RLA accuses Shelter of using emotional clichés in ‘rogue’ landlord campaign - (go to top)
The Residential Landlords Association has taken homelessness charity Shelter to task over the issue of bad landlords, with the RLA accusing Shelter of using emotional clichés which could rebound on tenants. In particular, the RLA objects to Shelter’s use of the word ‘rogue’ to describe the handful of landlords who the RLA says should more correctly be called ‘criminals’.
The exchange began after Shelter launched a ‘five-point’ action plan on its website, saying housing minister Grant Shapps ‘should stop talking about stamping out rogue landlords and start taking action’.
Shelter’s five-point plan is based, it says, on 86,000 complaints by tenants about landlords.
It wants to see:
*Fines for rogue landlords raised from £5,000 to £20,000
*A new £10m prosecution fund for local councils to take rogue landlords to court
*Protection for tenants against ‘retaliatory evictions’ whereby tenants are thrown out of their homes if they dare complain
*A national website listing all rogue landlords
*A rogue landlord summit.
The RLA called on local authorities to root out landlords who flout their legal obligations – but said most had concentrated instead on trying to regulate good, law-abiding landlords.
In a statement, the RLA said: “The problem is that local authorities have failed to focus on tracking down bad landlords because of seeking to meet central Government targets to license landlords.
“With limited resources, they put their effort into the easy-to-check landlords who are the most visible and compliant and do not concentrate instead on those who deliberately seek to evade inspection. That’s why councils brought only 270 prosecutions of landlords last year.”
And it described Shelter’s five-point plan as ‘an emotional charter of clichés which can spell danger for tenants too’.
Instead, the RLA said it welcomes dialogue to produce solutions and calls for :
• *A culture change in town halls to work with the private rented sector as a responsible supplier of housing
• *Wider use of landlord accreditation schemes to promote self-regulation allowing councils to focus on criminal landlords
• *Greater education for tenants to enable them to properly hold their landlords to account
• *Fair play for landlords with faster dispute resolution over non-payment of rent and tenant choice for the receipt of housing benefits.
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RLA cuts cost of deposit protection - (go to top)
A new tenancy deposit protection scheme for private sector landlords has been launched by the Tenancy Deposit Scheme in association with the Residential Landlords Association.
Called DepositGuard , it is exclusively for RLA members who can benefit from specially discounted prices.
Until now, the TDS, which says it already protects £1bn worth of deposits, has been available primarily to regulated letting agents for whom it was originally designed. But now it has opened up to private landlords.
Non-RLA members will be able to use the TDS, but not DepositGuard .
DepositGuard prices are also substantially cheaper than the Mydeposits scheme, and there is no annual subscription or joining fee.
Steve Harriott, chief executive of the TDS, said: “TDS has been the scheme of choice for regulated letting agents for some time, but we are delighted to be able to offer deposit protection directly to landlords.
“Landlords can save time and money by keeping hold of the deposit – as well as taking advantage of market-leading rates.”
RLA chairman Alan Ward said: “DepositGuard enables us to offer competitive deposit protection without compromising our position in representing landlords’ interests.
"The systems and documentation are also ready for changes being introduced by the Government in April and are designed to give better protection to landlords.”
DepositGuard is an insurance-backed scheme. It permits landlords to hold deposits throughout a tenancy and to use the dispute resolution service.
To get ready for your next tenancy register with DepositGuard for free at www.rla.org.uk/depositguard
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Coming soon - New tenancy deposit penalty rules - (go to top)
RESIDENTIAL LANDLORDS ASSOCIATION
NEW TENANCY DEPOSIT PENALTY RULES - COMING SOON
IMPORTANT NEWS FOR LANDLORDS WHO TAKE DEPOSITS FROM TENANTS – THIS AFFECTS YOU
The Government has revised the penalty rules which apply if you fail to comply with the statutory requirements when you take a deposit from a tenant. The new rules are expected to come into force in early April 2012. They will affect deposits which you are already holding if you have not already complied with the existing requirements. They apply to all new deposits as well.
