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

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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Bill Irvine gave an update to the British Property Federation and this article is a short summary of that session. It is intended for any landlord with tenants on Housing Benefit (LHA) or other benefits or anyone who may find themselves with such tenants, in other words it of relevance to us all apart perhaps from those with only students.

Bill is a recognised expert in Housing Benefit and advises both private and social landlords, he is also trying to work with the DWP to resolve issues with the new systems as they arise.

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The inland revenue have a taskforce of investigators who target specific businesses.

Last year it was restaurants and this year it is landlords!

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If you don't know or have forgotten you username and/or password the following information should help you to regain access to the member-only areas of the website.

Visit the homepage of this website. At the top of the page to the right of both the [Username] and the [Password] boxes, you'll see a [(?)]. If you click on the [(?)] which you wish to recover you will be asked for your email address. Enter your email address, and providing it matches the email address we have on record for you you'll be sent instructions to help you recover/reset your login details. If you don't receive the email don't forget to check your spam folder in case it's been mistakenly identified as spam email!

PDPLA login forgot

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A few members have asked how they can obtain copies of their subscription invoices. You can do this by logging in to the website and going to the "Edit Your Profile" page  - in fact its the first page you come to on logging in. While you're here it would be a great time to update your profile information so we can keep you informed of news and information that best suits your personal needs... 

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Amended plans and updated supporting information have been received on the proposals for Brunel House/Havant Street car park. The changes include a remodelling of the south east corner of the building on Victory Road, a revised schedule of residential units so that all flats meet minimum space standards and additional on-site private amenity space. The changes have resulted in a reduction across the scheme of 16 flats, 58 student rooms and 53 sqm of commercial floorspace. All representations on the scheme already received will be reported to the Planning Committee, however additional representations on the changes are now being sought and will also form part of the committee report.

 

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As we launch into election season it may seem an odd time for the current government to announce its plans for the private rented sector, given that the next government is likely to have a different make-up and thus many of these items will change. However, many of these changes have already been set in train and thus this extract compiled by the RLA is included here for information. (Note the PDPLA input on HHSRS).

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Portsmouth Council introduced new legislation this month which allows them to fine letting agents and managing agents up to £5,000 if they do not join one of the 3 available redress schemes. This means that tenants and landlords who may be having problems with an agent can now go to the council private housing team for support.

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Contrary to popular perception that landlords are profiteers who benefit from the poor in our communities, Howard Husock, Director of Case Studies at the Kennedy School of Government which is part of Harvard University argues that landlords add real value to communities, which social and council housing providers are unable to do.

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Planning permission was granted at the February meeting of the Portsmouth Planning Committee for a 41 room student hall of residence Fawcett Road.  Full details of the meeting and discussions on the topic follow:

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East Hampshire and Havant landlords can get £100s or £1,000s off the cost of making their properties more desirable to rent - without any upfront cost. East Hampshire District Council, in partnership with Havant Borough Council, is offering landlords cashback for making energy-saving improvements to their houses. Landlords can get 25% cashback on energy-saving measures and a whopping 50% for solid wall insulation - which improves the look of a property, could increase its value and reduce condensation.

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An appeal court has decided that, when considering whether service charge costs for improvements (as distinct from repairs) are reasonable, the landlord has to show that he has considered less expensive alternatives.

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Over the last few months various pressure groups, think tanks and political parties have been raising the possibility of bringing in rent controls in the private sector in the UK, and Cambridge University have been asked to consider what the practical impact of these proposals might be on landlords.

In order to do this, they need to fill gaps in the existing knowledge of the situation of landlords, and they are asking landlords across England to complete an online survey. The survey covers topics such as tenancy lengths, rent setting and rent increases. If we are to get some balance into this debate and ensure that organisations such as Citizens Advice and Shelter stop coming to inaccurate conclusions which result in further regulation of the PRS, we urge you to complete the survey.

Take the Survey

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At this months meeting of the Governance Board of the Portsmouth CC Additional Licensing scheme it was apparent that previous concerns about poor communicatons and inconsistent standards appear to have been addressed.  However of the 120+ homes so far inspected, only 42 had passed without recommendations of some form which of course will be interpreted as 2 out of 3 homes have been improved as a result of this scheme.

