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Rent Control Argument Rages On

Rent Control Argument Rages On

Most Tenants Would Support Rent Controls

The majority of tenants renting property in the UK’s private rented sector (PRS) would support the introduction of rent controls if they were introduced according to data gathered by a Manchester based letting agent.

The research was conducted by Geo Property Lettings through a number of industry related websites and social media profiles over a 3 month period. The survey discovered that 77% of tenants in the UK private rented sector would support the introduction of rent controls should the Government decide to implement such a scheme. Only 5% of tenants were opposed to the introduction of rent control whilst 18% of tenants expressed no opinion either way.

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UK landlords are societies new favourite target for criticism

UK landlords are societies new favourite target for criticism

Everyone Appears To Be Taking A Pop At Landlords

I don’t think I am becoming paranoid but have you noticed that public attitude towards landlords has changed over the last couple of years?
I know opinion can be like the property cycle and generally rolls around, but have you spotted a few subtle and not so subtle digs being aimed at our profession?

Targeting the private rental sector and the landlords who provide tenants with much needed housing used to be the reserve of newspapers such as the Daily Mail, but now the derision is much more widespread.

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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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Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Alarm Legislation Warning

Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Alarm Legislation Warning

New Smoke And Carbon Monoxide
Alarm Legislation 
Comes Into Force
On 1st October

On October 1st 2015 the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations are supposed to come into force meaning that landlords or their appointed lettings and property managing agents must install a smoke alarm on every floor of a rental property used for accommodation and fit Carbon Monoxide alarms in any room that contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance, and all alarms should be in good working order.

However, there are calls for this legislation to be delayed due to lack of notice and ambiguity of the actual legislation.

The introduction of the new legislation is intended to save lives, we are already aware of the dangers that a potential fire in a residential rented property can cause, however, many landlords remain oblivious to the danger posed by Carbon Monoxide.

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Right To Rent Immigration Checks Making PRS Landlords Over Cautious

Right To Rent Immigration Checks Making PRS Landlords Over Cautious

Lawful Tenants Refused Rental Properties
Because Of Right To Rent Immigration Checks

Right to Rent immigration checks could cause more UK private rented sector (PRS) landlords to refuse tenancy applications from lawful tenants because they are over cautious about letting to tenants with foreign accents and names or have unfamiliar identity documents.

According to the Residential Landlords Association, (RLA), the complexity of the Government’s plans to turn landlords into unpaid Border Agency staff could see lawful tenants being refused housing.

The warning comes as new research by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) indicates the difficulties caused by the Government’s Right to Rent scheme, originally piloted in the West Midlands, concluding that UK PRS landlords Right to Rent checks have resulted in discrimination against tenants who appear “foreign”.

The JCWI research discovered that:

  • 42% of landlords were less likely to consider tenant applications from someone who did not have a British passport,
  • 27% of landlords were reluctant to engage with tenancy applications from people with foreign accents or names

Under the new immigration bill, PRS landlords are set to be legally responsible for checking the immigration status of tenants. Following the pilot scheme in the West Midlands, the Government recently announced that the immigration checks by landlords would be expanded nationwide, with landlords facing up to five years in prison for failure to undertake the Right to Rent checks.

Residential Landlords Association policy director, David Smith, said: “Whilst the RLA opposes discrimination against tenants because of their race or nationality, the Government’s plans are causing confusion and anxiety for many landlords. If the Government expect landlords to act as border police it should provide the training and material needed to give them the confidence to carry out the checks required of them. In the absence of such support, today’s research sadly shows the inevitable consequences of the policy which the RLA has long voiced concerns about. Faced with considerable sanctions, landlords will inevitably play it safe where a tenant’s identity documents are either unclear or simply not known to them. It is concerning that the Government remains committed to rolling out the Right to Rent policy nationwide without first publishing its assessment of the impact it has had in its own pilot area. Ministers should halt plans to proceed with its rollout to allow time for proper scrutiny and consideration of the impact it is likely to have.”

The research by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants comes before the publication of the Home Office’s own assessment of the Right to Rent pilot scheme detailing its level of effectiveness.

