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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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Even MP's Think Landlord Immigration Checks Are Unworkable

Even MP’s Think Landlord Immigration Checks Are Unworkable

MP’s Question Immigration Checks By Landlords

The Governments plan to make private rented sector (PRS) and social housing landlords legally responsible for checking the immigration status of all tenant applicants has raised questions on the policy from MP’s.

The proposal to make landlords perform immigration checks on tenants and prosecute those who fail to comply has caused outrage among UK PRS landlords, who would be expected to be doing the UK Border Agency’s work without payment.

Following the outline of the new proposals, Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, a former housing minister, told the House of Commons during a lively debate on the Queens speech that landlords performing immigration checks on tenants would be unworkable, stating that: “The Government cannot tell us how their policy will be enforced, because they do not know who the landlords are and they will not have a statutory register.”

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Direct Payment Of Universal Credit Can Be Made To Landlords with Tenants in Arrears

Direct Payment Of Universal Credit Can Be Made To Landlords with Tenants in Arrears

The Government’s change of policy will now allow automatic direct payments of housing benefit to landlords providing the tenant is more than 8 weeks in arrears.

The government rethink has been welcomed by the Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) and all UK landlords who house tenants in receipt of housing benefit.

Yesterday was the day the Government’s first flagship universal credit pilot scheme went live in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, and a circular to all housing benefit staff revealed that automatic direct payments to landlords will now be allowed in the pathfinder areas.

The policy change was tucked away on the last page of an obscure circular published by the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) yesterday. Universal credit expert and RLA trainer, Bill Irvine, spotted it and immediately informed the RLA.

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Yet another local authority has set its sights on compulsory landlord licensing for every privately owned rental property within its boundaries. 

Liverpool City Council Want Landlord Licensing To Become Mandatory

Liverpool City Council Want Landlord Licensing To Become Mandatory

Liverpool City Council is the second local authority in the UK to launch a consultation for the introduction of a citywide landlord licensing scheme affecting over 50,000 properties.

The controversial move towards mandatory licensing of all private landlords follows that of Newham, in London, which became the first council in England to introduce mandatory licensing of all private rental properties on January 1st.

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Landlords In Salford Face Selective Licensing

Landlords In Salford Face Selective Licensing

The City of Salford local authority (my local council), have finally approved proposals for a selective licensing scheme for landlords in another 3 areas within their region, these are the areas of Langworthy, Weaste and Seedley.

The areas outlined in the plan are currently undergoing some regeneration as historic churches are flattened along with the former home of Salford Reds rugby ground and entertainment venue, The Willows. New homes are currently being built on former brownfield sites within the area, that is just 5 minutes walk from the new home of the BBC at Media City.

Despite delaying the decision for over month, to consider outcomes and exit strategies, the scheme was finally approved, although it remains unclear if the objectives for the scheme are actually in place.

Instead, Salford promised to implement a number of discounts for compliant landlords and establish an engagement group which will supposedly meet to support the effective implementation of the scheme and shape its development.

The decision by Salford comes just a few weeks after the local authority revealed that the previous pilot scheme, which lapsed in May 2012, had lost £239,533 (GBP) during its five-year cycle; with further undisclosed costs for senior management support, enforcement action and Land Registry searches.

During the same period, Salford refused just five landlord licences, and revoked a further 73 landlord licences.

However, the local authority refused to say on what grounds the landlord licences had been revoked, and whether or not this figure included individuals who had simply sold their rental properties and left the private rented sector (PRS).

Chris Town, vice chairman of the Residential Landlords’ Association responded to Salford’s selective licensing decision,saying “The RLA is extremely disappointed with this decision. We are not satisfied that there is a strong case for this selective licensing scheme. Other local authorities such as Manchester, Leeds and Bournemouth have rejected selective licensing and are now looking at alternative methods of raising housing standards, particularly greater promotion of accreditation schemes and improved enforcement. Selective licensing simply does not work and is the legislative equivalent of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

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Welfare Reforms Deny LHA access To Housing

Welfare Reforms Deny LHA access To Housing

The Government’s sweeping welfare reforms are severely limiting the ability of young people to access affordable rental properties in the UK Private Rented Sector (PRS), according to a recent survey published by a homeless organisation.

The public survey published by Homeless Link, confirmed the findings of a landlord survey, conducted by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL).

The survey revealed that 65% of all UK local authorities had reported a negative impact on the ability of young people to access affordable shared (HMO) private rented sector (PRS) accommodation.

In January 2012, changes made by Government ministers increased the age at which housing benefit claimants could claim only for a room in shared housing from age 25 to age 35.

This simple change affected over 1.3 Million private rented sector (PRS) tenants aged between 25 and 34.

Over 35 local authorities across the country have either adopted, or are considering adopting, planning powers to restrict the growth of such properties by preventing residential properties being converted to shared properties for rent, (HMO’s).

The survey by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) of over 1,000 landlords found that 55% of respondent said that there were not enough shared properties to cope with the Government’s welfare reforms.

Richard Jones, RLA policy director said, “As Ministers in Whitehall implement welfare reforms which will see an increase in demand for shared housing, councillors in town halls across the country are using planning powers to restrict their growth. It is clear that the left arm of central government and the right arm of local government don’t know what each is doing. Faced with such contradictions, the RLA is calling on councils to support the desperate need for new shared housing and lift restrictions on their growth completely.”

