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Landlords urge government to pause the rollout of Universal Credit

Labour’s symbolic defeat on the government over the rollout of universal credit on Wednesday night will have been welcomed by many buy-to-let landlords.

Tory MPs were ordered to abstain from the commons vote on the flagship benefits reform, but up to two dozen Conservative MPs have said they may support a Labour motion, which called for ministers to ‘pause and fix’ the controversial welfare reform.

From a landlord’s perspective there is concern that the housing element of Universal Credit is inadequate for a number of tenants to be able to cover their rent, which largely explains why new research from the National Landlords Association (NLA) has found that 20% of landlords would be unwilling to let to tenants in receipt of housing benefit or universal credit.

The study, taken from the NLA’s Quarterly Landlord Panel, also reveals that that two in three landlords who let to housing benefit recipients say they have fallen behind on rental payments in the last 12 months.

The NLA has already identified several problems the new system is causing landlords, and why so many are shying away from accepting Universal Credit tenants. These include:

+ Difficulty communicating and interacting with the Universal Credit administration system.

+ The time and effort it takes to secure direct payment of the housing element of Universal Credit to the landlord.

+ The six week waiting period causing tenants to be two-months in rent arrears by the time of the first payment.

+ The National Landlords Association (NLA) is calling on the Government to pause the national roll-out of its Universal Credit project and to lift the current freeze on housing benefit rates.

Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the NLA, said: “Underlying all the problems with Universal Credit is the freeze on housing benefit rates, which means that the housing element of Universal Credit is simply insufficient for many tenants to be able to cover their rent.

“The decline in social housing means that some of the most vulnerable in society can only turn to the private rented sector. We have long called for the freeze to be scrapped as it creates a barrier that prevents claimants from securing the housing they need.

“If the government is serious about helping then it needs to press pause on the roll out of Universal Credit, and fix its underlying problems. Otherwise more and more people will find themselves homeless as the proportion of landlords who consider themselves able to house those who need it most will keep on falling.”

Despite growing opposition, Theresa May refused to pause the rollout of her government’s universal credit benefit on Wednesday.

“Pausing universal credit will not help those people who would be helped by moving to universal credit, getting into the workplace and bringing home more pay for their families,” the prime minister said. 


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Call to protect tenants in Wales from ‘unjust fees and rogue landlords’

The secretary of state for Wales has called for greater protections for tenants and a crackdown on rogue landlords in Wales.

Welsh secretary Alun Cairns wants to see Wales follow England’s lead and ban letting agents in Wales from charging tenant fees, while he also wants to see the introduction of a range of measures designed to protect tenants from unfair practices.

He said: “Getting set up in a private tenancy can be eye-wateringly expensive. Not only must new tenants find thousands of pounds upfront for deposits and rent in advance – they also have to pay fees to letting agents for a range of administrative costs which can often run into the hundreds of pounds.

“This has been going on for far too long and, today, the UK Government is taking a stand by giving tenants in England more power to challenge extortionate fees and poor treatment. Wales must not get left behind.

“It is time that the Welsh Government followed the example being set in England and move quickly to protect tenants in Wales from unjust fees and rogue landlords.” 

In August, the Welsh government released a report claiming that there is “no compelling evidence” for tenants to pay upfront letting agent fees or renewal costs to existing tenancies because “the large majority of the work undertaken by agents is work that the landlord would otherwise be doing themselves”.

Isobel Thomson, chief executive, National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), has released a short statement, stating: “NALS notes the Secretary of State for Wales’ call for the Welsh Government to take measures to protect tenants in Wales from unjust fees and rogue landlords and agents.

“In relation to fees, we believe that the majority of agents in Wales charge a fair fee for a fair service and we await the outcome of the consultation by the Welsh government on this issue.

“Wales already has full regulation of landlords and agents and therefore the regulatory organisation, Rent Smart Wales should by now be delivering the effective action necessary to ensure that tenants are offered the degree of protection they deserve and rogue landlords are exposed.”


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Average prime home counties rents on the rise

The latest data from Knight Frank has revealed that the number of agreed tenancies for prime home counties properties has increased by 24% year-on-year.

