Wednesday, 29 October 2014

8,000 private landlords apply for licences under new rules

Thousands of landlords have applied for licences under tough new rules that could land them with a £20,000 fine for renting out homes in bad condition.

The Private Rented Licensing Scheme was introduced by the council on September 1 to tackle anti-social behaviour and poor conditions in private housing. 

Nearly eight weeks on, more than 8,000 landlords have applied for licences, who own about half the borough’s private housing.

Landlords who fail to obtain licences could be fined up to £20,000 or even have their properties seized. 

“We needed a better regulated private sector,” said Robin Payne, the council’s divisional director of environmental services, “and decided licensing was something we should consider.”

8,000 - Landlords have applied for licences

76% - private tenants support borough-wide licences

£20,000 - fine landlords face if they fail to get a licence

41% - of private homes had a category one ‘hazard’

£514,748 - Council bill for anti-social behaviour

Inspections found a number of cases of sub-standard housing and problems to do with anti-social behaviour, litter, noise and incorrect gas certificates. 

Mr Payne said more than 40 per cent had “a hazard that would constitute an actual risk to the tenant.”

There were also problems with too many people staying in one home. “The average of five for this kind of housing in this borough is quite high,” said Mr Payne. “We found one property with 11 adults.” 

The new scheme covers selective licensing for single households of one or two people, and additional licensing for homes with three or more tenants.

Proposals for the scheme were supported by a majority of tenants in a council survey, with 80pc of the general public and 73pc of private tenants in favour of borough-wide selective licensing, and 85pc of the public and 76pc of tenants supporting borough-wide additional licensing.

Along with the survey, the council consulted the Local Landlord and Lettings Forum.

“About 75pc of landlords opposed licensing, although nearly half of them didn’t disapprove for shared accommodation,” said Mr Payne. 

The idea of a fine was supported by tenants, but 83pc of landlords felt the fines were too high. 

Inspections are ongoing, with each property being visited twice – once by the council and once by the fire department to check for fire hazards. 

The council hopes all 17,000 private landlords in Barking and Dagenham will have licences by February 2015.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

More landlords using Section 21

The number of landlords using Section 21 notices to evict tenants is currently on the rise, with eviction specialist Landlord Action claiming that the total reached 34,080 last year, an all time high since 1991 when the procedure was developed.
The number of claims was up 20,000 year on year, a figure attributed to a need to vacate a property swiftly for financial reasons as opposed to waiting during the lengthy Section 8 procedure. Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, suggested some reasons for the Section 21 cases. They include deposits not being protected, incorrect information on the notice and tenants asking for a 42 day possession order due to mitigating circumstances.
Another concerning factor which encourages Section 21 notices was said to be the behaviour of councils. Many encourage tenants to refuse to vacate the property due to the nationwide social housing shortage. This means that many councils refuse to aid the tenant before an eviction date is set, meaning that tenants are unlikely to leave a property of their own accord as they would effectively render themselves homeless.
Shamplina said: ‘Of course, with tenants experiencing cuts to their Local Housing Allowance (LHA) benefit, many landlords are also keen to re-gain possession so that they can re-let their property at a higher rate to private tenants, because demand is so great, especially in the south of England. This is contributing to the shortage of available housing for LHA tenants. We have many cases where there are quite significant rent arrears, but landlords are writing it off just to get vacant possession, as they know there is little chance of recovery.’

Monday, 27 October 2014

Neighbours from hell could be kicked out of their houses in just TWO WEEKS

  • New laws mean landlords will be able to evict nuisance tenants more quickly
  • Convictions for anti-social behaviour will trigger eviction proceedings
  • Some nightmare tenants could be evicted in as little as two weeks 
  • New laws come into force next week and will 'fast track' eviction process  

  • Tenants who terrorise their neighbours by making them feel intimidated or causing lots of noise with endless parties could be evicted in two weeks under a new fast-track process for landlords.

    New powers are being introduced by the Government which mean private and social landlords will be able to evict nightmare tenants more quickly, rather than leaving them in properties for months or even years while lengthy court proceedings take place.
    The fast-track process will work by allowing previous convictions for serious anti-social behaviour. 

    This will include those who have taken part in riot-related offences, to trigger eviction proceedings.

    The powers are contained in the Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which gives landlords five ways in which they can apply to evict their tenants. 

    These include when a tenant has been convicted of a serious offence, criminal behaviour or an anti-social behaviour order, or has breached a noise abatement notice. 

    The new powers are due to come into force this week and will be used to evict nuisance tenants from rented housing.  

    Brandon Lewis, Housing Minister, said: 'From today, new powers mean landlords can take swifter action to evict any tenant convicted of persistent or serious anti-social behaviour, bringing faster relief to victims and witnesses.'

    He said this will mean tenants who abide by the rules will be allowed to live in peace while those who refuse to will be denied the right to remain.

    He added: 'No one deserves to feel intimidated or unsafe in their community, yet lengthy court proceedings have left nightmare tenants free to cause misery for their neighbours for years.' 

    William Seed, 81, was captured on camera abusing his neighbours and shouting profanities. He became one of the oldest people in the country to be given an ASBO. He admitted harassing his neighbours and was given a community supervision for 12 months. 

