Tag Archives: Local Housing Allowance

Readers advice for landlords letting to single tenants on Housing Benefit Latest Articles

Just wanted to post a note on here for those landlords who let properties to single people claiming Housing Benefit.

For people age between 25 and 35 there is an exception to the Local Housing Allowance restrictions if they have spent a total of over 3 months in a homeless hostel, at any time (even if decades ago, and not all at once, and in different LA areas). The exception also applies for those that have been in domestic violence refuges, or in residential drug rehabilitation.

This is sometimes not asked on Housing Benefit claim forms, or tenants don’t give these details as they don’t realise why it would be relevant, but it can make a huge difference to the amount of Housing Benefit a person may be entitled to, e.g. I have just obtained a backdated HB payment for one of my residents of over £1200.

When I first raised this with the Housing Benefit Dept they were not even aware of these exceptions, so I had to send them proof of the LHA exception criteria, but once accepted it has resulted in quite a few increased HB entitlements for my residents. I now specifically ask about past hostel occupancies on my housing application forms so that I can ensure the resident receives the correct entitlement.

Obtaining this for residents can make a big difference to tenancy sustainment, and reduction of rent arrears, leading to greater stability for both landlords and tenants, and the consequential reduction in void times and costs. Housing benefit


Rise in working families claiming benefits for housing Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

As early as Christmas working households claiming support for private sector rent could outnumber those in which nobody works, says a new report published tomorrow (Friday 18 October) by London Councils.

‘Tracking Welfare Reform in London’ reveals that just under 50 per cent of households receiving benefit in private rented housing in the capital have at least one person in work. Rise in working families claiming benefits for housing

If the number rises as expected London will be the only part of Britain where working households claiming benefits for private rented housing eclipse those where no-one is working. The report also found the number of people receiving help with their rent has fallen in inner London since May 2011, while in outer boroughs the number has increased.

Chair of London Councils, Mayor Jules Pipe, said: “Last year, private sector rents in inner London rose by 14 per cent, so it’s not surprising that more and more working families are turning to housing benefit to help them survive. Our latest research shows households claiming housing benefit, both working and non-working, are increasing in outer London and that is placing a greater burden on local services such as schools, transport, and social care.

“London Councils supports a fairer, more accountable system of welfare, but is concerned that the current reforms have the potential to be devastating for families and local services. We want the government to undertake a serious, full and fair assessment of the additional costs of welfare reform for London’s councils as soon as possible.”

London Councils, which represents the capital’s 32 boroughs and the City of London, is calling for London to be exempt from the below inflation rise in private sector housing benefit, known as Local Housing Allowance (LHA). It is concerned that the move, which will see LHA rates limited to one per cent growth for the next two years, could drive homelessness.

The report also found:

  • a 17 per cent rise in people claiming LHA since April 2011, with working households accounting for 96 per cent of that growth
  • the number of working households claiming LHA has doubled over four years, while the number of non-working households claiming LHA has increased by 10 per cent over the same period
  • the number of households on LHA fell in some inner London boroughs by as much as 30 per cent between May 2012 and May 2013, but grew by 10,000 in outer London, which equates to an overall rise of 7 per cent
  • a rise in the number of households accepted as homeless and in priority need in London since 2010. Around 41,000 households are now in temporary accommodation in London, having presented to their local authority as in urgent housing need
  • around 97 per cent of households affected by the benefit cap in the four pilot London boroughs contained children.

Why Aren’t We More Worried About Withdrawal of Benefits? Latest Articles, NLA - National Landlords Association

I am interested that I can’t see any response to, or comment about, George Osborne’s announcement last week to withdraw benefits to claimants – first for 1 month, then for 3 months. Am I the only landlord with social tenants?!

There are serious implications.

Here is an extract of a letter I am sending to Right Hon GO, and to Kris Hopkins, the NLA and any one else who will listen. If you have social tenants I’d urge you to do the same.

