decamped properties going to be?

“We are all grappling with our social conscience while trying to decide on a planning issue. I would like to defer this and come back with more information.”

Coun Caroline Gruen added: “This is a dilemma we face with the community issues we all feel across the parties and the practicalities of wanting to preserve something.

“There are two things we need to do: one is to deal with the issue of whether the housing should go ahead, and the other is the detail of design, layout and amenity.”

Jackie Shemilit (Con) said: “We have gone off track but I am struggling to find any planning issues to pin something on one way or the other.

“They are old houses, and what they are replacing them with might be significantly better. There is a huge economic impact for all the residents.”

Coun Finnigan said: “By the time you weigh up the damage it will do to the community, the removal of affordable homes and the impact on education, I don’t see how you could think benefits outweigh the drawbacks.”

A motion was moved to defer a decision on the plans for the panel to receive more information on design, layout, impact on the community and housing mix. It would also be to know more about housing need for the local community.

Councillors voted in favour of deferring a decision on the application.
More for the BTL tenants amongst our ranks :

Rip-off letting fees are finally banned.

What will happen now ?

Charges that could add as much as £800 to the cost of renting a home have been swept away.

It’s been almost three years in the making, but to the huge relief of renters across England, the ban on rip-off letting agent fees finally came into force today.

Gone are the £300-plus admin fees and the £100 credit-check fee, the hefty extra charge if you want to keep a cat, or the steep surcharge to move in or out on a Saturday – charges that became routine and could add as much as £800 to the upfront cost of renting a property.

From today, a whole raft of often hidden and unfair charges are being swept away for anyone entering into a tenancy agreement. An estimated 4.8 million renting households in England are expected to benefit, saving anything from £200 to £800 for each move. The ban will save renters around £240m a year, according to the government.

In another crucial move, landlords or their agents will only be allowed to ask for a deposit of up to five weeks’ rent, which should also aid struggling first-time renters.

For many, the ban, which applies to all new tenancies signed from today onwards, and from 1 June 2020 for agreements entered into before today, has been too long in coming. Back in November 2016, the Guardian reported that Philip Hammond’s autumn statement that month would promise to outlaw letting agent fees. The announcement was duly made, but in the face of extensive lobbying against the move by landlords and agents, the policy has only now become law.

The ban brings England into line with Scotland and many other European countries. Letting fees were, in effect, banned in Scotland in 2012. While still legal in Wales, the fees are set to be outlawed there from September this year.

From today, tenants in England will no longer be asked to pay for credit checks and a host of other extra charges that have become the norm in rental hotspots around the country.

Housing charity Shelter says some of the extortionate fees it has heard about include £45 to replace a dustpan and brush, and £200 to check out of a property.

The only payments (aside from the rent and relevant utility bills) that landlords and agents can now charge are :

• A refundable deposit capped at no more than five weeks’ rent (it’s six weeks where the total annual rent is £50,000 or more).

• A refundable holding deposit to reserve the property, capped at one week’s rent.

• Payments relating to changes to the tenancy. Where a tenant requests a change to the agreement, the landlord or agent is entitled to charge up to £50 for the work, or the amount of their “reasonable costs” if they are higher (though evidence – such as receipts and invoices – would need to be provided). A change might include amending the names on a contract when one flatmate moves out and the other tenants find someone else to move in, or asking to keep a pet, or requesting permission to sublet or run a business from the property.

• An “early termination fee” if a tenant requests to leave before the end of their tenancy. This must be “capped at the landlord’s loss or the agent’s reasonable incurred costs,” says the government.

• A “default fee” applies to just two things: late payment of rent (it must be at least 14 days overdue) or replacing a lost key or fob which gives access to the building. With the former, any interest charged can’t exceed the Bank of England base rate plus 3%, while, with the latter, the landlord or agent can only bill a tenant for their “reasonable costs”, and must provide written evidence.

• Agents and landlords will not be able to charge for the renewal of a new tenancy. If the tenancy was entered into before 1 June 2019, renewal fees agreed at the time will be payable – but only until 31 May 2020.

Other fees that are now banned include :

• Viewing fees, charges for inventory checks, “check-out” fees, and charges for professional cleaning at the end of the tenancy. Additionally, charging for a rent guarantor and fees for things such as gardening services, getting the chimney swept and having a property “de-flead” as a condition of allowing a pet in the property, will also be outlawed.

Landlords or agents found to be charging illegal fees after today can be fined up to £5,000 for a first offence. If they break the rules again within five years, they face an unlimited fine.

