Property News

Race row landlord vows to evict single mums with babies

July 20, 2018

One of the UK’s largest and arguably most controversial buy-to-let landlord who last year banned ‘coloured people’ from renting any of his properties because ‘they make them smell of curry’ has turned his attention to another innocent social group.

Having already barred battered wives and plumbers from occupying his homes, Fergus Wilson, who runs a property empire in Kent alongside his wife Judith, has caused further controversy by saying that he will evict single women who become pregnant and single mums with newborn babies.

Landlord Fergus Wilson, 69, insists that he is not a “bad guy” and blamed his decision on the “strict” enforcement rules imposed on landlords by Ashford Borough Council, which earlier this week announced plans to adopt new powers to crackdown on rogue landlords

Wilson argues that the council’s new policy on landlords having to fix boilers within four days if the tenant is a single mum with a baby is “too restrictive”.

Landlords who miss targets face being fined if they do not abide by the ‘emergency maintenance policy’.

The landlord told the Kentish Express: “I just can’t risk something going wrong and not being able to get a plumber there in time – have you ever tried to get a plumber, there’s a national shortage.”

In a letter to Gerald White, Ashford Borough Council’s cabinet member for housing, Wilson wrote: “It is heartbreaking to terminate the contracts, but we cannot recruit staff and service the tenants. The landlord has proved to be a controversial figure (Picture: PA) ‘The council has brought this decision on itself.”

He added: “We know we will not be able to comply with that expectation so (I) have brought these tenancies to an end.”

Wilson, who owns hundreds of properties in Ashford and Maidstone in Kent, confirmed that he had already given four single mums with babies two months’ notice to vacate their homes.

Speaking earlier this month, Cllr Gerald White said he was delighted at the new enforcement powers, adding: “I’m supportive of the proposed implementation of the civil penalty policy to allow the council to consider imposing fines on landlords who fail to comply with housing law, as an alternative to prosecution.

“Implementing the policy will hopefully deter landlords from failing in their responsibilities in providing safe homes and ensuring that they comply with the relevant housing law.”

A spokesman for Ashford Borough Council said it only used enforcement action against landlords as a ‘last resort’.

He said: “We have duty to ensure decent standards for tenant who are renting privately.

“We always work with landlords to ensure those standards are met and try to assist them as much as possible.

“Formal enforcement action is very much a last resort, but we will take action where necessary.”

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Three-year minimum tenancies – what are the legal implications for landlords?

July 20, 2018

Amid the headline-grabbing political manoeuvring over Brexit, a policy proposal which could have serious ramifications for thousands of private landlords – not to mention nearly millions of renters – slipped by relatively unnoticed.

Ministers have outlined plans to introduce a minimum tenancy term of three years in order to give private renters in England ‘more security’. The government suggests that longer agreements would give tenants more stability and allow them to put down roots without the fear of having to move home at 6-12 month intervals.

According to the BBC, 80% of tenants currently have contracts of six or 12 months, yet most renters stay in a property for an average of four years.

The proposals would allow tenants to leave earlier than the three-year term while exemptions to the rules could apply for the likes of students whose tenancies are dictated by university terms.

The plans – which are subject to a consultation until the end of August – have received a lukewarm response from private landlords who have expressed concerns about how the proposals could further disincentives those looking to invest in buy-to-let property and even those who already own one or more rented properties. Some have declared the plans to be another straw on the back of private landlords and vowed to sell their properties should the government move to introduce legislation to that effect.

Landlords have faced a raft of fresh regulation in recent years. The introduction of tenancy deposit protection schemes (TDP) has had a particular impact on smaller investors, while the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property, England and Wales) Regulations (EPC) – which compelled private landlords to bring their properties up to a minimum level of energy efficiency – has meant thousands have been spent in improvement works.

Additional regulations have placed an increased burden on landlords and many find it difficult to keep abreast of changing legislation. The plan to introduce a minimum tenancy term of three years will only add credence to the claims that while tenants are increasingly protected and incentivised in the private rental sector, private landlords themselves are not.

Those with longer memories will recall that, in 1988, the Housing Act introduced Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST) with the aim that short term tenancies - for periods as short as six months – could be offered by private landlords. This most recent plan seems at odds with the act, which was widely touted as bringing convenience and flexibility to both tenants and landlords alike. Some have expressed fears that the introduction of a minimum three year rental term will mean far greater restrictions on what landlords can do with their property and when.

This is not to say that landlords are on the whole against having tenants who occupy their property for years at a time, far from it.

Among my clients, the private landlord ‘wish list’ is largely consistent across the board – a tenant who pays their rent on time and looks after the property. When a landlord finds a tenant that fits these two qualities and stays in the property long term, the appeal is obvious: a steady, stable income and an investment that is well looked after.

In my view, the greatest objection to these proposals is the impact they will have when things go wrong. Sadly, just as there are a minority of rogue landlords who give the private rented sector a bad name, there are a minority of rogue tenants who make the lives of well-meaning and well intentioned business people difficult.

It is already incredibly difficult for landlords to obtain possession of their rented property, on non-mandatory grounds, during the fixed term of the tenancy. As well as serving the necessary ‘Section 8’ notice, it can take many months for the case to come to court and even if the matter is uncontested, costs can run into the many hundreds of pounds.

Where the tenant wishes to contest the possession proceedings, legal fees and court fees can run into the thousands.

The advantage of short-term rental periods has been that many landlords have found it easier to wait until the tenancy is nearing its end and simply serve a ‘Section 21’ notice. The potential for further damage to the property or non-payment in the period between deciding to evict the tenant and the tenancy reaching its end is often worth it to avoid the legal expenditure.

It is easy to see the potential issues facing a landlord with a rogue tenant, whose tenancy does not expire for more than two years, leaving no other option than to embark on the lengthy and costly Section 8 process.  My concern is that giving a new tenant a three year tenancy could be, at best, a gamble.  Many landlords will be concerned about protecting their properties and could be put off letting altogether.

This creates a serious problem for the government, which these proposals do not appear to have accounted for.

The UK is in the grip of a severe affordable housing shortage. The government has set a target of building 300,000 new homes each year, both to meet current demand and to make housing more affordable by flooding the market with new homes in easy reach of first time buyers. Yet, even if that lofty target were to be reached, the desired effect is still some way off being realised.

Recent figures by Onward suggest that the number of parliamentary constituencies in which private renters make up more than a fifth of households will reach 253 by 2022 – an increase from 18 in 2001. The private rented sector now makes up more than 20 per cent of all households.

In short, the housing sector is heavily dependent upon private landlords to provide much needed accommodation across the country. Policies such as this could be seen as an unwelcome and – ultimately – costly squeeze on private landlords at a time when the government can ill afford to do so. The effect may force large scale sales of rented properties – admittedly freeing up some housing stock, but very few which could be considered truly ‘affordable’ – or, a necessary increase in rents to cover the risk. In either case, those individuals and families currently renting are the ones who lose out.

By Louise Hebborn is a partner and commercial law expert at Stephensons Solicitors LLP.

 

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Regular electrical checks in the PRS are ‘essential’

July 20, 2018

Plans to introduce new tougher electrical safety standards in the private rented sector aimed at protecting tenants by reducing the risk of fires caused by electrical faults has been warmly welcomed by Electrical Safety First

The government wants to introduce regular electrical checks in the sector, following recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt.

consultation on these clarifications was launched yesterday.

Phil Buckle, director general of Electrical Safety First, said: “We are delighted the government has finally recognised the importance of regular electrical checks in the PRS, which protects both tenants and landlords.

“Electrical Safety First has led the charge for this to be made a legal requirement for UK homes and successfully lobbied for these to be introduced in the PRS in Scotland – with Wales and Northern Ireland set to follow suit. And our campaign for the introduction of these checks has been supported by 71% of MPs from all parties.

“The recent Hackitt Review has left no doubt that regular electrical checks are an essential – not just in the PRS but also in the social housing sector. And particularly in high-rise blocks, whatever the tenure.”

More than 18,000 house fires in England each year are caused by electricity, with independent research suggesting PRS properties are most at risk.

And research undertaken for Electrical Safety First by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service indicates that electrical fires in PRS homes are expected to increase by 17% by 2025.

Buckle added: “It is time private renters in England enjoy the same level of protection as elsewhere in the UK.”

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Scotland’s most responsible student tenants unveiled

July 20, 2018

Students may work hard, but many also party hard, which is largely why they have a reputation for being bad tenants.

Binge-drinking students are not renowned for being the most house proud but, for the first time, it has been revealed which Scottish universities have the most responsible student tenants, based on deductions from their tenancy deposits.

The study, undertaken by SafeDeposits Scotland, found that students at the University of Abertay in Dundee are the most responsible, with an average deduction from students in the last year of £45.00.

At the other end of the scale, the average deduction from students at the University of St Andrews last year was £262.80.

Although St Andrews students had the highest average deduction, when you look at damage to properties, they came out the most responsible with only 10% of deposits seeing a deduction due to damage.

Students renting in Glasgow came out on top in Scotland when it comes to getting the property spotless for the next tenant, with just 28% of deductions made for cleaning charges.

Unfortunately for student landlords in Stirling, student tenants in the city have been revealed as the messiest with almost half - 45% - of deductions being sought from deposits for cleaning – the highest proportion in the country.

In the last year, SafeDeposits Scotland saw £1.8m of deposits being returned to student tenants. However, it was necessary for £345,754 to be retained from students’ deposits by landlords.

As SafeDeposits Scotland holds around 60% of the market share in Scotland, the organisation estimates that a total of £576,260 is lost annually by students through not looking after their rental properties.

Victoria Smith, chief operating officer at SafeDeposits Scotland, said: “It’s interesting to see the reasons for landlords across the country making deductions and gaining an insight into how students live – some simple changes can avoid considerable deductions, putting their money back in their pockets.

“With the end of term upon us with a summer of travelling or work awaiting, deposits might be the last thing on students’ minds but in theory, students should have their full deposit returned if they look after the property and return it in the same state that they found it.

“To avoid doubt, students should look back at the check-in report and compare it to the state of the property at the end of the tenancy. It details the state and cleanliness of the accommodation. It’s important to check that the report is accurate at the outset of a tenancy, as the landlord or agent will use this as the basis on which they inspect the flat when the lease ends.

“The number of tenancies that run smoothly, with the full deposit returned, falls short of half [45%] showing that many students are aware of the requirements within their tenancy agreement. For the remaining 55%, the nature of student life or lack of knowledge that comes with leaving home for the first time means that avoidable deductions are incurred at the end of the lease - if tenants expect their deposit back in full, they have access to SafeDeposits Scotland’s independent adjudication service to find an amicable resolution.”

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Landlord fined just over £2,500 for unlicensed property

July 20, 2018

A buy-to-let landlord has been fined £2,525 after failing to obtain a license for a shared house in Thurrock, Essex.

Adeola Makinde was found guilty at Basildon Magistrate’s Court of failing to licence her property in Norfolk Place, Chafford Hundred, RM16, which she operated as a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

Makinde ignored several requests from Thurrock Council to obtain a license for her property, leaving the council with little alternative but to take legal action.

An inspection by council officials in July last year found that 12 people were living at the property, despite the fact that it featured just four rooms and sharing a single kitchen.

The inspection also uncovered a lack of adequate fire safety measures, while the property itself was in a rather poor state.

Makinde was found guilty of six charges, including failure to licence the HMO, three breaches of HMO management regulations, failing to return information about the house, and failing to return documents.

Cllr Barry Johnson, who is responsible for housing at Thurrock Council, said: “We believe everyone should have a good quality place to live and will continue to take action against those landlords who fail to ensure their properties are safe, well managed and properly licensed.

“We are currently consulting on a proposed new additional licensing scheme which would mean more landlords who own shared houses and flats have to comply with national health and safety standards and local criteria.”

The consultation is available online until Monday 24th September.

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London’s housing market has ‘suffered from the drop off in buy-to-let investors’

July 19, 2018

London house prices are continuing to fall, with the collapse in the buy-to-let sector increasing the number of homes on the market for sale, which is placing downward pressure on property prices.

The latest Land Registry UK House Price Index shows that London saw the lowest annual price increase in May, down by 0.4%, taking the average property value in the capital to £478,853.

Although the existing political climate and Brexit uncertainty continues to weigh heavily on London’s housing market, the fact that buy-to-let investors are shunning fresh property purchases is contributing to the sharp decline in agreed sales in the capital as demand from buyers falls.

New HM Land Registry sales figures available for London reveal that the number of completed house sales in March 2018 fell by 28.6% to 6,180 compared with 8,659 in March last year.

These figures reveal a property market that is “stuttering” at the moment, according to Sam Mitchell, CEO, online estate agents Housesimple.com.

Mitchell commented: “London's property price malaise continues, with annual growth in negative territory again.

“More than anywhere else, the capital has suffered from the drop off in buy-to-let investors deserting the market as a result of punitive tax changes.”

The number of homes available for sale has therefore increased, which has pushed down prices, presenting fresh opportunities for first-time buyers, but affordability constraints unsurprisingly remains an issue in London.

John Goodall, CEO and co-founder of buy-to-let specialist Landbay, said: “House prices succumbed to an early summer slowdown in May, helping to provide a slight respite for those hoping to get a foot on the property ladder. However, the overall cost of living and outstandingly high deposit costs continue to prevent many aspiring homeowners from entering the market.

“More and more of the so called ‘Generation Rent’ have surrendered to the fact they may never own a home in their lifetime. As a result, the private rental sector is increasingly becoming a crucial part of the housing mix and needs to be supported now more than ever.

“Recent government initiatives to professionalise the buy-to-let market and improve tenancy conditions are certainly a step in the right direction, but investment in building more properties specifically designed to rent will help to ensure the cost of renting doesn’t hit unsustainable levels.”

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Cost of five year fixed rate buy-to-let mortgages fall

July 19, 2018

The cost of five-year fixed rate mortgages has continued to fall despite fears of an imminent interest rate rise, new figure show.

The Bank of England raised the chances of a rate rise next month after its chief economist recently joined two other members of its rate-setting monetary policy committee voting for an immediate hike in borrowing costs.

But new data from online mortgage broker, Property Master, shows that five-year fixed rate offers for 50%, 65% and 75% of the value of a property have continued to fall since the start of the year. 

Savings for each of these mortgages respectively were £11, £24 and £13 per month, according to the digital start up that uses algorithms to match the requirements of individual private landlords against the entire buy-to-let mortgage market.

Two-year fixed rates remained relatively stable although savings were available for landlords borrowing 65% of the value of a property.

Angus Stewart, Property Master’s chief executive, said: “Buy-to-let mortgage rates have remained competitive despite gathering fears of a rise in interest rates. 

“Any increases in cost that we have recorded in our research, mainly for two-year fixed rates, have been moderate whilst the cost of the increasingly popular five-year fixed rates has continued to fall. Much of this has been the result of increased competition in the marketplace, recent figures recorded a 13% increase in the number of buy-to-let mortgages on offer.

“Landlords are also benefiting from greater innovation as lenders respond to the changing complexity of regulation in this marketplace.”

Stewart continued: “Nevertheless, at some point the Bank of England will have to move rates.  There are only four more meetings this year of the Monetary Policy Committee at which a rate rise could be announced so landlords looking to refinance should not assume the deals they see currently on the market will continue to be available.”

Average rate and monthly cost for a loan amount of £150k.

 

Average rate

Monthly cost

Product

2 Year Fixed 50% BTL

2 Year Fixed 65% BTL

2 Year Fixed 75% BTL

5 Year Fixed 50% BTL

5 Year Fixed 65% BTL

5 Year Fixed 75% BTL

SVR 100% loan

2 Year Fixed 50% BTL

2 Year Fixed 65% BTL

2 Year Fixed 75% BTL

5 Year Fixed 50% BTL

5 Year Fixed 65% BTL

5 Year Fixed 75% BTL

SVR 100% loan

01/01/2018

1.62%

2.16%

2.65%

2.40%

2.86%

3.33%

4.82%

£272

£318

£370

£321

£375

£434

£602

01/02/2018

1.52%

2.15%

2.62%

2.28%

2.80%

3.26%

4.78%

£246

£314

£368

£305

£367

£424

£597

01/03/2018

1.99%

2.16%

2.65%

2.26%

2.81%

3.26%

4.78%

£270

£318

£376

£303

£369

£426

£597

01/04/2018

2.03%

2.13%

2.65%

2.32%

2.77%

3.27%

4.78%

£285

£312

£374

£310

£364

£426

£597

01/05/2018

2.05%

2.12%

2.64%

2.33%

2.78%

3.20%

4.78%

£287

£314

£373

£312

£365

£417

£597

01/06/2018

1.71%

2.14%

2.67%

2.33%

2.70%

3.20%

4.82%

£276

£311

£375

£311

£353

£418

£603

01/07/2018

1.71%

2.17%

2.74%

2.32%

2.68%

3.22%

4.82%

£277

£315

£387

£310

£351

£421

£603

 

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Tipton & Coseley launches short-term let loans for landlords using AirBnB

July 19, 2018

The Tipton & Coseley Building Society will now accept mortgage applications for second homes and holiday lets where borrowers wish to use AirBnB, enabling BTL landlords to rent properties out on shorter and non-fixed-term agreements.

The building society has also introduced additional flexibility on overall income, by taking into consideration holiday let income where there’s a proven track record.

The product, which applicants borrowing up to 75% loan-to-value (LTV) can access, is available on purchase and remortgage. But holidays parks and properties with local ownership restrictions are excluded.

The property can be a second home, or a property let out for short periods. However, only a single second home/holiday let is allowed per applicant.

It must be a single dwelling so multiple occupancy is not accepted and there should be no assured tenancy agreements in place.

Cammy Amaira, director of sales & marketing at Tipton & Coseley Building Society, commented: “After listening to brokers and the marketplace, we can now accept applicants who wish to let their property over a short term, including AirBnB.

“The changing nature of people’s working circumstances for example, means that some tenants require shorter or more flexible rental periods. It therefore makes sense to accommodate landlords who wish to attract shorter term tenancies.”

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Thurrock Council plans to introduce additional licensing for landlords

July 19, 2018

Thurrock Council is proposing to introduce additional licensing for private landlords renting rooms to tenants in specific parts of the borough where there are higher numbers of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in a bid to boost living conditions for renters, improve property management arrangements, encourage landlords to deal with anti-social behaviour by their tenants, and ultimately raise more money from landlords.

The new scheme would mean affected landlords having to comply with national health and safety standards and local criteria.

The existing nationwide mandatory licensing affects properties occupied by five or more people from two or more households, but this is set to be extended from 1 October.

Under the new plans, small shared properties of three to four people in certain areas of the borough would have to be deemed suitable for the number of occupants and the landlord would have to pass a ‘fit and proper’ person test before the council would grant them a five-year licence.

The areas affected by the new scheme would be Aveley and Uplands, Belhus, Chadwell St Mary, Grays Thurrock, Grays Riverside, Little Thurrock Blackshots, Ockendon, Stifford Clays, Tilbury Riverside and Thurrock Park, Tilbury St Chads, and West Thurrock and South Stifford.

Cllr Barry Johnson, portfolio holder for housing, commented: “The majority of landlords act responsibly, but sadly there are those who fail to provide acceptable living conditions and don’t have adequate protection for their tenants or neighbouring homes in place. This is unacceptable and can lead to problems for both their tenants and the wider community.

