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

The RLA and the PDPLA are separate and distinct organisations. The RLA provides a national voice and a wealth of support from standard contract documentation to help lines, high quality magazine and community forums. The PDPLA provides representation on local issues and face to face meetings with speakers covering the whole range of the private rented sector - from accounting to vermin control, stopping at building works, contracts, damp, evictions, fire safety and every other letter in the alphabet along the way.

The affiliation of both organisations means that membership of either one automatically entitles individuals to access the benefits and services available from both organisations.

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At our regular meeting with Portsmouth City Council Private Sector Housing (PCC) we learnt that they are still finding unlicensed HMO"s (3 more this month plus another 21 'Section 257" properties), most of which have been in existence since licensing was introduced nearly three and a half years ago, and of the 3,200+ that have been identified, only just over 2,900 have been licensed.

This is not a criticism of PCC - just confirmation of how hard it is to find the landlords that don"t want to be found or to get the message to those landlords who may only have 1 property and who do not participate in local associations or CPD activity.

Amongst the good news this month, enforcement actions on those who do not comply with licence conditions continue, raising the overall standard of housing in the city by removing or improving the worst.

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This month planning permission was given for another 256 student hall rooms, bringing the total number of planned new student halls in the area to 10.

The new hall will replace the Co-op Bank and Music Room in Commercial Road with a 19-storey tower, adding to the student zone which is growing around the town station which some now call 'Station Square" - Greetham St, James Watson Hall, Margaret Rule Hall plus new developments at Isambard Brunel Road, Zurich house and Surrey Street - bringing the potential halls places up from just under 3,000 a year ago, to somewhere nearer 8,000.

We have asked the University several times what they see as the optimum number of halls rooms but have yet to get an answer - our view is that they probably need around 7,000 to ensure they can provide rooms for any 1st year or international student who wants one, but it is interesting - whilst developers used to build halls 'to order" and in return the University would guarantee a certain level of occupancy, this has changed with so many developers getting in on the act, the University actually objected to this new tower at the planning meeting on the grounds that they had not been consulted.

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A letting agent has been sentenced this month for safety breaches after a self- employed builder suffered first and third degree burns to his face, hands, neck and chest. Do you as a landlord, know when you are liable for any injuries sustained by a tradesman you employ?

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Our renewal process has changed!

Over the past year, the committee has been working with the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) to agree a scheme whereby members of either organisation could benefit from membership of both organisations.

You may remember that we put the concept to a member vote at the start of this year and PDPLA members voted 5 to 1 in favour of affiliation.

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The PDPLA Christmas Party was well attended by members and guests this year, in its new location at The Royal Beach Hotel in Southsea. Around 100 members and leaders of local charities and the city council joined to celebrate another year over and to raise money for local homeless charities.

This year we decided to raise funds for Two Saints, who provide a great deal of support to help the homeless back into housing and also, The Roberts Centre which offers a range of services for the most vulnerable including several which help those who have dropped out of the benefits system to get back into it. Apart from enjoying the food, the excellent magician and the Christmas music, members raised over £400 for our chosen charities from a series of events on the night successfully organised as previously by PDPLA member Charlie Cherry.

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Our 2nd 'Landlords Breakfast' will be at 8.30am (until about 10am) on Wednesday January 11th and it will again be held at Watkins and Faux on the seafront (in the Southsea Tennis Club pavilion opposite the D-Day Museum and the Blue Reef Aquarium).

All local landlords and prospective landlords are welcome, whether or not they are members of the PDPLA or the RLA.

This is an informal networking event, allowing you to meet and chat to like minded individuals - and if you have a current problem, we will be surprised if one of our more experienced members does not have some input that will help.

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Most landlords assume that gas safety checks are like MoT's and if yours is due on say, September 1st then getting the checks done in August will be fine - whilst this is true, what most people don't realise is that gas safety checks are due 12 months after the previous one, so getting it done early does not preserve the current renewal date but brings it forward!

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After over a year of negotiation, the PDPLA and the RLA will affiliate.  Both organisations will still be separate and independant entities, but from January 1st 2017, any member of the PDPLA will also become a member of the RLA and any RLA member in the Portsmouth area will become a PDPLA member.

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If you plan to issue a Section 8 'Notice to Quit' you need to make sure you are using the new form prescribed by the government. It changed on 1st December and has been updated to reflect the new ground, 7b, introduced in the Immigration Act 2016.

 

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In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond announced that tenants can no longer be charged fees associated with the arrangement of a tenancy. This appears to include the cost of referencing, inventories and the like - so if you have charged for anything of this nature in the past when letting a property, you will now no longer be able to do so (depending on the precise wording when this becomes law).

