Tag Archives: Private Landlords

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”.


Venture Capital for Buy to Let Landlords Latest Articles

Until now it has not been possible for private landlords to access venture capital but times are changing.

Historically the only form of funding for buy to let investors has been mortgages, i.e. debt based finance where the returns for the provider comprise of fees and interest.

In the world of corporate finance it is common for business funding to comprise a mixture of both debt and equity finance.

Equity finance is different in that the provider makes a return by sharing profits, often when the business or asset is sold or refinanced. This form of capital is also know as mezzanine finance, private equity and venture capital amongst professional corporate advisers. Venture Capital for Buy to Let Landlords

A respected mortgage lender has now entered the  provide equity finance market and will be offering it’s products to private landlords. The lender will take a legal charge over rental property to protect their interests in much the same way as a traditional mortgage lender does, however, their charge will rank second to that of a traditional mortgage lender, thus enabling a mixture of debt and equity funding. A typical structure based will be:-

  • 65% debt on a traditional buy to let mortgage secured by first charge
  • 20% buy to let equity loan secured by second charge
  • 15% owners own funds

No interest or monthly repayments are made on the buy to let equity loan. The return for the lender comes when the property is sold or refinanced. The equity loan is repaid and the lender takes a 40% share of any capital gains. For example, if the property had increased in value by £100,000 the lender would take £40,000 of the profit plus return of capital. If the property had decreased in value the equity lender would still get their capital returned but would take 40% of zero profit, i.e. a zero return on investment.

For most buy to let landlords this very radical alternative to traditional mortgage financing alone will take some thinking through. There are pros and cons which I have thought through in quite some detail. For further details please CLICK HERE


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


Council of Letting Agents call for Scotland’s dangerous electrics to be outlawed Landlord News, Latest Articles, Lettings & Management

The Council of Letting Agents has today called for better electrical safety standards in Scotland’s privately rented properties.

Speaking at their inaugural conference, Council of Letting Agents (CLA) Convenor Kathleen Gell said: “Scotland depends upon the properties that our letting agents manage. People rely on these properties for their homes and they need to be safe. We have national standards and regulation for gas safety, but the same is not in place for electrics and that needs to change.”

“The only way we can guarantee to keep properties and tenants safe is to regulate electrical safety to a national standard and publicise this as well as gas safety.

Research reveals that there are on average 70 deaths a year in the UK from electrical fires and that Scottish homes are at a disproportionately high risk from these. It has also been shown that tenants of private landlords are more likely to be at risk of electric shock than home owners.

The private rented sector is growing – the number of dwellings provided by private landlords has risen from 115,000 in (5% of all homes) in 1999, to 267,000 (11% of all homes) in 2011 and all indications point to that trend continuing.”

Kathleen Gell continued: “There have been great improvements in this sector with compulsory registration for landlords and the introduction of the tenancy deposit scheme, but we will fall behind on basic safety if we do not act in this area too.”

“We want there to be compulsory checks on wiring and appliances in rental properties. There are standards we could use (Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) and Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) ), but we need some teeth to enforce them – we cannot afford any grey areas.”

“Many letting agents already require this level of safety check, but it cannot be enforced: there is no national standard to adhere to and landlords wishing to avoid the cost of a safety check, simply go elsewhere to lease their property.”

“The private rented sector is a major part of the housing landscape in Scotland. We have a duty of care to the people who depend on it for their homes and we need to make sure it is safe.”

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Rant About Scottish Letting Regulation Commercial Finance, Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

As the Scottish Government gets set to embark on the regulation of letting agents – regulation which is badly needed in my view – I fear that my worst nightmare may be about to become true.

Why? Well, let’s look at what’s happened already with Scottish renting legislation.

Landlord Registration has for the most part been startlingly ineffective in raising standards. In fairness, that perhaps was not its prime purpose (having been introduced under anti-social behaviour legislation) but the fact that we now have a national database of private landlords should allow national and/or local government to target those landlords with awareness-raising advice, invite them to seminars and so on. Those unfortunate tenants who suffer at the hands of malicious or, more likely unaware, landlords need that to happen. I’m fairly sure there must still be many landlords who are not yet registered. The fact that Scottish Government hiked the penalty for non-registration up from £2,000 to £50,000 must surely indicate that registration is seen as important. The requirement to quote registration numbers in property advertisements seemed a pretty good way of bringing all landlords into the system. Yet, how many adverts still appear with no registration numbers? How many unregistered landlords have been fined?

