Tag Archives: rla

Ipswich Council refunding landlord licensing fees after Westminster Court of Appeal sex shop case Landlord News, Latest Articles

The RLA has recently received an email from Ipswich Borough Council confirming it has started to refund Landlord Licensing fees after the Westminster Court of Appeal sex shop case.

The Court of Appeal found in favour of a European Services Directive which clamps down on purposes fees can be charged by local authorities for landlords licences.

The RLA reported that the Council confirmed it is “currently going through their records to refund landlords of any fees charged on a HMO additional licensing scheme and that once the information is gathered, the Council will contact those landlords and arrange payment.”

The Court of Appeal decision in the Westminster Sex Shop Fees case Hemming t/a Simply Pleasure Limited v Westminster City Council affected fee charging for regulation such as for HMO and selective landlord licensing. Local authorities should abide by European Services Directive rules (ESD) when setting fees.

The ESD rules include:

A Local authority can only take fees for HMO licensing or selective licensing for

  • The actual and direct administrative costs of investigating the background and suitability of the landlord applicant
  • The cost of monitoring the compliance by licensed landlords with the terms of their licences
  • Fees must be reasonable and proportionate and can only cover the actual cost of the application process plus monitoring
  • Local authorities cannot include the costs of enforcing the licensing scheme against unlicensed landlords in the licence fee.
  • Set up charges for the scheme cannot be recovered.
  • Overheads and general administrative costs cannot be recovered and the running and capital costs of the relevant council department cannot be charged as part of the fee.
  • The Council is not allowed to make a profit.

If a Local authority ignores the European Services directive it could be forced to refund overcharged fees and pay interest. Landlords are allowed up to six years to submit a claim for being overcharged.

The RLA has contacted several local authorities to discuss this issue with them, and has been actively challenging other local authorities where licensing schemes are being proposed, such as Northampton Borough Council.

The case details below as reported by the ICLR:

Regina (Hemming (t/a Simply Pleasure Ltd) and others) v Westminster City Council

CA: Lord Dyson MR, Black, Beatson LJJ: 24 May 2013

Since the coming into force of the Provision of Services Regulations 2009 a local authority was not permitted, when determining the reasonable licence fee for sex establishments, to reflect in the fee which it determined the cost of enforcing the licensing system against unlicensed operators.

The Court of Appeal so held, allowing in part the appeal of the defendant local authority, Westminster City Council, from the judgments of Keith J on 16 May 2012 [2012] EWHC 1260 (Admin); [2012] PTSR 1676 and on 12 June 2012 [2012] EWHC 1582 (Admin) when he had allowed the claim for judicial review by seven licensees of sex shops, Timothy Martin Hemming (t/a Simply Pleasure Ltd), James Alan Poulton (t/a Soho Original Book), Harmony Ltd, Gatisle Ltd (t/a Janus), Winart Publications Ltd, Darker Enterprises Ltd and Swish Publications Ltd, of the amount of the annually renewable licence fee to operate sex shops for 2011–2012 determined by the local authority on the basis that the fee had not been determined for that year even though the same annual fee had been demanded of, and paid by them, as in previous years from 2005–2006, and had allowed a claim for restitution. The Court of Appeal upheld the judge’s decision except as to the basis on which restitution was to be made. In September 2004 the authority’s relevant committee had approved an annual fee for sex establishments for 2005–2006 reflecting the costs of administering and enforcing the licensing system which each claimant had paid on demand up to and including 2011–2012 without further consideration being given by the committee.

