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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Net immigration figures for EU and non-EU

I wonder what percentage of these folk ended up in the Private Rented Sector? The majority I guess.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

London Plan house building target

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60% foreign ownership of London skyscraper

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Plan to switch mortgages in a week

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Bath landlord fined

landlord fined A Bath landlord and his agent have been fined for failing to licence a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

Paul Lewis and Ian Francis both pleaded guilty to renting out the unlicensed HMO in Bath.

During the hearing, BANES council officers informed Bath Magistrates Court of the property's state of disrepair - broken electrical sockets, exposed electrical wiring, broken windows, no fire alarms and lack of escapes.

The landlord and his agent now face fines totalling £26,000, court cost of £1,144.86 and.... wait for it - the £120 victim surcharge.

The landlord has subsequently made the required improvements, obtained the licence for the HMO and has it let to tenants, - if only he'd done it earlier.

HMRC rake in record monthly Stamp Duty

hmrc tax manIronically, HMRC have admitted the BTL surge to beat the introduction of the Stamp Duty surcharge on second homes lead to them taking their highest  monthly Stamp Duty Land Tax (‘SDLT’) revenue.

£1.2bn was gathered via SDLT in March, with market activity swelled by a surge of property purchases by BTL investors.

A total of 173,430 property purchases were made during March.

Now with April's sales  reportedly down considerably, it will be interesting to see if the additional 3% landlord stamp duty surcharge  will sustain Her Majesty's hungry purse.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Regional lodger rents mapped

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HMRC see big dip in property sales

The lull after the surge - HMRC figures for April saw a 45% drop in sales  compared with their March figures.

The drop follows the March  stampede of buyers committed to beating the April 1st stamp duty surcharge on second homes.

HMRC recorded 94,370 total property sales in April, falling from 164,400 in March.

Residential property sales were at their lowest for three years, at 84,280, down 14.5% on April 2015.

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World's first printed functioning building

I'm just contemplating the cost of the printer cartridges for this -

And I've just spotted this -  the world's first printed motorbike. Whatever next?


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Housing and Planning Act published


Print it out, make a cup of tea and go sit out in the garden... maybe have a little snooze.

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Paragon profit - but BTL outlook uncertain

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BTL average annual returns hit 10.7%

Average rents

The April buy-to-let Index from Your Move and Reeds Rains has rents up 0.3% during the month pushing the average rent in  England and Wales to £793 pcm.

These latest figures show rents in the East Midlands have seen an annual growth of 8.5%, putting it along with the regions of the West Midlands and East of England at their record highest average rents.

Investment returns

Strong rental growth along with capital increases have seen BTL property beat all other major asset classes.

LSl calculate that the average annual return on a BTL investment is now at 10.7%, equating to£19,538, broken up as £10,815 of capital growth and £8,723 of rental income.

Increases in property prices have seen the lowering of the average rental yield on BTL properties across England and Wales, now 4.9% (excluding rental voids), down from 5.1% in April 2015.

LSL's Adrian Gill comments: 

“Yields and returns have been remarkably steady in the face of an onslaught of hostile rhetoric and regulatory hoops. And all else being the same, there is a chance that gross yields could rise marginally, to take account of any extra costs and complexities associated with being a landlord – such as the stamp duty surcharge.

More change is on the way, and landlords will need to take appropriate financial advice on how changes to the tax system could affect them – as well as ensuring that their properties and tenancy agreements comply with every single rule and requirement. But this latest imposition is actually not a tax on existing or accidental landlords. Actually, the stamp duty surcharge is a barrier to entry. The danger for tenants is that this new rule will prevent new houses and flats to rent coming on to the market. The advantage for landlords in some areas could be less competition. But anyone trying to grow their rental portfolio will now need to spend even more time making the right decision – and as of last month more money too.”

Rental arrears

Tenants' rental arrears fell to 8.1% of due rents. This compares favourably to the LSL index's all-time high of 14.6% recorded back in February 2010.

Gill comments:

“All the signs are right for a strong improvement in tenant finances. Wages are finally showing a bit of exuberance and employment has never been higher. But rents haven’t ever been higher either in much of the country. There is a powerful trend underpinning the affordability of renting for a large majority of Britain’s tenants, but there are also serious shortages of homes to let in all the same places that people want to live.

