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

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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The PDPLA, urged on by its members, constantly asks Portsmouth Council to focus on eradicating the few rogue landlords in the city rather than use the HMO licensing regime as a vehicle to increase the workload of the very many good landlords.

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The following tips from our friends at Churchers Bolitho Way:

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When PCC spoke to us a year or so ago, they made it clear that under new rules which allow them to vary council tax exemptions, they were allowed to collect council tax for student houses during the summer - but it was also apparent that they did not have the manpower or resources to go after these properties pro-actively.

This meant that some properties received council tax demands and others have not.

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Portsmouth City Council have interpreted the Housing Act such that they are selling a copy of the HMO licensing database, including names and addresses of landlords to anyone who asks for it at a price of £200.

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On Friday 28th November MPs debated the Tenancies Reform Bill. This sought to ban so-called retaliatory evictions by limiting landlords' use of section 21 notices where tenants had lodged property condition complaints with the local authority.

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The discounted fees for accredited landlords and those taking benefits claimants were removed in the annual review of fees. PCC's argument being that most landlords who have yet to apply are late in doing so and thus not deserving of special treatment.

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This month we had a situation where a member issued a Section 21 to a tenant and was unclear on whether the council should rehouse that tenant or not.

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We often see debates or assertions that because tenants are on individual AST's you are operating a bedsit like hostel and you are liable for all taxes / charges whereas if the tenants are all on a joint AST, they are obviously a group of friends sharing a house and they are liable for any taxes or charges. We all know that in reality, there is no link whatsoever between how we choose to contract and how the house is managed.

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A landlord who flouted the law, has been ordered to pay a £280k fine for ignoring orders to demolish an outbuilding. The building was deemed as not fit for housing and was built without any planning permission. The landlord turned an outbuilding of his property into six tiny flats over 5 years ago. In the same year the council told him to stop using the outbuilding as flats and to remove the bathrooms and kitchens.

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Welcome to the new PDPLA website - with live newsfeed and updated information.

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Many letting agents who manage properties in Portsmouth are asking landlords to apply for HMO licenses for their houses as the agents don't want to be named on the licence as the responsible party should there be a problem.

At this month's meeting of the Portsmouth Housing partnership, council officers made it clear that it does not matter whether a landlord or his managing agent are named on the licence. If there is a problem resulting in court action, prohibition orders or whatever, any paper will be served on BOTH parties.

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A recent article in Property Week highlights claims by a London property manager that up to 60% of leaseholders and this includes residential landlords, are being 'ripped off' and are paying inflated building insurance premiums. Chainbow, which manages sites across the south-east, said building insurance scams are one of the most widespread examples of malpractice by managing agents and freeholders.

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Which magazine are campaigning for more transparency in the mortgage market. They ask that the Chancellor to use his Autumn Statement on in December to give consumers a better deal by..

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These are courtesy of Julian but paraphrased for publication.

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Repairs and renewals versus improvement

The HMRC makes a clear distinction between 'repairs and renewals' for a property and capital expenditure or 'improvement' and many landlords find this an area of confusion.

"I think a lot of landlords don't realise the difference between the two types of expense and just see all costs as legitimate expenses that they can offset against their income tax, but we have to sit them down and explain there's a difference," says Sudipta.

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Landlords can now use a new mandatory ground for possession that allows previous convictions for anti-social behaviour to trigger eviction proceedings. This applies to social and private landlords.

What may seem trivial can easily become critical. A blown light bulb one week could be a multi-million pound law suit the next. A loose bannister could lose you your savings.

Keeping your properties safe and free from health hazards may sound obvious but the reality is that they can be too often ignored, often with disastrous results.

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The head of one of the three mandatory redress schemes in the rental sector insists that, contrary to suggestions from some in the industry, "a significant proportion" of letting agents have yet to join. Sean Hooker, property ombudsman at the Property Redress Scheme - one of the mandatory schemes alongside The Property Ombudsman and Ombudsman Services - says confusion over how many agents have signed up to one or other of the schemes is down to a continuing lack of clarity over who is regarded as an 'agent'.

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Many landlords, often due to experience, do not let to tenants with pets, particularly dogs and cats, with pet-friendly accommodation often difficult to find for tenants, as landlords are concerned on possible damage.

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With an election coming next May, we all need to do what we can to balance some of the rubbish being pushed out by ALL political parties in search of votes.

The sidebar page comes from the newsletter of local LibDem councilor Lee Hunt but we also have Conservative leader at PCC, Donna Jones giving TV interviews saying ALL students should be housed in Halls and we are increasingly seeing Labour calls for rent caps, mandatory registration of landlords, longer tenancies and a number of other potentially costly reforms.

What can you do?

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Portsmouth City Council licensing team have started inspecting all houses thus far licensed. We have questioned the value of this but apparently, part of the reason for the high cost of the scheme compared to, say, Southampton, is that they costed in these checks.

We have had some good reports of houses passed without problems but also, some inconsistencies - some inspectors are happy for the licence info to be 'somewhere in the house' whereas others specify that it must be hung on the wall in the entrance hallway somewhere.

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Many of us have had 'free' cavity wall insulation installed over the past few years. The council part funded the work but the main funding came from the energy companies who were legally required to support these initiatives.

Whilst obviously a worthwhile concept, the practice may not have been as effective as intended.

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Over the years I have had many debates with members about whether they use inventories, whether they create their own or use an agency, how they support them with photos or videos and whether, at the end of the tenancy they are of value in agreeing cost sharing for any remedial works or cleaning required.

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