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

Local landlords were never impressed by the introduction of licensing for HMO's in the south of Portsmouth - there was little evidence that housing standards in that sector were worse than any other and little likelihood that the introduction of licensing would address the issues that councillors were struggling with: parking, rubbish and anti-social behaviour.

Against this background, our July meeting was our best attended ever when Bruce Lomax, Private Sector Housing Standards Manager at PCC and the man responsible for the scheme, came to talk to us and explain what it is that we get in return for the time and millions of pounds we have all invested supporting it.

The good news, announced in earlier articles, was that Bruce and his team were focussing their efforts on enforcement actions against some of the organisations many believe to be at the root of some of the issues in this sector.

The bad news is that we have heard nothing from Bruce since.

We do know that Red Vista were taken to court and found guilty, but also, that they are still in operation and Bruce's statement that 'once found guilty' he would be able to exclude them from the sector under 'fit and proper persons' rules does not appear to have been followed through.

We have also been contacted by Tenant Network and told that all actions against them have been dropped and Morgan Ebert, one of their directors, stated, "the case against us has been withdrawn and we are not connected in anyway shape or form with Red Vista" He added, "We are an ARLA registered Letting & Property Management company and consider ourselves to be completely above board and the case being brought against us by Portsmouth City Council has now been withdrawn"

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After discussion at our last meeting about Residents Parking Zones (RPZ"s) and potential problems for local landlords I had a meeting with the Parking Operations team at PCC and hopefully the changes to RPZ"s will not impact us at all and some current problems will also be solved. Full details below:

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Our friends at Upad have written a useful blog on handling tenant disputes which we reproduce here, as it may be of interest to some of our members:

"Couples split up and friends fall out, it"s a fact of life, but when your tenants start squabbling, when they each blame the other for damage to a property, what should you do?

 

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The long running dispute between PCC (who believe that the 2004 Housing Act obliges them to give addresses of landlords of HMO's to anyone who asks) and the PDPLA (who argue that there are ways to avoid the fiasco whereby PCC 'sold' our addresses to Red Vista who apart from cold calling all of us, were then taken to court by PCC for operating outside of the law).

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Last month we stated that the budget tax changes were not unexpected but that landlords on the Property 118 forum were raising a petition against the changes and we included details in case you wished to sign. Original article here.

We were somewhat surprised with the apoplexy from the people on Property118 when they read our article and many stated that we were doing our members a disservice by not supporting the petition wholeheartedly. This is something the PDPLA committee subsequently discussed and agreed that our original stance was balanced and appropriate - however, we do urge you to use one of the many calculators available to allow you to fully understand how you will be affected and also, to plan what action you will take.

There follows an excerpt from an RLA email on the topic with a link to their calculator and also, the response from the government (which they were obliged to produce once the Property 118 petition passed 10,000 signatures. At the time of going to press, they are around 15,000 now - so well short of the 100,000 required to gain a debate on the subject in the House of Commons).

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You may be aware that the government intends to do away with the 10% wear and tear allowance as from 6th April 2016 and in its place allow only for the claiming of actual expenditure. Members who let fully furnished properties will be aware that rents for such properties do not normally exceed those for unfurnished properties and it is the most vulnerable, in many cases, that require fully furnished accommodation. The fair wear and tear allowance of 10% for such accommodation has been in existence for very many years (for as long as I have been a landlord) and is generous indeed. The affect of removing it will require all landlords to keep detailed records of their expenditure on such items that they would not have needed to have recorded in the past.

HMRC have stated they believe that the impact on individuals, i.e. landlords will be negligible, as they are already required to keep records of other expenses such as repair costs. That is an under estimate indeed, as some landlords have hundreds of tenancies where they provide full furnishings, etc and it will require detailed records to be kept, when HMRC itself has said it wishes to reduce the work in completing income tax returns. This regulation, if implemented, is the reversal of government policy and is not a negligible change, it is a significant change.