This year has also seen substantial rental rises across the market, with average prime home counties rents increasing 1.2% over the course of the third quarter of 2017 (Q3 2017).

Similarly, quarterly rental growth was up for one-bedroom (4.8%) and two-bedroom flats (4.5%).

Meanwhile, smaller family houses and flats accounted for 68% of rental market activity over the course of the quarter.

“We have seen a continued surge of interest in the home counties lettings market, demonstrated by the remarkable rise in demand compared to last year,” Jemma Scott, partner at Knight Frank, commented.

“Renting is now the go-to approach for families moving out of London as it gives them the ability to make sure they are settled before committing to the considerable costs associated with buying a property.”

She added: “That being said, the high volume of one and two-bedroom flats that are being snapped up shows that younger couples and smaller families are also being attracted by the lifestyle that the home counties has to offer.””


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Why Right to Rent imperfections shouldn’t concern pragmatic landlords

The findings of the BBC investigation into ID fraud linked to Right to Rent checks will come as no surprise to longstanding landlords. In fact, for those of us who followed the debate leading up to the implementation of the legislation, it was absolutely predictable that Right to Rent would lead to an increase in demand for black market identification.

Right to Rent puts landlords in a tough spot. It gives the impression that we’re a sort of quango; an arm of the Home Office that shares its risk without the funding or the training to do so. The genuine fear is that a tenant without the Right to Rent in the UK commits a serious offence while living in a privately rented property.

Landlords and letting agents are therefore asked to check tenants’ identity documentation to verify that they have permission to stay in the UK. On the face of it this is a fairly straightforward task, although 170 fines have been issued under Right to Rent in the past year.

But, in reality, beyond checking that a passport photo lines up properly and the binding doesn’t look suspect, there really isn’t a whole lot landlords can do to identify a fake document. Even if it feels that way sometimes, we’re not customs officials. We’re not trained to know what a fake EU passport might look like and, crucially, we aren’t actually required to.

So long as a landlord can readily show a record of having correctly completed a Right to Rent check, and that the identification appeared to be genuine, they are in no way culpable if it transpires that the tenant does not have the right to live and work in the UK.

But the BBC investigation does raise important questions for landlords relating to their due diligence when letting a property.

However small your portfolio, being a landlord should be viewed as running a professional business. There’s no excuse for relying solely on a visual check of couple of pieces of identification when arranging a let. As landlords we should be fully referencing and credit checking potential tenants, and using the raft of technology available to support us.

Most lettings agents provide a referencing service, so ask your agent what they offer. If you’re self-managing, you should be making use of technology services that do at least cursory validation of your tenants, which is available for as little as £3 per Right to Rent check. This ensures you take all the steps required of you by the government, stores all the relevant images and documentation, and means you can show your work should a problem arise.

On the one hand, Right to Rent is clearly an imperfect piece of legislation and landlords cannot be expected to perform as auxiliary border control officers. On the other, there is no excuse for relying on a passport and an envelope of cash when arranging a rental.

That’s why Right to Rent doesn’t overly trouble pragmatic, common sense landlords who opt for additional vetting and use technology to their advantage. A relatively small investment can be a highly valuable barrier against potential difficulties; whether this is a couple of months’ unpaid rent or a serious offence by a tenant who doesn’t have the right to be in the UK at all.

Vik Tara is a landlord, the CTO of Technology Blueprint Ltd and the director of CheckDocs, a document checking service for landlords and letting agents. 


Article courtesy of Landlord Today | Sign up for Landlord Today newsletter | Get this news on YOUR site!



Why Right to Rent imperfections shouldn’t concern pragmatic landlords

The findings of the BBC investigation into ID fraud linked to Right to Rent checks will come as no surprise to longstanding landlords. In fact, for those of us who followed the debate leading up to the implementation of the legislation, it was absolutely predictable that Right to Rent would lead to an increase in demand for black market identification.