BEATSON LJ said that section 2 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 required operators of sex establishments in areas of local authorities, which had resolved that Schedule 3 to the Act applied to their area, to have a licence. Paragraph 19 of Schedule 3 enabled a local authority to determine and charge a reasonable fee for the licence. It had been possible for the licence fee to reflect the cost to an authority of managing the licensing regime by enforcing it and prosecuting unlicensed operators as well as the cost of investigating and processing an individual application and monitoring compliance by licence-holders with the requirements of the licence: R v Birmingham City Council, Ex p Quietlynn Ltd (1985) 83 LGR 461, 517. Article 13(2) of Parliament and Council Directive 2006/123/EC of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market (which had effect from December 2009 by the 2009 Regulations) and regulation 18(4) of the 2009 Regulations provided that charges for schemes requiring a person to obtain the authorisation of a competent body to have access to or to exercise a service activity could not exceed the cost of authorisation procedures and formalities. The defendant’s contention was that the judge’s failure to give the 2006 Directive and the 2009 Regulations a purposive construction meant that he disregarded the fact that the Directive was concerned with removing barriers to entry to a market and not preventing a licensing authority from requiring fees to cover the costs of enforcement activity hitherto accepted in national law, and where that activity was ultimately to the benefit of those holding licences; that enforcement benefited those with licences by protecting them from competition by unlicensed traders; and that absence of or much more limited enforcement would inhibit entry by legitimate traders. His Lordship derived assistance from two cases concerning other European Community provisions about fees and charges in understanding the general approach of the Court of Justice of the European Union, Germany GmbH and Arcor AG & Co KG v Germany (Joined Cases C-392/04 and C-422/04) [2006] ECR I-8559 and In re Shopping Centres Licensing: European Commission v Spain (Case C-400/08) [2011] 2 CMLR 1294. The indication from them was that the court had tended to prevent member states imposing costs on businesses which went beyond the costs of the authorisation, registration or inspection process, because such costs constituted illegitimate barriers to the exercise of fundamental freedoms or were inconsistent with principles of Community law. His Lordship rejected the other arguments of the local authority; they did not justify a departure from the clear wording of the Directive and the Regulations, or show that the construction adopted by the judge was inimical to the purposes of the Directive.

BLACK LJ and LORD DYSON MR agreed.Landlord Licensing


Capita TDP to be taken over by MyDeposits Landlord News, Latest Articles

The Capita TDP (Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme) has been closed to accepting new deposits since the 14th of September this year.

Capita a corporate giant and FTSE 100 company was only awarded the contract by Government to operate the scheme from the 1st April 2013 (no pun intended) in an effort to increase competition and drive down costs for this service. Mydeposits has however stepped in to take over responsibility for Capita TDP protections in England & Wales after confirming their withdrawal from the market.

All of Capita TDP’s existing deposit protections will be automatically transferred to mydeposits from 1st December 2013. Landlords, agents and tenants in England &Wales will also have access to the scheme’s dispute resolution service. Capita TDP has now written to all existing members informing them of the news.

All transferred deposits will continue to be protected throughout the duration of the fixed term tenancy. my|deposits will also reissue a new Deposit Protection Certificate (DPC) and the relevant Information for Tenant’s leaflet for each protection.

Eddie Hooker, CEO of mydeposits, said: “Capita TDP’s existing landlord and agent members can rest assured they’re in safe hands with mydeposits. The experience and knowledge we derive from partnership with the both the National Landlords Association (NLA) and the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) means we’re well placed to manage the handover following Capita’s withdrawal.”

“Landlords, agents and tenants will also have access to our free award-winning dispute resolution service, giving them peace of mind that the deposit will be returned fairly if they’re unable to reach an agreement over its return.”

“We’re on hand to speak to existing Capita members who have concerns regarding the transfer of their deposits. Landlords, agents and tenants can also visit our website www.mydeposits.co.uk where they can find details of the scheme and a range of useful guidance and advice on deposit protection issues”.Capita TDP


Alternatives to Landlord Licencing Schemes Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

The alternatives to Landlord Licensing Schemes require joined up thinking, changes to data sharing protocols within local authorities and revised high level directives and strategies which must begin at Government level. 

Perhaps the first question to ask is what is Landlord Licensing all about? Is it really about raising standards or is it more to do with raising funds?Alternatives to Landlord Licencing Schemes

Funding

If society as a whole desires that people should not be subjected to sub standard housing conditions then society as a whole must pay to enforce this (howsoever that might be done) whether the money is raised at a local level or centrally.

