You know what it is like, you wait 15 years for a Local Plan then 3 come along at once. This month Emsworth, Havant and Portsmouth all made progress on their local plans.
Why is it important – in theory, all local planning decisions are driven by the local plan. If an area needs a new doctors surgery before proposed housing can be added, expect this to be costed into Section 106 arrangements for the developer as part of any planning approval. Same for new roads and infrastructure.
Want to build something different – check the local plan – if it is not already within the definition of what can go into that area, it will never get approved.
If proposed government changes happen, you will not need planning permission anymore – if you propose something which is inline with the Local Plan, approval is automatic – so these Local Plans and their content are really important.
This month sees Digital Home launch their new online portal, further improving support to local landlords and a whole new group of roads have been added to their coverage in Portsmouth (as well as Bournemouth and Southend).
Portsmouth's Conservation Area policy has been thrown into question since local landlord, Mike West, was told to replace his energy efficient triple glazing with old style sash windows. Parts of Campbell Road are included in one of Portsmouth's 30 conservation areas as councillors, back in the late 2010's, sought to retain its look and feel as a 'leafy Southsea suburb' (their description).
You can argue whether it ever was so but looking at the photo above – you will note that although the houses were built as pairs, no two pairs were alike and today, no pair is the same as its twin.Can you tell which of these properties won a Portsmouth Society commendation for the restoration work and which is the law-breaking triple glazed abomination?
Members are reminded that whether they employ an agent or not, under current legislation, it is the landlord who is responsible to ensure that all paperwork is in order. Yes, this is illogical – you employ a professional to handle the paperwork, as it is so hard to comply given the huge amount of landlord focussed legislation we have to live with, and when the professional screws up it is you who foots the bill.
A group of MPs has suggested the government consider a "proportional property tax" to replace the current council tax, in a bid to fund the growing cost of social care. Unfortunately, this proposed change will appeal to all concerned EXCEPT landlords – and we can all guess what that means….
One of the roles of the NRLA is to host meetings with representatives of all of the UK associations representing landlords, to ensure that their focus when talking to central government is correct and actions across the industry are coordinated. The team meet quarterly and the PDPLA are represented by its chair, Martin Silman. His notes on the meeting follow...
The Chancellor is making landlords the scapegoats for the COVID rent debt crisis as he turns his back on the support the sector needs, says organisations representing private sector landlords, including the PDPLA and the NRLA.
With interest rates continuing at 'all time low' levels - is now the time to worry about whether you have the right mortgage deal? We would say yes, looked for a low fixed rate deal now as all the indicators suggest rates will rise (and they have already in the US)
The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a tariff charged by local councils which allows funds to be raised from new developments towards the cost of infrastructure to support development of the area. Havant has just announced its proposed new charges which are at least 50% higher for most developments.
Obviously as landlords, our primary role is to provide safe and secure homes for our tenants - you will want to turn a profit if at all possible, but in the eyes of the law any financial consideration is irrelevant. This focus was always there - government 'Housing Disrepair Guidance' has been available since 2001, but the recent 'Homes (Fit For Human Habitation)' laws have increased the number of organisations offering 'no win, no fee' legal representation so as landlords, you need to take extra care.
Heat Pump Month, backed by Ground Source Heat Pump Association (GSHPA), Heat Pump Association (HPA), Heat Pump Federation (HPF) and MCS kicks off on Thursday 17th June with a month-long series of free-to-attend online events to bring together housing, built-environment, policy and installation professionals to collaborate around one the UK's greatest carbon-reduction challenges – our homes.
Looking back at planning applications over the past 3 months, there is a lot of building work planned or underway (over 700 individual developments so far this year) which is good for the regeneration of the city but as in previous years, it is piecemeal with no matching upgrade to infrastructure or services. There was a Portsmouth City Local Plan produced in 2006 which was due to be updated in 2011, but for a number of reasons this has yet to been done. You can argue that without a tranche of money from central government there is little point in having a grand vision that can never be implemented, but unless the transport and services needs are articulated, they will never be achieved. This all becomes more pertinent with forthcoming changes to planning rules that could well state that anyone can build anything without the need for planning permission as long as it is in line with the Local Plan.
Members will be aware of the deal we have agreed with Digital Home, providing 900Mbps broadband and Wi-Fi with specialist 'landlord support and billing' at prices considerably better than those available to retail customers.
Do remember, if you have properties currently with Virgin, that you are able to leave their contract early without penalties when they hit you with their annual price increase.
So, you need a new boiler. It is a choice between £2-4k to replace the gas one or £4-8k for the much greener air source heat pump that you know will be your only option in 10 years time, but which looks too expensive now. Well – with RHI it is typically cheaper…
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.