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Housing : Social Tenants / BTL & HB Problems / Shortages / Grenfell Tower Fallout - Page 30 - Carers UK Forum

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

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
316 posts
Grenfell contractor being sued over blocks with similar cladding.

Camden council claiming £130 million from Rydon and other firms for safety work on Chalcots estate.


The contractor that refurbished Grenfell Tower is one of several firms being sued over works on five other tower blocks using similar cladding, because the government has allegedly not released enough money to cover the costs of making them safe.

Rydon, among other firms originally involved in the works at the Chalcots estate in Camden, north London, faces court claims totalling £130m to cover the costs of stripping combustible cladding, employing fire marshals and fixing inadequate internal fire stopping measures and fire doors. More than 1,000 people had to be evacuated from the blocks immediately after the June 2017 disaster for fear of a repeat catastrophe.

Central government has provided £80m to cover the costs of works after more than 1,000 residents of the council estate had to be evacuated in the days after the Grenfell fire, which claimed 72 lives. But that is not enough to make the buildings safe, according to the London borough of Camden.

If successful the action, being taken in the technology and construction court division in the high court in London, could pave the way for dozens of other councils and social landlords to sue builders and developers.

Of the 160 high-rise council blocks wrapped in similar aluminium composite cladding to that which spread the fire at Grenfell, 34 have been fixed and works are under way on a further 82. Works are yet to start on the remaining 44.

The government announced £400m to help fund the removal of dangerous cladding, but Camden’s move suggests that may not be enough.

The claim has been submitted against a private finance initiative consortium Partners for Improvement in Camden – currently in liquidation – as well as Rydon Construction, Rydon Maintenance, Faithful+Gould and United Living South.

“The PFI agreement for refurbishment and maintenance of the Chalcots estate was entered into in good faith and fundamental to this was our expectation that the Chalcots towers would be safe for our residents,” a council spokesman said.

“We should not have been put in a position where we were left with no option but to evacuate residents from their homes on a Friday night.”

They continued: “The costs of the supporting residents during the evacuation and level of work required at the Chalcots made a major impact on our reserves. Clearly, it would not be right for residents and, by extension, the public purse, to foot the bill for what has been a private contractor failure.”

Rydon, Faithful+Gould and United Living South have been contacted for comment.
Grenfell survivors tell party leaders safety delays will cost lives.

Campaigners say more will die unless flammable cladding is urgently taken off high rises.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/201 ... cost-lives

What will it take ?

A SECOND " Grenfell tower " related fire ???
Builder Persimmon lacks minimum house standards, report finds.

The UK's second biggest housing firm does not have an agreed minimum standard for all the homes it builds, an independent report has found.


No real surprise there , then ?

For those NOT regular readers of this thread , Persimmon feature quite often.

Give the reviews on Trustpilot a spin :

More than 100 buildings still with Grenfell-style cladding this Christmas.

More than 100 buildings in London still have Grenfell-style cladding, two and a half years after the devastating fire.

Residents in 125 buildings in the capital with aluminium-composite material (ACM) cladding are still at risk, according to Government data.
Landlord facing prosecution after 30 occupants discovered in three-bedroom house in Dagenham , East London.

" I find it terribly depressing. It is exploitation. Misery is inflicted on people in the name of bad landlords trying to make a profit. " says councillor.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/h ... 58011.html


The house in Dagenham was raided by police and council officers on 16 December and children were among those found living in dirty conditions.

More than 25 people were thought to be living in the main building in Albert Close and two were in an illegal makeshift shed in the garden, officials said.

Margaret Mullane, Barking and Dagenham council’s cabinet member for enforcement and community safety, said: “I find it terribly depressing. It is exploitation. Misery is inflicted on people in the name of bad landlords trying to make a profit.

“I can’t even imagine having children living in those conditions. Until the housing crisis is dealt with, you will keep getting these rogue landlords, but we will keep fighting them.”

Empty words councillor if you look at the number of prosecutions of " Bad " landlords over the past year ... not even 1 in every 100 !!!

Perhaps no LA wants the responsibility of dealing with the now displaced tenants ???
Grenfell survivors angered by inquiry panel change.

Grenfell United says news that member had been replaced was " Snuck out before Christmas. "

It will only get worse as the Establishment closes ranks ... with a few morsels thrown to the lions ... like Dany Cotton ?

