All posts by davisbrown

“Lease”ten to me, p”lease” !

jack russell boss or business dog listening with one ear very carefully

For a nation that once effectively dominated the world, we seem to occasionally be caught off-guard by something as trivial as an extended cold snap and a bit of snow!

Our office is still dealing with the fallout after the recent “Beast from the East” weather phenomenon affected some properties in our portfolio.

Our management team try to live by the motto “the impossible we do immediately – miracles take a little longer (but not much)”.  Instead we found that little problems quickly became serious issues due to the inability of our maintenance contractors to get to some of our managed properties.

Something as simple as a frozen basin drain outlet quickly evolved into a full blown insurance claim for damages due to water backing up.  A boiler failing (as they always seem to do on Friday afternoons after 17H00!) becomes much more than a temporary inconvenience.

We were going to launch into some inane and well-recycled advice on precautions to take before freezing weather strikes, but it has already been force-fed to us by the media and frankly we are all sentient beings who should be able to figure most things out for ourselves!

Lease agreement document with keys and pen

One thing that struck us as our property management team worked through the various challenges that the weather presented, was the question of who was responsible for what.  We deal with some fairly complicated matters and both our tenants and our clients often make certain assumptions that are not necessarily based on fact.

Our portfolio is a mixture of residential blocks, commercial properties and assured shorthold tenancy (AST) management.  As a company, Davis Brown offer a wide range of services and some serious expertise.  We like to think of our team as the glue that binds all this together. Where things often come unstuck (yes I really went there) is when people don’t read their leases.

A lease is after all a document containing the rules which govern the relationship between a landlord and a tenant. It is easy to forget though, as property professionals, how hard it might be for someone not in the profession to understand the implications of their lease covenants.

Some guidelines on what to look out for are irrespective of whether you are a landlord or a tenant are as follows:

  • Make sure you understand the tenant /landlord relationship in the lease – for example is it a straightforward landlord and tenant relationship, or in the case of the residential block, is there perhaps a “Right to Manage Company” involved or have the lessees collectively purchased the freehold?
  • Take the time to carefully read the description of the premises described in the lease. Usually this defines where the flat/office/leased unit starts and begins.  Pay particular attention to whether things like the windows and doors are part of the premises (and therefore your responsibility) or not.  Does the property you rent include the roof space or the void below the floor?
  • Check the rent is correct and when it is due – this can be quite a contentious issue and the rents may be due on unusual dates.
  • Check what you are responsible for, and if unsure speak to your managing agent or landlord to clarify this. Leases often contain sweeping clauses like “the lessee shall keep the interior of the property in good order and repair including all fixtures….”  An innocuous looking clause like this has serious implications, and forewarned is forearmed as they say.
  • Take the time to understand the service charge provisions if these are applicable to your lease. Usually there is a landlord responsibility to provide services and maintain the common parts and retained parts by way of a service charge.

Above all else you should feel free to speak to us if you have any queries about your lease – we are very happy to “leaseten” to you and help wherever possible!

Take Heed for the next Big Freeze.

While the ‘Beast from the East’ has now ceased, our building surveyors in W1 share some  common building defects to be aware of in time for the next big freeze…

Snow on street in Broadwater. Worthing. Sussex. England

Blown Brick Faces

Typically found on areas of brickwork with high exposure and/or older bricks which have not been well maintained or re-pointed when required. This occurs when water saturates an area of brickwork before freezing where it expands by 9% within the brickwork, causing the faces of the bricks to flake off and crumble away. A common cause of this problem is where a wall has been re-pointed using the wrong type of pointing. If a wall was originally pointed with a lime mortar and is re-pointed using a stronger, more rigid and less porous cement based mortar, then water within the brickwork is unable to escape and more likely to freeze internally.

Frozen Water Supply

It is important to ensure that there are no unlagged water pipes externally as the water within would be at risk of freezing which can cause the pipes to burst. It is advisable to lag any exposed pipes so that enough heat is kept within the pipework so that the water remains free flowing. Once a pipe has frozen, which becomes evident when the flow of water from your tap slows or stops, it is important to attempt to thaw the affected area as soon as possible before it bursts and potentially damages your property.

Icicles hanging from the gutter, and snow on the roof causing drainage problems for an old building in winter.

