“Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans. It is lovely to be silly at the right moment.”
“Be healthy and take care of yourself, but be happy with the beautiful things that make you, you.”
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to swim.” Jon Kabat Zinn
With it being the school holidays (“again” my internal monologue mutters) it is feeling a little like a year ago with the exception that we do have more movement and there are plans in place going forward to work our way into the new normal. 😊
I hope that everyone had a lovely Easter break and although it may have been another different Easter for you and those close to you, that it was enjoyable. Glasgow had a very typical time weather wise with snow-bows which are like rainbows, but with snow and bright sunshine, and temperatures below zero with beautiful bright blue skies!
You may have noticed a delay this week with rental payments. I may sound like a broken record about that in the 21st century and all the technology we have that a bank holiday stops payments being made and can affect things from Monday to the following Thursday, but I am hopeful that it will be worted out going forward, until we have the same issue again in May, which is why we recommend you have a buffer so these delays do not mean that you incur charges.
We have not received any further updates from the Scottish Association of Landlords to pass on yet, but there have been some changes with regards to smoke alarms and cladding, possibly in preparation for the introductions of the minimum Energy Performance Certificate rating, for our new landlords who have not been reading about Energy Performance Certificates for the past year, below is a summery and once we have the dates and notified of funding routes to take, I will dedicate an email to that.
energy performance certificates & improving energy efficiency
Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) provide information on how energy efficient a property is. Properties are rated on a scale from A to G, with A being the most efficient. Information is also provided on measures which could be made to improve the energy efficiency and an indication of the cost for each improvement.
The EPC rating is a measure of the cost to heat and power the home based on a set of assumptions about occupant behaviour. The higher the cost the lower the rating. Therefore homes heated by expensive on-peak electricity will in most cases perform worse than homes heated by cheaper gas or renewable resources like biomass. Equally, properties which don’t retain heat will be more expensive to heat and therefore have a lower EPC rating than properties which are well insulated.
When are EPCs needed?
Landlords are required to have an EPC which is less than 10 years old at the point they market a property for rental to new tenants.
How do I get one? EPCs need to be produced by qualified and accredited assessors. You can search for a local EPC assessor at https://www.scottishepcregister.org.uk/assessorsearch
How is the property assessed?
The assessor will visit the property to gather information including the age and construction of the property, the property size, the heating system, type of lighting and windows and the presence of any floor/wall/loft insulation. It is a non-intrusive survey so the assessor will only be able to record features they can see or obtain visual evidence of. Robust documentary evidence of features that aren’t visible e.g. wall insulation can also be used. The data is then entered into a specialist computer system which generates the EPC.
What are landlords required to do with the EPC?
The EPC rating must be included in any adverts. The EPC must be made available to prospective tenants, provided to new tenants and displayed in the property. If you don’t comply with these requirements, you could be fined up to £1000.
Does my property need to meet a minimum EPC rating?
The Scottish Government has committed to introducing regulations requiring private rented sector properties to meet a minimum energy performance certificate (EPC) rating before they can be let to tenants. It is likely that these will require properties to have a minimum rating of D.
It is likely that the regulations will provide for some exemptions, including where:
- It is not technically feasible to carry out improvements
- Where other owners in a block of flats refuse consent to do work to common parts of the building
- Where tenants refuse consent for work
- Where permission to carry out work to a property which is listed or in a conservation area can’t be obtained
- Where the cost of improvements needed exceeds £10000
Improving the EPC rating
Below are suggestions of ways to increase the EPC rating of your property. As a very general rule you can expect the following improvements to the EPC rating (there are roughly 10 points in each of the A-G EPC bands):
• More efficient/cheaper to run heating – up to 40 points
• Better heating controls – up to 5 points
• Install wall or loft insulation – up to 11 points
• Higher performance glazing – up to 4 points
• Low energy lighting – around 1 point
Changes in Law – Domestic Smoke Alarms
we continue to monitor any amendments or changes in property law which may affect our customers. Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London, a Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety was established to review Scotland’s building and fire safety regulatory frameworks. This legislation will ensure that everyone in Scotland has the same level of protection whether they own or rent their home.
We can confirm that the Scottish Government has issued new legislation in regard to changes regarding smoke alarms in domestic properties. This was originally to be in place by February 2021 but as a result of logistical issues resulting from COVID-19, this has been delayed until February 2022. The information relating to the common parts/areas of blocks and stairwells, which we would manage on behalf of the homeowners is as follows: In a shared property such as a tenement or block of flats, there is no requirement for different properties to be linked to each other. There is no requirement for alarms to be fitted in communal areas such as entry halls and stairways. Any change to smoke detectors in common areas requires full consultation with owners, as per the Property Factors Act 2011. This is additional work and outwith the core service charges but one with which we can assist homeowners. In regard to your own home, there is legislation in place and owners will have to adhere to the information provided by the Scottish Government. We have provided some of the information for you here.
All homes will be covered by the new standard, as it is important that all homes should be safe for occupants regardless of tenure. It will be the property owner’s responsibility to meet the new standard, however, the legal duty to enforce the standard rests with local authorities. Where owners are unable to meet the standard, it is not a criminal offence. The standard requires; one smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes; one smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey, such as hallways and landings; one heat alarm installed in every kitchen; all alarms should be ceiling mounted and interlinked. Where there is a carbon-fuelled appliance (such as boilers, fires (including open fires) and heaters) or a flue, a carbon monoxide detector is also required which does not need to be linked to the fire alarms. The requirement is to have all smoke and heat alarms interlinked. You may not hear the alarm closest to the fire but, by having an interlinked system, you will be alerted immediately.
