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Estate Agents & Letting Agents in Leeds

Here you will find the latest Hudson Moody Wass and property news.

Landlords don't know of agents' credentials

Some 55% of landlords using letting agencies do now know whether the agents are in any professional body.

Some 37% were aware that their agent was a member of ARLA but if they were members of any other trade bodies, they were little-recognised – only 11% of landlords knew whether their agents were members of RICS and 9% knew whether they were in The Property Ombudsman scheme.
 
Just 8% know whether their agent was in NALS and only 3% knew whether their agent was in Safe Agent Fully Endorsed.
 
Other bodies – including the two additional ombudsman-type schemes from which letting agents can choose membership from October onwards – did not feature amongst the replies.
 
The findings came from the Property Academy’s latest annual survey, which questioned a sample of 2,948 landlords across the country.
 
Two other interesting findings emerged from this year’s survey, recently published.
 
The first was that void periods was by some margin the biggest worry which landlords had about their portfolio – significantly outstripping problems such as arrears or property damage. When there was a void, 10% of landlords expected daily updates from an agent on the hunt for a tenant; an additional 43% expected updates at least two or three times a week.
 
The second was that only 7% of landlords would definitely use an online agent in preference to a high street agent; conversely, no fewer than 56% of landlords would definitely use only a high street agent. However 37% of landlords were not sure.


 


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Average student rents down on 2013

Student accommodation website Accommodation for Students has released its annual report on the costs of student accommodation. It says the average rental value (ARV) in this sector has fallen by 37 pence, from £79.64 per week per bedroom in 2013 to £79.27 in 2014.

In comparison to the rest of the market, which has risen on average by 2% over the last year (according to report by LSL Property Services), the student sector has remained stable as a result of a relatively competitive market, which will be welcome news to those students actively seeking last minute accommodation ahead of the start of the new academic year.

As expected, high rents remain concentrated in the South, the South Coast, Kent and Greater London, although rents have actually increased more in the North (+ 3.6%) and decreased (- 3.5%) in the South. 

London remains the most expensive location for student accommodation with an ARV of £136 per week per room, up 5% on last year, followed by Kingston (up 8% to £108) and Winchester (up 6% to £107), all of which have held top ten positions for the last three years.

The Midlands and North West show reasonably low rents, with examples such as Wolverhampton (£58) Derby (£65), Stoke (£65) and Bolton (£61), all offering rents some 22% lower than the UK average.  There is more variability in the North East with rental values ranging from the average lowest of £50 in Stockton, to £88 in Durham. 

This suggests regional trends are not strong and the student rental market is more city-dependent. This can fluctuate depending on popularity of university, based on courses available each year. As an example, Newcastle-under-Lyme saw this year’s greatest increase, up 26% on 2013, although still offering a below average rental value of £76.  Nearby Stoke remains some £10 cheaper.

Each with an ARV of £80, Bournemouth and Luton saw this year’s greatest falls in average weekly rent, down 11% and 12% respectively.

The lowest recorded rental value was £17 per week per room located in Coventry, and the highest was £199 per week in London, meaning the UK rental range is £182. This is £32 greater than in 2013, suggesting a widening gap in UK rents.

The percentage of properties offering ‘bills inclusive’ in the UK is 51%, a figure which has steadily risen since 2005. There is an average addition of £7.21 per week per room for this option.

Simon Thompson, director of Accommodation for Students said: “There is more choice in student accommodation than ever before, from the basic bedroom with a bed and desk to purpose built blocks offering on-site gyms, launderettes and games rooms. 

“Although figures suggest there is a widening gap in the student rental market, factors such as the facilities on offer and whether bills are included or not, have to be taken into account. Budgeting can be a major stumbling block for young people who have just left home for the first time, so it is encouraging to see that ‘bills inclusive’ accommodation is on the rise.

“Overall, increased competition has helped stabilise rents, which is good news for students, but also for landlords, who can be reassured that the student rental sector remains robust and is still one of the most attractive yield classes for property investment.”

 


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DCLG confirms redress regime starts 1 October

The Government has announced that the lettings sector’s compulsory redress regime will begin on 1 October.

The Department of Communities and Local Government previously suggested the scheme would start sometime in the autumn, probably in October, but this is the first time a formal start date has been announced.
 
