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New Row Over Letting Agent's Evil Fees

New Row Over Letting Agent’s Evil Fees

Homeless Charity Wants All
Letting Agent Fees To Be Met By Landlords

The homelessness charity, Shelter have started to campaign to get all letting agent fees currently charged to tenants banned throughout England, and they want landlords to foot the bill for it, a point which has angered the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and caused consternation with the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA).

Shelter have launched a new report, “Letting Agencies: the Price you Pay”, claiming that charging landlords is a fairer way of doing business and the charity also claim that tenants are having to go without food or heating to meet increasing housing costs because letting agents’ fees are out of control.

Shelter were instrumental in getting letting agent fees banned in Scotland and now want the practice outlawed by MPs in England and are calling for politicians to take action.

The homelessness charity seem to think that all letting agents are the devil in disguise and recently questioned 58 separate letting agents throughout England, anonymously, asking them about what fees each charged in order to set up a tenancy for a tenant and discovered the average administration fee charged by agents was £350 (GBP) plus upfront rent and tenancy deposits. Less than a third of letting agents questioned charged fees totalling more than £400 and seven charged in excess of £700.

The Shelter research claims that in the last three years,

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UK PRS Landlords Are Still Worried About EPC Compliance

UK PRS Landlords Still Worried About EPC Compliance

More than 17% (1 in 6) of UK PRS landlords reckon that some or all of the properties in their rental portfolio’s fall into the lowest Energy Performance Certificate categories, with an F or G rating, meaning that they could end up being banned from the rental market.

From 2018 under the Government’s Green Deal proposals, properties with F and G EPC ratings will not be allowed to be let.

The latest poll of 1,500 landlords by the Association of Residential Letting Agents, (ARLA) also discovered that over 35% of landlords do not even know the energy rating of their properties with regard to EPCs.

ARLA have called for the Government to help landlords to achieve minimum energy efficiency standards, asking for the Landlords Energy Savings Allowance to be extended.

The call has been echoed by Alan Ward, Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), who called for the annual energy savings tax allowance to be raised from £1,500 to £14,000.

The allowance is due to be scrapped altogether in April 2015

ARLA Operations Manager Ian Potter, said: “The clock is ticking for the private rented sector to improve its environmental performance but the investment just isn’t there to ensure that this change takes place in the Government’s timeframe. ARLA have campaigned for the Government to incentivise, through tax relief, the improvement of rental properties. Otherwise it is going to be exceedingly difficult for the majority of landlords to find the funds to improve stock.”

While the Green Deal will offer landlords upfront access to funds, it is tenants, as users of the properties, who will have to repay the loan.

Landlords who comprehensively tenant reference applicants can ensure regular income with Rent Guarantee Insurance, easing the financial burden and worry for tenants as loans are repaid.

EU Decision Good News for UK Buy-To-Let landlords

EU Decision Good News for UK Buy-To-Let landlords

The decision by MEP’s to remove Buy-To-Let mortgages from the scope of a new EU Directive has been welcomed by a host of property professionals including the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and Legal 4 Landlords.

Under the original European plans, mortgage lenders would no longer have been able to take account of rental income when considering whether to lend to a landlord for a new property, despite the fact that there are specialist insurance products that can guarantee the rent.

The European Parliament committee looking at the Directive has decided that buy-to-let mortgages would be taken out of its scope altogether, after a great deal of high pressure lobbying from a number of sources including the RLA.

Alan Ward, Chairman of the RLA responded to the EU announcement saying: “Today’s decision by MEPs represents a common sense solution to a measure that would have crippled the private rental market in the UK. With a chronic shortage of properties in the sector, the initial proposals would have exacerbated the problem still further, causing further difficulties and higher rents for those looking for rental accommodation.”