“We believe everyone should have a good quality place to live and tightening the regulations around more shared houses and flats would enable us to ensure homes are safe and well managed.

“It is important to emphasise that no final decision has been made and I would encourage landlords, tenants and other residents to have their say on the proposals.”

The consultation is open until Monday 24 September – To find out more and have your say on the proposals, click here

Several consultation events will take place at the Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, RM17 6SL on the following dates:

Monday 30 July, from 2pm to 4pm

Thursday 16 August, from 6pm to 8pm

Friday 31 August, from 11am to 1pm

Monday 10 September, from 2pm to 4pm

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Draker teams up with OKA to offer landlords unique home staging service

July 19, 2018

Imagine if you could make the properties that you are currently trying to let look larger, brighter, cleaner, warmer, more homely, and, above all else, make people rent them.

General DIY, depersonalise and de-clutter, a fresh lick of paint, clean the windows, hoover the carpet, plump those cushions, ensure beds are neatly made, landlords can do a lot to improve their property’s internal appearance to entice prospective renters, and that is where home staging.

Home staging, or ‘dressing’, can help by create an aspirational lifestyle; somewhere that people can picture themselves living in, and that is why Draker, the prime central London letting agency, has joined forces with OKA, a luxury interiors retailer, and interior designer, to launch an opportunity for landlords.

Tim Hassell, managing director, Draker, commented: “We have teamed up with premium brand OKA to provide our landlords with stylish interior design solutions and an exceptional quality resource when they need to furnish their property.   

“Whether a client is looking to update just one room or an entire property, OKA’s talented design team is on hand to offer their expertise from small decorative items to large interior design projects.”

Any landlord who works with Draker’s will be able to take advantage of a trade terms agreed with OKA on products bought through the interior design service, as well as in-store, online and via telephone.

Giselle Mannering, head of interior design and trade at OKA, commented: “We share Draker’s approach to giving a bespoke personal service and, above all, listening to clients. For us, this means responding to the client brief to come up with beautiful ways of providing exciting living spaces.

“We offer a turnkey solution, incorporating our design service, logistics, delivery and full installation.

“Depending on stock, a project can be installed in as little as three weeks. Our ability to act as a one-stop shop means we offer a wide variety of products to fully furnish a property, making it feel like a luxury but individual home.”

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Government urged to address ‘baffling’ housing complaints system

July 18, 2018

A single housing ombudsman is crucial to ensure that the current system for complaining about housing is no longer confusing, according to the Ombudsman Services.

The government is being urged to simplify the system of consumer complaints in housing and property to help eradicate the “baffling patchwork” of schemes involved.

Ombudsman Services, which is withdrawing from handling complaints in the housing and property sector next month, says the existing redress process is too complex, confusing, and ultimately failing consumers, owed in part to the fact that there are almost 40 services, charities, advice groups and trade bodies involved.

Matthew Vickers, chief ombudsman designate at Ombudsman Services, said: “Redress in the housing sector is far too complex, with overlaps and gaps that make it virtually impossible for consumers to get complaints resolved.

“Our research shows the vast and baffling patchwork of schemes that people are faced with when they have an unresolved complaint. The current system is fragmented, complicated and ineffective. Consumers deserve better.”

The Ombudsman Services supports the idea of introducing a single ombudsman for the housing sector, as initially proposed by a Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government consultation earlier this year.

Vickers added: “By following the model used in energy, where strong regulation is backed up by a single ombudsman and effective advocacy, redress in housing could be transformed for the better.

“Our research shows that the vast majority of the public support this approach.”

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment has recommended the creation of a New Homes Ombudsman and a single consumer portal, which would signpost consumers to multiple redress schemes.

But the Ombudsman Services argues that the creation of such a portal would fail as it would “add more layers of complexity to a system that is already failing consumers”, according to Vickers.

He added: “The government must take action to reduce confusion and detriment.”

Almost seven in 10 people find the current system for complaining about housing confusing, according to the results of a recent Ombudsman Services’ survey.

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Rent arrears are a ‘real and serious issue’ for landlords, RentalStep warns

July 18, 2018

The number of tenants falling behind with their rent payments is likely to rise if rents continue to increase and wage growth remains sluggish, according to RentalStep.

The PropTech startup is warning landlords to take note of the fact that some tenants may find it more difficult to meet their monthly payments which could cause long-term problems for those who invest in the buy-to-let sector.

The number of tenants in arrears increased for four consecutive months between January and April, according to data from Your Move.

The estate agency reported that the proportion of its tenants in arrears increased from 8.4% to 9.4% during this time.

Meanwhile, Belvoir recently reported that a fifth of its offices had four to 10 tenants in arrears during the first three months of the year.

RentalStep estimates that rent arrears collectively cost landlords somewhere in the region of £900m annually.

Mike Georgeson, founder and chief executive of RentalStep, commented: “Rent arrears are a real and serious issue for the nation's landlords and they need to do everything in their power to protect themselves from being seriously affected," says Mike Georgeson, founder and chief executive of RentalStep.

“Many industry commentators predict that rents could rise as a result of the incoming ban on tenant fees. Landlords need to be aware of how this could impact on rent arrears and prepare accordingly.”

One of the most crucial processes for landlords, therefore, is to carry out comprehensive checks on prospective tenants.

“Making sure you let to tenants who have been fully referenced and credit checked is absolutely vital,” Georgeson added.

RentalStep has created the TenantPassport for precisely this reason. The digital rental history profile, which includes a tenant’s rental history, employment details and references, can be shared with landlords and letting agents.

Georgeson continued: “We’re aware that it can be time-consuming and expensive for landlords to carry out the right checks on prospective tenants and that's why we've developed an free and effective alternative.

“At RentalStep, we are also passionate about making sure that all tenants' rental payment histories are included in their all-important credit scores.”

This may partly explain why RentalStep, which allows landlords to list available properties on Rightmove, Zoopla and PrimeLocation for a fraction of the normal cost, has recorded landlord user growth of around 150% per month since the start of 2018 and expects to have over 5,000 tenants using its platform by the end of the year.

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Landlords welcome MPs fire safety plans

July 18, 2018

A call by a Parliamentary committee for the government to fund certain fire safety improvements in privately owned residential blocks has been warmly welcomed by landlords.

In its report responding to the Hackitt Review into building and fire safety, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Select Committee recommends that the government should pay for the replacement of any cladding on existing buildings which had been permitted, but has been subsequently banned following the Grenfell Tower fire.

This funding should be made available to both public and private sector landlords, according to the MHCLG.

Additionally, a proposal from the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) that the government should introduce a low-interest loan scheme for private sector building owners, to ensure that remedial work is carried out as quickly as possible where unsafe cladding is found and needs to be removed, has also been supported by the committee, which urges the government to “take as wide an approach as possible to the applicability and implementation of the recommendations in the Final Report”.

David Smith, policy director for the RLA, commented: “We welcome today’s report. Its pragmatic approach to the financing of the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding would ensure vital improvements are made quickly whilst legal debates continue about who should be responsible for replacing cladding found to be unsafe,

“We urge also the government to take seriously the Committee’s call to take a more holistic approach to fire safety. For all the focus on high rise buildings, we need to learn from the tragedy at Grenfell to ensure the right safety regime is in place whatever size or shape of housing people live in.”

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Fixflo launches new landlord survey – have your say

July 18, 2018

Buy-to-let landlords across the UK are being invited to have their say on what they think of letting agents and other aspects of the private rented sector in a new survey.

 

The Fixflo survey, which will run until Friday 31st August, aims to gauge the opinions of landlords around the country to produce a leading industry report.

 

To help encourage people to take in the survey, Fixflo is offering participants the chance to win one of three £50 Amazon vouchers.

 

The results of the survey will be incorporated into the Fixflo Report, which throws light on those insights provided by the participants to build up a national picture of repairs and maintenance processes, in addition to trends throughout the wider industry, across the UK.

 

Rajeev Nayyar, Fixflo’s managing director, said: “With the situation in the wider lettings industry constantly changing, this is a key insight into the way landlords feel about the late developments in addition to the way their properties are managed.

 

“We encourage as many people as possible to complete the survey to help us compile the fullest possible picture about the current state of the industry.”

 

Those wishing to take the survey should click here.

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Letting market activity continues to pick up momentum

July 17, 2018

There has been a further improvement in the letting market, according to board company Agency Express.

The number of new rental property listings ‘to let’ increased by 7.8% during June compared to the previous month, while the volume of properties ‘let’ was up 7.4% during the same period, the latest letting data from the Agency Express Property Activity Index has revealed.

Looking at performance across the UK, 10 of the 12 regions recorded by the Property Activity Index reported increases in new listings ‘to let’, while eight of the 12 saw a hike in properties ‘let’. 

June’s top performing region was London, with new homes to let increasing by 22.4% month-on-month, while properties let rose to sit at 12.3%. Wales followed suit with figures for properties ‘let’ sitting at 14.7%.

However, looking back at the index’s historical data we can see that this year’s figures are still lower than those recorded 12 months previous for both regions.

Here are the prominent performing regions:

Properties ‘to let’

  • Central England 12.7%
  • Wales 11.2%
  • South East 10.2%#
  • North West 8.9%
  • East Midlands 7.3%

 

Properties ‘let by’

  • South West 15.9%
  • North East 14.8%
  • Yorkshire & Humberside 14.7%
  • London 12.3%
  •  

The largest decline in this month’s index was recorded in the North East, where listing ‘to let’ sat at -5.6%, while properties ‘let’ dropped to -14.8%, marking the region’s largest decline for June since 2015.

Commenting on the latest report, Stephen Watson, managing director of Agency Express, commented: “As we look back over historical data recorded by the Property Activity Index, we can see that June is typically a buoyant period for UK lettings market. This month we have seen we have seen a good level of activity but year on year figures remain down.”

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Evicting problem tenants can take up to 17 weeks and ‘cost a lot of money’

July 17, 2018

Rogue landlords who break the law and exploit vulnerable tenants often make headlines, but spare a thought for landlords who are forced to deal with tenants from hell.

There are times when a landlord will have no alternative but to make a claim for possession of their property because their tenant has failed to pay the rent, broken the terms of the tenancy contract or damaged the property. Unfortunately the process of evicting tenants to regain vacant possession can often prove to be onerous and expensive.

It takes an average of 118 days for court-appointed bailiffs to remove tenants from private landlords’ properties after bringing a claim to court, according to fresh research.

New analysis of government figures by Simple Landlords Insurance reveals it took an average of 16.9 weeks from claim to bailiff eviction during the first three months of 2018.

A total of 21,429 possession claims were brought to court last year, of which 6,260 ended in eviction by bailiff.

Landlords in London are the most likely to have to evict a tenant, while those in the South West, North East and West Midlands were least likely to have to go all the way to court to secure their evictions, the data shows.

Tom Cooper, director of underwriting at Simple Landlords Insurance, commented: “The good news for everyone is that in 2017 only 0.5%of landlords made a possession claim in court. And only a third of those had to go through to the bitter bailiff end. The bad news is that if it does happen to you, it can cost a lot of money – and not just the average £1,700- £2,000 in legal fees.

“We wanted to get a more realistic idea of the impact of the process in terms of lost income, inconvenience, and ongoing legal fees in the worst and longest case scenarios.

“Just looking at lost rent, there are few landlords who can afford to lose up to 6 months’ worth - the time it takes for a tenant to go into arrears, for them to issue a Section 21 notice, and then for them wait 17 weeks to see the court process through.”

Often the best way for a landlord to protect themselves, their property and indeed their tenant is to take out appropriate landlords’ insurance, which differs from standard home insurance.

Landlords may also care to ensure that the policy, among other things, provides for, somewhat crucially, rent guarantee and legal protection insurance.

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Tenancy deposit theft total hits almost £1m in just six months

July 17, 2018

Rogue letting agents and landlords have reportedly been convicted of stealing almost £1m worth of tenancy deposits so far this year, new analysis from deposit-free renting firm Dlighted has revealed.

Anti-deposit campaigner Ajay Jagota of Dlighted, who keeps a running total of the cash value of deposits criminal letting agents and unscrupulous landlords have been convicted of stealing, reports that £911,391 worth of tenancy deposits were stolen during the first six months of the year.

Analysis from Jagota reveals that courts have found a number of letting agents guilty of illegally pocketing renter’s deposits this year, including this month’s conviction of Rachel Cefai of Rugby, jailed for two-and-a-half years for diverting more than £105,582 of tenant’s money into her own bank account, and with a judge saying that her “dishonesty seems to know no bounds”.

Elsewhere, Rhian Falvey of Swansea, was jailed for two years after paying more than £30,000 of tenant money into her own bank account and creating bogus invoices and credit notes on the firm’s electronic systems to cover her tracks.

Jagota said: “Cases of deposit theft are clearly and demonstrably becoming more and more common and my worry is that the coming Tenant Fee ban will make things even worse.

“The government’s own impact assessment suggests that letting agents are going to be hundreds of millions of pounds out of pocket, forcing many firms out of business. With billions of pounds of renter’s money just sitting there, the temptation to use that money to bail our struggling businesses could become too great for many agents.

“This is a significant amount of money we’re talking about – close to £4.5bn. Not only is that money missing from the UK economy, there is literally no way at all of knowing for certain how much of is just missing.

“It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Jagota, of North East letting agency Keep It Simple and deposit-free renting solution Dlighted, unsurprisingly wants to see more landlords and tenants to use his company’s deposit-free renting solution that helps tenants to rent for zero deposit by using deposit replacement insurance to give landlords and letting agents over £600,000 of cover against property damage, unpaid rent and legal fees.”

He added: “Deposit replacement insurance gives landlords and letting agents significantly superior protection against rent arrears, property damage and legal costs while allowing them to let properties longer and faster.

“Deposit free renting makes renting cheaper for tenants, easier and more profitable for property professionals and cuts crime. The case for it is compelling.”

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Principality reduces 5-year fixed rate deal

July 17, 2018

Principality Building Society has cut the rate on its five-year buy-to-let mortgage product at 75% loan-to-value by 0.1% to 2.75%, making the deal among the most competitive in the BTL market at the moment.

The product comes with a free standard valuation, free legals for remortgages and has no product or commitment fees.

Principality’s reduce rate mortgage product is likely to appeal to buy-to-let landlords, especially as momentum appears to be growing around an interest rate hike next month.

The MPC meets next month and is expected to increase the base rate from 0.5% to 0.75%, supported by the fact that the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney last week said that he had become increasingly confident that the UK’s economy’s weak start to the year mostly reflected bad weather.

A poll of City analysts by Reuters has given an 80% probability of a rate rise in August.

Ross Williams, Principality’s mortgage product manager, commented: “We recognise that five-year fixed products remain popular and the financial pressures our customers are facing, which is why we are continuing to support our broker partners, by offering good value fee free products to meet their clients’ needs.”

 

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Cheshire East revises HMO licensing fees

July 17, 2018

Buy-to-let landlords who operate houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in Cheshire East will face new licensing fees after the local council decided to replace the previous £575 fixed fee with a new structure.

The fixed fee of £575, which was set for a period of up to five years regardless of the size of the HMO, has now been replaced with a scale of fees and charges, ranging from £430 for an initial licence for smaller HMOs, up to £760 for a renewal licence for up to five years for the largest.

The revised fees come ahead of changes in government legislation, which will be introduced in 2018, permitting local councils to bring HMOs under closer scrutiny.

The government is expanding the mandatory licencing of HMOs, bringing more properties into the licensing regime from 1 October 2018 with a view to ensuring more homes meet acceptable standards.

The existing law says that where the HMO is three or more storeys and is occupied by five or more people who are from two or more households, there should be a HMO licence in place.

From 1 October 2018, any HMO occupied by five or more people will need a licence regardless of how many storeys the property has.  

This includes any HMO which is a building or converted flat. It also applies to purpose built flats where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both are occupied as a HMO.

Some 60,000 HMOs currently require a licence and it is estimated that a further 177,000 properties could need one under the new rules.

Landlords who fail to comply with licensing reforms by 1 October 2018 will be committing a criminal offence from that date

Cllr Ainsley Arnold, member for housing, planning and regeneration at Cheshire East Council, commented: “Poor housing can impact on a person’s mental and physical health and mandatory licensing will be key in ensuring that landlords provide good quality, safe accommodation that is well managed.

“In Cheshire East, there are an estimated 600-650 HMOs and 51 meet the current definition for a mandatory licence. However, from October, it’s estimated that around 500 will require one.

“To make sure we can respond to the significant increase in HMOs needing a licence and safeguard those living in them, we have strengthened our resources and created additional posts.

“The licence fees and charges have also been reviewed to ensure that the full cost of processing an application, which varies according to the size of the HMO, is passed to the landlord as a valid cost of operating their business.”

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Many BTL landlords worried their properties won’t ‘cover their own costs’

July 16, 2018

Bricks and mortar have provided stellar returns for many people over the past couple of decades, prompting many to rely on property, whether a main residence or buy-to-let, as their pension.

Aside from creating a safe and secure way for your money to grow and for your wealth to increase, property also often appeals because people like the physical sense of ownership, rather than the notional ownership of an investment shown on a piece of paper or computer screen.

But relying on property for your pension could leave you in a sticky situation, according to Alexandra Morris, managing director of MakeUrMove. 

It is estimated that almost a million private landlords face a pension black hole after new laws and regulations mean the income from their properties will not sustain them in retirement.

Research shows that three quarters of those landlords will consider selling their properties if they start to make too small a margin, or fall into the red due to additional costs.

With more buy-to-let landlords looking to offload their properties to avoid recent tax and regulation changes, there is some concern that some landlords may struggle to sell their properties - at their desired price - amid a surge in supply of properties on the housing market in some parts of the country. 

The problem disproportionally affects older landlords, who have little time to make changes before they need to rely on their properties for a retirement income, with those over 55 most concerned about making too small a profit on their properties.

Morris said: “Smaller, casual landlords have been impacted by rising costs of managing their properties, with 38% citing the high cost of repairs as one of their biggest concerns.

“The problem impacts landlords with a buy-to-let mortgage the most severely, as these additional overheads, combined with recent changes to the private rental sector, mean smaller landlords hoping for a steady income in retirement are now worrying that their properties won’t even cover their own costs.”

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Greater regulation for Airbnb-style landlords may be needed, say MPs

July 16, 2018

With more Airbnb listing in this country than ever before, there is growing concern among MPs that the home sharing website and similar platforms may be putting holidaymakers at risk.

Homeowners, including landlords, who let out properties via holiday rental sites such as Airbnb do not face the same regulation as hotels and B&Bs, including fire safety regulations and other checks, and there is cause for concern among MPs that the lack of control in the short-term rentals sector is allowing unscrupulous businesses to pose as private owners.

A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Tourism, Leisure and the Hospitality Industry, to be published this week, is expected to show evidence that a number of businesses are using holiday rental platforms to rent out properties, mainly because they do not enforce checks.

Gordon Marsden, chairman of the parliamentary group points out that there are thousands of properties listed on Airbnb across the UK, and yet local authorities and fire brigades are unaware of the location of many of these homes.

The Blackpool South MP said: “There is an image that this is a lot of happy, jolly people with a spare room trying to make some pin money.