    He was also banned from using foul or abusive language.

    ASBOS AND THREATENING BEHAVIOUR BY THE  'NEIGHBOURS FROM HELL' 
    • William Seed, 81, from Longridge, Lancashire, was given an ASBO for waging a six year campaign against his neighbours. The pensioner would beep his car horn all day and night, make loud animal noises, scrape shovels along the ground to make a racket and slowly drive past his neighbours while staring at them.
    • Harry Ferris, 65, threw his neighbour over a fence and tried to gouge his eyes out after the pair argued about a parking space at their home in Bacup in Lancashire. It is also claimed he tried to headbutt his neighbour's wife. He was convicted of two charges of assault. (Video below)
    • Joann Dunmore, 66,  was given an interim ASBO earlier this year for terrorising her neighbours in Littlehampton in West Sussex by screaming abuse, smashing flowerpots and playing the drums in the middle of the night. 
    • In 2007 Dominic McGrath, a piano teacher, was given an ASBO for intimidating his neighbours by walking around in a balaclava and threatening one with a baseball bat. McGrath also whistled insulting tunes at his neighbours and waved toilet rolls at them. He also displayed a picture of a man with a gun in the window of his home in Essex. 
    Cases are likely to be concluded more quickly because landlords will no longer have to prove that it is reasonable to grant a possession order, which usually takes around seven months. 

    This will speed up the court process, meaning nightmare tenants can be evicted more quickly, saving money. 

    Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said the riots, which took place in 2011, had highlighted the need for action to be taken. 

    He told the Sunday Express: 'No landlord should have to provide a roof over the head of anyone willing to take part in such wanton destruction and they now have the power to evict those who break the law.'

    Friday, 24 October 2014

    Should buy-to-let landlords worry about a 1pc rise in rents?

    Official figures today showed rents rose by only 1pc in the past year.

    Private rents have risen by only 1pc in the past year, official figures show, with landlords braced for slow rises for at least a year. Interest in buy-to-let has exploded in recent years with rents and capital values rising in tandem to deliver healthy returns. 

    Figures published by the Office for National Statistics today showed only a modest increase nationally in rental prices, with London the highest at 1.5pc followed by Scotland at 1.4pc. For tenants, it represents a rise that is less than the cost of living, with Consumer Price Index inflation at 1.2pc in September. 

    Growth in rents has collapsed in Wales to just 0.2pc and the rise in England would have 0.8pc if London were stripped out of the figures. The ONS figures are currently classed as "experimental" statistics which means that they form part of a new series of figures which is currently undergoing evaluation. 

    A separate rental index published by lettings network LSL Property Services, which owns chains Your Move and Reeds Rains, last week found that average rents across England and Wales rose to a new all-time high of £768 per month in September. But the September rise of 1.5pc represented a sharp slide from 2.4pc the month before. 

    LSL said landlords are now expecting slower growth in rents. 

    David Newnes, director of estate agents Reeds Rains and Your Move, said: "It is likely that rents in most parts of the UK will have now reached their seasonal peak – so as the market cools along with the autumn weather there may be opportunities for some tenants to pick up a favourable deal. 

    “Landlords predict slower rent rises to continue for at least a year. The latest LSL Landlord Survey shows expected rent rises of just 1.8pc over the next twelve months."The study also found gross yields, income for landlords in England and Wales before costs and mortgage repayments are taken into account, stood at 5pc in September, the same as in August 2014, but representing a fall from 5.4pc in September 2013. 

    It also found that taking into account price growth and void periods between tenants (but before costs such as mortgage repayments or maintenance) total annual returns on an average rental property were 13.4pc over the twelve months to September. 


    Thursday, 23 October 2014

    Buy-to-let boom: one in five homes now owned by landlords

    Private landlords now own almost one out of five homes in Britain and they will buy a further million in the next five years, according to new research highlighting the phenomenal growth of buy-to-let. 

    The figure, along with other startling statistics about this increasingly popular form of investment, provides the latest snapshot of Britain’s changing housing market as fewer people own and more rent. 

    An army of two million private landlords now own and rent out five million properties, according to the report by mortgage lender Paragon. This means 18pc of households now rent from private landlords. And the proportion is growing, as investors continue to see property as a source of future income and profit. 

    The Government's own figures suggest that by 2032, more than one in three properties will be owned by private landlords. 

    The report "18 Years of Buy-to-Let" drew on information from a range of sources and was published to mark the eighteenth year since the “invention” of buy-to-let. That was 1996, the first year in which mortgages specially aimed at private landlords were made available. 

    The number of properties owned via buy-to-let grew has almost doubled in the period, it said, and is now worth a total £1 trillion. 

    Buy-to-let became hugely popular in the housing boom of 2005-2007 when property investment “clubs” proliferated and thousands of investors bought newly-built flats without even viewing them. But the widely-predicted bust never followed. The banking crisis led to a mortgage drought which prevented younger generations from buying, and instead swelled the pool of renters. At the same time plunging interest rates cut mortgage costs and helped many amateur landlords hang onto to their properties, even if they were in negative equity. 