Right to Rent puts landlords in a tough spot. It gives the impression that we’re a sort of quango; an arm of the Home Office that shares its risk without the funding or the training to do so. The genuine fear is that a tenant without the Right to Rent in the UK commits a serious offence while living in a privately rented property.

Landlords and letting agents are therefore asked to check tenants’ identity documentation to verify that they have permission to stay in the UK. On the face of it this is a fairly straightforward task, although 170 fines have been issued under Right to Rent in the past year.

But, in reality, beyond checking that a passport photo lines up properly and the binding doesn’t look suspect, there really isn’t a whole lot landlords can do to identify a fake document. Even if it feels that way sometimes, we’re not customs officials. We’re not trained to know what a fake EU passport might look like and, crucially, we aren’t actually required to.

So long as a landlord can readily show a record of having correctly completed a Right to Rent check, and that the identification appeared to be genuine, they are in no way culpable if it transpires that the tenant does not have the right to live and work in the UK.

But the BBC investigation does raise important questions for landlords relating to their due diligence when letting a property.

However small your portfolio, being a landlord should be viewed as running a professional business. There’s no excuse for relying solely on a visual check of couple of pieces of identification when arranging a let. As landlords we should be fully referencing and credit checking potential tenants, and using the raft of technology available to support us.

Most lettings agents provide a referencing service, so ask your agent what they offer. If you’re self-managing, you should be making use of technology services that do at least cursory validation of your tenants, which is available for as little as £3 per Right to Rent check. This ensures you take all the steps required of you by the government, stores all the relevant images and documentation, and means you can show your work should a problem arise.

On the one hand, Right to Rent is clearly an imperfect piece of legislation and landlords cannot be expected to perform as auxiliary border control officers. On the other, there is no excuse for relying on a passport and an envelope of cash when arranging a rental.

That’s why Right to Rent doesn’t overly trouble pragmatic, common sense landlords who opt for additional vetting and use technology to their advantage. A relatively small investment can be a highly valuable barrier against potential difficulties; whether this is a couple of months’ unpaid rent or a serious offence by a tenant who doesn’t have the right to be in the UK at all.

Vik Tara is a landlord, the CTO of Technology Blueprint Ltd and the director of CheckDocs, a document checking service for landlords and letting agents. 


Article courtesy of Landlord Today | Sign up for Landlord Today newsletter | Get this news on YOUR site!



Call to protect tenants in Wales from ‘unjust fees and rogue landlords’

The secretary of state for Wales has called for greater protections for tenants and a crackdown on rogue landlords in Wales.

Welsh secretary Alun Cairns wants to see Wales follow England’s lead and ban letting agents in Wales from charging tenant fees, while he also wants to see the introduction of a range of measures designed to protect tenants from unfair practices.

He said: “Getting set up in a private tenancy can be eye-wateringly expensive. Not only must new tenants find thousands of pounds upfront for deposits and rent in advance – they also have to pay fees to letting agents for a range of administrative costs which can often run into the hundreds of pounds.

“This has been going on for far too long and, today, the UK Government is taking a stand by giving tenants in England more power to challenge extortionate fees and poor treatment. Wales must not get left behind.

“It is time that the Welsh Government followed the example being set in England and move quickly to protect tenants in Wales from unjust fees and rogue landlords.” 

In August, the Welsh government released a report claiming that there is “no compelling evidence” for tenants to pay upfront letting agent fees or renewal costs to existing tenancies because “the large majority of the work undertaken by agents is work that the landlord would otherwise be doing themselves”.

Isobel Thomson, chief executive, National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS), has released a short statement, stating: “NALS notes the Secretary of State for Wales’ call for the Welsh Government to take measures to protect tenants in Wales from unjust fees and rogue landlords and agents.

“In relation to fees, we believe that the majority of agents in Wales charge a fair fee for a fair service and we await the outcome of the consultation by the Welsh government on this issue.

“Wales already has full regulation of landlords and agents and therefore the regulatory organisation, Rent Smart Wales should by now be delivering the effective action necessary to ensure that tenants are offered the degree of protection they deserve and rogue landlords are exposed.”


