New figures, compiled by umbrella group London Councils and sent to us by Inside Housing, reveal that London boroughs housed 471 households outside the capital between April to June this year, a rise of 33% compared to the year before. This is part of a trend which has worried both Portsmouth and Havant local housing teams as the shortage of accomodation is exacerbated by the influx of such families, even before the impact on local services is considered as these families often place a greater burden on schools and health services than other families.
Inside Housing reveal that nine London boroughs met with seven councils in the West Midlands last month following concerns that they are “outbidding” boroughs outside the capital for private accommodation for homeless families.
Councils outside London say they struggle to match the level of incentives offered by boroughs in the capital, meaning authorities such as Birmingham City Council struggle to find available stock.
The London boroughs, which house families or plan to house families in the West Midlands, pledged to agree on a “collaborative” incentive sum that they will pay landlords if they continue to operate the area.
Following on from the presentation at one of our meetings earlier this year aimed at helping our tenants avoid falling into the clutches of loan sharks, two men have been arrested on suspicion of illegal money lending following an operation in Havant this month.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team working in partnership with Hampshire Constabulary executed warrants at four addresses in Havant, Hampshire.
During the search of the properties a number of documents relating to suspected illegal money lending were seized along with a significant quantity of cash.
The Housing and Planning Bill is currently going through the parliamentary process (2nd reading in the Commons this month). We cannot know what it will finally look like or which elements will become law, but there are some proposals which will be of interest to landlords and some which will affect us directly. The aim of the Bill introduced by Brandon Lewis, Housing Minister, is to solve the housing crisis and includes new measures that will make it easier to turn underused office buildings into new homes.
Sharing this item from the RLA as it applies to most members - An RLA member recently used the RLA helpline for advice following the purchase of a fire extinguisher for one of his rented properties. The salesman called at his home. He purchased an extinguisher using a business cheque in his business name. He subsequently learned that an equivalent extinguisher could be purchased much more cheaply so he cancelled the purchase of the original extinguisher, believing that he was entitled to do so. Regrettably, the seller refused to agree to the cancellation of the contract. The seller was within its rights.
Following our frequent championing of the issue, PCC have introduced reduced rates for new HMO licenses.
When the scheme was introduced in 2013, the fee for a 5 year license for a standard HMO was £490 and the logic was, that anyone applying later would still have been letting since 2013 so the charge would not reduce. The new format has increased fees for late applicants and reduced fees for new ones.
The University of Portsmouth has been ranked in the top ten modern universities in the UK in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.
The guide also puts the University of Portsmouth as a top ten university in the south-east and in the top 20 nationally for teaching quality.
Apparently, most household fires are caused by electrical faults and frequently, this is due to a loose or bad connection generating heat which causes adjacent materials to catch fire. For this reason, next time you have your electricity certificate updated, if you have a plastic consumer unit / fusebox under the stairs, you will be asked to change it to a metal one.
This is because stairs are typically escape routes in case of fire, so anything which risks causing a fire under the stairs and thus blocking the escape route is particularly dangerous.
The good news is that you probably don't need to pay out on a complete rewire and replacement of the unit - just pop into you local Wilts store with your PDPLA Wilts discount card....
Ex-Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, in his role as a member of the Local Government Association has been lobbying for a blacklist of rogue landlords and stronger sentencing for convicted landlords.
Part of the LGA's logic is that magistrates courts are only able to impose fines up to £5,000 and for many large landlords, this could be petty cash in terms of the overall size of their business. What the LGA overlooks is the fact that with over 100 laws and 400 additional regulations, there is a plethora of rules with which to bring bad landlords to book and whilst a magistrates court may have limited powers, the bigger cases go to crown court where these restrictions don't exist and 5 year jail terms are possible.
Local landlords were never impressed by the introduction of licensing for HMO's in the south of Portsmouth - there was little evidence that housing standards in that sector were worse than any other and little likelihood that the introduction of licensing would address the issues that councillors were struggling with: parking, rubbish and anti-social behaviour.
Against this background, our July meeting was our best attended ever when Bruce Lomax, Private Sector Housing Standards Manager at PCC and the man responsible for the scheme, came to talk to us and explain what it is that we get in return for the time and millions of pounds we have all invested supporting it.
The good news, announced in earlier articles, was that Bruce and his team were focussing their efforts on enforcement actions against some of the organisations many believe to be at the root of some of the issues in this sector.
The bad news is that we have heard nothing from Bruce since.
We do know that Red Vista were taken to court and found guilty, but also, that they are still in operation and Bruce's statement that 'once found guilty' he would be able to exclude them from the sector under 'fit and proper persons' rules does not appear to have been followed through.
We have also been contacted by Tenant Network and told that all actions against them have been dropped and Morgan Ebert, one of their directors, stated, "the case against us has been withdrawn and we are not connected in anyway shape or form with Red Vista" He added, "We are an ARLA registered Letting & Property Management company and consider ourselves to be completely above board and the case being brought against us by Portsmouth City Council has now been withdrawn"
After discussion at our last meeting about Residents Parking Zones (RPZ’s) and potential problems for local landlords I had a meeting with the Parking Operations team at PCC and hopefully the changes to RPZ’s will not impact us at all and some current problems will also be solved. Full details below:
Our friends at Upad have written a useful blog on handling tenant disputes which we reproduce here, as it may be of interest to some of our members:
"Couples split up and friends fall out, it’s a fact of life, but when your tenants start squabbling, when they each blame the other for damage to a property, what should you do?
The long running dispute between PCC (who believe that the 2004 Housing Act obliges them to give addresses of landlords of HMO's to anyone who asks) and the PDPLA (who argue that there are ways to avoid the fiasco whereby PCC 'sold' our addresses to Red Vista who apart from cold calling all of us, were then taken to court by PCC for operating outside of the law).
Last month we stated that the budget tax changes were not unexpected but that landlords on the Property 118 forum were raising a petition against the changes and we included details in case you wished to sign. Original article here.
We were somewhat surprised with the apoplexy from the people on Property118 when they read our article and many stated that we were doing our members a disservice by not supporting the petition wholeheartedly. This is something the PDPLA committee subsequently discussed and agreed that our original stance was balanced and appropriate - however, we do urge you to use one of the many calculators available to allow you to fully understand how you will be affected and also, to plan what action you will take.
There follows an excerpt from an RLA email on the topic with a link to their calculator and also, the response from the government (which they were obliged to produce once the Property 118 petition passed 10,000 signatures. At the time of going to press, they are around 15,000 now - so well short of the 100,000 required to gain a debate on the subject in the House of Commons).
You may be aware that the government intends to do away with the 10% wear and tear allowance as from 6th April 2016 and in its place allow only for the claiming of actual expenditure. Members who let fully furnished properties will be aware that rents for such properties do not normally exceed those for unfurnished properties and it is the most vulnerable, in many cases, that require fully furnished accommodation. The fair wear and tear allowance of 10% for such accommodation has been in existence for very many years (for as long as I have been a landlord) and is generous indeed. The affect of removing it will require all landlords to keep detailed records of their expenditure on such items that they would not have needed to have recorded in the past.
HMRC have stated they believe that the impact on individuals, i.e. landlords will be negligible, as they are already required to keep records of other expenses such as repair costs. That is an under estimate indeed, as some landlords have hundreds of tenancies where they provide full furnishings, etc and it will require detailed records to be kept, when HMRC itself has said it wishes to reduce the work in completing income tax returns. This regulation, if implemented, is the reversal of government policy and is not a negligible change, it is a significant change.