Lunchtime news Thursday 23 August 2014

Following yesterday’s reports that several high street banks were unhappy with home information packs (Hips), HSBC and Barclays have denied the claim. The lenders said they just wanted them ‘vetted by a solicitor’. A spokesman for HSBC, the high street bank which has four per cent of the new mortgage market, said that ‘we have never accepted private searches rather than those from a solicitor…We just need to be sure that the customer’s solicitor will sign off the search so that it is covered by their personal indemnity insurance’.

Across the pond, Lehman Brothers, the investment bank, has become the largest Wall Street institution to exit the sub-prime mortgage market. Until recently, Lehman was one of the biggest dealers in the market, racking up $50 billion of sub-prime debt in the past two years.

In another housing market wobble, America’s largest builder of luxury, top-end homes warned that it was seeing the highest level of cancellations in its 21-year history. Profits have fallen 85 per cent in the three months to June, following a 17 per cent drop in new home contracts.

The number of empty homes and second homes in Scotland has risen by 11 per cent in the past 10 years, standing at 101,445 houses in 2013. SNP MSP Christine Grahame highlighted the issue saying she was particularly concerned by a rise of 104 per cent in South Lanarkshire. She added that there were a number of options to reverse the trend including taxing the owners of vacant property. Meanwhile, in parts of the Barnsley area in South Yorkshire, homes are being demolished and rebuilt because they are undesirable, including numerous council homes in areas where there are waiting lists for houses. Owner-occupiers will be offered the chance to be bought out at market prices and will also be paid a ‘home-loss and disturbance’ allowance. They will be given priority when new houses are built, along with council tenants who will be moved into temporary accommodation whilst the work is being comopleted. The works will cost £15 million.

It’s official: noisy neighbours and incessant traffic can kill you. Up to 6,500 Britons are dying after suffering health problems like heart attacks and strokes, brought on by noise pollution. The World Health Organisation reported that three per cent of deaths from heart disease can be traced back to the stress and exposure to noise. The data, whilst preliminary, shows that complaints about noise have increased five fold in the past 20 years.