Tracey Knott, 54, is a small-scale landlord with a leasehold buy-to-let flat in Birmingham that has internet speeds slower than the average. “It’s not much better than dial-up and has been an absolute nightmare,” she said.
In July last year her tenant tried to get the internet upgraded but Openreach could not install full fiber without permission from the freeholder, Persimmon, the housebuilder. Ms Knott stepped in in January and has chased the building’s managing agent, Gateway, every fortnight.
Ms Knott is now worried that she will struggle to find new tenants because of the low internet speed when her tenant leaves this later this year. “I’d probably have to take £50 off the rent,” she said.
She is worried the property could be unletable as more and more properties get faster internet. “If everyone else has 1,000Mbps, I’ll only be able to let people who don’t use the internet. And I’ve yet to meet anybody who doesn’t,” she added.
house price falls will come
Once Openreach has upgraded the majority of homes to full fibre, the gulf between properties will be extreme. Mr Bateman said: “Speeds of 30Mbps are sufficient for people’s needs today. But the way we live and work will accelerate as 1,000Mbps becomes normal.”
This is likely to prompt house price falls. Research by the London School of Economics suggested an upgrade from 30Mbps to 1,000Mbps would bring a premium price of 3pc – an uptick of £8,310 on a typical home.
Gabriel Ahlfeldt from the LSE said this premium would be higher in urban areas that rely heavily on internet-based services. In London I have estimated the premium at 6pc, equivalent to an extra £31,800 on the value of an average home in the capital.
However, once Openreach’s rollout is complete the situation would flip and homes without full fiber would be discounted “A fast and reliable connection will be universally expected and if it can’t be offered, sellers and landlords will have to be willing to accept significant discounts ,” Mr Ahlfeldt said.This could amount to a drop of between 3pc and 6pc.
Vanessa Hale of Strutt & Parker estate agents said the shift to homeworking meant broadband was more integral.
“Nearly half of homeowners wouldn’t consider moving to a house without good broadband,” she said. “Homes that don’t have a first-rate broadband connection will be undesirable.”
More punishment for leaseholders
Mr Betts added that many of those who will be deprived of upgrades are in the same blocks that have been hit by the building safety crisis that emerged in the wake of the 2017 Grenfell fire.
“It is another injustice of the leasehold system. It is totally unfair, particularly as flats very often have problems with ordinary reception, meaning the importance of having better internet is even higher. This is a very, very big issue,” said Mr Betts.
A Government spokesman said: “We agree that unresponsive landowners should not prevent residents from accessing fast, reliable broadband. That’s why we introduced a bill to encourage faster and more collaborative negotiations between landowners and telecoms firms and last year we passed new laws to fast-track companies’ access to blocks of flats where the landowner is not responding to requests.”
A Persimmon spokesman apologized for the difficulties at his property. “Given the unacceptable delay, we have contacted both Openreach and Gateway to try to resolve any outstanding issues and will work with them to ensure the necessary approvals are granted as soon as possible,” he added.