“That’s true, but it’s also true that there seems to be systematic attempts to do block-booking in blocks of flats. That’s problematic.”

There is evidence that some hosts had multiple listings on Airbnb and other platforms, according to Marsden.

He continued: “They have their hands on a number of different properties and many of those are often in large tower blocks.”

“That suggests that sharing-economy platforms are increasingly being used to develop tourism accommodation businesses rather than simply renting a room on an ad hoc basis.

“Sadly, issues like the Grenfell inquiry have shone a strong light on what the potential perils in large blocks might be, in terms of safety and security, and particularly not knowing who’s in there.”

Marsden believes that there may need to be a “substantive, independent or government-commissioned” look at Airbnb and other similar websites to see what impact they are having on the housing market in this country, particularly in places like London, where is has been argued that epidemic of bookings is changing the character of some popular neighbourhoods.

He added: “We’re right to look at the economic possibilities but that’s not a substitute in terms of legislation or government’s responsibility to take a dispassionate look at the pros and cons.”

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Best places to invest based on capital growth

July 16, 2018

When it comes to investing in property, it pays to know about the latest property hotspots and up-and-coming areas, not just as far as potential rental returns are concerned, but also possible capital growth.

Although residential property price growth across the UK has been somewhat subdued of late, buy-to-let investors can still expect a strong return on investment in certain areas over the next few years.

Kuflink has assessed which locations across the UK will record the strongest property price growth in the medium term.

With changes to buy-to-let tax relief and increases in stamp duty creating a challenging investor market, these locations offer a potential goldmine for the savvy investor, according to the property investment experts, which used figures taken from PropertyData, YourMove and Land registry data, with average property prices from Rightmove.

Narinder Khattoare, CEO of Kuflink, said, “Despite the challenges facing the UK property market, our analysis has identified five key areas showing very promising signs of growth.

“We’ve highlighted these locations as likely hotspots in 2018, with the potential to offer significant returns for a savvy investor”.

Hull

Named one of the Rough Guide’s Top Ten Cities to Visit in 2016, alongside Reykjavik and Vancouver, Hull has recently undergone a major regeneration project, with the government pledging £250m to develop public and private infrastructure, and fund the creation of 7,500 jobs.

As the UK’s current City of Culture (a title it will hold till 2020), Hull has a spotlight on the world stage, and a raised profile as a world-class arts destination.

With house prices yet to catch up to its increasing popularity with young professionals, averaging £121,004 and up 8% on 2015, investors should be taking note of this cultural urban enclave.

Colchester

Along with the accolade of being the UK’s oldest town, Colchester is also one of the UK’s fastest growing cities, with an 18.9% population increase from 2001-2015. The town boasts lower than average house prices in comparison to neighbouring Southend-on-Sea and Chelmsford, direct transport links to London, and access to picturesque countryside nearby, making it ideal for both families and young professionals.

House prices in the area have been relatively unaffected by the national slump in prices, with capital gains resting at an impressive ten percent and making for sizeable ROIs for investors.

Salford

Situated in the borough of Greater Manchester, Salford serves Manchester’s 100,000 strong student community with excellent transport links to a thriving city centre, and investors can expect yields averaging twice that of London at around 5%.

Salford Quays is home to the second largest media hub in the UK, and “Second Tier cities” such as Manchester have seen interest grow rapidly in recent years.

With £1bn in backing from the government’s Northern Powerhouse Initiative earmarked for the region, Salford is likely to continue its upwards trajectory as a focal point for investors.

Luton

Continuing the trend of up and coming commuter belt towns, Luton in Bedfordshire is one of the ones to watch in 2018. The town has seen an influx of renters age 25-29, up nearly 9% between 2015 and 2016, attracted by Luton’s below average prices and London links.

Alongside an increased appetite for avocados, millennials also bring with them high demand for rental and new-build properties, with rental price growth currently around the 5% mark and showing no signs of slowing.

Toton 

This sleepy Nottinghamshire town has been chosen as the only East Midlands hub for the HS2 rail project, and will see the creation of a major depot, a proposed “garden village” city, and a fifty-one minute direct link to London by 2033.

With planned connections to Leeds, Birmingham, and London, and a cheaper than UK average house price of £191,623, investors looking for a long-term commitment can expect to benefit from added jobs, housing, and an influx of private renters.

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Dragons’ Den star Tej Lalvani buys stake in Air Agents

July 16, 2018

Dragons’ Den star Tej Lalvani has acquired a stake in London-based Airbnb property management firm, Air Agents.

Lalvani, the chief executive of vitamins business Vitabiotics, is the second entrepreneur from the BBC show to buy a share in the short-let management company, after Dragon Touker Suleyman acquired a 14% stake in the firm last year.

Lalvani commented “I am thrilled to be involved in a project as exciting as AirAgents. The business model is exceptionally clever to support a company like Airbnb during its boom, and I see only great things for the future of the brand.”

The new funding will allow Londoners Mark Hudson and Fran Milson, which set up Air Agents in 2015, to significantly expand on the 650 homes on their books by the end of the year, with a view to having around 1,500 properties under management by the end of the year.

Milsom said: “We are delighted to have a second Dragon on board following Touker Suleyman’s investment in January 2017.

“We’re still a young company, but Tej will give invaluable advice as we continue to shape our brand into a household name, like Vitabiotics.

“We have had an exceptional year - we are on course to nearly ten times growth, again, our stock will have more than tripled and we have doubled the team – and we look forward to building on this.”

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Ashford Borough Council to adopt new powers to crackdown on rogue landlords

July 16, 2018

Rogue landlords in Ashford will now face fines of up to £30,000 after Ashford Borough Council voted to adopt new rules designed to improve safety for private renters by ensuring that buy-to-let landlords are meeting their legal responsibilities.

The civil penalties for the worst offenders will be used as an alternative to criminal prosecutions and are seen as a quicker way to deal with serious housing offences.

This comes as part of the government’s campaign to clamp down on criminal landlords, with local councils now given the option to decide whether to prosecute or issue a penalty.

Ashford Borough Council's Cabinet agreed to adopt the new enforcement powers which will now be used to deal with rogue landlords who break the rules. The council will be able to retain all of the income to make sure it is used for private sector housing enforcement purposes.

Fines could be imposed where landlords fail to comply with improvement notices, commit offences in relation to the licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation, continue to contravene an overcrowding notice, and breaches of banning orders, which prohibit landlords and agents from letting or managing residential properties.

In setting the level of penalty, the council will follow government guidance covering the severity of the offence, the culpability and track record of the offender, the harm or potential harm caused to the tenant, and distress caused.  

Cllr Gerald White, portfolio holder for housing, said: “I'm supportive of the proposed implementation of the civil penalty policy to allow the council to consider imposing fines on landlords who fail to comply with housing law, as an alternative to prosecution.

“Implementing the policy will hopefully deter landlords from failing in their responsibilities in providing safe homes and ensuring that they comply with the relevant housing law.”

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New investment in the buy-to-let market continues to fall

July 13, 2018

Activity in the buy-to-let mortgage market took a further dip in May as the combination of tighter tax and mortgage rules continues to take its toll on landlords.

Figures released yesterday by UK Finance show that there was a near 10% drop in new buy-to-let home purchase mortgages last month, as a series of reforms, including the phasing out of mortgage interest relief, continues to have a punitive effect on landlords.

Some 5,500 new buy-to-let home purchase mortgages were completed in May, down 9.8% compared with the corresponding month last year, reflecting the changing regulatory and fiscal environment for landlords. By value this was £0.7bn of lending in the month, 22.2% down year-on-year.

Many landlords are taking this opportunity to reappraise the viability of their portfolios. But while new investment in market falls, remortgaging levels continue a strong upward trend.

There were 14,600 new buy-to-let remortgages completed in the month, some 15% more than in the same month a year earlier. By value this was £2.3bn of lending in the month, 21.1% up on the same period last year.

Jackie Bennett, director of mortgages at UK Finance, said: “Purchases in the buy-to-let market continue to be constrained by recent regulatory and tax changes, the full impact of which have yet to be fully felt.”

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Amateur landlords are ‘beating a fast retreat’ and ‘becoming an anachronism’

July 13, 2018

A two-speed market has emerged in the buy-to-let sector as smaller landlords have stopped adding to their portfolios, according to Octane Capital.

The property finance firm reports that landlords are becoming more professional as amateurs turn away from the buy-to-let market.

The changing regulatory and fiscal environment has unsurprisingly had an adverse impact on the market, leaving some landlords with little choice but to reappraise the viability of their property portfolios, as reflected by a drop in amateur buy-to-let landlords acquiring homes.

But it is not all doom and gloom in the private rented sector. While fewer small-scale landlords are adding new homes to their stock, experienced landlords still remain active in the market.

“Amateur landlords are beating a fast retreat,” said Jonathan Samuels, CEO of the property lender, Octane Capital. “While professional landlords and institutional investors remain active, amateur landlords are fast becoming an anachronism.”

Samuels points out that the buy-to-let market is currently dominated by remortgaging activity, as reflected by the latest UK Finance Mortgage Trends data and ONS English Housing Survey.

“What activity there is within buy-to-let is primarily the remortgaging of existing portfolios or properties in order to maintain some kind of margin,” he added.

While the number of people living in the private rented sector has continued to grow, the crackdown on landlords has forced average rents upwards.

Samuels continued: “What’s particularly eye-opening is the significantly higher percentage of joint income that privately renting households spend on their rent compared to people paying a mortgage.

“Rents have risen astronomically in recent years while cheap borrowing costs have made mortgage payments exceptionally competitive.

“Given that homeowners are more likely to be in higher income groups than renting households, that's a fundamental disconnect.”

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Most private tenants are happy with their homes

July 13, 2018

The vast majority of private sector tenants are satisfied with their housing, the English Housing Survey report for 2016/17 has found.

The newly published report shows that 84% of PRS tenants are happy with their homes, which is higher than the social rented sector where 81% are satisfied with their housing.

Private landlords deserve great credit, based on the report’s findings, which also reveals that 72% of private sector tenants are satisfied with the way that their landlord carries out repairs or maintenance, compared to 66% who said the same in the social rented sector.

David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, commented: “Whilst we should never be complacent, these results confound the myths that some have peddled about the private rented sector.

“It shows once again that the vast majority of private sector landlords do a good job and look after their properties and tenants properly.

“The government should recognise this and ensure policy supports the vast majority of landlords who are individuals to continue providing the good quality homes to rent we need whilst improving enforcement to root out the criminals who have no place in the market.”

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A third of renters have no plans to acquire a property

July 13, 2018

One in three renters never intend to buy their own home, mainly because they are happy living in the private rented sector, according to a new report.

A study of 1,000 renters shows that a third - 33% - are generally content to rent long-term and have no plans to acquire a property.

Almost a third - 31% - of respondents said they do not think getting on the property ladder is important, just over a quarter - 26% - stated that they do not want the responsibility of owning a home and enjoy the freedom of renting, whilst 7% of renters said they prefer to spend their money elsewhere, such as travel and other life experiences.

The study, carried out by sofa specialists, Sofology, explores the happiness levels of UK renters and how people create that sense of ‘feeling at home’ wherever they live.

The majority of renters are happy with their current living arrangements, with 83% citing they feel settled in their current home. Almost two thirds (61%) stated that renting made them happy.

The cities that came out happiest in terms of a range of factors, from long-term rental averages, to happiness renting and importance of getting on the ladder, are as follows:

Chelmsford

Coventry

Cardiff

Manchester

Liverpool

Brighton

Newcastle

Glasgow

Southampton

Leicester

Andy Leadbetter, CMO at Sofology commented on the study: “As renting has become more prevalent in society, we wanted to explore how people are making their rental properties a long-term home.

“We were surprised to find that the majority of renters are happy with their living arrangements and have no plans to buy a property. It shows a clear shift in societal norms.

“You don’t have to own somewhere to make it feel like your home.”

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Paragon launches portfolio BTL range in Scotland

July 13, 2018

Paragon has expanded its buy-to-let mortgage offering in Scotland to include products for portfolio landlords.

The new mortgage range is designed for landlords with at least four mortgaged properties, as well as those operating in limited companies and limited liability partnerships.

The portfolio range can be used to finance single self-contained units, houses in multiple occupation and multi-unit blocks, with products available for purchase as well as remortgage.

The new products, aimed at landlords with larger and more complex portfolios, will complement Paragon’s existing buy-to-let mortgage deals in Scotland.

Following the introduction of the Prudential Regulation Authority’s (PRA’s) detailed underwriting rules for portfolio landlords at the end of last year, several lenders have chosen to focus solely on the non-portfolio segment of the market or to limit the scope of their portfolio products.

Paragon’s portfolio range has enjoyed strong success in England and Wales and the Scottish launch offers an opportunity to extend competition and choice for intermediaries and landlords operating in the portfolio segment north of the border.

John Heron, director of mortgages at Paragon, said: “The introduction of the new PRA underwriting rules for portfolio landlords has impacted the buy-to-let market across the UK and we’re delighted to extend our portfolio range into the Scottish market.

“Demand for portfolio lending is on the increase in Scotland and with fewer lenders choosing to offer suitable products for this segment, we have a unique opportunity to bring improved choice and competition for those looking to invest.”

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New rental listings set to drop sharply amid landlord exodus

July 12, 2018

An exodus of landlords from the buy-to-let market has caused a significant drop in rental property listings in recent month with a further net loss anticipated, according to new research.

A fresh study by the Residential Landlords Association’s (RLA) research facility, PEARL, has found that landlord sentiment to the sector and investments is deteriorating, leading to a spike in the number of landlords exiting the rental market.

The trade body estimates that on top of the 46,000 privately rented homes that have already been lost, there will be a further net loss of 133,000 homes to rent, as small-scale private landlords continue to offload properties largely as a result of recent tax and legislative changes, which are making it unviable for many investors to operate in the sector.

Research by RLA PEARL has found that 62% of private landlords have reported that their profitability would be reduced by at least 20% and 67% reported they would minimise investment due to the government tax changes. 

The prospect of a rental drought is particularly bad news for tenants, especially those who claim housing benefit/Universal Credit, who are set to continue to face increasing competition for properties and rising rents.

RLA PEARL acknowledged that the growth of the private rented sector over the past 20 years has been driven by the small-scale landlords, which is why the organisation is urging the government to do more to support them, including the introduction of tax incentives, in their quest to provide tenants with longer-term tenancies, and in turn greater security of tenure.

Dr Tom Simcock, who headed up the research for RLA PEARL, concluded: “We need to move to a broader but fair reform of private renting; with improved access to justice for landlords and tenants, expanded options for security of tenure, and reformed taxation policy that supports not penalise private landlords.”

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Property wealth is helping to “change lives”

July 12, 2018

Property investment is not a quick fix, but rather a long-term financial solution to building wealth, as any good buy-to-let landlord will know.

While rental yields are important to some landlords, others are more focused on capital growth in order to build wealth, particularly those investing in property in London and the South East, where rental returns are typically among the lowest in the UK.

While there are a number of strategies which can be implemented when building a property portfolio, there is no denying the fact that focusing on capital growth is key to ensuring long-term success, as reflected by growth in equity release levels, which is expected to increase further this year.

The latest data from Key Retirement shows that retired homeowners, for instance, released £1.71bn of property wealth in the first six months of the year as the equity release market continued its record-breaking expansion.

Around £9.5m of property wealth was released every day in the six months to July with equity release plan sales growing by 29% on the same period of 2017, Key’s H1 2018 Equity Release Market Monitor shows.

The total value of property wealth released to the end of June increased by 37% on the previous year to £1.71bn from £1.24bn and plan sales grew to 22,816 from 17,656, as retired homeowners use their property wealth to boost their standards of living.

Dean Mirfin, chief product officer at Key Retirement, said: “Customer demand is driving the expansion in the market to new record highs enabling more retired homeowners to transform their finances.

“More money was released in the first six months of 2018 than in the whole of 2015 as records continue to be broken across the market with expert independent advisers playing a vital role.

“Property wealth is not just helping to transform an individual’s retirement planning but is also helping their families with their financial needs. The growth in gifting underlines how much can be achieved when the average amounts being released are as much as £78,000. The Bank of Mum and Dad, or Gran and Grandad are changing lives, and not just their own.”

Retired homeowners in London released an average £133,000 of property wealth each in the six months – the highest in the country – followed by the South East on nearly £90,000 and the South West on £77,000.

But every region saw strong growth in the value of property wealth released. The total value of property wealth released soared by 65% in East Anglia and plan sales surged by 50% in the West Midlands.

Other areas recording strong growth in property wealth released included the West Midlands at 62% and the East Midlands on 56% followed by the North East at 55%. Hot spots for rising sales of plans included the East Midlands at 45% followed by Northern Ireland on 43% and Wales on 42%. 

 

Region

Number of plans sold H1 2018

Number of plans sold H1 2017

Total value released H1 2018 (£ million)

Total value released H1 2017 (£ million)

South East

5,860

4,822

£505.169

£394.155

London

2,457

1,950

£314.655

£222.169

South West

2,457

2,195

£182.416

£158.694

North West

1,957

1,440

£108.038

£79.260

East Anglia

1,762

1,276

£126.671

£76.903

East Midlands

1,968

1,361

£119.635

£76.706

West Midlands

1,770

1,183

£109.595

£67.653

Yorkshire & Humberside

1,404

1,059

£75.143

£56.263

Scotland

1,320

1,037

£68.129

£46.590

Wales

1,015

713

£55.743

£38.127

North East

649

481

£35.988

£23.260

Northern Ireland

198

139

£8.544

£7.275

UK

22,816

17,656

£1,710 bn

£1,246 bn

 

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Proposed changes will lead to an increase in costs for landlords – claim

July 12, 2018

The Welsh Assembly is being urged to reconsider the bill to ban tenants’ fees in Wales due to concerns that that it will have an adverse impact on the rental market in the principality.

The National Landlords Association (NLA) fear that if the fees charged to tenants by letting agents are banned, these costs will be passed on to landlords, who will need to recoup the costs elsewhere, inevitably through higher rents.

Giving evidence to the Welsh Assembly on Renting Homes (Fees etc.) (Wales) Bill, and the potential impact it will have on private landlords, Chris Norris, NLA director of policy and practice, argued that the proposed changes would lead to an increase in costs for landlords.

He also questioned the extent to which the Bill would achieve its intended aims, referring to his earlier statement on the Bill when it was introduced by Welsh housing minister, Rebecca Evans AM, last month.

He said in his official statement: “Whilst tenants and applicants deserve to be treated fairly, and not unduly charged, it is disappointing that the Welsh government seem to be adding to the enormous amount of change with which landlords in Wales are being expected to contend.

“With all of the uncertainty surrounding the introduction of the new ‘Standard Contract’ from 2019, and ongoing debate about fitness for habitation in the private sector the NLA would like to see the Welsh government focus on getting the fundamentals right before moving onto new challenges.”

Norris accepted that buy-to-let landlords should be responsible for paying letting agent fees in Wales, despite some concerns that this will lead to higher rents as landlords seek to pass on the costs, according to the Welsh government.

However, he argued that there are some charges that tenants should be responsible for which both the landlord and the tenant are beneficiaries’ – avoiding pre-screening, referencing, and particularly checking-in – and where there’s a risk of harm for both parties if the process is not followed properly through poor service “there’s an argument for sharing that cost”.