IMMEDIATE ACTION is needed NOW if you are NOT compliant.
The new rules mean: -
- Once the new rules take effect deposits under assured shorthold tenancies must be protected within 30 days of receipt (14 days at present).
- The tenant/s (and anyone else paying towards the deposit e.g. a parent) must be given the prescribed information within 30 days of you receiving the deposit, once the new rule is in force (14 days at present). N.B. This is not just a copy of the official receipt that you will receive from the scheme administrator – see below. You must give the tenant/s (and anyone else paying towards the deposit) a copy of the relevant schemes tenants leaflet as well.
- Failure to comply with either requirement within the new 30 day time limit means that you could have to pay a penalty of between one and three times the amount of the deposit. Time is of the essence for compliance with both requirements. There is no provision allowing any extension of time.
- Separately, if you fail to protect the deposit within the 30 day time limit once it applies you cannot use a Section 21 notice to evict the tenant so long as you are holding the deposit, unless their has been a Court Order dealing with the penalty or the deposit has been returned. This means you lose your Section 21 rights and that in effect your tenancy is a non shorthold tenancy in this situation. You can get your Section 21 rights back by returning the deposit in full. Alternatively, you can return it with deductions so long as the tenant/s agree these deductions.
- Assuming that you have protected the deposit within 30 days but have not given the prescribed information within the 30 days allowed, you cannot serve a Section 21 notice to end the tenancy until the prescribed information has been given.
- Even if you get your Section 21 rights back as outlined above, you are still liable to pay a penalty is one is claimed.
- Penalties for non compliance can now be claimed even once tenancies have ended so that former tenants can claim for up to six years and a claim can be made even if the deposit has been refunded (unless the tenancy has already come to an end no later than the start date in April 2012).
- The 30 day period starts on the day of receipt of the deposit. This day is included in working out the 30 day period (even if the tenancy starts later). The day the scheme notifies you that the protection is effective is the key date and, in the case of prescribed information, it is the date that it has actually given to the tenant/s (and any third paying towards the deposit) which is crucial.
- Cleared funds may be needed in order to effectively protect the deposit whether to pay over the deposit itself or any fee required to protect it (depending on which scheme you use) so allow long enough for this and do not leave things to the last minute.
- The new rules will apply to deposits which you are already holding when they come into force. You will be allowed 30 day period of grace from the start date to protect these deposits and/or give the prescribed information if you have not done so already. Failure to comply will mean that the new penalty/Section 21 rules will apply in the same way as they do to new deposits.
FOR ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS CLICK HERE
FOR MORE DETAILED INFORMATION CLICK HERE
FOR PRESCRIBED INFORMATION AND TENANTS LEAFLET ETC CLICK HERE
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The view from Westminster – and Cardiff - (go to top)
With the Budget now just a matter of weeks away, the RLA has formally submitted its proposals to the Treasury, outlining, in response to Professor Ball’s report on investment in the sector, the fiscal measures that the Chancellor could announce that would support the sector to meet the ever-growing demands being placed on it.
At its heart are concerns about the prospects for disinvestment as ‘accidental landlords’, who are renting property not out of choice but out of necessity as a result of the poor health of the housing market, are likely to escape the market when conditions improve.
Given that the PRS already contributes £3.5bn annually to the Treasury, any expansion in the sector resulting from the RLA’s suggested tax changes will increase revenues, making the proposal revenue neutral.
RLA members have a key role to play ahead of the Budget on March 21 in lobbying their local MPs to support the measures outlined. For information and advice on how to do this and a copy of the RLA’s briefing on the issue, please contact Ed Jacobs on 0113 278 0211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A meeting has also been held with the officers of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Private Rented Sector to establish a programme of events for 2012. This will include meetings looking at access to the PRS for under-35s in light of the use of Article 4 Directions and changes to the Shared Accommodation Allowance; the regulation of the sector and how councils are, and are not, enforcing existing regulation properly; and a reception to be held in the Autumn around the issue of the energy efficiency of the PRS and how the Green Deal can best be applied to the sector without causing problems.
