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LATEST LANDLORD NEWS

Warning to landlords of increased future rent arrears

Coronavirus has meant that average tenant in arrears owed almost a fifth more in May than they did in January this year, according to a leading rental payment automation platform.

The report warns that as we approach the end of the furlough scheme at the end of October, landlords should prepare themselves for further increases in rent arrears as redundancies rise.

From TODAY, 1st August, employers will be once again required to make National Insurance and pension payments for furloughed workers, which may well result in a spike of redundancies if bosses are unable to afford these additional costs.

? From 1st September, employers will have to contribute 10% of the wages of furloughed staff, rising to 20% in October before the scheme is wrapped up at the end of October.

In addition, some employees may already be feeling the pinch as commuting costs re-emerge and the option to spend in pubs and restaurants is an option once again.

As the Government support gradually reduces, landlords will have to prepare for more tenants being unable to pay their rents.



What are tenants asking Google?

The most common questions tenants asked Google in April were:

‘Can landlords increase rent’ – 3,200 Google searches

‘Can landlord evict me’ – 1,880 Google searches

‘Responsibilities as a tenant’ – 1,600 Google searches

‘Can letting agents charge fees’ – 760 Google searches

‘Can landlord keep deposit’ – 550 Google searches

‘What are tenancy fees’ – 250 Google searches

‘Can you paint a rented house’ – 220 Google searches

‘Does landlord have to fix boiler’ – 130 Google searches

‘What is landlord responsible to repair’ – 110 Google searches

Given that there are about 4.5 million renters in the UK this does not represent a high proportion of in-the-dark tenants but the results do point to rent increases and evictions being of some concern.



New Government online system for landlords to receive tenant benefit payments


The Government’s Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced an online system to replace the paper-based method for landlords and lettings agents applying to receive direct payments from tenants on Universal Credit.

Previously, landlords and lettings agents who wish to apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid directly to them, have to download and complete the UC47 form from GOV.UK.

But following a trial last year run by Caridon Landlord Solutions, an online system has been launched that promises to reduce the processing time down from in excess of three weeks to just two hours in some cases.

One commentator said: “This is excellent news for landlords and tenants, as well as all those new claimants who have recently been forced to sign up to Universal Credit due to Covid-19.

“For those struggling to manage their finances, it provides a much simpler route for tenants and landlords to request that the housing element of Universal Credit is paid directly to their landlord.

“The old paper forms, which required landlords to fill out, scan and email or post back, were not only time consuming but also took weeks process, sometimes getting lost along the way with rent arrears simultaneously mounting up.

“Given how stretched DWP’s resources are as a result of the pandemic, it is fantastic that they have managed to launch this important improvement to the system which will help those struggling to manage their finances.”



NRLA releases templates to help landlords during coronavirus


The National Residential Landlords Association has developed a range of templates that can be used to contact tenants about coronavirus-related issues.

They show how landlords can approach tenants to check if they are okay, or are facing any issues with work, or are self-isolating.

The other templates, all of which are only available to members, cover scenarios such as if a tenant has requested a rent break or has fallen into arrears.

There are also documents for landlords who want to offer a rent holiday, request inspections for gas and electrical safety and to cover where university students are requesting an early surrender of their tenancy.

The documents only relate to England and Wales.

Templates for members of NRLA



Government confirms maintenance can still be carried out on rental homes


The Government has confirm that maintenance on rental homes can still be carried out.

The guidance, issued yesterday, says “Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms. It will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety."

“No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so."

“In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households."

“No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.”



Four year high property sales in February before the coronavirus outbreak


The highest number of property completions was recorded by HMRC for February since 2016. aThis was a snapshot of the property market in the run-up to the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

The taxman’s UK property transactions statistics for February suggests seasonally adjusted sales were up 6% annually last month and 4.5% since January to 103,870.

This is the highest figure for the month for four years when there was a rush of sales before the introduction of the additional Stamp Duty rate.

Sales increased across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, sales were up 8.4% annually and increased 14.1% since January to 86,980.

