City agency welcomes tougher rules for leasehold apartment managers

Leading Bristol residential apartment managers BNS Management Services has welcomed new safeguards for owners of leasehold flats introduced by sector watchdogs ARMA.

The Association of Residential Managing Agents has outlined a package of measures to tighten controls of the leasehold sector including closer scrutiny of ARMA agents by a regulatory panel.

Downend-based BNS Management Services said the new regulations, known as ARMA-Q, would bring increased peace of mind to the thousands of people who rent property in the greater Bristol area.

Managing Director Andrew Simmonds said BNS Management’s ethos had always to exceed regulatory obligations.

“This is the first time the industry as a whole has operated under specific regulation – although we have been complying and exceeding with these requirements since we started trading seven years ago.

“For instance ARMA-Q requires each block to have designated client accounts with interest on the accounts being returned to the block.

“Although we have always operated this system many management companies had previously kept interest accrued to themselves.”

He went on: “Up until now anybody has been able to set themselves up as a block management specialist without any professional or educational qualifications.

“The small number of mavericks delivering questionable service and poor value to the residential blocks they are supposed to look after have contributed to the groundswell of opinion calling for the greater level of control and regulation which we are now seeing.

“From now on owners of leasehold flats will get greater protection against this type of poor service.”

The new regulations make it mandatory for all managing agents to offer leaseholders, landlords and freeholders access to an approved redress scheme.

From 2015 ARMA members will also be required to sign up to a consumer charter and professional standards committing them to providing a high level of customer service.

ARMA’s chairman Ben Jordan said: “Leaseholders should be able to expect a quality service when it comes to the management of their home. If they use an unregulated managing agent, they could be opening themselves up to poor practice. We would recommend anyone appointing a managing agent to choose one signed up to ARMA-Q – a clear commitment to high standards and professional expertise.”

BNS Management Services in Badminton Road, Downend now manages more than 190 apartment blocks around the Bristol area and, following a recent portfolio acquisition, is expanding with the recruitment of two more staff  bringing it up to a total of of 20.

Issued on behalf of BNS Management Services by Empica. For further information contact Martin Powell or Simon Harding on 01275  394400.

Joint agents let more space at The Pithay

Activity in the Bristol offices sector continues to pick up with leading chartered surveyors Eddisons Commercial taking 1,427 sq ft in the Pithay in a deal brokered by joint agents Colliers International and DTZ acting on behalf of Fairacre Asset Management.

James Preece from Colliers International’s offices team said Eddisons had agreed to a part let of the second floor on a five year lease.

The eight storey Pithay building dominates the city centre offering flexible and contemporary office accommodation on one of the largest single open plan floor plates in Bristol.

James Preece said: “Our Q1 report underlined a dramatic recovery in the city centre market and this deal is further evidence of the increasing confidence in the sector.

“Once again tenants are looking to maximise flexibility on floor plates of their choosing while demanding quality refurbished accommodation.”

Formerly home to a number of Government departments including the Government Office for the South West, the COI, the Health and Safety Executive and HMRC, the Pithay boasts two reception areas both of which have been extended and refurbished to a high standard.

James Preece added: “The roof and lifts have been replaced and exterior redecorated. The on-site team provide first-rate back up for tenants to ensure the building is well run and provides after-hours access and excellent security.

“There are also a number of attractive smaller suites from around 1,300 sq ft upwards that allow The Pithay to accommodate businesses of all sizes and there is a very competitive car parking ratio of 1 space to each 900 square feet leased.”

The Pithay is situated between Cabot Circus and the Mall Galleries, Castle Park and the city Centre and close to all the local amenities and public car parking. Temple Meads railway station is just a short walk away.

All enquiries should be directed to James Preece of Colliers International on 0117 917 2000 or Andy Heath of DTZ on 0117 910 6640.

Legendary Oxfordshire watering hole ready for takeoff

The Masons Arms in South Leigh – the first pub in Oxfordshire to be prosecuted for disregarding anti-smoking laws – has been put on the market by larger than life owner Gerry Stonhill.

Described by Raymond Blanc as his all time favourite pub and awarded 20 out of 20 by Marco Pierre White, the legendary watering hole draws celebs from all over the country and is a particular favourite of the motor racing fraternity.

Complete with its own helicopter pad, the Masons Arms is on the market with Colliers International at £895,000 freehold.

