Martin began his landlord journey 15 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 6 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.

This month we had the Solent Retrofit conference, a revealing report from the MCS organisation, the death of the Green Homes Grant Scheme and early warning that the days of EPC's may be numbered too – what is going on and how do you keep up? 

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If you drive any vehicle with an internal combustion engine, whether it be petrol, diesel or one of those hybrids that pretends to be green but still hides an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) under the bonnet - you really need to watch this... 

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 It continues to amaze us when we see the vast gulf in the treatment of landlords between local authorities – where 13 sq m is enough in Southampton, expect to be asked for 25 sq m in Portsmouth. Leave rubbish out in Portsmouth get a £10,000 fine, want to be a rogue – go to Havant.

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Normally our April issue contains an article that is perfectly credible but untrue. Our April Fool tradition goes back to at least 2010. However, as the last year has been unbelievable, it should come as no surprise that this 'April Fool' substitute is the reverse – it is totally incredible but true. Here it is: Anyone can create an HMO anywhere without worrying about planning permission, property standards, facilities or the need for a licence. 

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 After the sad case of a landlord in Gosport who lost a great deal of money, we have asked local MP's to help us get the Universal Credit process improved.

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PCC have a duty to operate a scheme to licence any property which is used as an HMO for 5 or more people, but they continue to add unnecessary and unrealistic requirements without any apparent justification, review, consultation or approval. Yes, this time we are talking about fire alarms AGAIN but that is not the only issue.

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In 1989, inflation was running at 8-10% and was a concern to governments but it was not something central banks were interested in. Then the New Zealand government set an inflation target for its central bank, much to the horror of unions and businesses who feared it would kill jobs, and within 2 years inflation was down to 2%. The rest of the world soon followed. Now with New Zealand house prices rising at 19% last year, are they about to do the same for house prices? 

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At our January meeting, Jonathan McDermott of TPX told us of the updates to permitted development which would, in the example I gave then, allow a property owner to add 2 storeys in the middle of a block however daft and incongruous it may look. My example was the block in Arundel Street, Portsmouth which had one 'mid-terrace' shop/office available which would have met the criteria. That one has not come to planning yet but just across the road, the site of the old U Need Us shop is to get the same treatment, with a conversion to residential and 2 stories added – we will watch with interest to see its progress through the system.  

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After last months article about the University of Portsmouth request that we reduce student rents (see it here), there have been further exchanges between the 2 sides. 

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When buying white goods for your properties, do you struggle choosing between A** and A***? Well, as of 1st March 2021 it all changes and under new rules, nothing will be good enough to get an A! 

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That was the question asked by long term member, Mary Mortimer, this month. How would you answer it?  

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Unfortunately, we have seen another example this month of a potential tenant duped into parting with a considerable sum by a criminal impersonating a bone fide landlord. This particular example used NLA sourced paperwork and logo's to establish credibility and used the Covid-19 lockdown as an excuse to do everything via social media. Before you ask how people can be so gullible, have a look at some of the detail and see if you would have fallen for it.  

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 Attendees at last weeks HMO Governance Board hosted by Portsmouth City Council have been asked to share an open letter with local landlords and agents asking them to reduce student rents as has been done in student halls.

Read on for details of their request, our response and some useful statistics collated by the NRLA

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The PDPLA are working with a  range of organisations including PCC and Green Tech South to understand inhibitors and help find solutions to the challenge of making existing housing stock carbon neutral.

The good news is that there will be a 3 session conference in March to help answer all of your questions and attendance is free to PDPLA members. The precise format and speakers are still being finalised but we recommend you book your place as soon as you can.

When Is It / Where Is It?

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We have had complaints from members upset that they are being asked to test fire alarms during lockdown – one member who manages 50 properties was worried that he would be a 'super spreader' if he visited all of the houses to test the alarms as requested. When he queried this, it was suggested he phone each of the tenants and ask them to test the alarm while he listened on the phone.Apart from being a bizarre solution, how such a check would ensure that all alarms are working and audible throughout a property is unclear.

The good news is that PCC have now published guidance which hopefully allows a more common sense approach to be taken….. And also, they have finally come into line with other local authorities like Southampton and Bournemouth with an undertaking to "seek to ascertain that the tenant has already made the landlord aware of the hazard and given them an opportunity to rectify this, when taking complaints from tenants" which we have long argued for in preference to their normal practice which is to exclude the landlord and move straight to enforcement.

We also recommend you understand the policy on inspections and investigations during the Covid crisis as it is equally applicable to landlords and we recommend you adhere to it. 

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It will be several years before we can stand back and understand the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on student housing in the city, but in the short term we can use recent planning applications to identify some of the immediate effects. 

