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UK Private Sector Rent Still Rising

UK Private Sector Rent Still Rising, Albeit Slowly

Private Sector Rents Rise By 1% Over Last 12 Months

New data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that private sector rents are rising below the level of average earnings for first time in many years, bringing some good news for tenants.

According to the ONS, in the 12 months to September 2014, private rental sector rental prices increased by:

  • 1% in England
  • 4% in Scotland
  • 2% in Wales

The ONS say that the UK’s underlying annual earnings growth increased by 1.2% in the year to August, up from 0.5% recorded in April 2014.

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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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New Affordable Housing Guarantees Funding Is Intended To Deliver

New Affordable Housing Guarantees Funding Is Intended To Deliver
Thousands Of Affordable Properties

New Affordable Housing Guarantee Funding Is Intended To Deliver Thousands
Of Affordable Properties

On the 24th July 2013, Government ministers announced a multi-million pound boost to build thousands of new and affordable residential properties in the UK.

69 different housing associations and developers will each receive a share of £220 million (GBP) to deliver almost 14,000 new and affordable residential properties outside of the London area.

Work on the new residential properties will be started by March 2015 and will be expected to be completed by 2017.

The move is part of wider government efforts to get Britain building, which will lead to the fastest annual rate of affordable house building for over 2 decades.

The increased funding is part of the expanded £450 million (GBP) Affordable Housing Guarantees which will support up to £3.5 Billion (GBP) in government debt guarantees to deliver thousands of new homes.

Of the almost 14,000 homes this money will help deliver, the majority will be available at an affordable rent with 2,000 of those available to buy through shared ownership.

Housing associations and developers who plan to use the guarantee scheme will now work with the Affordable Housing Finance to finalise the details of the loan funding that will work alongside today’s grant allocations.

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Superstrike Case Causes Confusion

Superstrike Case Causes Confusion

Lord Justice Lloyd delivered judgement on an appeal from Wandsworth County Court for the case of Superstrike Ltd v Marino Rodrigues on the 14th June 2013 and since then conflicting advice has been offered by different landlord associations.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) told its members that they will be issuing updates shortly, after they have sought advice from its deposit protection partner the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS).

By contrast, the National Landlords Association (NLA), who have business links with MyDeposits and the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) have condemned the speculation and online reporting of the case.

The NLA issued advice to members stating that the Superstrike case also only relates to landlords within a particular timeframe, who used Section 21 notices. In reality the case will have little effect on landlords and insist that the ruling only pertains to tenancies started before April 6, 2007, and which have subsequently become periodic.

The NLA are discussing the matter with officials responsible for tenancy deposit protection (TDP) legislation within the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and legal professionals.

It is important to understand that appeal judges only consider the case presented to them, not a similar set of circumstances, or a variation on a theme.

The precedent they set is therefore only applicable to cases subject to the same set of circumstances. This fact is crucial in this instance as the case of Superstrike Ltd v Rodrigues is not representative of all landlords or private tenancies.

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Welfare Reforms Could Increase Fraud

Welfare Reforms Could Increase Fraud

The Government’s controversial welfare reforms will leave the benefits system more vulnerable to fraud, according to a group of MPs.

The Government decision to press on with welfare reforms means that Universal credit is set to be implemented nationally from October 2013 and replaces a string of existing benefits such as local housing allowance (LHA), housing benefit (HB) and child tax credits.

Changes to IT system for universal credit could make it harder to distinguish fraudulent claims from those that are genuine, and there are calls for the government to give swift assurance that the introduction of Universal Credit will not cause a rise in benefit fraud,

MPs issued the warning after a report by the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee into the extent of the welfare reforms highlighted several concerns about the new Universal Credit scheme.

The first trial of the new system begins on 29 April 2013 in Ashton-Under-Lyne, Greater Manchester.

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Government want to ensure tenants in the

Private Rented Sector are not illegal Immigrants

Landlords Warned Over Illegal Immigrants

Landlords Warned Over Illegal Immigrants

Government ministers want to ensure tenants in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) are not living in the UK illegally and are already working with local authorities to tackle rogue landlords who exploit immigrants by housing them in ‘beds in sheds’.

Many private sector landlords already take the correct measures by tenant referencing all applicants to check the tenants’ identity and credit status, making it difficult for illegal immigrants to rent properties from them.

However, despite numerous calls from UK property industry specialists, not all landlords bother with tenant referencing, and a small minority of rogue landlords knowingly target illegal immigrants who would not be in a position to complain about any sub-standard rental accommodation.

