UK Property Projects: Avoid cowboys

Did you know that rogue traders are taking advantage of vulnerable UK home homeowners who are under increasing pressure to meet soaring living costs? Rogue traders will try to tempt you with ‘last minute deals’, cash in hand’ deals and installation work that is not backed by guarantees/insurance to protect you.

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Beware, not only is this illegal as the work will not comply with the Building Regulations, but the work will ultimately cost more and create more hassle in the longer term when the installation work turns pear shaped.

How to avoid cowboy builders

  • Tip 1 – Always go by a recommendation.
  • Tip 2 – Qualifications often prove competence.
  • Tip 3 – Be very specific specifying the works you want carried out.
  • Tip 4 – Agree the price of the job before starting any works.
  • Tip 5 – Pick installers who specifically carry out the works you want.
  • Tip 6 – Minimise upfront payments.

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

UK new overdraft overhaul: All you need to know to make the best of it

Some overdraft borrowers will see charges double while others will make “astonishing” savings when new prices kick in, new analysis shows.

New rules for overdraft charging demanded by the City regulator take effect next month.

Financial information service Moneyfacts has tested how much someone borrowing £500 through an overdraft for a month would be charged.

Some will see costs roughly double to £14 but others will enjoy £60 savings.

Those facing more expensive overdrafts are almost entirely people who previously had an arranged overdraft facility. See the source image

Up until now fees have been complex, difficult to navigate and hard to compare, leaving some with large overdraft bills.

Single, simple overdraft interest rates are now being brought in ahead of an April deadline set by the regulator.

The big banks’ new overdraft rates

  • Nationwide has said it will bring in an interest rate of 39.9% in April, replacing a daily fee of 50p for arranged overdrafts
  • HSBC’s interest rate will double from 19.9% to 39.9%
  • Lloyds’ will be 39.9%
  • Santander’s will also be 39.9%
  • NatWest raised its to 39.45%
  • Barclays is not far behind with 35%.

To put those interest rates into context, the average quoted rate for credit card borrowing is just over 20%, according to the Bank of England.

The regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, said most High Street banks had set “very similar prices”, after it demanded changes to the system.

It has sent a letter to banks, asking them to explain what influenced their decision.

It also asked how the banks will deal with any customers who could be worse off following the changes.

It said some firms could reduce or waive interest for customers who are in financial difficulty because of their overdraft.

Overdrafts in numbers chart

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Coronavirus set to slow UK property boom

Property Industry figures are worried public concerns about coronavirus will have an adverse effect on business, after the number of reported cases reached 115 yesterday.

The market has had a busy start to the year, but there are fears the virus will put the breaks on activity.

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Jonathan Sealey, Hope Capital’s chief executive, said: “Over the past few months it has felt as though we were experiencing a real sea change in the market as the political arena became less of a focus.

“We have definitely seen the busiest start to any year so far as people started looking forward to a more stable environment.

“Unfortunately, that may well be up in the air again as nervousness surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak takes hold.”

And Richard Pike, Phoebus Software sales and marketing director, said: “We’ve started the year well but there is one black cloud that is hard to ignore, and it is one that is already having an effect on the world’s economy.

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“How the coronavirus effect will translate down the line into the housing market is anyone’s guess, but it is unlikely to have no effect at all.”

One commentator speculated whether the virus fears could push the regulator towards loosening mortgage affordability rules.

Miles Robinson, head of mortgages at online mortgage broker Trussle, said: “While we’re yet to see the impact of uncertainty linked to coronavirus on the housing market, if lending continues to slow – the time might be coming for the regulator to consider a gentle easing of restrictions around affordability.”

Source: PropertyWire

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Home Improvement: Is size everything?

Whatever your home improvement project is; whether you’re extending up, down, side or within, size and the use of space is vital to achieving the best design and improvement.

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To get the best home improvement, why not take a drive around your local area to see how other people have done it? Keep an eye out for properties similar in structure to your own and make a note of what to do and don’t want to achieve. Look at houses from your local estate agent, online and property catalogues. Also use your dog walks, jogging and evening walks as research trips.