It is both unacceptable and wholly undemocratic that landlords should be singled out by Government, Councils and Local Authorities to pay stealth taxes badged as licensing fees on the pretence that the money will be used to fund enforcement related initiatives.

Costs associated with licensing schemes imposed on landlords are funded through increased rents. Neither landlords nor tenants want this, particularly as there is clear evidence (demonstrated in this article) that landlord licensing schemes have proven not to be an effective solution to problems in the Private Rented Sector.

Recycling of Court awarded penalties

The high costs associated with prosecuting criminal landlords is borne by Local Authorities, however, fines and penalties go to the treasury. If these funds were to be redirected to the prosecuting authorities this would assist funding of additional prosecutions and create incentives to bring more criminal landlords to task. Continue reading Alternatives to Landlord Licencing Schemes


How to help bring about changes to legislation post “Superstrike” Buy to Let News, Guest Articles, Guest Columns, Landlord Action, Landlord News, Latest Articles, Legal, Letting, Lettings & Management, Property Investment News, Property News, The GOOD Landlords Campaign, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

One of the things that are uppermost in landlords’ minds at the moment is the concern that we are vulnerable to possible litigation following the “Superstrike” case. The degree of that vulnerability varies from landlord to landlord and of course some landlords are not at all clear where they stand.Mary Latham

All of the deposit protection schemes and large landlords associations are working behind the scenes to persuade DCLG to tweak legislation to prevent courts being overrun with cases from tenants who have not actually been deprived of their legal rights but have become aware of the loophole that Superstrike highlighted.  In other words they are not asking for a change in the law which would enable those landlords who do not/did not protect their tenants deposits (HA 2004 & Localism Act 2012) to get away with it.  What they are asking for is a change which prevents those landlords who believed that they were acting within the law from facing litigation from their past and present tenants. These are the landlords who do/did protect their tenants deposits and provided the tenant with the Deposit Protection Certificate and Prescribed Information for Tenants within 30 days of having received the deposit but who were unaware that they needed to provide the documents again, despite the deposit protection continuing and no new paperwork being issued, at the point at which the fixed term of the tenancy ended and a Statutory Periodic Tenancy began (HA 1988). There are also those landlords who have tenancies that began before the Deposit Protection legislation came into affect (HA 2004) and therefore did not protect their tenants deposits. These landlords were also unaware that if the tenancy became a Statutory Periodic Tenancy at the end of the fixed term after the law changed that they should have protected the deposit and served the documents on their tenants. This last point was the crux of the Superstrike case.

In addition to the concerns many of us have about the potential litigation (it has not yet been established that there is actually a threat beyond the circumstances of Superstrike) is the issue of not being able to regain Possession of properties using Section 21 (HA 1988)

In order to convince Government that this is a major problem in the PRS they need to be shown actual evidence and the only people who can give them that evidence is us (landlords and letting agents).  All of the organisations involved in the discussions have produced a short survey to gather the facts.

The combined results will be present to DCLG.

The survey will take just a few minutes of your time and will not ask you to identify yourself.

If you do not take the time and trouble to complete the survey we may lose the argument and fail to get the legislative changes that we all need. 

Please follow the link  below and do your part to bring about a solution for us all before the Courts are filled with cases brought by the “No Win No Fee” people that have sprung up to make easy money from landlords who have simply made a mistake and have not in any way deprived our tenants of their legal rights.

Please also send a link to this article to every landlord you know to make certain they aware of this very important survey.

Click this link >>> https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NLASS

When I completed the survey I found that I needed to read it first then work out which category my deposits fell into before going back and completing it – which took less than 2 minutes. By doing the calculations for this survey I am now clear of where I stand with each of my tenancies.

This was a useful exercise and may help me going forward when the inevitable happens and a landlord is sued by a tenant for one of the possible scenario.

I think that you may find this helpful too.