Watch this space ... and The Eye for any whistle blowers ?
Amount of flood-prone land used for new houses in England doubles in a year, figures reveal

Exclusive: " There’s a strategy to build as many homes as possible, regardless of where they are and what type they are, in a rush to meet targets, " says critic.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/h ... 43001.html

For prospective house purchasers , insist on a free inflatable dingy , welly boots and a dozen complimentary sand bags ?
The fallout from Grenfell Tower is spreading :

Mortgage prisoner : " I’ve been told I can’t sell for years. "

In the wake of the Grenfell disaster, owners of high-rise apartments are finding their flats are worth zero.

High-rise flat owners are effectively being told they may not be able to sell up or remortgage for several years unless the new government steps in to sort out a safety row.

Those affected could include Jack McGurran, who was looking to sell his flat so he could buy a bigger place, but now probably won’t be going anywhere for a while.

McGurran is one of up to an estimated 600,000 people in England living in “unsellable” flats because they have been caught up in the fallout from the Grenfell Tower disaster.

They have been dubbed “mortgage prisoners”, and it had been suggested they could be stuck for perhaps six to 12 months or so. But some flat owners are now being warned that without official intervention, it could be a lot longer than that.

Shortly before Christmas, some potential good news did emerge which could help break the logjam. This may mean that things aren’t quite as bleak for McGurran as they had initially seemed, though we are yet to see how this all pans out.

High-rise flat dwellers have become caught up in the confusion over cladding on tower blocks – specifically, whether or not buildings meet new fire safety standards introduced following the Grenfell fire, how much it will cost to put any problems right, and who will ultimately foot the bill.

During the past few months, many mortgage lenders and property valuers have toughened up their policies relating to tower blocks after the government issued what’s known as “advice note 14” relating to cladding in December 2018. For example, Santander updated its lending policy on buildings with cladding in May, while Barclays’ revised policy took effect in June.

McGurran, 31, lives with his fiancee in the 10-storey Azure building in Stratford, east London, and wrote to housing association L&Q to ask whether there would be any issues relating to selling his home.

He had been alarmed to hear the experience of his stepbrother Jerome Cox, who lives in a Peabody housing association shared ownership flat in Hackney, north London. Cox was trying to sell his property, but the prospective buyer had been unable to obtain a mortgage on it, leaving Cox feeling trapped.

L&Q, which is one of Britain’s largest housing associations and developers, wrote back at the end of last month with bad news. “Unfortunately, in the short-term at least,” the letter said, building owners including L&Q could not provide the documentation that some lenders were requesting. Lenders want applicants to provide independent evidence that a flat meets the requirements of advice note 14.

To obtain this, building owners had to employ a specialist fire engineer to carry out “intrusive” tests of the building structure, L&Q said, adding: “Doing this involves ‘opening up’ the building and testing all the materials used in its construction to make sure they meet the new standards.”

If this process can be completed conclusively, the results then need to be analysed and any resulting work planned and carried out before the correct evidence can be provided. This is a complex and lengthy process.”

L&Q – which houses about 250,000 people in more than 95,000 homes, mainly in London and the south-east – said most housing associations predicted the majority of buildings would need some remedial work.

Then came perhaps the biggest blow: “With this in mind, buildings must be prioritised based on risk, and we expect our programme to take several years to deliver.”

The letter went on to apologise for the “unfortunate position” this left McGurran in, but said it was something that was “beyond our control”.

And, in a follow-up letter dated 12 December, L&Q said: “In the meantime, I’m afraid my advice to you would be not to go ahead with trying to sell your home until the issue is resolved.”

McGurran, who has a one-bedroom shared ownership flat in the building, says: “The surprising aspect is how matter-of-fact they were in effectively saying ‘tough’, and that it’s up to the government to fix this.”

He adds: “We have no options.” He and his fiancee had been hoping to sell in the next few months, but that’s now on hold. And if he wanted to get a job in another city, he couldn’t do that, as he is not allowed to sublet the flat, he says.

McGurran has not put his property on the market, but if he had, he may well have found that the valuation came back as “zero”. He says: “I made an investment in good faith, and to find out that effectively my investment is worth nothing – that is quite worrying.”

Thousands of people living in high-rise (defined as more than 18 metres tall) apartment blocks, as well as many living in smaller blocks, are affected by this, because valuers are taking the view that unless they have all the facts at their fingertips – for example, is there any chance a leaseholder could be hit with a cripplingly large bill for remedial work? – they can’t put a valuation on the property. That means these owners can’t sell up or switch to a cheaper mortgage.

However, there is some good news: a few days after the general election, it was announced that a new industry-wide process – to be used by valuers, lenders, building owners and fire safety experts – had been agreed for the valuation of high-rise properties. In theory, the move agreed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) and others should help unclog this part of the property market, but the proof of the pudding will be what happens over the coming weeks and months.

