10 weird and wonderful thing about flats

10 weird and wonderful things about flats

With two-thirds of the UK population looking expected to be living in cities by 2050, due to the rise of a global population predicted to be from 7.6 billion to 9.8 billion, it is highly likely that we will end up living closer to our neighbours than ever before.

A high proportion of properties in the UK are flats, and the Government estimates that about an eight of all dwellings is around 2.75million private leasehold flats in England, not including Scotland and Wales.

Block of flats insurance specialist Deacon* shares with us their 10 weird and wonderful things about flats, from our past, present and our future.

Romans built the flats first

Romans built flats first

Housing was a significant challenge to the Romans thanks to Rome’s success in the first century BC, which led to a surge in population. So, to meet expectations, the Romans built higher and stronger building structures made from concrete (based on lime and volcanic sand), which allowed them to create new architectural property forms, while a standardised brick allowed for quick and sturdy construction. Early multi-storey blocks of flats would typically include shops on the ground floor and apartments across two or floors above the shop which was called insula or “islands”, due to occupying an entire city block, with flowing roads.

Vertical forest in Milan

Vertical forest in Milan

Milanese architect, Stefano Boeri used more than 20,000 trees and plants to create the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), a project that is now exported all over the world, from China to the Netherlands. In the heart of Milan, you can find theses swaying trees and leaves surrounding two apartment buildings, and few people would deny that trees are good for cities and the people that occupy them.

Paris apartment forgotten about for 70 years

Paris apartment forgotten about for 70 years

Back in 1934, before the outbreak of hostilities of World War II, Marthe de Florian, a famous actress, fled to the South of France, abandoning her Paris apartment for good. The owner of the building never noticed that she had left and when he finally died in 2010, experts were called in to assess the value of his estate and found an apartment that had literally been frozen in time. The flat was just as it had been left, truly untouched by time!

First shapeshifting apartment set for Dubai

First shapeshifting apartment set for Dubai

The world’s first shape-shifting rotating tower block is set to be created in Dubai by 2020 according to architectural firm Dynamic Group

Recycling landmark buildings in the UK

Recycling landmark buildings in the UK

Some familiar buildings within our inner city are being saved from demolition and being converted into flats. The original character and feature of the landmark buildings will be preserved like the BBC Television Centre at White City, the Battersea Power Station and the Hoover Building in London. The Lawn, which was the first residential tower block in the UK, was constructed in Harlow, Essex in 1951 and it too is now a Grade II listed building. The trend is expected to continue as there is no shortage of buyers for urban loft apartments in prime city centre locations.

Chinese apartments with train lines

Chinese apartments with train lines

The Chinese needed to build more flats in the emerging mega-city of Chongqing, but they struggled with space. So they created more flats with a train line going straight through the buildings!

The tallest, smallest and largest buildings in the world – Dubai, China and Sao Paulo

The tallest, smallest and largest buildings in the world – Dubai, China and Sao Paulo

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest skyscraper in the world standing at 72 metres high. But that is soon set to change! In 2020 the 1000 metre mile high Jeddah Tower, with set to claim the prize of the world’s tallest build. On the other end of the scale, the Chinese city of Wuhan who has a severe overpopulation crisis, have one tine. They have built two-person apartments that are only 50 square feet. But the prize for the largest building is The Copan Building in Sao Paulo, which is a 38-storey residential building that comprises over 1,160 apartment unit and is home to more than 5,000 residents.

Earthscrapers and underwater cities to be proposed in Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro respectively

Earthscrapers and underwater cities to be proposed in Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro respectively

Architects are seriously looking into the possibilities of building down rather than up. In 2011 a so-called Earthscraper for Mexico City was mooted, which was a 35-storey upside down pyramid. It is still only a concept as there are a lot of practical and structural challenges to overcome, and the Mexico City proposal is the only plan to have been put forward ta the moment. With 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, it is possible that underwater cities will be on the drawing board. A possible underwater city, Aequorea that would be built off the coast of Rio de Janeiro has been proposed.

The most expensive building in the UK

The most expensive building in the UK

Hong Kong topped the scales for the world’s highest cost of a city centre flat, but the cost of living in the UK is much higher. MSN Money looked at the different value of living in the UK cities, with housing being a major component. Not surprisingly London came out on top, where you need a hefty £7,090 a month to live comfortably. Oxford, Edinburgh and Brighton closely followed at £5,000 a month. Of course, if you commuted in London, you could halve your cost. Southampton residents require ‘only’ about £3,000 a month. But, if money were no object, you could live in the UK’s most expensive flat in 1 Hyde Park, London SW1, which was valued in October 2018 at £160 million.

A complicated feudal system

A complicated feudal system

People are amazed to learn that even in this day and age you can still lose your flat and be left with nothing if you break the terms of the lease or you don’t pay your service charges or your mortgage! It has, however, become more difficult over the years as a freeholder (also known as the landlord) to get you out and claim the flat, but it can happen. Where did this feudal practice come from?

Land law in Britain owes much to the feudal system that was developed following the Norman Conquest where rights were granted with inferior interests (aka leases) in the land, to which you could take income.  By the 16th century, the law of leases in England and Wales became very confusing with the implementation of the Law of Property Act 1925, which attempted to tackle the system by limiting ownership to either freehold or leasehold. This is pretty much where we are today. Interestingly, covenants on freehold property only define what you cannot do. On leasehold, properties, covenants can also determine what you must do, for example, pay for the upkeep of an asset still ultimately owned by the freeholder.  It’s all very different in Scotland, where no duty to pay ‘feu duty’ – the equivalent of ground rent – could be set up after 1974, and no residential lease for more than 20 years could be created.  The feudal structure was finally abolished in Scotland in 2004, and further laws have since converted long leases of over 175 years into straightforward ownership.  

Deacon has specialised in providing buildings insurance and associated products for flats and apartments for more than 29 years. Find out more about Deacon Insurance at www.deacon.co.uk

Deacon is a trading name of Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered Office: Spectrum Building, 7th Floor, 55 Blythswood Street, Glasgow, G2 7AT. Registered in Scotland. Company Number: SC108909

The opinions and views expressed in the above articles are those of the author only and are for guidance purposes only.  The authors disclaim any liability for reliance upon those opinions and would encourage readers to rely upon more than one source before making a decision based on the information. The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited trading as Deacon accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.  All the links provided were active and working correctly at the time of publication but may not work in future. 

*Collaborative feature post*

Leyla Preston (564 Posts)

Leyla Preston is the owner and Editor of Motherhood Diaries global magazine for parents. Leyla is a busy mother of two even busier boys; Aron, 8, and Aidan, 6. When Leyla isn’t feeding, managing a gazillion tasks or cleaning the infinite mess at home, she is busy working on this magazine and a new cooking channel coming very soon – no rest for the wicked! You can follow Leyla on Twitter (@M_Diaries) or join the busy Motherhood Diaries Facebook group where all mums get together and share stories and solutions with one another: https://www.facebook.com//groups/motherhooddiaries/