 

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Amid press reports of a bumper number of new students going to University this year it is easy for student landlords to get excited and for those who are looking for first years to fill their remaining rooms, it should be a good year.

However, an increase this year has to be seen against the heavily capped intakes of 2012 and 2013 which are still working through the system, so overall numbers are still down. Also, as 1st years increasingly seek accommodation in student halls and new halls are being built to meet this need, established landlords will continue to focus on 2nd and 3rd years and those that stay longer - so this year"s intake will become more important next year for most landlords.

The important question is whether the current University system provides value to students and whether it has been set up to fail, because if it does, we landlords will get a share of the pain.

Lets look at this in 3 parts: Overall numbers, competing with student halls and how to find students to let to...

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The NLA are running a course on the subject of possession here in Portsmouth on Thursday 24th September.  (We presume they are talking about what we normally term re-possession rather than something you might need an exorcist to help with...)

Anyway, here is their blurb if you are interested in attending:

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The Portsmouth Assessment Service (PAS) is based in Landport, Portsmouth  and has been resolving anti-social behaviour and difficulties between neighbours in Portsmouth for the last 16 years. The service is independent, impartial and non-judgemental, working with all Portsmouth residents whether their home is provided by the Council or a housing association, privately owned or if they are owners, leaseholders or landlords.

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There was a time when student landlords provided a furnished room and that was enough, but now with so many student halls providing en-suite accommodation with all bills covered, is it time to do the same?

Over the past few years, many landlord have started to include water, sewerage, TV licence and internet in the rent and more recently, it is becoming increasingly common to include gas and electricity charges too.

Do you know how much to add to the monthly rent when switching to fully inclusive? The Uni recommends students budget £15-20 per week for bills but does that mean we should be adding £60-80 per month to student rents? I know many of us add between £20 and £50 when switching to all-inclusive and most don"t make a loss by doing so - but then again, this is typically after just adding gas and electricity to what was already a fairly inclusive rental deal.

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The Salvation Army Floating Support Service will be holding a partnership networking event on Tuesday 22nd September 2015 10am-12 midday at The Haven, Lake Road, Portsmouth to explore the topic of moving to private accommodation from the Single Persons Supported Housing Pathway. They have asked us to invite all landlords, they will be most welcome.

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This month saw the announcement that the Green Deal Finance Company was to cease trading, effectively killing the already struggling Green Deal.

Introduced to help the government achieve its carbon reduction targets and never quite sure whether it was focussed on addressing fuel poverty or the introduction of energy efficiency measures, it has become a vehicle for many companies to generate good revenues to the benefit of very few.

We covered initiatives currently available from Portsmouth and Havant councils recently in our June newsletter (details here) and expect these now to come to an end.  

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We have avoided passing comment on the budget for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that by the time you read this it will be old news and also, most other publications and commentators have had their say, so if you wanted to understand the implications for you, we would hope you had plenty of opportunity to gain that understanding prior to receiving the monthly news.

However, in the past few days we have had multiple requests that we circulate a petition to our members objecting to the proposed tax changes. The petition has been created by members of the Property118 forum and it appears that the proposed changes have a major negative impact on many of their members.

The wording of one of the requests we received goes as follows:

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If you commissioned someone to produce a documentary on the ethics and social impact of automation and the introduction of robots into modern society, you could do worse than Channel 4"s highly rated drama 'Humans" which is apparently its most popular programme since 'The Camomile Lawn" way back in 1992. It is thus surprising that when Channel 4 set out to create a real documentary entitled 'How to get a Council House" the result is less insightful or carefully crafted as an analysis of the situation than the aforementioned drama.

The 3 episodes of Channel 4"s 'How to Get a Council House" shown last month focussed on people in Portsmouth trying to get council homes. Generally, it showed the PCC employees as caring and professional but it did highlight some terrible housing standards - not all in the private sector - and some strange attitudes and expectations amongst those who find themselves in need.