As a landlord in the private rented sector I house many tenants who are on benefits.
I know from experience that when a tenant’s benefits are withdrawn, all benefits are withdrawn, including housing benefit/local housing allowance.

In my experience this is always without notice to the landlord. The first that they will know is when the tenant does not pay their rent, or if they are on direct payment, when direct payment does not arrive.

However, I am sure that you will appreciate that in the meantime the mortgage and other bills still have to be paid by the landlord.

My concern is this.

Unless an element of the benefits is ring-fenced to pay the equivalent of housing benefit or local housing allowance, landlords such as myself, who house social tenants on benefits, could see rent payments not being made when benefits are withdrawn.

Under the current legal system there is a defined process by which landlords have to operate in order to gain possession of the property. In practice this can take anywhere months and, in exceptional circumstances, up to a year when a tenant does not comply with court orders and a bailiff needs to be appointed.

It is therefore entirely conceivable that if benefits are withdrawn from a claimant that the landlord will be left with a property with a non-paying tenant.

I would also like to point out that even if an element of the benefit were ring fenced to provide for rent, this would have to be paid directly to the landlord, otherwise I have no doubt that many tenants would use the money in lieu of job seekers allowance or whichever benefit has been withdrawn.

I would therefore urge yourself and Mr Hopkins to consider one or more of the following:

• In the event that benefits are withdrawn, either for one month, three months, or even longer, that an element of that benefit is ring fenced and paid direct to the landlord so that the tenant’s rent is covered.
• That legislation be passed to allow landlords to obtain fast track possession of the property where a tenant is has benefits withdrawn.
• That legislation be passed whereby mortgage lenders be required to waive mortgage payments where a tenant has benefits withdrawn and cannot, or will not, pay their rent.

Again I would urge you to consider these, as sadly, from experience, I know, and I am sure that many other landlords who house social tenants will agree, that the ‘punishment’ for not complying with the terms of claiming benefits will not fall upon the claimant, but will fall upon the landlord.

I would also urge the government, and particularly Mr Hopkins, to decide once and for all how you perceive the private rented sector, specifically in terms of housing social tenants through private landlords.

It seems to me that there is a lack of understanding within government as to the pressures and problems that private landlords face in housing tenants on benefits.

In this age of austerity where few council houses are being built, and the responsibility for housing social tenants’ falls mainly upon private landlords, it would be nice to think that the government support our efforts. Sadly, however, that does not seem to be the case as ideas are put forward, and legislation passed, which does little to help and much to hinder.

If it is still the intention of the government that social tenants are housed primarily by the private rented sector then can I humbly suggest that greater consultation is made with those at the sharp end who house social tenants, and that the ideas and legislation put forward encourage private landlords and not discourage.

Regards

Petergeorge osbourne


Bedroom Tax affecting private landlords?!!! Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

As everyone knows bedroom tax is not  tax, but the above is a handy way to refer to it. Bedroom Tax affecting private landlords

Earlier this year I received a simple very clear brief about this, written by the chief housing officer of Purbeck District Council..  The essential features of the measure are:

  1. It only applies to people of working age.
  2. It only applies to people who are receiving Housing Benefit/Local Housing Allowance or whatever else it may be being called to pay their rent.
  3. It only applies to those living in social housing, i.e. Council Housing, housing provided by a Housing Association, or by some other Registered Social Landlord.
  4. It is concerned with “spare” bedrooms.  Thus for example a household of one or two parents and one child is considered to need a 2-bedroom dwelling.  If this family is living in a 3-bedroom dwelling it has a “spare” bedroom. The benefit paid will be reduced by, I think, 14%.  The same principle applies to smaller families, larger houses, etc.

The purpose of this measure is to free up  publicly funded accommodation which is under occupied for households who need larger dwellings, as we all know.

In the light of this I have been surprised to read and hear of private landlords whose tenants are having their benefit payments reduced, essentially on the grounds of under occupation.  Now it is happening to me!

This has prompted me to contact the local councillor who is Chairman of Housing at our local council who in turn asked the chief housing officer whether the rules had changed since early in the year.  The answer is that they have not.  They remain as outlined above.

