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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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ARLA Calls For Rental Regulation In England

ARLA Calls For Rental Regulation In England

Government Urged To Rethink PRS Regulation

The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) wants the Government to bring England in line with the rest of the UK by calling for greater regulation of the private rental sector to better protect tenants.

ARLA argues that tenants in England could soon be less well protected than their Scottish and Welsh counterparts, due to the delay by the Government to introduce laws allowing for better regulation of the lettings industry.

According to data released by ARLA, 36% of all households in England are in private sector rented accommodation and the lack of regulation of the Private Rental Sector (PRS) is fast becoming an issue that affects more of the population than ever before.

The Scottish government reviewed its strategy for the PRS on the 30th May, while the Welsh government is set to introduce a Housing Bill legislating for a compulsory licensing scheme for all letting agents in Wales, as well as a code of practice, before the end of the 2012/13 Assembly term.

The announcements by Scottish and Welsh parliaments are in stark contrast with the current UK Government’s stance of opposition to regulation of the Private Rental Sector because of an apparent fear that landlords will become bogged down and put off by having to wade through a mountain of red tape.

On the surface this seems incredibly thoughtful of the Government, however, it is not to be forgotten that they also intend for all landlords to become unpaid agents for the UK Border Agency policing the immigration status of all tenants. No matter how watered down that proposal becomes the intent of those in power was made clear – to tap into powerful resources to save themselves money. It does make you wonder if the reluctance for regulation is simply because the Government can’t find a way to financially benefit from introducing new regulatory legislation at this current time.

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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.

Tenants attempt to negotiate PRS rental prices

Tenants attempt to negotiate PRS rental prices

More working tenants are attempting to renegotiate with their landlords to try to get their property rents reduced. Many tenants are increasingly struggling to pay their rents on time due to mounting financial pressures, leading to calls from specialists within the lettings industry for more Rent Guarantee insurance products.

41.2% of members surveyed by the Association of Letting Agents (ARLA), reported an increase in the number of tenants struggling to meet their rent payments to their landlords in the six months up to March 2012.

Legal 4 Landlords Spokesman Sim Sekhon, said: “With financial pressures mounting on both tenants and landlords, there has never been a greater need for landlords to thoroughly tenant reference all prospective applicants and attempt to secure their rental income, that’s why we developed our market leading Rent Guarantee Insurance for Buy To Let landlords”.

ARLA operations manager, Ian Potter, said: “With unemployment predicted to rise and average rents also increasing in some parts of the country, it seems more and more tenants are finding it impossible to make ends meet. It is likely that the same is happening for landlords, who may find their mortgage rate is rising. At worst, this double whammy may result in landlords defaulting on mortgages and tenants being forced to move out of a property.”

Reluctant landlords making the wrong choices when it comes to insurance

Don't be Confused Over Landlord Insurance

An increasing number of private residential properties are being rented out to tenants because the owners have moved out but found it difficult to sell the property on the open market. The rise in “reluctant” or “accidental” landlords has caused ripples of concern within the UK lettings industry.

In fact, according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), increasing numbers of property vendors are either forced into or choosing to rent out homes they cannot sell in order to avoid financial ruin, in fact 47% of ARLA members experienced movement of this nature in the final quarter of 2011.

ARLA operations manager, Ian Potter said: “Renting a property on a short term basis can be a good option for anyone who has found a buyer for their home, but who have not found the right property to buy themselves. The approach would also suit individuals considering a move to a new area who would like to test the water before committing to anything final”.

Many UK property owners are facing this position as the UK property sales market remains sluggish despite the recent rally in property prices due to the end of the stamp duty holiday. However many property owners are getting it wrong when it comes to getting the right sort of insurance cover.

Property vendors move out of the property and on to pastures new but are unable to sell the property and attempt to get it rented out in order to reduce their financial burden. In doing so new landlords often decide to cut corners and attempt to save money in the wrong areas in a bid to reduce their financial stress, with potentially disastrous consequences if they decide to scrimp on insurance costs and don’t choose specialist landlord insurance, but they only discover that they are not covered when the worst has already happened, compounding their misery.

Legal 4 Landlords spokesman Sim Sekhon said: “When renting out property there are factors that many people don’t take into consideration and even take for granted, such as insurance or making sure the rent will be paid on time, every time. New landlords need to educate themselves on their responsibilities, the demands and expectations of tenants in the current rental market as well as complying with government and safety legislation. It can be a tough world for the inexperienced but the specialist products and services offered by Legal 4 Landlords enable landlords and letting agents to protect their rental assets, including landlord and Buy to let insurance”.

Landlords are advised to check that they have the correct insurance cover for their rental properties and it may also be a requirement of the mortgage company to provide a copy of the policy document.

The Property Ombudsman’s 2011 report, released last week, has shown a large increase in the number of complaints made against UK letting agents managing residential Buy To Let (BTL) properties in the Private Rented Sector, (PRS). .

The Association of Residential Letting Agents, (ARLA) have backed the UK Property Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer, in his call for proper regulation of the UK letting agency industry.

Mr Hamer’s report noted the need for a dedicated council that promotes the importance of using letting agents that are recognised members of either ARLA or the Property Ombudsman Scheme.

However, ARLA want legislation be put in place which demands the registration and licensing of all UK letting agents.

ARLA Operations Manager, Ian Potter, said “As an organisation that strives to achieve the best possible standards within the private rented sector, we are disappointed to see a rise in lettings complaints over the past year. That said, it comes as very little surprise given there is no national regulation in place to stop rogue agents setting up shop and taking advantage of what is a fragile market, 26% of complaints were against agents who did not belong to an Ombudsman scheme.”

Mr Potter then went on to recommend that tenants looking to enter into agreements with letting agents should, for their own protection, ensure they are members of the Property Ombudsman Scheme at the very least.

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