He also said that there needs to be “a true understanding of who are the beneficiaries of different services, and therefore the costs are met by the people who are benefiting”.

The Bill proposes holding deposits are capped at just one week’s rent. But the NLA does not believe there should be a cap.

Norris explained: “The security deposit never becomes the landlord’s money. The security deposit always remains the tenant’s money. The legislation already protects that.

“It’s not in the landlord’s interest, or the agent’s interest, to ramp up the security deposit that they can’t use as operating capital, because it becomes a barrier to getting people in the homes.”

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Accord offers cheaper mortgage deals

July 12, 2018

Accord Buy to Let has reduced rates on selected mortgage deals, with products now available from below 2%.

Buy-to-let landlords looking to refinance their property can now secure a two-year fixed rate deal at 1.82% at up to 65% loan-to-value (LTV).

Landlords with more equity in their home may qualify for the two-year fix at 1.74%, which is available at 60% LTV.

Both deals come with a £1,495 fee, and a free standard valuation, while the intermediary-only lender, which is part of the Yorkshire Building Society, is also offering landlords the choice of £750 cashback on completion, or free legal fees and £250 cashback.

Accord has also cut the cost of its fee-free remortgage deals, which are available as two-, three- or five-year fixes, with rates starting from 2.93% at 65% LTV.

Some of Accord’s purchase deals have also been reduced, with two-year fixed rate deals now starting from 1.74%, at up to 60% LTV. 

Chris Maggs, commercial manager at Accord Buy to Let, said: “We recognise that landlords have different needs so have varied the competitive rate offerings, additional features and range of mortgage fees for landlords.”

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Longer contracts could drive yet more buy-to-let landlords out of the PRS

July 11, 2018

Small scale buy-to-let investors and accidental landlords face more upheaval under the government’s plan to introduce mandatory minimum three-year tenancies, according to a leading letting agent.

Aside from the fact that three-year tenancies, as proposed by the government, could make it harder for buy-to-let landlords to finance their property purchases, Fiona Bourke, partner at Carter Jonas, argues that longer tenancies will pile pressure on in many other ways.

The idea behind the plan is to offer private tenants greater security and enable them to put down roots. But Bourke believes that the risks may “far outweigh the benefit of financial security for the smaller scale buy-to-let investors and accidental landlords”.

She said: “With more rights being given to tenants, the three-year term potentially has less value to the landlord should tenants decide to leave part way through their tenancy, which they will have the freedom to do.

“Should landlords potentially come across problematic tenants it will also become harder for landlords to manage them if they are locked into a longer-term agreement.”

Bourke continued: “In my area of Wandsworth [in south London], rental agreements are often much shorter than the national four-year average and we have a significant number of local, individual and accidental landlords who may reconsider their options in light of these changes in legislation.

“Furthermore, such reconsideration could be fuelled further by the prospect of rent rise caps in future.”

Bourke says that there is “no easy way out for local, individual or accidental landlords as a result of these new changes”, but rather a choice between “going longer term on their investments or simply cashing in”.

But while some smaller scale landlords may struggle to cope with the planned changes to rental legislation in this country, which she points out is “shifting further towards alignment with Europe”, where three-year minimum tenancies have long been the norm, the proposals are sure to be a welcome one for larger scale investors.

“Venture capitalists and asset management companies will be buying up property with the ever so slightly more safeguarded guarantee of a long-term return on investment,” she added.

“It [the planned new rules] could bring about a new buy-to-let audience who recognise that we’re fast becoming more of a rental society and the new laws may give landlords more stability in the long run.”

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Important information for landlords: ‘How to Rent’ guide updated

July 11, 2018

The government’s “How to Rent” guide was once again updated yesterday.

Landlords agreeing new tenancies must provide tenants with this new version or risk leaving themselves exposed, as a section 21 notice is not valid unless the correct ‘How to Rent’ guide has been given to the tenant.

In addition to a new tenancy, any tenant who is having their tenancy renewed must also get a copy of the guide before they are served with a section 21 notice. This includes any tenancies that become statutory periodic tenancies.

It is somewhat surprising that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has once again updated the guide, given that there was a similar update a fortnight ago, on 26 June. It is usually changed every six to 12 months.

You can read the new guide by clicking here.

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UK rents increase further, Homelet says

July 11, 2018

Annual rental price growth in the UK increased in June, HomeLet said on Tuesday.

The latest HomeLet Rental Index shows that the annual rate of rental price inflation hit 1.8% in June, although this remains lower than the UK consumer price index of 2.4% recorded last month.

The average UK rent for a new tenancy starting in June was £924 per calendar month (pcm), which is higher than the same month last year and £5 more when compared to May 2017, based on HomeLet’s data.

When London, where the average rent stands at £1,596pcm, is excluded, the average rent in the UK is now £767pcm, which is up by 1.3% on last year

Rents increased in 10 of the 12 areas of the country monitored by the HomeLet Rental Index between May and June 2018, with only Wales and the North East seeing a monthly decrease.

As well as this, Wales has seen the average rental price fall by 0.8% over the last year, the only region to see a decrease in prices in the last 12 months.

Northern Ireland recorded the highest rate of rental price inflation last month, with rents that were, on average, 5.1% higher year-on-year.

The region with the largest month-on-month increase was the West Midlands, showing a 1.6% different between May and June 2018

Martin Totty, chief executive of Barbon Insurance Group, HomeLet’s parent company, said: “The data used in the Rental Index gives us a forward-looking view of the rental market. Over the next quarter I think there are a lot of factors at play in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) both demand for and supply of properties impacting average rents.

“We don’t yet know if the government’s squeeze on private landlords via taxation changes and more regulation will discourage their continued participation in this important sector and begin to reduce supply. Any constriction of the number of properties available for rent can’t be good news for tenants if all it achieves is to increase rents.

“However, the demand for rental properties remains strong and will continue in the near term, which has to be positive for property owners. If some landlords do choose to sell up there are many who will see that as an opportunity to improve their yields as demand still exceeds supply, a point many commentators have made via the many consultations government have invited on their proposals for the PRS.”

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Top tips to attract family tenants

July 11, 2018

Many landlords consider family tenants the Holy Grail with recent research by the National Landlords Association (NLA) revealing that properties rented to families take up the least amount of property management time when compared to other types of tenants.

The findings came from more than 1,000 responses to the latest quarterly landlord research panel from the NLA, which asked them to estimate how much time they spent on property management, including dealing with tenant queries and property maintenance requests, and general business administration.

The study suggests that landlords who rent to families and young couples spend on average one full working day a week - eight hours - on property management.

In contrast, the NLA says landlords who let to migrant workers, benefit recipients, or who have executive lets, can expect to spend up to 12 hours per week.

Richard O'Neill, Romans’ lettings managing director, said: “Renting a home is a practical, flexible and beneficial option for thousands of families across the country. It offers a simple route for parents looking to live within a school’s catchment area or close to a support network of family and friends.

“Landlords should aim to appeal to this growing market by offering the type of homes families are demanding. Our evidence shows families are typically reliable, stable and long-term tenants - qualities that should make them highly desirable to landlords.”

O’Neil highlights the following factors every landlord should consider before investing in a property with the intention of letting it to a family.

+ Location, location, location

Location is key for families. Most will want to be within the catchment area of a great school and close to local amenities such as parks, playgrounds, leisure centres and shops. Choosing a family-friendly area is a must for ensuring a family home is continuously occupied and achieves a good rent.

+ A family home

Landlords should think about the type of home a family will be looking for. Two, three and four-bedroom houses with plenty of space, including a garden, are most popular. Families require a practical home so consider features such as parking and storage space.

+ Flexibility

Families want to feel at home - and when they do, they tend to stay longer and look after the property well. Landlords are advised to be as flexible as possible when it comes to issues such as decorating and keeping pets. Having an addendum drawn up alongside the tenancy agreement is the simplest way to state what they will allow and ensures the boundaries are clear.

O’Neil added: “The key to getting the most from this growing market is finding a property with excellent investment potential in the right area - such as one of our top five places to bring up a family - and marketing it correctly to attract the highest possible rent.” 

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Vida Homeloans introduces lower buy-to-let fees

July 11, 2018

Vida Homeloans has cut its buy-to-let fees on smaller buy-to-let loans to 1% in a bid to win more business from property investors.

The 1% fee (minimum £495) is available on the Vida 1 tier up to a maximum loan size of £125,000, replacing the previous fixed fee of £1,995.

Louisa Sedgwick, director of sales – mortgages at Vida Homeloans, said: “We are always listening to feedback from mortgage intermediaries here at Vida Homeloans and constantly look for new ways to ensure our products suit borrowers who are currently not well-served by high street lenders.”

The new lower buy-to-let fees form part of wider changes, including alterations to Vida’s Fee Saver residential mortgage range, with properties up to £500,000 now qualifying for a free valuation and a lower £49 assessment fee.

Sedgwick added: “These changes to our Fee Saver residential product and specialist BTL range show our continuing appetite to grow our specialist mortgage lending.”

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Dominic Raab’s exit leaves us ‘staring down the barrel’ of a housing crisis

July 10, 2018

Kit Malthouse has been named as the government’s latest housing minister after Dominic Raab, who spent just six months in the role, was appointed Brexit secretary following David Davis’ resignation.

Many property professionals, including private landlords, are growing increasingly frustrated with the merry-go-round of housing ministers, with Malthouse, the MP for north-west Hampshire who was previously minister for family support, housing and child maintenance, becoming the 16th MP to hold this role in 18 years.

Raab’s predecessor, Alok Sharma, also held the housing ministerial post for just six months, which is clearly not enough time to fix the fix the broken housing market, especially as the prime minister has identified it as a key priority of her government.

Alexandra Morris, managing director of MakeUrMove, said: “It is hugely disappointing that the housing brief is once again the poor relation. Just months after James Brokenshire was piloted in as secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government after Sajid Javid left for the loftier heights of the Home Office, housing is once again trumped, this time by Brexit.

 

“We’re staring down the barrel of a very real housing crisis. There is a major deficit in the amount of housing supply, both for buyers and in the social and private rental markets. This lack of supply has caused massive unaffordability across the board, from first-time buyers struggling to get a deposit, to sky-high rents in towns and cities across the UK.”

 

The government has made lots of changes to the private rental sector, including the loss of mortgage tax relief for landlords, the impending tenant fees ban and the proposed introduction of three-year minimum tenancies, to name but a few, but Morris believes that there is a “real lack of joined up thinking” with regards to these changes, which, in his opinion, “resemble sticking plasters rather than well thought out strategies”.

The fact is that the turnover of housing ministers far outstrips the rate at which the average tenant moves home, making it harder for the government to address the key challenges facing the UK property market. 

 

He added: “Ultimately tenants are likely to be the losers from government mismanagement that could be in a large part down to lack of consistency in the leadership.

 

“We are at a real tipping point. The government needs to make housing a priority, and this starts with appointing an expert on housing with a firm commitment to the role. Someone who can dedicate the time and energy required, over a sustained period of time, to rehabilitate the housing sector, rather than someone who simply sees the position as a step on the political ladder.”

 

With the resignation of David Davis, Theresa May has been dealt a significant blow in her attempts to create a workable, agreeable plan for Brexit, and yet it is not just the PM who has been affected – the UK’s property sector will also feel the impact of Davis’ decision, according to Paresh Raja, CEO of Market Financial Solutions.

Raja commented: “News that housing minister Dominic Raab is to now become Brexit Secretary means yet another MP takes hold of the reins as the government attempts to address the housing crisis – Mr Raab’s successor will become the 18th housing minister in the past two decades, and at a time when the property market needs consistency and clarity in policy, this development could prove a hindrance to a hugely valuable sector for the UK economy.”

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ARLA Propertymark launches licensing scheme database

July 10, 2018

ARLA Propertymark has launched a new database in partnership with GetRentr, a technology platform which automatically monitors property portfolios for compliance with all UK property licensing schemes.

The service, free for ARLA Propertymark members, holds information on new licensing schemes coming into force in the next month; those which are ending this month; and those which local authorities are consulting on and will come into effect in the near future.

Members will be able to check the status of licensing schemes in their local area, so they can understand which ones they need for themselves and landlords, to avoid falling foul of the law.

David Cox, chief executive, ARLA Propertymark said: “There are hundreds of laws with which letting agents and landlords need to comply, and new licensing schemes are being introduced on an almost weekly basis, so it can be difficult to keep up.

“Those who aren’t compliant risk breaking the law, and could face banning orders, or fines of up to £30,000. This new database, available to all members, will help agents mitigate these risks and comply with the ever-changing law.”

While property licensing was introduced to raise rental accommodation standards, the proliferation to c.540 independent property licensing schemes has brought with it a huge administrative burden for landlords and agents, according to Orla Shields, chief executive, GetRentr.

He commented: “Remaining compliant is a never-ending task as new consultations or schemes can come into effect at any time, meaning compliance today does not guarantee compliance tomorrow. 

“We’re really excited about our partnership with Propertymark as it will help protect agents from increasing fines, and ultimately help improve safety standards across the PRS.”

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Unlicensed landlord ordered to pay more than £12k for letting substandard property

July 10, 2018

A rogue landlord letting a cold, damp property with a lack of hot water and heating has been ordered to pay more than £12,000 for allowing tenants to live in poor conditions.

Stephen John Gleave from Prestatyn, Flintshire, has been found guilty of seven offences under housing legislation for allowing a mum of two to live in substandard conditions, which included poor kitchen and bathing facilities and poor fire safety provisions.

Flintshire County Council’s Environmental Health team decided to take action against Gleave, who has previous housing offence convictions, after the landlord failed to comply with an Improvement Notice and six other housing offences relating to the terraced house in Shotton, also located in Flintshire.

Offences included failing to register the rental properties with Rent Smart Wales and failing to obtain a licence to operate as a private landlord in Wales, despite both being legal requirements since November 2014.

In fact, Gleave failed to register all three of his rental properties in Flintshire with Rent Smart Wales and failed to apply for and carry out mandatory training in order to become licensed to operate as a landlord in Wales.

Flintshire County Council’s cabinet member for planning and public protection, Cllr Christopher Bithell, said: “This successful prosecution reflects Flintshire County Council’s commitment to ensuring homes in the private rented sector meet all the legal standards required for private housing in Wales.

“We believe everyone has the right to live in a home which is in good repair, has ready access to all necessary amenities and is free from physical hazards.

“Whilst we aim to reduce the health effects of poor housing conditions through a combination of advice and financial assistance, occasionally we deal with matters that are so serious that a prosecution is necessary.

“This prosecution sends out a clear message to other private landlords, that non-compliance with current housing standards and non –compliance with the Rent Smart Wales laws – is completely unacceptable.”

Gleave, who has was fined £10,600 and ordered to pay £1,688 costs.

This is not Gleave first offence as a landlord.

Last December he was fined more than £11,000 after leaving an elderly tenant without adequate heating and bathing facilities, along with poor kitchen amenities, inadequate fire safety provisions and slates falling off the roof.

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Foundation Home Loans launches short-term lets product

July 10, 2018

Foundation Home Loans has launched a new short-term let product, as part of the buy-to-let range, available exclusively through Legal & General’s Mortgage Club.

The product is available to individuals and limited companies and is suitable for landlords looking to let out their properties on a short-term basis, without the need for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement.

Andrew Ferguson, commercial director at Foundation Home Loans, said: “Considering the growing trend for Air BnB-type offerings, our new Short Term Let product will provide landlords with increased flexibility as we head into the summer season.

“However, there is equal demand for short lets from relocating corporate tenants, people who are testing out a residential area before buying, contract workers, and homeowners needing temporary accommodation while undergoing renovations.”

The two and five-year fixed rates start from 2.99% and are available up to 75% loan-to-value for limited companies and individuals, and there is no minimum income required.

For this product, Foundation Home Loan’s standard product criteria and existing interest cover ratios apply, based on a standard rental assessment.

Andrew Montlake of Coreco commented: “More and more landlords have been looking at the short-term rental market especially with the rise of Airbnb, something that Foundation have clearly listened to and it is refreshing to see a lender taking an innovative approach to provide products that clients really want.”

Danny Belton, head of lender relationships, Legal & General Mortgage Club, added: “Foundation Home Loans have worked with Legal & General Mortgage Club, and following feedback from our members, have delivered this new exclusive product. Innovation like this is most welcome as it will add benefit to brokers and their customers.”

 

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Government urged to end ‘scandalous’ sex for rent property deals

July 9, 2018

The government has been urged to introduce new legislation to outlaw the “scandalous” and “immoral” practice of sex for rent deals.

Liz Brady, a property lawyer at Canterbury law firm Furley Page, has joined the growing chorus of voices calling for a change in the law to prevent unscrupulous landlords from offering accommodation in return for sex.

She said: “There have been plenty of stories in the press recently exposing the scandalous behaviour of some landlords, who are exploiting desperate and often vulnerable people seeking accommodation. 

“At the moment the only action that can be taken against such landlords is a charge under the Sexual Offences Act of inciting prostitution which carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years.  This is not enforced as it is not directly applicable to the situation and relies on the victim tenant coming forward to complain. 

“Many people, especially rough sleepers, the young or those trapped in abusive relationships, are unlikely to go to the police. The law clearly needs to be changed to protect the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Sex for rent adverts, which are usually aimed at young women, and occasionally men, are often deemed acceptable by the landlords who place them, arguing that as long as the tenant knows and accepts the arrangement there is nothing wrong with it.  

Brady continued: “Agreeing to have sex with someone under the pressure and fear of homelessness, or in exchange for the basic right to have somewhere to live, does not equate to agreeing by choice.

“These shocking practices are on the rise in modern Britain which is shameful in a so-called ‘civilised society’.

“Websites like Craigslist are often used to advertise these 'tenancies'. Advertisements promoting these morally indefensible practices should be banned and the websites responsible should be required to remove such adverts as quickly as possible.

“It is high time the government acted to change the law to deal with this abhorrent problem. It should be an offence for landlords to act in this manner or advertise such exploitative arrangements, and websites and other media should be prevented from advertising the ‘tenancies’. At the moment there seems to be a prevailing complacency about the whole scandal of sex for rent.”

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Landlords must prepare for next EPC deadline

July 9, 2018

Buy-to-let landlords with existing tenancies on properties rented out in the private rented sector are being reminded to take note of the next deadline that relates to the energy performance of the building.

In April 2018, the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) came into force in England and Wales, which required buy-to-let landlords to meet new MEES with a minimum rating of E, with a view to encouraging landlords and property owners to improve the energy efficiency of their properties by a restriction on the granting and continuation of existing tenancies where the property has an Energy Performance Certificate Rating of F and G.

But while 2018 heralded an initial change in the rules regarding energy efficiency standards, the bigger picture will see regulations that affect all rental properties, irrespective of the length of tenancy, in April 2020, when it will become unlawful to rent any property that has an existing or continuing tenancy with an energy rating of E or below.

 

Specialist buy-to-let broker Commercial Trust Limited, which can help landlords finance the required renovations to meet the new EPC ratings, points out that any landlord failing to comply with the new efficiency test criteria could incur a fine of up to £5,000.

