Tag Archives: landlord

Introducing Mark Edwards Guest Articles, Guest Columns, Latest Articles

I first met Mark Edwards back in 2002 when he was a client of my former mortgage brokerage, and also an HMRC Tax Investigator. Mark Edwards - Residential Property Landlord and Finance Broker

Mark Edwards - Financial Adviser and NACFB Broker

I instantly recognised Mark’s ability to comprehend and break down complex problems and to research and present solutions effectively.  These are the hallmarks of a good finance broker.

Within a few weeks I had convinced Mark to give up the safety net of his employment and to join our team at The Money Centre as an Associate Partner. Mark went on to be the #1 fee earner in the business for several years, regularly producing in excess of £1 million of annual fee income.

Based in London, Mark now owns and manages a portfolio of 40 investment properties with a value of circa £12.5 million as well as running his own successful brokerage. I recently asked him why he is not sat on a yacht somewhere in the Caribbean these days – his reply was “I’d be bored” – I can relate to that too 🙂

Mark and I are old friends and kindred spirits in many ways. We both relish in the challenges and rewards associated with helping landlords to progress to another level. I am delighted that Mark has agreed to work alongside me again and to help Property118 readers by writing articles about niche lending criteria and financing strategies.

UPDATE – you can read Mark’s articles and Case Studies HERE

To view Mark Edwards Property118 member profile please click here

Contact Mark Edwards

 


Looking to get into property investment or expand your portfolio? Buy to Let Property Hotspots, Latest Articles, Property For Sale, Property Sales & Sourcing, Property Sourcing, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Back in September 2013 I wrote an about an HMO investment opportunity which could be of interest to people wanting a relatively low risk, low hassle investment so far as property goes. It was a sponsored article and every enquiry raised funds to help support the running costs of Property118. Interest levels were reported to be very high and a sufficient numbers of enquirers went on to purchase these investment to prompt the company to ask us to re-run the article. Looking to get into property investment or expand your portfolio?

You should, of course, do your own due diligence before committing to making a purchase though as we do not take any responsibility for any purchase decisions you make. I’ve used the same PR creative for the deal below where you can request a PDF document containing a lot more details. Please note that the PDF document will usually be sent to the email address you provide within two working days although we are not in control of this process.

[display_iframe src=”/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Keystone118-NEW.html” height=”1060″]


Councils lose Court cases over HMO licence fees HMO's & Student Lets, Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Three cases have recently been tested in the Courts whereby Councils have charged more for HMO licensing then was reasonable.

There are rules to prevent Councils using HMO licensing to raise funds for other activities.

Hemming v Westminster City Council: The case outlines the type of costs that councils can recover through locally set licence fees and the processes councils have in place to ensure fee setting is transparent and open to scrutiny. The key issue addressed was whether the fees set by Westminster City Council complied with the requirements of the European Services Directive 2009 and the interpretation of Article 13(2) of the Directive. The Services Directive also makes it clear that licence fees covered by the Directive can only be used to recover costs and should not be used to make a profit or deter service providers from entering a market. Councils lose Court cases over HMO licence fees

Crompton v Oxford City Council: The power to charge fees in respect of HMO licensing is found in s63 of the Housing Act 2004. Importantly, this power is granted in respect of licence applications only. Oxford City Council has sought to charge a fee for the variation of an HMO licence. The Residential Property Tribunal (RPT) ruled that the fee was unlawful and that it could not be charged.

Bristol City Council v Digs (Bristol) Ltd: The defendant was the private landlord of a maisonette in multiple occupation. The council brought a prosecution for failure to obtain an HMO licence and for breaches of the HMO regulations. A District Judge at Bristol Magistrates Court tried the preliminary issue of whether the maisonette was a licensable HMO. It extended over two storeys of a building with a further entrance corridor and hallway on a lower storey. The council included the lower storey in deciding that the HMO extended to three storeys. The Judge held that having regard to Article 3 of the HMO (Prescribed Description) (England) (Order) the maisonette was not an HMO. The council had been wrong to include the lower storey. In the light of that ruling, the council offered no evidence and the defendant was acquitted.

In the wake of these rulings the NLA is asking all local authorities in England to contact any affected landlords, informing them of their right to appropriate refunds and providing details of how they may make a claim.

Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer at the National Landlords Association (NLA), said:

we have asked local authorities to come clean about the level of fees they have charged private-landlords, if they were entitled to make these charges, and when they will refund any money unjustly demanded.