Moisture Ingress through Roofs

If there is a build-up of snow present on a roof, the internal heat of the building can cause the snow present on the roof tiles to melt and run to the outside edges of the roof, the coldest part of the roof. The water can then re-freeze at the edges of the roof and create an ice dam which causes a build-up of snow behind it, once this snow melts it can cause water to pass underneath the roof tiles close to the perimeter of the roof.

Heavy Loading from Snow

More prevalent on flat roofs, an excessive build-up of snow can cause the roof to be over-stressed which in turn can cause it to sag and/or leak. This problem can be exacerbated if it is an older roof with poor drainage. It is important to contact a structural engineer or surveyor to take a look at your roof in the event that you notice additional sagging during or after a heavy snowfall.

Detail of mold, dirt and water drops on the window


Where you have a pitched roof, within the attic space, ensure that there are no gaps within the insulation of the floor space, particularly if there is a build-up of snow present on the roof. If there is a gap where warm air from the level below can pass through then this can cause condensation to occur on the underside of the ceiling within the attic. A dramatic build up in condensation can lead to mould and rot occurring to the timbers of the roof. It is also advisable to ensure there is adequate ventilation to avoid a build-up of condensation.

Beat That Beast From The East!

house insulation concept. copy space

With this week being the coldest week in over 5 years with temperatures lower than the North Pole – time to put the kettle on and hunker down!

The cold weather can make everything a lot more uncomfortable for each of us, however when it comes to finding your new home there are several key factors to look out for to help you avoid turning home into an igloo.

While looking for your next abode, be sure to check those windows. Double glazed windows are nowadays the norm with the majority of properties, especially new builds and there is a very good reason why – it keeps in the heat. Without proper insulted windows your home could lose up to 10% of its heat, not to mention up to 10% of your bank balance.

Have you ever walked around a new property and all of a sudden felt a horrid draft but don’t know where it’s coming from? No, it’s not the ghost of tenants past, chances are it’s because there could be a window that doesn’t close properly, it could be that there is a gap in the window where the hinge will not pull the sash in. Always ensure you take a good thorough look around the property, preferably during sunlight and be sure to check out each and every window.

Cozy home. Candles, book and cup of tea

Bear in mind if the property that you are interested in is in a protected area or if it listed, those beautiful vintage widows that can come with the property are likely to be single glazed. It may be worth checking if they have or can have secondary glazing installed.

Insulation is also one the best things that can help keep your flat warm, like a strong winter coat. When it comes to heat, around 25% is lost through the roof. This can be easily reduced by installing insulation throughout the loft. It’s also worth seeing what’s going on in your walls, as around a third of the heat in an uninsulated home is lost this way. Your EPC should provide you with this information, not just the energy performance of the property.

Are you familiar with those old boilers that are being kept together by duct tape and look like a mummy from ancient Egypt is going to pop out of it any second and scare the life out of you? Well, you guessed it, stay away from those!  There is a much higher chance of it breaking down in the bitter months and leaving you without heat.  Instead, always try to secure a property that has either a newly fitted boiler or at least a combi boiler and remember, like a well looked after car, your boiler will need to be serviced on a regular basis to ensure smooth running and minimise those pipes from freezing and bursting.

Finally, as the famous saying goes ‘heat rises’. Apartments on ground and lower ground levels tend to be a lot cooler than those above the first floor. Those top floor apartments of course come at a slight premium, however you will be saving money in the long run and best of all you are getting ‘free heat’ from the flats below!

Georgie spills the beans on working at Davis Brown..


Hi Georgie – what is your job title & what does it entail?

I’m the administrator for both the residential and commercial departments.  I look after the teams as a PA/Secretary, diary management, drafting and distributing property particulars, liaising with clients and tenants, drafting Heads of Terms, AST Agreements, obtaining references, dealing with solicitors, sending out the invoices, you name it really.  I also liaise within Davis Brown with the accounts team, property management team, the works really.  And yes, I’m always welcomed back with open arms (as well as a long list of things to do) after I’ve been away on holiday.

How long have you been working at Davis Brown?

God, that’s giving my age away! It’s got to be 12/13 years now.

So you’re part of the furniture then!  You must have seen many changes over the years, what has been the most significant change for you?

Yes, very much so.  The biggest change is trying to become a paperless office – far easier with the younger team members – the older chaps, not so much so.