 

There was a worrying lack of awareness regarding new MEES just days before the new rules were introduced in April.

To help landlords take action to improve the energy efficiency of their properties, the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy issued a guidance document on compliance with the 2018 ‘Minimum Level of Energy Efficiency’ standard, in accordance with the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015.

The documents provide guidance and advice on:

+ Scope of the regulations: the steps a landlord should take to determine whether their property is covered by the regulations, and the steps they should take to ensure their property complies with the minimum level of energy efficiency;

+ Relevant improvements: how a landlord can identify appropriate energy efficiency improvements for their property;

+ No-upfront Cost Funding (domestic only): how a landlord can investigate availability of no-cost funding to cover the cost of improving a domestic property;

+ Cost effectiveness (non-domestic only): how a landlord can determine whether particular improvements would be cost effective to install in a non-domestic property;

+ Exemptions and exclusions: the exemptions framework and the steps a landlord should take to register a valid exemption;

+ Enforcement: the enforcement framework and the options open to enforcement authorities when policing compliance with the minimum standards, including information on fines and other penalty options;

+ The appeals framework: landlord appeals will be heard by the First-tier Tribunal, part of the court system administered by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service; the guidance discusses the steps a landlord will need to take to lodge an appeal, and how that process will be managed.

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Legislative changes will lead to ‘increased professionalism’ in Scotland

July 9, 2018

It’s been a perfect storm of government changes for buy-to-let investors over the past couples of years, with more coming down the line in Scotland.

The two key legislative changes transforming the residential letting sector north of the border are firstly the replacement of Short Assured Tenancies by Private Residential Tenancies, offering tenants increased security of tenure and fewer grounds on which they may be subject to eviction.

Secondly, from 31 January the Scottish government introduced its new code of practice and mandatory register for letting agents. As part of this, key individuals in a letting agency must meet a new minimum level of training.

Agents who have not undertaken the relevant training or qualifications by 30 September 2018 will not be able to continue letting properties.

These major legislative changes being introduced in Scotland’s letting sector are a major turning point but should not be feared by landlords, according to Galbraith.

Bob Cherry, a partner with the Scottish property consultancy, who manages letting activity for the firm, said: “Essentially these two legislative changes combined will add up to increased professionalism in the letting sector, particularly in terms of how letting agents operate. All reputable letting agents will already to a large extent be in compliance with the new code.

“What will happen is that fewer letting agents will set up in business and potentially fewer new landlords may come into the sector for the first time.

“As long as landlords take professional advice, they will be well supported to navigate the complexities of the new regulatory regime.

“In the medium term, rents are likely to rise, which can only be good news for landlords.”

Further legislative changes over the next 18 months, in terms of the change in the minimum energy performance certificate permissible in Scotland will help to raise standards for available property, according to Cherry.

He added: “We have already begun helping landlords to comply with these requirements and, in many cases, we are able to help landlords access funding for improvements to their property which bring it into line with the EPC regulations, often at no cost to them.

“Property is still viewed as one of the most popular and safest forms of investment and, with the right advice, can offer landlords a very appealing and long-term investment option, given the continued shortage of good quality housing supply.”

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Sainsbury’s reduces buy-to-let rates

July 9, 2018

Sainsbury's Bank has cut rates across its buy-to-let products, as well as its residential deals, amid fierce competition among mortgage providers.

New buy-to-let rate deals include a five-year fixed remortgage product at 75% loan-to-value (LTV) which has been reduced by 0.09% to 2.56% with a £995 product fee and £250 cashback.

All buy-to-let end dates remain until 31 August 2020 for two-year products and 31 August 2023 for five-year products.

Paul Collins, head of mortgages product management at Sainsbury’s Bank, said: “Our products continue to prove popular and we consistently review our rates to give our customers the best deals we can.”

Sainsbury’s Bank only entered the buy-to-let sector in May when it extended its mortgage range with the launch of two-year and five-year buy-to-let products for landlords with a portfolio of up to three properties.

The new purchase and remortgage products, available only through the bank’s network of brokers, provide loans up to £1m at 60% loan-to-value (LTV) and £500,000 up to 75% LTV.

David Buxton, head of banking at Sainsbury’s Bank, commented: “We’re keen to begin to help smaller investors and non-portfolio landlords manage their mortgage outgoings.

“We work in partnership with our broker partners and they told us that a buy-to-let range was important so we developed one as soon as we could, within our first year of trading.

“By creating strong partnerships, and listening to our brokers every step of the way, we’re continuing to build a strong mortgage proposition.”

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London Assembly agrees motion to scrap Section 21 notices

July 6, 2018

The London Assembly Members yesterday agreed a unanimous motion calling on the Mayor of London to back a campaign to abolish section 21 and to lobby the government for a change in the law.

A number of Assembly Members want to see the abolishing of Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, the clause which allows landlords to evict tenants without cause, in order to give renters in London – and eventually nationwide – greater stability in their homes and the means of complaining about sub-standard housing without the fear of being evicted.

Sian Berry AM, who proposed the motion, said: “The Assembly has firmly put its weight behind Generation Rent’s campaign to end section 21. 

“London renters need to feel secure in their homes and know they can’t be thrown out on the streets for no reason. I’ve known far too many friends and colleagues forced to move out of their homes at really short notice at times when they would least choose to move. 

“Having to move at short notice is one of the worst parts of being a private renter and ending section 21 would make a dramatic difference and solve this problem – it would also align our policies with other countries.”

Tom Copley AM, who seconded the motion, commented: “Our tenancy laws were introduced 30 years ago when only 1 in 10 Londoners rented from a private landlord. Now more than a quarter of us do, including increasing numbers of families with children. 

“It is unacceptable that landlords can use section 21 to evict tenants for no reason. Private tenants deserve security to protect them from arbitrary or revenge eviction, the fear of which makes tenants reluctant to come forward to complain about substandard housing.

“The Government has just announced a consultation on three year private tenancies, but this will be meaningless unless no fault eviction is abolished. I hope the Mayor will use this consultation to urge the government to abolish section 21 eviction.”

The full text of the motion states:  

‘This Assembly welcomes the campaign to end section 21 – the clause of the Housing Act 1988 that allows private landlords to evict tenants without reason. 

‘We acknowledge that the threat of a no-fault eviction causes insecurity and stress for Londoners who rent privately and can discourage tenants from complaining about substandard housing.

‘We welcome the action taken by the Scottish government to restrict no-fault evictions.

 ‘We urge the Mayor to state his backing for the campaign to abolish section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and to lobby government for this change in the law.’

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London rents rise for the first time since December 2016

July 6, 2018

Rents in London grew by 0.1% in the 12 months to June 2018, the first annual rental rise in the city since December 2016, according to the latest Landbay Rental Index.

Much has been made of slow rental growth in the capital dragging down the national average, but rental growth in the city finally returned to positive territory last month.

In the capital, the index shows rents have gone up in 25 out of the 33 boroughs over the last six months.

The average rent paid for a property in London now stands at £1,884 a month, still 2.5 times the £764pcm in the rest of the UK despite the tough market in the capital pushing rents down in recent years.  

Elsewhere in the UK, rental growth continued to slow, with rents increasing by just 0.4% in the first half of the year.

Rental growth has been led by the East Midlands and East of England, where landlords have seen rental prices increase by 0.95% and 0.70% respectively.

In contrast, the North East has dragged behind with rents falling by -0.08% in H1 2018.

At a county level, Nottingham saw the fastest rental increases in H1, at 1.43% and 1.25% respectively.

John Goodall, CEO of Landbay, said: ““While there remains a huge degree of regional variation, the overall trend has been a slowing of rents across the UK in the first half of this year. However, much of this has been London weighing down heavily on otherwise resilient growth across the UK. Now that London rents have bounced back to growth this could all be about to change.

“Wherever they’re based, landlords have had to face a myriad of challenges over the past two years, with regulatory and tax changes reshaping the sector. Despite this, there has been little sign of them passing on additional costs to tenants. However, with a rate rise on the horizon, meaning a rise in the cost of borrowing for landlords, we may well start to see landlords increasing rents in the coming months to stay afloat.”

UK Rental Index by country (all beds)

June 18

YoY %

MoM %

Av. £

Cumulative rental growth in H1

UK

0.81%

0.07%

1,204

0.40%

UK excluding London

1.19%

0.10%

    764

0.54%

England

0.77%

0.07%

1,236

0.38%

England excluding London

1.17%

0.09%

    770

0.53%

Scotland

1.09%

0.10%

    734

0.46%

Wales

1.69%

0.15%

    651

0.90%

Northern Ireland

1.70%

0.01%

    573

0.72%

 

UK Rental Index by region (all beds)

June 18

YoY %

MoM %

Av. £

Cumulative rental growth in H1

East England

1.44%

0.12%

    915

0.70%

East Midlands

2.14%

0.16%

    630

0.95%

London

0.10%

0.04%

1,884

0.13%

North East

0.22%

0.01%

    552

-0.08%

North West

0.93%

0.07%

    621

0.36%

South East

0.81%

0.09%

1,057

0.47%

South West

1.41%

0.09%

    751

0.61%

West Midlands

1.38%

0.09%

    688

0.56%

Yorkshire and Humberside

1.32%

0.11%

    579

0.59%

 

UK Rental Index by number of beds

June 18

One bed

Two bed

Three bed

 

YoY

%

MoM

%

Av. £

YoY

%

MoM

%

Av. £

YoY

%

MoM

%

Av. £

UK

0.71%

0.08%

1,022

0.82%

0.09%

1,165

1.03%

0.08%

1,341

UK excluding London

1.14%

0.11%

603

1.16%

0.11%

720

1.38%

0.10%

833

England

0.68%

0.07%

1,055

0.78%

0.09%

1,200

1.01%

0.09%

1,362

England excluding London

1.15%

0.11%

611

1.15%

0.11%

723

1.40%

0.11%

829

Scotland

0.56%

0.13%

551

1.07%

0.09%

698

1.14%

-0.06%

1,134

Wales

2.23%

0.20%

555

1.65%

0.24%

666

1.29%

0.07%

621

Northern Ireland

0.93%

0.03%

443

1.35%

-0.12%

553

1.75%

0.09%

585

 

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Hinckley & Rugby extends BTL deals to portfolio landlords

July 6, 2018

Hinckley & Rugby Building Society is now offering its full range of buy-to-let mortgage products to portfolio landlords.

The lender will now accept applications from landlords with up to 10 mortgaged properties at up to 70% loan-to-value. However, the applicant, who can be aged up to 80, must have at least two years of experience as a landlord and not acquired more than three buy-to-let properties in the past 12 months.

The minimum interest cover ratio (ICR) currently stands at 145% at a reference rate of 5.5%, while the application process for portfolio landlords is the same as for non-portfolio borrowers.

Hinckley & Rugby’s head of sales and marketing, Carolyn Thornley-Yates, said: “Because we are a manual lender, we can look at all the elements of a buy-to-let portfolio application. Each case will be assessed individually, enabling everyone to have confidence in its affordability.

“The calculator looks at the subject property, the portfolio as a whole, the level of experience and the rate at which the portfolio has grown.

“We will work closely with intermediaries to ensure their landlord clients achieve sustainable funding.”

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Rent collection service aims to offer landlords ‘financial security’

July 6, 2018

Unpaid rent and rent arrears are the main reason for tenant evictions, according to Belvoir’s Q1 rental index, but that could soon be about to change thanks in part to the launch of a rent collection service that incentivises renters to pay their rent on time.

Rent arrears can cause landlords major financial problems, with TheHouseShop recently reporting that rent arrears cost landlords in this country more than £900m each year.

The property marketplace provider claims that part of the problem for landlords is that rent payments often fall behind other outgoings, such as utility bills or mobile phone payments, in the list of tenant’s financial priorities, mainly because unlike most other regular monthly payments, rental payments are not reflected on a tenant’s credit history.

Until recently, private landlords have been unable to do anything to address this imbalance in financial priorities. But with the increasing importance of credit scores in modern financial life, TheHouseShop hope that its recently launched RentScore Plus service, in partnership with credit reference agency, Experian, will help change that.

Crucially, RentScore Plus registers rental payment data with Experian’s Rental Exchange, reflecting late or missed payments on the tenant’s credit reports, incentivising tenants to pay their rent on time.

RentScore Plus also safeguards rental payments, whilst also covering legal expenses and evictions with the added benefit of expert legal advice.

Nick Marr, co-founder of TheHouseShop, said: “There are plenty of landlords out there who cannot financially plan for arrears and have no safety net in place to accommodate for unexpected costs. A large number of buy-to-let landlords rely on their rental income to cover significant payments, such as mortgages, so late or missed rental payments can pose a real threat.

“On top of all of this, we are seeing Section 21 tax changes, increased stamp duty on second homes and the impending tenant fees ban which is putting increasing pressure on landlords, so their rental income is more important than ever. Offering a service that gives landlords financial security is important to us, as we are continually building upon our suite of services which all aim to make landlords lives a whole lot easier and more affordable.

“We love keeping in contact with our landlords and a consistent message from them was the need for financial stability. We heard their concerns and we created a service that fulfills their needs. At such an affordable price, RentScore Plus is flying off the shelves, so to speak.”

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Amanda Lamb announced as keynote speaker at landlord networking event

July 6, 2018

Amanda Lamb, one of television’s most sought-after property presenters, has been confirmed as keynote speaker at this year’s Mid Devon Landlord Networking Event, which will be held by Mid Devon District Council.

The event, which will be held on September 19 from 4pm to 9pm at Paschoe House in Crediton, is back for its second year, having attracted around 130 people in 2017.

Aside from the keynote speaker, there will also be two workshops from Arden Chambers, Peplows Accountants and a talk on Universal Credit from the Department of Work and Pensions.

Delegates can book their place now by clicking here.

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Government slammed for failing to act on report that suggests improvements to PRS

July 5, 2018

The government has been criticised for continuing to drag its heels over taking on key recommendations made in a recent report designed to improve standards in the private rented sector.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has expressed its disappointment at the government’s weak response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s report on the PRS, insisting that people currently in the private rented sector “expected better”.

CIEH had previously worked with the HCLG Select Committee on their inquiry, and gave evidence in February this year urging an update of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) guidance and evidence base.

HHSRS, introduced in the Housing Act 2004, assesses risks to health and safety in the home and looks at faults and deficiencies that could cause injury and ill-health to residents.

This system, which has been in place since April 2006, is  the basis of how local authorities decide on whether they can or should take formal action on poor housing.

A survey of environmental health professionals, published by CIEH in December 2017, found that 97% of environmental health professionals believe that the HHSRS needs updating, 90% called for an update of the official guidance and better working examples, 71 respondents called for underlying statistics of this evidence-based system to be updated, while 53% said that they had witnessed hazards that could not be addressed with the current system.

CIEH has been campaigning for the government to commit to an update of HHSRS, and its evidence base, to ensure that it stays relevant and up to date going forward.

But despite being 12 years out of date and in need of a review, according to the committee report, the government has so far refused to commit to any action.

The official response from the government states: “We recognise that the methodology and associated guidance for the HHSRS is now several years old and we will carefully consider whether it needs to be updated. In doing so, we would wish to reflect upon who is best placed, and has the necessary expertise, to carry out such a review.”

Tamara Sandoul, housing policy manager at CIEH, commented: “We are bitterly disappointed that the government has decided not to make a decision on the review and update of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System – an issue that has surfaced throughout the Select Committee inquiry into the private rented sector.

“The evidence and guidance that local authorities use to take action on dangerous housing conditions has not been reviewed or updated since it was introduced 12 years ago. Housing courts rely on this outdated guidance to make their decisions. We urge the Government to commit to a full update of HHSRS and to see how it could be improved going forward.

“We are further disappointed to hear that decisions have also not been made on two other key areas of housing safety. The requirement to undertake five yearly electrical safety inspections and the need to provide a working carbon monoxide alarm for all rented properties with a fuel-burning device have been postponed until a later date.

“This is simply not good enough and the millions of people currently in the private rented sector expected better.”

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Strong support for petition calling for BTL tax relief changes to be reversed

July 5, 2018

An online petition calling for buy-to-let tax relief changes to be reversed has received almost 16,500 signatures.

Buy-to-let landlord and property investment expert Mark Homer is hoping his petition attracts the 100,000 votes needed to force a debate in parliament.

But the government argues that higher SDLT on additional dwellings and restricting finance cost relief seeks will help support first-time buyers and level the playing field for homeowners, without impacting on rent levels.

The petition, which has until November 14 to run, received a government on 25 May in which it defended the changes it introduced, stating:

“The government introduced changes to finance cost relief as part of a package of measures at Summer Budget 2015 to help reduce the deficit and rebalance the economy. By restricting landlord’s finance cost relief to the basic rate of income tax we are helping to reduce the advantage landlords may have over homeowners in the property market. Income tax relief for finance costs is not available to ordinary homebuyers. It is also not available to those investing in other assets, such as shares, so we’re helping to reduce the distortion between property investment and investment in other assets.

“Previously, landlords could get relief on their finance costs at their marginal rate of income tax. By restricting finance cost relief to the basic rate, all individual landlords will receive the same rate of income tax relief on their finance costs.

“Landlords can still claim income tax relief at their marginal rate of tax on day-to-day running costs incurred in letting out a property, such as letting agent fees and replacing furniture. Finance costs are different to other expenses as having a mortgage allows the landlord to purchase a more expensive property and incur larger gains on the investment than they would have done without it.

“Using actual self-assessment data, HMRC estimate that only 1 in 5 landlords will pay more tax on their property income because of this measure. We appreciate that some of these landlords may face difficult decisions. This is why the government has chosen to act in a proportionate and gradual way. Basic rate income tax relief will still be available on all landlord's finance costs, and the government announced this change almost two years before its implementation. The restriction, introduced in April 2017, is being phased in over 4 years. This gives landlords time to adjust to the changes.

“Given that only a small proportion of the housing market is affected by this change, the government does not expect it to have a large impact on either house prices or rent levels. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) also expect the impact on the housing market will be small.

“In April 2016, the Government introduced higher rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) for those purchasing additional properties. While it is right that people should be free to purchase a second home or invest in a buy-to-let property, the Government is aware that this can impact on other people’s ability to get on to the property ladder. The higher rates are part of the Government’s commitment to support first time buyers. Since the higher rates have been introduced, over 500,000 people have bought their first home, and first-time buyers make up an increased share of the mortgaged property market.

“At Autumn Budget 2017, the Government announced further changes to permanently increase the price at which a property becomes liable to SDLT to £300,000 for first time buyers, with first-time buyers purchasing homes worth between £300,000 and £500,000 saving £5,000. This relief means that 80% of first-time buyers will not pay SDLT, and 95% of first time buyers who pay SDLT will benefit from the change. Since its introduction, 69,000 people have benefited from the relief. Over the next five years, this relief will help over a million first time buyers getting onto the housing ladder.

“The government has also taken wider action on housing to help renters get a fair deal and to address homelessness and rough sleeping. At Autumn Budget 2017, the Government committed to £2 billion of extra funding for affordable housing, including for social rented homes, bringing total investment in the Affordable Homes Programme to more than £9 billion. The Government has also allocated over £1.2 billion by 2019/20 to help reduce and prevent homelessness and rough sleeping and is implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act, which will ensure that more people get the help they need earlier to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place. The Government aims to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminate it by 2027, and has set up a Rough Sleeping and Homelessness Reduction Taskforce to develop a cross-Government strategy to work towards this commitment.”

