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Soaring insurance sends cladding victim’s service charge rocketing

My service charge has almost trebled to £719 a quarter: Cladding-hit flat owner sees her block’s annual insurance premium soar from £34,000 to £500,000

  • Flat owner see block’s buildings insurance rise from £34k to over £500k a year
  • The rise in insurance costs is at a development affected by cladding issues 
  • The increases in the insurance costs  are despite new fire alarms being installed










A landlord faces financial ruin due to having to pay her share of building insurance costs that have soared from £34,000 to more than £500,000 a year amid the cladding scandal.

Grandmother Julie Fraser, 59, bought the investment property – a two-bedroom flat in Cheshire – in 2016 with her life savings for £76,000 as part of her pension plans.

Five years on she faces a cladding repair bill that almost matches the price of the flat at £73,000.

But it is not the eye-watering repair bill that is causing the most immediate financial concern for Mrs Fraser.

Instead, it is the soaring quarterly service charge on the property – which includes the cost of her site’s building insurance – that has become unaffordable and is the most pressing financial issue. 

Julie Fraser has seen the buildings insurance at her block of flats rise from £33,892 in 2019 to £514,000 in 2022

Julie Fraser has seen the buildings insurance at her block of flats rise from £33,892 in 2019 to £514,000 in 2022

The soaring quarterly service charge on the property – which includes the cost of her site’s building insurance – has become unaffordable.

The buildings insurance has soared due to the property’s cladding issues, up from £33,892 in 2019 to £514,000 in 2022. 

This is despite new fire alarms being installed at the site.

It has led to the service charges that she pays rising from £254 a quarter in 2019 to £719 a quarter in 2022.

Mrs Fraser lives five minutes from her investment flat, which is part of a development that has 288 homes on it.

Mrs Fraser bought her two-bed flat in 2016

Mrs Fraser bought her two-bed flat in 2016

Even though she rents out the property, she is responsible for paying the service charge. But she can no longer afford to pay.

She said: ‘I can’t afford to pay the £719 and face being in breach of the lease if I am unable to pay it.

‘I thought I was doing the right thing by investing in the flat. I’m now unable to work due to health issues and have been living off savings for the past two years. Those have now dried up.

‘The flat has no mortgage on it as I bought it with my life savings to help provide my pension. There are so many people in the same situation who are worried sick about these costs.’

LANDLORDS TO BE PROTECTED? 

Leaseholders are not being treated equally when it comes to cladding costs, the the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has warned.

When the housing secretary Michael Gove announced plans to force developers to pay for remedial action to tackle dangerous cladding on buildings between 11 and 18 metres high, he also argued that leaseholders should not be expected to foot the bill. 

However, ministers have now admitted that they have yet to decide if buy-to-let landlords will be included within the scheme.

In a parliamentary answer, the Housing Minister Chris Pincher confirmed that those who sublet properties because they cannot sell them due to dangerous cladding will be included in the Government’s scheme. But he also stated that a decision about extending it to buy-to-let landlords has yet to be taken.

The NRLA is warning that the Government’s plans are not treating all leaseholders equally – and that they also risk delaying remedial work on dangerous cladding as the Government seeks to understand who may be an accidental or buy-to-let landlord. 

Ben Beadle, of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: ‘It makes no sense to be treating leaseholders who are landlords so differently to owner-occupiers. Both groups have faced the same problems, and both should be treated equally. We are calling on the Government to rectify this injustice as a matter of urgency.’

Her comments come after Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, wrote to the Financial Conduct Authority asking it to review the buildings insurance market for multiple-occupancy residential buildings.

In the letter, Mr Gove wrote that ‘building insurance premiums have increased dramatically for almost all leaseholders in blocks of flats’.

It has responded, saying: ‘Although insurance premiums are just one aspect of the rising costs faced by residential leaseholders in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, we want to ensure products provide fair value and premiums fairly and accurately reflect risk.

‘We are asking firms to consider what actions they can take to help leaseholders, whether individually or by identifying collective solutions as an industry.’

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns about cladding have become a national issue

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns about cladding have become a national issue

Mrs Fraser welcomed Gove’s recent intervention on cladding repair bills, in which he announced that leaseholders living in blocks under 18m would not have to pay their cladding repair bills. 

She said: ‘I believe Michael Gove wants to make difference. He is listening and so far, he is doing what he said he would do.

‘I would like to think that next year will be more positive, and that our insurance premiums go down closer to where they were. Realistically, it would be good to get them down to £50,000.’

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Air-b-n-banned! Two-bed cottage with no electricity along Dorset’s crumbling Jurassic Coast goes to auction at £225,000 – but is barred from being rented out as holiday home due to 121-year-old covenant

A two-bedroom cottage with no electricity along Dorset’s crumbling Jurassic Coast is on sale for £225,000 – but is barred from being rented as a holiday home due to a 121-year-old covenant.  

