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Estate Agents & Letting Agents in Leeds

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

Most tenants “don't get back full deposit”

The majority of private sector tenants who have rented a property in the past five years have failed to get their full deposit back after vacating, new research reveals.

A survey of 1,034 people earlier this year revealed that 52% of deposits were fully or partially withheld over the past five years, equivalent to more than 400,000 deposits per year based on official estimates of the rental population.
 
Some 80% of tenants reported having some degree of trouble getting their deposit back.
 
Cleaning and minor repairs are the most common reasons for withheld deposits, while over a quarter of tenants claimed their agent or landlord delayed returning their deposit despite not making any deductions.
 
Only 20% say they got their full deposit back without any problems while over a quarter say they managed to get their deposit back in full only after a dispute with the landlord or letting agency.
 
Unsurprisingly, London tenants were the ones least likely to get their full deposit returned.
 
The survey was conducted on behalf of removal firm Kiwi Movers.
 


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Hamptons in hot water over fees

High end estate agent Hamptons has had its knuckled rapped by the advertising regulator about the way it displays fees in an advert.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received a complaint about an online advert which said: “£1,200 per Calendar Month + £216 incl VAT admin fee per property + other fees may apply".

The text "+ £216 incl VAT admin fee per property + other fees may apply" was hyperlinked to further details about related fees.

The complainant, who understood that it would not have been possible to rent the property without paying additional fees, challenged whether information about non-optional fees was sufficiently clear.

Responding, Hamptons said the administration fee was the only fixed charge. It pointed out that there was a statement on each property listing that stated "+ £216 incl VAT admin fee per property + other fees may apply", which was hyperlinked to a PDF document entitled "Charges and Information for Tenants".

It said the document provided further details about other mandatory charges that might apply, including charges for obtaining references for the applicant.

The document also stated "other charges may be incurred as part of the application process", which referred to check-in fees. It explained the check-in fee would vary from property to property, depending on the size and the charge levied by the independent inventory clerk, of which Hamptons were paid a percentage.

It said there was a different fee structure for their Bristol branch. It applied an all-inclusive fee, combining the administration fee, referencing fee and check-in fee, which was the greatest of either 35% of the first months' rent or £420. It said they would amend the document, providing details of the check-in fees on the first page.

The complaint was upheld by the ASA as it breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.17, 3.18 and 3.19 (Prices). The ASA told Hamptons the ad must not appear again in its current form.

In a ruling the ASA said: “The ASA considered consumers would interpret the claim "+£216 incl VAT admin fee per property + other fees may apply" to mean that the administration fee was the only non-optional charge and there might be other fees depending on the situation.

“However, we understood that there were other non-optional fees that consumers would have to pay if they rented the property. These fees were a referencing charge and a check-in charge, which would be combined with the administrative charge into an all-inclusive fee for their Bristol branch.

“For other branches, the referencing charge was one of two fixed prices depending on whether the consumer was a tenant or a business, and the check-in charge varied depending on the size of the property.

“We noted CAP Code rule 3.19 stated "If a tax, duty, fee or charge cannot be calculated in advance, for example, because it depends on the consumer's circumstances, the marketing communication must make clear that it is excluded from the advertised price and state how it is calculated".

“While we acknowledged details of the costs were included in a document which was hyperlinked to the claim, we considered non-optional fees were material information that was likely to have an impact on a consumer's transactional decision. We considered, therefore, that the information about the non-optional fees was not sufficiently prominent. Because the ad misleadingly implied other fees might not apply, and the information about non-optional fees was not sufficiently prominent, we concluded the ad was misleading.”

 

 


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Survey reveals top 10 property wishes

The UK’s top 10 property wishes have been revealed by Strutt & Parker’s latest Housing Futures survey. Polling 2,000 adults from across the UK, the survey aimed to give a refreshing insight into the housing needs of the population. 
 