Any costs will be the responsibility of homeowners and landlords. We estimate that the cost for an average three-bedroom house which requires three smoke alarms, one heat alarm and one carbon monoxide detector will be around £280. This is based on using the type of alarms that you can install by yourself without the need for an electrician for installing a hardwired alarm.
FREE SAFETY ASSESSMENTS FOR HOMEOWNERS.
Published on 23/03/2021 by Hacking and Paterson
Following on from a series of stories following the issues affecting many residing in high rise flats, the factors Hacking and Paterson were pleased to hear the announcement coming from Scottish Government confirming that homeowners, whose flats have external cladding, will be offered free safety assessments to determine whether their properties have material needing to be removed.
The proposal, which paves the way for public funding for remediation, is a key recommendation in a report published on 19th March by the Ministerial Working Group on Mortgage Lending and Cladding. All of the recommendations made have been accepted by the Scottish Government, which has committed to invest all the funding received in consequentials from the UK Government so far to address cladding problems. Future consequentials which are yet to be clarified will also be used to support the work.
Scottish Government advise that, subject to the outcome of the election, a Single Building Assessment programme will be launched to carry out the safety assessments. It is expected that the majority of inspections will show that the building is safe, giving peace of mind to homeowners. Where problems are identified, this will help to identify the scale of funding needed to take necessary remedial work.
A Single Building Assessment is undertaken on a whole building rather than by an individual flat owner. This will release affected buyers and sellers from difficulties in accessing mortgages without them having to pay for the current External Wall System (EWS1) Report on their individual property.
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:
“This is an important milestone for people who are living in buildings with cladding. I have heard personally from homeowners who have had to change their life plans or are living with real concern about safety – no one wants that uncertainty and anxiety to continue. As part of this proposal, agreed unanimously by representatives of homeowners, surveyors, property managers, lenders and developers in our Ministerial Working Group, we will start assessments in June with remediation funding confirmed as soon as possible afterwards, possibly as early as August. By funding the Single Building Assessments we will have a clear picture of the scale of the issue. This will enable us to provide support for the remediation work required – I do not want people left facing unfair remediation costs. This approach will also save homeowners hundreds of pounds that they may otherwise have faced through paying for an EWS1. We are committing every penny of the £97.1 million consequentials we have received so far towards this ambitious programme of work. We cannot guarantee that there will be enough public funds to support all the work that is needed, and other parties such as developers must continue to play their part where construction is not as it should have been. We have not yet been given clarity about how much or when we will receive the further funding promised from the UK Government and we continue to urgently press for this. When we do receive this, we will commit to ensuring it goes towards this major programme of work.”
Chris Ashurst, High Rise Scotland Action Group founder, said:
“Owners and residents have been living in a state of uncertainty and fear over the safety and saleability of their homes. I believe these recommendations can bring a ‘Door of Hope’ to all affected, while recognising that there can be no silver bullet to tackle this issue. I believe there are many reasons to welcome these recommendations. It is important that costs for assessments are borne by the Scottish Government and not homeowners. I also welcome the fact that assessments will be undertaken by suitably qualified professionals working to a common standard, and will encourage collaboration between individual owners and residents, and factors. This pilot scheme for expression of interest starts within a fortnight.”
All buildings within the scope of expert guidance on buildings with cladding will be included in the programme – this is around 700 high rise properties and many more at lower heights. The full report can be read here: Ministerial Working Group on Mortgage Lending and Cladding. And a Q&A on the Single Building Assessment programme has also been published.
These proposals build on guidance published last week by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The guidance, effective from April 2021, clarifies types of properties which will, and those which will not, require additional inspections as a result of concerns about fire safety.
A Single Building Assessment is one assessment undertaken on a whole building rather than secured by an individual homeowner of a flat. It will be undertaken against robust criteria and used for multiple purposes, including to provide a route to public funding for remediation. While these assessments will not be compulsory, the Scottish Government will make it easy for affected people to access them when the programme starts.
An EWS1 Report is the current process introduced by the RICS, UK Finance and the Building Societies Association in December 2019 to enable mortgage valuations of flats in blocks affected by potentially unsafe cladding. It provides a way for those selling property with external wall systems such as cladding to show that these have been assessed by an expert.
The Scottish Government will seek expressions of interest from property homeowners and factors starting at the end of this month for eight weeks, to identify those buildings which have already had a cladding or fire risk assessment that highlights a risk to life as a result of a cladding system, materials used and/or poor construction. These will be considered as part of the pilot phase of the Single Building Assessment Programme in June 2021. The first decisions on remediation within the funding available will be taken over the summer, prioritising the buildings deemed most likely to be at risk.
Having campaigned since 2017 for matters to be dealt with on the basis of safety, as opposed to the difficulties being experienced, we are pleased that our customers, and all other homeowners residing in such buildings will soon have the safety assurances they need, with those affected given a clear picture of what lies ahead for them, supported by the Scottish Government.
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