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Migrants Expected To Make UK Housing Shortage Worse

A fresh wave of UK immigration is expected when quotas on work permits for migrants from Romania and Bulgaria are dropped under EU freedom-of-movement rules.

Government ministers face an increasing amount of pressure to disclose their official estimate of how many immigrants will pour into Britain next year from Eastern Europe, after remarks were made by Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles on The BBC’s Sunday Politics Show.

Mr Pickles conceded on TV that a wave of immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria will cause problems in the UK housing supply and admitted that Government officials had already made a forecast of the numbers expected to arrive when border controls are relaxed with the two nations in January 2014 but refused to reveal figures.

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Major clampdown launched on ‘beds in sheds’

UK Government act to end bad practices of rogue landlords

UK Government act to end bad practices of rogue landlords

Prior to the Government reshuffle, ministers last week launched a major clampdown on rogue landlords to bring an end to suburban shanty towns that trap vulnerable people in dangerous living conditions.

Ex Housing Minister Grant Shapps and Ex Immigration Minister Damian Green, (who have since been replaced by Mark Frisk and Mark Harper respectively) launched new guidance for local authorities making clear the wide range of powers at their ministerial disposal to shut down so-called ‘beds in sheds’ that blight entire neighbourhoods and take action against other bad practices by rogue landlords such as overcrowding and poor maintenance.

Mr Shapps in his then post as housing minister and Mr Green as the then immigration minister saw the evidence for themselves when they attended an early morning visit on a suspected rogue landlord’s properties, and witnessed the squalid conditions the so called tenants lived in, despite paying the landlords hundreds of pounds a week.

While visiting six properties, officials from Ealing Council and the UK Border Agency encountered 39 individual tenants, 22 of whom were illegal immigrants:

  • Of those 22 illegal immigrants encountered, 19 were detained (3 were required to report to a Reporting Centre because they were a couple with a young child);
  • Of those 22 encountered, 14 were found in the outhouses (this includes two adults with a young child). The remainder were found in the houses;
  • Of those 19 detainees, 16 were Indian nationals and 3 were Pakistani nationals;
  • Of those 19 detainees, 9 entered the country without leave, 8 were overstayers, one was a failed asylum seeker and one was working in breach of his visa conditions.

    Housing Minister Grant Shapps and Immigration Minister Damian Green outside a rogue landlords property

    Ex Housing Minister Grant Shapps and Ex Immigration Minister Damian Green outside a rogue landlords property

Power to tackle rogue landlords

The new guidance highlights the range of actions councils can take to clamp down on rogue landlords once and for all. These include:

  • Proactively identifying problem properties and effectively working through complaints;
  • Taking action using a full range of legal powers to stop rogue landlord activities;
  • Working with other organisations including the police and UK Border Agency to tackle linked criminal behaviour;
  • Prosecuting rogue landlords who persistently let illegal property;
  • Providing evidence of landlord’s earnings to magistrates to ensure they receive an appropriate level of fine for offences;
  • Naming and shaming prosecuted landlords by publicising successful cases;
  • Working with the new national taskforce which has been set up between Whitehall departments, the police, the UK Border Agency and local government. The taskforce is exploring all possible options for closing down ‘beds in sheds’.

Thousands of sheds and outbuildings have been being rented out illegally to vulnerable migrants by ruthless rogue landlords who charge them extortionate rents to live in cramped conditions.

These tenants can often find it difficult to return home quickly with some having destroyed their passports to avoid removal often leaving them to either live in these outbuildings or face living on the streets.

Outgoing Housing Minister Shapps said: “It’s simply unacceptable that people are living in squalid, unsafe accommodation provided by landlords more interested in a quick profit rather than their basic responsibilities. The actions of these rogue landlords are helping fuel illegal working and benefit fraud and creates a shadow housing market that carries dangers to people’s health as well as community relations. I want to see all agencies from local authorities, the police and the UK Border Agency using the full range of powers at their disposal to work together on a national clampdown towards ridding our communities of this problem once and for all.”

Whilst former Immigration Minister Green said: “Operations like this show our determination to do whatever is necessary, working alongside local authorities and police, to enforce our laws against those who are in the UK illegally. The UK Border Agency continues to gather intelligence about those illegally in the country. Those with no right to be in the UK must leave the country. If they need help to leave the country voluntarily we will offer it but if they refuse we will enforce there removal.”

