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Conservatory rules, property listings slump, and benefits cuts hit renters and other UK property news

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Recent UK property news has shone a light on some interesting background to homeownership, lifestyles, the failure of the market to satisfy the demand for housing, and some of the economic pressure facing tenants in the private rented sector.

Let’s take a look beyond some of the headlines to see what’s going on.

New rules for new build conservatories

The days of the humble conservatory – an extension beloved of so many homeowners – might be numbered, according to a story in the Daily Mail on the 19th of January.

The story suggests that conservatories on new-builds could be the victims of the government’s current policies to meet the challenges of global warming in the construction of new housing. It is currently predicted that, even in the UK, summer temperatures could regularly reach 40°.

According to the Mail, there are plans to introduce new planning regulations. These might come into effect as soon as June. They would prohibit the addition of a conservatory on any new build home for fear of it creating “unwanted solar gain”.

The reasoning behind such moves comes in the light of ever hotter summers in the UK. The conservatory naturally acts as a sun trap – and the fear is that this provokes a so-called “unwanted solar gain” that overheats the entire house.

24% of parents admit to flouting the rules to get their child into a good school

Deadlines for applications for primary school places are fast approaching in many parts of the country, and a study conducted by online listings website Zoopla and published on the 12th of January, suggests that many parents are breaking catchment area rules.

The stiff competition for places at “good” primary schools leads to a scramble involving lying, cheating, and generally bending the rules to get children into school without having to pay the average £82,960 premium that goes with homes in the “right” catchment areas.

To get there, 17% of parents surveyed said they had lied, bent, or broken the rules on admissions. A further 7% confessed to having “played” the system to sneak their child into the right school. That makes a total of almost 1 in 4 parents who have admitted to flouting the rules.

Rule-breaking tactics include lies about the actual home address or falsely professing some religious faith.

Some parents were even more direct, with 16% offering to make a voluntary “donation” to the school in question or even openly pitching a bribe.

For all these underhand methods, however, more than half (56%) of the parents claimed to feel guilty about having pulled the wool over the eyes of admissions officers.

New listings slump fails to meet demand, driving up house prices

The demand for housing remains strong. But the shortage of new listings leaves an imbalance between supply and demand, argued a posting by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) on the 20th of January.

In their UK Residential Market Survey for December 2021, RICS found that enquiries from buyers continued to grow in volume but that shortages of housing stock – and the subsequent listing of those for sale – created an imbalance that continues to drive rising house prices.

Respondents in the RICS survey indicated that the number of new home buyers had risen by 9% during December – marking the fourth rise in consecutive reports  - but that 14% of respondents reported a decline in the registration of new sales listings. The imbalance between that 9% rise and the 14% decline has resulted in a significant fall in the number of sales.

It has also been responsible for an increase in house prices suggests the study. Responding to the RICS survey, 69% of members said that prices had already gone up and more than 67% reckoned they would rise still further in the year ahead.

Poll reveals damage of benefit cuts to renters

Landlords have been telling the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) about the difficulties encountered by a significant minority of tenants who had had their Universal Credit payments cut.

In a posting on the 20th of January, the NRLA revealed that one in ten of the landlords it surveyed reported at least one of their tenants who is having difficulties finding the rent to pay after suffering a £20 cut in the benefits they receive.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the amount of Universal Credit payable was increased by £20 across the board. That bonus was removed in October and an increasing number of private sector tenants are now feeling the pinch.

The NRLA is concerned about the widening gap between benefits support and the rent that must be paid. 55% of tenants already experience such a gap between the benefits they receive and the rent they pay, says the NRLA.