We have long argued that penalising landlords for the failings of the agents they employ in good faith is wrong, so it was pleasing to see that not only did PCC fine Kings Estates for operating an HMO without a licence, but when Kings Estates appealed the decision on the basis that they were only the agent and the owner was the licence holder, the 1st Tier Housing Tribunal not only ruled in favour of PCC but decided that PCC had been too lenient and doubled the fine to £12,000.
It was with some sadness we said goodbye to Joannie Goldenberg at our last meeting. She stepped down from our committee after 14 years service at our AGM in September as she moves forward with her plan to retire to a villa in Portugal with a garden full of nut trees - I guess that after being surrounded by nuts for so long, it is not something one wants to change....
But seriously, Jonie will be sorely missed. For most, she was the 1st person they met when they joined the PDPLA, the person who introduced them to like minded landlords, who managed their membership, arranged the Christmas parties, produced detailed minutes of all of the meetings and arranged for them to be posted to members. An impossible act to follow - thank you Joannie.
Read on for her response and some thoughts of others...
We had hoped the MEES (Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard) consultation would be launched in time for this months newsletter, but while it is imminent, it is not out yet.
What we can say is that the pace of change is increasing. In our heading block above, we talk about EPC C or better by 2030, yet over the past month we have heard government suggest that this may be brought forward to 2028 and we have also heard suggestions that gas boilers will need to be phased out completely in a similar timeframe.
Members may remember meetings earlier this year when we discussed the PCC draft strategy for the private rented sector (published in January, see it here). It contained 9 proposed strategic objectives, 14 actions which could be taken without external involvement and 9 more that would need the help of others including us.
A consultation has now started to try to assess the relative importance of each of the 9 proposed strategic objectives and also, to gain the views of the general public on the need for and the likely effectiveness of some of the proposed actions.
Patrick Lee, who will be at our October meeting to answer questions, said "Consultation on the draft strategy was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we're now at a stage where we are looking to consult with anyone interested in the issues surrounding the private rental sector in Portsmouth. This information will be used to inform and develop the final strategy and subsequent action plans."
The PDPLA was one of 10 landlord associations which sat down (virtually) with the NRLA this month to agree priorities and focus – the logic being quite simply that if the NRLA are truly going to be the voice of landlords nationally, then it ought to represent the priorities of all of the local groups and also, to expect their support. This was the inaugural meeting of that advisory group.
The meeting was chaired by NRLA Chairperson, Jodi Berg OBE and operated under 'Charter House' rules to ensure everyone could speak freely.
The BBC published research last month showing that although specifying 'No DSS' is illegal, landlords are still reluctant to take on tenants who are wholly supported by benefits. (See the report here). Unfortunately, like most commentators in this space – the BBC are asking the wrong question.
PDPLA Vice Chair, Alwin Oliver did try to balance the debate when interviewed on BBC South Today (broadcast 2nd Sept - members can see a summary of the discussion here) but as is always the case in these situations, the snippet that was broadcast largely missed the point and failed to ask why landlords often avoid those on benefits.
The latest government green housing initiative starts this month – whilst other landlord groups have hailed it positively, we see it as an opportunity missed and confirmation that central government really do not understand landlords or our business.
Members will have seen the news last year of Southern Water being found in breach of its obligations and ordered to pay fines plus a rebate of £123M to its customers. Since April, existing customers have seen some of that rebate showing on their bill, but if you have sold a property in the area since 2015 you will need to claim a rebate to get your share.
A family let with a new born baby is normally cause for celebration - it is a poor landlord who does not send chocolates/flowers for the new mum, a cuddly toy for the little ones and perhaps some rubber gloves or something equally suitable for dad. But what do you do if it is an HMO and it was already full before 'new mum-to-be' was unexpectedly invited in.....
Members need to be cognisant of the fact that most landlord insurance policies now include a clause which basically excludes damage caused by faulty flat roof surfaces unless it can be confirmed that the fault was not due to normal 'wear and tear'.