We don't know what student numbers will be like going forward but we hear that the University have investigated 'worst case' scenarios where students do not return to face to face teaching until September next year – yes, 2022! So what is going on and what should you do if you have empty property?  

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Over recent months we have heard much talk of the governments 10-point climate change plan and have seen elements of it, such as the introduction of the Green Homes Grant (see our comments on that here). This month, we finally have the full list of 10 areas of focus. Read on for our explanation of the plan and what it means, if anything, for landlords.

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Members will know that we have been campaigning for the past 8 years to convince Portsmouth City Council (PCC) to stop sharing HMO landlords private addresses and contact details with any one who asks. We have had some successes, but also recent setbacks – but the good news is that PCC finally seem to have got the message and are fulfilling their duty to protect our personal data.

PCC Quote: "disclosure would cause us to breach the First Principle of the Data Protection Act. On this basis, we are unable to disclose this information as part of your request"  Thank You PCC!

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If you missed it, don't forget that B&Q Tradepoint are offering 20% off kitchens, bathrooms and some other items for members using their PDPLA Tradepoint cards.

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Fareham Council followed Portsmouth, Southampton, Reading and others last month in stating that it wanted all of its activities to be carbon neutral by 2030. Portsmouth City Council has been on this path for a while, installing solar panels on schools and other public buildings, housing blocks and other properties throughout the city since 2016.This month, Portsmouth became the proud owner of the UK's largest operational Tesla Powerwall installation.

But what is a Powerwall, should you care and what does it mean for local landlords? 

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Many local landlords are receiving letters from unknown businesses in direct contravention of GDPR regulations stating, "we got your details from the Portsmouth HMO register" even though the landlords no longer have Licensed properties and never gave PCC permission to share their data.

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We have no evidence of any similar landlords locally, but recent cases nationally serve as a reminder that fire safety is not something any landlord should be casual about - it would be nice if the rules were clear and up to date but there is no excuse for ignorance or lax interpretation of those rules as one Luton landlord found after a tenant died in a fire in his HMO.

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A member and owner of a shared (HMO) property in London Road, Portsmouth has lost an appeal against the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) decision to charge Council Tax separately on each room in the property.

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We have had several members complaining about the difficulty of finding an installer to undertake work under the Green Grant scheme and PCC  have confirmed that installers are focussing on ECO  to get 'quick wins'.

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As landlords, we have all struggled with building trades over the years – big jobs are easy, you have a surveyor or similar to manage it, a contract with a builder chosen by tender and whilst much of the work is done 'as fast as possible' as opposed to as 'well as possible' generally, as long as the snags get properly recorded and resolved all is well.  But... 

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HMRC have announced that Airbnb has agreed to share data about its hosts and their earnings. We see this as good news as the 'amateur' hosts have flooded the market with property at marginal prices, making it harder for professional landlords, who incur all the costs of running a business professionally as well as paying taxes on revenue or earnings, to compete.  

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It was no surprise when the Serviced Accommodation and Holiday Let sectors bombed during lockdown, but local landlords have been waiting with bated breath to see who suffered in the wider market - especially those of us who are student landlords.

Now we know the answer, it was the top end of the independent student halls market,  with the Registry in St Michaels Rd and the old library in Elm Grove both filing for change of use from student halls to interim accommodation for the homeless.

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 It was with some incredulity that we heard that there had been 139 objections to the conversion of 2 derelict shops in Stamshaw to HMO's. We consider it hypocritical that the local authorities know they need shared housing in the city, the Local Plan talks about 'mixed and balanced' communities, Housing Options place formerly homeless tenants in them yet councillors continue to encourage the demonisation of HMO's by local residents and do nothing to explain the bigger picture or allay their fears.

This against the backdrop this week of a property in Cosham, much needed to house overseas nurses drafted in to cover staff shortages due to Covid, also sitting empty due to issues with the 'change of use' required before it can be used as shared accommodation.
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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.  

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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...

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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.

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 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."

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 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.

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One member raised a concern  that some electricians are inventing work by only issuing certificates with one year but licensed hmos are okay to have 2 yearly tests of portable appliances. So what are the rules?

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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.

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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.  

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We saw this on Facebook and had to share, it is a brilliant tip on how to get an expensive (say a quarter of a million pound) property for possibly just £1,400. 

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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.

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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..... 

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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'. 

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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.

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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.

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More than 2 years after originally asking this question, we finally have confirmation that student halls do pay council tax in the same way as other category 'N' shared housing (student HMO's).

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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.

Full details below and do remember to use your PDPLA Trade Point card when you shop, as we get a very small commission when you do so.  (And if you don't have one or have lost yours, do let us know This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)  

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 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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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

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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

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