Where were you working before Davis Brown & what drew you into the property sector?

I worked for 10 years in the hotel industry in reservations & sales.  To be honest, it’s not that different.  If you can book the right conference room for 500 sales reps, you can find the perfect office for your client.  Same with residential, matching the right flat with the right tenant is very similar to booking the right bedroom for your guest.

Can you tell us a little about how the processes for residential and commercial properties differ?

The process is very different.  On the commercial side, once the boys have negotiated the deal and we have sent out the Heads of Terms to solicitors, you can relax slightly, they do all the legal paperwork.  My main job, once terms have been agreed is chasing both sides and making sure the deal completes.  On the residential side, it is much more personal, you get more involved with matching the right tenant to the right landlord/property.  We also deal with all of the paperwork and contracts ourselves, no passing the buck on this one.

What is it about Davis Brown that’s kept you here for so long?

Apart from my Directors chaining me to my desk you mean?  No, seriously, it’s the people.  We have a fantastic team, not just the residential and commercial guys, all of us work hard to ensure a really good working environment and everyone takes pride in what they do.  Also, having Bertie (our office dog) greet you of a morning always puts a smile on your face; plus being estate agents in Fitzrovia, we have plenty of lovely restaurants and shops in the vicinity to keep us entertained at lunchtime!


Tell me about what makes Davis Brown the best place to buy and sell property? 

Knowledge.  Without doubt, that comes across in spades.  It may seem like we have a young team, but boy, do they know their stuff.  Some of the older chaps seem to know a bit as well!!!

Tell me what you think Davis Brown has that keeps its clients loyal?

Again, that’s easy.  As we are RICS accredited, our clients know that we have to maintain very high standards.  We are honest and our clients know that.  Being able to offer a “one stop shop” is a great advantage.  You can sell, buy, improve, refurbish, extend, have your party wall dispute with your neighbour dealt with, get a mortgage valuation, building survey report and after all of that, our property management department will look after what is normally the biggest asset you own.  Not bad for a company of under 20 staff.

What are you doing when you’re not at work?

Sleeping……….. No, really, I’m fortunate to have a wide circle of friends who I meet up with often over a glass or two of vino but spending time with my family mostly.  I’ve have 3 sisters (all married with children/step children) and am lucky that both my parents are  fit and well so Sunday lunch with mum and dad is always a good bet.

Being one of the longest standing members of the team, you must have a little secret you can tell us about your boss?!

Well, there was that one time my Director asked me to… No, actually, I’ll leave it there, as previously mentioned, I enjoy working at Davis Brown…!


Tenants allowed pets? Whatever next?!

Naughty dog home alone - yellow labrador retriever destroyed the plush toy and made a mess in the apartment

The Labour party have recently proposed that every tenant should have the right to keep a pet in their rented property. It is common practice for many Landlords to forbid pets within a property, and this can lead to eviction if terms are broken in the lease. This could end up being a vote-winning tactic by the Labour Party appealing to ‘the many’ that are unable to own a pet. The question is whether this is actually feasible and what would the actual consequences be if every tenant had the legal right to have a pet in their rented accommodation.

Every pet owner is aware of the amount of damage that can be caused, however well trained they may be. Taking this into account would the Landlord be able to charge a higher deposit to pet owners to cover the damage? As many may not declare owning a pet prior to moving or acquire one part way through the tenancy would this result in rental deposits increasing for all tenants so the Landlord can cover the damage at the end of the term? If so this could prevent people from moving into a new home as the initial rental costs become too high! If plans come into cap deposits, as has already been proposed, we may end up with some very unpleasant contaminated flea ridden properties. Let’s not forget that not everyone looks after their pet as well as you may do.

Pug dog having a siesta an resting in bed on a pillow on his back , tongue sticking out looking very funny and wrapped with blanket

For people out there who highly allergic to pets you could have a lot of thinking to do. You may have specifically chosen your apartment block or shared accommodation because of a strict ‘No Pets’ policy. Well sadly for you, this could no longer be the case so get prepared to find a new home if a pet owner moved in to the same building!

It is common for many Head leases to prohibit any pets within a block! This means that it is impossible, however hard a Government may try, to force the Landlord of the rental property to give permission for pet access, as they themselves are restricted by the over-riding Head lease. Has this been considered by those who made the proposal?

