10 Weird and Wonderful Things About Flats

I’ve found 10 Weird and Wonderful things about flats! Living in flats myself, this really interests me. 

The global population predicted  to rise from 7.6 billion to 9.8 billion by 2050.  Two thirds of us are expected to live in a city by then and it’s highly likely we’ll be living even closer to our neighbours!

10 Weird and Wonderful Things About Flats

There are already a high proportion of flats in the UK.  The Government estimates 2.75m private leasehold flats across in England. This works out to an eighth of properties, not including Scotland and Wales!

Deacon Insurance specialists told us 10 weird and wonderful things about flats past, present and future. I just had to share them with you!

10 Weird and Wonderful Things About Flats

The Romans built the first flats

Did you know it was the Romans who built the first flats? Rome’s success led to massive population growth in the first century BC. Housing became a major challenge so the Romans built stronger, higher structures.  They used concrete, based on lime and volcanic sand. This allowed them to create new architectural forms, while a standardised brick allowed for speedy and reliable construction. Early multi-storey blocks typically had shops on the ground floor with apartments on two or more floors above. These multi-storey blocks were called insula or “islands”. They were called this because they usually occupied an entire city block. Roads flowed around these blocks like the sea.

2. Forest flats!

Two Milan apartment buildings have trees swaying on balconies and sunshine dapples the leaves of thousands of plants creating a vertical forest!  Milanese architect Stefano Boeri created the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) using more than 20,000 trees and plants. These adorn the high-rise buildings from top to bottom. This project is now being exported all over the world, from China to the Netherlands. Trees are good for cities and the people that live in them.

3. Forgotten for 70 years

You have to read this to believe it! Back in 1934,before the outbreak of hostilities of WWII, a famous actress called Marthe de Florian fled her Paris apartment for the south of France never returned. Extraordinarily, the owner of the building never noticed!  When he died in 2010, experts called in to assess the value of his estate and stumbled across a scene that was frozen in time.  The flat was left untouched by time!

4. Shapeshifters

It may sound like science fiction, but the world’s first shape shifting rotating tower block is set to be built for Dubai by 2020 according to architectural firm Dynamic Group.

5. Recycling on a gargantuan scale

In our inner cities some of the biggest re-cycling projects of the millennium are taking place. Where familiar buildings are being saved from demolition or neglect by being converted into flats. This means the original character and features of landmark buildings are preserved. The BBC Television Centre at White City, Battersea Power Station and the Hoover Building in London are fine examples. The first residential tower block in the UK, “The Lawn”, was constructed in Harlow, Essex in 1951. This is now a Grade II listed building. Conversions are taking place across the country with no shortage of buyers for urban loft apartments in prime city centre locations. The trend is set to continue!

6 That whistle in your apartment block is a train coming through!
Chinese planners wouldn’t let a railway get in the way of the need to build more flats. Apartments were desperately needed in the emerging mega-city of Chongqing. So the train line simply goes straight through the residential building!

7. Tallest, Smallest, Largest – where in the world?

Currently, the Dubai’s iconic Burj Khalifa skyscraper is the tallest in the world standing at 72 metres high.  In 2020 this is set to change as the 1000 metre mile high Jeddah Tower, with serviced apartments, is set to claim the prize of being the world’s tallest building. For a while anyway!  

The Chinese city of Wuhan has serious concerns of overpopulation so they’ve gone tiny.  The city has built two person apartments that are only 50 square feet! 

As for the largest, the first prize has to go to The Copan Building in São Paulo, familiar to Sim City players as a building they can drop in.  The 38-story residential building comprises over 1,160 apartment units and homes more than 5,000 residents!

8. Going underground and underwater?

It may seem crazy but architects are looking seriously at the possibilities of building down rather than up! In 2011 a so-called Earthscraper for Mexico City was mooted, a 35-storey upside down pyramid. The concept is still on the drawing board, with a host of practical and structural challenges to overcome. The Mexico City proposal is still the only plan to have been seriously put forward. With 70% of the earth’s surface covered by water, surely underwater cities are next? Sure enough, Aequorea, a visionary city that would be built off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, has been proposed.

9. Most expensive

Unsurprisingly, London ranks No.2 in the world for the highest cost of a city centre flat, second only to Hong Kong. How do living costs vary within the UK? MSN Money looked at different costs of living in UK cities , with housing as the major component. Not surprisingly London came out top, you need £7090 a month to live a comfortable life. Oxford, Edinburgh and Brighton at £5000 a month come very close. Ouch! You could commute and halve your living costs. Southampton residents need ‘only’ about £3000 a month. Although after years of rail strikes and woes, that could be cold comfort.  If money were no object? The UK’s most expensive flat, valued in October 2018 came in at £160 million.  It’s address?  One Hyde Park, London. SW1

10. The last word…..the legacy of feudalism

People are often amazed to learn that it is still possible to lose your flat and be left with nothing if you break the terms of the lease or don’t pay service charges! No matter how long you’ve been paying your mortgage or service charges, this still applies.

It has become harder over the years for a freeholder (aka landlord) to get you out and claim the flat, but it can happen.  Where did such a feudal practice come from? Land law in Britain owes much to the feudal system that developed following the Norman Conquest with the rights to grant inferior interests (aka leases) in land and to take income from these.  

