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Rent arrears fall again in 2012

More UK Landlords Using Rent Guarantee Products

Private Rented Sector (PRS) rent arrears dropped in February with 9.3% of all rent late or unpaid at the end of the month, down from 10.7% in January.

With household bills increasing, UK unemployment still rising and the whole country still struggling to avoid a double dip recession as a result of the Eurozone crisis, together with the government’s welfare reforms and public sector belt tightening, there hasn’t been a great deal of optimism around, especially from landlords.

However, figures released by LSL property services show that UK landlords have a little less to worry about, with the amount of rent arrears and late payments falling again.

Either private sector landlords are having an excellent run of good fortune, having tenants who are able, paying the rent in full and on time, or they have become smarter and are now utilising the range of Rent Guarantee products that are currently on the market, to ensure they get paid and their monthly cashflow doesn’t suffer.

Being a landlord and letting a property in the UK means there will always the risk of the tenant not paying the rent, (rent default).

Even the best tenant referencing service cannot predict if a tenant will lose their job and fall on hard times and not be able to pay their rent.

How do landlords cover their expenditure if this happens?

In today’s struggling economic climate, many UK landlords are finding their tenants struggling with rising unemployment and increased bills. Often leading to the rent not being paid and the tenant facing eviction when the amount of rent arrears exceeds 8 weeks.

Recovering arrears can be difficult and costly for landlords, without any guarantee of success.

At Legal 4 Landlords, our Rent Guarantee Insurance will cover landlords against their tenant defaulting or failing to pay the rent.

Property investors need to research before they buy in 2012

UK BTL property investors urged to be thorough with Due Diligence

Property investors are being urged to thorough research in order to be very selective about the areas they choose to purchase investment property in during 2012.

Poor returns from savings and the continuing strong demand for rental property will be the driving factors behind an increase in property investment in the UK buy to let (BTL) market.

However, taking a gamble on certain locations could be risky for would-be Buy To Let landlords with unemployment rising, Government welfare reforms and the fallout from the Eurozone crisis still looming.

UK property investors are urged to seek to purchase Buy-To-Let properties in popular residential areas with a good infrastructure and a strong employment market, such as upmarket commuter hotspots around all major cities.

Buyer and tenant demand will continue to outstrip the current supply of UK housing stock, supporting property price growth.
Property investors should avoid areas that are reliant on manufacturing or the public sector, during 2012 as these areas may face high levels of unemployment, and with the cap in housing benefit payments now in effect, rental yields may not be as healthy. Such areas are expected to see relatively low property transaction levels in 2012 and a fall in house values that could be more than 5%.

By conducting thorough Due Diligence property investors can purchase Buy-To-Let properties in strong locations that will deliver a reliable rental incomes and a good supply of quality tenants, in addition to a modest capital growth

A list of useful Due Diligence sites to aid property investors in their search for the best areas can be found here

Private Rental Sector property rents are expected to continue growing strongly in most areas, hopefully, in the region of +5% this year, due to continued restricted mortgage lending and poor employment prospects leaving a whole generation of potential first time buyers (FTB’s) with little prospect of buying a home.

To ensure rental income remains constant throughout the duration of a tenancy, landlords can utilise Rent Guarantee insurance to keep a regular income coming in from their buy-to-let property.

Policies offered by Legal 4 Landlords include 6 and 12 Month Rent Guarantee insurance policies designed to protect landlords whose tenants default on rent payments.
Rent Guarantee insurance can also provide additional cover to meet the cost of legal proceedings for the eviction of defaulting tenants from rented properties.

the number of empty UK properties still increasing

The Number of UK Empty Properties Continues To Rise

Despite campaigns from all quarters of the media and industry bodies, the number of empty homes in the UK increased significantly in 2011, new research has shown.

Data from the Communities and Local Government department, (CLG),the Office for National Statistics, (ONS), and Halifax’s own housing statistics database, the study revealed a 1.8% rise in empty residential dwellings.

According to the Halifax Empty Homes survey, which takes into account all private and public empty residential abodes, including those that have been vacant for under six months – leapt from the 650,127 recorded in April 2010 to 662,105 for the same period earlier this year.

Despite this trend, the study also revealed some more positive movement, with the amount of long-term empty private homes, those that have been without occupants for at least 6 months, dropping to the lowest levels since 2008.

These properties account for 44% of all empty residences, underlining the significance of the improvement.

It was shown that April 2011 that there were 292,313 examples of this kind of home, which represented a 1.1% decline on the 295,519 reported in the same four-week period 12 months earlier.

Stephen Noakes, Mortgage Director at Halifax,(a division of Bank of Scotland), said: “The findings show the considerable impact empty properties can have on the overall housing market, claiming it is therefore necessary for action to be taken to address the issue. Long-term empty homes account for about 1.6% of all private homes in England. And at a time when first-time buyers are still facing numerous obstacles to getting on the ladder, it is imperative we look further at the issue as an industry.”

The issue of empty homes that are fit for purpose remains a particular problem in a number of areas across the UK, where the proportion of void occupancy is double the national average. Even the UK’s Private Rented Sector is not unaffected. Landlords with properties requiring substantial improvements are lying empty due to the current lack of available finance.

UK property owners and landlords are reminded that they should have appropriate <a href=”http://www.legal4landlords.com/insurance-services/”>insurance</a>, in order to protect their property assets. However, that insurance may still be invalid if the property is unoccupied for a lengthy period of time (see the small print) and specialist insurance may be required.