This is obviously a vote winner - no one enjoys handing over hundreds of pounds to an agent for no apparent benefit and outlawing it, on the surface, appears to please many and cost nothing.

Unfortunately, there are costs involved. Landlords will need to increase rents to recover these fees during the term of the tenancy, tenants will have to pay more as the increase will stay with them for the life of the tenancy rather than just the 6 or 8 months it takes to recover these costs and the higher rents will feed through into an increase in the 30th percentile rent level which Housing Benefit is based upon, so the government will see its £25Bn Housing Benefit bill increase accordingly.

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We had a panel of finance experts at our November members meeting organised for us by Carol McFadden of Abacus Financial Options.

All of the presentations from that night and some of the supporting materials are available in the members area of the PDPLA website.

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A motion at a recent Portsmouth City Council 'Full Council' meeting was raised to 'further limit the growth in the number of new Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO's).'

The logic, in our view mistaken, is that Portsmouth has enough HMOs and allowing more will not be popular or beneficial. It is true that with 7,000-8,000 new student halls rooms being built, the mix of housing usage in the city will change - but to assume that properties will switch from student HMO usage to family ownership is misguided. For those that have HMO's, their property values will continue to be at a significant premium (currently 30%+) to comparable non-HMO properties due to the constraints imposed by the council - so measures such as this will ensure properties with an HMO designation retain that designation and landlords let to whichever alternative type of HMO tenant they can best cater for.

Some will move to 'serviced accommodation' and high end professional lets, others to the more vulnerable (moving the problem recently reported in Waverley Road across the rest of Southsea) and the vast majority will stay with students as we still expect to see a need for homes for around 10,000 students in the Private Rented Sector in Southsea even if all of the planned student halls are built.

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We could have chosen a better day for our first breakfast event, being the morning after the US election and one which saw a cold, wet and windy day in the UK - but those who attended enjoyed a good breakfast and discussed a wide range of topics from late paying students and whether to sell or keep a particular flat with a lifetime tenancy to the life expectancy of a landlord and how that should be factored into ones overall business plan.

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The publication Property Week has been forced to withdraw a category from their student accommodation awards, after a handpicked panel of students refused to choose a winner in protest over increasing rent prices. Whilst more halls rooms are needed in the city, we have long worried that a business model designed to recoup the outlay in 10 years and potentially leave the block derelict and unfit for any other use soon after is not a good one for any of those affected.

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At the Governance Meeting this month we learnt of ongoing enforcement activities and also agreed some changes to the process to reduce the workload of the staff involved at PCC.

Three properties in Waverley Road (where the recent murder occurred) are getting a lot of attention. They have been used to house some of the most vulnerable tenants in the city. Unfortunately, the condition of the houses was poor - which in a way is understandable with these tenants, if they repeatedly break locks, where is the incentive to replace the damaged doors? Also and more importantly, the management of the properties was not of the required standard.

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We have received a request from the RLA that anyone adversely affected by the changes to mortgage interest relief get involved in their lobbying activity - full details below and as in so many previous newsletters, we do urge all members to check the impact of these changes using our simple calculator on our home page as many landlords continue to think they will be unaffected only to find that the changes will push them into a higher rate tax band and potentially, taxes could be greater than profits.

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Who knows whether Flick Drummond and Alan Mac, our local MPs, were influenced by the PDPLA's plea for support delivered by our own Tony Athill, but on Friday (28/10) they helped vote the Bill on to its next stage. If and when enacted, the bill will stop our Local Authorities advising tenants issued with a section 21 repossession order to sit it out and make us get a court order and perhaps even employ bailiffs.

(Note the picture above was taken recently outside the council offices in Portsmouth's Guildhall Square - all other photos in this article were taken in the same vicinity)

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Our 1st Landlords Big Breakfast is next week, on Wednesday, 9th November and everyone is welcome.

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Good news for landlords with HMO"s in Portsmouth - PCC have finally agreed to stop sending our addresses to anyone who asks.

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The government is running a new consultation to get feedback on its proposal to extend mandatory licensing to all properties with 5 or more tenants (today a property needs to be spread across 3 or more floors to need a mandatory licence) and also, to impose minimum room sizes on tenanted accommodation. The consultation runs until 13th December and you can make your views known here.

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The High Court has rejected a request that the legality of the hated 'Tenant Tax' be tested with a Judicial Review.

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Tenancy agreements are being broken by one in seven renters breaching one or more rules according to Direct Line company. From its research it also claims that 11% of tenants were unaware of whether they had in fact broken any of the rules outlined in their agreement.

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Changes this month to parking zones in Portsmouth will encourage more HMO's in the north of the city.

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HMRC are keen to get landlords submitting quarterly returns by 2018, they state, "The way you interact with the tax system is changing. From 2018 it will become increasingly digital and most businesses, the self-employed and landlords will need to use software or apps to keep their business records, and to update HMRC quarterly. The underlying tax rules will be simplified to support these changes."

