An interesting article I received from Tom Entwistle at Landlord Zone.

A landlord has been fined £10,000 for failing to comply with the requirements of two Improvement Notices served by the Council.

Cllr. Chris Wells, Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “I am pleased that the magistrates decided to fine Sandwich Properties Ltd the maximum amount. This company was clearly unable or unwilling to look after their property, and did not have any regard for the safety of tenants.

We always try to work with landlords to improve housing conditions, but where such blatant disregard for tenant safety is evident, we will use every power available to us to ensure that rogue landlords are brought to justice and tenants are provided with the safe living environment that everyone deserves.

We are also committed to protecting the public purse wherever possible, especially in these times of financial constraint. This is why we always charge for the service of Improvement Notices if the deadlines set out within them are not met”.

In 2009, officers of the Housing Regeneration Team visited 102 Grosvenor Place in Margate and found a property containing four flats which contained serious health and safety hazards. There were no fire precautions or safe means of escape and none of the lights in the shared entrance or staircase were working. The property had been neglected and the internal conditions were dirty and dilapidated.

Following enquiries, Sandwich Properties Ltd of Rookwood Road, London, was identified as the freehold owner. Subsequently, the council served enforcement notices on the freehold owner requiring fire safety improvements and suitable lighting within the common areas.

Unfortunately, when officers returned to the premises after the notice deadlines had passed, none of the work had been completed. Attempts were made to try and meet with the company to discuss the situation, but the company ignored the council’s letters.

In a case heard at Canterbury Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday this week (01 February 2011), Sandwich Properties Ltd were found guilty of failing to comply with the notices without reasonable excuse and fined the maximum £5,000 for each offence. The company was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £15 and contribute £100 towards the council’s prosecution costs.

As the lack of artificial lighting presented a considerable risk to the tenants of the property, the council stepped in and installed suitable lighting themselves. The company has been charged with the full cost of this work, together with the cost of officer time and a further administration fee. The company was also charged £911.25 for the council’s expenses associated with service of the original notices. Further action is now being pursued to ensure that the fire safety improvements are made.

If you are an owner of a residential building containing common areas, and would like advice about your health and safety responsibilities, you can contact the Council’s Housing Regeneration Team on 01843 577437 for further information.

Press Release – Thanet District Council: 03 February, 2011

I read this last week on Property Drum about Google – a good or bad thing?
I am interested to know where they are going next with property as the tools they have add enormous value to people looking for or managing property.
Google has dropped its property search function on worldwide maps. “Not every bet is going to pay off,” says spokesman.

Six months after last summer’s fanfare of a new dawn in property mapping, Google’s quest for domination of the property search process is to be shelved.

A Google spokesperson told PROPERTYdrum, “This feature wasn’t used as extensively as we would have liked, and proved difficult to maintain, so we’ve removed it. Note that all Google Maps layers are not going away, just the real estate layer, which was our first foray with displaying vertical industry information via the maps interface.

This also allows us to prioritise resources and focus more on our core commitment to search, local search and building maps that provide a digital atlas of the real world. Google likes to experiment because we believe that’s the best way to create ground-breaking products and features that make a difference in people’s lives.  But not every bet is going to pay off.”

As ever with the ‘less than good news’ the story was not released to the press with the usual noise, but softly filtered to key people yesterday. Later, writing on his blog, Brian McClendon, VP, Google Earth and Maps, said:

“At Google one of our key philosophies is to take risks and to experiment. To that end, in July 2009 we announced the ability to find property for sale or rent directly on Google Maps. This is one of the “search options” next to the search box on Google Maps, and is currently available in the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Japan.

“In part due to low usage, the proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real estate websites, and the infrastructure challenge posed by the impending retirement of the Google Base API (used by listing providers to submit listings), we’ve decided to discontinue the real estate feature within Google Maps on February 10, 2011.

“We’ve learned a lot and been excited to see real estate companies use Google Maps in innovative ways to help people find places to live, such as Coldwell Banker’s use of Google Maps and YouTube, or Realtor.com’s Android app that lets you draw a shape on a map to find all properties you’re interested in.

“Yet we recognize that there might be better, more effective ways to help people find local real estate information than the current feature makes possible. We’ll continue to explore this area, but in the meantime, Google offers other options to home-seekers: you can still access other information in Maps such as local businesses, directions and transit times, as well as aerial and Street View imagery to explore where you might want to move, and also use Google search results to find helpful real estate information and websites.

“Real estate companies can also continue to use tools from Google to help connect with buyers and renters who use the Internet to research properties. For example, companies can use the Google Maps API to embed customized maps that are useful to potential clients right on their own web pages. Our Google for real estate professionals site contains various methods for generating leads and improving real estate business operations.”

The property portals’ reactions have been quiet, but Sheraz Dar, Acting Group Marketing Director at The Digital Property group said,

“Homehunters have a complex and often comprehensive set of criteria when searching for a property, and as such need more information than a simple listing. As Google acknowledge themselves, an immense effort goes into producing a property portal. Here at The Digital Property Group we fully understand these needs and through our property portals FindaProperty.com, PrimeLocation.com and Globrix.com we provide a wide variety of tools to assist the homehunter in their search”

So for now at least, estate agents’ concerns about For Sale by Owner (FSBO) damaging their already struggling businesses, and the property portals sensing a very real danger that agents wouldn’t need them, it is back to the status quo. The reason being that nobody actually raced to google Maps to find a home; it seemed just as easy to look at the clean, clear details on a portal, or even, for the real old fashioned types, in the newspaper or actually, heavens above, in the estate agents’ windows. Proof perhaps that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

http://www.thebfa.org/news/news.asp?id=1476&filename=1476news110102.asp&titl