There might also be some positive tidings for McGurran. L&Q told Guardian Money that it manages several shared ownership homes within the Azure building, and that responsibility for providing the information which many mortgage lenders are asking for lies with the freeholder, Telford Homes. It says that due to an administration error, it did not refer residents to Telford Homes in the first instance. “Since then, we have secured confirmation from the freeholder that the Azure Building, which is largely a brick structure, meets government requirements and contains no ACM [aluminium composite material] cladding. We hope this information will be sufficient for mortgage lenders and are liaising with the freeholder about getting this report to residents.”

L&Q is a member of the G15, a group of London’s largest housing associations. G15 chair Helen Evans told us: “This is a situation affecting thousands of leaseholders up and down the country and should be high on the new government’s agenda. We are calling on them to help unstick this process, provide urgently needed clarity to their confusing guidance, and explore funding as costs associated with building safety will otherwise leave many leaseholders with unaffordable bills and reduce the capacity of housing associations to build new affordable homes.”

Peabody told us it sympathises with Jerome Cox and adds that the industry “desperately needs” the government to step in on this issue.

What the big mortgage lenders are saying

Nationwide says that, like other lenders, it requires a valuer acting for it to get confirmation from an expert that the property is safe and meets the requirements of advice note 14. It adds: “The industry is working on an external wall form which will make it easier for a valuer to understand the output of the fire reports and for them to understand what works need doing, which will help them value the property.”

Santander told us it considers a range of factors before deciding whether to lend including, on some high-rise buildings, whether the safety of the construction materials used meets government guidelines.

The Lloyds group, which includes Halifax, says it is working closely with the industry on this “complex issue”. It says the advice of its valuation and conveyancing service providers is considered on lending applications to ensure the relevant official guidelines are met, adding: “We review such applications to help support customers’ individual circumstances.”
Councils awarded share of £4 million to tackle rogue landlords and letting agents.

Critics say scheme is a '" Drop in the ocean " compared to problems of inadequate and unsafe housing.

A government offer of £4m for councils to crack down on rogue landlords has been dismissed as a “drop in the ocean” which will not be enough to end exploitation of vulnerable renters.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said the money would be shared between more than 100 councils across England to tackle landlords who flout the law by offering inadequate or unsafe homes.

Mr Jenrick said the scheme, whose funding was announced in November, would help deliver “a better deal for renters".

"It's completely unacceptable that a minority of unscrupulous landlords continue to break the law and provide homes which fall short of the standards we rightly expect - making lives difficult for hard-working tenants who just want to get on with their lives," he said.

"Everyone deserves to live in a home that is safe and secure, and the funding announced today will strengthen councils' powers to crack down on poor landlords and drive up standards in the private rented sector for renters across the country."

But his Labour shadow John Healey said: “This puny commitment is a drop in the ocean compared to the cuts that councils have faced since 2010.

"The truth is that the Conservatives have gifted rogue landlords the freedom to flourish, by cutting council budgets, weakening their powers and refusing to legislate to drive up standards.”

“Today’s funding though is nowhere near enough. Instead of offering inadequate and sporadic pots of money, it is critical that the Government provides proper, multi-year funding to enable councils to plan and prepare workable strategies to find the criminal landlords.

“This should be supported by councils having the political will to prioritise enforcement against the crooks rather than tying good landlords up in licensing schemes which do nothing to protect tenants.”

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, said that action to raise standards in the private rented sector were being undermined by a “small minority” of landlords.

Housing spokesperson Darren Rodwell welcomed the additional funding, but said councils “could do more if they were given the right tools, like greater freedom to establish local licensing schemes for landlords”.

The new funding will be used by councils to take enforcement action against rule-breaking landlords, and advise tenants of their housing rights.

Across Yorkshire and the Humber, 22 councils will be funded to train more than 100 enforcement officers.

In Northampton, a special operations unit will be set up, while in Thurrock, Essex, vulnerable young tenants will be given extra support in tandem with care services.

Meanwhile, in Greenwich, south London, a pilot scheme to identify "particularly cold homes" will be launched.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “It’s encouraging to see the government taking steps to improve the lives of England’s 11 million private renters. Alongside their recent pledge to abolish ‘no fault’ evictions, this small injection of funding to help crack down on criminal landlords will start to redress the longstanding power imbalance between landlords and renters.