<a href=”http://www.legal4landlords.com/”>Legal 4 Landlords</a> offer <a href=”http://www.legal4landlords.com/insurance-services/”>Un occupied BTL</a> insurance for Buy To Let Landlords with empty properties.

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A new report is urgently calling on the Government to regulate residential Letting Agents to the same standards as Estate Agents and reckons that UK tenants are being ripped off by cowboy agents in the booming PRS rental market.

The Resolution Foundation, an independent think tank which focuses on lower income groups, says tenants are paying significant upfront costs, whilst agents’ fees are variable and there is a lack of transparency around charges.

The organisation carried out a mystery shopping exercise of 25 unnamed letting agents in three cities – London, Cheltenham and Manchester. It found the range and type of fees charged varied enormously.

For example, administrative fees ranged from £95 to £375. Total upfront costs (including deposit, admin fees and rent in advance) for a one-bed property in London were £2,166, around double those charged in Manchester (£1,028) and Gloucester (£1,094).

Just two of the letting agents displayed the costs of renting on their websites and many renters only discovered charges after they had decided to rent a property.

Average deposits for a one-bed property ranged from £487 in Manchester to £1,099 in London.

Many tenants reported difficulties when moving within the private rented sector as they had to hand over a new deposit before they had got their old one back.

Resolution says its findings are particularly relevant given the growing number of households forced into renting for the long term. In 1988 only 14% of low to middle income households aged under 35 were living in rented accommodation, but by 2008 it had tripled to 41%.

The report points out that unlike estate agents, letting agents are unregulated and there is no compulsory membership of an ombudsman service. The report is also backed by the Property Ombudsman.

The Resolution Foundation is calling for:

  • Letting agents to be regulated to the same level as estate agents, so that unscrupulous agents can be banned;
  • All agents to be signed up to an ombudsman service giving redress to tenants;
  • The ombudsmen’s codes of practice to stipulate that agents must display all charges to tenants and landlords on their website and in adverts in a way that is easily comparable across agents;
  • The Government to consider ways to make it easier for tenants to transfer deposits between landlords when they re-tender for the tenancy deposit protection schemes in 2012.

Vidhya Alakeson, Resolution’s director of research, said: “The lack of regulation in the exploding private rented market is of growing concern. We need more transparency so tenants at least know what fees they’re facing and to help create a more competitive market. Given that an increasing number of families have no option other than to rent long term, we need to question why letting agents are not regulated to the same degree as estate agents.”

Christopher Hamer, The Property Ombudsman, said: “This report emphasises the growing importance of the lettings sector for people seeking a home to live in. The Government does not see regulation of the sector as a priority and I, therefore, welcome the recommendation of this report that all letting agents should be required to be registered with an ombudsman scheme so that, at least, landlords or tenants can gain redress where they have been disadvantaged by an agent. Providing clarity and transparency of fees is also very important. As more and more people become tenants or landlords, these measures would assist them in fully understanding the commitments they are taking on and enable them to challenge the agent if anything is unclear.”

Ian Potter, operations manager at ARLA, said: “It’s vital that consumers have full confidence in lettings agents, and the industry must respond to their concerns about bad practice. That’s why in the absence of regulation, we developed our own licensing scheme. All licensed ARLA member letting agents must be covered by a client money protection scheme and hold professional indemnity insurance – which means consumers are protected against negligence. They must follow our strict codes of conduct and have a certain level of training. Ultimately this means that, should something go wrong, there are protection mechanisms in place. We would therefore always advise that consumers use an ARLA-licensed lettings agent. Fees will vary from region to region and will depend on the specific services offered by an agent. However, for landlords and tenants alike it is important to obtain clear, written information from an agent about exactly which services their fee includes – and whether there are likely to be any further costs in the future. This means that, should a landlord or tenant feel the fees were unclear, they can lodge a complaint with ARLA or utilise the Ombudsman Scheme membership, which all ARLA licensed agents are required to hold.”

Legal 4 Landlords spokesman Sim Sekhon said “Landlords who choose Letting Agents to manage their properties need to ensure that the agents act in a professional manner at all times, working positively for both the landlord and tenant. Landlords can take out insurance to protect their property from a bad tenant but there is currently no protection from a bad lettings agent “.

The full report is called Renting in the Dark: creating a lettings market that works for tenants, by Louisa Darian. It forms part of the Resolution Foundation’s programme of work on housing

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UK Bailiffs Christmas Holidays

UK Bailiff Seasonal Amnesty

A seasonal reminder to landlords and letting agents that Bailiff Amnesty’s will begin around 12th December 2011 to the 9th January 2011. Please check your local County Court for more details.

 The amnesty, which is not widely publicised, is implemented due to local authority offices, solicitors, courts and housing welfare organisations festive holiday closures.

Unfortunately for landlords, the festive season of good cheer can be one of the costliest periods due to an increase in rent arrears, especially from LHA tenants.

 Up to the end of 2010, there were 995,000 LHA tenancies and rent arrears in this sector were thought to be in excess of £290 Million (GBP).

This year research indicates that there are now over 1Million LHA tenancies and with more changes to the Government’s Welfare Reform Bill due to be implemented on 1st January 2012, rent arrears are expected to increase further.

 Landlords are urged to act fast when dealing with defaulting tenants, especially at Christmas as courts experience backlogs of paperwork and hearings in the New Year.

Speak to your local office now or call our free phone help line – 0800 840 7133

 Legal 4 Landlords Eviction and Rent Recovery Services

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