Apart from the fact that they are universally despised, the trouble with HMO's is that there are all sorts of HMOs yet everyone assumes they are all the worst sort of HMO. There are a range of different overlapping definitions before you even consider the important point, which is who lives there.
As landlords, we frequently suffer as properties are lumped together under the heading and we are treated as if we are running a tenement block of slum bedsits when usually, this is far from the truth.
It is with great sadness we record the passing of Julian Clokie, former chairman, long time director and committee member of the PDPLA.
Julian has been a fixture at PDPLA meetings for over 20 years, championing the plight of those most in need, arguing for better treatment of those on benefits and the most vulnerable and bringing his own, articulate and sometimes slightly eccentric, style to every debate. Hayling Island in particular will be worse off for the loss of a champion and carer for those at the very bottom of the tenancy ladder – for Julian, a tenant who wanted to burn down his home or jump off it was just a normal daily occurrence and he took great pride in helping them through whatever their particular crisis was and helping them toward a more normal existence.
In addition to the normal 5-10% discount received by members, there are a range of additional offers this month including a further 10% off of kitchens - so a compelling offer for anyone in the market for a kitchen.
It looks like the post lock down property surge some had hoped for arrived even before the chancellor cut stamp duty, with a buoyant Portsmouth property market seeming to have taken off last month. PCC managed to sell a whole range of properties at much higher than expected prices but on the downside, a number of landlords are struggling to prove that their HMO has been an HMO since 2011 and others are worrying that their C3/C4 status ends next year.
At the July Cabinet meeting, Portsmouth City Council approved a range of measures to move the near 200 formerly homeless and rough sleepers from temporary hotel accommodation into 'medium term' solutions including moving a significant proportion into the private rented sector.
The PDPLA supported the moves with some reservations, read on for full details.
The government department responsible for Housing (MHCLG) have published a comprehensive document covering all aspects of renting for both tenants and landlords explaining what both can and should to to minimise the risk of Coronavirus.
Members may remember last year, Jackson Jacob came to talk to us about his student project seeking to improve the tools available to both tenants and landlords.
He has now progressed this to the stage where a new app is being launched, which he says could be a replacement for StudentPad.
This month one of our members used our 'questions@' tool to ask other members for help with a problem.
He asked, "A flat tenant has requested permission to install a car charging point in the basement carpark of the block - in his allocated place. It is a block of 15 flats where I also own a share of the freehold so do have some influence over the situation. His suggestion is that he runs a wire from his flat to the basement. Would appreciate knowing your thoughts or your experience"
Charlotte is having a month off, so I thought I'd use her spot to share a thought this month as I just bought a new washing machine for one of the houses. At £229 from ao.com with free delivery it was a no brainer, why even try and repair the old one. Not only was the new one A+++, it had a 10 year parts guarantee AND it was SMART - but that's where my worries began
As of July 1st 2020, ALL RENTED PROPERTY (not just HMO's) will need a current electrical certificate showing the property has been tested within the past 5 years and was safe and met the required standard at the time it was tested.
For most landlords, this is more than just getting a new certificate – it is a requirement to upgrade the electrics in their properties. In this article we look at what that will mean for many of us (This article is a shortened version of the full guide in the CPD section of the PDPLA Members Area)
At our committee meeting this month (via Zoom) we agreed changes and updates to the Code of Practice which all members must abide by and the Association Rules which define how we operate. The key changes bring the documents up to date, as it is many years since the rules were reviewed and times have changed, consolidates the complaints procedure which was defined in both documents and positions us for the forthcoming affiliation with the NRLA.
As landlords we are all equally guilty – how cheaply can you fit a kitchen? Can you get the bathroom done next Monday/Tuesday? We never say, could you take a little longer and do it better or, OK that sounds good but what if I paid a bit more? So it is our fault that very few trades people have the time to take pride in the quality of their work or go the extra mile to do a better job. But does it matter as long as it is good enough you ask? Well, yes it does,you could save money if you ask for a better job. Let me give you some examples….
