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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
£500,000 £500,000
Purchase (1 April 1990)
(£200,000) (£200,000)
£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) -
£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.

Landlords and Rental Market in 2019

Landlords saw both void periods and rents drop at the end of 2019, it's claimed.

Analysis of new tenancies processed through the lettings platform in December found that void periods dropped from 24 to 19 days over the month across England and Wales, below the average for the year of 20 days.

Five out of the eight regions monitored by Goodlord saw rents remain at November levels or dip slightly. The largest monthly decrease was recorded in the north-east, where average rents dropped by 3%. Rents rose by 2% in London on a monthly basis and by 3% in the north-west of England and Wales.

London was the most expensive place to rent, at £1,668 per month, and the north-east was cheapest at £588.

It comes as research by insurer Simply Business, conducted before the General Election, found that a quarter (26%) of UK landlords plan to sell at least one property in 2020, equating to more than half a million homes potentially being put up for sale.

The survey of 800 landlords revealed that 82% of landlords are not planning on buying any more properties this year.

Just one tenth said they would buy another property this year, while a third (35%) also reported a decrease in their rental yield in 2019.

The top reasons landlords gave for wanting to sell are tax increases and Government reforms, such as shifting House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing, which added new stipulations on the minimum size of rooms, as well as the banning of admin fees.

Other reasons that landlords gave for planning to sell included rising rental costs (10%), cashing in on their investment (9%), economic instability (5%) and slowing house price growth (4%).

A third also reported a decrease in their rental yield in 2019, which added to the desire to sell.

The research was conducted in November 2019 so it is unclear whether they might have changed their mind since the election result.

Property agents experiencing a ‘Boris bounce’

NetAnAgent, a comparison website, which allows members of the public to post up their properties and request valuations, says it has seen a quick and definitive upswing since last the election.
Managing director Alex Thorpe said: “Since the election we have seen an 8% jump in listings compared against the same days last year and a 48% increase in the ratio of property that have requested a valuation from an agent through the site.

“We know from past performance that the ratio of vendors’ properties listed on our site that then go to request a valuation is a very good indicator of future market confidence.

“This points to an incredible jump in seller confidence and possibly a far stronger start to 2020 than many have been predicting.”

General Election - Property Market uncertainty

There is huge uncertainty surrounding the property market as it awaits today’s election results and what will happen with Brexit, the RICS has reported.

The November Residential Market Survey revealed a dip in new instructions, putting average stock levels on the books of agents close to record lows at approximately 41 properties per branch.

There is little sign of a pick-up in new listings for the start of 2020, with agents continuing to identify a yearly decline in the level of appraisals.

Respondents also reported a third consecutive slide in new buyer enquiries, with 9% more reporting a decline rather than a rise.

More also reported a fall rather than rise in newly agreed sales during November, although the net balance reading improved from -18% to -8% between October and November.

The RICS said: “Much of the anecdotal commentary suggests that uncertainty surrounding the General Election and Brexit are continuing to stifle activity.”

Despite the low levels of appraisals, there are signs of confidence returning to the market, the RICS claims. The report found that 35% of respondents expect sales to rise rather than fall in a year’s time, the highest reading since February 2018. RICS agents are also confident about activity over the next three months, with 11% more expecting an increase rather than decrease in sales, up from 5% in October.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist for the RICS, said: “Confidence is critical to a well-functioning housing market and whatever happens in the General Election today, it is important that the new government provides reassurance both over the stewardship of the economy and the ongoing challenges around Brexit which continues to be highlighted in a disproportionate number of remarks made by respondents to the RICS survey.

Tenants running cannabis farms gave fake names

In Liverpool, four tenants gave false information to letting agents which allowed them to rent private homes, have been found guilty of running large cannabis farms.

The four, who operate across Runcorn and Merseyside, rented a number of houses. They provided false documents and false names to the agents. They subsequently claimed they then sub-let the properties.

The four were Lee Williams, 35; Liam Miller, 24; John McDonough, 21; and Jason McDonough, 50.

At Liverpool Crown Court all four were given prison sentences at of between 18 months and five years and three months, after pleading guilty to conspiracy in the production of cannabis.

Landlords lash both Tory and Labour manifestos

The National Landlords Association (NLA) has hit out at both the Labour and Conservative manifestos.

Its CEO, Richard Lambert said that a Labour government would drive landlords from the market, while a new Tory administration would be on a “hell-bent” path to punishing law-abiding landlords.

Labour wants to introduce an annual ‘MOT’ for landlords, rent controls linked to inflation, and a regulatory regime with fines of up to £100,000.

The Conservatives will, like Labour, abolish ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions, and introduce ‘lifetime’ rental deposits.

Lambert said: “While the NLA supports any policies that crack down on criminals operating in the private rented sector, the Labour manifesto is too extreme, as well as unrealistic, and will be hugely damaging to housing supply in the UK.