Sim Sekhon, spokesman for specialist landlord services provider, Legal 4 Landlords also commented on the decision “It’s good to see that sense has prevailed within Europe, now landlords can get on with providing quality housing for tenants in the private rental sector without worrying that they were going to lose the right to expand their property portfolios. The EU decision to exempt Buy To Let mortgages from the firing line is good business for UK landlords. Rental income is the lifeblood and there are steps for landlords to take to ensure that cashflow remains constant, such as using comprehensive tenant referencing services to make sure you accept the right tenant and rent guarantee insurance to provide a guaranteed income. Having a secure income is vital for any business and property is no exception”.

Research from the National Landlords Association (NLA) has shown that almost three-quarters of landlords agree that the buy-to-let market needs greater innovation, while an overwhelming proportion (89%) also believe it would benefit from more lenders or greater competition.

However, although many landlords were dissatisfied with the current range of buy-to-let products on the market, the research found that property acquisition is in fact on the rise with one-in-ten landlords having added properties to their portfolios over the last three months and one-in-five expecting to do so in the next year.

Furthermore, more than half of landlords surveyed do not believe that access to buy-to-let mortgages is getting any easier, with three-in-five agreeing that their individual circumstances as landlords are not being considered by buy-to-let lenders.

David Salusbury, NLA Chairman explained.”Early signs of increasing property acquisition suggest that landlords are feeling more confident about future prospects of the buy-to-let market. However, while these findings are encouraging, some professional landlords, with more extensive portfolios, seem to be struggling to secure funds for additional expansion. The private-rented sector is playing an increasingly important role in the provision of housing. Buy-to-let products must be sustainable, with consideration for the longer term, if the private-rented sector is to rise to this challenge.”

The NLA Landlord Optimism Index has also levelled out after a period of slow improvement following a significant drop four years ago, suggesting that landlords are a little more cautious about their future prospects.

Other findings from the NLA research show that seven-in-ten landlords (72%) carry borrowing on all or some of their letting portfolio, landlords have an average of about eight (7.7) buy-to-let loans held per portfolio and 20% of landlords took out a new loan or re-mortgaged in the last year.

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Landlords advised to seek student tenants

Landlords advised to seek student tenants

The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) has issued advice on the UK student lettings market to first time landlords.

UK Landlords should look to the student lettings market in order to get their empty properties rented out, according to ARLA.

With over 600,000 students starting university courses in major UK cities this September, the student lettings market is a thriving business sector.

UK landlords who are used to renting to working tenants and securing the rent with Rent Guarantee insurance may be wary of entering the student rental market but ARLA insist that the student rental market is a thriving business concern.

ARLA has issued advice on the best steps to take when renting to students that is invaluable information, especially for new or first time landlords.

Guidance for landlords includes ensuring students understand their obligations as tenants, (even when they are likely to be away from the property during long university holidays), joint or several liability clauses, in case students leave the property unexpectedly and conducting a comprehensive inventory, as students don’t always have the best reputation for looking after properties.

Specialist UK Landlord and Letting Agent service providers, Legal 4 Landlords, also urge new or inexperienced landlords to seek advice from a reputable property managing agent, with a proven track record in successful HMO and student lets, before entering the student lettings market and advise landlords to enquire with the relevant local authorities about licensing and compliance with any local legal requirements.

ARLA calls for more investment in UK buy to let

ARLA Calls For More Investment In UK Buy-To-Let Property Rental Market

The Association of Residential Letting Agents, (ARLA), have urged the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, to use the forthcoming Budget to encourage more investment into the UK’s Private Rented Sector, (PRS).

ARLA have called on the UK coalition Government to support the observed growth in the UK Buy-To-Let sector and remove many of the prohibitive barriers to further investment.

ARLA’s Budget submission calls for landlords to be treated as running businesses for Capital Gains Tax purposes, for the introduction of roll-over relief for landlords looking to reinvest, and for UK Stamp Duty to be made fairer.

UK landlords currently have to shop around for a wide range of landlord services in order to help them save money and operate as a business. The emergence of Tenant Referencing and Tenant Eviction services and the development of specialist Landlord Insurance products have ensured that there is still money to be made, by UK landlords, from the UK PRS rental market.

