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Shelter Target PRS Landlords Again!

Shelter Target PRS Landlords Again!

Shelter Attacks PRS Landlords With
More Bogus Propaganda

The homelessness charity, Shelter are once again targeting private rental sector landlords, with claims of abuse and neglect being aimed at the sector.

Shelter claim that that 125,000 tenants have suffered abusive behaviour from landlords in the past year and the health of 1 Million private rental sector tenants have been affected by rogue landlords not doing property repairs or dealing with poor conditions in their rented property, with almost 300,000 parents who rent reporting serious impacts on their children’s health caused by poor property management.

The charity maintain that damp, mould, and bad ventilation in private rented sector properties are causing asthma, allergies, breathing problems and worse among tenants, and they are laying the blame squarely on landlords shoulders.

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Protesters Call For Ban On Section 21 Notices

Protesters Call For Ban On Section 21 Notices

Protesters Occupy Government Offices
In Call For Ban On Section 21 Notices

Last week campaigners from a tenant group called London Renters occupied the lobby of the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) by bedding down in sleeping bags to protest at retaliatory evictions by private sector landlords and over the apparent insecurity of tenure within the UK’s private rented sector (PRS).

The protest followed a workshop apparently held by the Department of Communities and Local Government covering ways of making it easier for landlords to evict tenants.

The protesters wanted to highlight how being evicted by a private sector landlord has become the leading reason for homelessness in the UK. The campaigners want secure tenancies for all tenants, and in particular an end to ‘no fault’ evictions under section 21.

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Landlords may avoid LHA tenants in future

Benefit Cuts To Make 40,000 Homeless

PRS Landlords Urged Not To Refuse
Housing Benefit Tenants

Following the decision by UK mega landlord, Fergus Wilson to evict benefit tenants from his rental properties, a campaign group has called on landlords with rental properties in the private rental sector not to discriminate against tenants on benefits.

Dan Wilson Craw, a spokesperson for poverty charity ‘Priced Out’, said such action could make people who need benefits unwilling to claim them due to fear of losing their home, meaning they could fall further into poverty, stating: “This is just one symptom of a wider housing market that is simply not working in the consumer’s interests”. The charity chose to discuss the issue with the Guardian newspaper, after the broadsheet featured the announcement by Fergus Wilson, who owns around 1,000 rental properties in Kent, after he had taken a drastic course of action to evict all tenants claiming benefits and instructed his appointed letting agents not to accept any further applications from prospective tenants who receive housing benefits due to the high number of tenants claiming local housing allowance (LHA) who had fallen into rental arrears. 

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Tenants Charter Proposals For Longer Tenancies Breach Mortgage Lenders Current Buy-To-Let Mortgage Terms

Tenants Charter Proposals For Longer Tenancies Breach Mortgage Lenders Current Buy-To-Let Mortgage Terms

Industry welcome to weak tenants’ charter that could see UK PRS landlords at odds with

Buy-To-Let Mortgage Lenders

The new tenants’ charter was announced by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (CLG), Eric Pickles, last Wednesday, allowing tenants to ask for longer tenancies and better transparency of letting agents’ fees.

The new tenants’ charter will also aim to force all lettings and property managing agents controlling PRS rental properties to join a compulsory redress scheme.

The Tenants’ Charter, published for consultation, outlines what tenants should be looking out for at every stage when renting a property in the UK’s private rented sector, including lettings agents having to inform customers what all their fees are upfront, before they have committed to anything, including visiting a property.

However, the introduction of these terms under the banner of the tenants’ charter could threaten the business future of large numbers of landlords who would technically be in breach of the strict buy-to-let mortgage terms imposed by many mortgage lenders, which generally stipulate that tenancy agreements are to be for a period of no more than one year.

Secretary Of State For Communities & Local Government, Eric Pickles

Secretary Of State For Communities & Local Government, Eric Pickles

Mr Pickles stated that the Government intend to publish a code of practice setting standards for the management of property in the private rental sector (PRS) along with guidance setting out the role of public bodies in protecting tenants from illegal eviction.

