Let’s see what we can find for you this week. First
Ombudsman Services: Property
A reminder to all letting agents and property managers. If you were registered with the redress scheme run by the Ombudsman Services then this will cease to be effective from 6 August 2018.
You need to register with one of the other two schemes:
The government’s guidance has been amended accordingly.
Reasons to comply with the Smoke Alarm Regs
I’ve been forwarded an interesting report of a criminal conviction against a letting agent who failed to install fire alarms in a property in Huddersfield that they managed.
A fire led to the death of two young boys.
The prosecution appears to have relied on s3, Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (set out below) to argue that the failure to comply with the 2015 Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Regulations resulted in the tenants being exposed to risks for their health and safety.
(1) It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.
(2) It shall be the duty of every self-employed person [ who conducts an undertaking of a prescribed description] 1 to conduct [the undertaking] 2 in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Dave Walton said:
Had there been working smoke alarms in this property the outcome could have been very different and these brothers could have had a future to look forward to.
As firefighters the importance of having working smoke alarms is a message that we try and get over to the public day in and day out.
“In 2015 the law on smoke alarms changed making it a legal requirement for landlords to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance.
“This landmark case shows how vitally important it is that landlords and letting agents take their responsibilities seriously or the consequences do not bear thinking about.
Another legal reason (if the moral one weren’t sufficient) for complying with the regs.
Supermarkets building homes
I see from this report in the Guardian that supermarkets are now in the business of building homes. It seems that it helps them with their planning applications to build more stores.
Lidl, for example, is building some 3,000 homes and a primary school. They are it seems more interested in affordable homes which is good news.
The article describes other home building initiatives b Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Aldi.
Tom Edson, a supermarket expert at the property consultancy Colliers, said
Lidl and Aldi both need to aggressively push into the south-east, especially London, and the only way they can afford to pay a premium for development sites is to also do residential,
Having people above the shop is not a bad thing. It means you have got a ready customer base,
The Property Ombudsman to review contentious commission case
There have been several articles on Property Industry Eye about a case where Palmer Snell, a Countrywide brand, had sought to charge property sellers a commission as the buyers, had been introduced by them earlier.
However at that time they buyers had not been in a position to buy. They were re-introduced by another agent subsequently when their circumstances had changed and went on to buy the property. The Property Ombudsman (TPO) upheld Palmer Snell’s claim for some £8,000 commission.
However, the sellers, George and Hilary Wood, did not accept this, refused to pay and were taken to court by Palmer Snell. They defended the claim and Weymouth county court subsequently ruled that Palmer Snell, had no claim to a fee because it was not an effective cause of the transaction.
There are calls for TPO to review the case, as there had been a previous similar case where the first agents claim for commision was refused. It is being argued that TPO should have been aware of this and not supported the agents.
Jane Erkine, the deputy ombudsman, has now said:
TPO came to a decision based on the evidence provided by both parties and therefore do not share the view that the decision was wrong.
However, TPO will undertake an internal review of the case file and study the transcript before coming to an informed view.
Property Industry Eye said in their article
There is a second TPO ruling which has also raised concerns among our readers, and again we will be pressing on this, while fully recognising that we do not know the evidence called for by, or submitted to, TPO, let alone know both sides of the story.
No doubt we will hear more on this story in due course. However, it is worrying that a redress scheme appears to be supporting the letting agent where there is already a legal precedent to support the customers.
As Mr and Mrs Wood have pointed out, even though they do not now need to pay the £8,000 they are out of pocket due to the legal fees incurred.
- Rugby is taking on a new Housing Officer to deal with the rising HMO applications expected in the autumn.
- The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks is pushing for mandatory independent inventories
- A report by Nearly Legal on another unlawful eviction case
- Larry Elliott in the Guardian writes that it is time to scrap Council Tax and replace it with a green land value tax which would consist of a standard per square metre charge on land, with regular revaluations. On top of that there would be a surcharge on any buildings sitting on the land that would vary according to energy usage. An energy-neutral home would pay no surcharge.
Newsround will be back next week.