However, in our view Channel 4 took too narrow a focus and their editorial team chose not to convey a full picture, so for those of you who may have seen the programme and be worried by the situation portrayed, several clarifications follow:

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Members will be interested to see this checklist for landlords which we found at www.propertychecklists.co.uk and thought would be useful.

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At our monthly meeting we heard from Bruce Lomax, Housing Standards Manager at PCC that rogue letting agent Red Vista was banned from managing or having any involvement with HMO accommodation in Portsmouth, after pleading guilty to exceeding the specified number of occupants in a licensed HMO.

This was on the grounds that, having a conviction under the Housing Act, this ensured they failed the 'fit and proper' persons test and as a result, would not be allowed to hold a licence to manage HMO's in the city.

However, the council appear to have back tracked and are now saying that Red Vista can manage HMO's on behalf of someone else but cannot be the licence holders themselves.

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Accreditation schemes are often proposed as a 'soft touch" alternative to regulatory controls such as licensing schemes and they aim to improve the quality of service offered by landlords and assure the standard of accommodation offered.

Landlord accreditation can take 2 forms - most often, it shows that the landlord has been educated in the rights and wrongs of lettings, knows his or her legal obligations and has been shown to operate in a professional manner. Additionally, some schemes also use the accreditation process as a way to vet and confirm that the standard of housing which is let by that landlord is appropriate. When it works effectively, it allows prospective tenants to quickly identify which landlords can be relied upon, it gives the council a pool of landlords which it will use before others and those accredited can charge a premium reflecting their professionalism.

Unfortunately, many schemes fall short of these aims. Members pay good money to belong to the scheme yet in return, the administrator does no marketing to explain the value of the accreditation either to prospective tenants or other landlords, accreditation is awarded based on a 'tick box' approach where having attended a course or read a module is deemed sufficient to achieve the necessary standard with no checks to assess whether the landlord actually understood the material or more importantly, has put it into practice in his daily practice and local councils rarely offer preferential access to their accredited landlords.

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We are very pleased to welcome a new Trader this month and that is Wilts Electrical, who are based in The Pompey Centre in Portsmouth.

Wilts are an Electrical Wholesaler who agreed to give PDPLA members a cash account. PDPLA members using the Wilts discount cards will get discounted prices compared to normal cash purchases.

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Whether you are a student landlord updating your property over the summer or an ordinary landlord between tenants, we thought this checklist would be useful:

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With an unpredicted Tory majority in government should we all breathe a sigh of relief that the LibDems mansion tax and the labour rent controls are a thing of the past? Maybe, but with George Osborne"s post-election budget coming up on the 8th July, perhaps we should wait a few days before breathing that sigh of relief.

Why? Well - firstly it is a well-known fact that all landlords are paranoid and fear the worst outcome in every situation. This may not be the case for new 'optimistic" landlords starting out with confident predictions of 12 - 15% yields, but after a few years of bad tenants, voids, unexpected repairs, flat rents falling behind inflation, rising insurance premiums and ever increasing regulation, it may be understandable for the rest of us.

But what grounds do we have for such pessimism? The chancellor is looking to save £12Bn from the Welfare Bill towards a budget deficit of £75Bn - so those of us reliant on housing benefit tenants may have grounds for concern, but with many people able to 'earn" more from their tax credits than they do from their jobs, cuts in this area - which have been widely predicted, may affect many more tenants than those perceived as the 'Housing Benefit" market.

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We have not included any property for sale or wanted in the newsletter before and only send 'accomodation wanted' emails to members up until now. However, Debra Chappelow has a 2 bed apartment available in Waverley Road which is with Cosgroves at £125,000.  Full details here. (There is another apartment also...
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The Leigh Park Community Led Planning Group are organising a 'Clean Up For Summer Week' from 13th-19th July 2015 in Leigh Park and surrounding areas, to help make public spaces in Leigh Park clean and ready for summer.