    The buy-to-let boom has gathered pace in the past few years with mortgage lending rising at over 20pc per year and the number of available landlord loans now topping 700. 

    Paragon welcomed the trend, claiming “the creation of buy-to-let has very much been a force for good. It has helped to shape a private rented rector that is fit for purpose and provides choice, value and flexibility for tenants.” 

    But such figures spark anger among younger renters locked out of the housing market. Dan Wilson Craw of Generation Rent, the lobby group for tenants and housing reform said: “This sort of data shows how the market isn’t operating properly and has become a vicious cycle. More people are attracted to buy-to-let which drives up property prices, in turn trapping more tenants into renting for longer. There are parts of the country now where there really is no prospect of home ownership for many people and it is difficult to see how that will change.” 

    Wednesday, 22 October 2014

    Right to rent immigration checks: landlords' code of practice

    From 1 December 2014, some landlords will need to check that someone has the right to live in the UK before letting a property to them. This includes landlords who take in lodgers or sub-let property.

    In most cases you’ll be able to carry out the checks without contacting the Home Office. All you need to do is check evidence of a person’s identity and citizenship, for example a passport or biometric residence permit.

    The right to rent checks only apply to:
    • landlords in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton
    • all adults aged 18 and over living at the property
    • new tenancy agreements starting on or after 1 December 2014
    If you let a property after this date to someone who doesn’t have the right to rent, you could be fined up to £3,000.

    You can also find out more about how to rent and private renting, or register to receive information on right to rent checks from the Home Office.

    If you need more help, call the landlords helpline: 0300 069 9799

    For more information please click here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-rent-immigration-checks-landlords-code-of-practice 

    Tuesday, 21 October 2014

    Landlords not welcome

    Buy-to-let investors would no longer be permitted to buy properties in London boroughs and other popular areas under radical new plans by Labour.

    Ed Miliband has announced that as part of the Lyons Review, councils would be allowed to designate certain areas for ‘housing growth’, meaning that they would have the power to assemble land and make sure that new properties are built. Local authorities would be able to allow up to 50 per cent of all homes to be sold solely to first time buyers for two months after building is complete. The properties in these areas would not be purchasable by landlords and investors.


    When questioned, a Labour aide was unable to state whether a buyer would be able to live in a property before renting it out, or whether there would be an uncompromising rental ban.


    Former head of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, has been working on a housing report for months and has several recommendations. A Help to Build scheme has been suggested which would underwrite loans to small builders. It would also speed up planning for small sites. Councils are also being encouraged to form New Homes Corporations to build houses. Financial incentives for local authorities to build new garden cities or suburbs may also be provided, although it is unclear where.


    It will be insisted that the plan is not linked to the party’s near-defeat to Ukip in the Heywood & Middleton by-election, despite the fact that many voters were concerned about the impact of immigration on social housing.


    Click here to read original article 'Landlords not welcome' 

    Monday, 20 October 2014

    Buy-to-let nightmare: £56,000 of damage and my insurer won't pay

    One couple found their home of 36 years trashed after tenants grew cannabis inside. 

    It’s every landlord’s worst nightmare. When Richard Meryon, a retired captain in the Royal Navy, and his wife, Rosalind, rented out their Devon home their tenants destroyed the house and everything in it. 

    When they finally managed to evict the couple and assess the damage, they were shocked to discover their insurer wouldn’t cover their losses which eventually reached £56,000. 

    This is because Saga had sold them a standard home insurance policy rather than specialist landlord cover, and it did not offer protection against damage by tenants. 

    Mr and Mrs Meryon have owned their £300,000 home in Ivybridge, Devon, for 36 years. In 2009 they decided to take up a post in Jerusalem as volunteers with a British Christian charity. They arranged to let out their home while they were away and in October 2009 rented it fully furnished to a local couple. 

    Two months later they reinsured the property with Saga, which sells Saga-branded policies that are underwritten by other insurers. It has supplied their home insurance for around 10 years. Mr Meryon phoned to say the property was now tenanted and Saga sold him a home and contents policy underwritten by Allianz.

    Mr and Mrs Meryon moved to Jerusalem in January 2010. The tenancy ran smoothly for two years until the husband lost his job. The couple subsequently stopped paying rent in November 2011, despite receiving housing benefits from South Hams District Council. 

    Concerned, the Meryons arranged an inspection of the property and flew back to the UK. They arrived to find that the tenants had boarded themselves in and would not allow them to enter. They were horrified to see the garden strewn with their damaged furniture, rubbish and various other items. 

    The Meryons were forced to start proceedings to have the tenants forcibly evicted. This took five months and cost them £2,500. Eventually they took back their property at the end of May 2012. 

    They gave Saga and Allianz advance warning that a claim was likely and arranged for an assessor to visit the property on the day they gained access. 

    They discovered the tenants had stripped the property of the furniture and other fittings. There was extensive water damage to the walls, ceilings and floors caused by extremely high heat and humidity levels. 

    “Our precious home had been completely trashed,” Mr Meryon said. “We discovered that the tenants had likely been growing cannabis in the house, which caused the severe condensation and damp problems. We contacted the local police who told us it was an issue for our insurers.” 