“But we still need a more permanent solution to the spiralling cost and instability of private renting, which leaves thousands of families battling to keep a roof over their head every month. Ultimately, the government must invest in a new generation of social homes. Social housing is the secure and future-proof alternative to private renting that people really need in this country.”
" I'm being charged £42,000 to extend my lease. "

When Des Kinsella bought a leasehold flat he expected a bill of up to £20,000 to extend the agreement.

Instead, the ultimate owner of his property is asking for £42,000. Almost a third of that is for something called marriage value.

It's something Mr Kinsella and other leaseholders want abolished.

"I don't agree with marriage value at all," he says. "It's there to make the valuation higher for the freeholder."

When a homebuyer purchases a leasehold property, they do not possess it outright. Instead they gain the right to occupy it for a set number of years.

On first sale, this might be for 99 years, or more commonly today, 125.

When the flat is then sold again, the number of years left is also sold, rather than a new contract being drawn up. At any point, a lease owner can ask to buy more years.

When the agreement is extended, the leaseholder pays a premium for the extra years, like any rental payment. They will probably also part with a lump sum to pay off the ground rent. And most people try to do this before 80 years are left.

This is because extensions for a flat with fewer than 80 years remaining will attract a third payment, called marriage value.

For freehold investors, it's a bountiful source of revenue, and one they will not want to lose.

Prior scandals

Both groups await a report on Thursday from the Law Commission, which is considering whether to recommend reform in the leasehold sector.

It's a big market, especially in big cities. There are no official figures, but the market could be worth £2.5bn a year, the Association of Leasehold Enfranchisement Practitioners estimates.

About a fifth of the 100,000 or so renewals per year may be for properties where marriage value is payable.

While leasehold scandals such as doubling ground rents and restrictions on the smallest renovations have been much-publicised, the complex story of marriage value has had less of an airing.

It shouldn't really exist, argues Dean Buckner, a former Bank of England regulator and trustee of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, which campaigns for reform.

"You are asking someone to pay someone else for something they already own," he says.

The government's advisory service for leaseholders describes it as the increase in the value of the property once the lease has been extended. The "profit", as it calls it, is then shared between the freeholder and leaseholder, hence the payment. Beyond 80 years, according to the law, the value is zero.

Critics like Dr Buckner object to the payment since the leaseholder has already paid for the extension. To consider it a profit is specious, he says, and he points out that it doesn't exist in deals outside the property world.

For Mr Kinsella, part of the expense is down to the fact that the freehold owner thinks the flat, in Ilford, east London, which he bought in 2014 for £165,000, will be worth £265,000 when an extra 90 years are added.

Tribunal option

Much of that gain will be down to the extra years themselves - a new buyer will pay more for a flat with about 150 years to go than one with only 60, like Mr Kinsella's. But the freeholder thinks £25,000 of it will be a profit it should share in.

Mr Kinsella says it's very hard to find a similar property nearby that will sell for even close to that estimate, even with a share of the freehold.

He tells the BBC he is realistic about wanting to pay what is owed, but that a £25,000 gain in value - half of which he will be obliged to pay to the freeholder - isn't a fair valuation.

If freeholder and leaseholder can't agree, valuations are decided by a tribunal.

A request for comment from Mr Kinsella's freeholder, Fable Estates, received no response.

Against change

For many property investors, especially in London, marriage value payments will be an important source of revenue, says Katie Cohen, a partner at Keystone Law, where her work includes leasehold extensions and freehold purchases. She advises both leaseholders and freeholders.

"I don't think freeholders will want much change," she says. "They would absolutely want to avoid any abolition of marriage value being payable."

Freehold investors include charities and pension funds as well as others wanting long-term, dependable income.

She says while she anticipates the Law Commission's report will include some reforms favourable to leaseholders, it is unlikely the payments will be abolished.

If that happened, "freeholders could see the value of those investments decrease rapidly overnight," she said.

The government could be advised to lower the point at which a marriage payment becomes owed, she says, perhaps to 65 or 70 years, and perhaps lower the percentage which is owed to the freeholder.

For Mr Kinsella, making prices fixed rather than the subject of lengthy negotiation would be a start. Prices should be more easy to calculate and agree upon before purchasing a flat in the first place, he says.

"We did this because we wanted to get our son on the property ladder," he says.

"And it seems like now he's so worried about this extra cost that he might even have to sell if we don't extend it, and look for a place further out of London."

Nothing that's really new.

My banking days ... now close on 30 years ago and counting back ... several large mortgages to clients wanting to extend their leases ... mainly Grosvenor Estate properties in the West End of London.
316 posts