Our friends at The Roberts Centre have asked us to  let you know that Harrow Choral Society are coming to Portsmouth to put on a concert with free admission and a retiring collection for the Roberts Centre and Portsmouth Cathedral.

 

Various local agencies came together at the June meeting of the PDPLA (Portsmouth & District Private Landlords Association) to discuss how to manage anti-social behaviour. Bruce Lomax, Housing Standards Manager at Portsmouth City Council said, "It is no good just evicting bad tenants, that just moves the problem somewhere else. We need to find ways to solve the problems that are causing the bad behaviour."

As an example of that Gemma Moreau, who works in PCC Housing Standards outlined the work her team has been doing to bring home owners, landlords and student tenants together in one area of the city and thus avoid some of the problems that can occur in these situations. (We have Gemma's contact details should anyone wish to speak with her).

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Opening times have changed at recycling centres

From 1 April 2015 opening times at Hampshire"s household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) have changed to reflect peak usage.

The new opening hours are:

  • 1 April to 30 September: 9am to 6pm*
  • 1 October to 28 February: 9am to 4pm
  • 1 March to 31 March: 9am to 5pm*

*Efford HWRC will continue to close at 4.30pm during Spring and Summer in line with the site"s planning conditions.

In selecting the revised opening hours, a balance has been sought between delivering cost savings to the County Council at a time of severe financial constraints, and maintaining a valuable service to householders.

For other sites, see below.

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We love chicken but it can cause food poisoning so.......... Join the chicken challenge and let"s halve campylobacter food poisoning What is Campylobacter? It is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK. Campylobacter poisoning usually develops a few days after consuming contaminated food. Havant are running the 2015...
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A report from a leading insurance company has shown that 40-49 year olds are more likely to enter the Buy to Let market than any other age range. Nearly 40% of new investors are from this group, with the 50 plus age group accounting for 24%, and 19% from the 30-39...
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Some people need a little help to set up home when moving into private accommodation, or a council property. The Portsmouth Salvation Army team can support them to improve their lifestyles or maintain independent accommodation and in the process, provide a valuable service helping local landlords manage their tenants with the minimum of problems or issues.

The dedicated team of workers can provide support in a flexible person-centred way, helping local landlords avoid problems with new tenants who otherwise they might avoid.

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According to the NLA, in the first six months after the Land Registry had launched its Property Alert service this year, more than 12,000 people had signed up to the free service which provides an early warning of suspicious activity relating to someone's property in England or Wales.

Property fraudsters are increasingly sophisticated in the ways they attempt to acquire ownership of a property in order to either sell it and take the proceeds or raise money by mortgaging the property without the owner's knowledge before disappearing with the money.

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Following on from our March announcement of free boiler upgrades for the elderly and vulnerable,( http://pdpla.com/newsletter-news/free-boiler-upgrades-for-elderly-vulnerable-in-portsmouth), Portsmouth City Council has extended the scheme to all households in the city. In addition, Havant have reminded us that their scheme only runs until August 31st, so wherever your properties are you need to act quickly if you want to benefit from these free handouts.

In Portsmouth, any house with a boiler that is more than 10 years old is likely to qualify for a grant of up to £1,500 towards a new boiler though it needs to be replaced under the green deal scheme.

Havant and East Hampshire, offers 50% cashback on solid wall insulation and 25% cashback on a range of other energy-saving measures including new boilers, double glazing and cavity wall insulation.

In both cases this is funded as part of the Green Deal and to qualify, your property will need a Green Deal Assessment and works will need to be carried out by approved contractors.

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The number of tenants evicted from their homes is at a six year high as rising rents and cuts to benefits make tenancies increasingly unaffordable.

County court bailiffs in England and Wales evicted more than 11,000 families in the first three months of 2015,an increase of 8% on the same period last year and 51% more than five years ago, according to Damien Gayle in The Guardian.

One interesting statistic shows that Housing Associations evicted a far higher proportion than private landlords.