Rental arrears reflect this mismatch between supply and demand. Waves of interest from the bulk of financially healthy tenants are capable of pushing up rents across the market. But unless landlords are allowed to respond by investing in new homes then supply will not quite ever be able to keep up. This is the mechanism that very soon could demonstrate the misguided nature of the latest targeting of landlords from the UK authorities. Tenants will always lose out if the bottom line is a shortage of flats to rent or houses to rent in local markets.”



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One view on rent controls

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Monday, May 23, 2016

BTL mortgages for limited companies

As a result of impending tax changes for landlords in 2017 and potential curbs on buy-to-let lending criteria, some lenders have already increased their rental calculations resulting in more stringent affordability testing.

Limited companies are unaffected by the tax relief changes and as such buy-to-let lenders may continue to offer lower rent stress tests for those holding properties in a company structure.

Kent Reliance is currently offering a range of limited company buy-to-let mortgages including products available up to 85% LTV and with a 125% rent stress test for experienced landlords (with 3 or more properties).

kent reliance btl rates may 16

To discuss your buy-to-let mortgage requirements please contact the Property Hawk Mortgages team on:

20yr property price performance mapped

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The next property hotspots in the SE

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Should I Brexit from buy-to-let?

From time to time I like most landlords contemplate the unthinkable to jettison and sell up my buy-to-let properties and 'brexit my buy-to-lets!' Is this sensible? Is it a gut reaction or there is some credibility in taking my money and running and jetting off to a beach somewhere to live out a hassle free retirement.

"There are a number of reasons for landlords like me to seriously consider selling up":


1. Landlord legislation and taxation is getting more restrictive and expensive.  The latest tax grab by the Chancellor is going to hit higher rate tax payers hard and make many question whether its worth the hassle.
2. There is more competition.  More people are buying rental property in a desperate search to supplement their retirement income and generate a return from savings that currently earn nothing in a savings account.  More landlords and rental property means more competition and the likelihood of potential higher rental voids.
3. I'm bored!  Personally, I've being doing this rental property bit for over 25 years (that's over half my life).  It gets tedious and sometimes you just want a change.
4. Politicians are after landlords. The Tories see landlords as a cash cow to tax and raise money to plug the budget shortfall.  Labour have always hated landlords and are itching to slap on rent controls to appease the rental classes.
5. Are property prices about to plunge if we do Brexit so it could be a good time to sell up.

However, just like the Brexit debate there are equally compelling arguments for me to keep my rental properties:


1. They earn me money! Ok it sound basic but it's true.  Through the credit crunch the ensuing crisis my buy-to-let properties earned me good money an income that kept me going through thick and thin.  We all know that interest rates will rise sometime but looking at the example of the Japanese crash this could be a long way off.  Until they do I'm generating a very good income from my buy-to-lets.
2. If I did sell up what would I do with my money?  At the moment there are few compelling investment propositions with where to put your cash.  The stockmarket is looking rocky. I don't need the cash and having all that cash could just lead me into a life of fast cars, fast women and a massive drugs habit. Maybe I'm too old for this.
3. Like many landlords if I was to sell in one go I would be faced with the potential of a large capital gains bill.  This means that in reality to unwind my property holding in a tax efficient way this would probably have to be done over a number of years.
4. I quite like being a landlord.  Ok perhaps I shouldn't admit to this but I do quite like being a landlord.  Having my property assets as a fallback and a little rental cottage industry to look after maybe in my retirement.  It a business to run without being tied to it in the way other businesses are.

So should I brexit my buy-to-lets?  

Perhaps much like in the wider European debate the vision of freedom and a painless independent existence is a mirage. 

Life, property, people are problematic, complicated and interconnected. 

That's life you pays your money and takes your choice.

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Will new bill prevent homelessness?

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Scottish house sales data for March

The latest Scottish property sales stats by YourMove have March seeing -
  • A rush of purchases by landlords to beat the new LBTT surcharge
  • Average property prices jumping 0.8% in March
  • Average Scottish property value now -  £169,379 

 Your Move's Christine Campbell comments:

“Home sales in Scotland have flourished in March, coming into full bloom with a 21% upswing from February. This short-term boost in sales has been fertilised by the flurry of buy-to-let and second home buyers, eager to purchase before the introduction of the 3% surcharge on Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) in April. The growth has ensured that this has been the strongest March for property sales in eight years.