According to hotels director Peter Brunt the unique  pub represents one of the most exciting pub opportunities for years.

Peter Brunt said: “The Masons Arms is a  privately owned and personally run thatched pub close to Oxford boasting trading areas of tremendous character and a memorably eccentric owner.

“This  foodie haven had received ringing endorsements from some of the biggest names in the business – one look at the website will give prospective purchasers an idea of the calibre and quality we are talking about.

“The Mason Arms was run in a very individual – probably unrepeatable – style by our client Gerry Stonhill but all the fundamentals for a fabulous business are there in spades.”

The first pub landlord in Oxfordshire to be fined for flouting the smoking ban was fined £5,750 and famously invited Tony Blair to stick his anti-smoking laws.

Peter Brunt continued: “The Mason Arms just oozes character and appeal with its two huge fireplaces in the main bar area, heavily beamed ceilings and with lots of interesting
nooks and crannies for customers to enjoy.

“The particular paraphernalia that our client liked to have around him restricted the capacity to about 60 covers through the bar and restaurant but there is clearly scope for many more. South Leigh is a fabulous location to support a quality inn.”

“Gerry bought the Mason Arms 18 years ago and has now decided the time has come for him to retire.”

Situated in a very favoured location north west of Oxford with  easy access from the A40, the Mason Arms is a large, attractive building  with its own helicopter landing area for particularly well heeled guests, with plenty of car parking, unexploited gardens and plenty of room for further development.

Believed to be a former farm house dating from the early 1600s, the Grade II listed Mason Arms is a two storey building constructed of limestone beneath a thatched roof.

There is plenty of space at first floor level for letting bedrooms although only two were offered and the extensive range of outbuildings offer tantalising development potential.

Part of the range of outbuildings to the rear, the owners’ cottage comprises a large sitting room with open fire and kitchenette, bedroom and bathroom.

Apparently Dylan Thomas wrote a large part of Under Milk Wood while living in South Leigh and during that time made good use of the Mason Arms.

Peter Brunt concluded: “The sense of the possibilities at the Mason Arms are apparent as you enter the bar with its flagstone floor and the enormous fireplaces. There is an atmospheric restaurant in two sections with about 60 covers scope for more.”

For details contact Peter Brunt, Hotels Director, Colliers International, on 0117 917 2000.

Building sites and vacant buildings prone to knotweed infestation

Commercial Property specialists at Colliers International have warned landlords, occupiers and developers against ignoring outbreaks of Japanese Knotweed on their premises.

The problem plant – described by the Environment Agency as ‘undisputedly the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant’ – can grow an astonishing three to four metres in just ten weeks and cause untold damage to buildings, pavements, boundary walls and drains and is difficult to control through normal  maintenance procedures.

Bristol based Building Consultant Nick Williams said the problem was particularly prevalent in the South West of England and Wales.

He said: “For one thing the wet spring weather will enhance the growing conditions for the plant – which is both difficult and costly to remove once it has taken hold on site.”

Japanese Knotweed was introduced into the UK by the Victorians as an ornamental plant but has taken over roadside verges, riverbanks and derelict buildings driving out natural flora and fauna.

“We know of incidences where banks have acted with extreme caution and have been unwilling to lend money to developers and prospective purchases looking to take out a mortgage/banking arrangement.”

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has now produced an information paper ‘Japanese Knotweed and residential property’ in an attempt to educate lenders and property professionals on outbreaks of the plant, and how these can be dealt with.

Nick Williams went on: “It is not just a problem for the residential sector as the plant can play havoc in and around commercial buildings, especially if they have been left vacant and unattended for some time.

“We have worked closely with landlords bringing in properly licensed contractors to remove it. Any habitable space within a seven metre ‘Control Zone of an outcrop is deemed high risk and Japanese Knotweed can grow that distance in a matter of months.”

As well as being difficult to eradicate, precautions must be taken to ensure the plant doesn’t spread to neighbouring properties and must be disposed of properly.

“Sending a lorry load of infested soil off the site without checking that contractors are properly licensed to dispose of it could see a developer or landlord in breach of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

“All this means typical removal costs can in a very short period escalate to several thousands of pounds to treat, either through spraying or wholesale excavation.”