It can often be the case that tenants who can keep a pet are longer serving tenants, and often people are forced to give away their animals to rescue centres if they move into home where pet ownership is not allowed. Giving all tenants the right to have a pet therefore appears to be a very liberating concept. There are however, so many glaring pot-holes, some of which mentioned above, that this would likely create far more problems than it was actually worth.



There’s a rat in my kitchen, what am I going to do?

Kitchen pilferers. Now we know who steals meal!

Music is a wonderful thing and thankfully there is  a song for just about every situation.

Up on the 4th floor where all the property management magic happens, we like to keep it light while we scurry around trying to get to everything.  We have a nice team up here and there are moments of banter and hilarity despite the pressure (and probably because of it!).

The song of the week up here is “Rat in my kitchen” by UB40 because unfortunately we are not the only things scurrying about, and lately there have been quite a few reports of rats and mice in some of the properties we manage.

Self-doubt immediately crept in and began gnawing at us (sorry- couldn’t resist!).   Who is responsible  and what can be done?

We turned to one of the pest control companies we use for some facts – knowledge is power after all !

There is a great deal more to effective pest control than meets the eye and it turns out that rats and mice are very versatile creatures capable of causing severe damage to properties including fires from chewed electrical cables, spreading diseases and contaminating furniture and goods.

rat in pot

They are also very good at reproducing, and an occasional sighting can quickly turn into an infestation if immediate action isn’t taken.  Mice are apparently more of a problem than rats because they are drawn to warmth and food sources  and tend to nest in close proximity.  Both need to gnaw on things constantly to keep their incisors short as their teeth grow  constantly.

The general consensus is that poison in appropriate bait boxes is the most effective way to deal with them along with traps, although there are more humane “catch and release” options.

It appears that the best way to combat a mouse or rat problem is to first remove any obvious food sources and then to make sure they do not have easy access to your home by taking measures to cover any holes or gaps in walls and around pipes (apparently steel wool is effective for this). Fixing a bristle strip to the bottom of doors can help too. Follow this with a comprehensive pest control treatment which should be repeated every 6-8 weeks for at least 3 treatments to be sure.

Some of the properties we manage are residential blocks and multi-tenanted commercial buildings and most of our activities in this sphere of property management are limited to the common parts.  Our pest controller’s advice is that sometimes it may be necessary to extend the treatment regime to the tenanted areas  as well as the common parts because the pesky critters will ignore the tasteful bait box in the lobby  and will happily play hide and squeak  and have a “mice” time in the office or flat next door!

Awww rats – that’s enough for now – make sure you read the lease on who is responsible for pest control in tenanted areas but keep an open mind that a wider approach may be necessary and treat the appearance of rats and mice immediately.

Good admice sorry – advice!





What might have occurred before the Party Wall Act…

Did you ever wonder how we managed before ‘The Act’ or how it may have helped to ease neighbourly relations if it had been available when some historical structures were built? There must have been a bit of trouble with the neighbours from time to time. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs and you can’t build a wall the breadth of Scotland without risking a ‘Glasgow handshake’.

In what follows, we explore some examples from antiquity of grumpy adjoining owners, builders from hell unrestrained by the wise and conciliatory determinations of a brace of party wall surveyors and rampaging building owners. 

Before the Party Wall Act………

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa in Tuscany, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the most recognized and famous buildings in the world.

The leaning tower of Pisa is surely one of the most instantly recognisable buildings in the world. It is the campanile or bell tower of Pisa cathedral. Its construction spanned hundreds of years and was supervised by legions of architects. Generations of adjoining owners suffered and no doubt fumed. Here we imagine how just one of the neighbours may have grumbled about the usual things. 

A letter  from a Concerned Neighbour 

The Villa Cassandra

Via Pandora 13


1st April 1198

Snr. B.Pisano


Pisa Cathedral


Re: The Bell Tower

It is with mounting irritation that I find it necessary (yet again) to write to you with a complaint about your building work at the cathedral site which adjoins my property.

As if it were not enough having to put up with the blood-curdling screams of the English stonemasons every time they whack a finger with a mallet – I know they are cheap but do you not see their monumental incompetence – it is now clear that your building is not straight by which expression, as if it needed explanation, I mean vertical. It leans, Sir; it leans. If it leans any further, the bells, if the English don’t steal them first, will be entirely in my airspace.