It has long been the bane of local student landlords that our taxes have increased annually every year since George Osborne 1st became chancellor in 2010, while at the same time, encouragements for student halls providers have reduced or removed their taxes in almost equal proportion, creating a very unfair playing field. It is now apparent that student halls providers have found a new ruse and many don't even pay Corporation Tax.
Friend of the PDPLA and mortgage advisor, Carol McFadden followed up on last months guidance to landlords where students have asked for rent holidays with the following comments about the availability of 'payment holidays' for Buy To Let mortgages.
During the pandemic, which student religiously stayed in their room, built themselves shelving for books and created a small office in which to work, studied hard and in the process, not only developed a whole new branch of mathematics but also came up with the basis of a theory which could shape the thinking of future physicists for centuries in the future?
There has been concern among many of our members as student tenants ask for contracts to be cancelled and rent to be waived. As many members have mortgages to pay and they rely on the residual income for their pensions, any rent reduction puts them in a very difficult position financially. The good news is that none of the agencies involved support these requests – the University, the government, local MP's and others are all saying that students need to sit tight and pay their rent if at all possible. We look at who is saying what and where you can go for advice or guidance should you be affected.
Hopefully members have received the email outlining our efforts to coordinate the availability of short term accommodation, whether for those self-isolating or recovering, for key workers or the homeless. If you missed it, we reproduce it here.
We know many landlords have lost a room in Portsmouth after applying for a Mandatory HMO licence when the new rules came in last October. This is typically a 5-bed going to a 4 or similar, due to communal space not meeting PCC's very high requirement (compared to every other council in the country).
If this is you – what have you done with that room? For many, we know it is just wasted as a separate 7 or 8 square metre room in a property where the inhabitants do not live as a cohesive group has no value. The individuals often use the communal kitchen but take food to eat in their room and don't use the rest of the house except, obviously, the bath/toilet facilities as required.
One issue we are finding is that unbeknown to the landlord, one or more of the tenants decide it is a 'wasted room' and they let one of their friends live there….
Subject to approval by both Houses of Parliament, landlords and agents will need to ensure electrical installation inspections and testing are carried out for all new tenancies in England from 1 July 2020 or from 1 April 2021 for existing tenancies.
The Government has produced The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 which state that landlords must ensure every fixed electrical installation is inspected and tested at least every five years by a qualified person. The Regulations also state that a landlord is required to obtain a report of the results of the inspection and test, supply it to each tenant within 28 days and retain a copy until the next inspection is due.
Obviously, in the current environment, these plans may be delayed but the key point, that many people overlook, is that an electrical inspection checks an installation meets CURRENT standards and these standards change and become more rigorous every year – so if your property has not had a major electrical upgrade in the past 10 years, it will probably need one now and that will mean major disruption for your tenants.
Portsmouth has released a draft of its strategy aimed at achieving an active and well-functioning Private Rental Sector which works fairly for all. Read on for an overview of the strategy and its aims, written by Portsmouth's Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Darren Sanders....
iHowz (formerly the Southern Landlords Association) have summarised some very useful advice for landlords on everything from how do you go about Gas Safety inspections when a tenant is self-isolating to what are the new rules on eviction. (Thanks to iHowz for allowing us to share) This has been updated with links to the NRLA webinar and information on this topic.
Later this month, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act fully comes into force. What does that mean for landlords? From March 19th tenants will be able to sue for compensation for issues such as mould and damp.
Some years ago, Portsmouth City Council (PCC) enacted an 'Article 4 Direction' requiring planning permission for new HMOs. This overrides the usual permitted development rights a landlord has to use a normal residential property as either a non-HMO, (C3 use class i.e. family type residence) or an HMO occupied by unrelated sharers (C4 use class). There are many HMOs that do not have or require planning permission as they have been in continuous HMO use since November 1st 2011 when the Direction commenced.
The planning enforcement team are currently writing to landlords asking them for proof of continuous use - do you know what you need to do? Have you kept records to show how your property has been used?
