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Estate Agents & Letting Agents in Leeds

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

Brent landlord fined for second time over HMO

A landlord who was found to have 16 tenants living in just one property in Willesden Green, north London, has been fined for a second time for not obtaining the correct licences from the council.

Douglas Gerard-Reynolds was ordered to pay £8,643, which included a £6,500 fine, costs and other charges, by Willesden Magistrates Court on 23 June 2015.

The fine followed an inspection of the property in Lechmere Road by Brent Council which confirmed that there were 16 tenants living at the property and that it was in a bad condition with dangerous electric wiring and an unsafe ceiling which could have collapsed.

In April this year, Gerard-Reynolds became the first landlord to be fined for failing to have a license for a different property in Cricklewood. From 1 January 2015 all HMO properties in the borough of Brent and rental properties located in the Harlesden, Wembley Central and Willesden Green wards must be licensed.

Councillor Margaret McLennan, lead member for housing and development at Brent Council said: "This is exactly why we introduced the landlord licensing schemes this year – to protect people who rent in Brent. This case should serve as a deterrent to any landlords who are dragging their feet when asked to apply for a licence.

"The licensing scheme is vital for the protection of vulnerable tenants, many of whom are unaware of their housing rights."


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Legal challenge against Croydon licensing

Croydon landlords have launched a legal challenge against selective licensing in the borough.

A group of landlords operating as the Croydon Property Forum applied early in June for a judicial review of the decision and will argue the consultation process was flawed. 

Licences costing up to £750 for five years are due to be introduced in October.

The council claims the licences, which will require every private landlord in the borough to prove they are "fit and proper" for the role, will cut down on crime and anti-social behaviour caused by poor property management. 

Gavin Dick, local authority policy officer at the National Landlords Association, which has been advising the Croydon landlords, said: "I don't think Croydon has an endemic anti-social behaviour problem across the entire borough and I don't think the council has demonstrated that being linked to the private rented sector.

"They have not answered that fundamental question."

A judge is expected to give rule whether there is an initial case for a judicial review by mid-July.

A council spokesman told the Croydon Guardian: "We are confident that our landlord licensing scheme is robust, lawful and will raise housing standards across the borough, and we’ll continue preparing to launch this scheme from October 1."


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Oxford letting agent faces £8,000 fine

A letting agency has been handed fines totalling £7,000 and costs of £1,140 after the council took it to court over an unlicensed HMO.

The Letting Centre Oxford Ltd, based in the Oxford suburb of Headington, was prosecuted after Oxford city council environmental health officers found that it was managing the rental of an HMO that was unlicensed and failing to comply with fire safety requirements.

Officers from the council visited the property last November and an inspection confirmed suspicions that it was an unlicensed and unsafe HMO. The property had a missing fire door and locks on doors that could stop occupants escaping if there was a fire.

Darren Hazell, director of The Letting Centre (Oxford) Ltd, has pleaded guilty to being in control of an unlicensed HMO and has received a fine of £5,000 for failing to obtain a licence. He has also pleaded guilty to one breach of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 and has received a fine of £2,000.

The court also ordered the agency to pay the council’s full costs of £1,140 for bringing the case to court.

“The city council requires all houses in multiple occupation to be licensed in order to raise standards in properties as well as their management. We will take action against landlords who fail to comply with legal requirements to license and maintain HMOs to acceptable standards,” a spokesman for the council said.

 


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Female flatsharers “pay more rent”

Women living in shared, rented accommodation are £2,271 worse off than men, according to data from flat and house share site SpareRoom.co.uk.

The site compared the financial situations of male and female flatsharers. It found that despite women earning 7% less than men – a gender pay gap of £1,995 – women are spending £276 per year more on rent.

In London, the gender gap widens to £4,236. Women are earning 14% less than men but are still paying marginally more in rent per year (£48), leaving them worse off.

Almost one in seven (15%) female flatsharers are spending more than 50% of their take-home pay on rent, compared to just 8% of male flatsharers. In London, where the affordability crisis is most acute, 17% of all female flatshares spend 50% or more on their rent.

Looking at the data by age group, women in their 20s in London pay the largest proportion of their salary on rent – almost one in five (19%) spends more than half their pay packet on rent compared to just one in 10 (10%) men.

The data also reveals that men, who pay an average of £511 per month, are more likely to pay an ‘all-inclusive’ rent. Nearly half (48%) of men pay rent inclusive of bills compared to 39% of women, who pay an average of £534 per month. This further stretches the gap in outgoings and earnings between the sexes. It also explains what only 26% of women flatsharers say they could afford to rent alone, compared to almost half (46%) of men.

Given the divide, it’s not surprising that more women are spending longer living in shared accommodation than men. More than a third (34%) of female flatsharers in their 30s have lived in shared accommodation for more than five years, compared to just 22% of men. In London, 37% of female flatsharers in their 30s have lived in shared accommodation for more than five years, compared to 24% of male sharers.  

