Another Friday, another Newsround. Let’s see what we can find.
Professionalising Estate Agents
Our first story is yet another government announcement, this time for the estate agency industry.
The government intends to improve the sector by
- encouraging the use of voluntary reservation agreements to help prevent sales falling through and crack down on gazumping
- setting a timeline for local authority searches so buyers get the information they need within 10 days
- requiring managing agents and freeholders to provide up-to-date lease information for a set fee and to an agreed timetable which will end the current situation where leaseholders are at the mercy of freeholders and their agents
- strengthening the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team so they can carry out more enforcement activity which includes banning agents
However, perhaps it is interesting to see what the proposals don’t include:
- no introduction of mandatory binding offers
- no legal clampdown on gazumping or gazundering
- no re-introduction of HIPS
The Eye report also has a number of interesting comments from readers including the following:
Professionally qualified will not stop dishonesty, fall through rates, bad surveys, lender’s decline, speed up conveyancing. It will not stop gazumping unless you reform the Estate Agency Act. It is nothing more than political hogwash for the media.
Section 22 of the Estate Agents Act has remained unimplemented since 1979 by successive Governments. It requires a level of competency in order to trade. Many in our industry are probably unaware that this clause even exists given it is some 39 years old!
No Government has ever introduced as they have preferred competition to competency in the market.
And my favourite:
Will MP’s have to be professionally qualified too?
I went to see an MP once, half way through explaining a 4 weekly housing benefit, with monthly top up, 6 weeks in arrears tenant’s statement that he expected all benefits tenants to understand and cope with but which explained how universal credit would open up about 100,000 tenancies for the social sector with I got “sorry you’ve lost me!”
Seems you can govern the country, shape legislation without a basic qualification in anything at all and the rest of us are left to cope with the fallout.
Increased flexibility in Gas Safety Certificates
A bit of good news for landlords and agents now – new rules introduced on April 6 will allow them to carry out the annual gas safety check in the two months before the due date and retain the existing expiry date.
For example, if the current certificate expires on 25 November 2018, a new certificate issued on/after 26 September 2018 will be valid for up to 14 months, expiring on 25 November 2019.
This avoids landlords waiting until the last minute and not gaining access, or having to shorten the annual check cycle to comply with the law.
Which is good.
A new Small Claims Court Procedure
According to this report from the Law Society Gazette, MCOL is being retired and a new system rolled out which is, they say, more intuitive.
The Ministry of Justice says the new service, which goes live today, will obviate the need to fill in and post a paper form, or use an ‘outdated’ online system that dates from 2002, It will enable people to start an action in the county court for claims of up to £10,000, settle disputes online and recommend mediation services. The 2002 system will be phased out, the Gazette has been told.
If you have tried it – leave a comment and let us know how you got on.
Deductions from Universal Credit
More bad news on the Universal Credit front is this report from HuffPost which tells of massive deductions being made from peoples Universal Credit payments – up to 40% we are told – to pay back existing debts such as
- previous benefit overpayments
- council tax or
- social housing rent arrears
Apparently, the Department for Work and Pensions said there were safeguards to protect from big reductions, but 40% sounds like a pretty big deduction to me.
Plus of course, the main reason why many of these debts arose in the first place will have been the delays in making peoples’ Universal Credit payments in the first place.
How to end Homelessness – the Finland solution
The Guardian has this article on how we could eradicate homelessness if we could only follow the example of Finland and give homes to homeless people.
It sounds sort of obvious but there are advantages and
overall savings for government, as people’s use of emergency health services and the criminal justice system is lessened.
However, if we don’t have enough homes to house decent working families – how are we going to find enough to house the homeless? Mind you there is some
Good news from Great Yarmouth
Here the Council has radically cut their waiting lists by – wait for it – talking to people.
By ending choice-based lettings, and adopting a system based on conversations with people about their housing problem, the council had cut the waiting list to 309 by 2015; increased the proportion of people satisfied within 12 months from 30% to 80%, with the number of appeals falling from 27 a month to one a year; and reduced staff numbers from 22 to 15.
However, Service Design Consultant John Mortimer who helped design the system commented
“It’s moving away from command-and-control, allowing teams flexibility, which can be scary.”
Maybe too scary for many Councils.
Newsround will be back next week.