However, Scotland’s sales did not rocket at the same rate as those south of the border, which soared by 60% month-on-month in March. The more modest increase in Scotland may have been due to John Swinney announcing the changes a month later than George Osborne, so many second home buyers may not have had time to plan their investments. But Scottish sales for the first quarter of this year are still well above the same period in 2015, up 18% year-on-year.

Midlothian is the mainland area which has seen the highest growth in sales over the first three months of the year, jumping 48% on Q1 2015. The construction of new homes in Midlothian has enabled the area to become the only place in Scotland where house prices stand at a record high in March."


The significance of low interest rates on prices

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Have we seen the BTL peak?

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BofE believe stamp duty won't impact BTL

The Bank of England's May 2016 Update 'Agents’ summary of business conditions'  fed back on their perceived prospects for the UK housing market following the stamp duty changes for BTL's.

The bank's industry contacts reported seeing - 'a pickup in house purchases by BTL investors in Q1 as they (investors) sought to complete purchases ahead of April’s changes, and expected activity in Q2 to be correspondingly subdued. 

The majority of contacts - 'did not expect the tax changes on their own to lead to a substantial reduction in BTL purchases. '

But some shared concern - 'that some landlords did not fully appreciate the implications of reduced interest relief from April 2017 — which was seen as the more significant of the tax changes. That could lead to downside risks to activity in the sector further out, if it subsequently led landlords to make a sharper adjustment to their portfolios.' 

Read the full report - Bank of England's May 2016 Update 'Agents’ summary of business conditions' 

Brexit house price and rent falls

There's no doubt about it - residential property is not the opportunity it once was!  As an investment opportunity it increasingly lacks certainty.
In the words of one minister, this Government want to hear landlords squeal. ( Yes, like a pig,... Mr Cameron) 

A further cloud of uncertainty is the Brexit vote.

 The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and the Association of Residential Letting Agents (Arla) claim rents and property prices will fall if we Brexit.

As part of a report compiled with the help of the CEBR, the NAEA and ARLA predict Brexit would cut immigration rates, and thus demand for property, bringing falls of £2,300 for the average UK property price, and a £7,500 fall in London during the course of 2018.

According to the report, Brexit would lead to the  UK having 1 million less in its population by 2026 than the current predictions for  'remain'.

The joint report states - 

“Lower immigration would mean less people looking for accommodation which would lessen the demand and, potentially, the upward pressures on housing prices, especially in those regions popular with EU migrants.

Lower immigration would also impact rental prices. UK residents born in other EU countries are far more likely to be private renters. Therefore if fewer EU nationals move to the UK in the long term there may be a noticeable impact on demand levels.”


This report follows the IMF's warning that a Brexit cause property price falls.

ARLA's David Cox comments -

“The fact that rent costs would face downward pressure is both a blessing and a curse. While renters should face fair and reasonable prices, landlords need to be able to at least break even on any outgoings they have, such as a mortgage. If demand eases to such an extent that landlords cannot recuperate costs, we’ll likely see a mass exit from the market, which would then just have the opposite effect on demand as supply falls – and we’d be back to square one.”



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A reminder to those renting in Wales

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Final ONS HPI has annual growth at 9%

The last ever Office for National Statistics House Price Index for March 2016 puts the annual growth rate of UK property at 9.0%. 

The UK average mix-adjusted house price is now £292,000.

Annual property price growth rates now stand at:
  • UK - 9.0%, up from 7.6% in February 2016.
  • England - 10.1%.
  • Wales - 2.1%.
  • Scotland  - 6.1%.
  • Northern Ireland - 6.4%.
  • Strongest regions are London- 13.0%, South East -12.2%, East of Eng. - 12.1%.
  • UK (Excluding London and the South East)  - 5.9%. 
  • First-time buyers - 9.7%.
  • Owner-occupiers (existing owners) -  8.7%.

From next month this index will be superseded by the new UK House Price Index.


