No Flood Insurance Deal May Leave Thousands at Risk

A flooded townThe current flood agreement between the Government and the Association of British Insurers comes to an end at the end of June 2013. Negotiations to continue providing affordable premiums to those most vulnerable to flooding are seemingly at a grinding halt.

Under the present agreement, insurers are committed to offering existing consumers universal flood insurance at affordable rates, providing that the Government invests in flood defenses. However, government spending on flood defenses is reported to have reduced. The Guardian reported last July that 294 flood defense projects have not received funding.

Talks between DEFRA and the ABI over a new deal have been ongoing for months. As many as 200,000 households could find it difficult to source reasonable premiums on flood insurance if no agreement is reached.

Green Deal – Planning Laws Relaxed

External insulationThe Government’s Green Deal‘s cashback initiative has been launched this week. There is no cap on what householders can claim.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has made available £125 million funding for the scheme.

To qualify for the cashback initiative, homeowners need to have a Green Deal property assessment undertaken on their property. However, this assessment is not always free, as many assessment companies are charging consumers for this service. The assessment is designed to inform homeowners what measures will make the best improvements to their property’s thermal performance. Improvements may include cavity or solid wall insulation, replacement boilers and loft insulation.

The cashback initiative follows an announcement by Climate change minister Greg Barker last week that planning laws have been relaxed to make it easier for external solid wall insulation to be installed. The classification of solid wall insulation for planning purposes is set to change for property owners across the country, with this type of project now seen as a “permitted development” – meaning property owners will no longer require specific planning consent to carry such an improvement.

The climate change minister stated: “There used to be a time that if you applied external solid wall insulation you would make the house look like something out of Erich Honecker’s East Germany. But actually lots of the solid wall insulation products now enhance the look and feel of a home.”

Greg Barker stated the Department for Communities and Local Government had “relaxed” planning laws so that the insulation measures are categorized as home improvements, rather than enlargement or extension, meaning the solid wall insulation will not require planning permission for most homes. Listed Buildings and properties in Conservation areas will still require permission.

RICS Publish Housing Market Forecast for 2013

Front doors, residential property

The RICS have issued their forecast for the UK housing market for 2013. According to the RICS prices are set to rise in the UK by an increase of 2%. The cost of renting is also expected to rise by up to 4%.

The RICS recognise the UK is not out of the economic doldrums quite yet but predict some “slight improvements” which will be reflected in the housing market.

They predict a rise in the number of transactions by just over 3% to 960,000; against a total of 930,000 in 2012. The RICS report this is still a significant decrease on 2006; their 2013 forecast representing just under 58% of the 2006 transaction figures.

London’s prime central market is predicted to remain stable, whereas the rest of the capital is expected to continue with above average increases. The South East and North West are predicted to see modest rises. The remainder of the UK is expected to dip slightly or remain stagnant, indicating that the London bubble is expected to drive market growth.

Gloomier news is that due to the negative equity generated by large loan to value ratios in the peak of the boom, repossessions are predicted to continue, with only a modest drop in repossession figures to below 35,000.

See the full RICS report here. RICS Housing Update December 2012

Glimmers of Positivity in the housing market.

Signs of improvements in the housing market are continuing to develop, although there is no doubt that people are still struggling to get into the housing market. report a 1.5% increase in house prices in the year to October 2012 and a growth in demand. Mortgage rates are also reported to have fallen, thought to be as a result of the Funding For Lending scheme by the Bank of England which is supplying cheap money to banks and building societies to encourage them to lend at cheaper rated to borrowers.

The Telegraph report that mortgage lending has improved in the last ten months. However, with comparably unfavorable mortgage terms, stamp duty, professional fees, removals costs and other hidden expenses it is easy to see why people are playing safe and staying put rather than stretching themselves beyond their means.


Six Steps to a Party Wall Award

Party wallRecently we have had a number of requests for information regarding party wall procedure. With the aim of providing guidance the following is an overview of the basic procedure of serving Party Wall notices:

1. Firstly, do you need to issue a party wall notice? For the sake of argument let’s say you do. Do you know what type of notice needs to be served? A line of junction notice? A party structure notice? Or a notice of adjacent excavation? In some cases it may be just one in some cases it may be all three. This can easily be determined by any good Party Wall Surveyor who knows the Party Wall Act.

2. Secondly, on whom are you serving notice? Who is the freeholder? Are there any leaseholders? Does the proposed work affect more than one structure? If so, there are likely to be a number of parties to whom notice must be served.

3. With the aforementioned identified notice can be served. RMA Surveyors Ltd are often asked to become involved in Party Wall matters after notice has been served. Clients sometimes see an early saving being made by not appointing a Party Wall Surveyor, as the process seems simple at the outset. However, as the process develops it can become more complex and Building Owners seek to appoint Party Wall Surveyors to untangle the knots. We would say two things at this juncture. Firstly, fees for initial notice are usually minimal. Secondly, issue of the correct, properly drafted notices at the outset will save time. If a notice is not correct, it is invalid and another valid notice must be served. It can take two months before works can start from date of issue of a valid notice.