The reason for the tower being, forgive my directness, ‘p****d’ is that the masons are short-changing your client by using smaller stones on the side out of view. My poor great-great grandfather would turn in his grave, knowing that he had allowed this monstrosity to be built on what the Holy Father was pleased at the time, to call “the line of junction”. The floors slope so much now that I regularly throw back articles that have fallen off into my garden. I have a fine collection of mallets, chisels, a lump hammer that brained my wife’s favourite cat and what I take to be a mason’s ceremonial codpiece.

We were told that “projecting footings” might be placed on our land. Blow the footings, the whole darned thing is on our land.

Another thing; when will it be finished?  The work started at least four Popes ago. You are the umpteenth architect, your predecessors having died of old age or boredom. At the present rate of progress, the chiming pocket watch will have been invented well before ‘topping out’ and the whole exercise will have been futile.

Your engineer, Snr. Da Vinci is beyond a joke (is he really an engineer? He spends his time drawing naked boys and girls – I see him from my window). When he last visited me to check the inclination as he puts it, he said “This tower”; his actual words, mind, ”is good for a thousand years”. Well, really! One puff of wind and the whole thing will be a pile of rubble in my vineyard – and who’s going to pay for it to be cleared up?

I will and have, put up with most things; the overpowering stench of fish and chips from the stonemasons’ mobile canteen, impenetrable clouds of dust from their stone cutting (which has wrecked my rhododendrons) and their vile shrieking penny whistle music; but the endless procession of artisans’ donkey carts with their unwashed drivers trundling up and down Via Pandora day after day, is the giddy limit. This is a superior residential locale, not the fishermen’s quarter of Naples’. You know very well how much we pay in Council Tax to live here!

They are not supposed to work on Sundays but they do. They collect up the dung shed by their incontinent beasts and on Sundays hawk it around as garden manure; as if I would let English donkey doo-doo anywhere near my roses.

I urge you to abandon this ill-starred adventure. There should be a law protecting the interests of those unfortunate enough to share a boundary with the criminally insane.

Your troubled and long-suffering neighbour,



Being Estate Agents in W1, Fitzrovia we like to keep our ear to the ground of what’s hot & what’s not in the Interiors World.   With many top notch interiors show rooms in our vicinity,  it’s easy to do just that!  2017 saw the rise of all things copper, marble and green, and as we step in to 2018, we have asked Emma to give us her thoughts on interior design predictions for the year ahead and the trends that she would like to hang around for a little longer.   Here’s what she said…

G R E Y is here to stay!

3D illustration. The interior of gray bedroom with a wooden table

It’s probable this neutral hue is here to stay. And why not? I love grey. It’s timeless and looks great in any interior. It is a versatile colour and is often used as a base colour of an interior scheme. Lighter hues can create a bright, crisp and simplistic setting while warmer and darker hues can create something more moody, cosy and sophisticated. It works well to pair them together or you could create a contrast by adding vibrant and bolder colours. I am a bit of a sucker for piaring lighter and darker shades of grey with soft pinks or emerald greens – sumptious!

We are G O L D!

Gold Light blog

Gold is the metal of 2018. A little more sophisticated than copper, gold compliments pinks, navys and greens. Think gold accessories – door handles, candle sticks and lighting. I love antique gold and brass accessories. I am currently using Olson Pendant lights from Heals for my latest  interior design scheme in Fitzrovia.

V I O L E T S are blue!

Rendering of a Modern chic classic luxury white European interior with violet velvet sofa


Pantone released Ultra Violet as 2018s colour of the year. I’m not sure I could paint an entire room in it (remember Rachel and Monica’s apartment from Friends!) but I’ve always quite liked tones of purple linked subtly to a scheme. Purple is associated with Royalty and could make an interior look fabulously regal. If you’re a bit like me, you could use it in a couple of scatter cushions, a lamp shade or perhaps some glass door knobs on your favourite cabinet for a change.

W A L L  A R T  C L U S T E R

photo or painting frames set

Cluster together your favourite prints, photos and pieces of art to create your own wall gallery. If you have tendancy for order though, this might not be for you but a wall gallery can look really effective and is a chance to display all your favourite pictures.  Choose your wall carefully and think about the ratio of the number of frames to the size of the wall.