“It begs so many questions: from rent caps to open ended tenancies, how does Labour intend to make these policies work? How will Labour ensure landlords who are already compliant don’t take the full brunt of these changes?

“Will they give housing enforcement the priority and the resources it desperately needs? “Does Labour intend to reform the courts so that if a landlord needs to end a tenancy, it can be done quickly and efficiently?

“Currently, what Labour proposes will force landlords to be more selective about the tenants they take on and will drive many from the market altogether.

“We cannot stress enough that punishing law-abiding landlords who live and work in the PRS will be something the Labour party will come to regret.”

He said of the Tory manifesto: “The Conservatives claim that the changes announced will ‘create a fairer rental market’, but fairer for whom?

“To say that we are disappointed that the Conservatives have pledged to continue with their plan to abolish Section 21 is an understatement. Despite a robust lobbying campaign on behalf of the 2m landlords in the UK, the Conservatives seem hell-bent on continuing to punish hardworking and law-abiding landlords.

“We will reserve judgment on the so-called ‘lifetime deposit’. The Conservatives have yet to confirm what this will look like or how this will work in practice.

“The NLA cannot get behind a manifesto that so badly cripples landlords’ ability to run a functioning letting business.”

No-Deal Brexit could cause 12% house price drop says bank

International bank Edmond de Rothschild issued a forecast that UK house prices next year are likely to fall– 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%.

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 is slightly out of date – it 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.

It is forecasting stablisation in Switzerland, a price slowdown in France, and strong house price rises in Germany.

Portfolio landlord Fergus Wilson convicted of racial abuse

Fergus Wilson, a huge (in more ways than one) portfolio landlord from Kent has been convicted of racially abusing a Slovakian traffic warden for giving him a parking ticket.

Fergus & his wife Judith started building up their huge Kent based property empire in the 1980s worth around £200million. They have made repeated national headlines for the way they have treated tenants.

The latest incident has resulted in Wilson being convicted of a hate crime by Medway Magistrates Court and fined £650 after his verbal attack was caught on the traffic warden’s body camera.

In 2017, in an act of defiance, the buy-to-let property tycoon issued a set of letting criteria for his rental homes in Kent.

The Wilsons' Letting Criteria
• No tenants with children under 18. A child over 18 can be a co-tenant
• Only tenants with a Rent Guarantee
• No single mums or single fathers
• No tenants on Housing Benefit
• No low income workers
• No single adults
• No Zero hours workers
• No plumbers (What?!)
• No battered wives
• No smokers
• No pets
• No fat bastards (I made that one up)

UK property repossessions rising

Buy-to-let and home owner repossessions jumped in the third quarter of 2019.
UK Finance figures show that 1,330 home owner mortgaged properties were taken into possession, up 19% annually, while 800 buy-to-let mortgaged properties were repossessed, up 40%.

UK Finance said these figures were still below levels seen between 2009 and 2014 and were partly due to regulatory changes when it comes to lending.

The trade body said: “Lenders continue to show flexibility to borrowers in financial difficulty and possession is always a last resort.”

Its data showed that arrears remained at historic lows.

The proportion of home owner mortgages in arrears of 2.5% or more fell 9% annually to 71,590.

Within the total, there were 22,300 home owner mortgages with more significant arrears of more than 10%, which was 8% fewer than in the same quarter of 2018.

In the buy-to-let sector, there were 4,550 mortgages in arrears of 2.5% or more, down 5%.

Of these, there were 1,170 buy-to-let mortgages with arrears of more than 10%, down 1% on a year ago

RICS says so-called rental reforms hitting house market

The RICS claims Brexit and the general election are hitting the housing market everywhere.

The RICS also called on the next government to stop tinkering with the private rented sector through “misguided” reforms.

According to RICS estate agency members, new buyer enquiries, sales and new instructions are all down for yet another month. Market appraisals have also dropped again.

Prices are flat, and on the lettings side, tenant demand continues to rise as more landlords are forced to leave the sector.

The RICS report said that enquiries from new applicants fell for the second month running in October right across the UK.

Sales also dipped everywhere, other than in Northern Ireland where agents noted a marginal increase.

New instructions were down for the fourth consecutive month across the whole of the UK. In addition, agents reported a decline in the number of market appraisals.

On the lettings side, agents reported a drop in new instructions from landlords, and said that the pace of decline is gathering momentum. RICS agents expect to see more rent rises.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: “Both buyer and seller activity remains in a holding pattern, hampered by political and economic uncertainty. Given the upcoming general election next month, it appears unlikely that these trends will pick up to any meaningful extent over the remainder of this year. The picture remains very different on the lettings side, however, with tenant demand gathering momentum over recent months. This is running against an increasingly tight supply backdrop for rental properties and seems set to squeeze the pace of rental growth higher going forward.”

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