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.
The PDPLA always considered itself a friend and partner of the University of Portsmouth (UoP), our members provide many of the 12-15 thousand student rooms in the city which UoP depend upon to exist, without us they would have very few students and similarly, we have been keen to continually improve standards and facilities to ensure that UoP is successful as many of our businesses depend upon it.
However, this dynamic was always likely to change with the addition of 7-8 thousand new rooms in student halls, mainly in the 'student square' district that is developing around Portsmouth and Southsea station.
Over the past few months, UoP have stopped attending any meetings attended by the PDPLA and have not answered a number of questions we have put to them on matters important to our members. We suspected that we had become '2nd class' partners and all of their resources were being expended on the new halls providers, which is understandable, but there were also rumours about the Uni's own halls in Furze Lane, Milton.
Whilst UoP have yet to respond to our enquiry, we have had it confirmed that the UoP halls in Furze Lane will close in June next year - so this years admission will be the last. Our expectation is that the Uni bus service will also stop or be severely cut back, which will significantly affect those with properties along its route, as large numbers of students currently choose to live near Goldsmith Avenue / Fratton Bridge simply because of the free bus service.
We changed the format for our monthly meeting in May and invited all of the then announced candidates for Portsmouth South to come and talk to us about their parties views on the Private Rental Sector.
We met sitting Conservative MP Flick Drummond, ex-council leader and Liberal Democrat Gerald Vernon Jackson plus local Labour leader Stephen Morgan who announced he was a 'hustings virgin' and Ian McColloch from the Green Party.
Attendance was good but surprisingly, many were new (and welcome) faces from the RLA, the NLA and the SLA. Our own members apparently did not have time or interest which is a shame and a missed opportunity.
After losing 5 appeals as reported last month, the April planning meeting was more careful than previously about the request to change a small HMO in Manners Road into a larger HMO, concluding that, "a decision be deferred to allow further discussions with the applicant".
The May planning meeting will discuss this application again as well as an almost identical one in the same road and two C3 to C3/C4 (family use to mixed family or HMO) applications, one in Victoria Road North and the other in Jersey Road. There is also a 'small HMO' to 'large HMO' in Queens Road, Fratton.
One application that is not being reviewed this month but which will be of interest to some members, is the application for a 20 room student hall by the John Pounds Centre in Portsea.
The team at East Hants District Council (EHDC) are looking for landlords to provide accommodation. The support they provide is much more extensive than larger local authorities appear willing to provide – including protection against rent arrears for the whole duration of the tenancy, rather than just the 1st 6 or 12 months as is the case in Portsmouth.
East Hants is an odd shaped patch from Liss across to Bordon and extending up in the direction of Guildford. As such, much of the area is on the Guildford LHA rate which is about 30% more than Portsmouth so will be appealing to landlords looking to invest in new developments in Liss, for example, where 2 bed properties are most needed according to EHDC.
The offer should also be appealing to landlords with existing property available within the PDPLA area as the EHDC can place potential tenants up to 30 miles away
The RLA have launched their 2017 manifesto in response to the snap election.
It sets out coherent proposals to improve the private rented sector for both landlords and tenants and they are calling on the political parties to support the growing private rented sector as it works to meet unprecedented demand.
The RLA’s 6 Achievable Priorities For Making Renting Better
1. Boost the supply of new homes by bringing unused land and empty properties into use for private rental homes, coupled with positive taxation policies that promote growth.
2. Establish a new specialist housing court to deliver quick and cost effective justice to help landlords and tenants to enforce their rights.
3. A fairer approach to welfare reform for landlords and tenants, giving tenants claiming Universal Credit the choice of having rent paid direct to their landlord, and speeding up the claim process.
4. Effective enforcement against criminal landlords through guaranteed long-term funding for local authorities, backed by a system of co-regulation for the majority of law-abiding landlords.
5. Support landlords to improve energy efficiency in private rental homes for the benefit of tenants and the environment.
6. Create a new deposit trust for tenants enabling them to transfer deposits seamlessly between tenancies.
PDPLA Chairman, Martin Silman was briefly interviewed on the BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast programme in a discussion on inflation earlier this month. In preparation, he surveyed senior members of the PDPLA and came to some surprising conclusions.
Yes, inflationary pressures from cost increases will have a significant impact on future rent increases but there are 3 other factors which may have a more significant impact on future rent levels:
1. Letting Agent Inflation
2. Battery Farming of Students
3. Recent Tax Changes
The UK population is now just over 65 million, having grown by over 500,000 in just one year – 2014. The number of households in the UK is now 27.1 million, an increase of a shade over 7 per cent since 2006, about the same as the increase in the population level in that same period.
The most recent projections say the UK population will reach 77 million by 2050, though this does not account for whatever the impact of Brexit might be.
But you have to dig down into the actual demographics to assess the real impact on housing demand / supply on specific segments of population in the future.
A new feature this month - a useful tip for landlords from one of our members.
This month the tip comes from Martyn Winfield, a previous chair of the PDPLA, who was recently called out at 10.30pm on a Saturday night to a blocked shower. He suggests cleaning the waste trap on showers and baths at least quarterly - especially in HMO's with ladies with long hair. Following on from his recommendation, other members recommend a bottle of 'drain gel' - most supermarkets have a product especially for clearing hair from bath and sink wastes and a similar one for kitchen wastes - they cost £2-£4 a bottle and used once a year, they can be very effective. The other approach is not to let hair get into the waste in the 1st place with products such as a 'drain wig' - but these depend on tenants using them and keeping them clean.
If you have a tip for fellow members, do let us know via email to PDPLA.
And apologies for the picture on the right - it has nothing to do with this months tip but hopefully, it will have encouraged you to read this item to find out who has their post delivered direct to their toilet.
A tenant of one of our members is doing some market research amongst landlords as part of a new product development project at a security products manufacturer. She said, "We are collecting feedback from landlords for a manufacturer who is potentially developing a product or service that allows landlords to keep their properties safe and in good shape. Responses to this survey will be used as part of this market research only and will be kept strictly confidential within the business."
The survey is quite short and there is a £100 prize draw - so we do recommend you take it, more details here....