What is going on?

Best wishes,

Michael Bond.


Private Rented Sector Review – Conclusions and recommendations Landlord News, Latest Articles

The Private Rented Sector Review conclusions and recommendations published by the Communities and Local Government Committee:

Simplifying regulation

1.  We recommend that the Government conduct a wide-ranging review to consolidate legislation covering the private rented sector, with the aim of producing a much simpler and more straightforward set of regulations that landlords and tenants can easily understand. As part of this review, the Government should work with groups representing tenants, landlords and agents to bring forward a standard, plain language tenancy agreement on which all agreements should be based. There should be a requirement to include landlords’ contact details in tenancy agreements. (Paragraph 13)

2.  We recommend that the Government consult on the future of the housing health and safety rating system and the introduction of a simpler, more straightforward set of quality standards for housing in the sector. The Government should also ensure that planning and building regulations are consistent with standards for the quality and safety of private rented housing. (Paragraph 18)

Increasing awareness

3.  We recommend that, once the review of the legislative framework we have called for is completed, the Government, working with tenants’, landlords’ and agents’ groups, establish and help to fund a publicity campaign to promote awareness of tenants’ and landlords’ respective rights and responsibilities. Our recommendation for a wholesale review of the regulation in the sector provides the obvious platform on which to base a publicity campaign. (Paragraph 24)

4.  We recommend that the Government bring forward proposals for the introduction of easy-to-read key fact sheets for landlords and tenants, and consult on the information these sheets should contain. The sheets could include links to further information available online. As a minimum, the sheets should set out each party’s key rights and obligations, and give details of local organisations to whom they could go for further advice and information. This fact sheet should be included within the standard tenancy agreement we propose earlier in this chapter. (Paragraph 25)

Raising standards

5.  Some local authorities are doing excellent work to raise standards in the private rented sector, but there appears to be more scope for sharing this good practice, so that all councils are performing to a high standard. The Local Government Association should, as part of its sector-led improvement role, make sure that mechanisms are in place to ensure all councils learn from the good practice and take effective steps to improve standards of property and management in the private rented sector. (Paragraph 30)

6.  We are concerned about reports of reductions in staff who have responsibility for enforcement and tenancy relations and who have an important role in making approaches to raising standards successful. Given the financial constraints that councils face, it is important to identify approaches to raising standards that will not use up scarce resources. One approach is to ensure that enforcement arrangements pay for themselves and help to fund wider improvement activity. Therefore, where possible, the burden of payment should be placed upon those landlords who flout their responsibilities. (Paragraph 31)

7.  We recommend that the Government consult on proposals to empower councils to impose a penalty charge without recourse to court action where minor housing condition breaches are not remedied within a fixed period of time, though an aggrieved landlord would have the right of appeal to a court. (Paragraph 33)

8.  We recommend that, where landlords are convicted of letting property below legal standards, local authorities be given the power to recoup from a landlord an amount equivalent to that paid out to the tenant in housing benefit (or, in future, universal credit). We hope that such a measure will help to prevent unscrupulous landlords from profiting from public money. Local authorities should be able to retain the money recouped to fund their work to raise standards. To ensure a consistent approach, those tenants who have paid rent with their own resources should also have the right to reclaim this rent when their landlord has been convicted of letting a substandard property. (Paragraph 37)

Illegal eviction

9.  We do not agree that a statutory duty to have to take steps to tackle illegal eviction should be placed on local authorities, as it would be inconsistent with a localist approach. Nevertheless, it is again important that local authorities learn from each other and share best practice on tackling illegal eviction. The Local Government Association should ensure that lessons on illegal eviction are learnt and disseminated. (Paragraph 38)

10.  We are concerned that the police are sometimes unaware of their responsibilities in dealing with reports of illegal eviction. We recommend that the Department for Communities and Local Government work with the Home Office on guidance that sets out clearly the role of the police in enforcement of the Prevention from Eviction Act 1977. (Paragraph 39)