No. I see poor practice flourish aplenty and registration requirement ignored. I see responsible landlords pay their dues while the irresponsible carry on regardless. I see local authority Landlord Registration teams funded by those responsible landlords and, it seems, doing not a great deal to bring all within the net.

Why not simply legislate to make it a requirement that for any individual to rent out a property he or she must either use a regulated agent (when that’s in place) or achieve accredited landlord status (or commit to a time-limited accreditation path)? Overnight, poorly performing landlords would be outlawed.

Look at Tenant Information Packs. Of course it’s good practice to pass incoming tenants information and advice relative to their tenancy and their new property. Responsible agents and landlords have been doing so for years as a matter of course. So surely it’s good that all now have to do so?

In theory, yes, but from our perspective as a letting agency we now find ourselves managing a parallel process issuing the mandatory Tenant Information Pack (TIP) alongside our own one, as the mandatory one is so stodgy as to be a turn-off to most tenants, contains errors, and imparts nothing of substance about the property. The effect of this has been to sap resources, particularly time – our scarcest resource – and so impact negatively on our finances. So a highly responsible agency, regulated by RICS and licenced by ARLA is being forced to go through an ineffective process which hampers business efficiency while less regulated or less responsible agents who decline to do so, or are even unaware perhaps that they need to, sail on in the same old way. How many letting agents have been taken to task for failing to issue a TIP? How many who fail to do so, use a low-fee basis as a means of attracting clients? The answers to those questions are unknown, but I’m pretty certain the first is zero or we’d have heard about it.

Simply Let pays about £2000 per year in professional membership subscriptions and regulation levies. We do that because we believe in high standards, and in demonstrating that we hold that belief. We undertake continuing professional development. We do so because we need to be fully informed in order to serve our clients well. We cannot give our landlord clients and their tenants the service they deserve on a low fee basis.

If a landlord’s agent fails to fulfil one of his client’s statutory obligations, it will be the landlord who is held responsible. Are all landlords aware of this? How many agents are playing fast and loose with their obligations to their clients? Again I don’t have an answer to that. If an agent lands a landlord in trouble as a result of negligence or incompetence does that landlord have recourse to a complaints redress mechanism? If that agent goes bust or even runs off with the cash is the landlord’s money safe? Does the agent have client money protection? Unlike estate agents selling houses, a fairly straightforward one-off task, letting agents have on-going management responsibilities which require detailed knowledge of complex housing law. Currently anyone can set up as a letting agent without any qualifications or training whatsoever and without any insurance or external monitoring and take on responsibility for managing clients’ major financial assets and ensuring tenants’ safety in the home.

You can see then why we favour regulation of letting agents. With a level playing field, landlords and tenants could go about selecting an agent knowing that all agents had the basics in place. Why then do I fear, as I said at the beginning of this blog, that my nightmare is about to be realised?

In my nightmare, responsible and already regulated agents found themselves obliged to register and of course to pay a recurring fee for doing so. In my nightmare less responsible agents continued to operate without appearing on the register. The third strand of my nightmare is that nothing much else happened.

It’s turned out like that with Landlord Registration so it’s perfectly possible that Letting Agent Regulation will go the same way.

Why not simply make it a requirement that in order for any letting agent to practice he or she must have in place:

  • A minimum level of relevant knowledge
  • Professional indemnity insurance
  • Client money protection
  • A complaints redress mechanism
  • Evidence of continuing professional development?

All are currently available to any responsible agent.

