After we mentioned that silicon mastic in bathrooms could be cleaned with baking powder and bleach - what do you know - one of our Spanish members told us about a lady in Australia who uses almost the same technique on old and discoloured grouting.
Summer is ending and whilst Covid may still be with us, any suggestion of sitting idly at home waiting for it to end has long since gone. Trades people have never been busier or harder to get hold of (do update our recommended suppliers when you use one), evidence of 'sofa surfing' is increasing – so if you have an uninvited tenant do make sure you are on the right side of the rules (though as a couple of members found this month, at present, eviction is not an option). And if you have experienced abuse of the 'no evictions' government policy, like the landlord with a property in Telephone Rd who has 5 students waiting to move in on 8th Sept, but he cannot get rid of last years students as they have concluded that 'no evictions' gives them carte blanche to stay rent free, then do let us know.
A year ago, there was very little activity on Facebook focused specifically on landlords and tenants - then 'Private Landlords - Portsmouth' popped up, it became very busy and then it appeared to have far more than its fair share of scammers - people pretending to be landlords who were not, offering properties that did not exist and illegally taking deposits. As a result, a whole slew of new Facebook sites for landlords locally have appeared with a range of different approaches to identifying and excluding scammers.
The good news is that at present, PCC are not expecting to change the rules due to the Corona virus crisis - students who went home in March will not result in Council Tax bills from that date as their University year and their contracts are unchanged. This comes in a month when we have received calls from a number of members upset by the size of the council tax bills for their student properties.
The University of Portsmouth have confirmed that they have pushed the start of the 2020-2021 student year back to the start of October and we have been told that the year may be compressed (shorter holidays) in order to fit a normal year in but we don't have confirmation yet. Students are being encouraged to move to Portsmouth as usual but a lot more 'online learning' is planned for the year ahead - but we will have to wait and see what that means for us.
It could be that sharing with 3 others in a small house in Southsea is much less worrying than sharing a tower block with 800 others when it comes to social distancing....
Lots of news this month and barely any mention of global pandemics – granted the pandemic provides a backdrop to Charlotte's (even more interesting than usual) blog, but it is not the main character even in that tale. That accolade is saved for one of our members…
June is usually the time for our AGM, but we have deferred it for at least a month until we can meet. In the interim, both of our meetings this month will take place in the room or space of your choice in your own house! The monthly meeting will be a webinar for which you will need to register – so look out for the email this week and do attend, the 1st half of the meeting will cover a range of topics of interest to all and the 2nd half will be a panel session for student landlords on how to cope during 2020/21. Our landlords breakfast will be an open session via Zoom, so if 9am in Southsea is normally a challenge, feel free to join us from a sunny location of your choice and do bring your own breakfast; seeing what each other's staff can muster in these trying times should be a good conversation starter….
Don't forget the new electrical regulations coming into force in July – a reminder of previous reminders in 'Other News' and we will have a full summary in next months news.
Elsewhere there is member feedback on the Portsmouth City Council scheme to find homes in the PRS for those on the Housing List (which also details the new LHA (Housing Benefit) rates which have risen significantly with zero press coverage), important updates to our Rules and Code of Practice ahead of our affiliation with the NRLA, and some thoughts on craftsmanship and the need for it in our properties – do feel free to like/share or feedback in anyway appropriate, we need to hear your views.
At the last Landlord Breakfast someone suggested I put horse manure on my rhubarb. Well, I have tried it and I can understand the science but in future, I will definitely be recommending that everyone stick to custard.
This month, the Covid-19 pandemic is front and centre in all of our thoughts. Two months ago when it was 1st mentioned in Charlotte's blog, things were bleak. Last month things looked worse. Hopefully next month we can start to focus on reviving our businesses and deciding what the new normal will look like. Until then, do read Charlotte's latest comments on how it has impacted the short term rental sector and also see the items on rent holidays and mortgage holidays - if only there were such a thing!
Please note our meetings scheduled for May have been cancelled, but as our AGM is planned for June, even if we cannot meet in person then, it will go ahead online - more details next month.
Until then - take care / stay safe / look after your tenants
Two tips this month: as part of your vetting process when selecting student tenants, do make sure you ask for a copy of each students Council Tax certificate (see photo below) and make sure you keep it – as when the unexpectedly large demand arrives, long after said student tenants have finished their stay with you and moved on the pastures new, it is really hard to argue who was a student, who wasn't, when they were a student and how long for etc.
Also, be aware that a tenancy running from say, 1st Jan to maybe 30th June is, as defined in law, from midnight on 31st December until midnight on 30th June.We have had examples of student tenants leaving on one day and new tenants moving in the next day and landlords being charged 1 days tax as the property was empty at midnight – the legal definition is that occupation is assumed to start and end at midnight so in these situations, the property is not empty and no tax is due.
April again. Last year, in the April edition, we opened with: "Normally in April we include an 'April Fool' article but we break with tradition this year and include only real news – several reasons for this: in previous years we have had members who read and believed the articles, following up some months later for updates but also, with events in the news at the moment, anything we make up is likely to be less bizarre and therefore more credible."Looking back, it is a struggle to view last April as anything other than very normal. Hopefully, when we look back on this April it will not be so.
Much new news in this edition – hopefully enough pointers and information to help you through any Coronavirus related issues and also a couple of items specific to HMO landlords. Everyone needs to think about the impact on their tenants of the forthcoming update to electrical regulations and how they will handle it and while you are 'staying in' it is worth taking the time to review the PCC PRS strategy as it will affect us all. Also note we have updated the 'Landlords Checklist' on our website to reflect the new EPC regulations now in force.
Did you think of serviced accommodation as high workload / high return / high risk? I did until I read Charlotte's blog this month – apparently there are 3 levels of operation and in the current environment, the highest risk of the 3 is probably unsustainable. Do read it and let us know your view.
And if, instead of 'more news', you would prefer a little light hearted entertainment, here is our April fool item from 2018 (sky hooks for rubbish collection) and also, another classic (urinals in student HMO rooms) from 2015.
The easy way to check whether a tenant meets the 'Right To Rent' regulations is to check on the governments own website, much better than using one of the referencing agencies and cheaper too. Find it here: https://www.gov.uk/check-tenant-right-to-rent-documents
Unfortunately, a lot of regulatory news this month – forthcoming electrical regulations, guidance on what to do if you missed the self-assessment deadline and updates on council tax and Portsmouth's Housing Cabinet meeting.
However, if you only read one thing this month – make sure it is our guide on heating rented properties, as a landlord you have legal responsibilities that many may not realise. We have added this guide to our CPD section so you know where to find it in future and we will update it if things change – but do make sure you know your responsibilities, we may test you on your knowledge at the next meeting! And talking of meetings, we have some video summaries of our last meeting, do let us know if this format is useful please.
As mentioned in the intro, we are putting together our education plans for 2020. Did you attend last year? Are there topics we covered last year that you would like to see repeated? Are there related topics which you would like to cover? What else do you need to know to help you be a better landlord?
If you are young, not yet ready to be a landlord yet but planning to become one in future in order to build a pension and you are considering what career path to follow in order to be in a position to afford to buy these houses, can we suggest you consider training to be a barrister.
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.