    But Allianz refused to uphold the Meryons’ claim. It pointed to small print in the policy that said any loss or damage caused by persons lawfully in the home was not covered, nor was malicious damage by tenants. 

    “I have paid home insurance on that house for 36 years, never had a claim, and now when I have one it has been denied,” Mr Meryon said. “Saga was aware that this property was being rented out and yet the policy it sold me was completely unsuitable for insuring a tenanted property.” 

    He complained to the financial ombudsman. In August 2013 an adjudicator said it was clear that the policy did not cover malicious damage by tenants. 

    “I find it extraordinary that I am found to be negligent because I did not read the small print, which was mailed to me after I had moved abroad,” he said. “Meanwhile Saga, to which I expressly stated that the property would be tenanted while I was working overseas, either knowingly sold me an inappropriate policy or itself did not read the fine print in the Allianz cover but has no blame attributed to it.” 

    Mr Meryon has appealed to the ombudsman. 

    He said: “I feel utterly let down at every stage of having had my home desecrated. The £56,000 it has cost to restore our property is more than I earned during the tenancy, not to mention 18 months worth of lost rent. We now wish we had bolted the house shut for two and a half years and never allowed anyone in.” 

    A Saga spokesman denied the policy was mis-sold. He said it covered the property for tenanted use, however did not include cover for malicious damage or theft by people invited into the home. He said these exclusions were listed in the policy documents and the Meryons should have read them carefully. 

    Saga did not offer landlord cover in 2009 but this year launched a specialist policy. It does cover malicious damage by tenants but the spokesman said in this case it wouldn’t have paid out either because the Meryons did not regularly check on the property throughout the tenancy. 

    “We completely understand the frustration that Mr Meryon felt coming back from Israel to find his tenants had vandalised his home,” he said. “But his policy simply didn’t cover him for this, as set out in the policy documents. The policy provided cover for one-off incidences such as fire, escape of water, subsidence, storm damage, flood, theft and damage following a break in. 

    “No Saga insurance would pay out in these circumstances. The lesson to be learned is that as a landlord you should visit your property at least a couple of times a year to check that your tenants and property are OK, which may nip events like this in the bud as the deterioration had been over some considerable period.” 

    Allianz declined to comment. 

    Martin Bridges, technical services manager at the British Insurance Brokers' Association, said: “If someone lets their property to tenants it is more appropriate to have specialist landlord cover, which is designed for this scenario,” he said. “Some specialist policies will cover owners for malicious damage to property or theft of furniture, fittings and fixtures.” 

    Kevin Pratt, of MoneySuperMarket.com, said each insurer takes a different approach to this. 

    “If cover under these headings is offered, it will usually be as an extension of the policy, so it may be an optional extra that costs more,” he said. “Landlords should check both their buildings and contents cover for these provisions because damage caused by someone kicking in a door for example would be viewed as a buildings claim whereas theft of property would be contents.” 

    Mr Pratt said malicious damage and theft clauses usually carry big excesses. 

    “As an example Allianz landlord cover has a £2,500 excess in respect of buildings and £1,000 in respect of contents for malicious damage caused by a tenant or others lawfully on the premises. 

    “The excess for theft caused by a tenant or others lawfully on the premises is £2,500 for both buildings and contents.” 

    Peter Chadborn, of financial advice firm Plan Money, said getting the wrong cover can be financially devastating if, like the Meryons, it doesn't pay out when needed. 

    “Don’t assume you’ll be covered for anything. Always check your policy carefully and shop around – the cheapest deals might not give you the level of cover you want.” 

    How to evict problem tenants 

    It’s not easy or cheap to force problem tenants out of your home, even if they have stopped paying rent or caused damage to the property. 

    John Muncey, head of property litigation at law firm Wedlake Bell, said landlords must first obtain a court order for possession. Trying to force out tenants without doing this can be a criminal offence. 

    A notice must then be served on the tenants seeking possession. This gives them no less than 14 days notice of your intention to force them out, together with details of the rental arrears or other grounds for eviction. 

    The timescale will vary in different county courts throughout the country, but it can take up to eight weeks to obtain a hearing date. If the tenant disputes the claim, there is a risk of the hearing being adjourned with further delay. 

    Once the hearing takes place, it is likely that any order for possession will allow the tenant further time, usually at least another 14 days, before having to vacate. Once this time expires, the county court bailiff can be instructed to evict the tenant, but there can be a delay of up to eight weeks to obtain an appointment at which the tenant can be evicted. 

    There is a faster procedure available, where the order is registered in the High Court and a private bailiff is used to evict the tenant, but the cost to the landlord is much higher. Private bailiff fees of £700 are not unusual, whereas there is a flat fee for the county court bailiff of £110. Any legal costs are added on top. 

    Mr Muncey said: “Even if the landlord obtains an order for costs against the tenant, it is unlikely to cover all of the expenses incurred and there is the practical difficulty in actually recovering payment from the tenant, who may be difficult to trace after the eviction.”


    Friday, 17 October 2014

    Massive fine for rogue landlord who let out freezing flat

    A landlord who allowed his tenants to suffer a freezing winter with no heating or hot water has been fined more than £30,000.

