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How Landlords Are Affected By 2015 Pre-Election Budget

How Landlords Are Affected By 2015 Pre-Election Budget

How Landlords Are Affected By 2015 Pre-Election Budget

During the pre-election budget last week, Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP announced some significant changes that could have a detrimental impact on landlords the UK’s private rental sector (PRS) and residential property owners.

Below are the highlights of the pre-election budget that are of relevance to landlords and property owners:

  • £13 Billion (GBP) sale announced of the mortgages of UKAR – Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley (Mortgage Express) to reduce national debt which followed the bailing out of the banks.
  • Introduction of 20 new housing zones.
  • The economy of the North grew faster than the South during 2014.
  • The UK has the highest rate of employment in its history!
    Employment is growing fastest in the North West, Yorkshire having the biggest employment.
  • Living standards are higher in 2015 than 2010.
  • Inflation forecast downgraded to 0.2%.
  • Low interest rates to be “locked in”.
  • Original target of debt reduction set in 2010 budget has been met.
  • 13 years of rising national debt has now been stopped.
  • UK achieved the largest and most sustained debt reduction of any major economy according to the IMF.
  • Government borrowing is falling.
  • The wealthy are making the biggest contributions to reduce debt.
  • End of austerity in 2019.
  • The annual tax return is to be abolished. New digital tax accounts to be created.
  • The personal tax free allowance has been raised to £10,600 (GBP) and will be raised to £11,000 (GBP) in 2017.
  • The higher rate tax threshold will rise to £43,300 (GBP) by 2018.
  • Class 2 national insurance contributions abolished for self-employed.
  • Stronger measures against tax avoidance and tax evasion.
  • Review of avoidance of inheritance tax through deeds of variation.
  • New penalties for tax evasion and those professionals who assist them.
  • Crime down 20%.

There was some good news contained in the 2015 pre-election budget too:

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UK Rental Properties Must Have EPC Above “Band E” By 2018

UK Rental Properties Must Have EPC Above “Band E” By 2018

Rental Properties Must Have EPC
Above “Band E” By 2018

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) says that from April 2018, UK private rented sector (PRS) landlords will become legally required to raise the energy efficiency of rental properties in the private sector to at least “Band E” in energy efficiency standards.

From April 2016, landlords in the private rented sector (PRS) will also be required to accept reasonable requests from tenants for energy efficiency measures to be installed in rented properties.

EPC formatThis means that hundreds of thousands of landlords with buy-to-let mortgages could be hit with bills of up to £9,000 (GBP) under the new green targets set out to make rental properties more energy efficient.

The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ranks a property’s energy efficiency from A for the most well-insulated and energy-saving properties, to G for the worst.

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Will Your Property Be Affected By Fracking?

Will Your Property Be Affected By Fracking?

Fracking Concerns Ignored By Local Authorities And Government

There is a great deal of speculation and controversy surrounding the latest methods for extracting natural gas from under our feet, a process known as “Fracking” where a toxic mixture of chemicals are pumped into well heads to release gases trapped in the underlying bedrock.

The process is designed to fracture the rock strata, allowing gas to escape and rise to the surface and the controversial method is already being exploited widely in some states in the USA, with alarming results. Minor earth tremors are being caused and ground water is becoming saturated with methane and other flammable gases and some residents living near the remote drilling sites have to rely on bottled supplies to be able to drink and water cattle, however the companies controlling the drilling are happy to pay people off and ignore what they are being told.

Here in the UK, gas companies have identified potential sites that they reckon hold enough natural gas reserves to last for the next 30-40 years, unfortunately these areas are also heavily populated, not like in the USA.

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Green Deal Is A Joke

Green Deal Is A Joke

Bad Business Practices, Long Term Debts, Unqualified assessors – Green Deal getting bad press

The Government heralded the launch of the “Green Deal” in January this year as a groundbreaking flagship initiative that would help struggling families cut energy bills, however, it appears that the general public are 99.9% against the idea.

The intention of the Government was to encourage millions of UK home owners to take out “Green Deal” loans in order to pay for money saving improvements to properties, such as; loft insulation, double glazing, boilers and other energy efficient measures with the aim of cutting a typical family’s energy costs by as much as £50 a month.

The loan would be repaid over an agreed timescale of up to 25 years, but the debt is attached to the property rather than the current owner, which means the debt could be passed on to any new buyer. As a result, property vendors could face demands from prospective buyers to clear any outstanding debt, which could also see them facing a charge or early repayment penalty of up to £6,000 (GBP).

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New EPC Rules In Force From 9th January 2013

New EPC Rules In Force From 9th January 2013

The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) shows the energy efficiency of a property, including any recommendations for improving the energy standards of the property, and it is a legal requirement in the UK that all properties for sale or to let have this certification. 

When letting or selling a property the EPC must be commissioned before any marketing can begin and a physical copy should be obtained within 7 days of the property first being advertised. That gives landlords just a week to instruct an agent, arrange an EPC and begin marketing the property for sale or to let. 

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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.

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

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.”

Energy Performance Certificate

35% of UK Landlords don't know the energy rating of their rental properties

According to research conducted by the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), 17% of UK landlords reckon their rental properties would fail Energy Performance Certification (EPC).

Under the Government’s Green Deal proposals Landlords who own rental properties that fall into the lowest two categories of energy efficiency could be banned from the private rental market.

From 2018, properties with F and G EPC ratings will not be allowed to be let.

35% of UK landlords don’t even know their rental properties EPC rating .

ARLA has called for the UK Government to help landlords to achieve minimum energy efficiency standards, asking for the Landlords Energy Savings Allowance to be extended and for the Government to offer tax relief to landlords for the improvement of PRS rental properties, claiming that it is going to be exceedingly difficult for the majority of UK landlords to find the funds to improve their rental properties.

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.

Legal 4 Landlords have always been on the side of landlords and now offer a wide range of services for UK landlords including Energy Performance Certification (EPC’s)

 

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