There seems to be a huge communication breakdown somewhere, we as landlords are now unpaid members of the UK Border Agency, like it or not, we mustn’t discriminate against any tenant applicant because it is an “ism” and can be punished by imprisonment and a large fine, however, if we house someone in need, we leave ourselves open to prosecution and a large fine. If we act in a professional manner, we are accused of not caring, but if we have too much contact with tenants we are seen as overbearing and interfering. If we spend money on properties we are seen as rich money grabbers that are open to exploitation and if we don’t spend vast amounts to correct damage caused by tenant lifestyles as and when tenants demand then we are called tight and heartless. Homeless charities want the UK PRS closed down, the Government want as much of our profits as they can get their hands on and the media think we are all descendants of Rachman and Rigsby – How is the system supposed to work?

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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Landlords Outraged At Right To Rent Prison Threat

Landlords Outraged At Right To Rent Prison Threat

Landlords Outraged At
Right To Rent Prison Threat 

Private rental sector landlords and letting agents have expressed outrage over proposed amendments to the forthcoming Immigration Bill (2015) expected to be introduced in September, when MPs return from their summer break.

Section 20 – 37 of the Immigration Act 2014 contained the provision to make it compulsory for landlords to check the immigration status of all new adult tenants. Now officials want to enforce the measures, in order to strengthen their grip on the private rental sector (PRS).

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Landlords Face Tougher Penalties Under Immigration Bill Proposals

Landlords Face Tougher Penalties Under Immigration Bill Proposals

Landlords Must Evict Illegal Immigrants Or Face Prison Under New Immigration Bill Proposals

It has been announced that UK private rented sector (PRS) landlords could face a 5 year prison sentence if they fail to conduct proper ‘Right to Rent’ checks included in new Government proposals for the Immigration Bill

The proposed changes to legislation will require PRS landlords to verify the immigration status of all prospective tenant applicants, before tenancies are agreed. Any landlord who repeatedly fails to conduct these checks would be in breach of a new offence, carrying maximum penalties of five years’ imprisonment or a fine.

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Landlords Could Be Taxed Out Of The Market

Landlords Could Be Taxed Out Of The Market

Conservatives Set About Raising Increased
Tax Revenue From Landlords

Before the general election the Conservatives were the only political party to not openly target landlords and property investors with manifesto rhetoric, making them the property professional’s choice for power.

Even before the budget statement was delivered by Mr Osborne, there was plenty of press coverage about the generous tax treatment enjoyed by private rental sector (PRS) landlords and buy to let property investors.

So it was of little surprise that the Chancellor chose to turn to the private rental sector in order to raise some additional revenue for the government.

Conservatives Vowed To Leave PRS Landlords AloneSpotlight predicted that this would happen after the Conservatives were elected, and this year’s summer budget could be just the tip of the iceberg.

George Osborne before the  summer 2015 budget announcement George Osborne’s post election Budget announcement, made earlier in July, contained two  important changes to buy-to-let taxation that will impact on portfolio landlords and higher rate  tax payers.

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Budget Targets Landlords

Budget Targets Landlords

Was The Budget Really That Much Of A Surprise?

The first Conservative budget for 20 years was expected to be good for Britain; however, the reality was not what many landlords wanted to hear.

The decision to target private rental sector landlords and property investors wasn’t too much of a surprise, as the Government can plainly see where the profits are being made and they, like all the rest of the political parties, want a slice.

On the run up to the general election in May 2015 every other political party openly stated that they intended to target landlords, whilst the conservatives remained quiet, prompting a few political commentators to predict that policies would be introduced surreptitiously that would effectively put money into Government coffers.

That’s exactly what we got last week!

The key points that affect landlords from George Osborne’s budget statement include:

Benefit Cap Lowered To £20,000 (GBP)

The total amount of benefits a family can receive over the course of a year has been reduced from £26,000 (GBP) to £20,000 (GBP) – (£23,000 in London).

This is a particular concern for landlords as any loss of income from the reduced benefit cap will hit tenants’ housing benefit first.

Many private rental sector landlords are now worried about increased rent arrears and the probability that many areas of the UK will become unaffordable for large families to live in.

The Government have said that they will allocate £800 Million (GBP) of discretionary housing payments for councils to help affected tenants.