Article courtesy of Landlord Today | Sign up for Landlord Today newsletter | Get this news on YOUR site!



Top French ski properties to invest in next year

Despite French mortgage rates held at very low rates of 1.5%, now is still a good time to invest in a French property, Erna Low Property say.

Specialising in luxury ski properties in the French Alps, Erna Low listed five popular areas to invest in ahead of the new year.

A brand-new development for the dual-season in the Samoens, Le Pre d’Anne Cloe is located close to the town centre, making it an enjoyable stay for family and friends. The resort offers a range of sporting activities, featuring a six-seater chair lift opening in Flaine this winter.

Exactly 24 apartments make up the small residence, which can be divided into three stand-alone chalets. Some 18 of the apartments will range from 1-3 bedrooms, while the remaining six will be semi-chalets of four and five bedrooms. Prices from €244,500.

Huge infrastructure improvements are in process for the Alpe d’Huez and Les 2 Alps ski areas over the next four years. A gondola will link the two domains, making it the most prominent addition, creating a ski playground of 475km and making it France’s third largest ski resort.

Made up of 50 apartments over five buildings, Les Edelweiss in Vaujany – close to Alpe d’Huez – is a three-minute stroll from the village centre and 250m from the main ski gondola. Princes from €142,000.

Les Chalets de Montriond will be the latest development, comprised of two separate chalet buildings, both designed to allow each apartment to face the Alpine views. The development will use the traditional Savoyard style, featuring natural stone and reclaimed wood. There are one and four-bedroom apartments available: prices from €350,000.

Made up of a collection of four chalets, Les Chalets du Chantel is said to be completed around the second term of 2018. Each property will have outdoor parking and a garage with a minimum of four bedrooms and four bathrooms/shower rooms.

The development will feature the Savoyard style with large bay windows and wrap-around balconies. Located just outside the village of La Rosiere, access to the ski area is quick and easy, with a regular ski bus stopping just 50m from the chalets. The four chalets are sold classic (standard purchase) freehold at €399,000.

Lastly, situated in the heart of Les Arcs, Arc 150 is a unique mountain village with direct access to Paradiski, one of the largest skiing domains in the world. This makes the mountain one of the largest in Europe, built at an altitude of 2,000 metres and offering panoramic views.

Francois Marchand, director of Erna Low Property, commented: “The popularity of this unique high-altitude village resort ensures that year-on-year it enjoys an occupancy rate of over 90% during the winter.”

“This makes for a strong rental market and an attractive proposition for investors,” he said.


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Tenancy deposit theft total hits £850k so far this year

The recent conviction of letting agent Lee Grace for illegally keeping £45,000 of tenancy deposits has contributed significantly to the near £850,000 worth of deposits known to be stolen so far this year.

Grace, of Kings Hill letting agents in Kent, was sentenced last week to eight months in prison after being found guilty of keeping a number of client deposits, between 26 October 2014 and 8 February last year.

The guilty verdict has presenting the head of Keep It Simple Group, Ajay Jagota, with yet another opportunity to campaign against rental deposits in the private rented sector.

Jagota, who keeps a running total of the cash value of deposits criminal letting agents have been convicted of stealing, reports that by the end of the third quarter of this year, thefts totalled £847,227 – an average theft of £44,591 per conviction.

At least 24 rogue letting agents and buy-to-let landlords have been convicted of offences relating to the theft of deposits so far this year - at an average of more than two a month.

Jagota ultimately believes that a more effective way to improve the private rented sector would be for monetary deposits to be scrapped.  

His firm KIS were the first letting agents to abolish monetary deposits, replacing them with a one-of-a-kind insurance policy.

Jagota is also founder of dLighted, an insurance backed deposit-free renting solution offering up to £7,500 of cover for agents.

He said: “Not only do deposits drive up the cost of renting - hurting landlords as much as anyone by making it harder to find tenants while providing feeble protection against unpaid rent or property damage – they make criminal behaviour easy .

“They hurt letting agents too, leaving them vulnerable to the huge reputational damage of convictions like this or exposing them to potentially bankrupting losses and costs.

