At every public meeting attended recently where housing has been discussed, a classic example of political double speak has reared its head. There is always someone in the audience who demands more affordable housing and there is always a politician on the platform (and this applies to all parties) who promises more affordable housing. Why is that of interest - well, more often than not local landlords are blamed for 'pushing up prices' which have made houses unaffordable and also, it is time someone told both sides of this debate the truth.
When we last reported on local planning decisions in June (http://pdpla.com/pdpla-news/news-articles/item/337-portsmouth-planning-policy-encourages-unplanned-behaviours) we highlighted the fact that current planning rules encouraged increased density in existing HMO’s due to the lack of opportunity to provide this much needed accommodation anywhere else. PCC have acted swiftly to change the rules and stop such developments. Unfortunately, if some of the proposed changes were applied to current HMO’s we believe that many HMO’s in the city would no longer be legal.
This month PDPLA chair, Martin Silman and vice-chair, Alwin Oliver met with Fiona Bell, Head of Estates at the University of Portsmouth to discuss the outlook for the student housing sector, the number and quality of halls being built, the role of private sector landlords and some of the concerns our members have raised.
Portsmouth have started a consultation to update the local plan which is the basis upon which all of their detail strategies and plans are formed. So if the local plan states, just for example, that there will be no zoos in the city, then anyone wanting to open a zoo will find it almost impossible to do so. Zoos may be a banal example, but the plan does state how many new houses could be built, where and of what type. It will update current plans and strategies on HMO's and student halls - so if you are a student landlord particularly, you do need to respond or ask us to include your views in our response. The consultation runs until late September, so do take the time to let us know your view please.
In the 1830's most people had a landlord and most people lived in squalid, overcrowded conditions - so not surprising that landlords were not seen as 'good people' by the masses. But why has that not changed? With all of the regulations in place to ensure that good standards are maintained and management is professional and with so many people investing in 1 or 2 properties to supplement or support their retirement, you would have thought attitudes would have changed by now.
It is believed that, for the first time in the UK, a letting agency has been successfully prosecuted under consumer protection legislation for granting "sham licences" to tenants. Our friend and supporter, John Saulet of Saulet Townsend sent us the following details of this story...
Licensing of HMO's in Portsmouth comes to an end next year, but if Portsmouth City Council were to follow the example of Brighton, the existing license scheme would be continued and extended to cover all HMO's in the city and selective licensing would be introduced in Portsmouth south (PO1, PO4 & PO5) ensuring that ALL landlords in the area need to be registered.
Crazy summer days are upon us. Cleaners go on holiday, victorious festival prompts a tough pre-stay email (you WILL be charged £100 for smoking in the rooms, you MAY NOT continue the party here etc.), and the changes of September are nearly upon us.
In our July members meeting there was much discussion between members and with guests, Bruce Lomax from PCC, John Stewart from the RLA and PCC Housing Cabinet Member, Cllr. Jennie Brent about the sort of world we would like to see when HMO Licensing ends (or is continued) next year, whether the Landlord Accreditation Scheme has a role and if so, how it could be improved and also what the PDPLA would need to do if we are to better manage ourselves and thus avoid further regulation.
For details of the meeting and some of our conclusions, read on...
Many of you will have seen the successful, primetime TV series on the BBC 'The Week The Landlords Moved In'. In the first series successful landlords moved into their own properties for a week and lived as their tenants did and whilst most were good landlords, it was surprising how little some of them realised about the way their tenants lived in their properties.
For the 2nd series, the BBC are looking for more landlords to participate and they have stated that they want to explore more about some of the costs and challenges we face as landlords. Are you interested in taking part?
If so, read on....
One of our members may need legal defence against Gosport council regarding an unpaid Section 106 agreement on a property he purchased 4 years ago. The developer was supposed to pay but since going into receivership and not paying it the council are now chasing our member for it or threatening to put a charge against the property if he does not pay about £6000 within 28 days.
Much has been said on the subject of Fire Safety of late and we all agree its importance – but do we know precisely what the law is, who enforces it, where to get guidance, who is responsible, how to do a fire risk assessment or what is required in terms of alarms and detectors?
Two key points you need to understand - firstly LACORS is just a guide and it has not been updated for nearly a decade since the group which wrote it was dissolved. Secondly, HHSRS is pretty subjective even on a good day and these two resources form the basis of all Fire Safety activity - so the onus is really on you to ensure you have minimised the risk of fire and maximised the likelihood of survival for your tenants. Now read on for our quick guide on the topic, pulled together for us by ex-chair Julian Clokie….
If it's such a great strategy, why isn't everyone doing it?
Holiday lets come and go. Fact: It really isn't everyone's cup of tea.
How frequently do you visit your property? Every month? Every 6 months? I have properties with steady tenants that I haven't been into for 5 years! (Yes, the checks and repairs still get done). Most landlords aim to be hands-off as much as possible.
Recent tax changes caused the RLA to describe the taxation of landlords as ‘one of the most hostile tax regimes in the world’. After analysis of a number of similar countries we can confirm the truth of this assertion...
The urban future of Portsmouth was the title of a breakfast conference this month hosted by the University for local leaders, industry and alumni to discuss the strategic view from the council and the 'University Masterplan'.
There were some distinguished speakers and some bright ideas - but when you focus on what was proposed for Portsmouth, the bad news was that the picture above is wholly inappropriate, there were no new ideas and some very tired proposals totally lacking in cohesion were wheeled out once again.
It is unfortunate that we ran out of time at our AGM and had to reschedule the discussion on Fire Safety. This will now take place as part of our September members meeting – everyone welcome, attendance free, as always.
In the interim, and in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, there are some simple steps we should all take to ensure our properties remain as fire safe as is possible. Firstly, don’t rely on Fire Regulations or the advice of local authorities – we have many times advised that student landlords ignore the University advice on Fire Alarms as it is based on LACORS which is out of date and advocates solutions which are less safe than we recommend. In addition, we hear this month that PCC’s Director of Housing left his role without serving notice, alleged by some to be related to the fact that “MORE than half of the city’s tower blocks were missing, or did not have, a valid fire risk assessment” as reported in The News.
That article went on to state, “The information – contained in a council report – emerged as work got underway to remove the cladding from Horatia House and Leamington House in Somers Town after tests found it was a fire risk. Councillor John Ferret, chair of the governance & audits & standards committee said “There looks to be a systematic failure to carry out basic fire risk assessments. It will now be the job of the committee to take into account why this was allowed to happen and that we make sure everything is done to remedy the situation.” Of the 39 tower blocks owned by Portsmouth City Council that are six storeys or over, testing before the blaze confirmed that seven blocks of flats were missing a current fire risk assessment and 15 had an expired assessment. Figures contained in a report for the council’s governance, audits and standards committee also revealed that of the 712 council-owned properties, which are five storeys or lower, analysis found that 280 did not have an assessment date, with 171 properties overdue a review.”
As landlords, we have to be responsible for the safety of our tenants - LACORS and HHSRS are bureaucratic minefields that both need to be abolished and replaced by guidance which is fit for purpose in our view - but until that happens, there are a few things you should think about to ensure your tenants are as safe as possible....