At our meetings this month, we had representatives from Portsmouth, Havant and East Hants all keen to find landlords to work with in their efforts to reduce homelessness. Watch the video of the session with Portsmouth and Havant from our February 2020 members meeting and read on for details of the working group that Portsmouth wants to put in place to better understand what is important to us as landlords.
At our January 2020 meeting our main speaker was Andrew Waggott, from Portsmouth City Council (PCC) working with us to help us understand what is available now and trying to work out how we make the PRS in the city greener and more energy efficient. We also discussed the PCC proposals to get more people from the housing list into the PRS and had a discussion on HMO Licensing in the city. We have produced short (and long) videos of the event for those who could not attend.
At this months Housing Cabinet meeting Councillor Darren Sanders and other cabinet members supported proposals to widen their bond scheme and the use of a community bank to provide low cost loans, with the aim of getting people off of the housing waiting list and into homes in the private rented sector.
(This is the topic we discussed at our January member meeting, watch that here)
The 31st January 2020 deadline has been and gone and you have not yet filed your tax return. Time got away from you or maybe you did not realise that you needed to complete one until now? Whatever the reason you need to be aware of the following;
New regulations will soon come into force requiring landlords of all property types to have a current electrical certificate but as seems unfortunately normal of late, the precise requirement, any exemptions and the timing is not yet clear. As a result, there may be a rush as July approaches…
After 18 months gestation, we are pleased to announce the PDPLA website has now been completely renewed. Hopefully members will just notice some style updates and minor improvements but under the covers we have jumped 10 years to modern technology with everything changed from the servers on which it runs right through to the tools used to create the content….
PDPLA members have raised nearly £2,000 over the past 2 Christmas’, all of which has been donated to the Society of St James to help the local homeless. It is debatable whether this type of support can end homelessness, and more on that next month, but there follows a thankyou and Christmas update from SSJ. Thank you to everyone who has donated at one of our events or on our JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/pdpla2018
We have many members who are unhappy with PCC’s rules on communal space in HMO’s – the rules seem to have grown over the past 10 years in an attempt to provide a basis to reject HMO’s which are seen as ‘too densely developed’ by councillors and local residents. We are now at a point where PCC ask for more communal space than any other council in the country (and in many cases, 2 or 3 times more than most councils).
It was thus somewhere between shock and amusement that we heard PCC had lost a case where they tried to stop a very small flat from being let.
Portsmouth is consulting on a draft strategy - 'Energy and water at home - a strategy for efficiency and affordability for every household in Portsmouth'. It looks at how the council can work with others to make homes more energy and water efficient and ensure residents can afford their bills - as we own 1 in 4 of the houses in the city, we will be most affected, so do make time to think about how you will make your properties more energy and water efficient and what help you need, then complete the questionnaire - because if you say nothing, you have no reason to complain if in 2 or 3 years time you are faced with significant bills to bring a property up to a new standard or have to replace or upgrade something you only just invested in.
The strategy is pervasive - obvious things like insulation and reduced water usage but also more futuristic options to get us to near zero carbon status, such as time of day energy tariffs and micro-anaerobic digesters - so do read the summary or attend a meeting if nothing else.
A Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number is required by all sole traders, partnerships and limited companies in the UK. It’s unique to that individual or organisation and remains unchanged forever.
You will also need a UTR if you have other forms of income or expenses that require you to file a Self-Assessment tax return.
If you don’t have a UTR, you won’t be able to submit a Self-Assessment tax return, plus, you may open yourself up to heavy penalties.
So, to help reiterate the importance of UTR numbers and how to correctly acquire your own, we’ve asked Mike Parkes from GoSimpleTax to shed some light on their role in tax return submissions.
As we approach the mid-part of the 21st century, is it time to consider providing 21st century properties for our tenants? We know many were built in the time of Queen Victoria, but as landlords each property faces a continual cycle of upgrade, refurbishment and renewal - so as part of that, should we be considering Smart technology, leading edge energy solutions and maybe, even reconfiguring the way people live?
Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.