The private rented sector involves the very basics of life: a tenant’s home and a landlord’s financial investment (and possibly pension plan). It is critical therefore that all who manage any part of that process, landlord or agent, have the knowledge and capability to undertake their role to a high standard and fulfil it in a professional manner. It is critical too that those who entrust their lot to an agent have the benefit of certain basic protections. So my plea to the Scottish Government, when it develops letting agent regulation, is to make it impossible for any agent who can’t deliver those five elements above to continue in practice. The country and its tenants deserve nothing less. Rant About Scottish Letting Regulation

John Gell MRICS


Letting Fees MUST be disclosed in advertising as of Nov 1st 2013 Advice, Buy to Let News, GOOD Landlords Campaign Sponsors, Latest Articles, Legal, Letting, Lettings & Management, Property Investment News, Property Investment Strategies, Property Market News, Property News, The GOOD Landlords Campaign, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Many of you will be aware of a ruling made by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in March this year following a tenant complaint concerning letting fees. This meant that changes had to be made to the way letting agents and private landlords advertise, and as a regulator, the ASA has the power to enforce the rulings.

The Property Ombudsman led a working group to discuss the ruling and negotiate its implementation with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), which writes the Advertising Codes applied by the ASA. Letting Fees MUST be disclosed in advertising as of Nov 1st 2013

The discussions began immediately after the ruling and CAP has released new guidance today for agents and private landlords to adhere to. The guidance notes can be downloaded by completing the form below this article.

CAP has agreed to an 8-week period of grace to allow agents and landlords forewarning to make the changes outlined in the guidance so they are compliant from 1st November 2013 onwards.

Given that the ASA ruling had to be implemented and the practical limitations facing portals advertising rental properties online, this is the most practical outcome possible in the circumstances.

The CAP guidance includes:

  • A background to the role and responsibilities of the ASA and CAP, and the ruling that led to the changes
  • Guidance on how to interpret the ruling
  • Timelines for implementation
  • Points of contact for further information/support

Gerry Fitzjohn, Chief Operating Officer of The Property Ombudsman Service said “I recognise the impact this ruling has on letting agents and the industry as a whole and hope today’s CAP guidance provides some clarity on this issue.”

Please post comments below the download request form.

CAP Guidance Notes - Download Request Form


A call to convert 66,000 student HMO’s back to family homes? Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

I have been having a catch up on my on-line reading over this weekend and I have just come across an article which, in my opinion is very ill-informed. A call to convert 66,000 student HMO's back to family homes

Housing supply in many UK cities is being restricted by the conversion of family housing to student lets and local tenants are being prices out, according to new research. International real estate adviser Savills estimates that 66,000 properties or Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) now occupied by students could be freed up for conventional family housing through the delivery of more purpose built student accommodation”

The first thing that I would say is that only students want to live near students and the last place I would want to bring up my family is in an area that is highly populated by students.  I love my students tenants but they do not keep regular hours and often return late at night in a happy and noisy mood. There are other issues too but I won’t go into those, most of us who let to students will know what I mean.

For me, the most important point that has been missed is that the cost of converting a family home into a student HMO is colossal and this, coupled with the purchase prices in popular areas, means that landlords have invested a massive amount of money in their properties – will families really want to pay the prices that would cover this investment and also convert the property back to a family home?

In my book “Will You Survive the Mayhem”, I talk about the future of the student market where student numbers are reducing in many areas and there is an oversupply. I have given my predictions of the future of the market and I have warned landlords that we may need a plan “B”.  Plan “B” must, however, take into account that many landlords have big debts on their properties and could not afford to use them for family lets because of the reduced income. There are other markets for which these properties could be used which are realistic and would help to increase supply but Savills are dreaming if they really think that building more purpose built student accommodation is the answer to the shortage of family homes.  They have also overlooked the fact that students can’t wait to get out of “institutional” accommodation and share little houses, at least for their middle year, and there are many empty rooms in purpose build student accommodation in areas where the student population has receded since the increase in University fees.

The article goes on to say

The result is a double whammy for local non student tenants and aspiring home owners. Not only do students price other tenants out of many family housing areas in major UK towns and cities, credit conditions post downturn have favoured landlord investors rather than less equity rich potential owner occupier buyers. ‘Local council coffers would also gain. We calculate that reinstating these student HMOs to homes for non student residents would boost council tax returns by around £1.5 million per town or city, since student only houses are council tax exempt,’ said Savills research analyst, Neal Hudson.”

All local authorities get increased Government funding to cover the cost of Council Tax exemptions for students, the local authority would not be better off if these properties were converted back to family homes, they would in fact be worse off because they would lose the additional “automatic” income and would have to recover it from the families who live there.