Mr Pickles said: “This government is on the side of hardworking people and the last thing we want to do is hurt tenants and kill (property) investment by increasing costs and strangling the sector with red tape. But tenants deserve better value for money, and dodgy landlords should be under no illusion they can provide a shoddy service with impunity. These proposals will raise the quality and choice of rental accommodation, root out the cowboys and rogue operators in the sector, and give tenants the confidence to request longer fixed-term, family-friendly tenancies that meet their needs”

Mr Pickles also said that the Government will develop a model tenancy agreement which will clearly set out the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, and ensure families can benefit from longer tenancies, without changing the existing legal framework for the rental market. He said “Longer tenancies will give families greater certainty and security, especially for those with children at school, and reduce costs for both tenants and landlords who will not have to pay letting agents to arrange frequent contract renewals.”

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee said: “I am pleased that the Government has embraced many of the recommendations in our private rented sector report. The proposals for a tenants’ charter and model tenancy agreements reflect our calls for greater awareness of rights and responsibilities. Far too often the security needed by families is not being provided by the private rented sector. I am pleased, therefore, that the Government has listened to what the Committee said about the need for more family friendly tenancies. It is also welcome that the Government is taking forward our proposal to allow rent and housing benefit to be clawed back when landlords have been convicted of letting out dangerous property. The Committee will be watching closely to ensure that they are translated into action. We will also press to ensure that the Government’s gathering of information on selective licensing leads to action to raise standards. Much remains to be done if renting is to become an attractive alternative to owner occupation. It is disappointing; therefore, that the Government does not see fit to crack down on cowboy letting agents and their rip off fees and charges. It is also regrettable that the Government has declined to give local authorities the powers and freedom they need to improve housing in their areas.”

Tenants Charter Proposals For Longer Tenancies Breach Mortgage Lenders Current
Buy-To-Let Mortgage Terms

Property professionals generally agree with the introduction of the new tenants’ charter but many think that the Government have sidestepped the opportunity to enforce much tighter regulation of landlords in the private rental sector and lettings and property managing agents in particular and many feel that the new measures fall short of what is really needed.

It will be interesting to see if the Government put pressure on the banks and mainstream mortgage lenders to abolish or ignore such limiting clauses, allowing them to deliver on the real aim of the tenants’ charter.

Caroline Kenny, an executive of the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) wants the Government to build on the experience and expertise of those industry bodies which already require higher standards of their members. Commenting “Responsible agents who choose to belong to professional bodies which require client money protection insurance, impartial redress and an adherence to a strict Code of Practice are forced to compete with those who show little regard to professional standards or the needs of their clients. UKLA believe that this package of proposals represents a missed opportunity for the Government to make mandatory the kind of comprehensive protection offered by the UK Association of Letting Agents and other industry regulatory bodies, which are called UKALA & NLAfor by those working in the property industry and needed by hardworking consumers who are unable to differentiate between good and bad letting agents.”

Richard Lambert, Chief Executive of the National Landlords Association (NLA), said: “The NLA has long argued that private renting can be far more flexible than commonly perceived, and we need to tap into this potential to meet the changing needs and expectations of those who rent. We look forward to working with government to make a success of these proposals. However, we believe that the Government has missed an opportunity to require greater professionalism of letting agents. While the requirement to belong to an approved redress scheme is a step in the right direction, it does little to protect the financial interest of landlords and tenants working with unregulated agents.”

Residential Landlords Association

Join The Residential Landlords Association

Alan Ward, Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) welcomed the Government action to improve tenants’ understanding of their rights and responsibilities saying: “Tenants take more trouble buying a second-hand car than renting a house” Ensuring that tenants and landlords each understand clearly their rights and obligations to one another ensures a balanced relationship and enables them to hold each other to account based on the large number of laws already in existence. It will also play a vital role in rooting out those willfully criminal landlords who reap misery on tenants. We look forward to working with Ministers on the Charter as well as on how to best get this information to tenants.”

