Monthly Archives: October 2013

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By Judith Loeffler

Spotlight

 

During both recent political party conferences the private rental sector was a key subject. Labour outlined plans to introduce rent controls with ‘predictable rents’ for longer tenancies.  The party expressed a preference for index-linked rent rises. Over the last year his would have left tenants in a worse off position as – in the last 12 months to August 2013 – private rental prices in Great Britain have risen by 1.2% and by 1.9% in London.  This compares to an RPI increase of 3.3% over the same time period. Labour also expressed the idea of launching a compulsory national landlord register as a way to filter out rogue landlords – assuming they would chose to comply with regulation and register accordingly.

The Conservatives highlighted plans for a Tenants Charter enabling private renters to demand longer tenancies under a new code of conduct for landlords which will provide greater security for tenants . Family friendly tenancies are another element of the government’s plan with model contracts and up to 5 year tenancies, providing stability for tenants in the private rental sector as outlined in the speech by Eric Pickles, current Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

At the same time calls for lettings agent regulation, discussion around racial discrimination by landlords and reports on rent-to-rent scams by self styled property ‘experts’ continue to be high on the agenda – showing very clearly that the private rental sector will continue to feature strongly in the public debate over the coming months.

By Judith Loeffler

3d character with question mark

Student accommodation has recently been quoted as lucrative investment for landlords. ‘Buy-to-let landlords who rent their property to university students are more likely to find tenants and receive rent on time’, according to a study by the National Landlords Association (NLA). According to the research, 1. Students are the least likely of all tenant types to miss a rental payment, 2. Student landlords experience the lowest incidence of voids and 3. Student tenants offer the highest rental yield at 6.7 per cent.

Another rental scheme which some have been led to believe to be a reliable strategy for rental properties is the rent to rent scheme. In essence, a head tenant will rent the property from the landlord long term and then sublet individual rooms at a higher price to as many tenants as possible (hopefully with the consent of the landlord). Often the head tenant will also increase the number of rooms to be let by turning common areas like a lounge into an additional bedroom. The head tenant makes a profit, the landlord has the property let long term, albeit at a lower price.

The scheme itself does raise some questions like

  • does it encourage overcrowding in properties
  • does it get tenants to pay inflated prices
  • what is the effect on the landlord’s mortgage and insurance agreements
  • how can the landlord ensure the property continues to be managed within the legal framework
  • how will the additional wear and tear be accounted for

The recent disappearance of a self styled rent to rent property ‘guru’, including the disappearance of tenants’ deposits held, clearly shows that what sounds too good to be true often is.

 

By Judith Loeffler

Tax evasion

 

HMRC’s ‘Property Sales Campaign’  had given expat landlord until 6 September 2013 to bring their tax affairs in order. Expats who had recently sold an investment property in the UK but had not declared their capital gains tax liabilities will now face heavy consequences. HM Revenue & Customs has launched 40 specialist taskforces to target tax evasion by expats in the buy-to-let sector, according to The Overseas Guides Company.

In Yorkshire this has already led to 12 cases of landlords being criminally investigated. With expat landlords buying and selling large numbers of new developments especially in London it is little surprise that HMRC expects to recover £4m in unpaid tax from the South East region.

By Judith Loeffler

Wandsworth Logo

 

We keep getting more and more enquiries about specific requirements for licensed Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs). This depends on the council a property is located in though here’s a closer look at our home Borough of Wandsworth. As a reminder – if a property is occupied by 3 or more unrelated people it is classed as an HMO.  Only HMO’s with 5 or more occupiers who make up 2 or more households and 3 or more storeys  must be licensed. However, all HMOs, licensed or not, must be managed in line with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Regulation 2006. If you want to read more about it here’s a link to the full wording of the legislation.

Within Wandsworth Borough the most common licensed HMO categories buy to let landlords will encounter are Category A or Category F. Category A is houses or flats – meeting the licensed HMO criteria – occupied as individual rooms or bedsits and flatlets which are considered to have a number of rooms for exclusive occupation though not necessarily behind one door. There is usually some sharing of facilities e.g. kitchen, bathroom and / or toilet. Category F consist of buildings which by erection or conversion, comprise self-contained accommodation with one front door, usually accessed off a common area, and with no sharing of amenities.

For any licensed HMOs within Wandsworth Borough the standards that need to be met refer to heating; facilities for the storage, preparation and cooking of food; sanitary conveniences and washing facilities; space standards; means of escape in case of fire and fire precautions and adherence to the principles of the Housing Health and Safety rating system. The detailed wording of the requirements can be obtained from us.

Fees for obtaining a license in Wandsworth Borough are dependent on the number of storeys in the property and whether the landlord is an accredited landlord but range from £1,020 for a first year license for a 2 storey property to £1,870 for a 5 storey property with re-licensing fees at about half of that.