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High Court Judges Lose Perks In Lodgings

High Court Judges Lose Perks In Lodgings

High Court Judges Have Perks

Cut By Lord Chancellor

The perks enjoyed at the grand residences and high end lodgings used by High Court judges when they are not hearing cases in London’s High Court are being scrapped by Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor.

High court judges are feeling the pinch as they have had their Sky broadband deals cancelled in the latest effort to save money.

The High Court judges get to stay in 32 publicly-funded lodgings, from penthouse flats to Georgian town houses across England & Wales when hearing cases and the latest cost cutting move has provoked a great deal of anger among the judges, who once enjoyed all the perks of gentlemen’s clubs and were waited on hand and foot when they were on the judicial circuit hearing cases outside of London.

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Welfare Reforms Could Increase Fraud

Welfare Reforms Could Increase Fraud

The Government’s controversial welfare reforms will leave the benefits system more vulnerable to fraud, according to a group of MPs.

The Government decision to press on with welfare reforms means that Universal credit is set to be implemented nationally from October 2013 and replaces a string of existing benefits such as local housing allowance (LHA), housing benefit (HB) and child tax credits.

Changes to IT system for universal credit could make it harder to distinguish fraudulent claims from those that are genuine, and there are calls for the government to give swift assurance that the introduction of Universal Credit will not cause a rise in benefit fraud,

MPs issued the warning after a report by the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee into the extent of the welfare reforms highlighted several concerns about the new Universal Credit scheme.

The first trial of the new system begins on 29 April 2013 in Ashton-Under-Lyne, Greater Manchester.

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With only 2 weeks to go, the UK coalition Government have finally produced guidance on the changes to Energy Performance Certificates, (EPC’s) for residential properties, complete with a contradictory anomaly.

The UK Government’s department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) are now under pressure to clear this up and have indicated that they may release further guidance in certain areas.

Currently, letting and estate agents have 7 days from the commencement of marketing a property for an EPC to be obtained, followed by 21-day period of grace should it have proved impossible to obtain one.

However, the guidance then contradicts itself, by then saying that the EPC must be made available to prospective buyers and tenants when they request information, or when a viewing takes place.

The guidance underlines that the EPC must not be provided later than either of those two events.

By definition, it means that all letting and estate agents might not be able to conduct viewings on the first day of marketing – or even within the first week, or at a push, the first 28 days, whilst awaiting an EPC, if the CLG department stick to the new rule.

Nick Salmon said that the requirement to produce an EPC on a viewing sets every alarm bell ringing: “Does it means that if I take a property on the market and the EPC is ordered, that I cannot do viewings on the property unless the EPC is actually at hand? Have they just killed off first-day marketing again.”

The requirement to have an EPC ready for viewings is repeated on both pages 3 and 4 of the guidance.

On page 4, it says:

Q. When should the EPC be made available under the new regulations?


A. The EPC should be made available as early as possible and in particular, when a prospective buyer or tenant requests information in writing or views the property in question. In addition, the seller or landlord must ensure that an EPC has been given to the person who ultimately becomes the buyer or tenant.

Salmon said: “We need an urgent answer to this. Unless CLG make it clear that viewings can be made while the EPC is ordered but awaited, we are back in the dark days of their mega-stupidity with HIPs.”

The guidance, which cites an industry survey which found that 36% of estate agents believed EPCs were only needed at the point of sale as one of the reasons for introducing the changes, answers a number of outstanding issues, although it does suggest that agents needing further clarification take their own legal advice.

It makes it clear that the ultimate responsibility to make an EPC available to potential buyers and tenants rests with sellers and landlords. However, under a new duty, an agent must be satisfied that an EPC has been commissioned before marketing can start. Trading Standards officers can ask for evidence of this.

The seller, landlord or their agent must use all reasonable efforts to obtain the EPC within seven days of the start of marketing. A further 21 days is allowed if necessary. “The effect of this is to provide an absolute duty to obtain an EPC within 28 days of the property going on the market,” says the guidance.