RICSPeter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said “The long overdue announcement was definitely a step in the right direction. The lettings sector has for far too long been the Wild West of the property industry, with many tenants having absolutely nowhere to go should they wish to complain about shoddy service. The introduction of a code of practice specifically covering those managing rented property should certainly improve standards.”

Chief Executive of the Housing & Homelessness charity Shelter, Campbell Robb said “This announcement is recognition that current private renting arrangements are not fit for families with children, who need greater long-term stability. This is a welcome step in the right direction, and ministers now need to consider how to make longer tenancies a real choice for the families desperate for a more stable place to live.”

The announcement of the new Tenants’ Charter was good news for consumer champions, Which? Who have been campaigning since 2007 when they first called for an amendment to the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 requiring letting agents to join an approved complaints scheme, just as property sales agents are. The consumer groups investigations also discovered earlier this year that major letting agents are acting unlawfully by not being upfront about the fees charged to clients.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, looks set to be implemented in Spring 2014, giving all landlords and tenants access to a complaints scheme. This will mean that 40% of agents who currently aren’t signed up to a redress scheme will have to become members

Which? Executive Director, Richard Lloyd, said: “Renting is now the only housing option for millions so we’re pleased to see the Government taking steps to address problems in the lettings market. Making charges clear upfront will enable people to shop around more easily, and longer tenancies could mark the end of unnecessary renewal fees. The new legislation giving landlords and tenants access to a complaints scheme now needs to be brought in as soon as possible and there must be strong action taken against any agent in breach of the scheme.”

  • Do you think the proposals go far enough?

Take our Poll on the Tenants Charter or leave a comment below!

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National Empty Homes Loan FundNational Empty Homes Loan Fund To Bring
Empty Properties Back In To Use

A new scheme has been launched to bring almost ¾ Million empty residential properties back into full time use in a bid to tackle the UK’s current housing shortage.

Over 710,000 residential properties are currently lying derelict and empty across the UK, because the owners have not been able to afford to renovate or refurbish them back to a habitable standard.

In a joint venture initiative between Government, 39 participating local authorities, the Empty Homes charity and the Ecology Building Society, the scheme aims to provide loans of up to £15,000 (GBP) to owners of empty residential properties to help bring them affordably back into use.

The fund was one of the demands of last year’s Great British Property Scandal campaign led by architect and broadcaster George Clarke.

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Showcase For The Christie Raises Funds For Fight Against Cancer

Showcase For The Christie Raises Funds For Fight Against Cancer

On Sunday 21st of July 2013 Rachel and I were part of an annual charity fundraising event at the Lyric Theatre at the Lowry in Salford, with this year’s proceeds going to The Christie.

The 2 ½ hour show was included as part of the BBC’s Million Pound Appeal aiming to raise £1 Million (GBP) to benefit cancer patients in Greater Manchester through a new mobile chemotherapy unit that will take valuable Christie care closer to patient’s homes.

Over 200 performers from 7 amateur musical theatre companies from the Greater Manchester area performed short excerpts from popular musicals to a 1700 capacity audience.

The generosity of the audience was matched pound for pound by Barclays bank, and £3,500 was raised on the night just from the proceeds of the raffle, with even more promised to the The Christie nhs Foundation Trust charity after costs are calculated.

The annual celebration of amateur theatre talent was the brainchild of founder Saunie Williams, who sadly lost her own fight against cancer many years ago but the celebrations keep going in her spirit.

It was a great privilege to take part in this fantastic event again with Salford Musical Theatre Company (SMTC), after last year’s superb performances and my own personal triumph, with a principal role that I had waited 25 years to perform on a stage. On that occasion Showcase 2012 supported the excellent work of the Macmillan Nurses and the committee handed over a cheque for £7,000 (GBP).

This year’s charity – The Christie nhs Foundation Trust, is world famous for the groundbreaking treatments and care they provide for cancer sufferers, including treatment provided for Showcase front man – Mike Sammon who was diagnosed with throat cancer a few years ago, thankfully Mike was given the all clear following his treatment, for which everyone in the showbiz world are eternally grateful for, as there is no-one else on earth who could get away with those gags.

