Martin began his landlord journey 18 years ago, while working in an international role for a global telecommunications company. Since retiring he has extended his portfolio, which he manages with his wife, but has always focussed on the ‘small student HMO’ sector preferring to offer homes in the community for small groups to the more common ‘pack them in and take the money’ mentality. He has chaired the PDPLA for the past 9 years and has overseen the Associations transition from small local self-help group to a much larger and more professional institution which is recognised and listened to nationally. Alongside his PDPLA role, he also has leadership roles in a number of other local organisations – bringing his unique perspective, driving for change and increased use of technology while respecting the history that brought us here.

As expected, Portsmouth Councillors have voted to implement new, stricter HMO standards and enforcement policies applicable to existing licensed HMO's starting today (1st Dec 2022) and to extend this to ALL HMOs in the city by September next year (2023).

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In the days after the tragic death of 2 year old, Awaab Ishak, due to extensive damp and mould in his parents rented social housing, everyone seems to be trying to deflect their own shortcomings by bad-mouthing private landlords. This triggered a whole range of responses across the various Landlord Associations we work with.

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No, not a spelling mistake - a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development is what you need if you want to prove that your property is legal and doesn't need Planning Permission. It is commonly asked for by solicitors as part of the conveyancing process to ensure the new owner is not caught out. Sadly, it is increasingly being asked for in relation to HMOs and could well be essential for those running 3-4 bed HMO's from before 2011 who will now need to get an HMO licence

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An excellent fire safety video should any of your tenants (or children) need convincing to take more care. 

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  Members who attended our September meeting will be fully aware of the level of anger and dismay among landlords as ever more HMOs are disaggregated. (See the discussion from that meeting here and the Q&A here). Two items of good news from Parliament this month, firstly Gosport MP Dame Caroline Dineage proposed an amendment to the Rental Reform Bill that would outlaw disaggregation of HMOs and then Dehenna Davison MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up announced a consultation on the matter.

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When gas was cheap and electricity not, the case for heat pumps replacing boilers was quite strong - but with the price of all energy rising and the differential between gas and electricity pricing likely to reduce, is that still the case? 

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Breaking HMOs into separate dwellings for Council Tax is illogical and hurts those least able to afford - it is a tax on the poor. Full details of what it is and why it is wrong in our earlier article here and at our September meeting (Video here). The good news is that Gosport MP, Dame Caroline Dineage has tabled an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill which will abolish Council Tax on HMO rooms.

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 Quite a lot to be aware of this month - a range of events that may be of interest, an extra 10% off at Tradepoint plus other opportunities to take advantage of your membership.

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Since the Consultation finished 2 months ago, the stony silence on the subject of Licensing smaller HMO's in Portsmouth has been almost relaxing – no worries about unachievable kitchen widths, whether the alcove by the door is counted as part of the room or not, where the washing machine is in relation to sleeping rooms – the absence of all that nonsense has been bliss.

But it will not last…. 

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Some members may avoid our breakfast meetings, assuming we all sit around bemoaning the latest tax or regulatory changes but reality could not be further from the truth. This month we were entertained with the tale of the naked young female tenant, a policeman and as many DIY disasters as you can imagine. Read on for the full story….  

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I find it mildly amusing that over the past decade, as each new regulation made life harder for landlords or increased their costs, there was never any outcry from tenants on behalf of their landlords.

Yet at this months member meeting, we had 70+ attendees incensed at the impact disaggregation would have on their tenants – with calls for us to talk to MP's , start a Judicial Review, appeal and much else. Everyone agreed it is not fair, it does not make sense and it will impact those tenants least able to afford it – it is in effect a poll tax on the poorest in our society.

But when you step back, you can argue it both ways. Which side are you on? 

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 Ever advertised a single room and had someone ask if they can have it for their family of 3? Ever let a room to one person and then found it occupied by 2 or more? What do you do? What if you have an HMO Licence which will be breached? Sadly, what was rare is no longer. 

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Since the Tories (rather strange) non-budget last week landlords have been worrying about affordability of mortgages as many existing products are pulled from the market. 