ARLA’s Operations Manager Ian Potter, said: “Buy To Let landlords must be treated as the entrepreneurial businesses they have now become. Supporting growth and encouraging greater investment into the private rented sector will help boost our economy and is an open goal for the Chancellor. Demand for private rented housing continues to grow, with 3.4 Million tenants living in the private rented sector – an increase of over 1 Million tenants since 2005. The tax system can be used by the Government to incentivise investment in housing stock in the PRS, and therefore improve the conditions in which those 3.4 Million tenants live. Some landlords face tax bills of up to 28% when selling a property, preventing them from reinvesting in the market.”

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The new version of the EPC, and the new legislation governing their use, are meant to come into force on Good Friday, 6th April 2012.
However, changes to the rules governing EPCs were supposed to be implemented in July 2011, and then in October 2011. Both dates came and went without any sign of the changes happening and with no explanation of what was going on.
Detailed guidance from the Department of Communities and Local Government, (CLG), is promised well in advance of the date, but it’s rumoured that the new version of the EPC hasn’t been approved yet!
In practical terms, this is more of a worry for lettings and estate agents than it is for the general public, who will become legally responsible for EPCs, and face censure and EVEN have to pay fines if the new rules governing their production and use are broken!
Yet they are almost completely in the dark about what’s going on!
However, the big question is will any changes make EPCs more useful?
The official government line is that anything which increases the awareness of the energy efficiency and environmental impact of a property has got to be a good idea.
But so far, there is little evidence to suggest that buyers actually care about energy efficiency very much. After all, there is a lot more to choosing a home than the cost of heating it.
Very few buyers are showing signs of rejecting properties that they like and can afford, simply because they have a “G” energy rating.
Of course, this may change as we are forced to become greener. However, that day is still a long way off.
Alan Kirkman

However, Communities and Local Government department insisted on Friday that guidance for lettings and estate agents on EPC changes has been issued.
The department denied keeping property lettings and estate agents in the dark and says it will be issuing further guidance, although it has not said when.
CLG said that guidance was issued on March 2nd 2012 .
CLG confirmed that the changes to UK EPCs will be implemented on April 6, and the new-look EPC will be released on April 1.
Regarding further guidance, CLG said: “To avoid piecemeal announcements, it is the Department’s intention to make further information available, including the Q&A guidance, with details of other changes being made to enhance and improve the energy performance of buildings regime which will also be implemented in April.”
But the claim that any guidance had been issued baffled the NAEA and ARLA, who said that they had not received anything to circulate to members, and bemused individual estate agents.
The Communities and Local Government department statement said:
“The Property Agents EPC Retrieval Service guidance issued by DCLG on 2nd March provides UK estate agents with details of the service being provided to enable them to attach a copy of the first page of the EPC to electronic on-line written particulars to ensure the most up to date EPC is always provided directly from the EPC Register. This service has been set up at the specific request of property agents. If required, a copy of the first page of the EPC can also be printed and attached in hard copy to written particulars. This guidance has been made available to key partners within the property industry for circulation to their members. However, any property agent is welcome to contact us and request a copy of the guidance. A summary sheet regarding the regulatory change is also available.”

Mortgage approvals, residential property sales and first time buyer numbers increase

Is the UK property market making a comeback?

January figures from a variety of trusted and respected sources offer a major boost for the UK property market as mortgage approvals, first time buyer numbers and residential property sales all increased during January.

Data gathered from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), British Bankers’ Association (BBA), National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is viewed as a major boost to the UK property market.

UK property buyers have been taking advantage of the two-year stamp duty exemption due to end in March 2012, with the number of First-Time Buyers (FTB’s) registering with estate agents also being the highest since May 2011.

The British Bankers’ Association (BBA) say that, 38,092 applications were approved in January, 34% up on the same time last year, and the highest figure seen in two years.

The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) figures show that 23% of overall property sales in January were made to First-Time Buyers, a rise from 21% in December, marking the third consecutive monthly increase.