    Unlicensed landlord Royston Cooper let out the home in Talgarth Road, Hammersmith to five architectural students, despite it having a broken boiler and a shared toilet that leaked waste.

    When Cooper ignored pleas to fix the boiler, the students complained to Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s private housing and health service, which investigated and took action at the start of the year.

    Council officers recognised the tenants were at risk of immediate harm and arranged for a new boiler to be installed and the toilet to be fixed while taking action against the rogue landlord, who had broken the law by failing to license the property as a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

    At Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court last week, the council’s lawyer argued that a hefty fine was needed to reflect the physical and mental hardship endured by the five tenants, who were left without heating and hot water for four weeks.

    Cooper, 47, of Billingshurst, West Sussex, did not appear and was found guilty of four offences under the Housing Act.

    He was fined £15,000 for failing to license the house as an HMO, £5,000 for failing to maintain the boiler, a further £5,000 for not fixing a leaking soil pipe in the toilet, and another £3,000 for failing to respond to an investigator’s request for information.

    He was also ordered to pay costs of £2,160 and a victim surcharge of £120. The tenants, who moved out in February, can now apply to have some of their rent returned.

    Cllr Lisa Homan, the council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “This is a fantastic result – both for the tenants, who were forced to endure a miserable winter without heating or hot water, and for our private housing and health team, who did not hesitate in taking action when it was needed. We will continue to crack down hard on landlords who think they can get away with allowing their tenants to suffer in sub-standard conditions.”

    Landlords must hold a licence for each HMO that they own if it is rented out to five or more people, is at least three-storeys high and has a shared toilet, bathroom or kitchen.

    Click here to read original article 'Massive fine for rogue landlord who let out freezing flat'

    Thursday, 16 October 2014

    A guide to the impact of the EU Mortgage Directive

    The consultations on implementing the EU Directive and transferring second charge lending are out and the clock is counting down to implementation in March 2016. There is obviously a lot to digest and there are more consultations to come, particularly on regulated buy to let lending for ‘reluctant landlords’. Some of the rules are quite complex, if they go ahead as planned. By deciding to implement the EU Directive in a minimalistic way it will actually create more complexity rather than simplifying things as was first expected.

    Here’s a quick look at some of the changes and implications.

    EU Directive

    The definition of a regulated loan changes to ‘a charge’ as expected and the 40% occupancy rate is removed as well. This will bring more properties into regulation. For commercial property the proposal is to look at the level of residential use, with 40 percent residential being the cut-off point to remain non-regulated. Buy to let loans are mainly to be deemed as ‘for business purposes’ and will therefore remain non-regulated. This covers properties that are let or to be let so doesn’t necessarily cover all investment properties.

    The Directive only covers loans to consumers (someone acting outside of their business, trade or profession), hence the ability to create a business purpose exemption. By proposing that when looking at commercial property, 60 per cent commercial means it is for business purposes and therefore exempt, the Treasury are in danger of setting a ‘by default’ standard for ‘predominantly for business purposes’ of 60 per cent as there is now a reference point that could be used. This may be an unintended consequence.

    Loans to Limited Companies will remain outside of regulation as the loan is to the business.

    There is a new definition of a bridging loan. This will be “A credit agreement of either no fixed duration or which is due to be repaid within 12 months, used by the consumer as a temporary financing solution while transitioning to another financial arrangement for the immovable property”.

    The big question that needs to be considered is what’s covered by ‘transitioning to another financial arrangement’. Hopefully a sale of the property is covered by ‘another financial arrangement’. Assuming that it is, what about where the property to be sold is not the one that the loan is secured against?

    Second Charge Transfer

    The main impact is that second charge loans which are currently written under consumer credit regulations will be under the same basic rules as first charge regulated rules, i.e. MCOB. This will bring with it affordability assessments and will lead to reducing the ability of some borrowers to achieve loans they want, or indeed borrow at all.

    In proposing to create an exemption for second charge loans for business purposes there is a need to gain clarification as to the impact for intermediaries in this respect. Currently Consumer Credit exempt loans require intermediaries to have Credit Broking permissions. With the new exemption this will not be Consumer Credit exempt so it is not clear at this stage what, if any, permissions will be needed to introduce business exempt loans including buy to let exempt loans.

    The change will also mean that intermediaries who sell these loans will need to give advice rather than just sell the loans and will have to be become authorised for this. This will mean having to obtain appropriate qualifications as well. Some will find having to take exams a challenge and the FCA will have to consider whether the current qualifications are appropriate enough to cover second charge lending to a realistic standard. They may as well take the opportunity to look at making sure there is enough content about bridging as well whilst they are at it!

