Recent news items of interest to local landlords, use the search option above to find specific topics.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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:
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 regular 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?
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.
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.
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.
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'
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.
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.
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..
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..
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.
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....
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.
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:
Approximately 5 ft 2 ins tall
Medium to slim build
Collar-length dyed black hair
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.
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.
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!
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...
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.
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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.