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Following on from the items on Council Tax in our November and December newsletters (see latter item here), it was confirmed at a recent meeting with staff of the UoP (University of Portsmouth) Student Housing team that:
- PCC obtain information on full-time students within the PO1-PO6 postcodes via a report that is shared by UoP systems and as a result, greater accuracy of student exemptions from Council Tax liability can be maintained
- The academic year for final year students ends on May 31st. More information on term dates can be found at http://port.ac.uk/key-dates/
- So if you have final year students contracted for 10 months from September to June, then you should expect a council tax bill for the month of June for all houses with final year students

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Wilkins Kennedy has developed a year end personal tax planner which helps you to identify the planning opportunities that should be reviewed before the end of the current tax year. Also they have included in section 6 details of some changes which have been announced and come into effect for 2015/16.

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At this month's Governance Board meeting of the Portsmouth Council HMO Licensing Scheme, Rachel Geary, manager of the University of Portsmouth Student Housing team stated that she expected, " the new intake for 2015/16 to be similar to 2014/15".

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PDPLA members Mark Smith and Allan Wadsworth have managed to get the bestselling author and nationally famous  'HMO Daddy' to their next meeting of Hampshire Property Network in Fareham....

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We are very pleased to have added another name to our Preferred Traders List and that is John Gray, a Gas Safe Registered heating engineer. He repairs and services boilers, does Landlord Safety Certificates and inspections and deals with all aspects of central heating controls. He will also supply and fit radiators and undertake fault diagnosis.

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A long and technical debate in the House of Lords this week (Feb 11) ended with amendments to the Deregulation Bill being passed which are likely to lead to the outlawing of so-called retaliatory evictions.

Although the amended legislation has to be ratified by the Commons and then receive the Royal Assent, in essence the Lords agreed that landlords would be prevented from evicting a tenant for no reason within six months of receiving an improvement or hazard awareness notice. This could mean that becomes impossible to successfully serve a Section 21 notice as a tenant only needs to complain about a maintenance item for the S.21 to become invalid.

 

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This months PDPLA members meeting had scheduled a networking session on 'rent arrears', but senior member Mark Smith delivered a masterclass on the subject. Members were taken on a whirlwind tour of a rent arrears checklist which covered everything from selecting a tenant, the importance of guarantors, how to react when rent is one or two days late, actions to take at 7, 14 and 21 days past due and should all of that fail, how to instigate legal actions and which ones are most successful and what other measures need to be taken, which organisations to use, etc.

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The Portsmouth City Council Green Deal Team currently have funding to provide a grant of up to £1,500 towards a replacement boiler or new central heating system for private sector households across Portsmouth. To begin with they will offer this to homes with an occupant aged 65 or over.  Gillian Flaherty, PCC Green Deal Project Manager added, "However we may include other vulnerable groups at a later date. We can only provide funding where the current boiler at the property is non-condensing, and as a rough guide this will generally apply to boilers over 10 years old."

 

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At our January members meeting, Alwin led the networking session and the discussion focussed on the PDPLA involvement at the student housing fair at the end of January to be held in the Student Union building. As a result, the PDPLA stand at the fair was manned by seven members - all wearing PDPLA sweatshirts with their names on the front and the tag line 'No Agency Fees' on the back. 

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The Residential Landlords' Association has launched its own election manifesto focused on improving the lot of both tenants and landlords in the private rented sector (PRS) - including longer tenancies, encouraging sales of rental properties to first time buyers, and tougher enforcement against rogue landlords.

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At this months meeting of PRED (Portsmouth City Council's committee responsible for Portsmouth's Regeneration and Economic Development) various councillors petitioned for the Article 4 Direction which limits the number of HMO's in any area to 10% to be tightened up.

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New Legislation to Allow Tenants to Live Rent Free - yes really

Universal Credit - Worries about experience with direct payments

Selling HMO License Details - Issue raised nationally

Tenancy Deposit Rulings - Yet more concerns for old tenancies

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For those who missed our January meeting, you will not have heard about the fire in one of Martyn Winfield's properties. A student tenant was studying in his front upstairs room on December 28th when he heard the fire alarm. He assumed it was a fellow housemate cooking (why can't most students cook without incinerating?) and he ignored the alarms. A little while later, when he heard what transpired to be aerosol cans exploding in the flames, he left his room to check on the disturbance and realised the house was on fire.

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At this months PDPLA members meeting both Elaine Bastable and Lucy Smith from Portsmouth City Council (PCC) Housing Options team spoke to us about how they can work with us to find homes for families that would otherwise be homeless through their bond guarantee scheme, Access. 

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Good news for local landlords from our friends at TP Expert today, who have just heard that one of their planning appeals has confirmed that HMO's do have permitted development rights (as many councils have sought to restrict or remove them from HMO's as part of their attempts to control and limit the spread and size of HMO's).