Licensing and accreditation

11.  The idea of national licensing has some merit, and such a scheme could bring a number of benefits, particularly if introduced alongside an effective system of redress. It is clear, however, that the Government has not been convinced by these arguments, and we have some sympathy with the Minister’s assertion that a national scheme could be very rigid. Having tailored local schemes may bring its own costs, especially for landlords operating across several areas, but on balance we would prefer to see local authorities develop their own approaches to licensing or accreditation in accordance with local needs. The Government’s focus should be on giving local authorities greater flexibility and encouraging the use of existing powers. (Paragraph 43)

12.  We recommend that the Government bring forward proposals for a reformed approach to selective licensing, which gives councils greater freedom over when licensing schemes can be introduced and more flexibility over how they are implemented. Councils should ensure that the cost of a licence is not set so high as to discourage investment in the sector. (Paragraph 49)

13.  We recommend that the Government give local authorities a power to require landlords to be members of an accreditation scheme run either by the council itself or by a recognised landlords association. (Paragraph 53)

14.  It is important that local authorities have options and tools to raise standards in their areas. Three particular options are: (1) greater use of landlord licensing schemes; (2) compulsory accreditation; and (3) taking a proactive neighbourhood approach to raising standards. In each of these cases, given resource constraints, the schemes have to pay for themselves, and, as far as possible, place the burden of payment on the unscrupulous landlords, with financial deterrents for non-compliance. Councils should be given the powers to impose heavy penalties on those who do not register for licensing or compulsory accreditation after appropriate notification. Neighbourhood approaches could be funded by local authorities recouping costs from landlords whose properties fail to meet minimum standards. We further recommend that the Government initiate a review of the fines imposed by the courts for letting substandard properties, to ensure they act as a sufficient deterrent. (Paragraph 55)

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

15.  We recommend that the Government conduct a review of the mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation. This review should consider, amongst other things, evidence of the effectiveness of mandatory licensing, how well it is enforced, and whether the definition of a prescribed HMO should be modified. (Paragraph 58)

16.  Where there are community concerns about high concentrations of houses in multiple occupation, councils should have the ability to control the spread of HMOs. Such issues should be a matter for local determination. We therefore consider it appropriate that councils continue to have the option to use Article 4 directions to remove permitted development rights allowing change of use to HMO. (Paragraph 63)

17.  Universities have a responsibility to ensure that student housing does not have a detrimental impact upon local communities. They should be working with local authorities and student groups to ensure that there is sufficient housing in appropriate areas and that students act as responsible householders and members of the community. (Paragraph 64)

Safety standards

18.  We recommend that the Government work with the electrical industry to develop an electrical safety certificate for private rented properties. To obtain such a certificate, properties should be required to have a full wiring check every five years and a visual wiring check on change of tenancy. Landlords should be aware of the legal requirement to provide safe installations and appliances. (Paragraph 66)

19.  We recommend that the Government introduce a requirement for all private rented properties to be fitted with a working smoke alarm and, wherever a relevant heating appliance is installed, an audible, wired-up EN 50291 compliant carbon monoxide alarm. (Paragraph 67)

Regulation of letting agents

20.  We recommend that, as part of its consultation on the redress scheme, the Government seek views on how best to publicise such a scheme and what penalties should be in place for those agents who do not comply. The Government should also explore how the redress scheme fits alongside existing arrangements for deposit protection. We further recommend that the redress scheme is accompanied by a robust code of practice that sets out clear standards with which agents are required to comply. (Paragraph 74)

21.  We recommend that the Government make letting and managing agents subject to the same regulation that currently governs sales agents. This includes giving the Office of Fair Trading the power to ban agents who act improperly, and making client money protection and professional indemnity insurance mandatory. (Paragraph 78)

22.  Any proposal to require sales agents to meet minimum professional standards before they begin trading should also be applied to letting and managing agents. In addition, if at any point a requirement for sales agents to be registered with an accredited industry body is to be introduced, this should be part of a wider framework also covering letting and managing agents. We recommend that the Government review these arrangements in two years’ time. (Paragraph 78)