If the property remains on the market after 28 days without an EPC, Trading Standards officers may serve a £200 (GBP) penalty notice ‘even if there is a legitimate reason for the delay’.

The guidance also defines ‘written particulars’ and what the ‘giving’ of written particulars is.

“The giving of written particulars includes making them available electronically, such as in an email or as information on a website.” In other words, agents will have to retrieve the EPC from the central Register and attach it to online written particulars.

However, newspaper adverts and estate agents’ window cards appear to be let off the hook. This also needs further clarification as the guidance actually specifies ‘lets’.

Q. Do newspaper adverts or window cards for property lets meet the definition of written particulars?

A. No. The requirement to attach a copy of the front page of the EPC to written particulars is where an agent provides written particulars to a person (i.e. a specific individual) who may be interested in buying or renting the building.

This implies that a copy of the front page of the EPC does not need to be attached to advertising material, i.e. a newspaper or window card.

The guidance also clarifies what attached means: The first page of the EPC can be incorporated into the property details, or attached.

In an apparent swipe at NFoPP and RICS, who both wanted redactions, CLG has stuck to its guns about not allowing addresses to be redacted from residential EPCs, although redactions are allowed from commercial EPCs.

It says addresses cannot be removed from domestic EPCs, “Following discussions with property agents’ representatives it was agreed there was no requirement to extend this service to domestic sales and rentals.”

One issue which is not specifically addressed in the Q & A concerns lists of available rental properties which are sent or emailed to applicants.

However, as the guidance suggests that properties listed would meet the criteria of ‘written particulars’, a list could hypothetically list 15 rental properties on an A4 sheet of paper, and then have individual EPCs attached.

The changes kick in on April 6th 2012. Any letting or estate agent who has not seen the Q & A guidance can email EPC.Enquiry@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Source: Estate Agent Today

The new version of the EPC, and the new legislation governing their use, are meant to come into force on Good Friday, 6th April 2012.
However, changes to the rules governing EPCs were supposed to be implemented in July 2011, and then in October 2011. Both dates came and went without any sign of the changes happening and with no explanation of what was going on.
Detailed guidance from the Department of Communities and Local Government, (CLG), is promised well in advance of the date, but it’s rumoured that the new version of the EPC hasn’t been approved yet!
In practical terms, this is more of a worry for lettings and estate agents than it is for the general public, who will become legally responsible for EPCs, and face censure and EVEN have to pay fines if the new rules governing their production and use are broken!
Yet they are almost completely in the dark about what’s going on!
However, the big question is will any changes make EPCs more useful?
The official government line is that anything which increases the awareness of the energy efficiency and environmental impact of a property has got to be a good idea.
But so far, there is little evidence to suggest that buyers actually care about energy efficiency very much. After all, there is a lot more to choosing a home than the cost of heating it.
Very few buyers are showing signs of rejecting properties that they like and can afford, simply because they have a “G” energy rating.
Of course, this may change as we are forced to become greener. However, that day is still a long way off.
Alan Kirkman

However, Communities and Local Government department insisted on Friday that guidance for lettings and estate agents on EPC changes has been issued.
The department denied keeping property lettings and estate agents in the dark and says it will be issuing further guidance, although it has not said when.
CLG said that guidance was issued on March 2nd 2012 .
CLG confirmed that the changes to UK EPCs will be implemented on April 6, and the new-look EPC will be released on April 1.
Regarding further guidance, CLG said: “To avoid piecemeal announcements, it is the Department’s intention to make further information available, including the Q&A guidance, with details of other changes being made to enhance and improve the energy performance of buildings regime which will also be implemented in April.”
But the claim that any guidance had been issued baffled the NAEA and ARLA, who said that they had not received anything to circulate to members, and bemused individual estate agents.
The Communities and Local Government department statement said:
“The Property Agents EPC Retrieval Service guidance issued by DCLG on 2nd March provides UK estate agents with details of the service being provided to enable them to attach a copy of the first page of the EPC to electronic on-line written particulars to ensure the most up to date EPC is always provided directly from the EPC Register. This service has been set up at the specific request of property agents. If required, a copy of the first page of the EPC can also be printed and attached in hard copy to written particulars. This guidance has been made available to key partners within the property industry for circulation to their members. However, any property agent is welcome to contact us and request a copy of the guidance. A summary sheet regarding the regulatory change is also available.”