Most homes are extended at the back, but you can consider extending upward,  downward or sideways depending on planning permission and building regulation. The exterior appearance and size of your property will have an impact on its value and appeal.

Extensions, conservatories, porches, driveway, garages come in all shapes and sizes, from standard to premium design and space. Just make sure it is in keeping with the aesthetic of your home and that you consider the orientation – taking into account its proximity to surrounding trees, outbuildings and neighbouring properties and how much sunlight it will get during the day. For example a north-facing conservatory can suffer from lack of sunlight and bump up your heating bills.

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Does Health & Safety at work apply to my domestic building project?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have statutory obligations to adhere to, based on Common Law principles. The effect of the Act has been to bring ALL people at work (and others) under the protection of the law. The Act covers all employment activities and applies to employers, self-employed persons, sub-contractors, visitors to places of employment, employees, directors and managers, members of the public, designers, suppliers, etc. It also provides the HSE with various enforcement powers.

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Whether you are overseeing the project yourself or employing a builder or contractor to carry out the work, understanding the importance of safety, health and welfare is very important. There are grey areas of health & safety regarding projects that are undertaken by homeowners themselves. Whereas the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 encompasses all work carried out by professionals during their daily activities, homeowners who are undertaking the work themselves are not covered by it. However, there is a moral duty of care by the homeowner to any person who has contact with the building project. This means any person who has contact with the project has a right under health & safety law to be protected from danger.

If you are going to employ the service of a professional to carry out any elements of the work for example electrician or gas engineer, they should have public liability insurance and qualified to work to good building practices. All appropriate measures should be taken to remove or reduce the risks of accident or incidents, by introducing methods of controlling the risk.  It is important to satisfy yourself (as far as is reasonable) that the professionals you employ are qualified and competent to carry out the work in a safe manner.

If you are responsible for a building project site and a person is injured due to negligence on your part, legal action could be taken against you. If you are in any doubt as to where you stand with regard to health & safety, or if you require any advice or information, visit the HSE website: http://www.hse.gov.uk

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Building planning permission for domestic properties

Building planning permission refers to the approval needed for building or extension (including significant renovation) of a property. Generally, the new building works must be inspected during construction and after completion to ensure compliance with building regulations. Planning permission is also dependent on the environment and area.

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Local councils are responsible for planning permission and if you have any issues that need to be discussed or clarified, the first thing to do is to ask the planning department. Your local library may also have information and literature to help in understanding issues that are specific to your local authority. The government planning portal website is very useful to find out whether your building project needs planning permission or building regulations approval.  There are common projects and interactive guides to use and find out about permitted development limits or to explore in-depth guidance to understand about what you need to consider at each stage of your project.

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Planning permission are required for new building and depending on the environment or area in which you live, you may need planning permission for any of the following:

  • house extensions and additions including conservatories
  • creating a basement
  • sun lounges/conservatories
  • adding a porch to your house
  • swimming pools
  • demolition of buildings
  • enclosing existing balconies or verandas
  • loft conversions
  • dormer windows and roof additions
  • garages
  • garden sheds
  • greenhouses
  • fences, walls and gates
  • patios, hand standing, paths and driveways
  • satellite dishes, television and radio aerials
  • decoration, repair and maintenance.

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

 

What is Practical Completion in the building industry

The term ‘Practical Completion’ is a term use in the building industry at the end of a building project which is often open to interpretation. The issue of whether a building project has achieved practical completion has long been the source of many disputes within the building industry, both in the commercial sector and, in particular, the domestic sector.

Many standard form of Contract that are used in the building industry rely upon the issue of a Certificate of Practical Completion to trigger the release of funds at every completed stage or end of the project.

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Given the importance, the standard forms used throughout the industry do not define practical completion. They generally leave the matter to the discretion of the client, contract administrator, architect, engineer, supervising officer, etc. The Preparation of a comprehensive specification/scope of works is paramount to minimising the risks of misinterpretation, although the risks will never be fully removed.