The data also suggests that male renters are more likely to live in bigger properties; three in 10 (30%) male flatsharers live in larger households of four or more people, meaning bills are generally cheaper. Just a quarter (25%) of female sharers live in larger households. Men are also more likely to live in rented accommodation without living rooms – 29% of thirty-something males compromise on a living room compared to just 19% of women.

Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom.co.uk, said: “With such a defined salary gap between the sexes it’s no wonder women are flatsharing for longer. In spite of it being 2015, women are still earning less than men, but they don’t get a discount on their rent for being female.

“One result of this affordability burden is that 12% of female renters don’t ever expect to be able to buy homes of their own. If home ownership feels like a distant dream there are a few ways you can lower your rent to help you save. Consider living in larger house shares. As a general rule the bigger the property the cheaper your rent and bills are likely to be.
 
"Living as a lodger can also save you money as lodger rents are usually cheaper. We're increasingly seeing young professionals who have managed to get on the property ladder choosing to rent out their spare rooms to make ends meet so, in many cases, living with your landlord won't feel any different from living in a flatshare.”
 

 


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Landlords upbeat about tenant demand

Research by specialist buy-to-let lender, Paragon Mortgages, highlights the continued growth in tenant demand in the second quarter, with 43% of landlords believing demand is either growing or booming.

The most recent findings show that the trend for strong tenant demand is well-established, with ongoing steady growth for the past three consecutive quarters.

The level of growth is expected to continue over the next 12 months with more than half of landlords (51%) believing they will continue to see a rise in demand.

The research also identified the tenant groups that landlords are most frequently letting to with almost half of landlords (47%) renting to young couples, young singles (43%) and families with children (42%).

John Heron, managing director of Paragon Mortgages, said: “It is no surprise that rental demand is steadily increasing. With continued stress on the housing stock driving prices up, tough affordability hurdles for would-be buyers and a social rented sector under pressure as a result of renewed interest in right-to-buy, a steady increase in rental demand was practically inevitable. It is important that landlords continue to expand the supply of rented property in order to maintain balance and so avoid unsustainable increases in rents. A healthy, competitive and innovative buy-to-let market is critical to this.”


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Three landlords face financial ruin on “Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords”

This week’s episode of Channel 5’s ‘Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords’, featuring evictions expert Landlord Action, will feature three separate landlords all facing financial ruin as a result of troublesome tenants.

The first story follows builder Franc Coutinho, who had been renting his property out in North London for six years without a problem until his latest tenant, Shuaghxi Fu, moved in.

Within six weeks, problems with paying the rent began with the tenant reporting false issues with the boiler to avoid paying rent. Despite numerous visits by plumbers to the property, when rent was due, the boiler mysteriously stopped working. Unable to take anymore and facing financial ruin, Franc started the eviction process. However, when his day in court arrives, Shuaghxi Fu makes a surprise show, files a last minute defence – again about the faulty boiler – and delays the eviction by months.

Commenting on the case, Paul Shamplina of Landlord Action, said: “Sadly we see far too many cases like this. It is one of the many reasons we have fought so hard to prevent law changes in relation to retaliation eviction because we fear we will see more and more cases like this if tenants are able to use delay tactics by reporting bogus issues of disrepair. Upon checking out the property it was clear there was nothing wrong with the boiler but the delay at court meant poor Franc was left with months of unpaid rent and legal fees. Having to pay two mortgages he was on the brink of bankruptcy.”

The episode’s second case features landlord Dipan Doshi who has been renting his flat out to a family of four for 18 months but for the past year has barely received a penny in rent, and is now owed over £12,000.

With a wife on maternity leave, he can’t just walk away from this amount of money, so starts the ball rolling in getting the money and his property back.

Finally, after been out of pocket to the tune of £7,000 in unpaid rent, landlord Louise McKinlay finally gets her tenant evicted, but once she’s in the property she finds that just because the tenant’s gone, doesn’t mean that’s the end of the nightmare.

‘Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords’ is on Channel 5 on Wednesday at 9pm.


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British Property Federation launches build-to-rent committee

The British Property Federation (BPF) has announced the creation of a new committee that will focus on promoting the emerging build-to-rent sector to government and other stakeholders, including consumers.

The committee, which will be formed as a sub-set of the BPF’s residential committee, will be chaired by Andrew Stanford, UK residential fund manager at LaSalle Investment Management and former head of the government’s private rented sector taskforce. Adam Russell, acquisitions manager at FizzyLiving, will act as vice-chair.

At a time when the housing crisis is acute and private renting has overtaken the social housing sector as the second largest tenure in the England, the committee will reinforce the important role that build-to-rent can play in increasing housing supply and tenant choice.

It will work to ensure that both local and central government continue to support the sector, and create the right conditions to encourage investment and speed up delivery of this new housing product. 

Committee chair Andrew Stanford, said: “Build-to-rent fits so well with so many of the new Government’s priorities, delivering new supply of quality rented homes, accelerating the speed of housing development, making good use of brownfield sites, supporting placemaking and meeting customer needs. There are many innovators in this new market and I am so pleased we have brought many of them together, in this new group, to drive that important dialogue with local and national Government forward. ”

 


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No jail for letting agent who stole £577,000

A letting agent who lost at least £577,865 in missing tenancy deposits and rent payments has escaped jail.