Topping the list of desires for those intending to move within the next five years was a South East location, with 26.1% looking to settle here. Next up was the South West (15.6%) and the West Midlands (9.6%).
 
As for the most sought-after living environments, rural areas, villages and market towns came out on top with 23.3%, 22.9% and 17% of the vote respectively. Being less than a mile from the shops was the third biggest property wish, with 49.2% seeing this as a crucial consideration.  
 
Lifestyle change was, for the second year in a row, cited as the biggest motivation for upping sticks (49.3%), with good access to shops and amenities (39.3%) not far behind. Broadband coverage, a new category for this year’s survey, was straight in as motivation number three, with 35.8% highlighting a keen desire to be technologically connected. 
 
The perfect home for those looking to move in the next five years would be a detached house (65.7%), preferably a farmhouse or a cottage-esque abode. On the other hand, the least desired home was a terraced house (6%).
 
The survey also quizzed respondents on what new homeowners would look for in a new home in terms of style, features and accessories.
“The survey results paint an interesting picture – the quintessential British farmhouse surrounded by quiet countryside clearly remains as an enduring ideal for many,” Stephanie McMahon, Head of Research at Strutt & Parker, said.
 
“Over the past decade, there has been a focus on urban resurgence, so we were interested to discover that while our respondents want to live near other people, they didn't want them on their doorstep.”
 
She added: “It seems that we really are a nation of optimists –it certainly was encouraging to discover that 79.4% of respondents believe they can achieve their dream home within the next five years.”
 
Property wish list top 10:
 
1. South East location
2. Rural setting
3. Less than a mile from the shops
4. Detached farmhouse or cottage with three bedrooms or more
5. Traditional British interiors & cosy ambience
6. AGA oven
7. Broadband connectivity
8. A walled garden
9. An outstanding view of the countryside
10. Good insulation for energy saving
 

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New Head of Property appointed by Lloyds Bank

Glen Wilson has been appointed by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking as Head of Property for small and medium sized enterprises.
 
Wilson, as part of his new role as the sector’s national head, will manage the bank’s relationships with property businesses with annual turnovers of up to £25million. He will offer his financial expertise, funding and guidance for those companies with desires to grow.
 
He joins Lloyds from his role as Head of Mortgage Quality and Change at Halifax. He was previously with Lloyds Bank’s retail arm, where he held the position of Senior Manager of Retail Conduct Risk Portfolios. All in all, he has 18 years’ of industry experience to fall back on, gained after a stint as a professional rugby player with Doncaster Knights.
 
“As the property market responds to a growing economy and increased demand for new residential and commercial developments, it is an exciting time for me to begin this new role with Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking,” Wilson said of his new role. 
 
“I’m looking forward to leading our nationwide team, which is rich with experience and understanding of the challenges faced by the industry, and work to further enhance the quality of service offered to our clients, both old and new.”
 
Adam White, Managing Director of SME Banking at Lloyds Bank, added: “We are committed to investing in this important area of our business, and in Glen, we have appointed somebody who brings an optimum skillset to ensure that we provide the best quality to our small and medium sized property clients.”
 
“With a strong reputation for leadership and management, Glen’s appointment will prove essential as we seek to maintain the encouraging growth within the sector.”
 
Wilson will be based at the bank’s Cavendish Place offices in Central London.
 

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Private equity firm growing at a rapid rate

Cogress Ltd, the London-based private equity firm, has announced that it has smashed the £200m barrier in UK GDV (Gross Development Value) – just under a year since it was founded. This once again highlights the lure of the UK market to individual and sophisticated investors.
 
Described as an exit-orientated private equity platform, Cogress joins investors with tier one property developers. It judiciously vets each option to make sure the needs of both the investor and developer are met. 
 
They have now completed 14 deals in the UK, cumulatively breaking the £200m GDV barrier. The firm’s steadily growing investor database has led to this level of investment being achieved. The ambition is to reach 1,000 qualified investors by the end of April.
 
