Trump, Obama, Netflix – and Taylor Wimpey in Cranbrook?

Owl is not just interested in East Devon, oh no. Owl has relatives in the United States and has been known to cast its beady eyes over the pond to see what the owls over there are up to.

Imagine Owl’s surprise when reading about President Trump’s latest spat with ex-President Obama about Obama’s contract with Netflix to see this Google “push” advert pop up:

Now, Owl knows this is a targeted, personalised ad – but who would have expected it to turn up here? And why does Taylor Wimpey think Owl wants one of their little boxes in Cranbrook?

Obviously desperate times for Taylor Wimpey and Cranbrook!

“Property giants pay bosses £63m while ‘exacerbating housing crisis’ by sitting on enough land for 470,000 homes”

“Property giants have been accused of rewarding bosses for “exacerbating the housing crisis” after spending £63.6m on chief executive pay last year while sitting on more than 470,000 unused plots of land.

The chief executives of Britain’s 10 biggest housing developers raked in a combined £63.6m, earning a median sum of £2.1m, according to figures compiled by the High Pay Centre. Four FTSE 100 companies handed £53.2m to their top bosses in total, a median pay packet of £5.7m.

The 10 firms completed and sold 86,685 homes last year, but hold planning permission for 470,068 other plots of land on which homes have not been built. The UK needs an estimated 340,000 new homes a year to meet demand.

Councils have repeatedly complained of developers taking longer to build on sites which have been earmarked for housing, with the Local Government Association calling for powers that would allow local authorities to seize unused land.

The High Pay Centre said its findings raised questions about whether executives “should receive such vast sums of money, particularly given the many criticisms levelled at the big housing developers regarding the extent to which they are exacerbating the housing crisis”.

Luke Hildyard, the think tank’s director, told The Independent: “Homes are a public good and housing companies are charged with quite an important social responsibility. If the housing companies don’t play their part in delivering enough homes then we have real problems.

“There is something particularly unseemly about people who are supposed to be providing a public good raking in millions or even tens of millions.”

The 10 companies, which are all FTSE 350-listed, paid a combined £150m to chief executives and other directors last year. The four FTSE 100 house-builders – Barratt, Berkeley, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey – accounted for £131.1m of that sum.

The average UK construction worker is paid £24,964 a year, 89 times less than the median pay packet of the 10 housebuilders’ chief executives, according to the union Unite.

The pay disparity was greatest at Persimmon, where chief executive Jeff Fairburn earned £39m – equivalent to the average pay of 1,561 construction workers – last year. He was forced out of the firm in late 2018 after a public outcry over his £75m bonus.

The pay ratio between Berkeley’s chief executive and the average construction worker was 331:1, at Taylor Wimpey it was 126:1, and at Barratt it was 113:1.

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Labour MP Siobhan McDonagh, who cited the figures during a debate in parliament on Thursday, said the “vast scale of inequality” showed “the British housebuilding industry is broken”.

She added: “In the midst of a national housing crisis, how can it be right, just or fair, for the top housebuilding CEOs to walk away with such astronomical sums while there are workers are seeing their salaries stagnate?

“These companies have a land bank of a simply staggering 470,068 plots but completed just 86,685 homes between them. Is that really a record worth rewarding?”

Barratt, Berkeley and Taylor Wimpey all declined to comment.

Persimmon did not respond to a request for comment.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/property-developers-housing-crisis-homebuilding-chief-executive-pay-ftse-100-a9093676.html

Big developer CEOs offloading large blocks of their shares …

“Barratt Developments’ boss follows Berkeley founder’s lead and sells more than a third of his shares for £3.3m.

Barratt Developments’ boss has sold more than a third of his shares for £3.3 million.

David Thomas sold 500,000 shares for 660p each. He still has 823,000 Barratt shares worth £5.3 million.

The move came just weeks after Berkeley founder Tony Pidgley cut his stake in his company by a fifth – cashing in £37.2 million of shares.

The sales raise concerns that housing bosses believe the market has peaked.

And Taylor Wimpey warned rising costs and ‘flat’ house prices were putting pressure on its profits.

It reported first half sales of £1.7 billion, almost unchanged from the previous year, and said profits fell from £301 million to £299.8 million. The firm has proposed a 2019 dividend of 18.34p per share.”

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/markets/article-7306879/Barratt-Developments-boss-sells-shares-3-3m.html

When is a public footpath not a public footpath? At Plumb Park, Exmouth

Owl has been passed a copy of a letter (from the writer) sent to EDDC:

“Dear Sir/Madam – I have recently made several visits to this development (EX8 2JB) with a view to our family buying at least 2 purchases there.

On Wed 10th July at around 1230 I attended to see how work was going on and walked the public footpath through the site.

The public footpath runs SSE from Buckingham Close to the vicinity of Green Farm and is marked on OS maps as a Public Right of Way. The building works are all to the south and west of this boundary path.