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Members are starting to see single claimants with no children and on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) who have been transferred to Universal Credit (UC). There are 620 in Portsmouth, 478 have no income, 141 are in work but receive top up benefits.

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The Government is imposing lower caps on household benefits. This is the next stage in their attempts to force more people into work and to ensure they are better off in work. For some families this will have a dramatic impact on their finances and they will have to make changes. If they do not, they may find it difficult to pay their rent. If you have tenant families who are not exempt you are advised to talk to them soon especially if they are inclined to put off difficult decisions. The caps will apply some time after November 7th. DWP are writing to everyone they expect to be affected.

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Earlier this month the PDPLA was contacted by a desperate student who said, "I want to ask what can I do if my landlord is ignoring me? I am from Malaysia just arrived Portsmouth yesterday. I"ve been calling the number that he gave me in the agreement but there's no answer. If you can guide me, it would be much appreciated. I made the agreement on 9th July and already paid the rent and the deposit. I hope it is not a scam because he gave me all the right details and a copy of his passport etc."

The bad news is that this was a scam, the good news is that all the appropriate organisations pulled together and this student now has a room in one of the University student halls, though he has lost a lot of money. Read on for details of the scam and how it can be avoided...

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Two men aged 45 and 56 from Havant have pleaded guilty to offences of illegal money lending and money laundering following a hearing at Portsmouth Crown Court this week (28/09)

 

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In response to a consultation being run by the government, the PDPLA has put its weight firmly behind the introduction of a scheme to regulate letting agents, forcing them to protect any monies they receive from landlords or tenants.

We stated, "There is general agreement that CMP is a necessary evil. In a small survey of agent members only one felt that he was already overloaded by regulation and CMP was not justified.

In Portsmouth alone members and tenants have lost thousands of pounds when four specific agents ceased trading.

One of our members is an experienced landlord who is cautious and streetwise. He manages his own rental properties but occasionally uses an agent to find tenants. A local firm that he had used before (Professional Tenant Finders) found him tenants for two properties. They took two deposit and the landlord ('W') assumed they had protected them as required but they had not. 'W' ended up having to repay the tenants £14750 deposits out of his own pocket."

Read on for more of our feedback on the consultation....

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This months governance team meeting was cancelled but we did learn some interesting facts about the progress of HMO licensing in Southsea (PO1, PO4 & PO5) and also received a plea about student rubbish when they move out in the summer.

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A Portsmouth City Council Planning Committee decision to block a conversion of a 15 room care home into a 12 room HMO because of local residents concerns about the impact on parking and traffic has been overturned on appeal.

The inspector who reviewed and overturned the decision, stated "There was no substantiated evidence submitted with the appeal to demonstrate that the use of the property as a 12 bedroom HMO would generate a significantly greater number of movements than the former nursing home"

The Council were also ordered to pay all costs involved on the basis that they had acted unreasonably. This is the 2nd case this month that they have lost on appeal.

Full details follow....

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Hopefully by now, all of our members will be up to date on the tax changes announced over the past year that will affect them.

As mentioned last month, if you have any mortgages and you do not operate as a limited company, your tax liability will change - see our calculator (accessible on our home page or here). 

Conversely, see the details of our July members meeting 'Tax for the Terrified' or come to our September meeting where a local accountant will talk about various ways to cope with the impact of these changes.

Alternatively, read the summary of changes as published recently by HMRC and sent to us kindly by member, Dave Heard.

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This question comes up every year - obviously in a purpose built hall of residence a student would expect to be able to lock the door to their room, but in a well maintained Victorian house, let to 3 or 4 friends, is it justified for them to ask for locks on the doors to their rooms?

Most landlords understandably want to maintain the character (and value) of their houses and don't want Yale locks throughout the property making it look less like a home and more like a bedsit.

Advice from the relevant authorities varies but there is a solution....

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I think we all know there is no such thing as a typical landlord - we all come from different backgrounds with differing aims and objectives, indeed many never intend to be landlords at all and just find themselves with an empty property for some reason. 

However, we frequently see surveys that try to summarise the key attributes that define a landlord - if only it was so easy, we could send them all a letter asking them to join the PDPLA!  The latest such survey has been commissioned by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (so not independent) and does not state how large the sample population was or how it was comprised. Whilst not ignoring this dubious authenticity, it does come up with a key finding that does ring true - most landlords see property rental as a part-time activity that supplements their income.  (We do hope they did not pay too much to work this out - but anyway, for more information do read the full article from the CML below).

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The Government has addressed the confusion over rules regarding Right to Rent checks on foreign students coming to start courses in the UK.

