Thursday, 31 July 2014

Top 50 Landlords: Celebrating the best of the best

24housing, in association with the Housing Quality Network, is delighted to announce the launch of our quest to find the top 50 landlords for 2014.

This year’s list, which was topped by Home Group in 2013, will be published in the October edition of the magazine and is unique in the sense that it is voted for by housing professionals – and tenants.

To get involved, housing organisations (including housing associations, ALMOs, councils and charities) are invited to nominate themselves, along with two other landlords who they consider to be the best in the business. All we need at this stage is a paragraph in support of each nomination.

The successful top 50 landlords will then be asked to submit supporting evidence to go before a judging panel later in the year. There will then be a public vote to decide the winner from the top 10.

Jon Land, 24housing editor: “Such was the success of last year’s top 50 landlords list, we have decided to do it all over again. Somewhat bizarrely, we’ve already been receiving nominations for 2014 even before we launched it.”

Alistair McIntosh, HQN chief executive and top 50 judge, added: “I’m really looking forward to seeing the applications for these awards this year. The last top 50 showed the wealth of talent across landlords throughout the UK.

“Some of them are doing incredible things to help their tenants through these difficult times. And it was great to watch all the public votes come in. It’s not quite Simon Cowell, but we’re getting there.”

Nominations should be sent to and arrive no later than Monday, 18 August.

Click here to read the original article: "Top 50 Landlords: Celebrating the best of the best"

Monday, 28 July 2014

London least profitable place to be a landlord

Where do you think would be the best region in the UK to be a landlord? If you thought London, you're not alone. This tends to be the area that people assume is the most profitable, largely thanks to the sky-high rents that can be charged, but research has shown that this actually isn't the case at all.

A report published by BM Solutions earlier this week found that the capital boasted one of the lowest rental yields in the country, standing at just 5.7%, compared with the national average of 6.2%. The figure is also noticeably lower than the most profitable regions of the UK – the North West, North East, West Midlands and Wales – all of which commanded average rental yields of 6.4%.

This is despite the fact that void periods have been decreasing in the capital, with just one in five central London landlords experiencing this in the last three months (down 0.7% from the previous quarter). Conversely, the highest incidence of void periods was in the North East and East Midlands where more than two in five landlords experienced it in the last quarter.

Given that voids are fewer and rents are higher, the fact that yields are so much lower in the capital could come as a surprise. But, look a little deeper and it makes a lot of sense.

London rental prices may be high, but the properties themselves cost an equally extortionate amount, meaning landlords in the capital will generally spend far more servicing their properties than elsewhere in the country. Once the likes of mortgage costs have been factored in, it's no wonder that rent is so high – or that yields are so low.

Phil Rickards, of BM Solutions, commented: "London has long been seen as the centre of the rental market, with demand outstripping supply and the shortest void periods. However, for the greatest return, looking further afield may be just as an attractive option with rental yields clearly higher out of the capital."

Another interesting revelation from the study is that demand in the capital isn't as high as some other parts of the country. Tenant demand has increased by just 23% in outer London and 13% in London central, while the South East and Scotland have seen increases of 43% and 42% respectively.

Nonetheless, it doesn't look like rents will fall in the foreseeable future. In fact, 26% of landlords surveyed plan to increase the level of rent commanded in the near-future, by an average of 3.5%. This would mean an additional £25 on the average rent of £715 – and arguably more in London.

But, no matter where you are in the country, it can't be denied that buy-to-let can be profitable. A combination of the right property, the right location and, of course, the right mortgage, can offer the potential of great returns. So, if it's time to get on board, make sure you check out our pick of the top BTL mortgages to see if you could reap the rewards.

Click here to read the original article: "London least profitable place to be a landlord"

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Landlord starts legal fight over £500 licence scheme

A landlord has launched a legal challenge against the council’s borough-wide compulsory licensing scheme. 

Constantinos Regas began proceedings in the Administrative Court two weeks ago for a judicial review of the decision by Enfield Council’s cabinet to introduce the scheme for all private landlords. 

Under the plans, known as additional and selective licensing, private landlords will have to obtain a £500 five-year licence from the council for every property they own. 

In order to secure a licence, landlords have to ensure that sufficient health and safety measures are in place, as well as procedures to deal with antisocial behaviour and environmental crime.

The council believes that drawing up a landlords’ register will also tackle poor standards of housing, overcrowding and missed rubbish collections. 

The rationale was previously challenged by a group of landlords who made deputations to the cabinet after their petition opposing the plans gathered 1,860 signatures – but the scheme was approved in April and the decision was affirmed later that month by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee. 

Mr Regas, who rents out one property, said: “Like anyone applying for a judicial review, I am taking legal action as a last resort. My concerns have been ignored and the council has been uncooperative in providing information. 

“My sole purpose is to ask the Administrative Court to scrutinise the council to make sure that it is not abusing its powers.” 

The landlord is seeking to challenge the evidence on which the cabinet decision was taken, the legitimacy of the consultation process and the terms and conditions on which licences will be issued, which he describes as unreasonable. 

Mr Regas added: “I have repeatedly stated at council meetings that I consider good housing conditions to be a human right – but the idea that a majority of tenants are neighbours from hell or that most landlords are greedy people who rent out ‘beds in sheds’ is not supported by any data.” 

The council has vowed to “vigorously defend” the scheme. A spokeswoman said: “The scheme has been introduced to reduce antisocial behaviour in the borough and the council is vigorously defending the judicial review. It would be prejudicial to disclose the details of the council’s defence at this stage.” 

The first step in the proceedings is for Mr Regas to show that he has a good case and a sufficient interest in the matter. If the court agrees, a judicial review will follow.