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The PDPLA as members of the policy advisory board to the NRLA, have jointly signed a letter to the new Housing Secretary calling out concerns with the current proposals to reform the private rental sector. With the typical tenure for a housing minister being 10 months, it is not surprising the sector is in chaos and policies are constantly changing.

This is our attempt (one of many) to make things better for landlords in the private sector.

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The idea is simple, add a small amount to everyone's energy bill to contribute to a fund which can be used to improve energy efficiency across the country – the bad news is that it does not work and what we really need is something more like the American system.

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People tend to forget the H in HMO may stand for house but it is also a home for thousands in the city – Harry is one of those people. Approaching retirement, he had worked hard and had a good life but was watching his outgoings as you do at that age, determined to cut his cloth accordingly. He found himself in Alwin's office discussing what was available in his price range and reluctantly agreed to take a room in an HMO until something better came up.

That was over 30 years ago. Harry is still there and sadly, is dying, but with the help of his housemates – he wants to die in his HMO home. 

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We have long said that licensing schemes drive up rents and councillors and council staff have always refused to accept it. The challenge has been to prove a direct correlation between licensing schemes and rent levels given there are so many variables, and also, the effect of a change is not always immediate, so causality is always an issue.

Finally, we have a specific change which can be shown to have had a direct impact on rents – licensing in Portsmouth has increased rents 3x faster than elsewhere, and we can prove it!  What is worse, it directly and negatively affects those most in need. 

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In a letter to the Portsmouth daily paper, The News, Councillor Cal Corkery argued for city-wide licensing for every property rented in the private sector.

Read on to see our response 

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We always said that the 'Build them and they will come' mentality of the REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) could not work – given the stratospheric rents these places need to charge to make money. Now it seems, the owners are looking for new ways to fill these buildings as they cannot find enough students able to afford £700 a month for a tiny room unsuited to anything else.  

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Well it is obvious we would not vote for it - but it is not the extra regulation, cost or bureaucracy that we are objecting to, it is the fact that the current proposals will make 1,000-1,500 people homeless and the impact on the city and across the council, in terms of rehousing the most vulnerable, the burden on Adult Social Care and many other groups, as well as the impact on local rents and house prices cannot be justified by this action.

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2,600 - of which over 1,200 are already licensed and the remainder are small ones. Not 6,000 as estimated by the council, or 4,271 as reported by the council, or 2,801 as licensed by the council last time they did Licensing. No, just 2,600 - so what is all the fuss about (that is about 1 property in every 40).

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Exactly 10 years ago, we sent a letter to the then leader of Portsmouth Council, copying the Cabinet Member responsible for Housing, outlining our doubts about the need to introduce Additional Licensing and why we did not think it would work.

Here we are, same council leader, same Housing Cabinet Member (in their defence there have been others in between), same concerns about the proposal to introduce Additional Licensing.  Read what we said then and judge whether we were right.... 

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The long-awaited renters reform bill was finally published this month with much discussion of the extension of the Decent Homes Standard to the Private Rental Sector, the banning of Section 21 'No fault' evictions and the much needed tightening of rules for social housing landlords.

The content of the bill will change as it makes its way through the Parliamentary process, but the wording relating to the removal of Section 21 and related items will cause chaos in the student rental market unless it is radically changed. In its current form, landlords will not be able to let for a fixed period, so come February when normally students choose their accommodation for the next year, landlords will have no certainty that current tenants will leave when the summer term ends and as a result, will not be able to advertise their properties.

The impact for students is that they will have to fight for whatever becomes available in July / August, rents will be higher as a landlord stuck with 1 tenant or worse an empty house will recover those now unavoidable void periods with higher rents when he or she is able to find tenants and there will be a lot less property available as landlords inevitably move to more reliable income sources.
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Portsmouth's stringent standards for HMO's have already caused a local affordable housing shortage – shown both by rents increasing faster locally than elsewhere and the slower rate of population growth. 