An approach has also been made to the Welsh Housing Minister, Huw Lewis, to discuss issues relating to the private rented sector and the measure being considered as part of the Welsh Government’s forthcoming White Paper on proposals for a Housing Bill. It follows recent remarks made at the University of Cardiff in which Lewis declared that “improving the private rented sector will feature in the Housing Bill.”
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Buy-to-let mortgages bounce up in number - (go to top)
The number of properties bought with buy-to-let mortgages increased by around 84,000 last year, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders.
During the fourth quarter of 2011, a total of 34,800 BTL mortgages (of which 15,600 were remortgages) were advanced, with a total value of £4bn.
This was almost identical to the volume of business in the third quarter (34,300 loans worth £4bn) but up on the fourth quarter of 2010 (26,300 loans worth £2.9bn).
Compared with the height of the market in the third quarter of 2007, when quarterly lending totalled over 93,000 loans worth £12.7bn, the BTL market continues to operate at relatively subdued levels, but, says the CML, it is clearly continuing to recover from its low point in 2009.
BTL mortgages account for nearly 13% of the total outstanding value of mortgages in the UK.
The CML also reports that arrears performance of BTL loans is better than the owner-occupier market, but the repossession rate is higher.
It says this is no surprise. For obvious reasons, lenders make particularly strenuous efforts to show forbearance over sometimes very extended periods to home owners to try to help them keep their homes wherever realistically possible.
However, there is a less marked imperative in the BTL sector, where provided the landlord has a bona fide BTL mortgage and the tenancy is recognised by the lender, the tenant’s rights are unchanged even if their landlord does default.
CML director general Paul Smee said: “Buy-to-let lending continues to perform well. Demand for rented property remains high, so the rationale for buy-to-let remains strong, and there is little reason to foresee any change to this positive outlook for the sector.
“These figures do not suggest that buy-to-let is crowding out first-time buyers – more that it is performing a really important role within the overall housing market.
“The benefits of the availability of good-quality private rented housing should not be overlooked, especially as there are many households which need the flexibility and mobility that the private rented sector is well placed to provide.”
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RLA sponsors Private Rented Sector Conference and Award Ceremony - (go to top)
The RLA will be joining the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme (LLAS) and UK Landlord Accreditation Partnership (UKLAP) in celebrating the scheme’s successes and reward the excellence amongst its members. The first ever Future of Housing in the Private Rented Sector Conference and Award Ceremony will be acknowledging and rewarding those landlords and agents that have helped improve the standards of property and management over the recent years.
The ceremony will also include various discussions on current events affecting the Private Rented Sector including; the economic crisis, the Green Deal, regulation within the sector and relationships between local authorities and private landlords. Plus the launch of the LLAS Green Landlords Scheme (LLAS – GLS)!
The RLA recognises the hard work that goes into keeping up standards within the industry and is extremely pleased to have the opportunity to celebrate these successes with landlords and agents. The standards set by these Accreditation Schemes are inspirational and helps retain the strong reputation of private landlords across England and Wales.
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Private Rented Sector accounts for 16.5% of all households - (go to top)
The rise of the private rented sector and the continuing decline of home ownership and the social rented sector have been confirmed in the new 2010-2011 English Housing Survey.
It shows that in that period, 66% of households (14.5m) were owner occupiers, down 1% from the previous year and continuing a trend observed since 2007.
The social rented sector last year accounted for 17.5% (3.8m households) and the private rented sector for 16.5% (3.6m households).
Thirty years ago, there were over 3m more tenants in the social housing sector than in the private rented sector. Now the gap is just 200,000.
Last year, a total of 394,000 new households were formed in England – and most (68%) were private tenants, forming 268,000 of the new households. Just 14% were owner occupiers (55,000 households) and 18% were social renters (71,000 households).