I am writing this post because I want to publicly thank everyone involved in organising and arranging everything so that amateur performers from all over the area can put on a superb evening of entertainment containing a breathtaking showcase of amateur talent as this is a fantastic way to help raise much needed funds for many different charities around the North West of England.

So on behalf of the societies involved; Salford Musical Theatre Company, PADOS, Romiley Operatic Society, Sale and Altrincham Musical Theatre, All Saints Musical Productions, Whitefield AODS and HATS, a huge thanks to Dave Bamford, Mike Sammon, Ian Legate, Helen Litherland, Dennis Carter, Brian Marney, Simon Pickup and the Showcase band plus an army of helpers, of whom there are too many to mention and of course all the people from each of the musical theatre societies who gave their time for free preparing the performers for their sections – THANK YOU ALL !!!.

For more information about the appeal or to get involved visit http://www.christie.nhs.uk/bbcradiomanchester

or call

0161 446 3988

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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A request sent by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) using a Freedom of Information request about bad landlords has so far been ignored by Newham Council

The London borough are the first local authority in England who intend to bring in the blanket licensing of all private rental properties within its boundaries is unable to tell the RLA how many prosecutions it has brought against private landlords over the last five years.

The Residential Landlords Association made a Freedom of Information request, and described the response from Newham Council in London as ‘pitiful’.

The RLA said it was staggered that the authority, which requires all private rental property to be licensed by January 1, did not have the information to hand.

Newham insists that it is bringing in blanket licensing because it has identified problems of poor property and tenancy management.

The council said it was unable to “… provide accurate historical reports on the number of prosecutions against landlords for the last five years”.

It went on to blame “a change in recording procedures last year and a change in computerised systems for reporting purposes” for its failure to provide the figures. It said that to produce the figures would require an officer to manually interrogate all files.

Newham could only produce figures for 2011/12. These show that the council prosecuted 31 landlords.

The RLA has repeated its call for the council to abandon its plans for blanket licensing, and to use existing legislation to actively pursue and prosecute criminal landlords.

Licences applied for now will cost £150 and last five years. After January 1, the cost will rise to £500.

Licensing would usually be the responsibility of the landlord, but could also fall into the remit of the managing agent. Failure to license could mean fines of up to £20,000, and the council could seek a rent repayment order for up to 12 months of rental income. It will also not be possible to use the S.21 procedure for possession if a property has not been licensed.

The homeless charity, Shelter, has also called on all other local authorities to follow Newham Council’s lead, but they are already facing criticism over their blanket Rogue Landlord campaign.

Hi all I read the following article in the Guardian this week and I thought I would share it with you as I happen to agree with the viewpoints stated by the author Heather Kennedy.

Please take a couple of minutes to read the following…. 

Is Shelter’s campaign against ‘rogue landlords’ helpful for private tenants?

Law-breaking landlords aren’t the sole blight on the private rented sector, despite Shelter’s eye-catching campaign

How do you feel if I say the words “energy performance certificate”? What about “London landlord accreditation scheme”? Is your pulse racing? I didn’t think so.

The dry and cumbersome language of the private rented housing sector is not exactly the stuff of captivating media headlines. For those of us trying to shout from the rooftops about how bad things are for private tenants right now, this can present a problem.

One organisation that has succeeded in capturing widespread attention is Shelter, with its simple and popular ‘evict rogue landlords’ campaign. The housing charity is encouraging residents to report dodgy landlords to their local authorities, who can take legal action if they are found to be operating outside the law.

The message has gained traction. Across the public debate on welfare and housing, the concept of the “rogue landlord” has caught on fast. It is central to our understanding of what is wrong with the private rented sector.

So if talk of ‘rogue landlords’ has helped to make the difficulties of life as a private tenant mainstream news, what’s the issue?

The problem is that Shelter’s concept seduces us into believing the deep-rooted problems in the private rented sector can be eradicated by punishing a small, malignant minority when in fact large-scale policy overhaul is now urgently needed.