Agents’ fees and charges

23.  We recommend that the code of practice accompanying the new redress scheme include a requirement that agents publish a full breakdown of fees which are to be charged to the tenant alongside any property listing or advertisement, be it on a website, in a window or in print. This breakdown should not be “small print”, but displayed in such a way as to be immediately obvious to the potential tenant. The code should also require agents to explain their fees and charges to tenants before showing them around any property. Furthermore, the code should forbid double charging, and there should be a requirement that landlords are informed of any fees being charged to tenants. If agents do not meet these requirements, the fees should be illegal. Finally, the professional bodies should make a commitment to full, up front transparency on fees and charges a requirement of membership. (Paragraph 83)

24.  We intend to gather further information on the impact in Scotland of the decision to make fees to tenants illegal, and to return to this issue in 2014. (Paragraph 86)

Longer tenancies

25.  The demographics within the private rented sector are changing. No longer can it be seen as a tenure mainly for those looking for short-term, flexible forms of housing. While some renters still require flexibility, there is also an increasing number, including families with children, looking for longer-term security. The market, therefore, needs to be flexible, and to offer people the type of housing they need. The flexibility of assured shorthold tenancies should be better exploited, and the option of using assured tenancies should also be considered where these meet the needs of landlords and tenants. That we are beginning to see some institutions and housing associations offering longer tenancies under the current law suggests that we do not need legislative changes to achieve them. Rather, we need to change the culture, and to find ways to overcome the barriers to longer tenancies being offered. (Paragraph 94)

26.  We recommend that the Government convene a working party from all parts of the industry, to examine proposals to speed up the process of evicting during a tenancy tenants who do not pay rent promptly or fail to meet other contractual obligations. The ability to secure eviction more quickly for non payment of rent will encourage landlords to make properties available on longer tenancies. The Government should also set out a quicker means for landlords to gain possession if they can provide proof that they intend to sell the property. (Paragraph 97)

27.  Some landlords are not able to offer longer tenancies because they are prevented from doing so by conditions in their mortgage. We are pleased that lenders are considering how such conditions can be removed, and that Nationwide Building Society is to begin allowing its borrowers to offer longer term contracts. We urge the Council of Mortgage Lenders to work with other lenders to ensure that they quickly follow suit. Lenders should only include restrictions on tenancy length in mortgage conditions if there is a clear and transparent reason. (Paragraph 100)

28.  We recommend that the Government include in the code of conduct for letting agents a requirement both to make tenants aware of the full range of tenancy options available, and, where appropriate, to broker discussions about tenancy length between landlords and tenants. (Paragraph 102)

‘Retaliatory eviction’

29.  There is a perception amongst some tenants that if they speak out it could result in their losing their home. Tenants should be able to make requests or complain without fear that doing so will lead the landlord to seek possession. We are not convinced, however, that a legislative approach is the best or even an effective solution. Changing the law to limit the issuing of section 21 notices might be counter-productive and stunt the market. Rather, if we move towards a culture where longer tenancies become the norm, tenants will have greater security and also more confidence to ask for improvements and maintenance and, when necessary, to complain about their landlord. Moreover, if local authorities take a more proactive approach to enforcement, they will be able to address problems as they occur rather than waiting for tenants to report them. (Paragraph 105)

Rents and affordability

30.  Problems with the affordability of rents are particularly acute in London and the South East. Although in other parts of the country average rents and yields are relatively stable, we are still concerned that some families are struggling to meet the costs of their rent. We do not, however, support rent control which would serve only to reduce investment in the sector at a time when it is most needed. We agree that the most effective way to make rents more affordable would be to increase supply, particularly in those areas where demand is highest. (Paragraph 110)