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The Co-operative Bank has sold part of Optimum residential mortgages portfolio in a bid to reduce its risk profile and build resilience.

The lender has completed the first part of a securitisation process to sell a portion of the Optimum loan book that it took on after acquiring the Britannia Building Society in 2009.

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The Deposit Protection Service (The DPS) has advised landlords and letting agents to act soon over older tenancy deposits now that new legislation has introduced a deadline for their protection.
Following the Deregulation Act, which passed into law at the end of March, landlords have until 23 June 2015 to protect deposits that were taken before 6 April 2007 and which they are still holding for periodic tenancies agreed on or after that date.
Periodic tenancies are those which continue on a period-by-period basis once the term specified in the original agreement has passed.

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If you have a property in the south of Portsmouth (PO1/PO4/PO5) which you let to 3 or more unrelated people, regardless of how you contract, then this property is classed as an HMO and needs to be licensed. Click here for more information. Additionally, some converted houses which are now let as flats or smaller units may also need to be licensed (this is the case if the property meets the definition of what is known as a section 257 property).

As part of this licensing scheme, we understand that enforcement actions may stop some letting agents from managing this type of property and also, some landlords will no longer be allowed to manage their properties unless they use an approved agent.

If you own a property managed by an agent who has been denied a licence to manage an HMO, then you will either need to manage the property yourself or appoint a new agent. As a landlord, you are responsible for a number of items which your agent has probably managed for you and it is important that you are aware of these items and take the necessary actions to avoid costs or legal problems in the future.

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After years of debate about differences between PCC's need for 'hard wired, interlinked alarms' and Hampshire Fire & Rescue's policy of installing alarms with 10 year batteries, PCC Housing Standards have reviewed their policy on fire and smoke alarms in rented property. This follows new technology which has become available which overcomes some of the shortcomings of the standalone battery devices. The LACORS guidance recommending mains wired systems in all rented property was produced before the new alarms were available and is thus now, out of date.

Additionally, new national regulations come in from October 1st for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

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A surge in Cornwall related searches on property website Rightmove has been put down to the popularity of Poldark, the BBC"s latest period drama, which is filmed in the region. With Poldark1regular scenes of wild coastlines it is perhaps not surprising that interest in buying in the area has grown. However, this is not the 1st time this has happened - an appearance  in ITV drama Broadchurch apparently added between £25,000 and £50,000 to the asking price of a riverside chalet in Dorset when it went on the market last year.

Perhaps it is time we boosted our own property prices by getting some films or TV programmes made locally?

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New laws mean that landlords need to be able to show that they have performed a risk assessment for legionnaires disease in each of their properties. Our advice to members is not to worry, come to our July meeting and learn what you need to know.

We are aware that certain companies and agents have been contacting landlords in an effort to sell their services to carry out risk assessments for legionella bacteria in rental properties. These are often expensive and in most situations are completely unnecessary. We have seen letters from agents that say "The risk assessment survey must be performed by professionally trained and accredited body". THIS IS NOT CORRECT.

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One of our members has asked us to let all members know that if they use Holmes & Company Gosport Limited, also known as Abode of Gosport Limited, they should be careful to ensure that deposits are correctly lodged and rents collected and passed on. She states that Holmes & Company Gosport limited have been evicted from their premises and that they collected rent in cash from her tenant but did not pass it over. She also has evidence that the deposit was not protected. The proprietor of Holmes & Co Gosport Ltd is not contactable. She hand delivered a letter to his residential address noting that hers was not the first, there were several on the floor and there was no response when she knocked. The police are already investigating the case and would like to hear of any other landlords who have had problems with Holmes and Co of Gosport. This is the second adverse report we have had regarding this agent.

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Alwin Oliver gave a great presentation on this topic at the AGM which we have had requests to follow up with a half-day course on the subject. Do let us know if you are interested in such an event but whether you are or not, Alwin has taken the time to summarise some of his key messages in this article.  

