Recent news items of interest to local landlords, use the search option above to find specific topics.

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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After raising the issue of new insurance checks on flat roof surfaces back in August (see it here), we are pleased to say that, via our preferred broker Alan Boswell, we have convinced insurers to change their approach on this issue.

We recommend members check the wording on their renewal 'Schedule', especially if you have an Aviva 'property owners' policy. 

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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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The University of Portsmouth hosted a meeting to discuss its approach to the Covid crisis. PDPLA Committee member Simon Davidson attended and took notes.... 

(Edit: This item was written before the illegal street rave outside Margaret Rule halls involving 50 revellers which has resulted in police action and at least one student being suspended ahead of disciplinary action)

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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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Members using their PDPLA TradePoint  cards will now get a 10% discount on all goods starting Monday, 12th October.

Additionally, there is an offer running thru Nov offering an additional 10% off of kitchens and bathrooms. See here

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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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If you are wondering what the NRLA are doing to encourage the Government to treat landlords fairly as tenants hit hard times as a result of Covid 19 see https://www.nrla.org.uk/campaigns/coronavirus We are meeting with the NRLA and other regional associations on Tuesday to discuss what more we can do

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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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What is the one thing you get from the PDPLA that you CANNOT get anywhere else?

We hope there are several answers to that one – but one answer that some may have overlooked is our ability to share information about which suppliers and tradespeople can be relied upon to do a good job for local landlords.

Yes, there are various ratings sites but can you rely on them? With questions@ and our Recommended Suppliers list you get current information from fellow landlords without the influence of the traders concerned – you don't get that anywhere else – and the good news, is it just got better. 

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Havant Borough Council aims to eradicate homelessness in the borough by agreeing to support the refurbishment of Brent House, Middle Park Way, Leigh Park.

A grant awarded to local housing association Two Saints will enable the currently unoccupied building, which has been used as temporary accommodation for more than 20 years, to be renovated.

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The past few months have been an incredibly challenging time for many but one positive to have come out of the period is a commitment from government, in the short term at least, to house all homeless people. Around 15,000 rough sleepers across the country have been taken off the streets and out of crowded night shelters and instead provided with their own self-contained accommodation where they can see out lockdown safely.

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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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As of July 1st 2020, ALL RENTED PROPERTY (not just HMO's) will need a current electrical certificate showing the property has been tested within the past 5 years and was safe and met the required standard at the time it was tested.

For most landlords, this is more than just getting a new certificate – it is a requirement to upgrade the electrics in their properties. In this article we look at what that will mean for many of us  (This article is a shortened version of the full guide in the CPD section of the PDPLA Members Area)

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In 20 years of being a landlord, like many of us, I have avoided taking anyone on housing benefit. The main reason being that statistically they come with higher risk of rent default. We all know how difficult it is for landlords to deal with this situation. I became a landlord as a pension investment seeking minimum stress and aggravation so you may be surprised that I have just taken a tenant from the PCC homeless housing scheme, read on to hear what happened 

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At our committee meeting this month (via Zoom) we agreed changes and updates to the Code of Practice which all members must abide by and the Association Rules which define how we operate. The key changes bring the documents up to date, as it is many years since the rules were reviewed and times have changed, consolidates the complaints procedure which was defined in both documents and positions us for the forthcoming affiliation with the NRLA. 

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Private landlords are willing to take a temporary hit to rental income to support tenants struggling as a result of coronavirus according to new research published today.

According to a survey of over 4,500 landlords by the NRLA, 90% of landlords who had received a request for support from a tenant had responded positively.

This included offering tenants a rent reduction or deferral, a rent-free period, early release from a tenancy or a refund on service charges included in rents for homes of multiple occupation.

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As landlords we are all equally guilty – how cheaply can you fit a kitchen? Can you get the bathroom done next Monday/Tuesday? We never say, could you take a little longer and do it better or, OK that sounds good but what if I paid a bit more? So it is our fault that very few trades people have the time to take pride in the quality of their work or go the extra mile to do a better job. But does it matter as long as it is good enough you ask? Well, yes it does,you could save money if you ask for a better job. Let me give you some examples….