“With the growing season upon us landlords, occupiers and developers need to act now if they want to avoid a costly problem down the line.”

All enquiries should be directed to Nick Williams, Building Consultancy, Colliers International on 0117 917 2000.

Commercial property conversions open door to quality new homes

A multi-million pound deal which saw the Sovereign Housing Group purchase 46 apartments in the former Robinsons paper factory in Bedminster demonstrates the continued strength and confidence in Bristol’s rental market.

Flax Bourton-based property agents CJH Land who brokered the deal are working on a number of other significant  developments in South and East Bristol as developers respond to increasing demand for rental or buy to let properties.

CJH Land director Matthew Hiles said: “There are a number of other large development sites that we are working on which are not dissimilar to the Robinson Building which will provide ideal investment type properties.

“The forecast for the next five years is for continued growth in the rental and buy to let sectors with some reports suggesting a significant increase in rental values.

“Bristol’s increasing popularity is creating opportunities and we are seeing steady growth in rents which is attracting investors into the market.

“The conversion of the Robinson Building is a great example of a rundown landmark property being redeveloped into a prime residential property which an investor has poured millions of pounds into.

The deal has seen housing specialists Sovereign purchasing 46 apartments from property developer Urbis.

Matthew Hiles said: “This is a high quality development providing much needed rental accommodation in what is now an up and coming area of Bristol. It shows just what an excellent location Bristol has become and the resilience of the city’s rental sector.”

The former Robinsons paper bag factory and printing works was built in the 1870s. The factory and adjoining East Street Church have now been converted into more than 100 apartments and maisonettes.

Issued on behalf of CJH Land by Empica. For further information contact Martin Powell or Simon Harding (01275) 394400.

Landlords warned to drop ‘dinosaur’ properties before 2018 extinction point

Elderly and inefficient warehouses and offices which fail to comply with the stringent requirements of the Energy Act due to come into force in five years’ time could leave landlords with a portfolio of unuseable – and unsellable – properties.

A top level briefing held for Bristol business chiefs was told April 1 2018 could be Domesday for up to one fifth of all commercial properties in the UK as landlords struggle to make them compliant with the regulations.

The roundtable discussion organised by the sustainability team at Colliers International’s Broad Quay HQ was told landlords should be looking at unloading ‘dinosaur’ properties within their portfolios before it was too late.

Mike Bull from Colliers International’s Investment property management, said landlords thinking  April 2018 seemed a long way off at the moment could be caught out.

He said standard lease lengths of between three and five years meant that leases signed in the next few months will be affected and landlords needed to fully understand the cost implications.

Mike Bull, who also heads up Colliers International’s national sustainability taskforce, said the Government was relying on Energy Performance certificates – and spiralling energy prices – to encourage greater efficiency across the sector.

He said: “With effect from April 1 2018 it will be unlawful to let buildings with an EPC rating of F or G. When you consider around 20 per cent of our commercial buildings already fall within those categories it’s clear the commercial sector is facing a major challenge.

“In addition, some buildings currently scraping in on an E rating may be re-assessed in 2018 and find themselves relegated to the F category.”

He said areas of predominantly older stock would become even more marginalised over the next five years while top quality new buildings would continue to attract the lion’s share of tenants.

Ironically, the problem could be particularly acute in Bath where the predominance of period buildings might lead to  serious cost issues as businesses attempt to upgrade their EPC ratings.

“Although Bath is packed with characterful and attractive period office buildings new build offices are fairly few and far between. In places like this landlords might be advised to take advantage of the green deals on offer to improve a building’s energy efficiency now.”

Richard Hill from Grant Latcham solicitors in Bristol said landlords across the commercial sectors should be proactive rather than simply await change in five years’ time.

He said: “Make no mistake this is Doomsday for some buildings. We can expect to see buyers and potential occupiers put off by E, F and G ratings as we move toward 2018.

“Although we anticipate a building’s EPC rating will go into the mix when new leases are being negotiated we are advising clients to identify and sell the dinosaurs before the markets re-price.”

He warned: “Certain people are going to find themselves priced out of the market when these changes take effect.”

He said the sector was sitting on the cusp of major changes and clients could expect to see more and more clauses in their leases on energy matters.

The  meeting was told that more people would be inclined to increase the efficiency of their buildings by taking advantage of the  so called Green Deal – which allows people to borrow money to pay for environmentally friendly improvements such as insulation.