By the 16th century, the law of leases in England and Wales had become a very confusing system. An attempt to tackle this was the Law of Property Acts 1925, which limited ownership to either freehold or leasehold as we do today. Interestingly, covenants on freehold property defines only what you cannot do. On leasehold they can also say what you must do, such as pay for the upkeep of an asset still ultimately owned by the freeholder!

In Scotland it’s all very different, where no duty to pay ‘feu duty, the equivalent of ground rent, could be set up after 1974. No residential lease for more than 20 years could be created.  The feudal structure was finally abolished in Scotland in 2004. Further laws since have converted long leases 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 at www.deacon.co.uk

4 Tips To Help You Take Control Of Your Finances

Here are 4 tips to help you take control of your finances provided by Chrissy Gladstone. A lot of us struggle with our finances and it’s always great to find out how to take control.

4 tips to improve your finances


A research has found that some Britons have no long-term financial plan for savings and investment goals. According to a study conducted by the Bank of England, 27% of citizens in the U.K. have no form of emergency savings. In fact, another survey claims that less than half of working-age residents have £100 in their current savings.

Taking the time to manage your monthly income can help you pay off current debts and prepare for the unexpected emergencies that can happen at any moment. Not to mention, you can give yourself an early start towards your pension or save for your dream vacation. So how do you get started?

Here are 4 tips to help you take control of your finances.

Set the Budget Straight

One of the best ways to build financial wealth is to create a budget calendar. Understand your total interest rates, calculate your monthly and annual income, and monitor your net worth. It will take a little bit of effort, but it is a great way to understand how much money you have coming in and how much you spend going out.

When setting up a budget, you will be:

  • Less likely to build debt
  • Less likely to spend on unplanned expenses
  • More likely to improve your credit rating
  • More likely to get approved for a loan or mortgage
  • Able to make better savings in the future

Starting your plan with a clear budget will give you a better picture to see the major expenses and a better opportunity to save money. In addition, it will also help you see whether you are living within your means.

Get Technical With Your Budget

Most of us use our gadgets for everything – staying in touch, playing games, watching videos, and even searching for the next family recipe. So, why not use your smartphone to stay in control of your budget? Using tech apps can help improve your finances and reduce the stress of financial planning. There are some great budgeting apps available online. Just be sure to follow the appropriate security measures when giving out personal details online.

Pay Off Credit Cards and Loans

Credit cards are a great way to build credit and make large purchases instantly – that is until you acquire debt. While this step may take years to finish, you will be able to pay off your credit card and loans for good. From there, can you start saving for future goals as well as feel less stressed when your bills are due.


Once you have finally established a hefty saving, now’s the time to figure out what to do with it. One of the most common mistakes many of us make is to leave it as it is without much profit in return. Make a plan to put your savings to good use. You might want to invest in stocks, real estate property, or shares in a growing startup.

The hardest part of paying off your debt is taking the initial step. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed once you realize how much you are spending every month and tempted to ignore the growing demands for payments. However, once you start taking control of your finances, you will slowly begin to pay off what you owe and work out what you need to accomplish next.

What do you think of these 4 tips? Have you done any of the above before or considering them?

Improve Finances And Reduce Stress Using Technology

Want to improve finances and reduce stress using technology? I love technology and always welcome anything that reduces stress and helps improve finances due to my own mental health. Here is some advice* to improve finances and reduce stress levels using technology.

Improve Finances Using Technology


Use Technology To Reduce Stress And Improve Finances

A recent study has revealed that 14 million people worry about their finances every day. A shocking statistic which rings true for many. Mental health concerns affect many Brits. Whilst you shouldn’t pin everything on how much money you have or haven’t got, it’s difficult not to get stressed about money when the cost of living continues to rise. However, there is good news for the millions of stressed Brits worried about their finances. The key to taking control of your money is to reduce your stress levels. Technology is a great tool to help alleviate stress and there are such great mental health apps available to help you achieve just that.

Utilising technology

Wherever you turn, you’ll find yourself surrounded by some form of technology. Your home is probably full of gadgets such as smartphones, tablets, voice-activated home assistants and game consoles. Whilst over-use and over-exposure to technology has been linked to stress, there are ways in which you can effectively use technology to boost your mental health and reduce your stress levels to allow you to make smart financial decisions.

When stressed, individuals often make poor financial choices, such as purchasing high priced goods to make themselves feel better, only to instantly regret it when the item arrives, thus increasing stress. However, technology can be utilised in these times. If you’re staring at your online bank account and are worried about the balance, ask your voice-activated home assistant to play some calming music, such as whale music which is known to reduce stress levels.

Reading technology

Reading has been proven to reduce stress levels. Before you make any spur of the moment purchases, grab your electronic reading device and lower your stress levels. You can reduce your stress levels by as much as 68% by taking time out and enjoying a couple of chapters of a good book. Just six minutes of reading can make you feel calmer and more relaxed. Be sure to carry reading material with you wherever you go.

Debt and technology

Gadgets allow individuals to check their bank balance wherever they are and at any time of the day. This can be both a blessing and a curse. Students are often knee deep in debt which can cause them much stress. If you’re a student looking to consolidate your student loan, be sure to use organisational software first to get everything in order. That way you can review your finances with a clear, stress-free head.

Stress is a factor which people across the UK and around the world contend with every day. We face a lot of stress especially when it comes to sorting out finances. However, technology is a great tool to use to stay calm, reduce stress levels and stay on top of your finances.

Do you think you could Improve Finances And Reduce Stress Using Technology to?

*In collaboration with Chrissy Gladstone.