A quarter – 25% – of homes rented from private landlords fail to meet the national Decent Homes Standard when taking into account hazards, costs and other characteristics, analysis of the English Housing Survey reveals. Households containing several million people are currently living in unsafe or unsuitable rented accommodation, according to the research by VeriSmart. The study by the independent property inspectors details how 19.5% of homes in the country, which works out at about 4.5 million properties, failed to meet the government’s Decent Homes Standard, when taking into account hazards, costs and other characteristics.
The assessment of the English Housing Survey, which dates back to 1967, shows that the social sector had the lowest proportion of non-decent homes at 13%.
The most common Category 1 hazards – the most dangerous type of hazard – were falls and fires. Falls on stairs, on a level and between levels accounted for the three most common types of hazard, with fires in fourth place. Converted flats were deemed the most hazardous property type, with 21% of such homes likely to contain hazards, while private homes were the next most dangerous by this measure (14%).
Houses were close behind (12%), with flats proving safer (8%), though social rented homes were least likely to play host to a hazard at just 6%. Some 1.1 million homes had a serious fire hazard – for example no smoke alarms, old or faulty electrical systems, missing fire doors – and other hazards included damp and mould, electrical safety faults and hot surfaces. Jonathan Senior, chairman of VeriSmart, commented: “The figures are worrying when one considers that one in five homes is sub-standard as far as safety, costs and other measures are concerned.
“Some may fret at the average cost to fix a property so that it meets the required standard, but when these properties are falling below expectations in part due to hazards, safety surely has to take priority.
“We recently looked at the tragic number of home accidents – many involving children and many leading to fatalities – and it’s clear that chances can’t be taken in this area.”
Many buy-to-let investors in the UK seem to be sitting on their hands at the moment, owed mainly to the tax and regulatory changes seen in the past few years, not to mention Brexit uncertainty. But Overseas buyers appear to view existing market conditions as ideal for acquiring property in the UK and London in particular, according to James Pendleton. The estate agency reports that there has been a significant increase in demand from foreign investors and funds, with international buyers hoovering up dozens of London homes at a time.
Property values in the capital have been falling for well over a year but demand from foreign investors buying in bulk is stronger than ever, the agent says.
Lee James Pendleton, the founding director of the firm, has called the bottom of the London housing market, at a time when international investors are benefiting from a weak UK pound along with a softening in the attitude of developers to discounting.
Pendleton believes that a no-deal Brexit would only serve to spark a more intense ‘feeding frenzy’, as large players ‘pile in’ to take further advantage of further weakness in the value of the pound. The estate agent is currently handling the purchase of 75 units in south-west London as part of a single transaction worth in excess of £40m.
Combined with a currency dividend, if these investors can get a 25% discount from a developer, they can be looking at a 40% discount on value overall, the agent says. However, Pendleton warns there is still very little demand for anything over £1,500 per sq ft — with bulk buyers favouring anything under £800 per sq ft.
James Pendleton has responded to growing demand from foreign property buyers by launching a new investment advisory service for institutional and bulk investors. Pendleton said: “Anyone who thinks foreign investors and funds have beat a retreat from London are mistaken. The only people who have backed away are UK investors.
“Developers can see the market has softened and they are willing to give bigger discounts than at any point in the past 10 years.
“They are hoovering up dozens of homes at a time and their behaviour clearly indicates to us that the bottom of the London market is at hand. The prospect of a no-deal Brexit is a concern to some but, in reality, it would only spark a feeding frenzy among these large players who will pile in as the pound falls.
“As a result, there are a lot of big overseas funds and investors looking for freehold buildings that have a mix of commercial and residential in them.
“This is the perfect time to launch our new department, which will cater to patient investors who believe London property at current prices will pay huge dividends over the long term and are so confident in that belief that they are committing vast sums of money. “The smart money is now looking at the London market, reading the cycle and deciding this is the time to get in.”