I guess this is where I should put a pithy- 'End of an era' comment, but I won't.

One in five landlords without a CP12

A British Gas survey says one out of five part-time landlords (those landlords with other incomes) fail to get their annual gas safety check done by a Gas Safe-registered engineer.

The BG survey shows many landlords are unaware that it is illegal to rent a property with a gas supply without a valid Gas Safety Certificate (CP12).

A landlord shortage - predicts LSE report

The LSE London have published a report 'clarifying the role of the private rented sector (PRS) in the UK and the contribution made to it by the Buy-to-Let subsection.'

The report evaluates how recent tax changes might impact on the sector, stating concern as to whether 'there will be sufficient landlords to continue to meet the continuing growth in tenant demand.'

The LSE Report Conclusions
  • Private renting plays and will play a key role in the UK’s housing system. It keeps pressure on the home ownership sector by offering households a clear alternative whether for the short or long term. It also plays a role as an alternative to the provision of social housing.
  • The continuing flow of regulatory and taxation changes being introduced and considered will slow the expansion of the PRS at a time when there are limited alternatives. However, on current trends demand for private renting is almost certainly going to continue to rise in both absolute and proportional terms. The key concern is whether there will be sufficient landlords to continue to meet the continuing growth in tenant demand. Any slowdown in the expansion in supply of privately rented housing arising from changes in taxation and regulation will put pressure on rents and household budgets.
  • Even if institutional investors enthusiastically enter the market, individual landlords will remain dominant – as they are across Europe. Shrinking the sector therefore does not seem a sensible way forward given what we know about unmet demand and need.
  • In an ideal world we could identify the goals of policy changes, establish a baseline and monitor outcomes to see if these goals were met. In this case however, the government’s goals are multiple and sometimes inconsistent and poor data make high quality monitoring difficult if not impossible. If we are to understand and manage the sector better, we need to improve the data as quickly as possible.

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Property market to get choppy say lenders

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Prime London property price falls

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Mortgage rate speculation in the Mail

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CML lending data for March

The Council of Mortgage Lenders have released their lending figures for March 2016.

On an unadjusted basis, lending in March:
  • Landlords borrowed £7.1bn, up 87% month-on-month and 163% year-on-year. This came to 45,000 loans in total, up 88% compared to February and up 142% compared to March 2015.
  • Home-owners borrowed £13.8bn for house purchase, up 59% month-on-month and 60% year-on-year. They took out 69,800 loans, up 45% on February and 38% on March 2015.
  • First-time buyers borrowed £4.5bn, up 32% on February and 29% on March last year. This totalled 28,100 loans, up 28% month-on-month and 17% year-on-year. 
  • Home movers borrowed £9.3bn, up 75% on February and 82% compared to a year ago. This totalled 41,700 loans, up 60% month-on-month and 58% on March 2015.
  • Remortgage activity totalled £4.7bn, down 2% on February but up 7% compared to a year ago. This came to 28,000 loans, down 2% month-on-month but up 0.4% compared to a year ago.

On an unadjusted basis, lending in the first quarter:

  • Landlords borrowed £14.6bn in the period, up 36% quarter-on-quarter and 92% year-on-year. This came to 92,700 loans in total, up 31% compared to the fourth quarter 2015 and 77% compared to the first quarter 2015.
  • Home-owners borrowed £30.9bn for house purchase, down 9% quarter-on-quarter but up 33% year-on-year. They took out 164,200 loans, down 14% on the previous quarter but up 20% compared to the first quarter 2015.
  • First-time buyers borrowed £11.2bn, down 16% on the fourth quarter 2015 but up 22% on the first quarter last year. This totalled 71,500 loans, down 18% quarter-on-quarter but up 12% year-on-year. 
  • Home movers borrowed £19.7bn, down 4% quarter-on-quarter but up 40% compared to a year ago. This totalled 92,700 loans, down 9% quarter-on-quarter but up 26% on quarter one 2015.
  • Remortgage activity totalled £15.4bn, up 2% on the fourth quarter 2015 and 25% compared to a year ago. This came to 90,100 loans, up 1% quarter-on-quarter and 15% compared to a year ago.