Mr Lambert went on to add:

“In writing to all local authorities in England we’re acknowledging the good working partnership many private landlords have with town halls, but making clear they should not be absorbing the costs of overcharging to support other council functions”.


Boiler Theft – Copper and Carpets Too! Latest Articles

I had a call about one of my properties in the Middlesbrough area that has gone downhill quite a way since I bought it 10 years ago.

It was one of John Paul’s merry crew at Castledene who told me that the place has had its back door kicked in, all copper piping, cable, boiler and even the almost new carpets pinched. It has been void for 2 months despite the offer to the local Homeless Unit and other caring organisations.

Evidently there are no homeless people in Middlesbrough who would like what is effectively a free (LHA rate only) 3 bed house, newly decorated and carpeted, with a modern gas central heating system and UPVC windows and doors. I am even throwing in cable TV and broadband free for 6 months and £100 to help with removal expenses!

So the loss adjuster has been in and sucked air through his teeth and we are in the process of getting estimates to make good. It hits the 90 day vacant limit of my insurers next week (The NLA members scheme at Alan Boswell) and I am told that none of the insurers they use for vacant property will accept it while a claim is in progress, so I am not going to have theft, accidental or malicious damage cover as of then.

Crime Prevention officers helpfully suggest that we don’t reinstate pipes, cables or boiler until, immediately before occupation. Not realistic as it’s hard enough to let as it is!

I have bleated to the council asking what is being done about this result of their selective licensing elsewhere in Middlesbrough driving the less desirable to my area. No useful reply as yet despite the mayor being Ray “Robocop” Mallon the former controversially tough “Zero Tolerance” copper.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Mallon

Questions:

1. How to get insurance worthy of the name until I have a tenant
2. How to get the place (and one in the next street) tenanted
3. (Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition) Best security measures to prevent a repeat. There is an alarm system there, which I am looking into having reinstated, assuming it isn’t working, and I plan to arrange curtains, blinds and lights on timers.

Many thanks

Jerryburglary


SEAL – South East Alliance of Landlords Landlord News, Latest Articles

SEAL - South East Alliance of Landlords

Members of the South East Alliance of Landlords (SEAL) are putting together a bedsit task force to go Street to Street in Southend in a war on neighbours from hell.

Judith Codarin, secretary of SEAL said: “We will choose sections of streets that are troublesome. We will find anyone who lives there and listen to issues. We will try to find landlords who aren’t members, talk to them and try to get them to join.”

SEAL was formed to coordinate a response to Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s plans to introduce Selective Licensing. It represents owners of almost 6,200 properties with hopes to represent 95 per cent of the local rental sector within three years.

SEAL – South East Alliance of Landlords

SEAL members can be easily identified by a sticker in a front window of their properties.

All but one of the 65 complaints received to date, varying from maintenance issues to more complex Freehold problems, have been resolved by SEAL, the last received to be dealt with within the next few days.

Self-regulation in this way is hoped to free up Southend Council to concentrate on non-members, but with only four Council officers to police over 6,000 other rental properties tenants home-owners are still suffering from a few bad landlords and nightmare neighbours.

Chairman Martin Ransom hopes to set up a new arm capable of helping landlords bring low-quality housing up to standard and said: “We have brought in a new member of the board with experience in this area. He has worked with a specific landlord, with whom the council has had historical issues. He has worked with him to get him up to standard.”

As quoted on their own website “By becoming a member of SEAL, you are demonstrating that you are willing to agree to a higher standard of management. It is vital that SEAL membership is widespread throughout the Borough of Southend as the larger our membership base, the more we can demonstrate to the Council our effectiveness. It is important also that membership continues to grow, as if SEAL fails, the Council retains the power to reconsider Selective Licensing.”

Mark Alexander, founder of Property118 and The GOOD Landlords Campaign commented “it is refreshing to see this kind of initiative and especially one so well supported. We have a long held opinion that Selective Licensing is not the answer to anti-social behavioural problems or criminal elements operating in the Private Rented Sector. We hope the group will take a look at the enforcement model being adopted by Lewisham Council and learn from that. The SEAL initiative could prove to be a superb method of routing out and reporting the worst offenders. Sadly a handful of criminals can spoil the reputation of an entire sector. Enforcement is required, NOT a stealth tax on good landlords which is ignored by the true villains.”


Thought provoking HMO and selective licensing question HMO's & Student Lets, Latest Articles, Question of the Week, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

The importance of my question is that, depending on the answer, it may be a way for landlords to bypass requirements for HMO licensing,  selective licensing and the problems associated with article 4 restrictions.