All this comes at a time when analysts are warning of a possible slowdown in UK property. The rapid growth of Cogress, however, flies in the face of this, showing that investors aren’t being put off by gloomier forecasts and still see the market as a shrewd investment opportunity.
 
“We’ve broken the £200m in GDV in the UK faster than we expected and we’re obviously delighted,” Tal Orly, chief executive officer at Cogress UK, commented.
 
“This achievement underlines not only how hard the whole team has worked, but how buoyant and positive the market remains for investment.” 
 
He added: “Our growth has been driven by the continued attraction of London residential property. We expect this trend to continue, but also for mixed-use and commercial property to improve throughout the year, including our own progress alongside the continued growth of the market.”
 
Cogress senior management team has completed 170 deals globally, worth a cumulative £900m. They plan to launch into mainland Europe this year. 
 

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Spring price bounce led by the East of England

House prices in all English regions and Wales increased over the last month as demand rose across the UK, according to the Home.co.uk Asking Price Index April 2015. Although prices in Scotland fell marginally, they were still 4.1% higher than last year.
 
The typical time a house spends on the market in England and Wales – now 88 days – continued to improve, matching last year’s post-crisis low. This is predicted to fall further despite the slowdown of the Greater London market. 
 
Over the course of the last year supply of property for sale in the capital grew significantly (+19%). Similarly, marketing times have gone up. The typical marketing time now stands at 60 days, 13 days longer than in April 2014. Nevertheless, prices are still growing at a rate of 13% per year and the average house price in London has topped the 500K mark.  
 
Supply rises in other regions were either small or negligible. This, in turn, is encouraging strong price growth. In particular, prices are soaring higher in the East of England, with the typical time on market dropping to a new post-crisis low of 64 days. The East of England, along with the South East, West Midlands and the South West, saw higher monthly increases than Greater London this month.
 
Marketing times are also getting better in the northern regions, while prices are on the rise as spring boosts the market’s momentum. 
 
All in all, the present mix-adjusted average asking price for England and Wales demonstrates that properties on the market are valued 6.5% higher than they were in April 2014.
 

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Heat network regulations may affect landlords

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has warned that some landlords may be required to notify the National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO) regarding their property heating systems by 31December 2015.

A ‘Communal heating’ situation will typically trigger a need for landlords to provide details to the NMRO.

The RLA hoped these notification responsibilities would only impact institutional landlords, such as university halls and nursing homes. However, it appears they may affect HMO and bedsit property landlords who could be required to send notification of their ‘heating network’ to the relevant authorities.

A landlord must submit notification to the NMRO regarding details about the heating system of the property by 31 December 2015, and if required, install individual meters by 1 April 2016. There will be ongoing duties regarding maintenance and billing.

A landlord is a heat supplier if ALL of the following apply:

  • there is distribution of thermal energy in the form of steam, hot water, or chilled liquids from a central source in a building (e.g. a gas boiler)
  • the thermal energy is used to provide heating, hot water or cooling
  • the building is occupied by more than one final customer
  • the landlord bills more than one occupier for the heat or hot water that that person has used (or a proportion of).

Where the landlord is a “heat supplier” as defined above, the landlord must notify the NMRO by 31 December 2015. The notification must contain certain prescribed information. Although there is no prescribed form for this notification, the NMRO has produced a template that is suitable for this purpose.

The RLA is working with DCLG and DECC to find out just how these new regulations will impact landlords, see what can be done to limit their scope and to ensure there is clarity about what properties will be affected.


 


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Letting agents letting tenants down, according to survey

Nearly half of tenants (47%) do not trust letting agents to protect their interests, according to a new survey by the UK’s largest online tenant portal, The Tenants’ Voice. 
 
Just over half of those polled (52%) feel that letting agents do the bare minimum to provide services in line with the duty of care they owe to tenants, while more than a quarter (28%) believe agents do not provide them with a suitable duty of care.
 