4. Valid notice is served to the Adjoining Owner. They now have fourteen days to respond. The adjoining owner can assent or dissent to the proposed works. If the adjoining owner does not respond in this period, works are deemed to be in dispute. If the Adjoining Owner agrees to works, the Building Owner may, by written agreement, proceed with works. We strongly recommend a condition survey of the Adjoining Owner’s property be undertaken prior to works commencing, to provide a benchmark and avoid later dispute.

5. If no response is received or the Adjoining Owner dissents to works the building owner will need to write to the adjoining owner to request they appoint a Party Wall Surveyor. The Adjoining Owner may opt to use the Surveyor appointed by the Building Owner. They may prefer to appoint their own Surveyor. In most cases the fee for the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor will be borne by the Building Owner.

6. Once appointed the Agreed Surveyor or Surveyors should then work to draw up a Party Wall Award. A Party Wall Award is the framework whereby works affecting the party structure are to be executed. A condition survey of the Adjoining Owner’s property will be undertaken. Once the Party Wall Award is agreed and published works can commence from the date stated within the Award.

Please also see our Party Wall Pitfalls blog with more useful guidance about the Party Wall process.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese knotweed at the rear of a propertyJapanese knotweed is an amazing plant. The young stems are edible and taste like bamboo shoots. It can grow over 20 feet in height. Its root systems can penetrate as deep as 3 metres below ground surface level. In some cases it has been reported to grow as deep as 5 metres. It usually grows in thick clumps (or stands). It can grow in a variety of soil PH’s. It will grow from a small cutting and will rapidly reroot itself. Where roots are disrupted new shoots will begin from breaks in the root, travelling vertically and horizontally through the ground. Its subterranean root system can survive double figure sub-zero temperatures. The mid-19th Century saw its introduction to the United Kingdom as it became popular with landscapers as it could grow quickly, form dense screens and hold together land banks with its root system. It was widely used in Wales to hold together subsiding railway embankments. Japanese knotweed has no predators in the UK and as such is not easily controlled. The saving grace is that the plant in this country is female only and is not espablished by seeds. However, the roots and stems can establish in new soil easily if not carefully disposed of.

The plant is a hardy one and it is illegal to spread the plant under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Soil deemed to be contaminated with Japanese knotweed is sighted as controlled waste under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. In recent years lenders have begun declining loans on properties due to the presence of Japanese knotweed on sites. Most buildings insurance policies do not cover damage and problems caused by Japanese knotweed.

Close up of Japanese knotweedJapanese knotweed can damage ruin gardens, drains, paths paving, walls and out buildings. In rare and exceptional cases it has been reported to affect foundations and floors.
It can be treated in a number of ways. Herbicides can be applied, but this is usually necessary over a number of years. This is most economic, but not always effective. Excavation of contaminated soil is also employed, but soil must be disposed of as hazardous waste and the depth of the root system can mean excavation and disposal amounts to serious costs. Experiments with introduced grazing insects are being trialled, but there are obvious unknowns with introducing non-native insects into the environment. Japanese knotweed being the case in point.

The presence of Japanese knotweed is likely to affect the value of a property and remediation is expensive. Caught early enough and not disrupted the plant can be eradicated before it spreads.

I took these photo’s at a property in Bath. Unfortunately the knotweed had taken root outside the rear of the property. The building occupant was pleased he was only renting the property. The landlord and neighbours are likely to have a very different view on it.

RMA serves up food for thought at Hungerford Big Business Breakfast

Richard Mountain deleviring an insight into what buildings can tell us.Have you ever wondered what would be stories could be told if the walls could talk. Richard Mountain delivered a 10 minute presentation at Hungerford Big Business Breakfast (HBBB) on Tuesday 16th May 2012 that gave an insight into what they say.

Richard, chartered building surveyor and owner of RMA Surveyors Ltd,  frequently enters into dialogue with buildings. He gave practical examples of the kinds of conservations he has to fellow attendees at one of West Berkshire’s premium networking event, held at the Bear Hotel in Hungerford.

HBBB is held monthly and draws a wide variety of experts, services and business professionals. Richard enjoyed presenting to the room and imparting some of his expertise, whilst demonstrating why he is so passionate about building surveying.

After delivering his well received presentation he said “The group is unique and very relaxed. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to explain a little bit more about what I do. I am pleased that my talk engaged with everyone and I had the opportunity to demonstrate the skills required to provide the professional service we do at RMA Surveyors Ltd.”

Richard is actively seeking further public speaking opportunities to demonstrate the benefits of his expertise. The next HBBB is June 19th contact Sarah Culpepper of the Bear Hotel for more details.

Homebuyers are being refused mortgages due to 'free' solar panels | Press Releases | Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

Homebuyers are being refused mortgages due to ‘free’ solar panels | Press Releases | Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.