    From an advice perspective, the proposals are very weak. You have to highlight the availability of other options such as a further advance or re-mortgage but not investigate them or quote costs for them before recommending a secured loan (or vice versa) leaving it to the borrower to decide if he should look into this. Given that all of the feedback to date demonstrates that people don’t shop around it is astonishing to believe the FCA expect this to be a sufficient trigger to get borrowers to act! This is, in due course, bound to lead to another miss-selling scandal with accusations of product sales predicated on returns for the seller rather than the best interests of consumers. You can almost hear those fines ratcheting up for the banks again if they get this one wrong…


    Click here to read original article 'A guide to the impact of the EU Mortgage Directive'

    Wednesday, 15 October 2014

    England's families facing health crisis as PRS landlords fail to carry out repairs

    More than 120,000 families in England's private rented sector (PRS) have suffered health problems in the last year as a consequence of landlords failing to deal with poor conditions in their homes, new research has revealed.

    Commissioned by housing charity Shelter and British Gas, the YouGov survey of over 4,500 PRS tenants found that almost half had lived in a property with damp (44%) or mould (48%) in the past year - issues that can cause health conditions such as asthma and eczema.

    And nearly a fifth (19%) of families had suffered electrical hazards in their homes, while one in six (18%) reported living with animal infestations including mice, ants and cockroaches.

    The study also revealed that over 60,000 families were threatened with eviction by their landlord simply for complaining about the conditions in their home in the last year.

    Shelter has released the figures as part of its campaign to change the law to protect renters from ‘revenge evictions’ by a "small but dangerous minority of rogue landlords".

    The charity is warning that the problem is becoming ever more concerning as the housing shortage forces more people into the PRS.

    Previous research released by Shelter found that 213,000 people across England said they had faced eviction for complaining about conditions in their home.

    PRS tenant Tina Osborne, who lives with her four children in London, was evicted by her landlord after she complained about electrical hazards and poor conditions in her home.

    She said: “When we first moved in, the house seemed perfect and we were thrilled, but soon enough I realized that all of the problems had just been painted over.

    “The damp is so bad that mushrooms are now growing out of the walls, and a ceiling collapsed in my daughter’s bedroom. The worst was when my young son spilt a drink that went through the floorboards and caused huge electrical explosions because of exposed wiring.

    “All I asked was for the landlord to fix the problems so that I wouldn’t have to uproot my children’s lives. Instead, they would rather throw us out and rent the house to another unassuming family. This just shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

    Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive, said: "No family should have to live in a home that puts their health and well-being at risk, let alone face eviction just for asking their landlord to fix a problem. 

    "Yet every day, we hear from parents up and down the country living in fear that damp or gas and electrical hazards are putting their children in danger, but feeling powerless to do anything about it. This has to stop.

    "With a bill to end revenge evictions going through parliament next month, we now have a real chance to change the law and protect renting families. We're calling on people across the country to email their MPs and ask them to vote to end this unfair practice once and for all."

    British Gas engineer Ben Whitehouse said: “As a British Gas engineer I visit hundreds of homes a year, many of which are rented properties. Most landlords take their responsibilities seriously and take simple steps to make homes safe, like ensuring that appliances are correctly installed and regularly serviced, and by installing audible carbon monoxide alarms.

    "It’s important that tenants have the confidence to complain to their landlords about potentially dangerous conditions, especially when gas and electrical safety is so vital and easy to get right.”

    Next month, politicians will have the chance to vote on a bill which has cross-party support to protect renters from unfair evictions.

    Shelter, supported by British Gas, is calling on people across the country to email their MP, asking them to be present in parliament to vote to end revenge evictions for good.

    Tuesday, 14 October 2014

    Rents charged by private landlords could be capped

    A CONSULTATION on tenancy reform has been launched by the Scottish Government in the first major overhaul of legislation in the private rented sector for 25 years.

    The paper, New Tenancy for the Private Sector, is part of the Government’s commitment to reform the sector by “enabling more effective regulation, applying tougher enforcement and attracting new investment”.

    Launched by housing minister Margaret Burgess, it aims to give tenants greater security. Under the proposals, any notice to quit will be linked to how long the tenant has lived in the property and there is also the possibility of rent controls.These two proposals have been welcomed by tenants’ groups and housing charities.

    Shelter Scotland policy and research manager Rosemary Brotchie said: “This consultation will benefit everyone in the industry, tenants and landlords alike. Too often we focus on rogue landlords but the majority act within the law and many welcome simpler and more modern terms of regulation.”

    • Keep up to date with all aspects of Scottish life with The Scotsman iPhone app, completely free to download and use.

    The Edinburgh Private Tenants Action Group (Eptag) welcomed the possible scrapping of “no-fault” repossession. Under this clause, landlords can currently reclaim their property simply because a fixed rental term has ended.

    Eptag secretary Jon Black said: “This has been a long time in coming. We are glad that the no-fault ground for repossession is being looked at. In a lot of cases, tenants can struggle to pay their rent and making them homeless doesn’t help. This review should have a massive impact on what is in place now.”

    The consultation also proposes notices to quit be lengthened. At present, landlords and tenants must give notice to quit of between 28 and 40 days.

    Under new proposals, landlords would have to give tenants four weeks’ notice for those who had been in the property six months or less; eight weeks’ for tenants of between six months and two years; 12 weeks’ for tenants of between two and five years; and 16 weeks’ notice for tenants of over five years.

    However, a tenant who has missed three months’ rent, is anti-social or has breached their tenancy agreement would be given 28 days’ notice to quit regardless of length of tenure.