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BTL landlords will turn to holiday lets

July 4, 2018

Disgruntled private landlords are likely to turn their attention from buy-to-let to holiday lets if the government presses ahead with its three-year tenancy plans, according to the CLA.

The membership organisation for owners of land, property and business in rural England and Wales firmly rejects forced long-term tenancies, arguing that it would threaten the short-term rental market and reduce the availability of rented homes in the countryside.

The government is proposing to introduce a minimum three-year contract for rental tenancies in a consultation published this week.

The CLA whose members provide almost 40% of all private rented housing in rural areas said the market does not need to force minimum contracts as rural lettings already provide a longer-term home for tenants.

The average tenancy length in rural areas is 7.6 years, according to a recent survey of CLA members.

The study also found that more than a third of landlords have retained the same tenants for 10 years or more.

CLA housing adviser Matthew O’Connell commented: “The private rented sector has substantially increased and people are renting for longer, but the current legislative framework already offers opportunities for longer tenancies which meet the needs of both landlords and tenants across the rural market.

“Overly prescriptive tenancy lengths could be highly disruptive to the rural economy, threatening the short-term lettings market for seasonal workers in agriculture and tourism. 

“An excessive regulatory burden could also lead to potential long-term rental homes being lost as landlords opt to let them as holiday accommodation or sell, further reducing the supply of rented homes for those struggling to get on the housing ladder.”

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Rents in prime central London rise for the first time in two and a half years

July 4, 2018

Rents in London’s prime property market have moved into positive territory for the first time since January 2016, increasing by 0.8% in the 12 months to June 2018, Knight Frank’s latest index data reveals.

The figures show that rental values have strengthened as supply levels have dropped, which has happened as more landlords have listed their properties for sale following recent tax changes in the PRS and as sales pricing appears to bottom out.

Knight Frank reports that there is a widening supply-demand imbalance in the sector as reflected by the ratio between the number of new prospective tenants and the number of new lettings listings, which rose to 4.6 in May – the highest figure in more than ten years.

According to the property firm, fewer landlords are registering as new prospective buyers in prime central and outer London.

Following a series of recent tax changes, BTL landlords accounted for 13% of new prospective buyers in May 2018 compared to 20% in May 2014.

The research also found that the number of properties listed for rent in prime outer London in the year to May 2018 was 14% lower than the previous 12-month period, as more property owners attempt to offload their property following tax changes that have affected landlords, which is putting upwards pressure on rental values.

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Legal & General completes acquisition of BTR site in Woolwich

July 4, 2018

Legal & General has exchanged contracts on its largest build-to-rent (BTR) site to date located in Woolwich.

The scheme, which has been acquired by co-investors Legal & General Capital and PGGM, as well as pension fund capital raised by LGIM Real Assets through its open-ended BTR fund, is set to feature more than 650 new homes, together with 21,000sqft of commercial space and a new public square, subject to planning consent.

The development, known as Macbean, will comprise both private and affordable rental homes, split between London Living Rent and Discount Market rent.

Dan Batterton, BTR fund manager at LGIM Real Assets, said: “Macbean is another great example of Legal & General investing in a location with significant urban regeneration potential and providing large scale sustainable rental schemes which will have a positive long term socioeconomic impact.

“The location is highly desirable for renters and, with over 650 units planned for the site, is of a size which will offer significantly reduced living costs thanks to economies of scale.

“Given the notable infrastructure developments in the area, such as Crossrail, it has been a target location for us to expand our BTR offering and we remain firmly on track with our growth plans.”

This is Legal & General’s third BTR scheme in London, with existing developments progressing in Walthamstow and Croydon.

With a total BTR pipeline of around 3,000 homes across nine schemes countrywide, Legal & General aims to have 6,000 homes in planning, development or operation by the end of next year.

James Lidgate, director of housing at Legal & General Capital, said: “As the UK’s population continues to grow and renting becomes a tenure of choice, delivery of high density, high quality developments with vibrant communities is becoming more and more important.

“This latest development, our largest BTR acquisition to date, is another step forward for Legal & General in its ambitions to tackle the severe housing shortage that the UK is facing, helping to address the significant supply and demand imbalance – both in the Borough of Greenwich and across London as a whole.”

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Landlord couple want to see letting agent banned over unpaid rent

July 4, 2018

A couple who claim they are owed thousands of pounds in unpaid rent have called for a ban on the letting agency accused of withholding the money.

Lindsay Chick and his wife, Lesley, made a 900-mile round trip from their home in Kent to a tribunal in Glasgow last week to argue that Location, based in Lanarkshire, should be kept off the new national register.

From October, anyone carrying out agency letting work in Scotland must be registered or face a fine of up to £50,000 and six months in jail.

The Chick family, which raised a case against Location at the First-tier Tribunal, which deals with disputes in the private property sector, claim that the letting firm, which managed five properties in Lanarkshire for them, failed to hand over around £7,000 in rent from tenants.

Lindsay told the tribunal: “I feel people behaving in this way shouldn’t be allowed to trade.

“We’re desperate to do everything we can to ensure others are protected from the experience we’ve had at the hands of Location.”

Buy-to-let landlords in the UK and abroad are collectively owed almost £20,000 by the Lanarkshire-based letting firm, according to court decrees.

A Facebook group has been set up by alleged victims to share information and advice about Location, which is run by Kenny Stenhouse, a director of Letting Hamilton Ltd and Letting Airdrie Ltd with his partner Carrie Little.

It would appear that Location may have breached the recently-introduced code of practice for letting agents, according to tribunal chairman David Preston, who added that there had been “no substantive response” from the firm to the allegations made by the landlords.

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Buy-to-let is still an attractive investment

July 4, 2018

The attraction of buy-to-let may be waning as far as some people are concerned due to a series of tax changes, but the reality is that property remains a solid long term savings fund route, viewed by many as a crown jewel of an investment.

With savers receiving dismal returns from banks and building societies, many people continue to turn to residential property as a means of supplementing their income, supported by record-low mortgage borrowing rates, high demand from tenants and increasing rents. 

With investment in the PRS continuing to outperform other major asset classes, buy-to-let remains the investment of choice for more than a third of Britons, according to a recent survey carried out by Perrys Chartered Accountants.

The research found that 35% of people in this country are most confident in property compared to any other investment, thanks not just to rental returns but also capital growth, with 8% of respondents to the survey revealing that they are relying on the equity from their property as their main source of income for retirement.

Stewart Pope, CEO at Perrys Chartered Accountants, said: “It is worth taking a look at your existing assets to see how you could maximise potential for the future.

“With the right advice and some effective tax planning you could find that this makes a long term difference to the shape of your financial future.”

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Landlords could be offered tax incentives for longer tenancies

July 3, 2018

Private landlords are welcoming proposals being considered by the government to provide financial incentives for those offering longer tenancies.

In its consultation launched yesterday, the government is proposing a number of options to implement a three year tenancy model addressing the demand for longer tenancies from the growing numbers of families and older people in the private rented market.

One of these options proposes ‘financial incentives’ as called for by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), which the government argues “could be quicker to implement” then mandatory three year agreements.

David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “With landlords having faced a barrage of tax increases we believe that smart taxation, such as that being proposed today, would provide the longer term homes to rent many families and older people want.

“We would warn against making it a statutory requirement to introduce three year tenancies. Many tenants simply do not want to be tied to a property long term. It is vital that the market is able to provide the flexibility that many need in order to swiftly access new work and educational opportunities.”

To view the government’s ‘open consultation’ on ‘overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector’ click here

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Major landlord supports three-year tenancy plans

July 3, 2018

Many buy-to-let landlords may have reacted angrily to government proposals that will give tenants a minimum three year contract, but one prominent residential landlord backs the government’s proposal regarding longer tenancies.

With rents increasing by less than inflation and average rents lower than mortgage payments, many people are opting against home ownership, which is currently at a 30-year low, and are now renting, and this trend looks set to continue, according to Neil Young, CEO of Get Living.

“It is increasingly common to rent, rather than buy, with the likes of Netflix, Spotify and Uber leading the way and now homes set to follow,” he said.

As the CEO of Get Living, the build-to-rent trailblazer behind East Village in London, Young believes that any plan to impose minimum terms to rental agreements of three years would benefit tenants seeking security of tenure, as well as landlords looking for a stable rental income.

He commented: “We are proud to offer three-year tenancies as standard and wholeheartedly encourage the rest of our sector to do so.

“Renting shouldn’t be a second-rate choice to homebuying. With three-year tenancies and resident-only break clause after six months, residents have the reassurance of long-term security while having the flexibility to follow their careers or their thirst for adventure, without being tied in to a home.

“With more than 20,000 Build to Rent homes complete across the UK and almost 100,000 more in the pipeline, our sector is starting to show that, done right, renting can offer much more than it’s given credit for.

“At Get Living, we’ve never accepted the ‘norms’ of renting. Last year we scrapped security deposits and have returned millions of pounds to our existing residents.

“Abolishing deposits made sense as we have great relationships with our residents and know that they look after their homes. It’s also taken away a real cost barrier to renting and helped build trust.”

Johnny Caddick, managing director at Moda, which is creating a £2bn portfolio of build-to-rent schemes across England and Scotland, also believes that it “makes sense” that residents are given security of tenure.

He said: “We fully support these moves provided people have flexibility if they only wish to stay for a year or two.

“We need a customer-centric rental market if people are to grow confidence in the property sector. That has to mean encouraging more rental development through the planning system that is willing to provide better homes with no risk of eviction because the landlord wishes to sell or move back in.”

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‘Healthy homes zones’ proposed by Labour

July 3, 2018

Plans to create ‘healthy homes zones’, as part of an effort to reduce housing-related health inequalities, have been proposed by the Labour Party.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth and shadow housing secretary John Healey yesterday launched a consultation on the opposition party’s plans to link up health and housing.

Under the initial plans put forward, the new ‘healthy homes zones’ will target areas with the worst quality housing, with new landlord licensing powers and penalties made available, along with the appointment of a "tsar" to report on progress and plans for a £50m housing and health inequalities fund.

Ashworth commented: “As part of our determination to narrow health inequalities and tackle the wider social determinants of poor health, we must again more closely align health and housing policy.”

The MP said that housing related health problems are costing the NHS an estimated £1.4bn a year and poor housing “can ruin people’s lives”.

He also insisted that a Labour government would make it a priority to combat housing related illness and ensure “nobody’s poor home damages their health”.

Healey pointed out that more people live in private rented housing now than at any time since the 1950s, but claimed that “hundreds of thousands of these homes are unfit to live in”, insisting that the next Labour government “will act decisively to change this”.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has welcomed the proposals to create “healthy homes zones” but called for more details.

Tamara Sandoul, housing policy manager at CIEH, said: “We welcome Labour’s proposal to bring housing and health closer together. The quality of housing is a key determinant of health, especially for the young and the elderly – who are not only more susceptible to poor conditions affecting their health - but also tend to spend most of their time in the home.

“Healthy home zones are a promising proposal, but there is a real need for far more detail on what they would do in practice.

“It is certainly clear that there is much to learn from existing initiatives like selective licensing schemes and national landlord registration schemes to see how well these operate in practice and how future licensing schemes could be fine-tuned to target poor conditions and improve quality of housing.”

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Number of first-time landlord products hits record high

July 3, 2018

A record number of first-time landlord mortgage products have been made available to borrowers as lenders launched extra loans to attract customers.

Moneyfacts.co.uk has recorded a 13% rise in the number of deals to first-time landlords since the start of this year, as competition for new business intensifies among lenders fighting for new loans.

Charlotte Nelson, Finance Expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk, said: “It is great news that first-time landlords have more choice than ever before, increasing by a whopping 339 BTL products in just two years.”

The latest research from Moneyfacts also shows that lenders have been launching cheaper rates in recent weeks, particularly for longer-term deals.

“Not only do first-time landlords have more choice, but they have also seen rates fall by 0.36% over the same period,” Nelson added.

Despite uncertainty in the market, mortgage providers are not shying away from offering this risky group deals.

Nelson continued: “Providers know all too well that many borrowers on their mortgage books will be coming to the end of their term and reassessing their deal, so they need to attract new business. As such, they’re enhancing their ranges and offering these extra deals to entice those customers who are new to the market, thereby breathing new life into their mortgage book.

“While multiple regulations and tax changes may have put some borrowers off becoming a landlord, it seems many are undeterred. In fact, it has been reported that Accord has seen the number of applications from aspiring landlords double over the past 12 months.

“This is little surprise when many consider bricks and mortar as a safe bet. With savings rates low, many are looking to get better returns elsewhere. Also, while rents are high and mortgage rates for first-time landlords are still falling, the potential for a decent return is high.

“Potential investors should not get ahead of themselves however. Since September 2017, they face checks and questions about their finances and will need to do their homework to ensure they get the best deal.

“Of course, BTL is not without its risks, and anyone seeking to enter this sector would be wise to seek the advice of a financial adviser to see if this is the best route for them.”

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Metro Bank teams up with CreditLadder for rent reporting

July 3, 2018

Tenants who have a personal account with Metro Bank are now able to report their rent through CreditLadder to reference agency Experian.

The UK’s newest high street banking sector entrant, which already has more than a million customers, is the  latest financial institution to enable its clients to benefit from their own bank statement data, which has been enabled through the Open Banking initiative.

CreditLadder this year became the first in the private rental sector to launch direct rent reading of a tenant's bank account.

Renters connect their bank to CreditLadder, which then uses read-only access via FCA-regulated service TrueLayer to read and report their rent to Experian, with a view to helping CreditLadder tenants gain access to better financial deals and gain a foot on the housing ladder.

Other banks whose customers can report their rent through CreditLadder include Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, NatWest, RBS, Santander, Nationwide, The Co-operative bank, First Direct, TSB and Bank of Scotland plus, most recently, challenger banks Monzo and Starling.

CreditLadder CEO Sheraz Dar said: “A quiet revolution is taking place within the world of personal finance as more and more banks enable their customers to allow us to report their rent to the UK’s leading credit reference agency.

“Having now received HM Treasury support through its Rent Recognition Challenge, this is going to make a huge difference to the creditworthiness of millions of people as rent reporting becomes more widespread.

“As the largest and first company in the UK to offer rent reporting to tenants, we have been working hard to spread the word that those who pay rent are now on the same level playing field as those who pay their mortgages on time.”

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Longer-term tenancy plan is ‘a political move aimed at the renter vote’

July 2, 2018

The idea of the property-owning democracy has deep roots and has long defined housing policy in this country, with various schemes launched designed to help first-time buyers gain a first step on the housing ladder. But with a growing number of voters never expected to own their own home, it would appear that the government is now afraid to ignore renters.

Research last year found that one in three of Britain’ millennial generation will never own their own home, which may explain why the government plans to give tenants a minimum three-year contract – but allow them to terminate the tenancy agreement earlier if they wish.

Around four in five tenancies in England and Wales are set at six months or 12 months. However, the longer tenancies proposed by the housing, communities and local government secretary, James Brokenshire, in a consultation paper to be published later today, would prevent landlords serving tenants notice to leave at short notice.

Brokenshire said: “It is deeply unfair when renters are forced to uproot their lives or find new schools for their children at short notice due to the terms of their rental contract.

“Being able to call your rental property your home is vital to putting down roots and building stronger communities. That’s why I am determined to act, bringing in longer tenancies which will bring benefits to tenants and landlords alike.”

But the National Landlords Association (NLA) has criticised the government’s proposal for longer contracts, describing the plan as a “political move aimed at the renter vote”

Richard Lambert, chief executive of the NLA, commented: “In his speech to the Conservative Party conference last October, Sajid Javid announced plans for a consultation on how to encourage longer tenancies. That's been the tone of the discussion ever since - consultation and encouragement. Frankly, right now, I feel we've been misled.

“This is supposed to be about meeting the needs of the consumer. NLA research with tenants finds consistently that around 40% of tenants want longer tenancies, but 40% do not. More than 50% consistently say that they are happy with the tenancy length they were offered, and 20% tell us that when they asked for a longer tenancy, they got it.

“We would accept that the flexibility of the current Assured Shorthold Tenancy isn't used as effectively as it could be, and that we should be looking to find ways to ensure that tenants are offered the kind of tenancies they need at the time they need them. That means thinking about how to modernise a model devised 30 years ago, to take account of the changes in the people who are renting and the way they live their lives. How will that be achieved by moving to a more rigid system, more reminiscent of the regulated model the current system replaced?

“It's like urging someone to update their 1980s brick-style mobile phone, but instead of giving them a smartphone, offering them a Bakelite dial phone plugged into the wall.

“This is a policy which the Conservatives derided when it was put forward by their opponents in the past two General Election campaigns. It’s hard not to see this as more of a political move aimed at the renter vote than a genuine effort to improve how the rented market works for all those involved.”

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More tenants faced rent rises in May

July 2, 2018

There was an increase in the number of tenants in the private rented sector experiencing a rent increase in May compared with a month earlier at a time when supply of rented homes on offer is rising.

Overall the number of tenants experiencing rent hikes increased to 28% in May, up from 26% in April, data released as part of ARLA Propertymark’s latest monthly Private Rented Sector Report has found.

This is the highest level since August last year when 35% of landlords put rents up for tenants.

Meanwhile, the number of rental properties letting agents managed rose by 4% in May, with 186 on average per branch.

David Cox, ARLA Propertymark chief executive, said: “There’s a chronic supply shortage in the rental market at the moment, and while it’s positive that the number of properties available to rent seems to be rising, this is just a drop in the ocean; it isn’t nearly enough to fix the market for tenants.

“Competition is getting more and more fierce, and with legislative changes hitting landlords from all sides, the cost of renting is only increasing.

“The government’s recent announcement around licensing changes for landlords is a prime example; licensing doesn’t work and it never has done. It means councils will spend time and energy administering schemes, rather than concentrating on increasing housing stock in their areas, and enforcing against rogue, criminal landlords.”

The number of prospective tenants registered per member branch dropped significantly in May, with 60 per branch compared to 72 in April – a 16% fall.

This is the lowest demand seen since December 2017, when there were 59 registered per branch.

Cox added: “Coupled with the gradual removal of mortgage interest relief, new energy standards for landlords and the ever-increasing fees for these schemes, landlords are being expected to bear more and more costs; which is probably why the number of landlord leaving the market has remained at the all-time high we saw last month.

“We’re all striving for the same end goal of improving the private rental sector for consumers, but the only thing which will truly create a better – fairer – market, is a dramatic increase in supply.”

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Broker braced for buy-to-let remortgage rush

July 2, 2018

A number of buy-to-let landlords are expected to rush to complete last-minute mortgages, including remortgage deals, ahead of new licensing laws, concerning Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs), according to Commercial Trust Limited.

The specialist buy-to-let mortgage broker expects to see a sharp rise in financing enquiries over the coming weeks, as landlords rush to beat the October 1 deadline.

The new rules, announced in March, come under the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 (2018/221)(LHMO 2018).

An additional 177,000 buy-to-let properties could require a mandatory HMO license, based on data provided by the Residential Landlord’s Association (RLA.