Green Deal rates of between five and seven per cent would become far more cost effective as energy prices spiral over the next decade and beyond.

Mike Bull concluded: “There are clearly major implications for both landlords and tenants as the commercial property sector adapts to the changes due to come into effect in five years’ time.

“In the meantime we are advising our clients to review their EPC rating ensuring they are up to date and accurate. We recommend that landlords target a D rating or better to allow a degree of comfort going forward.”

Issued by Empica Ltd on behalf of Colliers International. For further information contact Martin Powell or Simon Harding on 01275 394 400.

APRIL UK sign as official protection partner with Non-League Football Association

Health insurance specialist APRIL UK has teamed up with former Wimbledon legend Dean Holdsworth as part of the company’s continued expansion into the world of sport.

Former striker Dean is the founder of the Non-League Footballers Association (NLFA) which aims to improve the structure and raise standards of the game around soccer’s lower echelons.

As official Income Protection and Health Insurance partner to the NLFA, APRIL UK will provide members with lifestyle protection plans and professional advice for themselves and their families.

Dean, who played alongside Vinny Jones during Wimbledon’s heyday in the 1990s, said:  “As a former professional footballer I recognise that having adequate protection is important for my members and their families.

“APRIL UK provides a professional advisory service alongside a great range of plans and good customer service.”

He added: “Accidents and injuries happen all the time in football. Whilst professionals will have club doctors and get paid whilst injured, non-league players do not have that luxury. They will have to pay for treatment from their own pocket, incur out of pocket expenses as well as having full time jobs which they might not be able to continue.”

Launched in 2009, the NLFA represents all players of non-league football from the Conference down to grass roots, providing a ‘cushion of support’ to their members.

APRIL UK has already achieved major success providing sports insurance protection to teams in the rugby league heartlands of the north of England and has this year branched out into other sports including rugby union and football.

Leading the partnership from APRIL UK is ex-Swindon Town striker, Christian Roberts, who joined APRIL UK earlier this year as their Sports Protection Manager.

Christian, whose own career was cut short by a serious knee injury, said:  “I know from my own experience that adequate protection insurance is one of the most important things you can ever do. Too often people leave it until it is too late.

“Our partnership with the NLFA ensures that high levels of health protection are available to people kicking the ball around the park on a Sunday morning as well as their families.”

Established in 1997, APRIL UK is part of the international APRIL Group headquartered in Lyon, France, which looks after six million policyholders in 37 countries worldwide. The group has a market value in excess of £776 million.

Issued on behalf of APRIL UK (Insurance Services) Ltd by Empica. For further information contact Martin Powell or Simon Harding on 01275  394 400.

City Centre take up bounces back in 2013

Unexpectedly high take up in the city centre has given the Bristol office market a much needed shot in the arm.

Colliers International offices specialist James Preece said overall  Q1 take up (in and out of town) totalled 227,205 sq ft – 16 per cent up on this time last year.

He said: “The office sector in 2013 has kicked off in far better shape than 2012.  We speculated that 2012 might be seen as the watershed year for the Bristol office market and with Q1 take up significantly higher than many had expected it appears our forecasts were correct.

James Preece said although Q1 figures had been encouraging the market wasn’t out of the woods yet.

“Before we get too carried away we do need to factor in the purchase of 100 Temple Street by Bristol  City Council which accounted for almost 50 per cent of city centre take up in this quarter.

“However, with several larger enquiries still out there and at least two developers talking of starting speculative schemes that may indeed be light we see at the end of the tunnel.”

City centre take up totalled 145,555 sq ft – up a massive 59 per cent from Q1 2012 and 15 per cent up on the five year average.

The largest leasehold transaction was JISC taking a new lease of two floors at One Castlepark (9,302 sq ft).

James Preece commented: “Following the trend of 2012 there was a complete lack of Grade A transactions in Q1 2013 with activity concentrated in the smaller sub 5,000 sq ft refurbished category.”

The technology media and telecoms sector remains very active and has dominated take up in Q1. Rents remain fairly stable but with very competitive incentives still on offer.

The picture wasn’t as rosy out of town where take up of 81,650 sq ft was down around 20 per cent on Q1 2012 and the five year average.

