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Here is our final Newsround for May, what’s been happening this week in the news?

NRLA calls for Property Passports 

NRLA, along with most honest landlords want to cut down on sub-standard housing.

They are calling for new property passports to help landlords prove their homes are compliant and tenants identify decent and safe housing.

Under plans devised by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), such passports would certify that a property met all legal standards. It would list improvements made to properties and contain copies of all safety certificates. Tenants would be able to access the passport online.

Local authorities would be able to conduct spot checks to verify the passport is a true record of the state of the property. For social sector landlords, an independent organisation would have the power to check that local authorities have conducted assessments correctly.

The Government has proposed that the existing Decent Homes Standard should be extended to apply to the private rented sector, not just social housing.

The NRLA argues this should be tailored to the private rented sector and bring together the 168 pieces of legislation already affecting it rather than introducing new requirements. What is needed is a standard that simplifies the measures that already exist and can be easily understood by tenants and landlords alike.

88%  of private rented properties in England have none of the most serious ‘Category One’ hazards whilst almost 94 per cent have no damp problems. Most (83 per cent) private renters are satisfied with their accommodation, a higher proportion than in the social rented sector.

Ben Beadle,  Chief Executive of the NRLA said:

“We want to make it easier for the vast majority of compliant landlords to prove to tenants what they already do, namely providing decent and safe housing. Those who do not would have no option other than to shape up or ship out.

“This would be based on proving compliance with existing laws, not creating new regulations. With almost 170 laws affecting the private rented sector it can hardly be dubbed the wild west. What is needed is better understanding and enforcement of this existing legislation.”

New Boiler Upgrade scheme now available to landlords

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has now opened its controversial boiler upgrade scheme. Grants of up to £5000.00 off the cost of an air source heat pump or biomass boiler or £6000.00 off the cost and installation of a ground source heat pump. Is this something you would consider? You can read more about it here.

There are more conditions when you start to read the small print, but at least the government has started to offer something.

Landlords, do not rely solely on your agent’s advice

A landlord who blamed his letting agent for mistakenly telling him his property wasn’t an HMO has been slapped with a £19,350 Rent Repayment Order.

Joshua Conway sought advice from high street agent Elli G Estates about his property in Barnet where four former tenants shared three bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom between September 2018 and September 2019, a First Tier Property Tribunal heard.

When informed in July 2019 that it needed a licence, he applied for an exemption notice by telling Barnet Council he would soon be moving back in. The tribunal judge said that a landlord’s reliance on an agent would rarely give rise to a defence of reasonable excuse.

Giles Peaker, a partner at Anthony Gold says it’s increasingly clear that attempts to rely on it being ‘someone else’s job’ to tell the landlord they have a licensable HMO, will fail. He goes on to say

“For blaming the letting agents to have any real prospect of success as a reasonable excuse defence, I think it’s right that there would need to be a clear and explicit duty on the agent to inform the landlord of licensing requirements set out in the agent’s contract with the landlord. Even then, it may not work, as it is still the landlord’s responsibility.”

Covid is no excuse to dodge licensing

Landlords can’t use Covid lockdowns as an excuse for not licensing a property, a First Tier Property Tribunal has ruled.

Paul Fashade argued that his HMO in Devonshire Road, Lewisham had previously had a licence for six people which expired in July 2020 and that he and his property manager had tried unsuccessfully to renew it during the pandemic.

He told the tribunal they had emailed Lewisham Council and tried to renew it online – but couldn’t provide any evidence of emails or phone calls. He finally got a licence in February 2022, after the three tenants who brought the case against him had left.

One tenant received a Rent Repayment Order of £2,880 and two shared a joint order of £8,350 for living at the unlicensed six-bedroom HMO between December 2020 and December 2021. You can read more about this case here.

Capital Gains tax breaks and Stamp Duty cuts?

Yes, you did read this right! The government is considering giving landlords a capital gains tax break to encourage them to sell second homes. This is targeting primarily the ‘accidental landlord’ in the hope that it will free up supply meaning those who don’t see themselves as professional landlords.

Furthermore, the government is also considering whether to hand downsizers a stamp duty exemption in a bid to encourage house moving.  It’s thought that a number of older people are reluctant to move because of the high stamp duty costs when they buy a smaller property. Therefore, if more moved it’s would free up more homes suitable for families to buy.

However, Nick Sanderson, chief executive of Audley Group, isn’t convinced a stamp duty tax break is a good move. He said

 “The crux of the issue is simply that there aren’t enough housing options available for people looking to downsize. The Treasury can throw incentives at the market as much as it pleases, but many potential downsizers have nowhere they’d like to move and without changing that, how can the incentives work?

“The retirement living market which provides specialist properties with health and wellbeing support as it is needed is chronically underserved and this is what needs addressing first. Reform planning rules to mandate age-specific housing, increase supply and only then bring in financial incentives to encourage downsizing. It’s this systematic approach that is needed if we are to provide solutions to the housing crisis.

“Work has started with the government underlining its commitment to more specialist retirement housing and the formation of the Housing with Care taskforce. Now planning reform has be the very first point on the agenda.”

Click here to read the full article.

Far-reaching reforms demanded by lettings industry chiefs

And finally this week, A collection of rental experts in a body calledThe Lettings Industry Council’ have set out what they want to see in future government reform of the lettings sectors.

The report considers what changes could be made to smooth the path for the abolition of section 21 notices, enhancements to the court process, as well as ways to improve property conditions and help those locked in tenancies and unable to move due to financial constraints.

Some of the report’s key recommendations can be read here.

Snippets

Newsround will take a break over the bank holiday but will be back the following week.

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