31.  There is no perfect way to set rent, but, where longer tenancies are being established, linking increases to inflation or average earnings, or voluntarily agreeing a fixed uplift each year merit consideration and could provide tenants and landlords with a degree of stability, though over time mechanisms may emerge as, for example, in the commercial property sector. Tenants’, landlords’ and agents’ groups should encourage their members to discuss these options at the outset of a tenancy. Existing arrangements for setting and increasing rent are often arbitrary and uneven, and reflect the immaturity of the market. (Paragraph 113)

Placement of homeless households in the private rented sector

32.  We welcome the Government’s use of secondary legislation to clarify when accommodation is unsuitable for homeless households. We expect councils to pay full regard to this order and to ensure that homeless households are only placed in suitable accommodation. Given that many of these households will be vulnerable, councils have a particular responsibility to ensure that the properties they are placed in are free from serious health and safety hazards. We recommend that, as a matter of good practice, local authorities should inspect properties before using them for the placement of homeless households. (Paragraph 117)

33.  All agree that, wherever possible, councils should be placing homeless households within their local area (unless there are particular circumstances that mean it is not in the households’ interests). It nevertheless appears inevitable that councils in areas with high rents, London in particular, will place homeless households outside the area, including in coastal towns. Before any placement, there should be a full discussion with the receiving authority and the prospective tenant and information about the household and its ongoing needs should be shared. The Government should consider making this a statutory duty. (Paragraph 121)

34.  We were pleased to hear of positive examples of work to support homeless households in the private rented sector, including the establishment of social letting agencies and the development of private rented sector access schemes. We encourage the Government to work with local government, the charity sector and industry bodies to ensure best practice is shared and lessons learned. (Paragraph 122)

Local housing allowance

35.  We recommend that the Government take immediate steps to allow councils to apply for a variation of broad rental market area boundaries where anomalies occur. (Paragraph 125)

36.  We recommend that the Government conduct a wide-ranging review of local housing allowance (LHA). This review should assess whether there is greater scope for local flexibility over the setting of LHA rates and the boundaries of broad rental market areas. Local authorities could be incentivised to reduce the housing benefit bill by being allowed to retain any savings for investment in affordable housing. (Paragraph 125)

Data quality

37.  We recommend that the Government establish a small task group of key organisations and academics to consider how data relating to the private rented sector can be improved and made more readily available. In addition, we encourage the National Audit Office to contribute to an effective evidence base about the sector and to draw upon our recommendations when developing studies on housing related topics. (Paragraph 128)

Tax

38.  We recommend that the Government, in reviewing the regulation covering the private rented sector, set out proposals for greater co-ordination between the tax authorities and those regulating the private rented sector. (Paragraph 131)

Increasing supply

39.  We welcome the introduction and expansion of the Build to Rent Fund. The Government should take steps to ensure that the fund makes a net addition to new housing, as well as speeding up the delivery of those homes already in the pipeline. (Paragraph 138)

40.  It remains to be seen how much impact the guarantee scheme for the private rented sector will have in delivering additional new homes. The policy may be well-intentioned in its aim to encourage organisations to have more confidence to invest in the sector, but the Government needs to measure results. We invite the Government in its response to our report to update us on the number of applications it has received for the private rented sector guarantee scheme, and to provide an estimate for the number of additional homes it expects the scheme to deliver. If there is any doubt that the scheme is going to deliver the homes required, we recommend that the Government rapidly explore other options for the use of the resources identified. (Paragraph 142)

41.  We welcome the establishment of the task force to promote and broker investment in build-to-let development, and are pleased that the task force is already in operation. It is important that this task force does not become another quango but quickly delivers on its objectives. We invite the Government, in its response, to set out the progress made by the task force in its first few months of operation. This update should quantify the amount of additional investment brokered, and the number of additional homes it would deliver. (Paragraph 144)

42.  Efforts to promote high-quality build-to-let development have commanded significant amounts of government attention and resources. One of the main arguments in favour of this approach is that it will lead to improved choice, quality and affordability across the whole of the private rented sector. It is too early to assess the impact, but a key part of the evaluation of these measures must be the impact they have on the sector as a whole. If, in a year’s time, there is no evidence of this broader effect, the Government must reconsider its strategy and look to other measures to boost supply across the sector as a whole. (Paragraph 148)