Paul Smee, CML director general  commented:

'Activity was distorted in March due to a rush to beat the introduction of changes to stamp duty on second properties in April, alongside the seasonal uptick in activity before Easter. While the increases are substantial, these supercharged levels of activity are likely to be temporary and will fall back over the summer months.'

Buy-to-let lending in March

Gross BTL lending was at its highest quarterly level by volume since the third quarter of 2007, with lending on both BTL purchases and BTL remortgages vastly up.  

Home-owner house purchase lending in March

March saw the largest amount of loans taken out in a monthly period for house purchases since June 2014, and the most amount borrowed since August 2007, largely driven by home mover activity. Whereas, first-time buyers activity saw smaller growth. 




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A Khan warning for greedy developers

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Landlords fined £120k for ten flat block


The landlords of a ten-flat property in Golders Green have been fined a total of £120,000, along with costs of £21,660 and victim surcharges of £360.

Willesdon Magistrates Court heard description of how the ten-flat property in Golders Green had put the lives of twenty tenants at risk.

Despite being issued with a Prohibition Order by Barnet Council’s Environmental Health team the leaseholders and landlords had failed to act, on -
  • inadequate fire separation between the rooms
  • four studios with no external windows
  • broken ceiling panels
  • inadequate locks on studio doors
  • faulty internal corridor lighting and
  • an accumulation of furniture at the top of the only staircase leading to and from the flats.

Idris Raza, TISHK Limited and Hanasa Limited were found guilty of breaching the Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2007.

Read the full story - fines for ten flat property in Golders Green

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Rightmove's HPI for May

  • Asking prices of properties coming to the market up 0.4% (+£1,118) in May 
  • An 80% uplift in March transactions sees a supply drought causing a price surge.
  • Average first-time buyer property jump up 6.2% (+£11,298) during May.
  • First-time buyer regional hotspots led by Croydon, Dartford and Luton, all with annual surges of over 18%.


Miles Shipside, Rightmove's housing market analyst comments -

 “If you were expecting a long period of price doldrums at the lower end of the market following the mass exit of the buy-to-let brigade, this month’s 6.2% price rise will come as a big surprise. Properties at the lower end of the market were the most common target for the investor community, and the immediate aftermath of the tax deadline saw new seller asking prices drop in this sector for just one month. The 1.4% fall reported in April’s index appears to have been a very short-lived knee-jerk, with an average price surge of £11,298 this month for properties coming to market with two bedrooms or fewer. It remains to be seen if these prices can be achieved and there may be some over pricing in the market; it is also a reflection of better quality property coming to market in this sector which is now targeting owner-occupiers rather than landlords.

In the period between the November announcement of a stamp duty rise and its implementation at the end of March, the price of property coming to market in this first-time buyer/investor sector increased by 3.0%. In just four weeks it has now risen by 6.2%, the highest monthly rise recorded for this sector since February 2012. Demand for typical entry-level property remains high, with searches on Rightmove specifying two bedrooms or fewer being up by 47% this April compared to April 2015 in spite of waning investor interest. In contrast, fresh supply for this sector is down by 1.5% in the last four weeks compared to the same period a year ago. While the price of a first home is accelerating, motivation to get on to the housing ladder is buoyed by the increasing cost of renting, better availability of mortgage products, and deposits gifted by family.

The country’s top price-rise hotspot is Croydon, where Londoners priced out of some other parts of the capital have sensed a combination of convenience and value, aided by some serious regeneration. Dartford has also been a very popular and affordable area for London buyers prepared to commute from the South East region and also good for rental yields for investors. With 5% less property coming to market in Dartford in the last four weeks compared to the same period in 2015, limited fresh supply is also a big factor. Luton has been a low-priced town for some time with easy London access, and has now come into play in the past twelve months. Not all towns are seeing these annual hikes; for example a typical first-time buyer home in Llandudno is down 7.5%, and Darlington is now 3% cheaper. The health of local economies have a big influence on demand and affordability, and consequently the amount you can ask for a property.”




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Sellers over optimistic on property prices

It appears sellers remain optimistic on property price.... possibly unrealistically so.

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BTL investors buy cheaper property

April statistics from estate agency firm agents Countrywide sees the average price paid by a BTL investors across the UK down 8.3% from its March average. 

