Government review on housing market
The British Association of Removers has recently participated in the UK government’s ‘call for evidence’ following its announcement in October of last year that it had launched a review on the home buying/selling process in the UK.
The trade association took the opportunity to highlight the impact of the failings of the current system on behalf of the whole industry.
"Many of our members shared with us their concerns and we were able to collate their thoughts into a formal response document which we then lodged with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the agency tasked with conducting this review,” explained Ian Studd, BAR Director General.
The main concerns raised were:
Legislating a sensible notice period and timeframe between exchange of contracts and completion. This would remove most of the opportunities for unethical practices that can create disruption and anxiety.
Key release. “It is farcical in the modern world of ecommerce, that supposed delays in completing financial transactions impact so massively on both the consumer and the service provider,” said Ian, pointing out the additional costs involved when key release is delayed.
The effect on working practices. Ian said that as responsible and ethical employers, all BAR members are subject to the Working Time Directive and tachograph legislation and in such situations, delays caused by the inadequacies of the current system can place the service provider in an invidious position. This can affect moves within the same chain on the same day and even disrupt moves planned for the following day.
Working conditions. Ian said that it is impossible to guarantee finishing times for crews, and most employees accept that, but this creates problems when recruiting new staff. “Many will have commitments to young families or are engaged in scheduled social and leisure activities which they are not prepared to compromise, and why should they?” he said. He added that the occasional late shift might be acceptable, but it has now become the norm not the exception.
Employee contracts: Current market processes and conditions allow a tendency to ‘stock-pile’ home moving activity to the last Friday of the month. “This means that employers are more inclined to provide contracts of employment that allow a more flexible approach to staffing levels such as zero hours contracts,” said Ian.
BAR has lodged a summary of these concerns with DCLG for its consideration as part of this review. Subsequently, Ian Studd attended a meeting at the DCLG to discuss the points raised in more detail and has been assured that BAR will continue to be viewed as an important stakeholder in this process. “But for our position/views to be taken as anything more than an inconvenience, we needed to be able to convert the anecdotal evidence into statistical data that embraces one of the government’s major strategic initiatives.” To that end, Ian approached a small number of BAR member companies and asked them to provide some high-level data for their respective businesses on the following questions:
What is an average price for a domestic move in the UK (accepting that each move is completely unique, but applying a ‘feel’ for what a ‘typical’ house move might cost)?
What percentage of the total number of domestic moves that are completed are adversely affected by delays directly attributable to the house buying and selling process (e.g. cancellation fees/late key waivers, etc)?
Can you estimate the on-cost to the consumer for any such occurrence in percentage terms relative to the original quotation value?
BAR then extrapolated the data received to reflect the total activity levels for all movers which shows that the current processes are causing almost £37m of consumer detriment every year in house moving costs, excluding ancillary costs such as hotels, subsistence, etc. that consumers may also incur.
BAR has sent this information to DCLG and will continue to work with them to represent the views of its members and their customers. Ian is hoping that a member of the DCLG team will be able to attend the BAR conference in Bournemouth in May to provide a first-hand update on the direction that the review is taking and progress made.