    The Scottish Association of Landlords has welcomed the debate but has “serious objections” to proposals to end a landlord’s right to terminate a tenancy at the end of a lease. 

    Chief executive John Blackwood also raised concerns about the effect of reform on the Edinburgh market, which relies on student stock being available to festival-goers each summer.

    He said: “Such proposals will have a negative effect on private landlords renting to students, who need to terminate tenancies at the end of the academic year. This, combined with a threat of rent controls, will deter landlords from investing in the sector and drive many to selling up and exiting the market. 

    “We are astonished that as we struggle to find much needed housing for people in Scotland, the Scottish Government seems even more determined to reduce the supply of housing by proposing legislation that will only seek to encourage good landlords to invest outwith Scotland or sell up altogether.”

    The consultation will run until 28 December and can be viewed at www.scotland.gov.uk.

    CASE STUDY

    ‘We had to go to court. It was a terrible experience’

    Dmytro Morykit, 57, and Hazel Cameron, 51, had rented in Edinburgh for many years but, after a series of bitter disputes with landlords, decided to move to the tranquil surroundings of Comrie in Perthshire.

    The couple’s problems began in 2011 when their letting agency informed pianist and composer Mr Morykit, his wife and his elderly parents that they had just two months to leave their home of nine years in the city’s Randolph Crescent.

    Mr Morykit’s 81-year old mother was at the time suffering the early stages of dementia. He said: “It became such a terrible stress trying to hide it from [my parents] when every day the letting agents were ringing us and demanding that we get out. 

    “There are not enough expletives in the English language to describe what these agents are like. They harassed us, it’s not easy to find suitable accommodation for four adults at the drop of a hat – two of whom are very elderly.

    “We eventually moved into another flat with a different letting agency. We requested a long-term lease and we were told no problem. However, within two years we were again being told to get out. The neighbours then informed us that the landlord had asked the letting agent for short lease tenants only as he always intended to sell. The agency never made any mention of this detail to us.

    “They then tried to keep the £4,000 we had given them – deposit, three months’ rent and ‘illegal’ administrative fees – we had to go to court and were awarded £400. It was a terrible experience.”

    Mrs Morykit, a poet, said of the couple’s decision to move to Perthshire: “For those not involved in the private rented sector, most would be horrified by the amount of criminal and amoral behaviour by agents and landlords who abuse the need for a home. 

    “I’ve rented privately for over 30 years and always had a good relationship with my landlords so it came as a surprise to discover the scale of this problem in Edinburgh. Even agents who display a respectable veneer regularly break the law and treat tenants with contempt.

    “Here in Perthshire our landlord is a lot more agreeable. I’m glad the government is looking at the issue of tenancy reform because tenants in the rented sector have very little rights and are being taken advantage of by landlords.”

    Click here to read original article 'Rents charged by private landlords could be capped'

    Friday, 10 October 2014

    Vanilla properties losing flavour with landlords

    Rental yields on standard or “vanilla” buy to let properties are falling, according to the latest Mortgages for Business Complex Buy to Let Index.

    Gross yields on vanilla buy to let properties now stand at 5.9 per cent as of Q3 2014, down from 6.3 per cent in the second quarter and 6.4 per cent in Q1 2014.

    David Whittaker, managing director of Mortgages for Business, comments: 

    “Rents on the plainest buy-to-let properties have not kept pace with rapid price rises in many areas, suppressing average yields.  This illustrates two key points for landlords – location matters – and the simplest investments are not always the most lucrative.”

    By contrast, other property types have much higher yields. Multi-unit freehold blocks hit a record high gross yield of 8.6 per cent in Q3 2014.

    And while rental yields from houses in multiple occupation dipped to 8.9 per cent in the third quarter, this is still an extra three percentage points above vanilla buy-to-let.

    Whittaker continues:  “Landlords with multiple tenants at each property can earn a better yield by providing what people need – often just a room rather than a whole flat.  This must be done responsibly, for example houses in multiple occupation often require a licence from the appropriate local authority, while landlords will also need a specialist mortgage product for more complex property types.

    “However, if those hurdles are met, landlords can earn not just a higher, but often a more reliable return as part of a diversified investment.”

    Choice between different buy to let mortgage products is now at a fresh all-time record. At the end of Q3, there were 707 buy-to-let mortgage products on the market, up from 637 in the second quarter and 458 one year ago.

    Click here to read original article 'Vanilla properties losing flavour with landlords'

    Thursday, 9 October 2014

    UK’s landlords reminded to check tenants' immigration status

    The UK’s private sector landlords are being warned that they must check the immigration status of all of their new tenants.

    With legislation coming into force next year that will require landlords to identify if a potential tenant has the right to reside in the UK before they grant a tenancy, the National Landlords Association is reminding property owners that they will face a £3,000 fine if they fail to carry the checks out.

    The new rules, which are set out in the Immigration Act, will begin being rolled out in the West Midlands this December.

    Carolyn Uphill, NLA chairman, said: “In some areas as early as this December, the Immigration Act will place a legal responsibility on landlords to help prevent illegal immigrants from accessing private rented accommodation.

