Matthew Cumber is managing director of Countrywide Surveying Services
The world continues to change at pace around us. Imagine travelling back to this date in 2020 and having the timeline for the next 12 months laid out in front of you.
It would be a terrifying prospect and you could be forgiven for thinking that it had been lifted from a Hollywood disaster movie – I’m looking at you Contagion.
The property and mortgage markets have always proved to be fast paced, but recent times have been akin to a whirlwind.
Thankfully, this is slowing somewhat, allowing the government to assess and act on two major issues which have impacted housing, valuations and surveying in recent times.
At the beginning of 2021, the government announced major reforms to English property law, giving around 4.5 million leaseholders the right to extend their leases to 990 years with zero ground rents.
It has also pledged to promote commonhold tenure as the default tenure for the future.
These policy changes come as part of the biggest reforms to English property law for 40 years.
These changes mean that any leaseholder who chooses to extend their lease on their home will no longer pay any ground rent to the freeholder, enabling those who dream of fully owning their home to do so without cumbersome bureaucracy and additional, unnecessary and unfair expenses.
For some leaseholders, these changes could save them thousands, to tens of thousands of pounds.
These are positive and much needed measures which help protect leaseholders. Transparency is key around leasehold properties and the more clarity potential buyers and existing homeowners have, the better for all concerned.
This is an issue which has generated huge amounts of column inches and concern across the industry.
With this in mind, it was encouraging see Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick unveil a five-point plan in an effort to provide reassurance to homeowners and extend further confidence across the housing market.
With an unprecedented £5bn investment in building safety, the Housing Secretary confirmed to the House of Commons that the government will fully fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18 metres (6 storeys) and over in England.
This will ensure funding is targeted at the highest risk buildings in line with longstanding independent expert advice and evidence, with Home Office analysis of fire and rescue service statistics showing buildings between 18 and 30 metres are four times as likely to suffer a fire with fatalities or serious casualties than apartment buildings in general.
Lower-rise buildings, with a lower risk to safety, will gain new protection from the costs of cladding removal with a new scheme offered to buildings between 11 and 18 metres.
This will pay for cladding removal – where it is needed – through a long-term, low interest, government-backed financing arrangement.
Under the scheme, no leaseholder will ever pay more than £50 a month towards the removal of unsafe cladding.
This, in theory, will provide reassurance and security to leaseholders, and mortgage providers can be confident that where cladding removal is needed, properties will be worth lending against.
However, the devil is in the detail and despite the announcement from the government being timely, there are still numerous factors to resolve and barriers to overcome before this thorny issue is brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
This is why we have announced recently the first of our monthly webinars, which will be on cladding to help inform all parties of the current situation following the government’s policy.
As important as these areas are – and they really are – these still represent two components of what remains a complex surveying marketplace.
As such, it’s up to service providers like Countrywide Surveying Services to continue innovating, developing new initiatives and providing advisers, lenders and consumers with better options to help them on their homebuying journey.
Integral to this is providing our people with the ability to collate property-related information more effectively and enable them to make informed decisions remotely, and this is where we will continue focusing our attention in Q1 and beyond.