This trend looks to be taking a turn for the worse as, based on our estimates and initial feedback from members, we expect proposed increases in the standards expected of HMOs to take at least 1,000 rooms out of circulation in the city – further pushing up rents and increasing homelessness for those at the very bottom of the ladder.

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 With Portsmouth creating a self-induced homelessness crisis and threatening to remove over 1,000 HMO rooms (see our HMO Standards article) and demand for shared accommodation higher than it has ever been, we are predicting HMO median rents to rise 45%. (See our 'Economics of HMO's' paper for full explanation).

The trouble is, if you want to cash in on this you will find it hard to create an HMO which meets the city's rules – so this article explains 4 simple ways to completely legally create an HMO to ensure you can benefit from this growing market.

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Former electrician and local landlord, Graham Castellano has highlighted a change in electrical regulations which will hit HMO landlords initially and all landlords eventually. 

If you are an HMO landlord with an EICR due in the next 6-9 months, it is worth getting it done before the end of September.   If you are a Social Housing landlord - no need to worry - there is no legal requirement for you to check electrical installations in your property...

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Many of you will be familiar with the 'Couch to 5k' apps and training schedules which get you from 'couch potato' to competent runner able to complete a 5k run, well our own Matt Hinks has a variation on that having progressed from an ICU bed in the Queen Alexandra Hospital Portsmouth to having raised £2,000 to help with critical care funding. 

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There are now nearly 30k homes connected to the ultrafast broadband network and another 20k a year are planned for the next two years at least.

In the last ten weeks approximately 3k additional homes have been added to the network. Members are entitled to a special price as landlords which includes landlord specific support - more details here: PDPLA Announces Broadband Deal With Digital Home - PDPLA News - Portsmouth and District Private Landlords Association
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Sadly, after highlighting the plight of a member last year whose triple glazed upgrades were criticised as being out of keeping in a conservation area where 80% of windows were already uPVC, the windows have now been removed and replaced with lower grade double glazing. 

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There's been a wholesale lifting in standards of investment and quality in the private rental sector thanks to landlords, and in particular there's been an improvement in energy efficiency.

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Reproducing this NRLA blog item here from 'London Property Licensing' as it clearly describes the processes to be followed and the hurdles passed when introducing Additional Licensing. 

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Portsmouth have announced their consultation on Additional Licensing which runs until the end of July. If you have properties in the city, we recommend you respond and over the next few weeks we will be sharing full details on what is proposed and what we believe are the implications. Read on for details of Council organised 'drop-in' sessions 

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 After this months Portsmouth Council Planning Committee meeting, the answer to that question is easy – but whether to be a local councillor is a much harder one to answer.

Should we praise our public spirited citizens who put themselves forward to represent the people they live among and who endured 6 hours of debate on whether 12 HMO applications were to be approved or not, or should we be asking why they chose to start this process and override the advice of planning officials and ignore the view of planning inspectors in the first place?

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Unlike your MoT, gas safety certificates last 1 year from when they are issued - so if you get the checks done a week before they are due (always wise in case there is an issue or delay), then your renewal date will come forward by 1 week each year. Annoying for student landlords who try to get it all done during the void period of August and more expensive than it needs to be if you need to renew every 51 weeks instead of 52.

The good news is  the HSE has seen sense and brought it into line with other testing - you can now renew ahead of your renewal date while preserving that date, so you get 52 weeks usage for your money.

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Matt Hinks, PDPLA member and local landlord is going for a walk and wants payment for doing it!

But the good news is that it is all for a good cause - he is walking around Portsea Island on 30th May to raise money for the critical care unit at QA where he was in a coma last year... 

Update: Walk successfully completed, over £1,900 raised,  not too late to give, lets get Matt past £2,000...

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The PDPLA list of recommended suppliers is one of our most popular member benefits – only local landlords can recommend suppliers and members rate and recommend individuals and companies, so when looking for a trader or supplier you know that if they are on the list, it is not because we make money from them or they pay to be there – a PDPLA recommended supplier is only recommended if a PDPLA member has had a good experience using them.