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In a month when Europe drops into what could be a deflationary spiral,  oil halves in price compared to just a few months ago and retailers report falling prices in the UK, it should surprise no one that house prices may well follow. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) is predicting prices will fall 0.6% in the year ahead, with London seeing the first marked falls for more than five years. Prices in the capital are expected to fall by 3.3%.

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Our preferred insurer, Alan Boswell Group, is thrilled to announce that they have been voted 'General Supplier of the Year' in the prestigious Landlord & Letting Awards for the second year running.

The awards, which were introduced in 2009 with the aim of recognising and rewarding excellence and contribute to raising standards in the private rented sector, were held in Coventry and hosted by TV favourite Tommy Walsh. They beat off stiff competition to win the award at the ceremony.

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Last month we raised concerns about Portsmouth City Council selling addresses of landlords who own or manage HMO's in the southern half of the city.  The original article can be viewed here.

We subsequently proposed what we believed was an interpretation of the law which would meet the needs of the council and all other users of the HMO register whilst avoiding the issues raised by our members. Unfortunately, the Council have chosen not to accept this interpretation and continue to sell our addresses to anyone who wants them.

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Following on from our piece last month, entitled Portsmouth Council Tax Student Homes (read the item here), we have had confirmation of some of the details from Ed Woodhouse, Head of Revenues and Benefits at Portsmouth City Council. The key message is that if we have an empty house with no tenants during the summer, or if we use it for holiday lets, then we should be declaring this and paying Council Tax. Conversely, if we have full time students for the whole year, then we are not liable for any Council Tax.

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The Portsmouth & District Private Landlords Association (PDPLA) acting chairman, Martin Silman, has built a house!  Granted it is not as grand or as large as the properties owned or built by many of our other members but in a city which is only building one third of the new properties it requires, any new build is to be welcomed.  Mr. Silman admitted he was careful to keep the value low so as to avoid Stamp Duty Land Tax and that having given it to a younger relative he is concerned that he may have breached the rules on gifting, plus he may have given the young relative a capital gains issue.

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Many landlords have struggled to explain to local councils that small bedrooms are OK and that many people in HMO's are happy to take a small room if it means they pay less in rent. There has been much debate about whether 'guidance' that rooms should be a minimum of 6.5 sq. metres (70 sq ft) should be enforced or not. In a surprising turn, central government in the form of the Department of Work and Pensions has ruled that any room big enough to contain a single bed can be used as a bedroom.

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In Charalambous and another v Maureen Rosairie NG and another [2014] EWCA Civ 1604, the Court of Appeal held that a landlord was not required to pay a rent deposit in respect of an assured shorthold tenancy into an authorised scheme, where there was no authorised scheme at the time the deposit was received. However, the landlord could only make use of the procedure in section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 to end the AST if the deposit was returned to the tenant, or possibly if it had been protected in an authorised scheme at the time the notice was served.

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We were going to write a review of the year, but the Southern Landlords Association (SLA) did such a good job with theirs we have decided to include it here in its entirety:

What a year we landlords have had; constant amendments to rules and regulations have made it difficult for all to keep up:

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In last months article on the top 3 areas where landlords get it wrong when making self-assessment submissions for their annual tax return (original article here ) we appear to have made a mistake ourselves!

In section on "Flipping between wear and tear and renewals" we stated that flipping between using the 10% wear and tear allowance to claiming for individual renewals was not permitted but you could still opt to claim for renewals of furniture etc as incurred.THIS IS NO LONGER CORRECT.

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Shelter launched their latest report on PRS Standards this month in the House of Commons. Much of the statistical evidence and proposals were reheated from previous reports. Find the report here.

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Following a recent drugs caution in the South Warnborough area, Hampshire Police are reminding members of the public, particularly landlords, that drug offences can occur in any house, in any street and the importance of reporting any suspicious activity to Police on 101. This recent incident was aided by members of the public being the eyes and ears of the neighbourhood and voicing their concerns to officers; demonstrating how important it is to report to Police anything suspicious in your area.

They have issued the following advice on how to spot a cannabis factory.

http://www.hampshire.police.uk/internet/asset/a1aed19a-22b1-4e7d-98a8-fde2f2c83a0A/24977%20Illicit%20labs%20FINAL%202013.pdf

 

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Amid all the media coverage of skyrocketing house prices, there is very little talk about house prices in real terms. In most parts of the country, house prices are back to or near their 2007 levels, but £100 in 2007  would buy the same as £126.20 today, so in real terms house prices are still down 20% from their peak. The big question with an election coming in a few months, is which political party is most friendly to landlords?

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