Click here to view the original article: "Landlord starts legal fight over £500 licence scheme"

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Of course landlords turn away benefit claimants. Let's move the debate on

The very thing that can make BBC Radio 4's Today programme such an irritating start to the day is also the great skill that keeps democratic governments in power against all the odds – the ability of ministers to listen to a question, then ignore it.

When figures indicating a drop in new houses being built were leaked this week the government response contradicted the evidence. The draft statistics from the Department for Communities and Local Government indicated that housing new-builds will fall by 4% to just 128,000 in 2012-15 – far below the 250,000 that housing experts say we need to keep up with demand and start to tackle our shortage.

When confronted, housing minister Kris Hopkins said: "We inherited a housing market suffering the aftershocks of an unsustainable housing boom, and a planning system that pitted neighbours against developers and built nothing but resentment. Since 2010 we've pulled out all the stops to get Britain building … housing completions are forecast to continue to rise, as is private sector house building."

But that is not what the figures show. Hopkins is burying his head in the sand.

Another favourite ostrich issue for the government is rising rents. In March, the minister stated that private sector rents were rising by just 1.6% a year, 0.1% below inflation. The latest Homelet Rental Index, which surveys private tenants across the UK, indicates that rents have in fact increased by 7.5% in the last 12 months.

We must put a premium on transparency. After a recent furore over Hopkins' comments about housing benefit claimants, the housing minister felt moved to clarify his position this week. It is, according to Hopkins, "perfectly legitimate" for private landlords not to offer tenancies to tenants claiming housing benefit.

This statement confirmed what everybody had thought he said in the first place, and gave critics a second bite at the cherry. Shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds said his comments were "appalling".

Why? Given the regular deployment of smoke and mirrors, we should welcome honesty from ministers, even when – perhaps especially when – we do not like what they say. Because here Hopkins is saying what so many others are quietly thinking.

And he is quite right too: if the government is embracing the spirit of free enterprise in the housing market then it must also accept that a landlord is free to let to whomever he or she would like, as long as the law is not broken.

We might not like the fact, but this is happening across the country. Letting agents still commonly label properties with the outdated term "no DSS". There are some very simple reasons why landlords will not let to housing benefit tenants, including the rules imposed by insurance providers and buy-to-let mortgage lenders, and the antiquated system of payment in arrears for housing support which often leaves benefit-claiming tenants in arrears from the off.

A previous housing minister under the same government, Grant Shapps, insisted that landlords would not leave the housing benefit market just because the local housing allowance is capped under welfare reform. That was wishful thinking verging on the dishonest; what sensible business person would allow their enterprise to operate in an environment where a lid is placed on profit even in a booming market?

It is an uncomfortable truth that, when presented with a choice, many private landlords will not support those in most housing need and will refuse to rent homes to tenants claiming housing benefit. But it is the truth and, in an environment where there is so little political honesty about the state of the housing market, we have to applaud those willing to speak it. We have to deal with the problem, not attack those who expose it.

Click here to read the original article "Of course landlords turn away benefit claimants. Let's move the debate on"

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Another Council to Introduce Mandatory Licencing for all Landlords

ROGUE landlords who fail to provide decent homes for their tenants are to be the targets of a new council licensing scheme.

The drive to provide better and more secure accommodation for private tenants was a key part of the Labour council's manifesto for May's elections.

And Cabinet member for homes and regeneration Alison Butler, said this week the rapid move towards introducing the licensing regime was part of the council's commitment to meet that pledge.

The proposals are expected to get approval at Monday's Cabinet meeting and will then go out to consultation with landlords, tenants and residents.

But they have come under fire from Councillor Dudley Mead, the shadow Cabinet member for homes and regeneration, who claimed it would not work.

The scheme will require all landlords to be registered with the council, obtaining a licence which is likely to cost about £1,000 for a five-year period.

To gain a licence landlords will have to demonstrate they have met a series of health and safety standards and there will also be stringent checks to find out whether they have any criminal convictions. Landlords renting out properties without a licence could face fines of up to £20,000, while those failing to comply with licence conditions can be prosecuted and fined up to £5,000.

Cllr Butler said private sector tenants in Croydon now exceeded the number of social tenants and it was vital they were protected. The council estimates there are about 30,000 privately rented properties in the borough.

In the last four years the number of complaints received by the council about private rented housing standards have more than doubled from 630 in 2010/11 to 1,371 in 2013/14.

Cllr Butler said: "There is big reluctance by some tenants to report these problems to the council because they are worried about losing their homes."

The council hopes the scheme will make it easier for concerns to be raised and dealt with.

Cllr Butler said: "We will be sending out the message to landlords that if you want to rent out a property in Croydon it has to be of a decent standard and you have to take responsibility for your tenants."

Cllr Butler also maintained there were advantages for landlords because if standards were driven up Croydon would become recognised as a place where private tenants were looked after, making renting here more attractive.

She said: "There may be reluctance from some landlords to join the scheme but during the consultation if constructive suggestions are offered, we will look at them."

Cllr Mead said: "What Labour are doing is trying to make a business out of this.

"All the good, honest and straightforward landlords in the town will pay up but those who are under the radar and running things like beds in sheds are not going to be caught. It won't solve problems."

Click here to read the original article: "Another Council to Introduce Mandatory Licencing for all Landlords"

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Government updates information for landlords about Universal Credit

The Government has updated it’s guidance documents on Universal Credit and Rented Housing.

This updates information that was originally published in January and provides private and social sector landlords and tenants with current information about Universal Credit.

Please click on this link for more information