Recent news items of interest to local landlords, use the search option above to find specific topics.
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.
It is a widely held view that private landlords are responsible for most evictions, yet official statistics indicate this is not true. Action in other areas would have a greater impact on homelessness than penalising landlords and making it harder for them to repossess their property when tenants default on their obligations.
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
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?
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!
In this guest blogpost, Charlie Jameson, a leaseholder affected, discusses the cladding crisis, and identifies a need to assess the costs/ benefits of a 'Fire Safety Remediation Plan.'
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.
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.
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.
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)
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...
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.....
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'.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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"
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.