One key difference is that couples with no dependent children were the most common type of household in 2010-11 in both the owner-occupied and private rented sectors (35% and 43% respectively).
However, in the social rented sector, the most common type of household (24%) was a single person aged 60 or over. In the social sector, 17% of tenants were lone parents with dependent children, and 12% of tenants in the private rented sector had the same status. The figures compared to just 3% of owner occupiers.
Last year, private rent was twice that of social rents (an average weekly £160 compared to £79). In the same period, 63% of social renters and 25% of private tenants received Housing Benefit.
Another key difference is in length of tenure: 54% of private tenants had been in their home for under two years, whilst 59% of owner occupiers and 43% of social tenants had been in their home for ten years or longer.
Grenville Turner, chief executive of Countrywide, the UK’s largest estate agency chain, said of the survey: “Successive governments have widely encouraged home ownership but the impact of the recession has led to a structural change in the property market.
“The impact of this has caused an additional 275,000 new tenants to flood the private rental sector in 2011 – a 24% increase on the previous year.
“Current demand levels indicate that there will soon be more people in the private rental sector than social housing, which will only add to the already saturated demand and supply imbalance in the market.”
The full report – which contains much information about overcrowding, occupancy patterns, energy use and decent homes – can be found at the link below.
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Repossessions dip below forecast – but set to rise this year - (go to top)
The total number of properties repossessed by lenders last year was 36,200, below the estimate of 40,000 and the lowest annual total since 2007.
However, repossessions this year are predicted to rise to 45,000 and debt experts said it was the calm before the storm, warning that lender forbearance hides the true state of borrowers’ finances.
Figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders show that repossessions ticked down markedly in the fourth quarter of last year and at 8,500 were nearly 9% down on the 9,300 in the third quarter.
Buy-to-let accounted for 5,900 of all of last year’s repossessions, up from 4,700 in 2010. Overall, 0.31% of owner-occupied properties were repossessed, and 0.42% of buy-to-let properties.
Arrears last year were also down on 2010. In the buy-to-let sector, arrears were lower than in the owner-occupier sector – 20.06% in the latter and just 1.79% in the former.
Despite its new data, the CML said it has no current plans to revise its 2012 forecasts of 45,000 repossessions and around 180,000 mortgages in arrears of 2.5% or more by the end of the year.
CML director general Paul Smee said: “Low interest rates and good arrears management by lenders are helping the vast majority of those borrowers who face difficulties to keep their homes and get back on track.
“This will continue, but in the face of wider economic difficulties and rising unemployment, we are concerned that there will be a higher number of people facing more serious problems in 2012.
“Forbearance cannot be indefinite; but for most households, arrears are temporary and can be resolved.”
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Uncertainty over Euro mortgage directive drags on - (go to top)
The European mortgage directive, which could have serious implications for the buy-to-let mortgage market, has been delayed again after a crucial vote was deferred.
The European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs committee had been due to vote on its amendments at the end of this month, but now will not do so until April 24 or later.
The delay is to allow more time to discuss the huge number of amendments – 819 in total.
The controversial directive would regulate buy-to-let mortgages in the same way as residential mortgages, and would not allow rental income to be part of mortgage calculations.
Buy-to-let borrowers would be forced to go by the same criteria as residential borrowers and produce evidence of capital and earnings.
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Landlords urged by Land Registry to protect property against fraud - (go to top)
In a bid to counteract property fraud, the Land Registry has waived its fees for landlords who want to introduce an extra security function.
As from this month, landlords will not have to pay to have a restriction entered on their property deeds at the Land Registry. The restriction is designed to help prevent forgery by requiring that a solicitor or conveyancer must certify that they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner.
Property owners should take advice from their solicitor about this.
Owner occupiers will continue to pay a small fee for the charge, but the new exemption extends to buy-to-let investors and others not living in the property they wish to protect – for example, elderly people in long-term care or people who have moved out of their home after a relationship breakdown.
Landlords are at a proven higher risk of property fraud and there have been cases where tenants have passed themselves off as the owner of the property and attempted to sell it or raise money on it via a mortgage.