The average BTL property purchased in April ( post the introduction of additional stamp duty on second homes)  is £178,000 - down from March's £194,000.

As for London, the average BTL purchase price fell more steeply, at £365,000 in April, compared to a figure of £436,000 during March.

Countrywide's Research director, Johnny Morris, comments -

 “Rather than being dissuaded by the new 3% charge it seems that landlords are already adjusting their behaviour. In response to the extra purchasing costs many are choosing to buy cheaper homes that offer a higher yield and of course a lower stamp duty bill.
It’s too early to tell whether this is simply the after effects of the stamp duty rush or the start of a longer term trend.”

Gov admit to wanting landlords to 'squeal'

According to the RLA chairman, Alan Ward, a Government treasury minister admitted the aim of the Government's tax changes to BTL was to make private landlords 'squeal'.

Mr Ward recounts -

“We went to raise landlord’s concerns with specific reference to . . . the Government’s taxation policies towards private landlords. We wanted to make the case that we have a history of a significant contribution to housing and that this crackdown is unfair and prejudiced. The minister’s comment was that if landlords are squealing, then the Government will take the view that the medicine is working. The minister made the point that the Government is determined to increase the number of home owners, and then reiterated the issue about first-time buyers. We were all a bit taken aback by the comment. We could hardly believe our ears.”

Mr Ward has not named the minister - refusing to 'squeal'.

HMO landlord fined for overcrowding

A HMO landlord has been fined £6,600 by Willesden Magistrates’ Court for failing to have a licence and for the poor management of her rental property. 

The House in Multiple Occupation was described as overcrowded and in poor condition by Barnet Council’s Environmental Health Team.

The eight bedroom rental house housed 11 tenants, but had no fire alarms, no fire doors and didn't meet the required fire separation between rooms. 

The property's poor state of repair included leak in the bathroom that had been dripping into a bedroom below and a second 'makeshift' kitchen set up on a landing - seen as a further fire hazard.

Khalida Khan' was handed a fine of £6,600,  council’s costs of £4,384 and told to pay a victim surcharge of £120.
Barnet Council are extending HMO licensing to include smaller sized HMO properties from July 5th 2016. 

For more info on Barnets' additional licensing for HMOs go here - www.barnet.gov.uk/hmos

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Penthouse progress



"Rome wasn't built in a day"goes the old adage.  This is particularly true for the refurbishment of my Penthouse in the sky and my first development project in almost 10 years after tiring of the relentless buy-to-let treadmill of refurb and let.  This time its all very different.  Out has gone the cheap and cheerful budget refurbishment and in has come high end development.  Think Candy and Candy rather than Rigsby.

I love my penthouse

It's proving a challenge but an enjoyable one.  For the first time in 20 years I'm developing a building with me in mind rather than the marauding tenant classes.  Whether the property ultimately gets sold or in fact gets let out I'm unsure at this stage but for now it very much is my Penthouse and I love it.

Removing the project mezzanine floor

The latest phase in my Penthouse saga is the removal of the projecting element of the mezzanine floor.  Whilst in some ways I was a little sad to see it go as the cantilevered structure did look quite dramatic in the double highted space.  It really was an unsustainable luxury.  When I worked out the positioning of the spiral staircase it was going to end up right of the middle of my living room / kitchen making the space largely unusable.  A structural report and 17 page safe working document along with a pleading letter to the freeholder finally convinced the managing agent and their bosses that the hulking steel structure could go and wouldn't result the imminent collapse of the building or it disappearing in a puff of smoke as sparks from the reciprocating saw caused the place to spontaneous combust.

Designing my spiral staircase

The next stage for me is to revisit the design of the spiral staircase from Fontanot in Italy and make sure that it will work with my new truncated mezzanine space.  The biggest difficulty I face is trying to work out where the treads start and how the landing meets with the existing mezzanine floor along with how the ballustrading fixes and works with the floor.  All this has to be sorted next week as once the design has been finalised then there is a 4 week wait whilst the spiral staircase gets shipped over from Italy.  Below is a picture of what it should look like when it finally arrives and gets put together.  Worth waiting for I hope!

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