Yes it’s a simple question but with enormous consequences and to my knowledge the question has never previously been asked.

Just suppose a landlord rents a 5 bed three story town house to Mr X and gives him permission to take in up to 4 lodgers.

Does the property require an HMO licence?

Please bear in mind the landlord will never actually know how many lodgers the tenant has taken in and the number will change frequently.

To my knowledge there is no legislation to suggest that a tenant can’t also be a resident landlord.

I have checked the legislation and whilst I accept I might have missed something I can see nothing to answer this question.

Thought provoking HMO and selective licensing question

I raised this question on the HMO Facebook Group and so far I’ve not got a clear cut answer there despite several responses and comments

I look forward to reading your comments below.


Contra proferentem mortgage conditions Advice, Buy to Let News, Cautionary Tales, Commercial Finance, Financial Advice, Landlord News, Landlords Stories, Latest Articles, Mortgage News, Property Investment News, Property Investment Strategies, Property News, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Unless you are a qualified contracts lawyer who has also studied Latin you will probably not have a clue as to how contra proferentem mortgage conditions affect you. I have spent the last two weeks getting my head around it as it was a key point in the barristers opinion for the Bank of Ireland Tracker Mortgage Class Action which has stalled due to all funds raised for that campaign having been exhausted. Therefore, for the benefit of everybody with a tracker mortgage who may be affected by a hike in their tracker mortgage margin at some point, and in particular to those affected by the decisions of West Bromwich Mortgage Company and the Bank of Ireland I offer this laymans interpretation and my thoughts on how we should progress.

Very simply, the contra proferentum law is created to enable judges to decide which conditions apply if contractual conditions are in conflict. In other words, if the contract has two or more conditions and they don’t all say the same thing one of the conditions will apply and the others will not.

The relevance of this is that West Bromwich and Bank of Ireland have conditions in their mortgage documentation and some conditions contradict others.

The law goes on to say that the judges interpretation of what the contract means will be the condition(s) which are in favour of the person to whom the contract was presented. To put it another way, if your mortgage conditions were presented by West Bromwich or Bank of Ireland the judge will rule against them because they wrote the contract and the most favourable of the conditions will be applied to you. 🙂

There are, of course, several more legal arguments our lawyers could throw at the enemy, however, in my opinion the contra preferentem argument is without any shadow of doubt our best shot

Other legal arguments will only suit some of our Class Action Group. For example, there appears to be no legal definitions of a sophisticated landlord but West Bromwich think it is anybody with more than three properties. Let’s say we win that battle and the Court decides it’s six – anybody with seven or more isn’t going be too happy are they? I will be one of them! Also, what good would that do for those affected by Bank of Ireland or by any other lender who tries this on? Remember, Bank of Ireland has a different criteria and is not using the sophisticated borrower argument. Other lenders will no doubt make up their own excuses too. What we need is a win which will affect ALL mortgage lenders.

Many people are arguing that they didn’t receive the Mortgage Conditions from their lenders. Well sorry folks, maybe you did, maybe you didn’t, but I can assure you that you signed a piece of paper before your mortgage completed to say that you did. The Mortgage Deed I signed for my West Bromwich mortgage states “By signing this Mortgage you confirm the terms of the Standard Conditions of Offer, the Special Conditions and the Mortgage Conditions”.

There are many more arguments which I could play devils advocate with which have been raised on our forums. With a bit of thought I reckon I could win most of the arguments and I’m not even a qualified solicitor. I am, however, in the same boat as you so please don’t shoot the messenger. I’m also affected by these increases and I’m doing everything I can to make sure we win this fight. In my case that’s been 18 hour working days for the last three weeks and a lot more time on the Bank of Ireland case since it reared its ugly head earlier this year.

That’s why I would like Justin and the barrister to lead with what I believe is our best shot – contra proferentem mortgage conditions.

If we ask our lawyers to look into every legal argument we have presented on our forums we will run out of money before we get to first base. What I would prefer is that we fight the one universal truth which is that our mortgage terms are contra proferentem. If we lose and we still have some money left there’s nothing to stop us appealing on other grounds as well.

For the above reasons, do you agree that we should ask our legal advisers to focus on contra proferentem mortgage conditions?