This month we have a new supplier for solar PV installations, for EV (electric vehicle) charging points and for battery storage solutions plus we have added Digital Home (an omission on our part) and highlight several others.

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The March Housing Cabinet saw the price of an HMO licence hiked by 30% to £1,150 – the highest in the south of England.  

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Views within the PDPLA have been split – there are those who argue vehemently that we need a mediation option to avoid the high cost associated with obtaining an eviction and those who say it is a nice idea, but how could it work when the relationship has reached a stage where eviction is inevitable and anyway, it can never be a relationship between equals, so how could it work?

Well – the good news is that the proof is in the pudding and so far, it does appear to be working. The pilot, initiated by our own Alwin Oliver working with Portsmouth Mediation Service and latterly, PCC, appears to be bearing fruit.

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 When the Article 4 Direction was introduced in Portsmouth 12 years ago, we recommended that members with smaller HMOs change the planning status of their properties to mixed use (known as C3/C4) so that they could switch between family lets and HMO letting without breaking the rules. Those C3/C4 approvals were only for 10 years (though many were not told so at the time) – but now, when owners come to renew, many are getting confused as you need to apply for planning permission to change from 'mixed use C3/C4' to 'mixed use C3/C4' which appears illogical.

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Many new PDPLA properties have signed up for the exclusive Digital Home 'landlord deal' in the past few weeks - do consider it if the network is now available at any of your properties, we only need a few more to reach our target.  

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Rents for family let small houses are at record highs, demand for student accommodation is hitting a cyclical low, costs are going through the roof  and the process to introduce Additional Licensing for small HMO's has started – our recommendation is to sell up or switch to family lets.
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You pay stamp duty when you buy a house - so we were really surprised when PDPLA member, Debra Chappelow, pointed out a little known rule which means long term tenants may be liable to pay stamp duty. 

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Members have long bemoaned the fact they feel like criminals when they receive a letter from the housing team at PCC and this is something we have raised on their behalf regularly since at least 2012.

Well, the new team at Private Sector Housing appear to be listening and have started a process of updating the standard communications to ensure that whilst they still convey the appropriate legal warnings, they are worded in a less threatening style. Well done PCC. 

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The Government has given local authorities special funding to keep tenants in their homes where their circumstances have changed and they are struggling to pay the rent. Portsmouth City Council still has some of this funding available for this financial year. The application for assistance needs to be made by the tenant but can be supported by their landlord.

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As many landlords worry about how they will achieve EPC ratings of C or better by 2025, the largest accreditation scheme for energy assessors is telling its members that 'C' is unachievable and that they should be advising clients to plan for 'D or better' in that timefame. See their PDF explanation of MEES including these timeframes below. 

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 Following on from the 'Heads For Tails' briefing paper we shared last August (see it here), members are asked to complete a short survey. Read more for full details.

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It does not take a rocket scientist to work out that older buildings will be harder to heat than newer ones, but new research from the ONS based on VOA data quantifies the problem.  Almost all homes built since 2012 have a high efficiency rating whereas only 1 in 8 of those built before 1900 does.

Given that most of Southsea and Old Portsmouth comes into the latter category are you one of the majority with no plans to do anything about it?

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  Most people will have seen the TV and news coverage of the problems at Windsor House. Water running down walls, damp, mould and other conditions which no one should have to live with. Portsmouth Labour Housing lead Councillor Cal Corkery wrote to The News suggesting that the solution would be to introduce landlord licences for all rented properties in the city and as a result avoid problems such as this.

In subsequent days, there were a flurry of letters in response on both sides of the argument – read on for a summary.

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As a local landlord association, our primary aim is to educate and inform local landlords to help them ensure they meet all of the necessary regulations and offer homes that are safe and comfortable for those who live in them.

However, many of us occasionally come across properties that we would be ashamed to let if they were ours.  If it were to belong to a fellow member, we would hope to be able to help them understand what they need to do - but typically it is not. What can you do about those landlords who have no regard for their tenants, spend no money on their properties and get us all a bad name and also, who would never consider joining a local or national association? We finally have an answer...

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