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RLA find errors in wording of proposed deregulation act

RLA find errors in wording of proposed deregulation act

RLA Find Serious Drafting Error In Rented Housing Regulations Of Proposed Deregulation Bill

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) have called on the Government to delay the implementation of the proposed Deregulation Act after they found errors in the wording of the document that would expose private rental sector landlords to a legal minefield.

The RLA published the following on their newshub

A major drafting error in Government regulations affecting the private rented sector risks undermining confidence in new legislation being applied to the sector.

The Deregulation Act, passed prior to the General Election, provides Ministers with the power to introduce a new standard form for landlords to complete and provide to a tenant when seeking to regain possession of a property on a no fault basis, known as a Section 21 notice.

With the form due to become legally binding from the 1st October, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has written to the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, to seek a delay following the revelation of a serious drafting error.

The standard form, as currently drafted, notes that where a fixed term tenancy ends and then turns into a rolling or periodic tenancy the Section 21 notice would only be valid for four months from the date that it is served on the tenant*.

This contradicts the Deregulation Act, which makes clear that the required period to regain possession of a property where a tenancy is a rolling or periodic tenancy, should instead be four months from the date the Section 21 notice expires**.

Despite having engaged thoroughly with the Government on its proposals, the final version of the standard form, published last week, had not been shown to the RLA.

The RLA is warning that the drafting exposes landlords to a legal minefield, and is calling for the implementation of the plans to be delayed to give more time to get them right.

RLA policy director, David Smith, said “The RLA continues to share the Government’s ambitions to ensure that all landlords understand and properly implement their legal responsibilities and obligations. In light of the major changes being introduced for the sector it is vital that all documents published by the Government are clearly understood. This drafting error will serve only to dent the confidence of landlords in the legislation. Whilst Ministers are understandably eager not to let these new measures drift, it would make more sense not to rush their implementation than face the potential legal difficulties that will now arise for landlords.”

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Property Optimism Falls To Lowest Level For 18 Months

Property Optimism Falls To Lowest Level For 18 Months

Property Optimism Falls To Lowest Level For 18 Months

UK property price optimism among private rental sector landlords and residential property owners has dropped to the lowest recorded level for 18 months after buy to let mortgage lending in January was reported to be decidedly sluggish.

Traditionally, the UK property market generally experiences a slow start that incrementally builds to a summer buying frenzy before reaching another plateau and then a further period of increase followed by a gradual easing at the end of the year.

The latest Halifax House Price Index (HPI) found that UK property prices increased by just 2% in January 2015, reaching a new UK average property price of £193,130 (GBP).

Combined with figures released by the Department of Communities and Local Government, showing a slowdown in the number of new homes being built, and it is clear why landlord and residential property owners optimism has fallen.

60% of landlords and property owners, surveyed for the lender’s latest housing market confidence tracker report, expected the average property price to be significantly higher in 12 month’s time.

This means that house price optimism has fallen by 10 points from 62 to +52, the lowest level of consumer confidence since June 2013, when 52% of private rental sector landlords and residential property owners expected a large rise in property prices.

So what’s different?

  • In June 2013 UK inflation was at 2.9% compared to the current 0.3%
  • Employment was just over 30 Million compared to today’s figure of 30.9 Million
  • Mortgage lending levels were at £15 Billion (GBP) compared to the current £17 Billion (GBP).

Despite the fact that the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2014 increased by 2.6% and all members of the Bank of England’s (BoE) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted to hold interest rates at 0.5%, the dip in confidence levels over UK property prices reflects public concern over the UK economy in general.

Craig McKinlay, mortgages director at the Halifax said that “More than half of consumers still believe UK property prices will be higher than they are now in a year’s time; however optimism has continued to weaken. Despite this we’re now seeing a return to the seasonal trend for house price activity”.

But he pointed out that of more concern are the figures from the Department of Communities and Local Government showing a slowdown in the number of new homes being built. ‘It’s widely acknowledged that the UK needs an increase in the amount of new housing being built,’ said McKinlay.

‘The Lloyds Banking Group Commission on Housing targeted 2 to 2.5 million new homes built by 2025 new homes to be built before 2025. If we are to address demand the increase in new homes coming onto the market needs to be sustainable,’ he explained.

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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