There are lots of other things we can do as a group to be a thorn in the side of these lenders in the meantime. For example, I love the PR campaigns and lobbying we are sharing ideas on. We must continue to win the hearts and minds of the media and every centre of influence we can think of. I also applaud the tactics being used to make these lenders lives a misery, for example the Subject Access Requests. Perhaps the most important thing we can do whilst we wait for the legal bods to advise us is to spread the word. We need to get every borrower we can find with a tracker mortgage to sign up. There are also plenty of other landlord groups who can help us to do this and it’s in all of our interests to put as much pressure on them as possible to get involved and spread the word amongst their members.

Contra proferentum mortgage conditions as I see it

I owned a substantial number of buy to let properties at the time of my mortgage application and still do. The chances of me proving that I was not a sophisticated landlord are very slim but I do have an argument to suggest that property investment was not my line of business at the time I took the mortgage. All of my properties were professionally managed in order to allow me to focus on my career as a commercial finance broker. I did not consider myself to be a professional investor at the time I took out this mortgage, the purpose of investing into a property portfolio was to provide for my retirement. I don’t want Justin or the barrister to push that angle though, I think it’s a waste of money as everybody’s situation will be very different.

Neither my mortgage broker nor my solicitor were aware of the rights of West Bromwich Mortgage Company to increase the premium they charge on my tracker mortgage rate. I did read the Mortgage Conditions brochure at the time  and at the time I sincerely believed that section 5 of the Mortgage Conditions was not applicable. Note that I am also a qualified mortgage adviser and IFA. I believed that section 5 of the mortgage conditions booklet was only relevant to mortgages written on the building society’s standard variable rates, which do not track the Bank of England base rate. This was supported by the marketing materials being used by the West Bromwich to promote their tracker mortgages. Also, there was no mention of such a vital clause in either their KFI document or their offer letter. Clearly my solicitor was mislead too. I suspect everybody who was affected by the Bank of Ireland rate hike would also say the same thing.Contra proferentem mortgage conditions

So having established that I read the booklet and I signed to agree to all of their terms, including those in their Mortgage Condition booklet, what makes me believe West Bromwich are still in the wrong?

  1. Their website said, and to this day still continues to say “Tracker mortgages give you the certainty of knowing that the rate you pay will move in line with Bank Base Rates.”
  2. My offer letters states “After 30th June 2010 your loan reverts to a variable rate which is the same as the Bank of England Base Rate, currently 5%, with a premium of 1.99%, until the term end”

Logic tells me the above are in conflict with Section 5 of the Mortgage Conditions booklet which I signed and received. On the basis that West Bromwich produced the booklet, their website, and the Mortgage Deed I believe there is a clear case of conflicting conditions and ambiguity, hence the conditions they are relying upon are contra proferentem. On that basis, a judge MUST rule against West Bromwich as they are the originators of the documentation. It’s not like we are asking for the mortgages to be written off, all we want is the terms and conditions we believed we had signed up for.

We MUST win a Court Case before even more lenders follow suit.

The deadline for submission of instructions has now expired. However, it may still be possible to join the representative action subject to paying Court fees and an additional cost to cover associated administration. For details please email : carla@cotswoldbarristers.co.uk


Marketing Fund for our Class Actions against tracker mortgage margin increases Buy to Let News, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Mortgage News, Property Investment News, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Several people have left comments on our forums or emailed me personally to say that they are not affected by any of the tracker mortgage rate rises at the moment but want to contribute to a fund to help discourage other lenders from following suit.

I am concerned that the Class Action against BoI appears to have stalled and I am keen to get this re-started at the earliest possible opportunity.

The starting point for this is to promote what we are trying to achieve in order to reach the remaining 12,300 borrowers affected by the BoI increases.

We need to put a lot more pressure on the FCA to seek their own advice based on our barristers opinion and the defence presented to them by the BoI.

We believe the FCA’s response was a whitewash.  They have simply used the BoI response to our case as a reason not to pursue it.  They have not obtained their own independent advice so the FCA is not acting as an independent arbitrator.  The BoI response is a note from their barrister who they asked to find ways round our argument.  It is not an independent review of the actions of BOI. The FCA has not given us a chance to respond to the BOI arguments. They have simply taken their version and gone with it.  Much of their arguments are shaky to say the least.

I am confident the announcements from West Bromwich Building Society and the outrage from borrowers and associated press coverage will strengthen our case to FCA to reconsider their position but I also feel we must press on with matters ourselves and recruit more support from the industry by reaching out to more affected BoI borrowers.

To raise the game I would like to post a letter to every mortgage broker in the UK to let them know about our Class Action campaigns against West Bromwich Building Society and the Bank of Ireland. I can rent a database mailing list of all their names and addresses from Experian or Equifax and I have an established relationship with a company which will mail-merge and print the letters, put them into envelopes and post them for 39 pence each including postage. There are thousands of brokers, I will find out exactly how many tomorrow when I hear back from Experian/Equifax.