43.  There is an urgent need to boost supply across all tenures of housing. We recommend that the Government revisit the Committee’s report on the Financing of New Housing Supply, and set out proposals to implement those recommendations it initially rejected. (Paragraph 150)commons logo


Private Rented Sector Review – Summary Landlord News, Latest Articles

The Private Rented Sector Review summary published by the Communities and Local Government Committee:

The private rented sector has seen sustained and consistent growth in recent years. A structural change from owner occupation towards renting began a decade ago, long predating the economic downturn. The sector is home to an increasingly wide range of people—from young professionals to housing benefit claimants—and a growing number of families with children. The regulation and legislation governing the sector has, however, evolved over many years, often in response to problems that arose decades ago. Only in the 1980s did the sector begin to emerge from tight rent control and the shadow of Rachmanism and begin to develop. The market is a developing one which we need to help edge its way towards maturity. This requires a careful balancing act which does not upset the market developing naturally. It therefore requires not a single step but action across a number of different areas.

First, there has to be better, simpler regulation. The Government should have a wide-ranging look at the legislation covering the sector and put in place a much simpler, more straightforward regulatory framework. Once it does this, it should launch a campaign to publicise this new framework, to ensure that all tenants and landlords are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Next, we need to give councils the flexibilities they require to enforce the law and raise standards. They need the freedom to implement approaches that meet the needs of their areas. They should be: afforded more flexibility over landlord licensing; given greater ability to generate resources; and encouraged to learn from each other. Local authorities should be able to recoup housing benefit and tenants the rent paid, when landlords have been convicted of letting substandard property.

Third, there is strong evidence of sharp practice and abuses by letting agents, making a clear case for a new approach to regulation. Letting agents should be subject to the same controls as their counterparts in the sales sector. In addition, it is time to crack down on the unreasonable and opaque fees charged not only by a few rogues but by many well-known high street agents.

Next, with the sector home to an increasing number of families, we have to ensure that the market offers longer tenancies to those who need them. To do this requires a cultural change and the removal of barriers, both real and perceived. We need action to speed up eviction processes where tenants breach the tenancy agreement, tackle the objections of lenders, and encourage letting agents to explore all options with landlords and tenants with regards to longer tenancies. Alongside longer tenancies, we should find more systematic, less arbitrary approaches to setting and increasing rents. There should also be a full review of local housing allowance to bring to an end the vicious circle whereby rents and housing benefit drive each other up.

Finally, we cannot escape the need to increase supply across all tenures of housing. Doing so will provide more choice, allowing renters to select housing on the basis of quality as well as price. The Government has to ensure that the benefits of its support for build-to-let development extend to the sector as a whole. It should also revisit the recommendations of our earlier published report on the Financing of New Housing Supply, to ensure it is doing all it can to support the building of new homes.

Taken together, these measures should lead to a more mature market and a sector that better meets the needs of those who live in it. It is important that private renting is seen as an attractive alternative to owner occupation.

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Landlord News on the BBC One Show at 7pm Tonight Buy to Let News, Landlord Action, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Property News

LANDLORD NEWS – private landlord speaks out on housing benefit nightmare tonight on BBC’s The One Show 

A landlord from Bracknell, Berkshire, has spoken out about her nightmare ordeal after her housing benefit tenant failed to pass on the payments. This issue has been widely reported and discussed within the buy-to-let industry but now a landlord has come out publicly to talk about it. The non-payments left Mrs Trivedy and her self-employed partner in an extremely difficult financial position. As a result of the welfare reforms and implementation of Universal Credit thousands of ordinary landlords fear that they will see more of this kind of problem. It is expected to affect the whole country and BBC1 are covering the issue on The One Show tonight, Thursday 2nd May at 7pm. They will feature Mrs Trivedy and Landlord Action, the problem tenant specialists, who she went to for help.