There are plenty of fully legal landlords happy to bully their tenants, impose huge rent increases and end contracts on a whim.

Some renters and their landlords have come to consider this acceptable behaviour, so a rogue is always someone else: someone a friend of a friend told you about, or that one you saw on the telly. Never the landlord you have – or the one you are.

Of course unlawful evictions, harassment of tenants and illegal hazards need to be tackled. But I speak to private tenants across London every day and for most of them, current legislation offers them little or no protection against the problems they face.

For those landlords who are operating illegally, local councils have a feeble track record at prosecuting them, as Shelter points out. What Shelter doesn’t explain is how councils are supposed to find the time and resources to deal with the spiralling number of complaints from tenants, and at a time when funding for local authorities is being cut by central government.

Councils are already overwhelmed by the sheer volume of complaints they receive and can often only hope to provide basic dispute resolution between landlord and tenant.

For Shelter to suggest that we can prosecute our way out of this problem using current legislation is at best naive and at worst disingenuous.

The figure of the rogue landlord as a modern-day folk devil might be media-friendly, but it is meaningless for the majority of private tenants.

We need nuanced debate about the private rented sector, to reflect the diverse and complex experiences of tenants.

Shelter does some excellent work getting housing issues into the mainstream press, but right now its analysis is being allowed to dominate the debate.

Unlike council tenants, who have rich a tradition of self-organisation and representation, private tenants have no collective identity or voice.

This is partly why we’ve found it so difficult to challenge unfair treatment. It’s only now, as pressures on private tenants reach an apex that we’re beginning to speak as one and forge this collective voice.

Not until tenants are allowed to define their own campaigns and solutions will we begin to see the deep rooted change to the private rented sector we so desperately need.

Heather Kennedy is the founding member of Digs, a support and campaign group for private tenants in Hackney

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Homelessness is a real threat for young families in the UK

Homelessness is a real threat for young families in the UK

An extra 1.5 million 18 to 30-year-olds are expected to apply for private rented sector (PRS) properties over the next eight years.

The influential Joseph Rowntree Foundation says that one risk is that pressures on private rental accommodation could force young families out of the sector and into homelessness. The foundation forecasts that around 310,000 more young families will be looking for private rented housing in 2020 compared with today.

In a new report, ‘Housing options and solutions for young people in 2020’, it warns that the influx of youngsters chasing a private rental home will see young families, poorer and vulnerable people finding it hardest to compete for tenancies.

As previously reported by Legal 4 Landlords News on Friday 15th June 2012, an additional 500,000 young people will be forced to stay with their parents into their thirties, taking the total number of young people still at home to 3.7 Million by 2020.

Read the full story here http://blog.legal4landlords.com/index.php/property-renting-set-to-be-way-of-life-for-young-families/

The report is just the latest in a series of similar documents warning of the growing pressures on the private rented sector as increasing numbers of people are locked out of residential property ownership.

It warns of a three-tier race to find rented accommodation, with those at the top who can afford to pay rents, a ‘squeezed middle’ group who struggle to pay, and a bottom rung of 400,000 who risk being excluded completely.

However, there is hope for the lower tiers as leading landlord services provider Legal 4 Landlords can offer Rent Guarantee Insurance to landlords and tenants providing that the applicants pass the L4L Tenant Referencing criteria.

Kathleen Kelly, programme manager at the Foundation, said: “Our badly functioning housing system will see those on the lowest incomes really struggling to compete in the competitive rental market of 2020. Renting is likely to be the only game in town and young people are facing fierce competition to secure a home in what is an already diminished supply of housing. With 400,000 vulnerable young people, including families, on the bottom rung of a three-tier private renting system, we need to avoid turning a housing crisis into a homelessness disaster.”

The Foundation wants to see more homes built, longer tenancies at affordable rents – with the incentive of tax breaks for landlords – and the expansion of local letting agencies to find suitable homes for vulnerable young people.

David Clapham, lead author of the report, added: “With 1.5 million more young people no longer able to become home owners by 2020, it’s vital we take the opportunity to make renting work better.”

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