Most mortgage brokers will have received telephone calls from concerned clients but may not know about our Class Action campaigns. The best most of them will have been able to do is advise their clients on the viability of remortgaging and in most cases this will not be justifiable even with the rate hike to the tracker margins.

Having been a mortgage broker myself I know the value of being helpful to clients in distress as it results in goodwill and referrals. Brokers will also be concerned about loss of credibility and the potential of losing business and income if they are not seen to be able to help. If brokers know about our campaigns they will refer their clients to us.PR Fighting Fund for our Class Actions against tracker mortgage margin increases

Once we have a lot more people signed up a new plan of action will be formulated and details of costs to take part will be distributed. The Class Action funding for the West Brom case has been costed out to £240 per property. To keep things fair to all those who have contributed so far, existing contributions will be deducted from the amount due at the next round of fund-raising.

Ideally I’m hoping that you will donate £50 to the marketing fund mentioned above, less is fine if you can’t stretch to that, more is obviously much better.

Would you be prepared to help fund this?

If so please PLEASE CLICK HERE


Enforcement not legislation – PRS Hit Squads Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

There is already more than enough funding and legislation to police the Private Rented Sector.

The last thing we need is more legislation, what everybody wants is enforcement and word on the street is that we could begin to see it before the end of 2013. Ben-Reeve-Lewis

PRS Hit Squads

The authorities all know who the real criminals are and the only reason the criminals are still in business is because those holding power don’t combine resources, in fact they rarely talk to each other. Until now they have all run scared of “data sharing protocols” but when that’s put to one side expect to see some very big cases of criminal landlords being taken to task.

I have heard that PRS Hit Squads will target known criminal landlords between now and Christmas and are supported “in principle” by the likes of Mark Prisk, Boris Johnson and others who openly admit to not being fans of the licensing model being operated in Newham. I’ve also heard that six figure funding for a trial has been agreed at ministerial level.

These “PRS Hit Squads” as I’ve labelled them will comprise of:-

  • Environmental heath
  • HMO licensing
  • Planning
  • Anti social behaviour teams
  • EDF revenue
  • Building contol
  • UKBA
  • Police

The plan is that they will share intelligence and converge on criminal landlords in a military style operation, focussing on the worst operators first of course. With their combined resources the criminals will not stand a chance. It will be like a man with a pea shooter trying to fend off the SAS 🙂

Beware the Spin Doctors!

My hope is that the PR outcome of the PRS Hit Squad successes will be positive and support the need for the model to be extended nationally. It is a very low cost model and the results should save the tax payer money as well as improving peoples lives (unless you are one of the targeted criminals of course!). The last thing the PRS needs is for the successes to be used as justification for more regulation. The spin doctors will see this as an opportunity to justify schemes such as Newham but this must not be allowed to happen.

Landlords can be victims too

Landlords are also the victims of criminals and I have seen some very sad examples of that. A recent case in the Fens involved a landlord who let his former home to a Gang-master. Unbeknown to him the unregulated Gang-master then allowed 20 immigrant farm workers to live in the property, all sleeping on mattresses on the floor. When the landlord found out he obviously wanted them out ASAP, as did the neighbours of pretty culdesac in which the landlords 4 bad detached property was located but the law stood in the way. Had the landlord been able to go to the authorities, secure in the knowledge they would fight for him, it would have been a Godsend to him. Instead, the authorities are threatening the landlord and not the Gangmaster! Clearly common sense isn’t that common.

Let’s hope the PRS Hit Squads are successful in taking down criminals and then lend a much needed helping hand to landlords who are also targeted by criminals. If common sense prevails we might just see more action and less talk. When all is said and done, more is said than done, but fingers crossed let’s hope that not the case here.

The Highland Fling

Earlier this year the Scottish Association of Landlords reported that landlord registration in Scotland has cost landlords £11.2 million in fees while the start-up Scottish Government grant for the scheme was £5.2 million. According to the results, since 2006 there have only been 40 rogue landlords identified as operating in Scotland, that’s the number of rejected applications. The cost equates to £400,000 per rogue identified!

Summary

The schemes in Newham and its copycats also show signs of being similar “White Elephants”, therefore I’m pinning my hopes on the PRS Hit Squads taking down as many criminals as possible, proving once and for all that it’s more enforcement not legislation we need. Enforcement not legislation - PRS Hit Squads


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