Pantone 2018

Grunge purple interior with modern sofa - rendering-the art picture on wall is a my composition

Each year a colour is chosen by the company Pantone as Colour of the Year.  You may have got wind by now that the pantone for 2018 (“pantone” meaning “a system for matching colours”, not to be confused  with “pannetone” an Italian sweet loaf cake, often scoffed around Christmas time), is…wait for it…18-3838, also known as Ultra Violet. Yup, an I-mean-business, in your face, shocking vibrant purple – pretty much describes this shade.  This colour is no shrinking violet.

Purple is often associated with royalty, nobility, luxury, power, and ambition. The colour has also been known to represent wealth, extravagance, creativity, wisdom, dignity, grandeur, devotion, peace, pride, mystery, independence, and magic. Each year the shops become awash with the chosen colour, so you’ll have plenty of ultra violet to get your hands on if you wish to do so, but what can we realistically do with this proud purple colour?  Unless you connect with all of the above/ are Barbara Cartland/want to make a really bold statement, I would err on the side of caution and use sparingly.  Accent your bathroom with a hand towel or a toothbrush holder and soap dispenser.  A cushion or a vase in the bedroom or sitting room will add a splash of colour.  But my best tip would be to find some beautiful purple flowers, they’ll die naturally (so no need to feel guilty about throwing them out), they’re inexpensive, and it would be the perfect, diplomatic, subtle nod to the colour.  The perfect win win situation!  And just as a side note – Davis Brown. estate agents in W1, will not be changing the colour of their logo any time soon..


Predictions for the UK Property Market in 2018

London Skyline

2017 was an unusual year both in the UK and overseas, showing increased uncertainty in the UK property market. BREXIT has been hugely responsible for this uncertainty within the UK and there have been signs that the number of deals decreased towards the end of 2017 as investors became increasingly cautious. It looks like this may continue into 2018 as negotiations in Europe and other national and global political decisions remain completely unpredictable. So how could this affect the UK property market in the next 12 months?

Although companies are being more cautious the office market, especially in Central London, is expected to remain relatively active. This is primarily due to a significant lack of available office units on the market. In London’s West End much of the development, over the last couple of years, has been the conversion of office blocks to residential units. This includes projects like Centre Point at Tottenham Court Road creating in excess of 80 luxury flats. In 2017 Davis Brown (being estate agents in Fitzrovia) continued to let offices in Fitzrovia despite concerns that activity may slow as companies were becoming reluctant to move or even move to cheaper locations outside of Central London. This is expected to continue into 2018 as there are a limited number of offices on the market, and rents achieved are likely to remain consistent.

As consumers’ attitudes change increasingly towards purchasing online, along with the worry of increased inflation, it has been predicted that secondary high streets are likely to struggle, whereas main streets with flagship stores are less likely to be affected. Despite this, areas such as Kentish Town Road are becoming more popular locations. New leases have just been agreed with increasingly upmarket brands and this will attract further retailers and likely result in overall rental increases in the area.

This continuing change in shopping behaviour has increased the requirement for industrial warehouses and distribution centres. Over the last few years demand for industrial units has increased leading to rental increase and continued development, so likely to remain an attractive investment to many investors.

The residential property market struggled in 2017 due to a change in Stamp Duty – particularly in Central London and on second homes. The severe lack of housing still means there continues to be a rise in rents and increase in sale prices in highly populated areas. Incentives made by the government to assist first-time buyers have not been sufficient for many people to be able to buy a home, especially in London. This has resulted in many unable to get out of renting a property, putting increased demand on the rental sector. The RICS have recently predicted that an additional 1.8 million rental homes will need to be built by 2025!

Despite certain markets appearing to remain strong the level of uncertainty is likely to remain high for many investors, so as a result will be focusing on more risk adverse assets. Properties occupied by tenants with strong covenants for lease terms in excess of 15 years similar to the Nuffield Centre in Newbury, currently on the market with Davis Brown, are likely to appeal more to investors as the rental income is guaranteed.

We can only wait and see what happens to the UK property market over the next 12 months; however it may not be as bad as many scare-mongers believe. As the pound still remains low it is likely that many overseas investors will continue to invest.