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Our regular round-up of news items for you.

This week we look at the new Homes for Ukraine scheme launching as well as analysing reports regarding the Private rented sector on energy efficiency, tenant satisfaction and sector reforms.

Homes For Ukraine Scheme Launched

This week, the Government has launched the Homes for Ukraine scheme, which offers financial incentives for homeowners to take in refugees from Ukraine.

The scheme website writes that someone will be eligible for the scheme if they are a Ukrainian national or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national, and were resident in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022. The scheme will offer refuges up to three years to work and live in the UK.

The Scheme will offer anyone willing to house refugees £350 per month. The accommodation offered must be available for a minimum of six months and will be subject to checks.

Many landlords first hearing about this scheme were worried for a variety of reasons, such as how will this affect HMO applications, council tax and other forms of benefit. Whilst it was not expressed in the scheme FAQ (located here), when the Secretary of State gave his statement to the House of Commons on March 14, he expressly said the money was tax-free and would not affect the council tax or welfare benefits position.

However, questions surrounding HMO applications and whether taking in a refugee would alter a property’s status, have yet to be answered.  An article about this issue and other legal pitfalls was written, which can be found here.  An article on the Nearly Legal site also looks at various problematic issues.

Property owners can register their interest in the scheme which will be receiving visa applications on March 18 here.

On day one over 100,000 Brits signed up to the scheme – which is a very different attitude to ‘letting foreigners into the country’ than that expressed in the Brexit arguments.  How long will it last I wonder?  It would be nice to think that xenophobia is on the way out …

Labour MP launches: ‘First Homes, Not Second Homes’ campaign

This week, the Labour MP  for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Luke Pollard has launched his new campaign in hopes of remedying the effects of the housing supply crisis in the south west of England.  There is a Facebook group here.

Pollard argues that the surge of homes being brought as second properties, either for short term lets or Airbnb’s has ‘turbo-charged the housing crisis’, especially in the west country, which has some of the highest housing costs and lowest wages.

The manifesto includes the following policies:

  • Councils to be given the ability to progressively raise taxes on holiday lets and unused second homes, up to a quadrupling of council tax if the property remains unused.
  • A licensing regime for second homes, Airbnbs and holiday lets
  • Commitment to build affordable homes and social housing across the south west with a priority for local people

Over half of landlords believe that EPC rules will force increasing rent

This week Shawbrook bank in their ‘confronting the EPC challenge report’ identified that over half of the landlord respondents said that they will pass some of the costs for the improvements onto the tenants in the form of increased rental prices.

Landlords in the report believe that on average it will cost around £5,900 to improve their properties, though landlords who have already purchased upgrades have spent on average £8,900. Shawbrook also worryingly noted that wider issues such as market forces and material shortages may increase this cost.

Emma Cox, managing director of real estate at Shawbrook banks said:

While work needs to be carried out quickly to prevent any void periods during a tenancy, having a clear plan in place as to how they will fund any necessary works is crucial. Our research has shown that landlords may be underestimating the costs involved, leaving them open to unexpected bills

The full report can be found here.

New Survey reveals most tenants are happy with their homes and landlords

A survey brought out this week by the think tank The Social Market Foundation has revealed that a majority of tenants are happy in their accommodation and with their landlords.

81% of responding tenants said they are happy with their accommodation while 85% are satisfied with their landlord.

One worrying statistic which landlords may take note of is the increase in older people renting: the SMF predict that landlords will see the average age of tenants rising. By 2035, more than half of private renting households are likely to include someone aged 45 or older, the SMF forecasts. This is worrying considering the problems already with supply within the PRS.

The full report can be located here.

The report suggests improvement in the following four areas:

  • Increasing the stability of tenancy agreements – to achieve this, the report recommends that tenancy agreements have a minimum fixed term of twenty four months.
  • Giving renters more control over their homes – This would include making it easier for tenants to bring in pets and make changes to the décor and furniture
  • Increase the accountability of landlords – This would be done by a scheme which would enable tenants to individually rate their landlords.
  • Improve the standards of private rented properties – offer landlords tax incentives to make property improvements which would include energy efficiency.

Whilst the idea of tax breaks for property improvements especially regarding energy efficiency is an idea that should be discussed further, the other suggestions seem a lot more problematic.

Snippets

Newsround will be back next week.

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