The Government’s objective, backed by much of the industry, is to provide a service of impartial dispute resolution when complaints are raised about letting agents by landlords or tenants - much as there is a channel for this service in the sales sector already.
 
If any lettings agency is found not to be in one of three official schemes, it can be fined up to £5,000. Local councils’ trading standards offices are charged with policing the law.
 
The three schemes are the Property Redress Scheme, Ombudsman Services Property and The Property Ombudsman.
 
The Government has previously made clear that the lettings redress schemes must be impartial, properly staffed and by people who understand lettings law, be open to all letting and property management agents, and that “membership requirements should not unfairly restrict access to the scheme - for example, a compulsory requirement to sign up or comply with a code of practice.”
 
The redress schemes must also be free to complainants, be easy to access, and provide full data about complaints in their annual reports. 


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Hillingdon Council tears down “bed in shed” – and bills landlord

Hillingdon Council has demolished an illegal outbuilding that was being used as a ‘bed in a shed' after a landlord failed to comply with a planning enforcement notice.

The council's planning enforcement officers took action to demolish the outbuilding at the rear of a property in West Drayton Road, Hayes, last week and will recover the costs incurred.

An enforcement notice had been served on the owner and occupier of the outbuilding, and they were given three months to comply. They were ordered to stop illegally renting out the bed in shed, and to then demolish it. After failing to do so the council intervened and took on the work, after the people living there voluntarily moved out.

Cabinet member for planning, transportation and recycling, Cllr Keith Burrows, said: "The council takes these matters very seriously and we will not sit by and watch rogue landlords making an illegal profit by offering such pitiful accommodation."

The council said the enforcement work is part of an ongoing project to clamp down on beds in sheds. The council has a special taskforce of officers dedicated to investigating and taking action against rogue landlords.

This is the second time Hillingdon council has been forced to take direct action this year, however a number of landlords have heeded advice and warnings and demolished the illegal outbuildings themselves, including beds in sheds in Mount Road, Hurstfield Crescent and Pole Hill Road, which are all in Hayes.

Failure to comply with a planning enforcement notice can result in legal action being taken. Landlords could be prosecuted in court and be given a hefty fine.


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Fair wear and tear “misunderstood”

Fair wear and tear is the most misunderstood area of the whole renting process, according to the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC).

The AIIC says agents and landlords have unrealistic expectations about the deductions that can and cannot be made from the tenant deposit

The AIIC adds that it is a commonly held view in the lettings industry that the House of Lords has stated that a tenant cannot be held responsible for damage at the end of a tenancy caused by ‘reasonable use of the premises and the ordinary operation of natural forces’. However, while the precise source for this quote is unknown, it is a general guideline that has been accepted across the industry.

Recent figures from the Tenancy Deposit Scheme annual survey reveal that cleaning related issues make up 56% of all disputes.  Damage to property accounts for 43%, redecoration 30%, rent arrears 17% and gardening issues 13%.

It seems that 55% of all disputes are raised by tenants unhappy about the proposed deductions from their deposit and of these, only 21% received all their deposit back. In contrast, 45% of disputes were raised by landlords and agents and of these, only 19% received the amount in dispute.

Pat Barber, chair of the AIIC, said: “I have lost count of the number of times that a landlord or letting agent has demanded that a property is repainted from top to bottom following a five-year tenancy, when the marks on the walls are no more than normal wear and tear.

“Everyone has their own view of what constitutes fair wear and tear.  Landlords and letting agents may hold the view that a tenant is responsible for repainting a whole property at the end of their tenancy, however the law may not agree. A tenant on the other hand may believe that all the marks, pin holes and damage to the interior walls at time of check-out will be covered by normal wear and tear. The same viewpoint is often also applied when assessing damage and wear to the contents of the property and its fixtures and fittings.

“There are two main things to remember with wear and tear. Firstly, the tenant has a duty of care to return a property in the same condition at the end of the tenancy as found at the start and as listed on the initial inventory report – with allowance for fair wear and tear.

“Secondly, the law does not allow for betterment or ‘new for old’ when assessing the action needed to be taken after a check-out inspection. If an item was old at check–in and after a two year tenancy, there is some additional damage, the law will not allow a landlord to simply replace this item with a new one. Instead, some sort of compensation is allowable towards future replacement. This betterment principle applies to cleaning issues as well. If a carpet was badly stained at time of check-in, a landlord cannot expect the tenant to pay for cleaning at time of check-out, no matter how long the tenancy has been.”