Letting agents are supposed to be reliable professionals, guiding landlords through the responsibilities and obligations of renting property to tenants, yet the survey of 1,100 UK tenants revealed that two thirds (64%) prefer to rent directly from a landlord.
 
Worryingly, nearly a third of respondents (32%) had never heard of any of the main letting agent schemes that exist to protect tenants, while over a quarter of tenants (27%) say they do not know how to recognise a good letting agent.
 
The Ombudsman Services have the greatest awareness amongst tenants (21%), while the National Approved Letting Scheme has the least (3%). Just 12% of tenants had heard of ARLA, and 9% know about RICS.
 
On a more positive note, almost three quarters (73%) of respondents polled by The Tenants’ Voice agreed that the ‘right’ letting agent can improve the renting experience.
 
Glenn Nickols, founder of The Tenants’ Voice, said: “What’s clearly lacking in the relationship between tenants and letting agents is trust. In some cases it’s there, but in many more it’s not. Given the vast number of people who rent these days, the fact that nearly half do not feel like their interests are being protected by agents should make the industry sit up.
 
“More needs to be done to drive awareness of the various schemes that exist to protect tenants’ interests, too. Many tenants are having to find their way in the dark and the industry often appears happy for them to do so.”
 
Separately, The Tenants’ Voice has launched The Tenants’ Voice Approved, a free but exclusive membership for letting agents, in a bid to shake up the industry, and ensure a better rental experience for tenants and landlords.
 
 
 


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Cheap buy-to-let mortgage deals on the rise

Good news for landlords: data from Moneyfacts shows that not only is the number of buy-to-let (BTL) mortgages on the rise, but the deals are becoming cheaper too.

The figures show a dramatic rise in the number of BTL mortgages available in recent years, up from 476 two years ago to 745 today – an increase of almost 300 products in two years alone.

However, an even more notable finding is the sharp increase in the number of low rate deals available, and the fall in rates as a whole.

Two years ago, there were a total of five two-year fixed rate BTL deals priced below 3%, but today this figure has rocketed to 83. It's a similar story for the number of five-year BTL deals priced below 5% – two years ago there were 37 such mortgages available, but now there are 143 of them on the market.

Rates as a whole have fallen dramatically, too, with the average two-year fixed rate BTL deal currently priced at 3.45% (down from 4.44% two years ago), and the average five-year deal standing at 4.25% (down from 4.67%).

Charlotte Nelson, finance expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk, said: "Buy-to-let mortgages are experiencing a renaissance, becoming not only more widely available but cheaper, too.

"With more five-year fixed rate deals charging below 5% than ever before, it is little wonder that the newly emancipated pensioners are genuinely considering buy-to-let as a retirement option. But those looking at this route as an alternative to a pension need to look at all aspects of the mortgage.

"Many lenders restrict the age they will borrow up to, so older borrowers would be wise to seek the guidance of a financial adviser who can access a larger portion of the market. Nonetheless, with easy savings to be made you are now likely to be recouping more in rent, which will allow you to get a bigger return on an investment."


 


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Pop star £30,000 in rent arrears evicted from flat

A pop star has been evicted from his London flat owing his landlord more than £30,000 in rent and causing him to have a breakdown.

Pete Burns, 55, was the lead singer of Dead or Alive who had a number of hits in the 1980s including You Spin Me Round and Brand New Lover. He appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006.

Said to be addicted to plastic surgery, Burns won £450,000 in an out of court settlement in 2009 following botched lip surgery.

He wasn’t at the property when Landlord Action arrived with bailiffs to repossess the property after gaining a possession order from the court. Legal costs bump up the amount Burns owes the landlord to £34,000.

Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, claimed the landlord had suffered a breakdown due to the stress of Burns not paying the rent and various incidents at the flat.

Yesterday was a bad day for Burns – as well as being evicted, he was also declared bankrupt.


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