Lots of news this month, hopefully something for everybody - we have a reverse April Fool article that you will not believe but it is true. Plus we have updates on everything from house prices to taxes (see Charlottes Blog - some people will need to do some careful tax planning as a result of Covid), from issues with local authorities to student rents and updates on green issues.
Do read about the proposed changes to EPC's, the recent retrofit conference and look at the statistics on take up of green initiatives, some of them will surprise you.
Hopefully we will be able to resume Landlord Breakfasts and face to face meetings soon, but until then, put the date for our April (Zoom) meeting in your diary.
March again. One member mentioned that it has been March for the past year... Maybe this month, it will finally end…
Anyway, in the interim a real mixed bag – Charlotte talks about the effects of a never-ending March in her blog, while Mary worries about whether she should let to unvaccinated tenants. In 'normal' news, we look at some of the facts behind homelessness locally and review recent planning activity. If you are buying electrical appliances, be aware of the changes in ratings starting today and if you have a property that needs solid wall insulation, do see the new scheme available from Portsmouth for properties right across the area, not just in the city.
If you normally join our Zoom meetings, do put this months in your diary – a different format to usual but we hope it will be a good one and also, look out for details of the Retrofit Conference later this month (16-18th) and keep those mornings clear in readiness. And if you are planning any improvements this month, don't forget to use your PDPLA B&Q Tradepoint card.
A member was worried about a potential tenant from Greece who offered his driving licence as proof of EU citizenship. Was that enough / how long is EU citizenship sufficient to meet the governments 'Right To Rent' checks?
The simple solution is to complete this questionnaire for each and every potential tenant: https://www.gov.uk/landlord-immigration-check
Do ensure that you tenants understand what you insure and what they need to insure.
This is prompted by the sad case of Edge Igbibi who was out on News Years Eve when a stray firework went through his bedroom window in Hester Road, Eastney. The resulting fire destroyed all of his belongings but fortunately, the fire door prevented further harm elsewhere in the property. After the event, Edge said, "I have lost £15,000 worth of goods" - unfortunately he assumed the landlord had insurance which covered contents owned by tenants.
A range of topics this month – an example of a criminal rental scam and comments from Charlotte in her blog about increased activity from this sector of society, so do beware; students asking for rent reductions and the changing face of accommodation in that sector; and PCC finally come into line with other city authorities and check whether the tenant has spoken to the landlord before throwing the book at him or her.
Our meeting this month is a joint one with the NRLA and you need to register – so please do so; and next month Portsmouth hosts a conference on 'retrofitting'(making existing homes greener)- it is free, so put it in your diary and book your place.
Missed the 31st Jan deadline for filing your tax? With over three million people yet to file, HMRC has announced it will waive penalties for late tax returns until 28 February – but the deadline to pay the tax you owe is still officially 31 January.
So pay up quick if this is you and then make some time to finish the paperwork
End of tenancy cleaning causes more disputes between landlords and tenants than any other issue.
So it pays to make sure everyone knows their rights. These include what the landlords responsibilities and obligations are, what level of cleaning is required, what constitutes fair wear and tear, and who should pay for what.
While landlords need to get their property spic and span for new tenants, those departing must leave the property as clean as they found it to avoid losing part of their deposit.
We reproduce this excellent guide published by Alan Boswell Group which covers end of tenancy cleaning, taking you through the process from start to finish, with everything both landlords and tenants need to know.
One of the main causes of tension between landlords and tenants is a misunderstanding of the landlord's right to inspect or view properties that they own. When it comes to both landlord rights and tenants rights in England & Wales, it can sometimes feel as if the rights you both possess are in direct conflict with each other, yet provided that both you and your tenants understand your positions, disputes can be avoided and any tension quashed before it arises.
Lots of member activity this month - whether it be raging against the imposition of Council Tax or adding common sense to our insurers policies, hopefully some useful information for all.
We do hope to see you at our Christmas Party - and just because it is via Zoom does not mean you can just turn up, we expect even better costumes and outfits than usual plus you need to bring your own cakes and a suitable tipple. There will be prizes! And restrictions permitting, we will be back to Watkins & Faux for breakfast on the 16th, so do please add it to your diary.
And finally, if you have not been on a desert island for the past month, you will have noticed that green initiatives are coming thicker and faster than ever. Expect this drumbeat of progress to speed up, so if you are not on the bandwagon yet - start reading our Green section and get your plans in place...
A lot going on this month, so hopefully something of interest for everyone in this newsletter whether your interest be Airbnb, Green funding, HMO's, Student Halls, Tax, the new TradePoint discount or the University position on Covid. Read on…
If you have not planned your transition to providing carbon neutral housing yet – now is the time to start. Firstly, if you have an EPC band E property you really need to get moving and if the tenant's income is less than £30K pa, then you can get up to £10K funding to help – see the item on LADS for detail. Have a C or D and wondering where to go next, Warren has some thoughts on that – maybe it is time to sell or better still, listen to Andrea at our next meeting.
And finally, it may be hidden away in 'Other News' but do look at the Portsmouth Transport Strategy – the success or otherwise of our city and thus our businesses is dependant upon the ability of the city to live and thrive, and it cannot do that if the streets are gridlocked and/or we are paying for multiple schemes which have little real benefit. So do have your say. And talking of grid lock, do look at the road closures in the same section.
Are your downlighters insulated? Should they be? When you last had an upstairs bathroom replaced, did you fit downlighters and if so, did you replace the loft insulation above it?
For loft insulation to work, it needs to be thick (think 11-12 inches, 270-300mm), uncrushed (no good if you store currently unused stuff on top) AND unbroken - if there are gaps or holes most of the benefit is lost.
However, downlighters get hot, even LED ones and should not be covered by insulation. I just had a bathroom done and the electrician left most of the insulation in a heap in the corner of the loft, with the bathroom ceiling almost completely uncovered and he was upset when I covered his newly fitted downlighters.
So what should you do? Well, lets not get technical and avoid talk of fire chimneys and whether you need fire hoods or not, whether you have bulbs or integrated units - each have slightly different needs - but the simple solution is to fit a 'Loft Lid' or similar device over each downlighter (think of it as an upturned flower pot without the holes). This gives room for the heat to dissipate but you can run the loft insulation over the top without losing its benefit. Just search for 'downlight cover' for examples.
This month we have our 1st joint PDPLA / NRLA meeting and Patrick Lee from PCC will also be attending to talk about the consultation on PRS Strategy - so do please attend if you can (and see our initial thoughts below). We are hoping to have our first 'off island' breakfast this month, so do look out for more details on that and do let us know your thoughts on any of the items in this months news.
PDPLA Chair, Martin Silman was on Express FM last month and Vice Chair, Alwin Oliver was on BBC South Today - both talking about some of the challenges facing the PRS at the moment. Do see the 'No DSS' article below and be aware that whilst we have already provided PCC with 9 family properties and 3 HMO's this year, they are desparately in need of more family sized accommodation at the moment - so if you have something that might be suitable do let Janice know or talk to Alwin or Tony Athill about the support you can expect and how successful it has been for them.
Flat Roof Issues – Landlord Insurance: Members appear to have continuing issues after our piece on flat roof surfaces last month (https://pdpla.com/news/new-insurance-checks-on-flat-roof-surfaces ) with some concluding that their only option is to replace flat roof surfaces every 15 years regardless of their condition instead of waiting until they show signs of failure. It seems to be either that or paying £50-100 every year for a 'competent builder' to write a report stating that the roof is in good condition.Do let us know how you plan to handle this.
No blog this month, Charlotte has more important projects underway but we hope to see her back in the New Year.
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.
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.