But much has changed in the market since February as the coronavirus outbreak hit the UK.

The UK is now in lockdown – albeit not as strict as other countries – which could mean completions are delayed and offers fall through in the coming months.



Housing Market hit by Coronavirus


The Daily Telegraph claimed yesterday that the housing market recovery is being “killed off” by the coronavirus outbreak with viewings down 50%.

The story quotes Mark Hayward, CEO of the NAEA, as saying that there has been a “marked reduction” in viewings over the last ten days. He says of estate agents: “Cash flow is critical. If they have been experiencing a tough time and times toughen even further, there may well be some casualties.”

However, housing analyst Henry Pryor threw off the gloom in a tweet yesterday, saying: “I’ve not witnessed this nor have I heard estate agents mention it. I viewed 19 properties last week. Looks to me like a most unhelpful sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.”

He added: “50% collapse in property viewings apparently . . . I’ve not seen anything like this, have any other agents witnessed this kind of drop off?”

But one agent said that viewings are indeed a concern. Rhys Williams said: “It’s absolutely relevant and has been mentioned at least once a day to our office. “It’s entirely irresponsible to assume tenants and vendors are happy with random applicants [traipsing] through their homes. Duty of care.”

Some agents are utilising virtual tour technology. For example, RedDoor Homes in Kent has produced a video tour per property: individual viewings are bookable per time slot just as though they are ‘real’ viewings, with a member of the sales team ‘attending’ each one.





Martin Roberts Homes Under The Hammer show shut down by tenants' union


Homes Under The Hammer star, Martin Roberts in Scotland has had a property seminar shut down by protesters.

Martin Robertsr The country’s tenants’ union Living Rent surrounded the entrance to the Making Money from Property event at Edinburgh’s Hilton Hotel, which aimed to show attendees how to maximise profits, calling for rent controls.

One of a series of events organised by Martin Roberts from BBC’s Homes Under the Hammer, it was called off after 50 protestors gathered outside and challenged organisers.

A spokeswoman for Asset Academy, which runs the events, said “We appreciate that high rents in city centres are causing issues, and have sympathy with the concerns of tenants in these places and any groups representing them. ?However, the property training courses that Martin Roberts has co-developed with Asset Academy are designed to show people how to do things correctly. We teach how to be a proper, professional landlord, who abides by regulations and offers quality properties in the much-needed private rental sector.”

Although Roberts himself wasn’t at the Edinburgh event, aspiring landlords were expecting tips about how to acquire finance, beat the competition, and calculate their maximum price – complete with training videos and e-books.

Despite the setback, the Martin Roberts roadshow continues its journey around the UK, hitting Luton and Taunton on Wednesday and Northampton and Exeter on Thursday, with more locations planned throughout March. The free two-hour sessions are a taster of the presenter’s three-day property training workshops which will set you back £997.

Living Rent says these seminars underline the need for the Scottish Government to introduce rent controls, so that tenants aren’t forced into poverty by high rents. Living Rent member Claire Thomson says: “The fortunes these people promise don’t come out of nowhere, they come from tenants who are already desperately struggling to make ends meet. It has to stop.”



Some letting agents flouting tenant fees and excessive deposit ban


Some letting agents could be breaching the tenant fees ban with charges and excessive deposits.

Publication the ‘i’ says that regulator the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team is aware of 18 cases. If the agents are found to have breached the legislation, they could be penalised a total of £45,000.

The piece also quotes the experiences of tenants, including Georgie Laming and Sorana Vieru who were charged a £170 check-out fee by Winkworth.

Vieru said that although some fees listed in the original agreement no longer applied, Winkworth still tried to insist they paid for a check-out inventory.

Vieru claimed that after Winkworth threatened to take the money out of their tenancy deposit, they reported Winkworth to Trading Standards.

Veiru claimed: “I stuck to my guns and insisted on communicating by email, knowing I might need evidence in the future if I had to complain to a redress scheme.