The former coastguard cottage is in a row of seven properties perched on a 500ft high chalk headland on Britain’s World Heritage Jurassic Coast with stunning sea views near Weymouth, in Dorset.

The mid-terrace home is completely off grid with no mains services and can only be accessed down a muddy farm track in a 4×4. 

Up for auction at just £225,000, estate agents have warned the property needs ‘everything done’, including water and electricity. 

Adam Taylor, from Symonds & Sampson estate agents, said: ‘It needs everything done – there is no form of electric, it’s all candle light. There’s no mains services at all, it’s completely off grid. 

‘Someone would need to put in solar, water, a new septic tank, a new kitchen and bathroom. 

An off-grid clifftop cottage (pictured second to the left) has gone up for sale for £225,000 but the new owners will be banned from renting it out as an AirBnb due to a 121-year-old covenant

An off-grid clifftop cottage (pictured second to the left) has gone up for sale for £225,000 but the new owners will be banned from renting it out as an AirBnb due to a 121-year-old covenant

The former coastguard cottage is in a row of seven properties perched on a 500ft high chalk headland near Weymouth, in Dorset

The former coastguard cottage is in a row of seven properties perched on a 500ft high chalk headland near Weymouth, in Dorset

The mid-terrace home is completely off grid with no mains services

The mid-terrace home is completely off grid with no mains services 

The cottage is one of seven that was built in the early 1900s and has just 761 sq ft of accommodation

 The cottage is one of seven that was built in the early 1900s and has just 761 sq ft of accommodation

‘There’s plenty of options there for people. It’s one where people are either going to love it or hate it.’ 

A number of large rockfalls have taken place along the Jurassic Coast in recent years as the English south east coastline is slowly being eroded away by weather. 

Meanwhile, while the home would make an ideal weekend bolthole, it cannot be used as a holiday let. 

A covenant – a legal obligation in the title deeds that new owners must abide by – was made on the coastguard property in 1902 by the Weld estate, a major Dorset landowner, who is thought to have not wanted any strangers on their land. 

The property, which will be sold at auction with a guide price of £225,000, requires renovation throughout and is also in need of a new septic tank. Gas is provided by the bottle. 

The covenant the property can only be used ‘for the purpose of a private residence’ as well as laying out rules about making alterations and not allowing businesses to be set up at the site. 

The legal obligation is something holiday hotspots in Devon and Cornwall would undoubtedly like to see more of, but such covenants are hardly created anymore as they would affect property values and put buyers off.

Estate agents Symonds & Sampson have described the cottage as ‘truly unique’.

The seven cottages were built in the early 1900s and at one point would have housed about 40 people between the coastguards and their families.

It has a cosy sitting/dining room and separate kitchen downstairs

It has a cosy sitting/dining room and separate kitchen downstairs 

The living room features an in built fireplace and 1900s inspired decor

The living room features an in built fireplace and 1900s inspired decor

The current owner has had number 2 as a second home for 40 years and it has just 761 sq ft of accommodation with a sitting/dining room and separate kitchen downstairs and two bedrooms and a shower room upstairs.

Outside is a walled garden separating the properties from the coast path, parking and a small outbuilding.

It is located along a stretch of the Jurassic Coast, one mile to the Church of St Catherine-by-the-Sea at Holworth and a little further to the hamlet of Ringstead, with Weymouth seven miles away.

The houses have sweeping views along the coast to Weymouth and Portland as well as Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and St Aldhelm’s Head.

Just 100 yards from the cottage is a zig-zag Smuggler’s Path, which snakes down to the beach, and at the top of the cliff is a Second World War pillbox.

Much of the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust and the only vehicle access is through a locked gate from the National Trust car park, down 1.5 miles of farm track.

Mr Taylor said: ‘The cottage occupies a dramatic location, right on the edge of White Nothe cliff. 

‘The views out to sea and along the coast to Weymouth and Portland are simply breathtaking.

‘But the cottage is set slightly lower than the cliff to protect it from the wind so you don’t have views from the ground floor, the only view is from the first floor window.

‘The property requires renovation throughout but it offers something rare in today’s hectic world – a unique, peaceful and remote position on the Jurassic coast path within an area abundant in wildlife combined with the facilities for self-sufficiency.

The houses have sweeping views along the coast to Weymouth and Portland as well as Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and St Aldhelm's Head

The houses have sweeping views along the coast to Weymouth and Portland as well as Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and St Aldhelm’s Head

Just 100 yards from the cottage is a zig-zag Smuggler's Path, which snakes down to the beach, and at the top of the cliff is a Second World War pillbox

Just 100 yards from the cottage is a zig-zag Smuggler’s Path, which snakes down to the beach, and at the top of the cliff is a Second World War pillbox

Outside is a walled garden separating the properties from the coast path, parking and a small outbuilding

Outside is a walled garden separating the properties from the coast path, parking and a small outbuilding

The cottage can only be accessed down a muddy farm track in a 4x4

 The cottage can only be accessed down a muddy farm track in a 4×4

‘I think it will be a second home, a bolthole retreat. It cannot be used for a holiday let due to the covenant. 