During the consultation period, 93% of the tenants surveyed agreed with the proposed ban. It has been introduced in part to encourage more people to consider renting in future, the government has claimed.

Letting agents that opposed the move have only themselves to blame after some ramped up charges to ridiculous levels, say campaigners. In 2015, Guardian Money featured the case of renter Rory Gray, who was presented with an £800 bill when he asked to rent a £650-a-month flat in Exeter.

The agent in question charged a tenancy fee of £360, an admin fee of £90, a £60 referencing fee, a check-in fee of £90 and a £90 guarantor fee – and if Gray decided he wanted to move in on a Saturday, that would add a further £72.

Meanwhile, in 2016, campaigner Vicky Spratt described how she had just paid over another £550 in letting agent fees to rent her latest property.

“Over the last nine years, agency fees have probably cost me over £2,000 – and I’m only 28. This is money I’ll never get back. It turns out renting is a lucrative business if you’re on the right side of it – which I’m not,” she said at the time. The ban has been welcomed by charities and many other groups.

“This is a landmark moment for the millions of people who rent privately,” Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy says. “For too long, families and other renters have had to hand over hundreds of pounds on unfair and uncompetitive letting fees every time they moved home.”

Dan Wilson Craw, director at Generation Rent, which was at the forefront of the campaign, says: “The ban on letting fees won’t just save tenants money when they move home – it also gives them more negotiating power with their landlord. If faced with a rent increase or failure to fix a faulty boiler, tenants can now threaten to move out with more credibility, which should make the landlord think twice.

“But the lettings industry has a reputation for inventing things to charge tenants for, so we still need to beware of attempts to get around the law. For the ban to work, local councils must use their powers to crack down on illegal practices – and tenants need to know when to report dodgy behaviour in the first place.”

Government warned of another Grenfell-type disaster as 60,000 people still living in buildings covered in same flammable material.

Exclusive : Only 2 in 10 high-rise buildings have had dangerous cladding removed two years on from west London fire.

Almost 60,000 people are still living in tower blocks covered in the highly flammable material that was used on Grenfell Tower, two years on from the blaze at the west London block, new figures have revealed.

There are 24,800 homes in high-rise blocks that are still covered in Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding that is “unlikely to meet building regulations”, ministers admitted.

The ACM panels were widely blamed as one cause of the rapid spread of the fire at Grenfell, which killed 72 people, and have since been banned by the government.

But ministers have been criticised over the pace at which the material is being removed from the buildings, with more than eight in 10 yet to have the cladding taken down – a figure that rises to more than nine in 10 for privately-owned blocks.

Ahead of the second anniversary of the Grenfell fire next week, Labour warned that the failure to remove the cladding from other buildings meant “the risk of such a tragedy being repeated is still far too high”.

About 16,400 homes in privately-owned buildings and 8,400 in the social housing sector are in blocks still covered in ACM cladding, according to the ministry of housing, communities and local government. The average household size in the UK is 2.4 people, suggesting 59,520 people are living in these buildings.

The homes are in 272 different buildings, of which 164 are privately owned and 108 are social housing.

MPs will debate the Grenfell tragedy in the House of Commons on Thursday ahead of the two-year anniversary of the fire.

Ahead of the debate, Labour’s shadow housing minister, Sarah Jones, wrote to James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, to demand that ministers set a deadline for the removal of dangerous cladding from high-rise buildings.

In the letter, seen by The Independent, she said: “As we approach the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, the risk of such a tragedy being repeated is still far too high.

“Almost 60,000 people are still living in buildings wrapped with deadly ACM cladding. Countless more may unknowingly be living in dangerous buildings covered in ‘non-ACM’ flammable materials as your department has still not properly tested suspect cladding of this type. Progress has been too slow at every stage, lives are at stake, and we must do better.

“I am concerned that the government sees the latest fund as a panacea to the cladding scandal. But this is not the end – it is the start of a large body of work which should have been completed long ago. What’s more, important questions remain unanswered.”

Last month, the government bowed to pressure from MPs and campaigners and agreed to provide £200m to help with the removal of ACM cladding from privately-owned buildings. It had previously only allocated money for work on social housing blocks.

Ms Jones said ministers should now agree to fund the removal of other types of cladding that could be just as flammable. The government began testing non-ACM cladding last month but has been criticised for opting for a less comprehensive type of test than the one that was applied to ACM panels in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

She also called for building owners who refuse to take down cladding that has failed safety tests to face tougher punishments.

The Ministry of Housing has been contacted for comment.
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Grenfell Tower ... inquest continues at a snail's pace.

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