Penalties for operating an unlicensed HMO or for failing to meet the required licensing standards, set by the relevant local authority, could see landlords face unlimited fines.

But the implications of failing to meet local authority licensing standards on an HMO property could impact future funding, Andrew Turner, chief executive at Commercial Trust Limited, warned.

He said: “More landlords will be required to bring their HMO properties up to local authority licensing standards.

“In scenarios where perhaps one bedroom in the property fails to meet minimum licensing standards, there could be future implications, if the landlord wants to remortgage the property.

“Investors looking to remortgage may find that a lender will only base rental stress calculations on rental income from the bedrooms that do meet local licensing rules.That could make obtaining the required level of financing a lot tougher.

“At present, we are not clear from the lenders on what their future approach might be, however, there are ways we can help landlords should they face this issue.”

An at-a-glance summary of the key points relating to the main changes that will apply from October:

•           Introduction of minimum room sizes: rooms used for sleeping by one adult must be a minimum of 6.51 square metres; bedrooms shared by two adults must be at least 10.22 square metres.

•           Bedrooms occupied by children of 10 years or younger must be at least 4.64 square metres.

Local authorities have the discretion to increase minimum room sizes if they wish.

•           HMOs occupied by five or more people, must have an appropriate mandatory licence, regardless of how many storeys the property covers;

•           Purpose-built flats with up to two flats in the block, require mandatory HMO licensing;

•           Landlords must obtain a mandatory license if the property is occupied by persons living in two or more separate households; and meets—

o          the standard test under section 254(2) of the Act;

o          the self-contained flat test under section 254(3) of the Act but is not a purpose-built flat situated in a block comprising three or more self-contained flats; or

o          the converted building test under section 254(4) of the Act.

•           HMOs that currently require a selective licence, will be subject to mandatory licensing.

A licence is valid for five years and a separate licence must apply to each HMO property.

Turner added: “As with my previous example, if a currently unlicensed HMO becomes subject to licensing under the new rules, renovations (for example, increasing a bedroom size to meet minimum room sizes) may be required to meet the new requirements, before a lender will consider the entire property’s rental income for borrowing.

“My message to HMO landlords is, act now.Timings are already tight if works and refinancing are required ahead of October 1st.

“Make absolutely sure your property meets the new regulations. You face fines for failing to do so.

“If you run short on time, a bridging loan or second charge may get you over a renovations hump to help you meet the deadline; but clearly it is far better to be proactive now to try and avoid this.

“As with all change in business, being the last to know and act can be exceptionally painful.

“A remortgage now may avoid you being caught up in the changes this time around, although, be clear that whilst financing may not be affected, this doesn’t mitigate your licensing obligations from October.

“Regardless of your position, we specialise in HMO finance. Talk to our experts and let us smooth your path to a suitable solution.”

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RLA has released tickets for its Future Renting conference in London

July 2, 2018

Tickets have been released for the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) next Future Renting conference in London.

The one-day conference, which will be held at Imperial College London on September 13, will follow on from successful events in Wales and Manchester.

The event, at the college’s Kensington campus, will include a packed programme featuring a range of expert speakers who will address delegates on issues including legislation changes, tax, welfare reform, licensing and fire safety.

There will also be the opportunity to meet other landlords and agents, share your experiences and pick up advice, support and offers from a range of exhibitors.

Speakers confirmed so far include property expert Kate Faulkner, as well as Dr David Smith, partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors and RLA Policy Director, and senior researcher Dr Tom Simcock of RLA research lab PEARL.

The conference is designed for anyone with an interest in private rented housing, including buy-to-let landlords, letting agency owners, local authority councillors and officers, journalists and housing charities.

Tickets, which are priced at £50 for RLA members and £65 for non-members, including lunch and refreshments, are available to buy here

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The rise in ‘staycations’ and the opportunities they create for landlords

July 2, 2018

Overseas family holidays are a relatively recent concept in the UK. They came about as a result of air travel becoming affordable to people on average incomes. While they are still very popular, there are clear indicators that people are now beginning to remember the benefits of holidaying in the UK and so the “staycation” market is now growing again and looks set to be a major niche going forward into the future. This brings exciting opportunities for property investors, particularly buy-to-let landlords, and so here are three tips to make the most of this growing market.

 

Remember that many staycationers are driven by factors other than cost

 

Some people may link holidaying at home with economic turbulence, such as the Brexit factor. This may be the case for people who opt to stay in their own home and just enjoy down time rather than flying off to the sun, but is not necessarily the case at all with those who are going away from home in the UK. In fact holidaying in the UK may not be at all cheaper than going abroad, but it does offer three other benefits any or all of which could encourage people towards this option. Firstly it avoids the need to negotiate airports or seaports, especially with young children, secondly it is a far more environmentally-friendly option for short breaks and thirdly it simply allows people to see more of their own country. Keep this in mind when looking at potential investment properties and when creating your marketing literature for them.

 

Include management and marketing when considering your costs

 

Staycation lets are, by definition, short-term lets, which means that every time your guests change, your property will need to be “changed over” in the same way as hotel rooms do, which will, of course, require either your time or the cost of a cleaner. You may also find it advisable to offer regular cleaning during your guests’ stay (at least if they are staying more than a day or two) as hotels do. This not only makes life pleasanter for your guests, but also provides an opportunity to see if anything is amiss. Marketing is the other major cost for staycation properties, as compared to regular buy-to-let. In particular, unless you have the expertise and equipment to take decent photographs, then you will need to find (and pay) someone who does.

 

The staycation market is also a regulated one

 

By this point, the staycation market is essentially too big for authorities to ignore and, at the moment, central and local authorities are both looking at the challenge of how to balance the needs to investors with the needs of those who live in an area and who do not, for example, want flats in their block being used for non-stop parties. Future regulation is probably not going to be too much of a concern for serious property investors, in fact it may even be a benefit by shaking “fly-by-nights” out of the market. You will, however, need to keep apprised of current legislation both at national and local level.
 

Mark Burns is the managing director of property investment firm Hopwood House.

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UK buy-to-let hotspots revealed

June 29, 2018

There is still plenty of money to be made in buy-to-let, provided you invest in the right areas, according to new research. 

Fresh analysis by Direct Line for Business reveals the UK’s property hotspots for investment landlords, and has identified Burnley as the number one place for buy-to-let in today’s market, based on rental yields. 

According to the landlord insurer, landlords acquiring an investment property in Burnley can expect to receive an annualised rental yield of 7.1% on average - the highest in the country, and almost double the average yield in the UK, which currently stands at 3.6%. 

Burnley is followed by Glasgow (6.9%) and Belfast (6.4%) in the top three. 

Areas with the highest rental yield in each UK region (2015-17)

Local authority with the highest rental yield

Annualised rental yield, 2015-2017

Region

Regional rental yield, 2015-2017

Burnley

7.1%

North West

4.6%

City of Glasgow

6.9%

Scotland

5.3%

Belfast

6.4%

Northern Ireland

5.6%

Blaenau Gwent

5.9%

Wales

4.6%

Forest Heath

5.7%

East of England

3.5%

County Durham

5.6%

North East

5.0%

Kingston upon Hull

5.4%

Yorkshire and the Humber

4.5%

Stoke-on-Trent

5.4%

West Midlands

4.5%

City of Nottingham

5.2%

East Midlands

3.9%

Hounslow

4.9%

London

4.4%

Portsmouth

4.8%

South East

3.8%

City of Bristol 

4.5%

South West

3.7%

Source:  Direct line for Business, 2018

High house prices in London mean that rental yields in the capital stand at just 4.4% on average, despite the average annual rent clocking in at more than £20,000.

On a wider regional level, Northern Ireland offers the best return on investment for landlords at 5.6%, followed by Scotland at 5.3% and the North East at 5%. 

Across the UK, house price inflation has significantly outstripped increases in rental values, with Direct Line for Business reporting that the average annual rent has increased by 4.7% over the last three years, growing from £7,392 in 2015 to £7,739 in 2017, an increase of £116 per year or £10 per month. 

Over the same period, average house prices have risen by almost £32,000, increasing from £191,855 in 2014 to £223,807 in 2017 – a rise of 17%. 

Areas with the highest rental yield in each UK region (2015-17)

Local authority with the highest rental yield

Annualised rental yield, 2015-2017

Region

Regional rental yield, 2015-2017

Burnley

7.1%

North West

4.6%

City of Glasgow

6.9%

Scotland

5.3%

Belfast

6.4%

Northern Ireland

5.6%

Blaenau Gwent

5.9%

Wales

4.6%

Forest Heath

5.7%

East of England

3.5%

County Durham

5.6%

North East

5.0%

Kingston upon Hull

5.4%

Yorkshire and the Humber

4.5%

Stoke-on-Trent

5.4%

West Midlands

4.5%

City of Nottingham

5.2%

East Midlands

3.9%

Hounslow

4.9%

London

4.4%

Portsmouth

4.8%

South East

3.8%

City of Bristol 

4.5%

South West

3.7%

Source:  Direct line for Business, 2018


Christina Dimitrov, business manager at Direct Line for Business, commented: “While the UK’s homeowners can look back at strong gains in the period between 2014 and 2017 where average property price was 17%, it’s a different story for the rental market where average rents across the country rose by 4.7% during this period, which remains below the average salary increase of 5.3%.

“As the number of renters across the UK increases, so too has the number of private landlords, with more than five million privately-let properties currently in the UK.

“With this increased competition, it is more important than ever that landlords are able to offer their tenants well maintained and fully insured properties that will provide best return on their investment in the future.”

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Government urged to offer tax incentives to ‘support and encourage’ landlords

June 29, 2018

As a private landlord you have a crucial role in providing a much needed housing option for people and so why should you be penalised by an unfair stamp duty surcharge or the phasing out mortgage interest relief?

There has been a rise in the number of buy-to-let landlords selling up and quitting the private rented sector, various reports suggest, with tax and regulation changes cited as the main reasons why landlords are offloading properties.

“As more landlords see their profits eroded, and more legislation is in the pipeline, more landlords are likely to exit the market,” said Dorian Gonsalves, Belvoir’s chief executive.

Much of the reason for the fall in supply has been the decision to restrict mortgage interest relief to the basic rate of income tax and add a 3% levy on stamp duty for the purchase of additional homes, according to the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).

“The government should use taxation more positively and not penalise landlords who are contributing to badly needed homes to rent,” said David Smith, the RLA’s policy director.

A new report published yesterday by the RLA research exchange, PEARL, warns that the country faces a net loss of 133,000 homes for private rent over the next year.

This follows government figures showing that between March 2016 and March 2017 England saw a loss of 46,000 private rented homes.

Although the government has sought to support and encourage home ownership, the RLA’s figures, based on questioning over 2,600 landlords, reveal that 84% of landlords have seen tenant demand increasing or remaining stable.

Smith added: “The demand for private rental homes shows no signs of slowing up, despite efforts to encourage home ownership.

“The government was always mistaken to place homes to own and to rent in opposition to each other rather than seeking to supply more homes in all tenures.”

The Association of Residential Letting Agents has also found an increase in demand for private rented homes.

To help increase the supply of urgently required homes to rent the RLA is calling for the government to end its tax on new homes, starting with the scrapping of the 3% stamp duty levy.

The RLA’s policy director continued: “Corporate investors are failing to provide the new homes to rent at the pace and scale we need. They are also poorly equipped to meet the housing needs of towns and rural areas.

“The vast majority of landlords are individuals and small businesses, providing good housing to their tenants and supporting local economies. We need to support and encourage them to provide the long term homes to rent needed.”

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BTL sales platform ‘inundated with valuation requests’ from landlords

June 29, 2018

A new buy-to-let property platform has been well received by BTL investors potentially looking to offload their properties.

yieldit, launched by Knight Knox earlier this month, specialises in the sale of tenanted, buy-to-let property from investor to investor.

The platform has reported impressive activity within the first fortnight of its re-launch, boosting its portfolio of properties by 11.5%.

Jon Cartlidge, a valuer for yieldit, said: “The response to yieldit has been fantastic and we have been inundated with valuation requests from investors keen to find out what their buy-to-let property is worth.

“Current market conditions are perfect for large scale landlords to look at restructuring their portfolio in response to the changing buy-to-let landscape, with lots of first time landlords entering the sector, enticed by a growing pool of renters and ballooning rents.”

Head of Sales at yieldit, Ryan Hughes, added: “We’re delighted with the response we've had over the last two weeks from investors who are happy to have found a bespoke buy-to-let sales service.

“We hope that going forward yieldit will become the go-to platform for all investors.”

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TMW cuts cost of 5-year fixed rate deals

June 29, 2018

The Mortgage Works is reducing the cost of its five-year fixed rate buy-to-let mortgages by up to 0.5%.

New five-year products offered by the buy-to-let specialist, part of the Nationwide Building Society, start from 2.09% for those looking to borrow up to 65% LTV.

The lender’s new 75% LTV deals have been reduced by 0.15%, and now start from 2.54%, while its 50% LTV range has dropped slight by 0.05%, with rates now starting at 2.39%.

In addition, TMW has launched a new range of two-year fixed rate products with 1% fee and fee-free options, specifically for customers taking a Further Advance. These new products come with a free standard valuation.

TMW’s Managing director, Paul Wootton, said: “The new, reduced rates on our five-year fixed rate deals will mean TMW continues to have one of the most competitive options on the market for landlords.

“We always look to balance costs and flexibility so that our customers have choice, with these new products offering competitive rates for landlords looking for longer term payment security.”

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Random rental property spot checks could improve standards in the PRS

June 28, 2018

Most private landlords would oppose the idea of arbitrary checks of their rental properties by local authorities, but that has not stopped PayProp supporting the contentious proposal.

North Somerset Council recently announced that it is introducing an initiative called ‘Rent with Confidence’ from October 1, involving random rental property spot checks, and PayProp, an automated payment and reconciliation platform specific to the letting industry, believes that this will help to improve transparency and standards in the wider private rented sector.

The council will be focusing on Weston-super-Mare town centre, where it says a cluster of rental properties exist in poor condition.

In response, the council has pledged to undertake random inspections of landlords’ properties in the area and to take punitive action, including fixed penalty notices.

The automated rental payment provider suggests that a system like this could be equally effective across the county and is in step with government efforts to improve standards in the PRS.

Neil Cobbold, chief operating officer of PayProp in the UK, said: “Random checks in this vein could prove highly effective in uncovering poor PRS practice and could vastly improve rental market standards.

“It’s especially effective as offending landlords or agents won’t have time to try and cover up their wrongdoing.”

He added: “If the system is successful in North Somerset, I see no reason why it couldn't be rolled out across the country.

“The thinking behind it ties in with many of the government's efforts to improve transparency and professionalism in the rental sector.”

Cobbold believes that spot checks could effectively work in unison with London’s Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker as well as its national equivalent, making sure offending agents and landlords are identified and that their wrongdoing is documented and accessible to both local authorities and consumers.

Cobbold also believes that government-led regulation is only one side of the coin and that landlords and letting agents should also be more proactive about embracing solutions which will help them become more transparent.

He continued: “Letting agents and landlords need to adopt PropTech solutions which make for more accurate administration, reduce the chances of human error and simplify processes.

“As well as maintaining the condition of rental homes with the help of technology, property professionals need to make sure their financial systems are water-tight and that all payments can be clearly accounted for.”

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The top 10 best UK cities to be a BTL landlord

June 28, 2018

Manchester has been identified as the number one place to rent out a property with an average yield of 5.55% and a rental price growth of 5.76%.

The findings come from a new interactive tool launched by GoCompare, which allows users to compare UK cities on a number of factors, including property prices, rental yields, rental growth, population under 35, the number of properties available, and the number of letting and maintenance agencies.

London ranked second by the GoCompare platform with the highest number of properties available to buy and the highest amount of properties available for renting. But property in the capital typically offers a low yield, at an average of just 3.05%, while its rental price growth is -1.12%.

Nottingham came in third position with one of the highest average yield compared to the rest of the cities at 4.46%, and 3.051 properties available for renting.

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Landlords urged to be cautious over limited company incorporation

June 28, 2018

Landlords are being advised by buy-to let broker Commercial Trust Limited to seek specialist tax advice before making the decision to incorporate their property business into a limited company.

There has been a significant increase in the number of landlords using limited companies to manage their buy-to-let portfolios as a result of greater government regulation, according to recent data from Mortgages for Business.

The figures revealed that 77% of all buy-to-let purchase applications were made via a corporate vehicle in the first quarter of 2018, as landlords try to deal with a raft of changes in the private rented sector, including higher stamp duty, tougher mortgage lending conditions and the phasing out of mortgage tax relief.

Many buy-to-let investors feel as though they have been left with little alternative but to turn to incorporation as a way of maintaining investment levels in the PRS, however Andrew Turner, chief executive at Commercial Trust Limited, has warned landlords to be careful.

He said: “Whilst it is understandable that buy-to-let landlords want to avoid paying more tax than is necessary, it is essential, as with any investment, that they fully investigate how their personal circumstances apply to buy to let taxation.

“Upon face value, many landlords are perhaps seeing the headlines and are considering incorporating their property investments, as limited companies are taxed differently to individuals.

“However, taxation is a complex issue and I would urge anyone considering this move, to seek advice from a tax specialist first, to ensure that their buy to let venture would actually be better off tax-wise, in a limited company.

“Having done so, we would be delighted to help any landlords that then want to consider investing in buy to let as a limited company. There are a wide range of lenders and products that are available and based on individual circumstances.

“But the message should be clear to landlords thinking of taking the limited company option, to investigate fully first.”

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Tougher electrical safety standards needed to protect private tenants

June 28, 2018

Tougher electrical safety standards for rented properties north of the border are needed to protect private tenants, according to a leading campaigning body for electrotechnical trade in Scotland

Recent data revealed that tenants in the private housing sector were at a higher risk of electrical shocks and fires caused by electrical faults than those in social housing.

Darrell Matthews, managing director of SELECT, whose member companies account for over 90% of all electrical installation work carried out in Scotland, wants the government to introduce more stringent safety enforcement laws to bring all rented housing in Scotland up to the required standards.

He said: “Private landlord registration has been mandatory since 2004 and a robust application process is critical to keep the people of Scotland safe in privately rented accommodation.

“Our members operate to the highest standards of electrical installation and testing and firmly believe that the government should hold private landlords to the same exacting standards.”

Responding to a consultation paper on ‘landlord registration’, which recently took place by the Scottish government’s landlord registration team, Matthews said that he would like to see landlords required to submit written evidence that they have had electrical inspection and testing undertaken and that fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide detectors are fitted and operational.

He added: “The current ‘prescribed information’ makes no requirement on the landlord to declare the safety of the property being rented, so any change to this is a welcome improvement.

“We believe that this is an excellent opportunity for the Scottish government to put the safety of renters foremost, and ensure that properties being rented by private landlords have electrical installations of the highest standard.”

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Accord launches new fixed-rate products for first-time buyer landlords

June 28, 2018

Accord has launched two new fixed-rate mortgages for ‘first-time buyer’ landlords, on the back of a notable rise in the number of enquiries from aspiring landlords.

Accord, which is part of Yorkshire Building Society, reports that it has seen the number of applications from wannabe buy-to-let investors double over the past year.