Mortgage lenders have claimed that one of the driving forces behind the increase in activity has been the imminent end of the two-year stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) reported that the £10.5 Billion (GBP) loaned in the form of mortgages during January 2012 was the sixth month in a row that the year-on-year figure has risen, and overall mortgage lending in January was up 10% on a year ago.

Despite general consumer caution around borrowing, first-time buyers have flocked to get on the property ladder, showing stamp duty was a major deterrant.

NAEA President, Wendy Evans-Scott, said: “The figures suggest that stamp duty is a key factor for those on tight budgets who are considering a property investment”.

Overall residential sales across the UK property market increased from 5% per branch in December to 6% in January.

The number of residential properties sold in the UK was 12,000 up on January 2011 and also at its highest level for four years.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) figures showed that a total of 64,000 property transactions went through during January, up on the 52,000 deals in January 2011 and the best start to a year since 2008’s tally of 79,000.

David Dooks, BBA statistics director, said: “January saw the high street banks approve more mortgages for house purchase than of late, despite low household confidence, as some people try to complete transactions before the stamp duty holiday ends in March.”

All in all, this is great news for the UK property market and a warning sign to property investors that they are no longer the only people buying property.

Shelter want to see an end to the bad practices of rogue landlords

RLA say bad landlords are not "Rogues" they are "Criminals!"

The UK’s largest homeless charity Shelter and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) have clashed over the issue of bad landlords.

Both organisations have been using very strong words over the last few days, whilst calling for more action by the UK government to stamp out bad landlords.

Shelter is calling on the UK coalition Government to hold a “Rogue’ Landlord” summit, but the wording has angered the Residential Landlords Association.

In particular, the RLA are incensed by Shelter’s use of the word ‘Rogue’, saying it belittles what is really ‘criminal’ activity. The RLA have also accused Shelter of using emotional clichés in their action plan, which could rebound and spell danger for tenants.

The heated exchange began after the homeless charity posted a question on its website asking if the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, is doing enough to evict rogue landlords?

Shelter also launched a ‘5 point’ action plan on its website, saying that the housing minister should stop talking about stamping out rogue landlords and start taking action.

Shelter says its 5 point plan is based on 86,000 complaints by tenants about landlords.

Below are the bullet points Shelter would like to see, with The RLA’s response below:

Tougher sentencing for criminal landlords: increasing the maximum penalty for ignoring a court order to improve conditions from £5,000 to £20,000.
The RLA prefers the word criminal to rogue which has Del-Boy overtones of sympathy. Penalties need to be proportionate to the crime but without better prosecution they are just window-dressing.
The RLA calls for better training and resourcing of enforcement officials in council housing department without charging the good landlords through spurious regulation.

A rogue landlord prosecution fund: earmarking money to help councils get tough on landlords blighting their area
The RLA says, throwing more money at the problem does not produce solutions. It is about priorities. The cost of successful cases can be recovered.

New protection for brave tenants: safeguard tenants from being evicted in retaliation for whistleblowing.
Shelter must not weaken landlords’ rights to evict non-paying or anti-social tenants. Speedy resolution of tenant problems is in everyone’s interests but neither Court procedures nor Council departments work in their favour. RLA says there is scope for fast track procedures such as Alternative Dispute Resolution as used in tenancy deposit schemes.

An online landlord conviction database: a new website listing all convicted landlords to help tenants avoid criminal landlords.
RLA says this is playing to the gallery with all the risks of “Trip Advisor” sites. There is need for tenants to be aware of poor quality property which can often be detected on inspection of the property before signing a tenancy agreement and to examine appropriate certificates for gas and electrical safety and energy performance.
Better landlords are members of associations and local accreditation schemes which set property and management standards. Some councils and university schemes include property inspections. Tenants have little knowledge of their responsibilities for example to reduce humidity and stop condensation.

A rogue landlord summit convened by the Housing Minister to create a clear action plan to protect tenants.
The RLA says landlords must also retain rights to defend themselves from tenants from hell – including cases of malicious damage, false allegations and anti-social behaviour.
But action to protect tenants must be proportionate to the problem. The vast majority of good landlords must be protected from the hassle-factor just to provide statistics which look as though action is being taken. More than 70 laws and regulations exist to control the PRS – they must be used better to protect tenants and good landlords from the criminal minority.