The RLA approached the Home Office asking for clarification on whether checks must be carried out twice - when agreeing the tenancy, potentially months in advance, and again 28 days or less before students were due to move in.

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The Law Society has released a new practice note on electronic signatures with the aim of increasing confidence in the use of electronic signatures for commercial contracts.

This confirms the PDPLA position, presented by Alwin at our April 2016 members meeting, that members should look at this option as a means of reducing paperwork and saving time and money, it also confirms once again that the PDPLA are 'ahead of the curve' with new developments in the practice of letting. (Original April article here)

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The question to the Information Commissioners Office raised jointly by  the PDPLA and Portsmouth City Council, asking for clarification on the councils interpretation of the Housing Act - specifically whether the council is obliged to give names and addresses of landlords of licensed HMO's in Southsea to anyone who asks, has resulted in a ruling that what PCC are doing is correct and legal.

We fear that our question was not properly understood and plan to appeal.

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Being a landlord is more complicated than most of us realise. The laws affecting us are changing all the time and even experienced landlords are omitting to carry out some mandatory requirements.

The PDPLA Landlords" Checklist has been created to assist landlords, especially less experienced landlords, in managing a tenancy.

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As our use of the internet continues to grow so too does our list of usernames and passwords for the various websites we build a relationship with. We also know that many of you have difficulty remembering your PDPLA login credentials - so we have written this article to help you with this problem.

In an ideal world passwords should be a non-dictionary long mixture of upper and lowercase alpha-numeric characters with symbol/s included - and not used on more than one site. Keeping track of these passwords (and even creating them) is an ongoing and increasing challenge for all web users. However, there are systems available that have been widely adopted, tested and found to be very secure and are available to all that can take much of the pain away.

Solutions do exist for this problem...

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We commented previously on the proposal for a new student hall on the site of Chaucer House and the former Navigators pub.  Full details of what is proposed are now available here.

Unite, who will own and manage the property, said:

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We received the following update from John Saulet of Saulet Townshend Limited, Solicitors which includes a useful update on recovering abandoned premises.

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We advertised a webinar being hosted by the Sheriffs Office about evicting problem tenants last month and this is the review we received from a member:

"Other people from the PDPLA may have attended the webinar on eviction. I have not got much out of it as I was unable to turn back to any slides either then or now. I would not be able to carry out an eviction procedure using the advice given though I might take the advice and use the sheriff officers to review the case, do all the work in court and what have you.. I think the speaker whizzed past critical details as part of a sales pitch and why not? The webinar was scheduled to be 1 hour but went on longer without me. It had a delightfully homespun approach to technology.

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At our June members meeting Jane Hoskins and the team from Southern Water gave an enlightening talk on how sewer blockages occur and why they believe that in some cases they are legally able to reclaim costs from the landlord of the property.

Their talk was informative and logical, though many key elements were subsequently contested by a number of PDPLA members.

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Some members may have seen the brief item at the bottom of the Streetwise column in The News on 16th June, thanking the PDPLA for our comments and signposting readers either to PCC Private Sector Housing Standards or the PDPLA.  Whilst it was positive PR for us, it was still a small and somewhat reluctant correction to the original misleading comments.

Read our full response here:

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For those who like to plan their expenditure, B&Q have kindly sent through a copy of the masterfile used to calculate our discounts on products when we use our B&Q Tradepoint cards.  The full list is available here.

However, to whet your appetite, some of the best discounts compared to 'normal Tradepoint users' (who themselves are seeing discounts of 5-15% over retail customers), read on...

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According to the RLA, their campaigning to challenge proposed restrictions to mortgage interest relief is starting to make an impact in Westminster, with a surge of support from Tory backbenchers.

A number of Conservative MPs are now openly challenging the Government on the changes, which will see mortgage interest tax relief restricted to a basic rate, even for higher rate-paying landlords

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From the RLA Landlord News Hub: 

Rogue landlords can be banned from renting homes under new rules brought in by the Government"s Housing and Planning Bill.

New legislation also includes plans for the creation of database of criminal landlords and agents - as well as powers to impose civil penalties of up to £30,000.

The Government"s Housing and Planning Bill finally received Royal Assent last week after a prolonged period of Parliamentary ping pong. So what happens next?

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RLA policy director David Smith has produced a new document updating landlords on changes relating to the Government"s Right to Rent checks following the introduction of the Immigration Act 2016.

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Ahead of our July members meeting, where we plan to cover the basics of how to manage your paperwork as a landlord - from forms and records to taxes and expenses, Morris Crocker Chartered Accountants have issued a very useful guide to the tax implications of being a landlord - covering details such as 'when you become a landlord' for tax purposes all the way through to 'when you stop being a landlord' for tax purposes.

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