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Facing unprecedented demand earlier this year, Alan Boswell Insurance (the PDPLA preferred provider due to their industry beating comprehensive 5 star cover) withdrew their rent guarantee insurance but the good news is that it is back and is simpler than before... 

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It has long been the bane of local student landlords that our taxes have increased annually every year since George Osborne 1st became chancellor in 2010, while at the same time, encouragements for student halls providers have reduced or removed their taxes in almost equal proportion, creating a very unfair playing field. It is now apparent that student halls providers have found a new ruse and many don't even pay Corporation Tax.

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Friend of the PDPLA and mortgage advisor, Carol McFadden followed up on last months guidance to landlords where students have asked for rent holidays with the following comments about the availability of 'payment holidays' for Buy To Let mortgages.

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During the pandemic, which student religiously stayed in their room, built themselves shelving for books and created a small office in which to work, studied hard and in the process, not only developed a whole new branch of mathematics but also came up with the basis of a theory which could shape the thinking of future physicists for centuries in the future?

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There has been concern among many of our members as student tenants ask for contracts to be cancelled and rent to be waived. As many members have mortgages to pay and they rely on the residual income for their pensions, any rent reduction puts them in a very difficult position financially. The good news is that none of the agencies involved support these requests – the University, the government, local MP's and others are all saying that students need to sit tight and pay their rent if at all possible. We look at who is saying what and where you can go for advice or guidance should you be affected.

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The problem: As soon as an HMO property drops below the C4 threshold it becomes a C3. No planning permission is required to go in this direction, but you will need it to go back to C4.

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Hopefully members have received the email outlining our efforts to coordinate the availability of short term accommodation, whether for those self-isolating or recovering, for key workers or the homeless.  If you missed it, we reproduce it here. 

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We know many landlords have lost a room in Portsmouth after applying for a Mandatory HMO licence when the new rules came in last October. This is typically a 5-bed going to a 4 or similar, due to communal space not meeting PCC's very high requirement (compared to every other council in the country).

If this is you – what have you done with that room? For many, we know it is just wasted as a separate 7 or 8 square metre room in a property where the inhabitants do not live as a cohesive group has no value. The individuals often use the communal kitchen but take food to eat in their room and don't use the rest of the house except, obviously, the bath/toilet facilities as required.

One issue we are finding is that unbeknown to the landlord, one or more of the tenants decide it is a 'wasted room' and they let one of their friends live there….

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Thanks to Alwin Oliver and his team at Flats In Southsea for allowing us to share this advice which they produced for their own landlords, tenants and contractors 

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Subject to approval by both Houses of Parliament, landlords and agents will need to ensure electrical installation inspections and testing are carried out for all new tenancies in England from 1 July 2020 or from 1 April 2021 for existing tenancies.

The Government has produced The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 which state that landlords must ensure every fixed electrical installation is inspected and tested at least every five years by a qualified person. The Regulations also state that a landlord is required to obtain a report of the results of the inspection and test, supply it to each tenant within 28 days and retain a copy until the next inspection is due.

Obviously, in the current environment, these plans may be delayed but the key point, that many people overlook, is that an electrical inspection checks an installation meets CURRENT standards and these standards change and become more rigorous every year – so if your property has not had a major electrical upgrade in the past 10 years, it will probably need one now and that will mean major disruption for your tenants. 

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Portsmouth has released a draft of its strategy aimed at achieving an active and well-functioning Private Rental Sector which works fairly for all. Read on for an overview of the strategy and its aims, written by Portsmouth's Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Darren Sanders.... 

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iHowz (formerly the Southern Landlords Association) have summarised some very useful advice for landlords on everything from how do you go about Gas Safety inspections when a tenant is self-isolating to what are the new rules on eviction. (Thanks to iHowz for allowing us to share) This has been updated with links to the NRLA webinar and information on this topic.

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Later this month, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act fully comes into force. What does that mean for landlords? From March 19th tenants will be able to sue for compensation for issues such as mould and damp.  

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