Rent arrears stats are improving says the NLA Latest Articles, NLA - National Landlords Association, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

According to the latest research from the National Landlords Association (NLA), incidences of arrears have fallen to their lowest level for over two years.

39 per cent of landlords have experienced instances of rental arrears in the last 12 months, down nine per cent year on year and back to levels previously seen in quarter one 2010.

Void periods in private-residential property have also fallen, down five per cent since last Quarter to 33 per cent, a low last seen in 2012.

At a regional level, voids are greatest in the North East of England where 60 per cent of landlords have experienced empty periods in the last three months and lowest in the South West of England where only 20 per cent of landlords have experienced voids over the same time frame.

The research results also established that seven in ten voids are unplanned. And landlords are covering the financial impact of voids using various means:

• 33 per cent of landlords cover the costs of a void period using rent from other properties

• 10 per cent of landlords cover the costs of a void period using their other income or salary

• Nine per cent of landlords cover the costs of a void period using funds from their savings

Carolyn Uphill, Chairman of the NLA, says:

“It is positive to see reductions in the instances of arrears and voids. This demonstrates that long term, enduring tenancies are on the rise as it is in every landlords’ business interest to maintain good, long lasting tenancies and avoid voids.

“However, it is worrying that void periods often come as a surprise to landlords. Whilst voids represent more of a problem in the North than in the South, where demand is far higher, it is imperative that empty properties are filled quickly, following any necessary maintenance and improvements.

“The NLA’s advice to landlords looking to minimise void periods is to talk openly with their tenants about their future plans. This will give the landlord some idea of when the property might next be empty and allow them to make any improvements and plan advertising activity in good time. It is also wise to budget for 11 months’ rent per year to avoid needing to find additional funds to cover outgoings if a void does arise.”


NLA warns landlords of “no win no fee” deposit protection lawyers Latest Articles, NLA - National Landlords Association, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Speaking recently on BBC Radio 4 Carolyn Uphill, Chairman of the National Landlords Association (NLA) warned landlords to ensure their tenants’ deposits are properly protected and that they’ve fully complied with Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) law.

The warning comes after a growing number of information requests to TDP schemes from ‘no win no fee’ claims companies who, on behalf of tenants, are targeting landlords who may not have fully protected deposits.

All landlords in England and Wales must by law protect their tenants’ deposits within a Government authorised TDP scheme and must also ensure that they pass on important information about where and how it was protected – known as the Prescribed Information – to the tenant within 30 days from the start of the tenancy.

Failure to do so could lead to heavy penalties and claims companies seem to be inviting tenants who haven’t received their prescribed information to make a claim against their landlord – even if the deposit is protected.

Carolyn Uphill, Chairman of the NLA said:

“You have to ask where the financial loss for the tenant is. The majority of tenant’s deposits are being protected and ninety nine per cent of tenancies end without any issues over the return of the deposit. Where problems do arise, the tenant has access to a free and impartial decision using the scheme’s dispute resolution service.

“Of course, where there is blatant disregard for the law landlords can have no argument and must be brought to rights. However, these claims firms are looking to exploit those landlords who have protected their tenant’s deposits but may not have properly issued the prescribed information.

“In practice this could simply mean not providing their tenant with a leaflet about where the deposit is protected.

“This sort of action is morally questionable, unnecessarily punitive and will only work to undermine the good relationship that exists between the majority of landlords and their tenants”.

Eddie Hooker, CEO of Tenancy Deposit Scheme my|deposits, also commented:

“It has always been the landlord’s responsibility to protect the deposit and a vital part of the process is to pass the Prescribed Information on to the tenant.

“Landlords must be aware that they are ultimately responsible even if they use a letting agent. Our advice is to check with your agent or directly with your deposit protection scheme to ensure all of your deposits have been properly protected.

“Those who fail to comply with either step of the legislation leave themselves open to potential fines of up to three times the deposit value and could fall prey to these kinds of claims companies.

Mark Alexander, founder of Property118 recently highlighted the marketing activity of these companies – see this thread.