Biggest deals saw Nvidia take a new lease of 30,450 sq ft at 930 Aztec West. Otherwise there were  just 13 transactions during Q1 across the size ranges, with new and refurbished buildings being most successful.

Grade A quoting rents remain at £20-£22 per sq ft with deals on some of the slightly older stock in this category agreeing rents in the high teens. Top tier Grade B property sits between £15-£18 per sq ft and lower tier Grade B between £10-£15. Incentives are currently on average between 2-3 ½ months per year of the term certain.

For further information contact James Preece on: 0117 917 2047 or email: James.Preece@colliers.com.

Media firm on move to Royal London Buildings

Refurbished office space at Royal London Buildings in Bristol’s commercial centre is going fast with leading public relations company Grayling taking the remaining part of the fourth floor.

The deal is the latest in a series of moves at the popular building brokered by offices specialist Colliers International.

Moving from nearby Queen Square, Grayling will take 2,245 sq ft of space on a five-year lease. Other recent movers include sustainability advisor Sustain Limited, IMS Consulting, and Aisgill Business Solutions, while existing occupier True Digital has taken further space in the building.

Colliers International offices specialist Richard Wright said: “Royal London Buildings is becoming one of Bristol’s must-have addresses. It offers strikingly contemporary space with plenty of natural light, exposed brickwork and laminate wooden floors – and is within walking distance of Broadmead, The Mall Galleries and Cabot Circus shopping centres and Temple Meads railway station.”

He added: “Although it’s not a brand new building last year’s refurbishment programme has created a quirky workplace which has proved popular with high-profile firms who need to be close to the action in the city’s commercial heart.

“Royal London Buildings now offers good location, excellent facilities and the upgraded common areas have been praised by employees and visitors alike.”

Richard Chapman, Associate Director at Grayling, added: “Our team is delighted with our new office at Royal London Buildings. Its blend of character and modern features, plus views over Bristol’s rooftops, makes for an inspiring and creative place in which to work.”

The building actively encourages sustainable working practices including ample indoor bicycle storage and new shower facilities which encourage staff to ride to work.

Richard Wright said the latest move meant there is just one larger floor of 3,471 sq ft left with a few smaller office suites still available to let.

All enquiries should be directed to Richard Wright, National Offices, Colliers International on 0117 917 2000.

Chance to take the reins at idyllic country pub

A foodie haven famous for its puddings and paellas is on the market near Pershore in the Vale of Evesham.

New owners are being sought for the ‘roses around the door’ Swan Inn at Birlingham – on the market with sector specialists Colliers International at £439,950 freehold.

Hotels director Peter Brunt said the thatched pub in an unspoilt country village location would be many people’s dream destination.

He said: “Situated in the heart of the Wychavon area between Worcester and Cheltenham the Swan attracts plenty of visitors as well as locals in the know.

“As well as its aesthetic appeal potential owners will be impressed by the healthy sales and spacious owners’ accommodation. There is also a separate one-bedroom holiday cottage.

The Swan is renowned for its Thursday night pudding club where guests can try as many of their delicious homemade desserts as they wish as well as some mouth-watering paellas.

Peter Brunt – who specialises in finding new owners for pubs and hotels in the greater Cotswolds – said being in close proximity to Worcester, Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Evesham gave the Swan a rich catchment area.

“There is a also a caravan park nearby which provides a welcome boost to trade in the summer as well from those using the River Avon which winds around the village and walkers who are attracted by the river and gentle countryside of the area.”

Peter explained the current owners bought The Swan through Colliers International in 2002 and have successfully added the fine food offering to what was then largely a wet-only trade.

They have also invested in a one bedroom holiday cottage which is at present unexploited.

“Sadly the illness of one of the owners has increasingly curtailed their ability to drive the business and they have decided to sell so they can remove the physical strain caused by running the pub.”

Thought to date back around 500 years, the half-timber and thatch Swan boasts a covered entrance porch leading to the bar which is laid out in two cosy areas with a central bar/servery.

There is an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and some banquette seating. Off the bar and overlooking the garden is a large conservatory which can seat around 45.

In addition the owners accommodation consists of three bedrooms on the first floor – one of which is en suite – along with a family bathroom. On the ground floor a living room and kitchenette.

All enquiries should be directed to Peter Brunt, Hotels Director, Colliers International on 0117 917 2000.