Housing Benefit Abolished For Under-21s

From April 2017 the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18- to 21-year-olds will be scrapped for new claimants.

Exceptions will be made for vulnerable young people, including those unable to return to their family home and claimants who were in work for six months prior to making a claim.

Working-Age Benefits Frozen For Four Years

The freeze means Local Housing Allowance (LHA) will fall further behind inflation as the chancellor seeks to stop the housing benefit bill soaring with increasing rents.

Buy To Let Landlord Mortgage Relief Cut

In a £2bn tax bombshell, from April 2017 landlords will no longer be able to claim tax reliefs worth 40% or 45% of the interest payments on their buy-to-let mortgages. Instead, the maximum tax relief will be set at 20%, although the change will be introduced over a four-year period.

Effectively it looks as though 40%/45% taxpayers will only get around half of their mortgage interest (and arrangement fees) offset against their rental income.

20% taxpayers shouldn’t see much change as all mortgage relief will be limited to the basic rate of income tax.

The effect of this will be staged meaning that

  • 25% of this extra tax will be payable on profits made in the April 2017 – April 2018 tax year,
  • 50% in April 2018 – April 2019,
  • 75% in April 2019 – April 2020
  • 100% in April 2020 – April 2021 meaning that the full effect of this change won’t be felt until the January 2022 personal tax bill is due.

Despite the staged introduction many PRS landlords have warned that this could see costs passed on to tenants in the form of higher rents.

Wear And Tear Allowance Tightened

Landlords will have to prove they have improved or maintained their rental property before they can deduct the costs from their taxed profits.

Currently, landlords can deduct 10% of the rent from their profits to account for wear and tear regardless of whether they have improved the property or not.

From April 2016 this is set to be replaced by a new system that only allows landlords to get tax relief when they replace furnishings.

Changes To Non-Domicile Rules

This change in entitlement could affect property investment and buy to let, particularly in London as people born in the UK to parents domiciled here will not be able to inherit non-dom status and people will not be able to have permanent non-dom status.

Anyone resident in the UK for 15 of the last 20 years will have to pay full UK tax.

Rent A Room Tax Free Income Threshold Raised

After 18 years, the Rent A Room tax free income threshold is being raised to £7,000 (GBP) per year. There are an estimated 19 million empty bedrooms in owner-occupied properties in England alone. Freeing up just 5% of those rooms would accommodate 1 million people. This move will also fuel the growth in short, informal lets such as the type offered by Airbnb and the like.

The tax reliefs that have been cut by Mr Osborne were hugely important for landlords in being able to offset other astronomic property costs such as lettings agent fees, landlord insurance, maintenance and repairs costs, as well as council tax.

It is still early days and we need to see how HMRC will implement some of these changes, because they may also try to find additional ways to stop property investors and landlords from profiting from property, however, there are ways to get around some of the changes introduced, including:

Tax Relief

Limited (Ltd) companies appear to be excluded from the mortgage relief cuts meaning that property investors and landlords could potentially look to purchase their future investment properties through Ltd companies.

Buy To Let mortgage lenders could become more open to this method of purchasing properties similar to the way that commercial lenders already facilitate.

Landlords who already own properties personally or in a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) may want to transfer them to a Limited (Ltd) company; however, they will be subject to capital gains tax and stamp duty.

An alternative method to transfer property ownership whilst retaining the current mortgage would be by using a deed of trust, which would transfer the beneficial ownership to a Ltd company. A good solicitor can draw one of these up for you.

Property investors and landlords could also switch their focus slightly and purchase more properties that need refurbishments.

As long as the property is in a habitable condition when purchased but still needs redecoration and comes into the lettings market before the refurb is done, most repairs such as kitchens, bathrooms, paint etc can be offset against all property income from a whole rental portfolio.

Bird_OldLadyWe will always try to keep our sector alive and rents affordable as we are providing services to people who need them, we don’t set out to rip people off, we’re not politicians, we are the ones who take the financial risks, we’re the people who provide housing and it’s our name on the deeds not yours.

You see Mr Osborne, whilst you may think that you are being clever and are tapping in to wealth generated by other people’s hard work and risk taking, well, we as landlords won’t be beaten!

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