The two new buy-to-let mortgage products, aimed at borrowers who are acquiring a new residential property and letting out their existing home – let to buy – are available at up to 75% loan-to-value (LTV), subject to a £1,000 cashback.

There is a two-year fixed rate priced at 2.8% and a five-year fixed rate deal at 3.19%. Both products come with free standard valuations and a £195 product fee.

Chris Maggs, commercial manager at Accord Buy To Let, said: “The buy-to-let market has undergone some significant regulatory and tax changes in the past three years, which have undoubtedly resulted in a more challenging environment for landlords.

“However it is clear there is still appetite for first time investment in the sector.”

He added: “We’re aware that the first venture into buy-to-let for many landlords is to buy a new home and rent out their former residential property.”

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New government guidance to clampdown on rogue landlords and agents

June 27, 2018

The government has launched new online information designed to help renters and landlords know their rights.

The rental guides, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, also include checklists for new and existing tenants, landlords and letting agents.

These guides, produced in partnership with landlord, tenant and letting and managing agent groups, professional bodies and local housing authorities, form a key part of government’s continuing crackdown on poor practice by a minority of landlords and agents in the private rented and leasehold sectors, in a bid to drive up living standards in the sector.

This new guide will help private landlords learn more about their key legal responsibilities and best practice when letting a property, including how to protect tenancy deposits, carry out gas safety checks and install smoke and carbon dioxide alarms.

Housing minister Heather Wheeler said: “Every day across the country thousands of people move house – from young people leaving home for the first time, to those relocating after years in the same property.

“Whatever the circumstance, we want to ensure renters, landlords and leaseholders are armed with information so they know their rights, responsibilities and can challenge poor behaviour.

“The guides will be reviewed in light of any new legislation to ensure tenants, landlords and leaseholders are supplied with up-to-date information.”

The ‘how to’ series comprises a ‘how to let’ guide, ‘how to lease’ guide, ‘how to rent a safe home’ guide, and a ‘how to rent’ guide.

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Lib Dems renew ‘rent to buy’ pledge for first time homeowners

June 27, 2018

A number of young renters will be offered ‘rent to buy’ deposit-free homes as part of plans being proposed by the Liberal Democrats aimed at attracting a younger generation to support the party.

The party has had issues with regaining the trust of the younger generation after it voted through an increase in tuition fees during the coalition years, but the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable, views the housing crisis as an opportunity to gain fresh political support.

In a speech at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London yesterday, Cable proposed a major expansion in rent-to-own, where some people in new developments could pay a market rent in exchange for a gradual stake in the property, thereby subsidising social rents.

The speech, which came in response to the housing crisis comes as the government announced £1.67bn in funding for 23,000 affordable homes across England, including 15,000 for social rent, was followed up with an email from the Liberal Democrat leader to party members, in which he said that successive governments have not only failed to tackle the housing, but have made it worse.

“Tackling this problem won’t be easy, but if we’re to build a society that is fair, free and open, it’s a problem we must tackle,” he wrote.

Cable has set out what he described as a “radical plan to tackle the housing crisis”.

This includes a programme of large-scale affordable housing, raising quality, safety and environmental standards in existing residential properties, and strengthening the sanctions for leaving homes empty, with fiscal measures to incentivise domestic use, including increasing the 200% council tax on homes deliberately left empty to 500%.

In addition, he wants to see a big expansion in ‘rent to own’, in which housing associations would build properties for occupiers to pay a market-level rent. The additional margin would yield the occupier an increasing stake in the property over time. Variants of this model are already in use in Liberal Democrat controlled local authorities like Eastleigh.

The party also wants to see the introduction of a new, arms-length body that will be empowered by law to acquire land of low amenity and market value through compulsory acquisition and build houses available for five-year rentals which could be converted into freehold acquisitions with a mortgage.

Cable also wants to see more done to clamp down on rogue landlords, including ending what he described as “exploitative, greedy, negligent or neglectful practices in the private sector, which give the majority of good landlords a bad name”.

Measures include a publicly available database of rogue landlords; capping upfront deposit and banning letting agencies’ fees for tenants.

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Onward’s report is wrong and fails to address need for ‘more homes to rent’

June 27, 2018

A Conservative think tank has been slammed by the Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) for its inaccurate analysis of the private rental sector.

A new report by Onward suggests that the government should do more to help create a level playing field between home owners and private landlords by limiting the number of properties buy-to-let investors can own.

It also recommends ending or limiting tax breaks for both private and buy-to-let landlords, in order to deter them from investing in residential property and stem growth of the private rental market.

But the RLA says that the think tank’s assessment of the PRS is “fundamentally wrong”.

According to Onward, buy-to-let lending at the end of 2017 was above the 2007 peak. However, the trade body notes that new buy-to-let lending for house purchases has fallen from over 183,000 loans in 2007 to just 74,900 in 2017, a fall of almost 60%, according to figures from UK Finance.

The total number of buy-to-let mortgages, including re-mortgages, also fell from 339,000 in 2007 to 227,000 in 2017, reflecting the fact that the private rented sector is actually shrinking, at a time when more rental homes are urgently needed.

Onward’s report argues that landlords are taxed more favourably than homeowners, although this is clearly not the case.

The think tank goes on to foolishly argue that further tax increases are needed to reduce investment in new homes for private rent, at a time when more homes to rent are clearly needed, amid record house prices.

David Smith, policy director for the RLA, commented: “Today’s report is riddled with errors and fails to address the fundamental point that we need more homes to rent, not less.

“Rather than coming out with ideological assaults on the private rented sector, we need to reform tax so that it encourages the development of new homes to rent and longer tenancies so that the sector can adequately provide the pathway for tenants to go from renting to home ownership.”

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Lenders will be forced to push up mortgage rates because of higher costs

June 27, 2018

Banks will almost certainly be forced to raise mortgage rates as cheap money provided by a closed Bank of England scheme comes to an end, according to the head buy-to-let specialist Landbay.

The £127bn term funding scheme, which was closed in February, was launched in August 2016 to provide lenders with low-cost loans as an economic stimulus after the Brexit vote. But with the cheap money provided by the scheme about to run out, John Goodall, CEO of Landbay, believes that lenders will soon be forced to push up mortgage rates because of the higher costs.

He said: “Mortgage lending remained resilient in May, buoyed by the affordable borrower rates that are currently on offer. First-time buyers and those remortgaging underpin much of this growth as they continue to take advantage of attractive deals amid speculation of a base rate rise.

“With inflation nearing the Bank’s 2% target, and wages falling, a rate rise has been put on hold until at least August for now. However, the Bank of England’s Term Funding Scheme coming to an end marks the inevitable rise in the cost of funding, so we might see mortgage rates rise in the coming months regardless of an interest rate rise. Until this happens, lending levels should continue to hold steady.”

The latest data from UK Finance shows that estimated gross mortgage lending for the total market in May was £22.2bn, 8.8% higher than the corresponding month last year.

Mortgage approvals by the main high street banks in May have also increased, rising by 3% compared to the same month a year earlier.

Once again, increased approval numbers were fuelled primarily by remortgaging, which is up 18% year-on-year.

In contrast, approvals for new property purchase fell 3.8% year-on-year.

UK Finance managing director of personal finance Eric Leenders commented: “May’s increase in mortgage approvals was driven by strong growth in remortgaging, as a large number of fixed-term mortgages came to an end and homeowners took advantage of a competitive market to shop around for attractive deals.

“Increased efforts by lenders to contact their customers before their current mortgage deal expires have also contributed to this rise.”

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Crest Nicolson and M&G Real Estate to fund BTR scheme in Berkshire

June 27, 2018

Crest Nicolson and M&G Real Estate have teamed up once again to fund the construction of 114 private rental homes in Arborfield Green, a new Berkshire garden village in South East England.

This will be the third PRS partnership between the firms, with the development set to feature a selection of one and two-bedroom apartments, which will be ready for occupation towards the tail end of next year.

Alex Greaves, ‎head of residential investment at M&G Real Estate, commented: “It is a fantastic opportunity to partner with Crest Nicholson for a third time and I firmly believe that as we do our part to put pension fund money to good use within society, that institutional investors will continue to find the case for residential as compelling as we do.”

Stimulating new housing markets such as the private rental sector is the only way that the industry and government will be able to accelerate housing delivery and meet ambitious home building targets, according to Chris Tinker, a board director at Crest Nicholson.

He said: “Purpose-designed PRS schemes are complementary to our open market and affordable housing offers, whilst working in partnership with M&G Real Estate will again help us to broaden our tenure base and create diverse communities.”

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Government urged to take action to restrict BTL landlords

June 26, 2018

Buy-to-let landlords are having an adverse impact on home ownership, according to new research.

Fresh analysis by Onward suggests that the government should do more to help create a level playing field between home owners and private landlords, by limiting the number of properties buy-to-let investors can own.

The Conservative think tank has also recommended ending or limiting tax breaks for both private and buy-to-let landlords, in order to deter them from investing in residential property because buy-to-let reduces the number of homes available for people who want to buy them to actually live in.

Neil O’Brien, who compiled the report, said: “We need to change the balance between the rented sector and home ownership. 

“We should protect existing landlords but discourage more people from investing in rental property, because the buy-to-let boom has bid up prices and reduced homeownership among younger people.”

In addition, O’Brien, a former George Osborne aide who has also worked for Theresa May, wants to see foreign investment limited and local councils given greater control of housing stock and the power to reform of the planning system, with a view to helping the government reach its target of building 300,000 new homes a year in England by 2025.

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Equity release market proving ‘extremely resilient’

June 26, 2018

The total amount of equity released by homeowners, including buy-to-let landlords, was up 5.8% in May compared to the previous month, fresh data from Responsible Equity Release shows.

The equity release market continues to perform strongly despite an uncertain residential housing market, with the total number of equity release plans taken out by homeowners in May increasing by 10% month-on-month, according to the equity release provider.

But despite the increase in the total amount of equity release and the number of completed plans, the average amount of equity released by residential property owners dropped marginally last month, down 4.1% on April to £72,877.

The average amount released by individual homeowners reached a high of £87,035 in January and has fallen every month since, owed in part to the existing economic landscape and homeowners taking more caution over financial decisions.

Regionally, Yorkshire and the Humber saw the biggest increase in the amount of equity released by individual homeowners, up 27.4% in May to £50,575, compared to £39,688 in the previous month.

Steve Wilkie, managing director, Responsible Equity Release, commented: “The equity release market is proving extremely resilient to economic and housing market conditions. The number of homeowners taking out plans and the total amount of equity released were both up in May.

“Although the average amount of equity released by individuals has fallen slightly, particularly in London, we have seen an increase in the amount of equity in reserve which can be tapped into if and when needed.

“Not surprisingly, the amount of equity London homeowners are taking out has fallen, but this illustrates how much the product has matured and how people view equity release. It is not a product to be used recklessly or in haste and instead provides a valuable financial solution. We spend a lot of time with homeowners assessing their needs to see if equity release is the right product for them. It is not for everyone.

“However, with a greater range of flexible products available to a wider audience, equity release now offers a genuine retirement income solution, and a financial buffer in the face of poor performing savings accounts and investments.”

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Surge in landlords exiting the sector

June 26, 2018

There has been a rise in the number of buy-to-let landlords selling up and quitting the private rented sector, according to Belvoir.

The latest rental index from Belvoir, based on feedback from its franchisees, found that the number of landlords selling up has hit a 12-month high.

Belvoir report that more landlords are leaving the sector, as a greater number of its offices saw four to five landlords selling while 5.6% of offices saw 11 or more landlords selling – the highest percentage for more than a year.

Tax and regulation changes are cited as the main reasons why landlords are offloading properties.

The volume of offices seeing landlords buy more properties to let in the first quarter of the year remains similar when compared to the final three months of 2017.

Dorian Gonsalves, Belvoir’s chief executive, said: “As more landlords see their profits eroded, and more legislation is in the pipeline, more landlords are likely to exit the market.

“We are still seeing new investment in the buy-to-let market, but the number of properties being bought has decreased.”

The study also found that tenants are staying in their properties for longer, with around a third – 33% - of tenants remaining in the same property for 13-18 months, while 40% are remaining for 19-24 months – almost double the percentage seen in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, 17% are opting to rent a property for more than 24 months with one office reporting their average tenants stay in excess of four years.

Gonsalves commented: “The trends that Belvoir is reporting are very much in line with our predictions at the beginning of this year.

“As 2018 progresses, there is no doubt that landlords and tenants will find themselves shouldered with an extra burden of cost due to continued government interference in the rental market, which includes the implementation of punitive tax changes.”

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Virgin Money confirm support for buy-to-let portfolio landlords

June 26, 2018

Virgin Money is now accepting buy-to-let portfolio landlord applications, ensuring that customers who have four mortgaged rental properties or more are well supported.

In what has been an unprecedented period of change for the buy-to-let market, Virgin remains committed to the sector and will now accept applications from portfolio landlords with up to 10 mortgaged buy-to-let properties, and an unlimited number of mortgage free properties, up to a maximum exposure of £3m, or five properties mortgaged with Virgin Money.

Virgin has also increased the maximum loan term from 25 to 35 years, while free basic valuations are now available on all buy-to-let remortgage applications with a choice of either free standard legal work or cashback.

Virgin Money is also attempting to make it easier for landlords to secure mortgage funds by partnering with property risk software developer eTech, with a view to providing an online buy-to-let hub, providing brokers with an effective, streamlined process to submit a client’s portfolio details.

Andrew Asaam, director of mortgages at Virgin Money, said: “We’re delighted to announce our launch into the portfolio landlord market and especially pleased to be partnering with e-Tech.

“Harnessing their technology to facilitate portfolio submissions will deliver a fantastic process for our mortgage brokers and complement our overall intermediary service.”

 

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PRA changes will affect landlords’ ability to provide ‘quality affordable housing’

June 25, 2018

Mortgage brokers and lenders have been slammed by the National Landlords Association (NLA) for failing to do enough to communicate changes by the Prudential Regulation Authority to landlords.

A new survey undertaken by the association found that a number of buy-to-let borrowers remain oblivious about the new regime, partly because lenders and brokers have been too quiet over the PRA changes to buy-to-let lending.

According to the NLA, more than half of landlords are still unaware of the new framework.

The NLA’s latest research found that just 8% landlords reported that their lender had been in touch about the changes, while 16% said they had been contacted by their broker.

Some 68% of landlords said neither their lender nor broker had made contact with them about the changes.

However, the findings show that brokers and lenders may have concentrated their efforts on larger portfolio landlords, with 26% of portfolio landlords saying their broker had been in touch, and 9% saying their lender had made contact.

Richard Lambert, CEO at the NLA said: “The PRA’s changes will greatly affect the ability of landlords to find new finance and continue to provide good quality affordable housing to those who need it”.

He added: “We hope that that the reason such a significant number of landlords haven’t been contacted is because their existing deals are simply not yet close to expiry.

“However, it’s in lenders’ and brokers’ own interests to speak to landlords about the changes sooner rather than later, otherwise it could mean a missed opportunity in terms of new business.

“If landlords don’t get the right support and information about how the changes will impact their existing loans, then it could mean higher finance costs that many just won’t be able to absorb.”

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Over 10 years to save for a deposit as first-time buyers forced to rent for longer

June 25, 2018

Many would-be first-time buyers are being forced to rent longer despite a slowdown in house prices as new figures reveal that it takes an average of more than 10 years to save for a 15% deposit.

Nationwide reports that house prices dropped by 0.2% during the month of May, while the annual growth rate slipped to 2.4% from 2.6% in April, and yet the number of people looking to rent continues to rise as potential purchasers struggle to save up for a deposit to secure a mortgage.

Fresh data from Hamptons International shows that in the first quarter of the year, the average single first-time buyer would have to save for 10 and a half years to raise a 15% deposit on their first home.

The average single first-time buyer who started saving in Q1 2018 would not be able to purchase a home until the autumn of 2028.

A single Londoner hoping to buy for the first time would need to save for 17 years to raise a 15% deposit.

In Q1 2018 the average couple buying for the first time would need to save for five years, which means that they could set up home by the spring of 2023.

A couple in London would need eight years on average to raise a 15% deposit to acquire a property.

Saving for a 5% rather than a 15% deposit means first-time buyers can save faster, enabling some purchasers to qualify for Help to Buy, although borrowing rates tend to be less favourable compared to lower loan-to-value deals.

For a single first-time buyer it would take three years and nine months to save up for a 5% deposit. This is over six and a half years faster than saving up for a 15% deposit.                        

In Q1 2018 it would take a couple saving for a 5% deposit on their first home one year and nine months.

Aneisha Beveridge, an analyst at Hamptons International, commented: “Saving a deposit is still the biggest barrier to buying a first home. It takes a single person more than a decade to save up in the current climate. 

“But the additional support from Help to Buy brings down the time it takes to raise a deposit by over six years for a single first-time buyer. 

“Slower house price growth in the capital has meant that it’s now six months quicker for a couple, who share household spending, to save up for a 15% deposit in London.

“But it still takes a couple in London eight years to save up, twice as long as someone buying a home in the north.”

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Brent Council aims to ‘foster good relationships with private landlords’

June 25, 2018

Brent Council insists that it wants to build better relationships with private landlords after successfully winning close to 150 prosecution cases against rogue landlords, helping to raise more than £1m in fines.

To help build rapport and connect with landlords, the council held a special ‘landlord and investor’ event at the Brent Civic Centre in Wembley Park, north-west London, last week to discuss how to strengthen the private rented sector in Brent.

Around 200 landlords took part in the forum, offering them an opportunity to seek support and advice from experts in private housing services, licensing, housing needs, council tax issues and environmental services.

Cllr Eleanor Southwood, responsible for housing and welfare reform at Brent Council, commented: “We want to foster good relationships with private landlords and help them rent out decent accommodation to tenants in Brent in accordance with the law.

“We offer grants to landlords looking to convert commercial premises into much-needed housing in the borough and experts were on hand to answer any questions.”

The forum also acted as a reminder to landlords about the new licensing regulations in Brent, after the council extended its selective licensing scheme to Dudden Hill, Kensal Green, Kilburn, Mapesbury, Queen’s Park, Willesden Green and Wembley Central, ensuring that a borough wide selective licensing scheme is now in place.

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Sainsbury’s reduces cost of buy-to-let deals

June 25, 2018

Sainsbury’s Bank, which only entered the buy-to-let sector last month, has cut rates across its two and five-year BTL products.

Rates have been reduced at the 75% LTV bracket on both the bank’s purchase and remortgage ranges, while remortgage products at 60% LTV have also been cut.

All products continue to come with £250 cashback and remortgage products also come with a free standard valuation.

New products, available at 75% LTV, include two-year fixed rates from 1.7% with a £1,995 product fee, 1.95% with a £995 product fee, and 2.36% with no product fee.

Five-year fixed rates have been cut to 2.59% with a £1,995 product fee, 2.71% with a £995 product fee, and 2.83% with no fee.

For remortgage products, two-year fixed rate products are available up to 60% LTV at between 1.45% and 2.11%.

Two-year remortgage rates at 75% LTV start from 1.73% with a £1,995 product fee, rising to 2.37% with no product fee.

Five-year fixed remortgage rates at 60% LTV have been reduced to 2.16% with a £1,995 product fee, rising to 2.3% with a £995 product fee and 2.53% with no fee.

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