“I wrote a complaint letter to the director and reported them to Trading Standards.

“In the end, the agency’s director replied, backing down and blaming ARLA for advice they received.”

A spokesperson for the Winkworth office in Harringay said: “The check-out fee has to be paid to the inventory clerk for providing the check-out service for the landlord and tenant.

“In this case, under new legislation, it was for the landlord to pay and not the tenant because there had been a renewal of the tenancy.

“We are sorry for any confusion caused to the tenants.”



Edinburgh authorities crack down on Airbnb lets


Four flats within one Edinburgh block were served with orders stopping them being rented out via short-lets platforms. Edinburgh’s crackdown on Airbnb rentals has started in earnest as four flats in one city tenement block have been served enforcement notices.

It follows a report out this week that reveals Edinburgh Old Town has the highest incidence of Airbnbs in the UK, with 29 active listings for every 100 properties, according to data gathering firm Inside Airbnb. Last month, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart announced measures to let local authorities start licensing schemes for short-term lets from spring 2021. These aim to regulate the sector which is being blamed for helping to create a housing crisis in the region’s cities.

? Councillor Neil Gardiner, Planning Convener, said 'It’s really encouraging to see the existing powers we have through enforcement are working. This is resource intensive though and we’re continuing to work with the Scottish Government to introduce a licensing regime which will give us far greater control over the sector in the future.'

Stop orders The four city-centre flats, at 68B Grassmarket, all received their orders to stop operating as short-term lets on 28 January, but the notices have only been public now. The council says it took the measure to protect quality of life for other residents in the building.

The number of Airbnb guests, two per flat, and high level of turnover, also led to the enforcement notice with planners stating the use 'is causing disturbance to the established residential character of the building'.



Christopher Pincher is this week’s Housing Minister


The revolving door of housing ministers continued yesterday with Johnson sacking Esther McVey after just seven months in the role and the appointment of her successor, Christopher Pincher - who becomes this week's Housing Minister.

He'll be the 11th housing minister in ten years, the tenth since the Tories came to power in 2010, the seventh since the EU referendum, and the 19th since 1997.

McVey, a former TV presenter, was appointed  last July and will be little remembered from her short stint setting up an expert council to support technological innovation in the property sector, extending Help to Buy mortgages from 25 to 35 years and providing funding for the development of carbon-free homes in Yorkshire.



Landlord faced with £73000 rent arrears bill from Embassy


This diplomatic incident over unpaid rent at the Romanian embassy makes most landlords’ rent arrears seem trivial.

The Romanian government is refusing to pay a staggering £73,270 in outstanding rent on a former ambassadorial residence in Hyde Park, The Times reports. Diplomats insist they are not liable for the last six months of the lease on the £12,000-a-month tenancy due to a “gentleman’s agreement”, despite a High Court order made in December.

When Romania refused to pay, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) intervened on behalf of landlord Christopher Christos, who took the embassy to court where it was ordered to pay the rent owed, along with £3,660 in legal fees.

The embassy says a “gentleman’s agreement” had been set up by the property owner and the new Romanian ambassador, Dan Mihalache, who had recently moved into the property. Officials say they were told that they could terminate the tenancy agreement six months early.

Mr Christos, who bought the five-bedroomed property in 2007 for £2.8 million, argues that the agreement was made on the basis that he could find another tenant, which he was unable to do. He adds that the Romanian ambassador remained until the formal end of the tenancy in April 2019.



Off plan investors given more protection following Andrew Lloyd Webber case


Investors scored a victory when the First-tier Tribunal (Tax) ruled in favour of Andrew Lloyd Webber against HMRC for his capital gains tax rebate claim, over the development of a luxury beachside mansion in Barbados which was never completed.

Andrew Lloyd Webber Following this ruling, off plan property buyers now have more confidence to invest in potentially risky developments after a tribunal ruled they can claim tax relief on losses if their investment fails.

Lord Lloyd-Webber and his wife won their legal battle after the tax authority said they could not offset £6.25m they had lost, for tax purposes.

? Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber invested in the Clearwater Bay property development project in 2007, entering into contracts to buy two plots of land and two villas, due to be part of a large holiday homes complex.

  But the couple’s planned £14.3m venture failed in February 2009 when property developer Cinnamon 88 suspended construction during the financial crisis.

They had claimed the sums paid as capital losses, which they’d tried to offset against other capital gains realised by them, but this was rejected by HMRC. The Tribunal subsequently ruled that the £6.25m had been paid by the Lloyd-Webbers for the acquisition of their rights under the 2007 Contracts.



Nightmare tenant, maggots and arrears of £6250 plus expenses!


This is yet another horror story highlighting the risks landlords face, even when they employ a professional letting agent. It underlines the importance of proper referencing and screening checks. It also underlines the importance of having Rent Guarantee & Legal Expenses Insurance.

tenants left fridge infested with maggotsIn this case it took the landlord seven months to remove an obviously rogue tenant, and this was even with the benefit of Section 21, which this idiot government is set to remove.

How long will it take to remove a tenant like this when Section 21 is removed and the landlord has to go to a court hearing in every case, and argue the point with a judge? County courts and court bailiffs often have weeks’ and sometimes months’ long waiting lists.

The landlord is blaming her letting agent for allowing a rogue tenant with a history of bad behaviour to enter into a tenancy in her flat, and the unsuspecting landlord is paying a very heavy price for its claimed negligence. You should never just rely on any letting agent - they will never care as much about your property as you do.

Photographs obtained by MailOnline show the sickening filth the tenant left for others to clear up in the Barking, Essex flat. The landlord claims that the letting agents were not thorough enough and failed to carry out proper referencing and other checks to make sure the tenant, with a long history of bad behaviour, was rejected.

The landlord, who did not want to be named, told the MailOnline that she later easily discovered the tenant’s history; he was a “repeat offender and bad debtor, who had previously left a trail of destruction in his wake.”

With the tenant’s rent arrears totalling £6,250, it took the landlord seven-months to evict him, during which time he had deliberately caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.



Slough Borough officials in 5.00am raid on rented homes


Council officials who suspected that landlords were renting out some terraced homes in Slough without the required licence, carried out a 5.00am raid.

Slough Borough Council officials visited a selection of terrace homes in Slough on Alexandra Road, Chalvey, at 5am to examine the living conditions.

The landlords were obliged to obtain licences under both houses in multiple occupation (HMO) and selective licencing as Chalvey is a selective area.

All the properties were inspected by housing enforcement officers and the tenants interviewed.

Of the ten properties, the majority were found to have problems with gas or electric supplies, two properties were found to be undeclared HMOs, another had an issue with design of a kitchen in an enclosed space and another has been deemed unsafe to live in.

A spokesman said: “Housing enforcement visited the homes at 5am on Wednesday, January 22, because our concerns are for the residents and the conditions they are living in. Housing enforcement has to look at the homes and how many people are in them when there is a likelihood of being in the property.”

The spokesman also said “In addition, housing enforcement needs evidence about the conditions of the homes, gas and electrical issues for example, for possible prosecutions. There are two landlords who both own all the properties and they do not live in Alexandra Road. Concerns were raised because they had not applied for a licence.”



Landlords selling property they previously lived in face new tax hits


Landlords who sell a property they previously lived in could soon face an increased tax bill almost overnight from April.
The previous Chancellor, Philip Hammond announced in his October 2018 Budget that from this April lettings relief – worth up to £40,000 of a capital gain for landlords selling a property they currently or previously lived in – would only be made available to those who are in shared occupancy with a tenant.

He also said the Government would cut the private residence relief (PRR) in these circumstances, which previously exempted any gains made in the final 18 months of ownership, to nine months.ds selling a property they currently or previously lived in – would only be made available to those who are in shared occupancy with a tenant.