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Practical completion of any part of the work should be seen as the work having been completed to a ‘set’ standard where the client can take possession of the works and use then as intended. It is important for both parties (client and contractor) to use common sense when agreeing on practical completion. On the one hand the contractor or builder should make every effort to complete the work to a satisfactory standard, and on the other the client should exercise some discretion on the finished product. That is not to say that poor standards should be accepted, but that some materials, such as bricks, timber, etc., can vary in colour or dimensions.

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

How to identify a cowboy builder

One of the most important decision you are likely to make when undertaking a building project of any size is that of employing the services of a builder or contractor. These decisions can be narrow down by making the right enquiries and only inviting appropriate  builders or contractors to quote in the first place.

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Before making the all-important decision of awarding the contract to a specific builder, it would not be unreasonable to ask to see work on which they are currently engaged. Seeing at first hand how they treat the client’s property and how they work will give you an idea of what to expect if you do decide to employ them. See the source image

Some tell-tale signs of bad building practice and irresponsible behaviours would be:

  • Untidy site
  • materials poorly stacked and unprotected
  • lack of signs generally
  • loud radios
  • poor site facilities
  • workers not wearing Personal Protective Equipment
  • poor standards of work
  • signs of burning material on-site
  • inadequate security, e.g. no fencing (if appropriate).

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Building Regulation standards: The 14 Parts you need to know

Building regulations in the United Kingdom are statutory instruments or statutory regulations that seek to ensure that the policies set out in the relevant legislation are carried out. Building regulations approval is required for most building work in the UK. Building regulations that apply across England and Wales are set out in the Building Act 1984 while those that apply across Scotland are set out in the Building Act 2003.

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Anyone wishing to undertake building work which is subject to the building regulations is required by law to make sure it complies with the regulations and to use one of the two types of building control services available, which are not free. The two types of services are:

  • The Building Control Service provided by your local authority.
  • The Building Control Service provided by approved inspectors.

It is important to understand the areas that require compliance.

The 14 ‘parts’ of schedule 1 to the building regulations are:

  1. A – Structure
  2. B – Fire safety
  3. C – Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture
  4. D – Toxic substances
  5. E – Resistance to the passage of sound
  6. F – Ventilation
  7. G – Hygiene
  8. H – Drainage and waste disposal
  9. J – Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems
  10. K – Protection from falling,collision and impact
  11. L – Conservation of fuel and power
  12. M – Access to and use of buildings
  13. N – Glazing – safety in relation to impact, opening and cleaning
  14. P – Electrical safety

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Landlords & Property Owners: Do I need a new EPC to meet government legislation?

As from the 1st April 2018 there is a requirement for any properties rented out in the private rented sector to normally have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). The regulations came into force for new lets and renewals of tenancies with effect from 1st April 2018 and for all existing tenancies on 1st April 2020. It will be unlawful to rent a property which breaches the requirement for a minimum E rating, unless there is an applicable exemption. A civil penalty of up to £4,000 will be imposed for breaches. This guidance summarizes the regulations. There are separate regulations effective from 1st April 2016 under which a tenant can apply for consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements in privately rented properties.

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For most landlords and home owners this will mean that they will no longer be able to rent out a property with a rating of F or G after April 1st 2018. As such landlords with properties in this EPC bracket should begin preparing now for April 1st. However, there are several nuances and exceptions, which this guide covers in detail.

IMPORTANT NOTE

The ending of state aid for the Green Deal means that changes need to be made to the Regulations imposing minimum energy efficiency standards in the PRS. From April 1st 2019 landlords will now have to pay towards the required energy efficiency improvements to bring it up to standard if there is no third party funding available.

Research has also identified that energy performance certificates (EPCs) understate the thermal efficiency of solid walls. Many PRS properties have solid walls. Usually they were built pre-1918 but can be later. The Government have now recalibrated EPCs to give a truer reading. This could mean that some solid wall properties currently rated F under an EPC will no longer require any work and less work may be required in the case of a G rated property. Landlords of F and G rated solid wall properties are therefore advised to consider having a new EPC check performed. In these cases, obtaining a new EPC may mean that you no longer need to comply with the Regulations or less work may be required.

To find out if you need a new EPC contact me or follow the government website link below for a comprehensive guidance;

Source: Gov.UK

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