However Peter Leonard, 58, has been disqualified from acting as a director for 10 years following the collapse of his Hove agency.

His firm, Direct Residential Lettings, owes at least £577,865 according to calculations by The Insolvency Service. “The public should be assured that the Insolvency Service will seek to disqualify the directors of companies that do not obey the law and use other people’s money for the benefit of the company,” said an Insolvency Service spokesperson.

Leonard, who was the director of the lettings agency until its sudden closure in May 2013, will be prevented from becoming involved in the promotion, formation or management of a company until 2025.

The Insolvency Service has been unable to account for transactions paid out of Direct’s bank account totalling £501,393 between October 2012 and May 2013.

The service says Leonard failed to safeguard tenant deposits and rent payments from as far back as April 2007.

He was also found to be guilty of misleading The National Approved Letting Scheme by submitting false accounts from 2010 onwards.

Leonard was put under police bail on suspicion of fraud in June 2013 following the collapse of the company. He was released from bail in March 2014 with Sussex Police stating there would be no further action taken against him at that time.

A winding-up order was made against Direct Residential Lettings in September 2013.

 


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The art of negotiation is becoming trickier

New research from property portal Zoopla has revealed that homebuyers are finding it more and more difficult to haggle on prices. Currently, a typical British property is reduced by only 6.05% from its original asking rice – the lowest level seen in five years.

However, despite the smaller discounts on offer, nearly a third of properties currently on the market have had their price slashed at least once since originally being listed, adding up to over £2bn of reductions in total.  

The north of England has the highest percentage of properties with lowered asking prices, with more than two-fifths of all properties listed in Rotherham (43.6%), Preston (43.2%) and Barnsley (42.3%) being reduced by sellers.

The top 10 areas for the largest reductions include Blackpool (9.8%), Manchester (8.3%) and Bradford (7.9%), while London (7.4%) is also a surprisingly decent bet for bargain-hunters. Discounts in the capital can surpass £75,000.  

Focusing on London specifically, the neighbouring boroughs of Merton (28.7%), Richmond-upon-Thames and Croydon (both 27.3%) have the highest amount of reduced properties for sale. However, those looking for the largest reductions are advised to head to Havering – a borough set to benefit from the imminent arrival or Crossrail – where the usual property price discount is 10.45%.

In the £1m-plus national market, more than a fifth of properties have been reduced since originally coming on to the market, at an average discount of more than £185,000. 

“Buyers may be disheartened by the decrease in the typical discounts on offer but can take cheer from the fact that almost a third of houses are listed today below their original asking price,” Lawrence Hall, Head of Communications at Zoopla, said.  

“This means that despite ever-increasing house prices, there is still room for some good, old-fashioned negotiating. On the flip side, vendors can be pretty confident of achieving close to their initial asking price.”


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New crowdfunding opportunity based around property investment

Quanta is the latest property crowdfunding opportunity to hit the headlines. It is looking to raise £3 million by offering UK investors the chance to get involved in buying, renovating and selling properties from the safety and comfort of their living rooms.

The idea is believed to be the first of its kind and will see money lent to Quanta through Crowdstacker, a peer-to-peer lending platform. The money will be used to buy good quality but neglected properties throughout the UK, with the main aim of restoring them to their former glory and then selling the homes on at a higher price.

It differs from other crowdfunding opportunities as nothing will be held as a buy-to-let, with the goal instead to only keep properties for an average of three months to minimise costs and maximise returns. 

Quanta, which has been operating for nearly ten years in the UK, has over 500 refurbishment projects in its locker. Investors are invited to lend from £700 upwards, with a 6.8% return payable in quarterly investments. Anyone investing before 24th June 2015 will be able to take advantage of an early bird offer and an extra six weeks’ interest.  

“This opportunity is ideal for anyone who hankers after getting involved in property development, but has neither the time nor the money to do it by themselves,” Edward Stevenson, director of Quanta Group, said. “We believe we are the first investment of this type to show investors exactly how their money is being spent including details on every property we buy and sell - even addresses and the full story behind the refurbishment.”

 

He added: “Perhaps we are risking creating some competitors in the future, but we want investors to be able to learn from our expertise by watching how we do what we do. We would be proud to be the building blocks to help people not only get on the property ladder, but also know how to capitalise on the opportunity.”

Crowdstacker, which agreed to feature the opportunity after carrying out due diligence on Quanta’s business, is one of the UK’s first peer-to-peer lending platforms to secure direct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

“Crowdstacker isn’t about fly-by-night start-ups or pie-in-the-sky entrepreneurs,” Karteek Patel, CEO of Crowdstacker, explained.  “We curate only what we consider to be better opportunities for people looking to lend money to businesses for compelling, yet sensible, rates of return.”

“Quanta is a great company to lend money to,” Patel added. “They work hard, they’re passionate about what they do, and they have a fantastic track record for doing it well.”


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