Why Does Housing Benefit Cost Taxpayers £22 Billion (GBP) A Year?

The latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions, (DWP), show there are close to 5,000 families still claiming more than the £400 Housing Benefit cap.

According to a report in the Daily Mail

  • At least 100 families are living in luxury homes and raking in enough housing benefits to fund a £1 Million mortgage each
  • Of the 100 families, 60 have their rent paid by the state to the value of £5,000 a month, according to the Department for Work and Pensions
  • More than 30 of those families are given a staggering £1,500 a week (£6,000 a month) to live on and at least 60 families receive more than three times the national average wage, getting £5,000 a month
  • Unemployed living in luxury homes in upmarket parts of London such as Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster
  • Poor families should not be allowed to live ‘swanky’ lifestyles in postcodes beyond their means, says campaigners
  • Calls for the Government’s £400 per week cap to be properly enforced

Although almost four out of every five people on housing benefit pick up less than £100 each week.

At a time when millions of people are struggling to get on the housing ladder, the handouts would easily cover the monthly payments on a £1Million (GBP) mortgage.

Government ministers last year announced a sweeping range of welfare reforms that included housing benefit, which costs the taxpayer £22 Billion (GBP) every year, should be capped at £400 per week.

The figures have been criticised by campaigners and raised concerns that the Government’s plan to cap housing benefit is not being enforced.

Public opinion has been riled by the cases of immigrants and asylum seekers who have been allowed to live in lavish flats at the expense of taxpayers.

The Government handouts have allowed families to live in upmarket parts of London such as Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster alongside wealthy neighbours such as Roman Abramovich and George Michael.

WHERE HOUSING BENEFIT CASH GOES EVERY YEAR 

  • NORTH  EAST………………………….. £923.8m
  • NORTH WEST……………………….. £2,371.5m
  • YORKSHIRE…………………………….. £1,497m
  • EAST MIDLANDS………………….. £1,112.6m
  • WEST MIDLANDS…………………. £1,736.6m
  • EAST…………………………………….. £1,632.6m
  • LONDON………………………………. £5,539.0m
  • SOUTH EAST………………………… £2,536.9m
  • SOUTH WEST……………………….. £1,525.9m
  • WALES…………………………………….  £892.9m
  • SCOTLAND ………………………….. £1,660.6m

TOTAL  £21,429.5m

 

The figures will raise calls for the Government’s benefit reforms to be bulldozed through the Commons – despite pleading from Liberal Democrats.

The data, made public under the Freedom of Information Act, show the areas of the UK that pay out the most in housing benefit are

  1. Birmingham – £469 Million per year
  2. Glasgow       £337 Million per year
  3. Brent            £306 Million per year
  4. Westminster £281 Million per year
  5. Hackney       £267 Million per year
  6. Newham       £264 Million per year
  7. Enfield          £258 Million per year
  8. Haringey       £254 Million per year
  9. Liverpool      £254 Million per year
  10. 10.  Manchester £248 Million per year

The DWP says the new rules which have been put in place mean that those families currently getting more than £400-per-week will be gradually taken out of the system and moved into cheaper accommodation.

A DWP spokesman added: ‘These figures underline exactly why our Housing Benefit reforms are so necessary’.

Emma Boon of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “This is further evidence that it is right to cap benefits. It is unfair to ask taxpayers to pay for swanky central London homes for others when they can’t afford to live in those postcodes themselves. Many middle or low income families have to decide if they can afford to house their family in town, or if they have to move out to somewhere more affordable. It is not unreasonable to ask those on benefits to make the same choice.”

 Read the Full Daily Mail article here

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