Over 35 local authorities across the country are either adopting or have adopted what are known as Article 4 Directions.

Available since 2010, these powers enable a council to require planning permission to be obtained by the property owner to convert a property from a private residential home to a shared house for rent, (HMO).

In reality many local authorities are using it to restrict the growth of the Private Rented Sector within their remit, often under pressure from a small, vocal group of residents in any given area.

Universal Credit will not work say landlords

Private landlords have already rejected the Government’s welfare reform plans for housing benefit, before that have even been implemented, stating that there will not be enough private rented sector (PRS) properties available to rent.

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Landlords Urged Not To Discriminate Against Benefit Tenants

According to fresh research from the National Housing Federation, (NHF) there has been a 417,830 rise in the number of social (council) housing tenants over the past three years.

It has coincided with a significant decline in the number of landlords willing to let properties to tenants receiving housing benefit following the Government’s welfare reform and cuts to Local Housing Allowances (LHA), paid to tenants in private rented sector (PRS) accommodation.

Both the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and the National Landlords Association (NLA) have already reported that many landlords have already withdrawn from the LHA market or are planning to do so.

This is a short sighted knee-jerk reaction as landlords fear losing out on healthy rental returns if they are housing tenants claiming housing benefit.

The LHA rate may have been capped but the government insist that such measures are necessary to help preserve the economy of the UK. Landlords can ask tenant’s to pay top up’s on their monthly rental which could come from the (up to) £25,000 worth of other benefits claimed by families.

It is almost as though the current Con-Dem coalition Government want to put private rented sector landlords out of business by squeezing from both ends, the difficulty in obtaining mortgages or even being able to re-mortgage and limiting the pool of potential tenants to only those who are employed earning enough to be able to afford to buy property themselves.

Is it the government’s big idea to get all benefit tenants to only live in social housing?

If that’s so then why continue to sell off social housing stock when there is already a national housing shortage?

Are all departments within government mute, or just stupid, do they not share information with each other?

Private sector landlords are in danger of being put out of business by the Government, we need to do something about it!

 

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UK Landlords Need More Finance To Expand Rental Property Portfolio's

UK Landlords Need More Finance To Expand Rental Property Portfolio’s

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) have discovered that finance for landlords is woefully inadequate with almost 50% of UK landlords struggling to get additional mortgages, remortgage or even obtain more finance.

The RLA asked its members about obtaining further finance to expand their rental property portfolios

  • 24.1% found it very difficult to get a Buy-To-Let mortgage
  • 21.3% said it was impossible for them to obtain a Buy-To-Let mortgage.

The Residential Landlords Association findings about finance for landlords comes as the UK Government seeks to boost support for the private rented sector following the recent publication of the Montague Review.

The RLA have also stated that biggest challenge ahead of Mark Prisk, the new Government Housing Minister, will be to unlock enough financial support from banks to help small scale landlords expand their businesses.

The RLA have also voiced concerns about higher rents in the PRS caused by the unprecedented demand for rental property and the current shortage of supply. Additionally, the reluctance to lend by banks is also severely hampering the ability for the private rented sector to grow to meet the housing needs of young people and their families.

RLA Chairman, Alan Ward, said: “We welcome the Government’s renewed commitment and interest in the opportunities that the Private Rented Sector can play in meeting the country’s housing needs. However, this will not happen without financing from the banks. It is time that the blame game for the difficulties in accessing finance between Government and the banks came to an end for the sake of those desperate for a roof over their heads.”

Finance 4 Landlords specialise in Buy-to-Let Mortgages and Remortgages, Landlords Insurance, Rent Guarantees, HMO Finance and Bridging Loans.

Great Mortgage Deals for Landlords

Great Mortgage Deals for Landlords

A request sent by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) using a Freedom of Information request about bad landlords has so far been ignored by Newham Council

The London borough are the first local authority in England who intend to bring in the blanket licensing of all private rental properties within its boundaries is unable to tell the RLA how many prosecutions it has brought against private landlords over the last five years.

The Residential Landlords Association made a Freedom of Information request, and described the response from Newham Council in London as ‘pitiful’.

The RLA said it was staggered that the authority, which requires all private rental property to be licensed by January 1, did not have the information to hand.

Newham insists that it is bringing in blanket licensing because it has identified problems of poor property and tenancy management.

The council said it was unable to “… provide accurate historical reports on the number of prosecutions against landlords for the last five years”.

It went on to blame “a change in recording procedures last year and a change in computerised systems for reporting purposes” for its failure to provide the figures. It said that to produce the figures would require an officer to manually interrogate all files.

Newham could only produce figures for 2011/12. These show that the council prosecuted 31 landlords.

The RLA has repeated its call for the council to abandon its plans for blanket licensing, and to use existing legislation to actively pursue and prosecute criminal landlords.

Licences applied for now will cost £150 and last five years. After January 1, the cost will rise to £500.

Licensing would usually be the responsibility of the landlord, but could also fall into the remit of the managing agent. Failure to license could mean fines of up to £20,000, and the council could seek a rent repayment order for up to 12 months of rental income. It will also not be possible to use the S.21 procedure for possession if a property has not been licensed.

The homeless charity, Shelter, has also called on all other local authorities to follow Newham Council’s lead, but they are already facing criticism over their blanket Rogue Landlord campaign.

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