The latest guidance is backed up by the recent allocation of £1.8 Million (GBP) to local authorities earlier this year to tackle the issue and flush out rogue landlords renting out ‘beds in sheds’.

The Government have stated that they are commited to targeting rogue landlords and any change in ministerial representation will not affect their policy on this or any other matter.

The full report can be downloaded here

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With only 2 weeks to go, the UK coalition Government have finally produced guidance on the changes to Energy Performance Certificates, (EPC’s) for residential properties, complete with a contradictory anomaly.

The UK Government’s department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) are now under pressure to clear this up and have indicated that they may release further guidance in certain areas.

Currently, letting and estate agents have 7 days from the commencement of marketing a property for an EPC to be obtained, followed by 21-day period of grace should it have proved impossible to obtain one.

However, the guidance then contradicts itself, by then saying that the EPC must be made available to prospective buyers and tenants when they request information, or when a viewing takes place.

The guidance underlines that the EPC must not be provided later than either of those two events.

By definition, it means that all letting and estate agents might not be able to conduct viewings on the first day of marketing – or even within the first week, or at a push, the first 28 days, whilst awaiting an EPC, if the CLG department stick to the new rule.

Nick Salmon said that the requirement to produce an EPC on a viewing sets every alarm bell ringing: “Does it means that if I take a property on the market and the EPC is ordered, that I cannot do viewings on the property unless the EPC is actually at hand? Have they just killed off first-day marketing again.”

The requirement to have an EPC ready for viewings is repeated on both pages 3 and 4 of the guidance.

On page 4, it says:

Q. When should the EPC be made available under the new regulations?


A. The EPC should be made available as early as possible and in particular, when a prospective buyer or tenant requests information in writing or views the property in question. In addition, the seller or landlord must ensure that an EPC has been given to the person who ultimately becomes the buyer or tenant.

Salmon said: “We need an urgent answer to this. Unless CLG make it clear that viewings can be made while the EPC is ordered but awaited, we are back in the dark days of their mega-stupidity with HIPs.”

The guidance, which cites an industry survey which found that 36% of estate agents believed EPCs were only needed at the point of sale as one of the reasons for introducing the changes, answers a number of outstanding issues, although it does suggest that agents needing further clarification take their own legal advice.

It makes it clear that the ultimate responsibility to make an EPC available to potential buyers and tenants rests with sellers and landlords. However, under a new duty, an agent must be satisfied that an EPC has been commissioned before marketing can start. Trading Standards officers can ask for evidence of this.

The seller, landlord or their agent must use all reasonable efforts to obtain the EPC within seven days of the start of marketing. A further 21 days is allowed if necessary. “The effect of this is to provide an absolute duty to obtain an EPC within 28 days of the property going on the market,” says the guidance.

If the property remains on the market after 28 days without an EPC, Trading Standards officers may serve a £200 (GBP) penalty notice ‘even if there is a legitimate reason for the delay’.

The guidance also defines ‘written particulars’ and what the ‘giving’ of written particulars is.

“The giving of written particulars includes making them available electronically, such as in an email or as information on a website.” In other words, agents will have to retrieve the EPC from the central Register and attach it to online written particulars.

However, newspaper adverts and estate agents’ window cards appear to be let off the hook. This also needs further clarification as the guidance actually specifies ‘lets’.

Q. Do newspaper adverts or window cards for property lets meet the definition of written particulars?

A. No. The requirement to attach a copy of the front page of the EPC to written particulars is where an agent provides written particulars to a person (i.e. a specific individual) who may be interested in buying or renting the building.

This implies that a copy of the front page of the EPC does not need to be attached to advertising material, i.e. a newspaper or window card.

The guidance also clarifies what attached means: The first page of the EPC can be incorporated into the property details, or attached.

In an apparent swipe at NFoPP and RICS, who both wanted redactions, CLG has stuck to its guns about not allowing addresses to be redacted from residential EPCs, although redactions are allowed from commercial EPCs.

It says addresses cannot be removed from domestic EPCs, “Following discussions with property agents’ representatives it was agreed there was no requirement to extend this service to domestic sales and rentals.”

One issue which is not specifically addressed in the Q & A concerns lists of available rental properties which are sent or emailed to applicants.

However, as the guidance suggests that properties listed would meet the criteria of ‘written particulars’, a list could hypothetically list 15 rental properties on an A4 sheet of paper, and then have individual EPCs attached.

The changes kick in on April 6th 2012. Any letting or estate agent who has not seen the Q & A guidance can email EPC.Enquiry@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Source: Estate Agent Today

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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.”

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