Mark Alexander also commented:-

Following the case of Superstrike Limited vs Rodrigues at the Court of Appeal it is now unclear whether landlords should have re-issued Prescribed Information when when a tenancy became Statutory Periodic at the end of a fixed term. The ruling was that deposits taken pre April 2007 should have been protected when a new statutory periodic tenancy came into being after Tenancy deposit Protection laws came into force. This is because it is now clear from legislation that a Statutory Periodic Tenancy is a new tenancy and that all deposits taken in respect of new tenancies should be protected. What is not clear is whether a deposit which was protected and remained protected needs to be re-protected and new deposit protection certificates and prescribed information to be served. The guidance issued by the Deposit Protection Schemes is  unclear on this point and concludes that only new legislation or a ruling in the High Courts will clarify this matter. To date, no lawyers have publicly announced a solution which could protect landlords and letting agents from claims if such a ruling goes the wrong way.

Tenants Claimline

 


Landlords Warnings – Will You Survive the Mayhem? Latest Articles

Have you read the book recently published by Mary Latham yet?Mary Latham

I’ve been talking to Mary about some of the topics in it this week and O – M – G this is going to ruffle feathers!!!

This is certainly not your bog standard “how to buy to let” book by all accounts, but if you know Mary you’d never expect that of her either. If that lady has a bee in her bonnet best stand well back I can tell you.

I have to confess to not having read the book yet as I’ve been off on tour around Eastern Europe but I will be getting hold of a copy very soon as it’s been getting some amazing reviews.

I could have done with having this book with me whilst flying to Russia or the Czech Republic over the last few weeks. We all know how boring flights can be don’t we? I’ve also heard that reading this book is a great way to avoid getting DVT as it will get your heart pumping LOL.  As there are just 147 pages of content is just about right to read on a flight, a long journey or if you are off to a nice beach this year ….

Based on the reviews I’ve already read I am looking forward to getting stuck in yet slightly pensive at the same time. When an ordinarily optimistic landlord like Mary Latham, who has with 40+ years experience in being a landlord, says she see’s the storm clouds gathering and explains why we should ALL take notice.

The book is available as a paperback for £4.64 including delivery and just £1.36 if you are happy to read it on Kindle or the Kindle App for iPad. Either way, click here to order your copy.

Reviews posted on Amazon.co.uk

5.0 out of 5 stars An essential read for those wanting a balanced view of the property market in the UK,
A detailed thoroughly researched book from an experienced landlord.

This book although in some parts quite technical covers the parts that all the get rich quick schemes manage to miss out. The questions that they ask you to save to the end of their presentations and never manage to answer and the risks that many will look into – when they come to it.

Mary covers the latest legislation, the impact of austerity measures, the banking crisis and the topics that would be almost unbelievable if it were not true! (Landlords being charged thousands to dispose of their tenants rubbish bins and recycling) to the impact of Universal Credit on Landlords and those that are unfortunate enough to have to claim benefits.

Some say the combination of these factors will create the perfect storm and others a tornado that will impact our lives significantly. Whatever boat you’re in this book is essential reading to ensure you understand the facts and then put countermeasures in place to ensure you are not a victim of this crisis. Written by a true expert and recognised as such by the National Landlords Association and Homestamp – ignore this perspective from a full time landlord at your peril.

5.0 out of 5 stars A well worth read!

As an established landlord I was unsure whether the book would be worthwhile to me. How wrong could I be!!! I benefited from an insight into a seriously experienced property guru who briefed the reader in a clear and coherent way of real life experiences, past and present legislation as well as money saving tips and references for landlords. The money I have already saved by following just a one of her expert tips has already compensated for the cost of the book twenty fold. Unlike a text book, the author writes in a light hearted way but with an underlying seriousness. I would unreservedly recommend this book to any landlord whether they are a novice just starting out or a well established agent/landlord.

Lots more equally positive reviews here.

When you have read the book yourself please do me a favour and post a review in the comments section below as well as on Amazon.