“As I’ve said time and time again, the very worst part of this is that these figures don’t even start to show the true scale of deposits being misused, misplaced. misappropriated or plainly and simply stolen.

“We’re currently investigating another case where tens of thousands of pounds of deposits appear to have vanished, and that’s before we consider the widespread but unacceptable practice of letting agents using deposit cash for day to day business expenses.

“Zero deposit means zero risk. Zero risk of mounting rent arrears because of our rent guarantee. Zero risk of deposits not covering the cost of property damage due to the £500,000 of cover our deposit replacement insurance offers. And zero risk of tenant’s cash being pocketed by rogue letting agents and landlords.”

 


Article courtesy of Landlord Today | Sign up for Landlord Today newsletter | Get this news on YOUR site!



Tenancy deposit theft total hits £850k so far this year

The recent conviction of letting agent Lee Grace for illegally keeping £45,000 of tenancy deposits has contributed significantly to the near £850,000 worth of deposits known to be stolen so far this year.

Grace, of Kings Hill letting agents in Kent, was sentenced last week to eight months in prison after being found guilty of keeping a number of client deposits, between 26 October 2014 and 8 February last year.

The guilty verdict has presented the head of Keep It Simple Group, Ajay Jagota, with yet another opportunity to campaign against rental deposits in the private rented sector.

Jagota, who keeps a running total of the cash value of deposits criminal letting agents have been convicted of stealing, reports that by the end of the third quarter of this year, thefts totalled £847,227 – an average theft of £44,591 per conviction.

At least 24 rogue letting agents and buy-to-let landlords have been convicted of offences relating to the theft of deposits so far this year - at an average of more than two a month.

Jagota ultimately believes that a more effective way to improve the private rented sector would be for monetary deposits to be scrapped.  

His firm KIS were the first letting agents to abolish monetary deposits, replacing them with a one-of-a-kind insurance policy.

Jagota is also founder of dLighted, an insurance backed deposit-free renting solution offering cover for agents.

He said: “Not only do deposits drive up the cost of renting - hurting landlords as much as anyone by making it harder to find tenants while providing feeble protection against unpaid rent or property damage – they make criminal behaviour easy .

“They hurt letting agents too, leaving them vulnerable to the huge reputational damage of convictions like this or exposing them to potentially bankrupting losses and costs.

“As I’ve said time and time again, the very worst part of this is that these figures don’t even start to show the true scale of deposits being misused, misplaced. misappropriated or plainly and simply stolen.

“We’re currently investigating another case where tens of thousands of pounds of deposits appear to have vanished, and that’s before we consider the widespread but unacceptable practice of letting agents using deposit cash for day to day business expenses.

“Zero deposit means zero risk. Zero risk of mounting rent arrears because of our rent guarantee. Zero risk of deposits not covering the cost of property damage due to the £500,000 of cover our deposit replacement insurance offers. And zero risk of tenant’s cash being pocketed by rogue letting agents and landlords.”

 


Article courtesy of Landlord Today | Sign up for Landlord Today newsletter | Get this news on YOUR site!



The Listed Property Show returns to London next year

Celebrating its 12-year anniversary next year, The Listed Property Show will be returning to Olympia London in February 2018.

The event, organised by The Listed Property Owners’ Club (LPOC), will run from February 24 to February 25 2018 and will feature all the key professionals under one roof.

Attendees are encouraged to bring along any plans and drawings in order to gather more information about their listed property and talk with experts.

Participants who are renovating, maintaining or conserving their listed home will be able to put their questions to the show’s extensive panel of conservation advisors, planners, experts in VAT and insurance, architects, solicitors and leaders from Historic England.

The show will also include advice on all aspects of owning a listed property – including surveyance, buying, VAT, maintenance, insurance and legal issues – as well as hypothetical plans to alter a building and a full interactive lecture program, among other things.

Members of the LPOC will be on hand to meet and greets. Tickets for the show cost £10 in advance, or £15 on the door. Under 16’s attend for free.

For more information, please visit the website at www.lpoc.co.uk.


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