The Land Registry must, by law, compensate owners of registered property. In 2010, 30 of the 71 claims paid out by the Land Registry for fraud and forgery were by non-family members. Of these, 23 involved properties with an absent owner and amounted to £2m out of the total £7.3m compensation paid.
Landlords are urged to take steps to prevent ID and property fraud:
- Use the Post Office’s mail redirection service if you have lived in the property yourself and are now renting it out. Use the service for at least a year.
- Be extremely careful about details you give out on social networking sites like Facebook. Do not give out personal information such as date of birth.
- Ensure that all your properties are registered with the Land Registry.
- Ensure that all your contact details are updated and correct, so that the Land Registry can get hold of you if it wants to query anything.
- Utilise the Land Registry facility to have three addresses on the register. Email addresses, as well as physical addresses, can be included.
- Finally, use the free facility to enter a restriction on your property, requiring your solicitor to certify that the person attempting to sell or mortgage the property is the owner.
Malcolm Dawson, Chief Land Registrar, said: “It is important to let home owners know what simple steps they can take to protect their property – one of which is now the ability for those at greatest risk to have a free restriction entered which might prevent their property from being targeted by fraudsters and stolen unawares.
“We have introduced a range of additional safeguards in the last four years and we also work closely with other organisations to do all we can to tackle fraud and identify and take corrective action when it has happened.
“But home owners must also be vigilant and play their own part in protecting their properties against fraud.”
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Watchdog closes sale and rent-back market - (go to top)
The sale and rent-back market has been closed down by the Financial Services Authority for at least the foreseeable future. The FSA says that most sale and rent-back transactions should never have happened.
Following a review of all 22 regulated sale and rent-back firms, the FSA has referred one firm to its enforcement division, while the others have either stopped taking on new business or cancelled their permissions.
Of the 22, only nine had been active since the FSA stepped in to regulate the sector. Of these nine, five have agreed to undertake past business reviews which may result in consumer redress. One firm has said it will purchase second-hand contracts from other firms.
The FSA is urging anyone who has been a customer of a sale and rent-back firm to contact their provider or seek professional advice.
The FSA had previously highlighted its concerns over the process, whereby firms and individuals would offer struggling owners a below-market price for their homes, and then let them stay there as tenants.
The practice led to some operations defaulting on mortgages, resulting in the former home owners being evicted. Others who became tenants found they had no security of tenure beyond six months and were made homeless.
The FSA also received intelligence from a lender alleging that one firm was committing mortgage fraud by submitting inflated purchase prices.
Common failings in the business included mis-selling, failure to disclose key facts, dodgy tenancy agreements, financial promotions which breached FSA rules, and poor record keeping.
Nausicaa Delfas, the FSA’s head of mortgage and general insurance supervision, said: “Sale and rent-back is often the last resort for struggling home owners, so we expected to see firms treating their customers much better than this report suggests.
“The resulting temporary closure of this market could have been avoided if sale and rent-back firms had taken the time to fully understand their regulatory responsibilities and customers’ needs. It seems most were more focused on their own commercial success rather than the welfare of the customers, with one firm even resorting to fraud.”
The FSA intervened in the sector in June 2009 and implemented an interim regime a month later. This was replaced by a full regime in June 2010.
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City Council clamp down on HMOs is ‘draconian’ says critic - (go to top)
A city council has started licensing every House in Multiple Occupation – with the decision proving highly divisive.
One agent called the selective licensing scheme ‘draconian’, while the local press has reported claims that landlords would evict ‘hundreds’ of tenants who share properties.
Oxford Council now requires every landlord in the city who owns a property where there are three or more unrelated tenants to get an HMO licence.
Failure to do so could result in prosecution and a £20,000 fine. A licence for a typical three-bedroom shared house will cost £362.
The council, the first local authority in the country to introduce a HMO scheme beyond the mandatory one covering the whole of its area, says the new policy will involve licensing approximately 5,000 properties in total.