There was no statutory notice saying that the pathway was closed nor was an advised diversion promulgated. Both these requirements are, I believe, legal requirements, to advise closure.

There were numerous signs warning about the adjacent building site, but from the safety of the public path I was better able to see the areas of build I was interested in. At no time was I in any danger from works vehicles. I passed several workers going to lunch – none of whom commented on my presence.

When I got to the end of the path/works I was rudely shouted at by an operative in a dumper truck who demanded to know what I was doing. I simply replied I was looking at the works from a public footpath. He became more authoritative and aggressive so I walked away on the way back. He then had the effrontery to demand a worker escort me “off the premises”. This chap showed me lots of notices such as “Do not enter site”, “Report to site office” but nothing regarding the public footpath. I pointed out to him the several small statutory yellow discs displaying “Public footpath”. But all to no avail.

So what is the position about this footpath? Why are there no statutory notices closing it – the developers Taylor Wimpey surely cannot unilaterally close it. Indeed is the footpath legally closed at all?

I would have thought a clear notice one way or the other is required.”

[author’s name and contact details given]

Developers holding Help to Buy purchasers to ransom

Just when you think all the juice had been extracted from buyers, another scandal pops up.

“Contracts for new-build homes and the industry-led code of practice that informs them are heavily weighted in favour of the developer. The Consumer Rights Act does not include new builds, giving buyers less protection than high-street shoppers, and each year hundreds of purchasers are left in limbo when a home is not finished in time. They can’t pull out and reclaim their deposit until building works look likely to exceed what’s known as the “long-stop” date – the final date by which a property can be finished, which is often buried in the small print.

This can be up to six months later than the legal completion date cited in the contracts, and the legal completion date is often months later than the estimates given when contracts are exchanged. Most mortgage offers are only valid for three months.

While purchasers are legally bound to the developer’s timetable for the exchange and completion of contracts and face substantial penalties if they delay, developers allow themselves generous leeway.

A completion date only becomes legally binding when the home is ready and a “completion notice” is served, after which purchasers have seven to 10 days to pay up or else face interest charges on the balance.

Nor are developers obliged to pay compensation for delays, unless the developer exceeds the “long-stop” date. Purchasers who have to proceed with the sale of their old home after exchanging contracts, or to rearrange a mortgage when their offer expires, can be left heavily out of pocket. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/jun/23/new-build-homes-buy-delay-bill-developers?

Leasehold houses: promise of fix … one day, maybe

“Housebuilders are to be investigated over the mis-selling of thousands of leasehold properties after a U-turn by the competition watchdog amid pressure from ministers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would examine the scandal surrounding new-build homes sold on leases that were subject to substantial increases in ground rents and the charging of “permission fees” for home improvements. Developers and freeholders could face legal action if the watchdog finds evidence of leasehold mis-selling. The watchdog said it would decide whether the practices constituted “unfair terms”, a breach of consumer contract law.

James Brokenshire, the housing minister, has previously called on the CMA to use its influence to tackle the “culture of consumer exploitation rife in the housing industry” with an inquiry into the estimated 100,000 homes sold with “extortionate” leases.

However, in November, the CMA told the minister it would not investigate the issue, citing the legal complexities surrounding historic cases of mis-selling. In a letter seen by The Times, the watchdog also noted it does not have the power to fine companies using its consumer powers and blamed Brexit preparations for it not being able to prioritise problems in the housing industry.

The U-turn comes after the Commons housing committee published a damning report on the scandal in March, calling for the law to be changed to help people stuck in leasehold properties with crippling fees that they are unable to sell on. It also criticised solicitors for failing to warn clients about the unfair deals, accusing some of being too close to developers.

The leasehold scandal emerged as developers began to sell houses on leasehold rather than freehold, often without the buyer fully understanding the contracts. In many cases the freeholds were bought by offshore investors who demand large sums from homeowners to buy out the contracts.

Taylor Wimpey, one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders, has set aside £130 million to help its customers escape unfair leases it sold. More than 40 property developers and freeholders this year signed a government-backed pledge to help homeowners affected by the scandal by changing the terms of leases for those with onerous clauses.

Sebastian O’Kelly, of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, said: “We welcome the CMA looking into this. It’s long overdue and will be welcomed by the 12,000 owners of new leases with doubling ground rents, and 88,000 where the ground rent is above 0.1 per cent of the sale price and whose properties are unsellable.”

The investigation comes as the industry attempts to improve its public image after criticisms of build quality as well as punitive hidden charges.

Countryside Properties this week became embroiled in a row with Joe Anderson, the mayor of Liverpool, who reportedly told residents he would ban the housebuilder from building in the city due to historic cases of selling leasehold homes with “doubling clauses” for ground rents.

Countryside said it no longer sold leasehold homes, had signed up to the leasehold pledge and took action to fix the doubling of ground rent leases that were in place two years ago. A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation said: “The industry has made huge progress to identify and address the issues raised on particular aspects of leasehold sales.”

Source: Times (pay wall)