PLEASE buy this book (and READ IT!), if for no other reason than to help me say thank you to Mary for posting over 600 helpful comments on this website alone!  We are talking about less than a fiver people – COME ON!

This is the link to Amazon to BUY THE BOOK

PS – best to do it now whilst you remember.

Mary Latham


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


NLA report on the Private Rented Sector Review Landlord News, Latest Articles, NLA - National Landlords Association

Looking at the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s Report on the Private Rented Sector Review, Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer of the National Landlords Association (NLA) publicises his comments.

“This is a really positive report. It takes the debate around the growth of the private-rented sector out of the 1970s into the 21st century. The Committee clearly understands how the rental market has developed and what it needs to mature, rejecting the pat responses of rent controls, increased tenure and simplistic solutions of importing ideas from other countries.”

“Landlords must respond to the changing needs and demands of renters. The current tenancy legislation is more flexible than many realise, but the Committee is right to highlight that adapting from the accepted norms to use this flexibility will be a challenge requiring “a cultural change and removal of barriers, real and perceived”.

“The NLA endorses the call for better, simpler regulation and for more proactive enforcement from local authorities which targets those who fail to meet acceptable standards.”

“The NLA also supports the Committee’s recommendations for a more comprehensive regulatory framework for letting agents, and we are pleased that its proposals reflect our argument that the requirements should mirror those already put in place by many agent representative bodies, such as UKALA.”

“Overall, the Committee has brought forward a package of conclusions, recommendations and proposals which offer a fair balance to all and provide the opportunity for the industry at large to take the initiative”.House of Commons


New NLA Chairman is Carolyn Uphill Landlord News, Latest Articles, NLA - National Landlords Association

The National Landlords Association welcomes the new NLA Chairman, Carolyn Uphill, to the helm of the organisation.

Carolyn, formerly the NLA Deputy Chairman, joined the Board of Directors in July 2011 having worked as a Local Representative in Manchester since 2010.

Carolyn has extensive experience as a successful businesswoman and professional landlord letting student and private residential accommodation in and around Manchester.

Having established her own business in 1978, Carolyn successfully developed the enterprise to become a leading construction equipment manufacturer with a seven figure turnover.

In addition to running the business, which she sold in 2008, Carolyn has served as president of the Stockport Chamber of Commerce and continues to shares her wealth of business experience as a business growth consultant and mentor.

As NLA Chairman, Carolyn is keen to ensure the NLA serves and supports the private-rented sector (PRS) by pushing for continuous improvement of standards, greater recognition of landlords’ contribution to society and the economy as well as more cohesion between the private-rented sector’s representative bodies.

Carolyn takes over from David Salusbury, who is stepping down as NLA Chairman but remaining a Director and continuing as Chairman of my|deposits and the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA). David has led the NLA as Chairman since 2003 and has taken the organisation from a modest membership base of around 4,000 as the Small Landlords Association to a national body working with 39,000 landlords, 21,500 of which are full paying members. As part of its expansion, the NLA has grown to offer a wide range of services and represents landlords’ interests to both local and national government.

Carolyn Uphill, NLA Chairman, says “it is a great honour to be NLA Chairman at such an exciting time for the private-rented sector. During David’s time as Chairman the NLA has become an incredibly useful resource for landlords and an organisation respected by government. I look forward to building upon his success, supporting landlords in their journey towards continually improving standards and ensuring our voice is heard by policy makers.”

David Salusbury, NLA Director and outgoing Chairman, says “chairing the NLA and watching it grow and develop in response to the changing housing market over the last ten years has been a privilege. There have been many challenges along the way and there continue to be hurdles, such as landlord licensing and additional regulations, to address. I am confident that under Carolyn’s leadership the NLA will continue to grow and represent the needs of landlords throughout the country. I look forward to watching the NLA adapt to the needs of the evolving private-rented sector over the coming years.”

The change of Chairman coincides with the celebration of the NLA’s 40th Birthday.NLA logo colour


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