‘I think restrictive covenants are good in some cases – if you own a beautiful cottage on a cliff top you would not want people you don’t know turning up and being noisy.

‘But in villages I think it would mean you could lose quite a lot of value.

‘You could live there full time if you wanted but your access is from the National Trust car park at Ringstead, 1.5 miles through farmland and National Trust land and the only real way to get through is via four-wheel drive.

‘It’s a special place.’

Due to the remote location and difficulties of access, the agents are only holding two days of viewings on September 5 and 6.

The cottage will be sold at auction in Sherborne, Dorset, on September 21, with a guide price of £225,000.

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Now that’s above par! Property-hunters can live at the ‘Home of Golf’ after flat overlooking the 18th hole at St Andrew’s went on sale for £2.3million

Property-hunters have the chance to live at the ‘Home of Golf’ after a flat overlooking the 18th hole at St Andrew’s went on sale for £2.3 million.

The plush pad is located in the 128-year-old Hamilton Grand apartment building, a luxurious Victorian development at the iconic Scottish golf course in Fife.

The 1,000 sq ft property features two impressive balconies which have stunning views of the 18th green at the one of the world’s most famous courses.

Its new owner will have access to a butler service, private chefs and full housekeeping services and can also benefit from a membership to Kohler Waters Spa.

The Hamilton Grand building underwent extensive restoration in 2010 and has proven a magnet for ultra-rich golf fans from across the globe since then.

Property-hunters have the chance to live at the 'Home of Golf' after a flat overlooking the 18th hole at St Andrew's went on sale for £2.3 million

Property-hunters have the chance to live at the ‘Home of Golf’ after a flat overlooking the 18th hole at St Andrew’s went on sale for £2.3 million

The twin French doors offer the best view of the iconic course, giving the new homeowners a clear view of the 18th Green and fairway of the Old Course.

The twin French doors offer the best view of the iconic course, giving the new homeowners a clear view of the 18th Green and fairway of the Old Course.

It boasts lavishly decorated apartment with wooden floors and a Georgian styled fireplace, as well as a well-equipped kitchen

It boasts lavishly decorated apartment with wooden floors and a Georgian styled fireplace, as well as a well-equipped kitchen

Other flats in the 26 apartment building have fetched upwards of £4 million, but this dream home is listed for offers over £2.3 million - the equivalent of £2,212 per foot

Other flats in the 26 apartment building have fetched upwards of £4 million, but this dream home is listed for offers over £2.3 million – the equivalent of £2,212 per foot

Other flats in the 26 apartment building have fetched upwards of £4 million, but this dream home is listed for offers over £2.3 million – the equivalent of £2,212 per foot.

Property manager Jamie Macnab, from Savills estate agents handling the sale, said: ‘This is a dream property for any golfer.

‘It offers a grandstand view over the final green of the most famous golf course in the world.

‘No 16 Hamilton Grand was one of the first units to sell after the refurbishment and is one of the best units in the building.

‘It is central to the main elevation on the third floor. It has four arched windows and two balconies overlooking the 18th green of the world-famous Old Course.

‘The appeal of St Andrews and The Old Course is sometimes overlooked by UK buyers but attracts wealthy buyers from all over the world who love the game of golf.

‘Most people assume that all of the buyers are American but the residents of Hamilton Grand are from all over the world, including several different European countries.

‘This is a very rare opportunity to buy a piece of Scottish golfing heritage’

The two-bed home is apartment number 16 and sports a 24-hour manned butler’s desk located in a grand lobby.

It boasts lavishly decorated apartment with wooden floors and a Georgian styled fireplace, as well as a well-equipped kitchen.

Each bedroom has its own bathroom attached, with one sporting a luxury jacuzzi and a tiled shower.

The twin French doors offer the best view of the iconic course, giving the new homeowners a clear view of the 18th Green and fairway of the Old Course.

