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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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Controvesial Universal Credit Needs

To Be Given A Chance Landlords Told

Landlords Urged To Give Universal Credit A Chance

Landlords Urged To Give Universal Credit A Chance

Few systems have caused as much controversy before even being launched as the government’s universal credit. It draws together all welfare claims into a single monthly payment, like a salary, so will undoubtedly change the financial landscape for landlords and tenants – yet it has the potential to improve the claims process for all involved.

One of the big benefits of the system – if implemented correctly – is that claims will be processed online and in real time.

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The UK government have submitted new proposals that recommend Buy To Let landlords and home owners who apply for permission to make repairs and improvements to their properties are encouraged to make additional improvements at the same time as other ongoing works in a bid to make properties greener.

However the proposals fail to fully account for where the UK PRS landlords are expected to find the money for such extra improvements or even if such improvements will prove to be beneficial to tenants.

Conservative MP Tim Yeo said “The new proposals will effectively force landlords to complete non-essential improvements aimed at improving energy efficiency at the same time as they make minor repairs or improvements to their rental properties. If they refuse they could be denied permission to make essential repairs by their local council.”

It is also widely thought that the UK coalition government want to introduce a scheme that means all property repairs, such as the installation of a new boiler or central heating system, are logged with the council.
The council will then ‘recommend’ additional improvements, such as new double glazing or loft insulation that will also need to be carried out in order to get permission for the boiler installation.

The proposed costs of the ‘recommended’ improvements could be offset using the new government Green Deal scheme due to be launched in October 2012.

Mr Yeo commented on the proposals saying; “You’ve got to find ways of making the public more enthusiastic about energy efficiency and I think compelling people who have applied for planning consent to make some alteration to their home isn’t necessarily going to help.”

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.”

Council tenants in England who sub-let their homes could now face up to 2 years in prison under the coalition government’s new proposals.

The government plans would see the creation of a new criminal offence “Tenancy Fraud”, with a fine of up to £50,000 also possible.

UK Government officials estimate that up to 160,000 tenants sub-let their council homes to other people at cost of £5 Billion a year to the taxpayer.

Grant Shapps, the UK’s Government Housing Minister said: “Tenancy cheats are taking advantage of a vital support system for some of the most vulnerable people in our society and getting away with a slap on the wrist while our waiting lists continue to grow. It’s time for these swindlers to pay the price. It would cost us billions of pounds to replace the huge number of unlawfully occupied social homes across the country. Meanwhile tenancy cheats can earn thousands of pounds letting out their property, which was given to them in good faith and which could instead be offering a stable home to a family in need. The proposals I’ve announced today would not only deliver justice to these fraudsters but will also act as a deterrent to those who think they can earn a fast buck from this precious resource. I want everyone to know that our country’s social homes are going to those in genuine need, not providing a ‘nice little earner’ to someone who could afford to live elsewhere.”

Local councils would also receive more powers to investigate fraud, including better access to information from banks and utility companies.

Ministers are putting the proposals forward for consultation.

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Government Welfare Reforms Stumble

Government Welfare Reforms Stumble

The UK Coalition Government plans to cap benefits will still be fully implemented despite the parliamentary defeat in the House of Lords on Monday this week.
A defeat that saw 26 Lib-Dem peers rebel against the Government’s wishes.

Although, the Government have admitted that whilst disappointed by the result, they still intend to push through the plans for welfare reform in full.

The plans have caused deep unease in the Lords and prompted a number of Church of England bishops to launch a bid for the reforms to be curbed, backed by a majority of 15.

Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Right Reverend John Packer introduced the amendment and following its success, said: “It cannot be right for the cap to be the same for a childless couple as for a couple with children. Child benefit is the most appropriate way to right this unfairness.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith led the Government’s call for all benefit payments limited to a maximum £26,000 a year per household, claiming that it will save approximately £600 Million (GBP) towards the UK’s multi Billion pound economic deficit.

Lord Paddy Ashdown joined 25 other Lib Dem peers voting for child benefit to be excluded from the cap calculations. The former party leader, previously a loyal supporter of the Government, said that as president of the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF, he was not prepared to back the Government’s plans in their current form, denouncing them as “completely unacceptable”.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has stated that he fully supports the Governments changes to the welfare benefit system, despite the rebellious divisions from within the Lib-Dem ranks.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman said: “There has to be a limit on the amount of money benefit claimants can receive. We think that limit is set at a fair rate of £26k – the equivalent to someone earning £35,000 before tax, a salary that many working families would be happy to receive.”

Around 67,000 families will lose £83 a week under the cap, which is due to be brought in from 2013 in England, Scotland and Wales.

It is expected that the welfare reforms will result in many families currently claiming housing benefit facing mounting financial pressures and even eviction from their homes, if they are unable to pay the rent.

If UK landlords do find themselves in the unenviable position of chasing bad debts or rent recovery, or if the worst happens, having to evict defaulting tenants then they should use the services of a reputable eviction specialist such as Legal 4 Landlords, to save effort, money, time and stress.

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UK Bailiffs Christmas Holidays

UK Bailiff Seasonal Amnesty

A seasonal reminder to landlords and letting agents that Bailiff Amnesty’s will begin around 12th December 2011 to the 9th January 2011. Please check your local County Court for more details.

 The amnesty, which is not widely publicised, is implemented due to local authority offices, solicitors, courts and housing welfare organisations festive holiday closures.

Unfortunately for landlords, the festive season of good cheer can be one of the costliest periods due to an increase in rent arrears, especially from LHA tenants.

 Up to the end of 2010, there were 995,000 LHA tenancies and rent arrears in this sector were thought to be in excess of £290 Million (GBP).

This year research indicates that there are now over 1Million LHA tenancies and with more changes to the Government’s Welfare Reform Bill due to be implemented on 1st January 2012, rent arrears are expected to increase further.

 Landlords are urged to act fast when dealing with defaulting tenants, especially at Christmas as courts experience backlogs of paperwork and hearings in the New Year.

Speak to your local office now or call our free phone help line – 0800 840 7133

 Legal 4 Landlords Eviction and Rent Recovery Services

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