In a statement, the RLA said: “The problem is that local authorities have failed to focus on tracking down bad landlords because of seeking to meet central Government targets to license landlords. With limited resources, they put their effort into the easy-to-check landlords who are the most visible and compliant and do not concentrate instead on those who deliberately seek to evade inspection. That’s why councils brought only 270 prosecutions of landlords last year.”

Instead, the RLA said they would welcome dialogue to produce solutions but condemn spurious regulation that would hurt good landlords but not criminal ones. The idea of a rogue landlord prosecution fund would merely throw money at the problem without producing solutions. In cases where landlords are prosecuted the costs can be recovered.

While supporting safeguards for tenants against retaliatory evictions, the RLA said Shelter must not weaken the landlords’ right to evict non-paying or anti-social tenants. The speedy resolution of tenant problems is in everyone’s interests but neither Court procedures nor Council departments work in their favour. The RLA says there is scope for fast track procedures such as Alternative Dispute Resolution as used in tenancy deposit schemes.

The RLA are calling for constructive dialogue to produce solutions including:

1. A culture change in Town Halls to work with the Private Rented Sector, (PRS), as a responsible supplier of housing. The PRS provides housing for tenants evicted by social housing, yet gets little or no support when problems arise.
2. Wider use of landlord accreditation schemes to promote self-regulation allowing councils to focus on criminal landlords.
3. Fast-track dispute resolution – 135,000 re-possession cases come to the courts a year. The average time for repossession is over 4 months after the tenant has not paid rent for two months.
4. Fair-play for landlords: direct payment of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) through tenant choice. Over 7% of LHA rents (90,000 tenancies ) are not received by landlords within 8 weeks.

Private residential renting on the decline?

UK PRS faces mounting rent arrears

The demand for Private Rental Sector (PRS) residential property and the rise in the number of tenants struggling to meet their rental payments on a regular monthly basis is expected to see the decline of the UK residential property rental market.

According to the latest lettings survey from the Association of Residential Letting Agents, (ARLA) 55% of its members reported more tenants than available properties in the last quarter of 2011, down on 74% reported in the previous quarter.

39.2% of ARLA members reported an increase in tenants struggling to pay their rent, over the same period, a figure up from 36.7% the previous quarter.

President of ARLA, Tim Hyatt, said: “With household income decreasing and job uncertainty prevailing, it could be that increasing rental arrears is a sign that the wider economic malaise is having a tangible impact on personal finance – some consumers may have reached the limit of their access to finance, while others may be cutting back as many commentators have predicted. We are reassured by the fact that the number of new tenancies is stable, but we will be watching the market closely in the coming months to determine how significant these latest figures will prove to be”.

The number of First‐Time Buyers (FTB) able to secure finance isn’t expected to significantly increase during 2012 so the demand for the limited supply of private sector rental accommodation will only continue to rise. It won’t be long before rents will resume an upward trend.

With the mortgage market still facing more financial fallout from the Eurozone crisis and the wider economy remaining sluggish, UK credit conditions are unlikely to ease significantly in 2012. As household income become even more stretched during the course of the year, it is expected that the current rental boom will begin to decrease outside of prime areas in the latter half of this year.

With the numbers of tenants having trouble paying their rent being on the rise, UK Landlords are encouraged to use Rent Guarantee products from reputable suppliers such as Legal 4 Landlords as a means to keep their rental income flowing in.
If you are a Landlord who lets a property then you run the risk of rent default by your tenant. Even the best checks and references cannot predict a tenant falling on hard times and not being able to pay their rent. Could you cover your expenditure if this happened?

In the current economic climate, many landlords are finding their default rates soar as tenants struggle with rising unemployment and increased bills. Recovering arrears can be difficult and costly for landlords, without any guarantee of success.
At Legal 4 Landlords, our Rent Guarantee Insurance will cover you against your tenant defaulting or failing to pay the rent

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