The two-bed home is apartment number 16 and sports a 24-hour manned butler's desk located in a grand lobby (pictured)

The two-bed home is apartment number 16 and sports a 24-hour manned butler’s desk located in a grand lobby (pictured)

The flat has four arched windows and two balconies overlooking the 18th green of the world-famous Old Course

The flat has four arched windows and two balconies overlooking the 18th green of the world-famous Old Course

Each bedroom has its own bathroom attached, with one sporting a luxury jacuzzi and a tiled shower

Each bedroom has its own bathroom attached, with one sporting a luxury jacuzzi and a tiled shower

The beautiful apartment has been described as 'a very rare opportunity to buy a piece of Scottish golfing heritage'

The beautiful apartment has been described as ‘a very rare opportunity to buy a piece of Scottish golfing heritage’

The well-equipped kitchen has one of the best views of the course, as it is placed beside one of the main balconies

The well-equipped kitchen has one of the best views of the course, as it is placed beside one of the main balconies 

The Old Course at St Andrews is widely considered the oldest golf course in the world after it was founded in 1552 and celebrated its 150th Open last year.

St Andrews Links run five annual golfing tournaments throughout the year, including the prestigious St Andrews Links Trophy.

Globally renowned for its ancient university, golfing heritage and scenic beach, St Andrews attracts more than half a million visitors each year.

The seaside destination is famed for its intricate and beautiful Scottish architecture, as well as its University founded in 1413.

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Hollywood Studios Reach Tentative Agreement With Screenwriters To End The Strike

The picket line of writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles.

The picket line of writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles.

A happy ending in Hollywood. The studios and the writers’ union have reached a tentative agreement to end the screenwriters’ strike that has brought the world of film and television in the United States to a halt for nearly five months.

After four days of negotiations, Hollywood studios and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) managed to set down the bases of a new collective agreement. The deal announced Sunday unblocks one of the longest labor conflicts in the industry, with the strike now at 146 days.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional, with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership” the WGA stated in a press release. The leadership of the screenwriters’ organization must ratify the pact on Tuesday by a vote. The studios must now focus on resolving the conflict with the actors’ union, which is still on strike, so that productions can resume operations.

The studios and the WGA resumed negotiations on Wednesday after months of tension and a failed attempt to reach an agreement in mid-August. This time, there was a greater sense of urgency from both sides, who were concerned that further disagreement could have stretched the strike to 2024.

The main executives of the four studios attended the meetings with this in mind to show their willingness to negotiate. The parties set the goal of drafting the new contract before the Yom Kippur holidays, which began Sunday afternoon.

The negotiations were attended by Bob Iger, from Disney; David Zaslav from Warner Bros. Discovery; Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley. The studio heads were present for three days at the meetings, which were held at the offices of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Over the weekend, the studios were able to finalize the remaining details of the deal with the WGA. California Governor Gavin Newsom was also involved to ensure that both sides remained at the negotiating table. The strike has cost the state about $3 billion, according to a conservative estimate by California State University Northridge.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers rally during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. September 13, 2023.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers rally during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S.

In the press release to announce the tentative agreement, the WGA made it clear that the strike is not over yet: “No one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then.” The WGA’s 11,500 members must vote on the agreement.

This will happen after Tuesday, when the Negotiating Committee ratifies the deal once the final version of the text is ready. The deal is likely to be overwhelmingly approved by screenwriters, who have expressed their satisfaction for the resolution. Union members have also recognized the work of the Negotiating Committee, headed by Ellen Stutzaman.

While the strike continues until the deal is voted on, the WGA has brought an end to the picket lines at the gates of major studios in Los Angeles and New York, which have been in place since May 2.

If the strike had reached September 30, it would have become the longest in the history of the WGA, surpassing the 153 days of the 1988 strike. Actors, in the meantime, remain on strike, until they reach a deal with the studios.

According to the writers, the agreement was made possible after the studios agreed to reformulate the scope that artificial intelligence will have in the writing of content, and to set minimum rules for writers’ rooms.

During the strike, screenwriters complained that studios were abusing so-called mini rooms, a more compact version of a writers’ room. These mini rooms were used to develop more content for streaming platforms in less time and with fewer hands, which made the work more precarious. The new agreement establishes a minimum number of people who must write a television series.

One of the most insistent demands by the WGA was a review of the residual payment model. Residuals are compensation paid for the reuse of a credited writer’s work. The union argued that the previous scheme worked in the times of broadcast TV, but that adjustments needed to be made for the era of streaming. In the digital age, writers, producers and actors receive see hardly any compensation for shows that become hits on platforms.

The studios agreed to change the model to increase compensation depending on a show’s audience figures. This issue is also key to resolving the conflict with the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members, and has been on strike for 72 days.

After the failed negotiations in August, the pickets at the doors of the studios became larger in September. The writers flexed their muscles when Drew Barrymore announced she would return to filming her CBS talk show. This provoked the anger of the scriptwriters, who argued that the popular actress was violating the strike. Barrymore defended herself by stating that many members of the production were suffering financial hardship after months without work. But she came under a lot of pressure.

After a week, Barrymore tearfully apologized in a video posted on social media and announced that she would not resume filming. Other television productions followed, reporting that they would not return until the strike was resolved.


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