The council wants to restrict HMOs to one in five properties on any 100-metre stretch of road, which critics say will badly hit the supply of student properties and also groups of other sharers such as nurses.
They claim that landlords will not want to go to the expense and trouble of obtaining a licence, and they will simply choose tenants who form single households.
But Joe McManners, member for housing at Oxford Council, said: “HMOs have long been recognised as being a particular problem in the city, with many examples of poor-quality homes and in some cases being poorly managed. These damage the reputation of good landlords and we are determined to put this right, and stop those doing the right thing being undercut by cowboys.
“The private rented sector is hugely important to the residents of Oxford, not just in terms of providing much-needed accommodation, but also with the impact that it can have on local communities, and licensing every HMO will help drive up standards for everyone.”
Frank Webster, director of Oxford agents Finders Keepers, said the selective licensing scheme was totally unnecessary. He said: “We believe the council already has sufficient powers to tackle any isolated problems caused by the very small minority of irresponsible landlords or mismanaged properties.
“We don’t see the need for a whole lot of extra draconian licensing. Will it affect those landlords who are already dodging the system? No it won’t. And it will lead to more shortage in affordable housing for professionals.”
Oxford city council is also due to implement Article 4 Directions this month, requiring landlords with properties currently let to a single household to seek planning permission for change of use if they plan to let the property out to a small group of sharers in future.
A number of other authorities are lined up to introduce similarly large selective licensing schemes. The most ambitious of all is Newham in London, which wants to license every single private landlord and their properties in the borough – not just HMOs.
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Building a bridge between Private Landlords and Local MPs - (go to top)
The RLA’s prime objective is to lobby Government and Parliament on behalf of our members. The Residential Landlords Association is the country’s leading voice for campaigning on behalf of landlords and has won multiple awards for their efforts to reduce unnecessary legislation and regulation and promoting responsible and professional letting.
Over 10,000 members currently support our campaigns and we also encourage our members to promote our campaigns in their local constituencies. You can now use the ‘Find your Local MP’ tool on the RLA website to find the MP where you live, where your business is based and where you have properties
Writing to your Local MP is much more likely to benefit our campaigns rather than writing on behalf of our members nationally. Establishing a relationship with your local MP means they are much more likely to work positively with you in the future. These people are often recognised in the media and have web and other social coverage and any positive relationships can only help our cause.
For a more detailed guide to finding and writing to your Local MP visit
OR call Ed Jacobs, consultant to the RLA on 0113 278 0211 or email email@example.com
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Join us at the Landlord and Letting Show - (go to top)
The Landlord & Letting Show and Property Invesment Expo comes to The Barbican, London, on Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th March 2012. With access to a comprehensive product and services exhibition, informative seminars delivered by leading industry experts - including RLA representatives - and a confidential advice clinic, it is a must attend event for all landlords, letting agents and associated property professionals! Visit www.landlordshow.info to book your free tickets now!
Joining the Residential Landlords Association this month will be representatives from RLA Insurance and the new member exclusive service DepositGuard. RLA Insurance will be on hand to answer any questions in relation to landlord insurance products and our service at the RLA. DepositGuard will also be available to discuss things to do with tenancy deposits and what DepositGuard can offer to landlords.
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New RLA development course - (go to top)
With over a decade of experience, the RLA trains hundreds of landlords and letting agents every year. In 2011 delegates gave RLA seminars an average rating of 4.42 out of 5, rapidly improving the profitability and management of their lettings.
Courses that are currently available for 2012 include Lettings for Landlords, The Complete Letting Agents Course, County Court Small Claims Proceedings and Property Inventory Course.
With venues located in Newcastle, Manchester, London, Bristol, Liverpool, Scunthorpe and Cardiff you can be sure that a course is being held, or will soon be held, convenient to you.
Click on any of the following links for course information, dates and venues:
Letting for Landlords Course
The Complete Letting Agents Course
County Court Small Claims Proceedings
Property Inventory Course
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