“The Times They Are a-Changin'”

One would doubt that when Robert Allen Zimmerman released this album on 13 January 1964, he had any notion of how often the title would be used and misappropriated over the subsequent decades.  Allowing for the rather poor use of syntax and grammar (perhaps the correct use of the latter would have persuaded that English teacher in Wisconsin/Princes Risborough to buy the album thus shifting it higher on the billboard charts than its final resting place of #20 in the US and #4 in the UK), Bob does make one wonder whether things do ever really change or is it merely adaptation to current circumstances?  As befits the passing of another year, the human race subjects itself to introspection, navel-gazing, maudlin thoughts of how better things were in times past and resignation to a depressed acceptance that we are all doomed.  Yesterday, whilst beetling about doing viewings I heard on the radio that Twix bars are now smaller than of yesteryear and a well-known bakery has cut an inch off their filled baguettes.  Gentleman, you will all appreciate that losing an inch is no laughing matter; ladies depending on whose inch and from where it is lost is either a cause for jubilation and celebration or commiseration and no man buys the ‘it isn’t the size, it’s what you do with it’ line… The arguments in support of Mr Dylan’s title track would state that there have been some seismic changes, not least that solicitors have been working throughout the Christmas period and have even emailed me this week-pass the smelling salts Petunia, I feel rather faint.  Conversely, some things don’t change;  I still get bookings in my second career as George Clooney’s looky likey, Miss Minogue still harasses me for a date and somewhat disappointingly, despite scouring the post-box in recent weeks  and today’s publication in the national press, I don’t seem to be able to locate myself anywhere on the New Years’ Honours List.  Most notable of all, the emotional roller coaster of reporting movement in the property market continues at a speed a great deal faster than the spectacular fail of the Sky Swing at Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland. I wonder what the price is being offered on whoever was in charge of the not so wondrous wonderland being without portfolio in 2015?  Earlier this week the Daily Mail stated that house prices will drop by 0.6% next year.  This was a figure put forward by a “leading expert”-so ahead of his or her field and confident in their prediction that they went unnamed…Yesterday, the Daily Express was adamant that the cost of buying  property will “soar” next year due to changes in pension legislation, with those of pensionable age spending £5 billion on property in 2015. Really?  Try ringing any pension provider (I have) and asking them about the legislation that is coming in in April 2015 and they cannot tell you what, how, or when as they are still waiting on Government guidelines.  So in many areas times definitely aren’t changing.  I leave you in 2014 with the musings of two gentleman who are and will be viewed as two of history’s most powerful, successful, divisive, unifying and disappointing figures, it is at your discretion as to which individual you attribute the characteristic. “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often” Winston Churchill  “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek” Barack Obama  Personally, I think that we are still waiting.  Happy New Year.

What goes up, must come down…

..apart from the length of Ms Flack’s ( otherwise referred to as the next Mrs Cheshire’s) dresses on Strictly Come Prancing, or for that matter Kristina’s… and most definitely Darcey’s.  Anyway, back to more mundane matters.  This week, the report of the ex-Treasury minister Paul Myners on the sale of the Royal Mail by the Business Secretary, Vince Cable concluded that the latter had made, “the right decisions”. Indeed, one could conclude that Baron Myners himself had made the ‘right’ decision’ by not castigating the man described as a “raving Marxist”, by Nigel-la Farage on LBC this week, who had himself commissioned the enquiry.  The ennobled gentleman said that Vince had got it just about right in the sale because the dramatic rise in the share price  was not his fault and furthermore, if the share price had dropped after issue, then that also could not have been attributed to Vince and his gang mishandling the first real, proper job that they had to do in their department. The prancing minister does seem to have got away with it and in fairness, he was only ever going to please one half of the political classes.

The report deduced that the undervaluation at the point of sale was £180 million-a not insubstantial amount – although considerably less than the National Audit Office who stated that it was actually undervalued by £750 million.  Now that is a substantial difference of opinion. The share price today is around 400p.  Market forces took over at the time of the sale and the price rose from 330p to 600p.  I am willing to bet that if they had launched at 600p then no one would have bought them and Vince and Danny (they sound like a 70’s long-haired, beatnik pop duo), would have been regarded as blustering fools. (In many quarters this is the accepted opinion of them, but for a variety of different reasons).  So what goes up must come down and so on. I do wonder whether the critics of the sale include those people who bought houses in 2006 in the belief that one could not fail to make money on property, and in 2014 are still not back to where they started.  Market forces my friend.



Cruel intentions or just business?

There has been much press coverage in recent months about wicked landlords, avaricious agents and bullied tenants. The latter’s very existence and emotional and financial well-being is wholly dependent upon the capricious nature of the former named parties. Some of the reporting does have merit; some of it is about as accurate and credible as Brother Miliband (the one who got shafted by his sibling), claiming that the Government that he was a member of at the time knew nothing and in no way condoned/connived/turned a blind eye to the torture of terrorist suspects.  Hey-ho.  Tis the season to be jolly.  Or not, if you are the tenants that featured in an article by Kate Palmer in the Daily Telegraph Daily Telegraph 27 November 2014  Her piece revealed the case of a property concerning four tenants who asked the London letting agency who handled their rental why they had been issued with a bill for £1260 for changing two names on a tenancy agreement.  According to Ms Palmer, the tenants, both old and new were told to pay up or face eviction.  They contested the sum and were “evicted” from the property by the agency.  May I firstly ask that it be noted for the record that £1260 is exceedingly steep regardless of the circumstances or the geographical location.  Looking into the matter in a little more detail:

  • The existing tenants wanted to change the terms of the agreement that they had signed with the agency by removing two tenants and adding two new individuals.  This constitutes a new tenancy and therefore a new agreement.  You cannot simply replace one tenant’s name with that of another individual.  It is not like car insurance where another named driver can be added to the policy, but the policy itself remains extant.
  • The landlord is not obliged to agree to this request.  He may not like the cut of the new tenant’s jib/hair colour/footwear/annoying smirk.  Here at Cheshire & Co we lease our vehicles over a set period of time.  If we want to change the terms of the leasing agreement we must ask the leasing company who are in no way morally or legally obliged to consent to our request. If they do accede, they will without doubt charge us a fee.  When the lease is up the company can say that they want the car back-simple as that.
  • The use of the word ‘eviction’ is a little out of context if not wholly misleading, as the article states further on that the dispute over the bill began after two of the tenants had moved out to get married.  The betrothed had found two individuals to step in and take their place on the agreement.  Putting romantic endeavour to one side, this is an obvious breach of contract and one where a Section 8 Notice would be successful.  If I rang the car leasing company this evening and told them that I no longer wanted the vehicle but Bill from the pub was taking over the lease and could they just alter the agreement, can you imagine their response?
  • A landlord can issue a Section 21 Notice at any time, just as a tenant can give notice. Neither party is duty bound to continue the relationship for ever.  A Section 21 is not an eviction notice-however much journalists try to imply otherwise-it is simply the notice by which the landlord tells you that he wants his house back at a particular time (allowing for the time period stipulated in the tenancy agreement).
  • The erroneous Ms Palmer then claims that under a Section 21 Notice a landlord has the right to ‘evict’ a tenant who speaks out about a faulty maintenance issue with the property that they are renting.  Bollocks.  A Section 21 can only be issued to come into being at the end of a contract and no reason has to be given.  It just states that the landlord wants the house back.  Perhaps Ms Palmer has got her notices mixed up; a Section 8 Notice can be issued at any time, but must state the exact grounds for its issuance.

As a general observation with the aim of protecting both tenants and landlords, stick to the contract.  If as a tenant you choose to move out before the end of your contract and move someone in in your place, do not be surprised if the landlord is a little unhappy.  Headlines that proclaim how tenants have been told to pay up or get out are attention grabbing but misleading.  Russell Brand and Shelter, you can sit down for the moment.



back of the net again !!!!

Tis the season to be jolly…

In readiness for the big day, the herald angels harked this week, not about the new born king, but about Gideon, I mean George’s new stamp duty threshold. Alongside the heavenly hosts, the not so celestial Fourth Estate -dependent upon the colour of their political ichor-proclaimed, “the new boom is here” or for the more melodramatic, “we are all doomed”.  Step forward Vince and Ed.

It is terrific news for those buying up to £1million and not so palatable for those over the £1 million barrier. I think that I can confidently say there is nothing to worry about in Cwmbran or even Fochrhiw where you could buy the whole town for less than a marigold. (Q. Why was marigold adopted as slang for a million? Answers on a postcode to the office; the winner gets a signed picture of GC). Looking at some real life examples, we were due to exchange contracts last Friday on a property selling for £160,000.  “We are all ready” was the familiar solicitor’s cry.  Stamp duty would have been £1600 – a not inconsiderable sum.  We did not exchange until yesterday when stamp duty was a much more palatable £700.  A terrific result for the young couple buying the house and a chance for the solicitor to claim supreme prescience in that looking after his clients he chose to wait for the outcome of the Autumn statement.  A great bit of self promotion until his legal assistant rather let the side down when she informed us that, “we weren’t ready Friday because we still hadn’t got all our enquiries back”.  Ah well.

We have also sold a property for £400,000, with exchange set for 16 January.  The old stamp duty would have been £12,000.  The new threshold reduces it to £10,000 , prompting the vendor to ring up and tell us to put up the price by £2000, as the people buying it (under the historic threshold), “were going to be spending that anyway”…

According to the all-seeing, all-knowing entity that is Rightmove, yesterday there were a total of 350 properties, up to the value of £1million on the market in Cwmbran.  345 of these are priced under £500,00 and 251 under £200,000.  I think that it is quite clear where the market base lies.  Will the new stamp duty levels cause an explosion in prices in NP44? I don’t think so.  What will change is that buyers looking to purchase around the £125,000 to £135,000 mark will no longer have the old stamp-duty threshold as a bargaining tool to to get a price reduction. Similarly, agents marketing properties in that bracket will no longer be able to use, ‘Stamp Duty Paid’ on a set of details or as an extra incentive to have reason to replace the ‘For Sale’ sign with a ‘Sold’.

It will be a very different matter in London, the Home Counties or whatever postcode where properties exchange for considerable sums of money.  An article in the Sunday Times last weekend featured 9 houses that, “had to be sold” by Christmas  Ruth Bloomfield Sunday Times 30 November 2014.  One of them, on the market for £2.35 million was offered with stamp duty-a whopping £160,000-paid by the  vendor.  Since Tuesday’s announcement, the stamp duty moved to an even more eye-watering £282,000.  I checked both Rightmove and the agent’s website this morning and the vendors are still offering to pay the stamp duty, on the proviso that exchange must take place before Christmas. Good luck to them, particularly in finding a solicitor’s office that is functioning after 12 December.