    “It has always been best practice to conduct a thorough check on prospective tenants, but if landlords don’t do their due diligence on tenants they could be in line for a hefty penalty."

    Click here to read original article 'UK’s landlords reminded to check tenants' immigration status'

    Wednesday, 8 October 2014

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    Tuesday, 7 October 2014

    Consultation on a new Tenancy for the Private Rented Sector

    The Scottish Government have launched a public consultation on the development of a new type of tenancy for the private rented sector. This will potentially affect every landlord, letting agent and tenant in Scotland.
    This consultation seeks your views on the proposed outline of the new tenancy.

    Particular concerns for landlords are proposals to remove the landlord’s right to end the tenancy at the expiry of the fixed term without having to use grounds for possession and the possible introduction of rent controls mid tenancy.

    Monday, 6 October 2014

    Mixed outcome at landlord licensing scheme hearing

    Part of a scheme to force landlords to hold licences will be subject to a judicial review after a split decision at the Royal Courts of Justice. 

    A court hearing over landlord Constantinos Regas's application to bring a judicial review against Enfield Borough Council's licensing scheme was set to last half an hour last Thursday, but saw four hours of arguments. 

    The scheme, known as additional and selective licensing, requires landlords to hold a £500 five-year licence from the local authority for each property they own. 

    Non-registration would carry a potential £20,000 fine and a criminal record, with breach of any licence conditions carrying a £5,000 fine. 

    Last week Lord Justice Ouseley ruled the selective licensing part of the scheme could ahead, stating there was no grounds for judicial review. 

    The selective licensing part will license all single household homes in the private rented sector and be brought in on April 1, 2015. 

    However, the additional homes in multiple occupation (HMO) licensing scheme, which will extend licensing to any shared accommodation with three or more people was ruled by the Justice as "arguably unlawful" and will now proceed to a further hearing at the end of November. 

    Mr Regas said: "The judgement was long and complicated. There is no clear winner. It would be wise for Enfield Council to consider this judgment carefully. 

    “They estimate that 40 per cent of private rented properties in the borough are small HMO house-shares. 

    “This ruling calls into question the financial viability of the scheme, as well as its enforceability. It is unclear how much council subsidy would be needed to make it work and I call on the council to scrap the entire licensing scheme." 
    .
    However, Councillor Ahmet Oykener, cabinet member for housing and estate regeneration, described the result as “an important victory.” 

    He said: “This is an important victory for Enfield Council, and tenants, because this scheme will help improve standards in private sector rented accommodation, drive down anti-social behaviour  and enable the council to take action against landlords who do not meet the required standards.” 

    Click here to read orignial article 'Mixed outcome at landlord licensing scheme hearing' 

    Friday, 3 October 2014

    Liverpool property landlords to be licenced to crack down on rogue operators

    The new scheme, which was opposed by more than 80 per cent of consulted letting agents and landlords, aims to strike off dodgy squires.

    More than 80 per cent of letting agents and landlords consulted by the council were against the licensing scheme 
      
    Rogue property landlords could find themselves out of business by a new licensing scheme in Liverpool to crack down on dodgy squires.

    City leaders will have to be satisfied the landlord is a “fit and proper person” to be accredited by the scheme and those that aren’t, won’t make it onto an approved list.

    People will then know when looking for a property whether the owner is operating above board and willing to comply with a minimum set of standards.

    But bodies that represent landlords said the system will be too expensive for the council to run.

    More than 80 per cent of letting agents and landlords consulted by the council were against the move.

    The scheme has been brought in because there are more than 48,000 private landlord properties in the city and, up to half of them, are considered by the council to be potentially dangerous.

    On an almost weekly basis, enforcement teams are successfully prosecuting landlords for various safety breaches and fire risks.

    Liverpool council cabinet member for housing Cllr Ann O’Byrne said: “We all know someone with a horror story to tell about a bad landlord.

    "This scheme is about giving tenants some expectation of their rights, and the city council the power to tackle breaches.

    “Liverpool has a growing number of privately rented properties and the sector is vital in meeting the city’s housing needs, so it is important that what is on offer is of high quality.”

    Landlords will have to commit to a 10-point pledge.

    But the National Landlords Association has said “there is a recognised problem in the city but we don’t believe this is the way forward.

    "It’s not worked anywhere else.”

    There is currently no start date for when the scheme will begin.

    Thursday, 2 October 2014

    Landlord licensing challenge to be heard today

    Landlord licensing challenge to be heard today. A decision on the judicial review challenge against a landlord licensing scheme is set to be heard today.

    The high court will hear the case of Constantinos Regas, who owns one property in Enfield, who is to laid down his case for a judicial review against the local authority.

    The scheme, known as additional and selective licensing, asks landlords to gain a £500 five-year licence from the local authority each property they own.

    Non-registration carries a potential £20,000 fine and a criminal record, with breach of any licence conditions carrying a £5,000 fine.

    A judge will make a decision on whether a judicial review will be considered in the Administrative Court later this year.

    If the case fails, the scheme will come in on April 1, 2015.

    Click here to read original article 'Landlord licensing challenge to be heard today'