A long and technical debate in the House of Lords this week (Feb 11) ended with amendments to the Deregulation Bill being passed which are likely to lead to the outlawing of so-called retaliatory evictions.
Although the amended legislation has to be ratified by the Commons and then receive the Royal Assent, in essence the Lords agreed that landlords would be prevented from evicting a tenant for no reason within six months of receiving an improvement or hazard awareness notice. This could mean that becomes impossible to successfully serve a Section 21 notice as a tenant only needs to complain about a maintenance item for the S.21 to become invalid.
This months PDPLA members meeting had scheduled a networking session on 'rent arrears', but senior member Mark Smith delivered a masterclass on the subject. Members were taken on a whirlwind tour of a rent arrears checklist which covered everything from selecting a tenant, the importance of guarantors, how to react when rent is one or two days late, actions to take at 7, 14 and 21 days past due and should all of that fail, how to instigate legal actions and which ones are most successful and what other measures need to be taken, which organisations to use, etc.
The Portsmouth City Council Green Deal Team currently have funding to provide a grant of up to £1,500 towards a replacement boiler or new central heating system for private sector households across Portsmouth. To begin with they will offer this to homes with an occupant aged 65 or over. Gillian Flaherty, PCC Green Deal Project Manager added, "However we may include other vulnerable groups at a later date. We can only provide funding where the current boiler at the property is non-condensing, and as a rough guide this will generally apply to boilers over 10 years old."
At our January members meeting, Alwin led the networking session and the discussion focussed on the PDPLA involvement at the student housing fair at the end of January to be held in the Student Union building. As a result, the PDPLA stand at the fair was manned by seven members - all wearing PDPLA sweatshirts with their names on the front and the tag line 'No Agency Fees' on the back.
The Residential Landlords' Association has launched its own election manifesto focused on improving the lot of both tenants and landlords in the private rented sector (PRS) - including longer tenancies, encouraging sales of rental properties to first time buyers, and tougher enforcement against rogue landlords.
At this months meeting of PRED (Portsmouth City Council's committee responsible for Portsmouth's Regeneration and Economic Development) various councillors petitioned for the Article 4 Direction which limits the number of HMO's in any area to 10% to be tightened up.
New Legislation to Allow Tenants to Live Rent Free - yes really
Universal Credit - Worries about experience with direct payments
Selling HMO License Details - Issue raised nationally
Tenancy Deposit Rulings - Yet more concerns for old tenancies
For those who missed our January meeting, you will not have heard about the fire in one of Martyn Winfield's properties. A student tenant was studying in his front upstairs room on December 28th when he heard the fire alarm. He assumed it was a fellow housemate cooking (why can't most students cook without incinerating?) and he ignored the alarms. A little while later, when he heard what transpired to be aerosol cans exploding in the flames, he left his room to check on the disturbance and realised the house was on fire.
At this months PDPLA members meeting both Elaine Bastable and Lucy Smith from Portsmouth City Council (PCC) Housing Options team spoke to us about how they can work with us to find homes for families that would otherwise be homeless through their bond guarantee scheme, Access.
Good news for local landlords from our friends at TP Expert today, who have just heard that one of their planning appeals has confirmed that HMO's do have permitted development rights (as many councils have sought to restrict or remove them from HMO's as part of their attempts to control and limit the spread and size of HMO's).
In a month when Europe drops into what could be a deflationary spiral, oil halves in price compared to just a few months ago and retailers report falling prices in the UK, it should surprise no one that house prices may well follow. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) is predicting prices will fall 0.6% in the year ahead, with London seeing the first marked falls for more than five years. Prices in the capital are expected to fall by 3.3%.
Our preferred insurer, Alan Boswell Group, is thrilled to announce that they have been voted 'General Supplier of the Year' in the prestigious Landlord & Letting Awards for the second year running.
The awards, which were introduced in 2009 with the aim of recognising and rewarding excellence and contribute to raising standards in the private rented sector, were held in Coventry and hosted by TV favourite Tommy Walsh. They beat off stiff competition to win the award at the ceremony.
Last month we raised concerns about Portsmouth City Council selling addresses of landlords who own or manage HMO's in the southern half of the city. The original article can be viewed here.
We subsequently proposed what we believed was an interpretation of the law which would meet the needs of the council and all other users of the HMO register whilst avoiding the issues raised by our members. Unfortunately, the Council have chosen not to accept this interpretation and continue to sell our addresses to anyone who wants them.
Following on from our piece last month, entitled Portsmouth Council Tax Student Homes (read the item here), we have had confirmation of some of the details from Ed Woodhouse, Head of Revenues and Benefits at Portsmouth City Council. The key message is that if we have an empty house with no tenants during the summer, or if we use it for holiday lets, then we should be declaring this and paying Council Tax. Conversely, if we have full time students for the whole year, then we are not liable for any Council Tax.
The Portsmouth & District Private Landlords Association (PDPLA) acting chairman, Martin Silman, has built a house! Granted it is not as grand or as large as the properties owned or built by many of our other members but in a city which is only building one third of the new properties it requires, any new build is to be welcomed. Mr. Silman admitted he was careful to keep the value low so as to avoid Stamp Duty Land Tax and that having given it to a younger relative he is concerned that he may have breached the rules on gifting, plus he may have given the young relative a capital gains issue.
Many landlords have struggled to explain to local councils that small bedrooms are OK and that many people in HMO's are happy to take a small room if it means they pay less in rent. There has been much debate about whether 'guidance' that rooms should be a minimum of 6.5 sq. metres (70 sq ft) should be enforced or not. In a surprising turn, central government in the form of the Department of Work and Pensions has ruled that any room big enough to contain a single bed can be used as a bedroom.