After meeting her current partner, Mrs Trivedy decided to sell her four bedroom house in Bracknell from a previous relationship so that they could buy somewhere together. After failing to sell the property quickly enough, she took the decision to let it out, which for three and half years provided the perfect solution. When her previous tenants moved out and an acquaintance from her daughter’s school, with five children of her own, expressed an interest in the property, it seemed like the perfect solution. The prospective tenants explained that they had fallen on tough times but that the £1,200 housing benefit they were due to start receiving would cover the rent. They agreed to set up a direct debit straight to Mrs Trivedy’s account.

From the moment the family moved in (December 2011), the payments were not consistent and with the housing benefit being paid in arrears every two weeks, there was already a shortfall of £20 per month which the tenants were supposed to make up. Four months ago, the payments stopped altogether. On communication with the tenants, Mrs Trivedy was told to liaise with the local housing allowance office, to no avail. After attempting to speak to the tenants at the property to discuss the issues and try to work out a payment schedule, the tenants called the police to file a harassment case. Mrs Trivedy has since received abusive text messages from the tenants via her mobile phone.  In desperation, Mrs Trivedy called on the help of Landlord Action who have since issued a Section 8 possession notice, the process of which was filmed by The One Show.

Landlord News on the BBC One Show at 7pm TonightMrs Trivedy says “The tenants are now approximately £4,400 in arrears and that sum is mounting all the time. As a result, we are struggling to pay the mortgage on the house. My partner is self-employed so income is irregular and despite taking as much overtime at work as I can, we are living off next to nothing just to get by. What’s more, the house is a complete wreck after the tenants brought dogs into the property which subsequently had puppies. It will cost us thousands to get it back to a liveable state.”

Paul Shamplina, Founder of Landlord Action, says “The majority of social tenants do pass on housing benefit, but the cuts made in the welfare reforms are going to put many under increased financial pressure. Our experience in dealing with cases such as this is that most tenants would prefer to have their payments made directly to the landlord so that they can budget more effectively. Not enough has been done to protect landlords. Over the last few years we have seen a rise in these problems and  now with the new Universal Tax Credits monthly payments, our concern is that more and more landlords will see problems and many will turn their back on the social sector.”

More advice on evicting tenants HERE


NLA concerned by cap on Local Housing Allowance Landlord News, Latest Articles, NLA - National Landlords Association, Property News

NLA logo colourYesterday the House of Commons gave a second reading to the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill which caps future increases to Local Housing Allowance rates at one per cent from 2014.

Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer of the National Landlords Association (NLA), says:

“Capping future increases to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to one per cent risks a decrease in real terms if, as expected, inflation exceeds this level. With time, this will inevitably render private-rented accommodation unaffordable for many tenants in receipt of housing benefit. Indeed, the cap could deter landlords from investing in much needed housing for those receiving support. Continue reading NLA concerned by cap on Local Housing Allowance


LHA Tenants and Advice to Landlords from John Paul @TheLHAExpert Landlord News, Latest Articles, Lettings & Management, LHA Expert, Property Investment Strategies, Property News

John Paul - The LHA ExpertBoth John Paul and the The Castledene Group have earned an enviable reputation of being leading experts in the management and letting of residential property to benefits claimants in receipt of Local Housing Allowance “LHA”.

John Paul is a portfolio landlord in the North East and founder of the Castledene Group of letting agents which employs 17 ARLA-trained staff. This article provides an overview of John’s strategies and links to seven further articles. Continue reading LHA Tenants and Advice to Landlords from John Paul @TheLHAExpert


Squatters Rights – what’s not changed Landlord News, Latest Articles, Property News

In this blog I intend to dispel a few urban myths which appear to be forming, both amongst landlords and squatters themselves judging from some of the readers emails I have received. As of today a person occupying a residential property without the owners permission is committing a criminal offence which is punishable by up to six months in prison and a £5,000 fine and can no longer claim squatters rights.  Continue reading Squatters Rights – what’s not changed


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