Meeting with Trinity House
On 6 December, a delegation from TNRA had a frank but positive meeting with Graham Hockley, the Secretary (ie CEO) of Trinity House. Trinity House is in the process of finalising a new approach to AST contracts and a separate initiative benefitting secured (Rent Act and assured) tenants. Graham will share details of these proposals with TNRA when they are agreed.
In the period of transition between Capita and Knight Frank, there have been issues with getting a surveyor to work on properties in Trinity Village. Consequently there is an unusually high number of empty properties which need work to be made fit for renting. The issue has been addressed and a number of properties are being improved prior to being offered for rent.
There are eight basement areas in Trinity Village which have not been inhabited for many years. Trinity House is planning to get them into a condition such that they can be lived in again and rented out. The first candidate is the basement of 38-40 Trinity Street.
We asked Graham for improvements in communications and the management of the contacts database for tenants and the introduction of a tracking system for maintenance issues. He agreed to raise these points with Lucy Jones, the Director at Knight Frank with responsibility for Trinity Village.
Knight Frank's policy for shared tenancies
TNRA has received several queries recently on what happens when one tenant leaves a shared tenancy. When there are several tenants under a joint and several tenancy and one wants to move out, Knight Frank currently asks the remaining tenants and the "sharer" moving in to sign a new tenancy agreement. This is legally correct. We understand, however, that another approach could be taken - a new tenant moving in could sign a Deed of Assignment taking over the leaving tenant's responsibilities until the end of the tenancy.
TNRA will encourage Knight Frank to offer both options for shared tenants going forward. It is important to note, though, that a landlord does not have to accept the departure of a tenant and can, in law, insist that remaining tenants continue to pay the full rent until the end of the AST agreement.
It has been standard for the managing agent to charge an administration fee to find a new tenant and a fee to conduct reference checks on the new tenant. However, Knight Frank is now proposing to charge the remaining tenants a fee for undertaking new reference checks on them as well. This may be because Knight Frank does not have access to earlier reference checks undertaken by Capita. Existing tenants faced with this request should refer Knight Frank to the original references in the paperwork passed to them from Capita. The use of a Deed of Assignment to deal with a departing sharer and continue a tenancy until its end should obviate the need for new references on existing tenants in the middle of a tenancy.
Proposed new legislation in 2019 means agents and landlords would no longer be able to charge tenants for taking references although they will still be able to charge to change the name of a tenant in an on-going shared tenancy.
Meeting with Cllr Johnson Situ
On 12 December, a delegation from TNRA met with Cllr Johnson Situ, Southwark's Cabinet Member for Planning, and Simon Bevan, Director of Planning, the top civil servant at Southwark Council with responsibility in this area. The meeting was arranged by our Chaucer ward councillors. We expressed our concern about the harm to views out of the Trinity Church Square conservation area caused by the construction of "tall" buildings in the immediate vicinity. Mr Bevan clarified that, for planning purposes, a building is "tall" if it is over 30 metres (roughly equating to 10 storeys) or significantly taller than the buildings that surround it. We highlighted two such buildings planned in our vicinity that are of particular concern - the 14-storey tower in the Kings' Place development on the corner of Harper Road and Borough High Street; and a possible 13-storey tower on the location of the GP's surgery on the corner of Falmouth Road and Harper Road.
Cllr Situ referred to statements about heritage assets and their settings in the New Southwark Plan, which is to be approved by the Cabinet early in 2019. We highlighted, however, that these statements are often fairly general and open to wide interpretation. We were pleased to learn that a supplementary planning document ("SPD") governing heritage assets and conservation areas will be subject to consultation and hopefully finalised during 2019. This will provide essential guidance on how the statements in the New Southwark Plan should be interpreted and applied in practice. TNRA looks forward to seeing the draft heritage SPD and commenting during the consultation. The final document will be very useful when assessing, commenting on and amending applications to build new "tall" buildings in the area around our conservation area.