Jason Francis Programme Manager (Private Sector Housing) Wrexham Council Joins Wrexham Property Meet – June 2016

Jason Francis from Wrexham Council joined us for our June Property Meet.

Richard confirmed that there were no updates that he was aware of this month. Everyone is obviously now well aware of Rent Smart Wales and the requirements for landlords.

Richard handed over to Darren Byrne from Watts Commercial Finance who introduced himself and explained that he was attending in place of Mark Heywood this month who was otherwise engaged and sent his apologies. Darren gave a general overview of Watts and what they are able to offer.

He mentioned Brexit and said that lenders are currently saying that it’s business as usual and there is therefore no change at the present moment in time. Watts are still writing lots of applications. The rates a person can obtain will differ depending on a person’s individual circumstances. All of his deals are going ahead at the moment in the wake of Brexit, none of his clients have backed out because of it. Watts are receiving up to 35 leads a day which come in from IFA’s, mortgage brokers and accountants, etc. Watts have no minimum transaction value, if there’s a deal to be done they are happy to do it !

Darren concluded by saying that Watts would love to help if they are able to. If you have any questions, or should you wish to contact Darren or Mark their contact details are as follows:-

Tel: 01270 611000
Mobile: 07855 217508
E Mail: mark@watts-commercial.co.uk

We then turned to our main speaker for the morning, Jason Francis from Wrexham Council.

Jason began by introducing himself and explained that his current role is as Programme Manager for Private Sector Housing. He is responsible for financial assistance. He explained that whatever they do is governed by legislation, they have to publish their Housing Renewal Strategy which can be found online. Wrexham has one strategic housing renewal area now, this is currently south west Wrexham and covers Bennion Road, Victoria Road to name but a few. This means that they can tap into funding from the Welsh Government.

He went on to talk about Vibrant and Viable Places (VVP) and explained that in relation to this the Council approaches people who are living in the designated housing renewal area. This is done with a view to offering to complete work to those properties in the form of new roofs, gutters, fascias, chimney stacks, etc. For any landlord there is a 65% contribution towards the costs of the works should they wish to proceed with them. There is a monthly residents meeting at which the council inform people regarding which area is going to be looked at next. A concern was raised regarding letters informing landlords of such being sent directly to the rental property and not being passed on to the landlord by the tenant. Jason explained that the Council do carry out checks with the Land Registry to ascertain who the owner of the property is, they endeavour to do as much as they can by way of background checks. However at the end of the day, there is only so much they can do. The Council have a specific time slot within which to carry out the work and if they miss the deadline there are penalties which are imposed on them. He informed everyone that when the work is carried out, for example where a roof is replaced they replace all of the tiles. Furthermore the work is guaranteed for 10 years. There are some other conditions, such as the landlord must remain the owner of the property for 10 years following the work being carried out. This is 3 years in the case of an owner occupier. A query was raised regarding whether there is a website with details of the dates of the residents meetings. Jason agreed to look into this and e-mail the details to Susie who will then forward them on. Jason went on to explain that every property is done on a ‘need’ basis, so for example if the roof is in good condition based on the survey that’s carried out on the property, then they would not look to replace it.

He highlighted Minor Adaptations, this is where someone is referred from either the hospitals occupational therapist or social services occupational therapist. In these instances the council can provide works to assist that person, such as installing a chairlift, ramps, grab rails, etc. It is non means tested and one piece of work can be carried out in a 12 month period. If more work is required then it would be considered under the Disabled Facilities Grants.

In relation to Disabled Facilities Grants these are up to a mandatory limit of £36,000. If the person concerned is over 18 years of age then it is means tested, if they are under 18 it is free. The aim of these grants are to allow a disabled person to remain in their property and assist with their bathing, sleeping, cooking and getting around the property. Once an award has been made the council only hold the money, furthermore they don’t make good a property should the person subsequently move out. In addition the council don’t deal with any maintenance issues, they do however take out a 5 year breakdown cover against such. Once this 5 years has elapsed it is then for the home owner or landlord to deal with any maintenance issues.

Jason then moved on to speak about ‘House Proud.’ This scheme allows people to approach the council who in turn will facilitate all of the works on behalf of that person. The council will get any drawings done should they be required and will price up the job. They then charge 2.5% if they deal with the job directly and 8% if their architects are on board. Trading Standards and the Police are having a big push in this initiative at the moment. With this scheme you obviously have to find your own finances for the work and there is a minimum charge of £50.

Jason explained that are also the empty home loans which are available and which are interest free. There is a small set up fee for these; should anyone be interested in such please contact Sion Wynne at the council for further details.

There are also free energy assessments for both home owners and tenants. Furthermore if they are in receipt of a means tested benefit, are pregnant, over 65, have a disability or are elderly (to name but a few) then they may qualify for gas central heating if they don’t currently have any, under ‘Nest.’ There are also other energy efficient measures potentially available, such as wall and loft insulation and renewable energy amongst other things. There are also the ‘Green Doctors,’ who can assist in similar ways to ‘Nest.’ (Please see www.nestwales.org.uk and www.groundwork.org.uk/greendoctor for further information)

Jason then moved on to talk about condensation, mould growth and damp. He stated that he receives so many phone calls regarding damp and damp proof courses with people saying they want to make a claim against their guarantee. Generally in these cases you will pay a minimum of £150 for a surveyor to come out and take a look at the problem. If the work has been carried out correctly, then on the whole there should be no issues with damp proof courses. He stated that quite often when you enter a property with such issues you can smell damp, generally there is black mould in the corners of the room and behind furniture. This mould wipes off with a damp cloth and doesn’t affect the fabric of the room or building.

Jason explained how condensation occurs and stated that if there is adequate background heat i.e. a constant heat but with air changes then condensation will not occur. It’s not about having the heating blasting out, it’s about having the heating on and the windows open ! For example after having a shower you need to open the bathroom window because the air vents that are installed in bathrooms can only do so much. You have to open the window and get good cross ventilation.

If anyone experiences such issues then they are best speaking to the Housing Standards team at Wrexham Council, namely Wayne Beesley, Angharad Thomas or Wyn Morgan.

Finally Jason concluded by saying that where a property has a problem with damp and it is being renovated, when the walls are being dry lined, dot and dab should never be used. This is in line with the British Standards document. If dot and dab is used then damp patches will appear on the wall where the dot and dab has been used.

Jason was thanked for attending and for his informative talk. Should anyone wish to contact Jason, his contact details are:-

Jason Francis
Programme Manager (Private Sector Housing)
Tel:- 01978 315591
Address:- Housing Services, Ruthin Road, Wrexham LL13 7TU.