The changes were included in the Draft Finance Bill 2019-20 but did not make it through Parliament before the election in December. The new rules are now expected to be mentioned in current Chancellor Sajid Javid’s Budget in March and changed in the new tax year starting the following month.ds selling a property they currently or previously lived in – would only be made available to those who are in shared occupancy with a tenant.

Accountancy firm RickardLuckin has an interesting illustration in the table below of how much tax bills could increase by between March and April based on married couples combining the £40,000 relief to get £80,000 and using the PRR.ds selling a property they currently or previously lived in – would only be made available to those who are in shared occupancy with a tenant.

It highlights the difference if a married couple purchased a house on April 1 1990 for £200,000 and lived there for 20 years before then letting the property and selling for £500,000.ds selling a property they currently or previously lived in – would only be made available to those who are in shared occupancy with a tenant.

A married couple renting out a property could be almost £25,000 worse off when they come to sell.ds selling a property they currently or previously lived in – would only be made available to those who are in shared occupancy with a tenant.

Michael Steed, co-chair of the ATT’s technical steering group, said: “We recommend that if the shared occupation change to lettings relief goes ahead, any entitlement built up under the old rules should be frozen and preserved at April 5 2020, with the new conditions only applying to let periods after that date.

  31 March 2020 30 April 2020
Proceeds
£500,000 £500,000
Purchase (1 April 1990)
(£200,000) (£200,000)
Gain
£300,000 £300,000
PPR (in property until 31 March 2010 - 20 years)
(£200,000) (£199,445)
Final 18 months PPR
(£15000) -
Final 9 months PPR
- (£7480)
Lettings Relief
(£80,000) -
Gain
£5000 £93075
Tax at 28%
£1400 £26061

 





Landlords say repossession hearings taking up to 30 weeks


Even before the scrapping of Section 21, the Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) is warning that courts across London are failing to cope with the volume of landlord repossession cases.

A Freedom of Information request by the RLA found that the waiting times from claim to possession – for both Section 21 and Section 8 notices – hit 30 weeks in 2019 for London.

This was up from 23 weeks a year before and provides a warning for landlords and the court system nationally, the RLA said.

The RLA is warning that the situation could get worse once the Government presses ahead with plans to scrap ‘no fault’ evictions, which don’t require lengthy hearings, as there will be more pressure on the courts.

The RLA is calling on the Government to establish a dedicated housing court in order to improve and speed up access to justice for landlords and tenants in the minority of cases where something goes wrong.

John Stewart, policy manager for the RLA, said: “If landlords feel that they might have to wait forever to regain possession of their property where they have good reason, such as tenants committing anti-social behaviour or failing to pay their rent, increasing numbers are going to feel it is not worth the risk of letting the property out in the first place.

“This will just add to the already growing shortage of investment in rented housing which is badly needed to meet a rising demand.

“The RLA was delighted when the Government consulted on its proposal for a housing court a year ago but nothing has happened since.

“It needs to get on and get it set up for the benefit of landlords and tenants alike.”

Evictions specialist Paul Shamplina of Landlord Action said: “These figures show how bad the court system and waiting times are getting at the moment.

“We are seeing delays at Landlord Action on a daily basis by the courts – no judges, lost papers and admin errors being the most common reason for delays. From being involved with the housing court working group, I worry that with no clear investment and the abolition of Section 21, hearings will double on Section 8 cases and there will not be enough judges to service the hearings.”



House prices could fall by 12% if no Brexit deal


House prices in the UK are likely to ‘re-accelerate’ next year – unless a no-deal Brexit causes them to plunge.

A no-deal Brexit would trigger a median drop of some 10% during the course of next year. The fall could be between minus 5.7% and minus 12.3%.

The forecast comes from international bank Edmond De Rothschild.

It is predicting an average rise this year in UK house prices of 0.5% and, if Brexit is achieved with a deal, 1.9% next year.

While the report mentions scenarios in the event of what would happen on October 31, the findings were released only yesterday.

The bank has also modelled various housing market scenarios in other European countries, but is the least certain about prospects in the UK.



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