 


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Landlord fined for renting out loft room

A landlord has been ordered to pay a total of £3,040 by the courts for renting out a loft room which tenants had to go on all fours up a staircase to access.

Barnet’s environmental health team found that the low ceiling above the staircase and small entrance hatch made it impossible for tenants to reach the room while standing upright, raising concerns it could impede their escape in the event of a fire.

Head height along the course of the staircase was found to only be between 0.7 and 1.2m, and the door to the room was also reduced in size.

On 5 August at Willesden Magistrates’ Court, landlord Yaakov Marom, of Sunningfields Road, Hendon, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with an order served by the council prohibiting occupation of the loft room.

He was ordered to pay a £1,500 fine, £1,420 in costs and a victim surcharge of £120.

The council first issued a Prohibition Order to Marom in February 2012 which prohibited use of the second floor room of the house that he managed in Sunningfields Road, Hendon, for accommodation.

The court hearing comes after council officers visited the house with police officers in September last year and found that the room was still in use and being rented by a couple for £420 a month.

Barnet Council says it investigated over 970 reports of poor conditions in the borough last year.

Councillor Tom Davey, chairman of the housing committee, said: “At the very least tenants have the right to expect that the accommodation they are renting is safe.

“Barnet Council is keen to work with landlords and help them to provide safe accommodation.
 
“However, those who exploit tenants for financial gain will not be tolerated and the appropriate action will be taken.”
 


 


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More fines for rogue landlords

Another two landlords are out of pocket – one by over £13,000 – after failing to comply with local council regulations.
 
Paul Atha and his Yorkshire-based company Atha Properties Ltd were fined a total of £10,000 following a trial at Bradford; he also had to pay two £250 surcharges and £2,734 in costs.
 
Atha failed to comply with improvement notices imposed by Bradford Council on two of 20 properties he owned in Bradford. The court heard the problems included corroded windows, damp, and mould growth, as well as issues over smoke alarms, polystyrene ceiling tiles, broken tiling and glass, rotten wood and damaged walls.
 
The court was told that Atha recovered some £1,662 per week in rent from his Bradford portfolio – although Atha claimed his business made a £40,000 loss in the last financial year.
 
Meanwhile a Durham landlord is counting the cost of breaching the terms of his licence after having to pay £770 following legal action by a local authority.
 
Durham County Council brought the case against the landlord who failed to comply with the conditions of his licence in one of three selective licensing zones.
 
The case against Patrick Jackson, 37, of Carradale Close, Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees, was proven in his absence. Darlington Magistrates’ Court heard that despite requests from the council, Jackson had rented out the property over a two-and-a-half year period without applying for a licence.
 
He was ordered to pay a total of £770, including a £400 fine, £330 costs, and a £40 victim surcharge.


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Slough tenants left in gas danger for four years

A Slough landlord has been fined for serious safety breaches after he left a young family in potential danger for nearly four years by repeatedly failing to check the gas appliances in a property he rented to them.

Mohammed Nawaz, 25, was prosecuted for two offences of breaching gas safety regulations and a further offence of failing to comply with an enforcement notice after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

HSE told Slough Magistrates’ Court on 21 August that its investigation revealed that the gas appliances had not been maintained and checked so the family could be provided with a landlord’s Gas Safety record for the property.

The court heard that as a landlord, Nawaz had a legal duty to ensure the gas appliances in any properties he rented were checked every 12 months by a competent gas engineer. However, between June 2010 and February 2014, no such checks were carried out and no record was ever provided to the tenants at any point in four years’ tenancy.

When a Gas Safe Register engineer visited the property, a boiler was classed as ‘at risk’ because of an inadequate seal around the flue and incorrectly-sized gas supply pipes to the boiler.

Despite warnings and an enforcement notice from HSE, plus an abatement notice from the local council requiring him to comply with the law, Nawaz failed to respond, continuing to expose the family to potential health risks.

Mohammed Nawaz, of Bath Road, Slough, Berkshire, was fined a total of £9,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £3,941 after admitting two breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations and a further charge of non-compliance with a HSE Improvement Notice.

After the case, HSE Inspector Karen Morris said: “Mohammed Nawaz failed to take seriously his duties and responsibilities as a landlord and the result was to put a family – including two children – at risk of significant harm.