The one statement I do agree with in this article is this

“Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning Act proposes restricting new HMO supply which could push students and associated landlord demand into smaller properties, pricing out other occupier and tenant groups.”

I also talked about this in my book because Article 4 Directions are ill-conceived and, in my opinion, will soon sigh and die.

Finally the article says

“For the institutional investor in student housing the UK market offers a mature, counter cyclical investment opportunity”.

Wrong again, I have given a lot of evidence in my book that shows how the student market will continue to recede in all but the Red Brick university areas, many of those are already building campi in the most popular sending countries, and many investors will catch a cold by investing in purpose built student blocks in the next few years.

I am struggling to understand why investors are not being encouraged to put their cash into funds to build more family homes, since we all agree that this is an area of increasing demand and it is very unlikely that the demand will do anything other than grow year on year?

Am I missing something, do Savills know something that I don’t know?

Follow me on Twitter @landlordtweets

My book, where I warn about the storm clouds that are gathering for landlords is here >>> http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1484855337


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.


Why serve a Section 21 notice just after a tenancy agreement has started? Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

I have heard a lot of Letting agents or private landlords tend to serve a section 21 notice at the early stages of any Tenancy agreement but I seem to have a lack of understanding what the benefits are of doing this.Serving a Section 21 Notice after Tenancy Agreement has just started

Could anyone explain, being a private Landlord, why there is a benefit to serving a Section 21 notice straight after a Tenancy has just started?

Thanks peeps

Andy


Paul Shamplina and Landlord Action on BBC1 Thursday Landlord Action, Landlord News, Latest Articles

BBC1 Thursday 18th July, 10:30pm: Meet The Landlords.

This is a documentary about property in hard times with tenants in difficulty, some landlords enjoying the boom, some in trouble, and Landlord Action helping out.

We haven’t seen a preview but it sounds like it won’t be easy viewing, even for Landlord Action. This will be compulsory television for everybody in property!

 

Official Press release below:

Property Expert, Paul Shamplina, helps mop up the mess of ‘generation rent’

On 18th July, founder of tenant eviction specialists Landlord Action and leading property expert, Paul Shamplina, will be featuring in a one hour documentary, ‘Meet the Landlords’ on BBC 1, looking at the possibilities and pitfalls of being a ‘generation rent’ landlord.

Landlord Action, an organisation which has acted on more than 20,000 problem tenant cases, says the buy-to-let boom, which has lead to over 8.5 million people in the UK now living in a rented property, is the result of a cocktail of factors. These include; a lack of house building, less affordable housing, restricted funding in the mortgage market forcing more people to rent, tougher austerity measures leading to cuts on housing benefits, stagnant wages, increased cost of living and rising unemployment.

The documentary will meet the new army of private landlords who are riding the rental boom, both making and losing money as they struggle to get rid of non-paying tenants, as well as follow the tenants who are getting behind with their rent and risk losing their homes.

Few people have been involved in this business for as long as Paul Shamplina, who has been helping landlords with problem tenants for over 25 years and whose campaign was instrumental in passing the recently imposed bill to criminalise squatting. Two of the landlords featuring in the show have instructed the help of Landlord Action and Paul Shamplina can be seen helping them to reclaim possession.

Paul says “Over the years, our experience of professional bad tenants has been plentiful, often evicting the same tenant from more than one property. Whilst they are the minority, this type of tenant has the intention of preying on vulnerable landlords in order to live for free. They will seek out someone new to the market who is self-managing a property and who, out of financial desperation to avoid a void period, will accept a tenant with minimum referencing. However, more and more, we are also seeing situations where tenants have fallen on tough times and remain in properties out of desperation. The show seeks to underline this plethora of scenarios that ‘generation rent’ is creating by following landlords, both professional and amateur, in very different situations.”

Paul wants to help highlight possible problems to landlords, enable them to recognise the tell-tale signs of a problem tenant, or just one that has run into financial difficulty, and offer advice on the best approach to take in order to resolve the issue as painlessly and cost effectively as possible.

Mr Shamplina will also be featuring on BBCs ‘Rip Off Britain’ in September, in a feature which highlights the growing problems surrounding illegal sub-letting.

Photo Paul Shamplina

If you need the Assistance of Landlord Action evicting a tenant please CLICK HERE


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