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It has been amusing recently to see Premier League managers finally highlighting the stupidity and ineptitude of football journalists, from LvG, the Manchester United Manager, pointedly asking the journalist whether he actually has a question to Nigel Pearson of Leicester telling a journalist he is stupid and must be an ostrich.

As landlords we have always had to live with shameful reporting by journalists with no understanding of our business, exacerbated by inane logic from organisations like Shelter and Generation Rent, but this month the Mirror appears to have surpassed all of the previous reporting with its 'expose' of the 'Housing Benefit Millionaires in YOUR area'

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We are pleased to announce that we have added 4 new Traders this month, for full contact information and details of services and discounts offered please check out the 'PDPLA Suppliers' area on our website.

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At last months HMO Licensing Governance meeting, we learnt that Portsmouth City Council will be enforcing new government legislation to ensure all letting and managing agents belong to appropriate redress schemes.

Anyone who manages properties for a friend or who finds tenants, will be classed as a letting agent if they collect rents or other monies and accept or receive any type of payment for doing so, however small. As a result, these people will need to belong to one of the letting agent redress schemes.

Anyone found not belonging to such a scheme faces possible prosecution and large fines.

 

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At our April meeting with Portsmouth City Council we learnt of plans to ensure that HMO's in the city are properly managed.

There are now just under 2,500 identified HMO's in southern Portsmouth and so far, just over 2,000 are fully licensed. Efforts are being stepped up to get the remainder licensed or to take action to improve the way they are managed and in some cases, to forbid the owners or the managing agents from managing these properties.

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Just over a month since we sent all of the new TradePoint cards to our members and you have already clocked up over £10,000 of purchases. We do hope that you have made some great savings and appreciate this latest membership benefit. If you have any problems with the card, need extra cards or just have a query do let us know as we'd like to maximise the benefits we all receive.

Every hands on landlord needs a nice box for assorted screws (actually, most households do too). Read on for Mr. Fixit's recommendation..

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There are allegations circulating on various forums that someone called Ben Rogers is facing bankruptcy and a number of landlords are owed money by him. Whether, in this case, the concerns proved to be true, this example does highlight the risks associated with unsecured loans.

One of our members appears to have been affected - read on for more detail..

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Many will not know it, but there is a 'googlegroup' for Havant landlords and PDPLA committee member, Allan Wadsworth suggested to this community that they get together and meet in person.  

The meeting took place on April 15th and was well attended for an inaugural meeting with good input and discussion with Julie Watson Cowen of Havant Borough Council. The minutes of the meeting are shared here for information - any landlords interested in joining, please let Allan know - contact details below...

Two facts that were new for some of the attendees were that Havant Borough own no property of their own now and also, that council tax is now payable from the day a property becomes empty in the borough.

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Looking at this months planning applications, there is not much of interest to landlords in Havant, Fareham or Gosport and only a couple of items in Portsmouth. However, there do seem to be a large number of C3 to C3/C4 applications going through the system, so someone must be getting their paperwork in order....

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The Painsmith Landlord and Tenant Blog has a good summary of the new statutory duty which comes into effect this month and ensures that all letting agents clearly publicise the fees they charge.

Given the broad definition of 'letting agents' (see article on agent redress schemes) this item is pertinent to letting agents, managing agents and any landlords who are now classed as letting agents based on the support they give to fellow landlords.

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Police are appealing for information to help find a missing teenage girl.

15-year-old Elizabeth McKeon was last seen at around 2pm on Monday, April 20, 2015 in Commercial Road in Portsmouth.

Elizabeth is described as:

White
Approximately 5 ft 2 ins tall
Medium to slim build
Collar-length dyed black hair

 

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Paper banks are to be phased out of Havant Borough Council's network of Recycling Points during May and June. The decision has been taken following a significant price increase for servicing and emptying of the banks.

Twenty paper banks situated at various sites across the borough will be removed and residents are encouraged to continue to use their fortnightly kerbside collections. Textile recycling and new style glass banks will remain in place.

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