“There is no excuse for landlords failing to ensure that gas appliances in rented properties are properly maintained and subject to annual safety checks. These are simple and inexpensive measures, but they are vital for the safety of the people living in the premises.

“HSE takes gas safety issues very seriously and we will take enforcement action when necessary.”

Russell Kramer, Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register, said: “When it comes to rented property, it is important that landlords know their duties and tenants know their rights. A landlord must be able to provide a gas safety record for the property, showing that the gas appliances have been safety-checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer in the last 12 months.

“Tenants can also sign up to a free reminder service at staygassafe.co.uk to make sure their landlord or managing agent is carrying out their duties of getting an annual gas safety check.”


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Larkfleet invite buy-to-let investors to Oakham development

From Friday 29 August to Sunday 31 August, housebuilder Larkfleet Homes is holding a special investors event at its Leighfield Park development in Oakham, Rutland.

Over the three days, Larkfleet will provide buy-to-let investors with details of the full range of properties available at Leighfield Park, including tours of the development’s three showhomes on site. Free financial advice will also be on offer and a local letting agent will be on hand to provide rental and landlord advice to anyone interested in purchasing a property to let out.

As a special weekend incentive, investors who reserve a home during the three-day event will get all flooring included in their property purchase price.

Larkfleet claims Leighfield Park offers fantastic opportunities for buy-to-let investors. It says the energy-efficient properties PV panels that generate energy from sunlight are fitted as standard and that all houses are built to LABC standards with a 10-year NHBC warranty.

Properties range from one-bedroom apartments from £114,995 to five bedroom family homes at £289,995.

Larkfleet claims Oakham boasts low unemployment figures and rental demand in the area greatly exceeds availability, providing investors with a potential 5.5% gross rental yield (based on an apartment brought for £129,995 and rented for £600 per calendar month).

Larkfleet CEO Karl Hick said:  “The Leighfield Park investors weekend will provide buy-to-let investors with a real insight into the opportunities that our Oakham development offers. The development has proved to be popular with buyers due to its location and quality of properties. For this reason, properties on the site are also a great investment for those looking to expand their property portfolio, especially as Oakham continues to grow.””


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Tenants struggle as rents rise faster than incomes

Affordable accommodation in the private rental sector is becoming ever more scarce, according to data from flat and house share website SpareRoom.co.uk.

The site compares the maximum tenants can afford to spend on accommodation with average room rents.

SpareRoom’s data reveals that average UK rents have risen by 10% since 2009 but – in the same five-year period – tenants’ budgets haven’t risen at all. In fact, they’ve fallen by 0.5%, as renters struggle with historically low wage growth and the often high cost of living.

In London, where room rents have soared by more than a quarter (26%) in the past five years, budgets have increased by a mere 10%. And in Scotland, where rents have increased by 24%, budgets have plummeted a staggering 22%.

Northern Ireland has seen the slowest rental increases over the past five years (10%), yet tenants’ budgets for accommodation have dropped 5%.

Over the past year, Scotland and London have become the least affordable. Rents in Scotland have risen by 9.9% in the past 12 months, twice as fast as budgets (5.1%). In London, rents have increased by 5.1% while budgets have only increased by 3%. Based on the last 12 months, Wales is the most affordable –  as budget increases, at 4%, are more than twice rent rises (1.7%).

According to the ONS, average weekly earnings are rising by a meagre 1.7% per year, yet average rents rose by 5% between 2013 and 2014.

The average monthly UK room rent is currently £550 – almost a third (31%) of the average take home pay of a full-time employee.

Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom.co.uk, said: “What’s clear is that affordable rents are becoming ever more scarce. Many people are still struggling with the cost of living and this isn't being helped by the fact that wage growth is the lowest since records began.

“The problem is we have a chronic shortage of housing in the areas where jobs are being created, so rents continue to rise as supply fails to meet demand. In some areas of the capital we’re seeing up to 13 people compete for every room advertised.

“The only obvious short-term solution is to encourage more homeowners to let their spare bedrooms and create supply. To do that, the Rent A Room Scheme tax-free threshold needs to be raised to act as a proper incentive. It hasn’t been increased since 1997 and rents have risen by 103% in that time. Not only will this benefit renters, it could stop thousands of homeowners slipping into arrears when interest rates finally rise.”

 

 


 


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