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....
I pass a neat row of large BMW motorcycles lined up outside and enter the communal Kitchen of Blue Star House where 6 handsome young German men are tucking into a hearty lunch and chatting about their weekend ahead at Goodwood. They tell me about their drive form Germany and ask about local parking. In rooms upstairs are a student, a chef, a cocktail barman, and some weekenders visiting family. This weekend it’s a full house at the Serviced Accommodation.....
This month the trade association for inventory clerks called for regulated inventories to become compulsory in the UK lettings market. Not a particularly sensible suggestion and definitely not based on an impartial view or any sensible data, but in the current political environment, even some of the daftest ideas seem to have a habit of growing political capital and becoming 'policy' - so it was not surprising when one of our members decided enough was enough and she had to make a plea for LESS not MORE regulation.
In her response, she stated "We are becoming increasingly tired of the knee-jerk reactions by Government" and went on to say, "PLEASE ask the government to stop trying to regulate everything Landlords (and Agents) do without properly investigating the pros and cons." All very sensible in our view, but to see why she has come to these conclusions and some of the supporting information, please read on....
A much more balanced month for PCC planning than it was last – some decisions overturned on appeal and some confirmed. Obviously we are focused on the private residential lettings which come before the committee but in our area of focus, as usual all of the activity appears to be conversion of existing HMO’s of one type or another to larger HMO’s. A logical outcome of the Article 4 direction which is having the effect of increasing density of HMO dwellers in areas with HMO’s rather than reducing them as was intended.
Read on for specific cases….
Speaking to the Milton Neighbourhood Forum this month Bernie Topham, COO at the University of Portsmouth explained to Milton residents the University's decision to close their student accommodation at Furze Lane.
The closure appears to have been forced upon them due to the large number of private halls rooms being built around the city. The plan was always to keep the 600 units of accommodation at Furze Lane as they were needed along with the Greetham Street, Zurich House and Catherine House developments if the University was to meet its target of being able to offer halls rooms to all first year students. However, additional new developments mean that many more rooms than are needed for 1st years, even if the Milton site is closed, will be available.
The PDPLA has historically paid £10 per member per year for DAS tax investigation cover, Legal Defence cover and a very general legal advice plus various other minor services tied up with small print.
The RLA are now giving us more extensive tax investigation cover for no extra fee. This was perceived to be the most useful element of the cover, especially as HMRC are now more interested in landlords so this could be of use to any of us.
The question is, do we need to retain the legal cover? (With the duplicate tax cover as this comes as a package)
At the AGM there was a unanimous vote to end the cover and save over £2000. Therefore, unless significant members who were not at the AGM object, we will not renew the DAS policy.
This means that some of you are no longer automatically covered for some risks which we know will be important to a small proportion of members - so we urge you to check the details below and decide whether you need this cover or some additional cover or, in your situation, these are acceptable risks that do not need insurance.
As a small ‘not for profit’ member organisation with just 2 part-time staff and 10 volunteer committee members, the PDPLA has had a very busy year. With 10 member meetings, a Christmas Social, 12 newsletters and all of the associated administration and organisation we would have been busy – but in addition to all of this we have successfully affiliated with the RLA and outsourced a portion of our admin overhead to them and we have successfully and effectively argued the case of our members both locally and nationally.
We have explained, educated and railed against the unfair tax changes forced upon landlords, we have been active in guiding and informing much new legislation both directly and indirectly – as the PDPLA, we have written formal responses on at least 6 consultations about proposed legislation and we have actively participated wherever we have believed it will benefit our members.