Ben is away this week and so it falls to me to bring you up to date with what’s happening in landlordland. I will do my best.
The picture by the way, is of me with my beloved, Graeme, otherwise known as ‘him indoors’, taken at our Cambridge Conference.
Back to the news. Its an interesting time with a lot going on.
Housing Chiefs say ‘no’
The Conservative Majority surprised everyone, even the Conservatives (although its not really a majority, they only got 36.9% of the vote according to the Guardian). Worryingly it means that they now have no excuse for reneging on their promises.
One daft promise was selling Housing Association Housing Stock to those tenants lucky enough to be living in them, and thus preventing them from being available to similar tenants in the future. Mad.
This has, quite rightly, received almost universal condemnation, including most recently from Lord Kerslake, formerly the most senior mandarin at the DCLG, who told the Ob (about his speech in the Lords):
“I will raise my serious concerns about the policy in its current form. I think it’s wrong in principle and wrong in practice, and it won’t help tackle the urgent need to build more housing and more affordable housing in this country, particularly in London.”
I also received a mailing recently on behalf of Professor Mark Shucksmith OBE, Director of the Newcastle University Institute for Social Renewal, where he commented
“There is already a shortage of affordable housing, especially in rural areas where there is little social housing. Rural house prices are on average 26% higher than in urban areas, and the ratio of house prices to local earnings is even worse.
Disposing of housing association stock, at great cost to the taxpayer, will make the impact on rural communities much more serious. We are already seeing those on low and medium incomes, and especially young people, priced out of small towns and villages across the UK.
With housing association properties sold off, and unlikely to be replaced in any substantial quantities, the wealth divide in rural communities will deepen even further.”
Thats telling it! But will they listen?
Here is a worrying potential development for landlords. Steve Pound, MP for Ealing North, said in a debate in Parliament recently:
“Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the tragedies and sadnesses of this Queen’s Speech is the ludicrous attack on housing associations, which amounts to nationalisation followed by liquidation through sequestration?
“Does she agree that the inevitable logic, if the Government wish to extend home ownership, is to extend this to private tenancies – and see what private landlords have to say?”
Falling house sales
The mounting house prices and limited housing supply is beginning to have an effect.
Witness this post from Property Industry Eye which reports falling house sales, in all areas, over the past year.
Clearly those with a house are sitting tight, unable to afford an upgrade but presumably grateful that they do not have to rent.
I know how they feel.
Landlords and legionella disease
This post caught my eye recently on the Tenant Referencing UK forum.
People sometimes contact me, worried about this issue. The forum thread starts with an article by a Legionella Control Consultant so is worth reading.
Switching to save
I learn from Property Industry Eye that a new service has been set up for tenants, via letting agents, to help them switch their utility bills to save money.
Apparently the biggest save so far was for a tenant who save £1,224. Nice!
The website is here
The CMA issues a warning
Another interesting post on Eye (what would I do without Eye?) is on a warning that the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued to the profession.
They have recently been involved in an investigation where local agents and the newspaper agreed among themselves to restrict information on fees – the agents that they would not disclose any fees in their ads, and the newspaper (who were presumably well paid by the conspirators) that they would not accept any adverts which gave fees.
This sort of thing is unlawful and the organisations involved were collectively fined over £735,000.
The CMA want to make companies aware that this is a criminal offence, and so have written an open letter which you can read here. The three main points they want to get over are
- That agreeing with your competitors to restrict the advertising of fees is likely to be unlawful
- Trade associations can break competition law, and that
- The consequences for breaking competition law can be severe.
You have been warned. Don’t do it.
HMO Licensing gets complicated
More and more councils are setting up their own licensing schemes. Richard Tacagni, managing director of consultancy firm London Property Licensing, speaking to Property Industry Eye said
“By December 2015, we will have almost 20 separate property licensing schemes operating in London, each with different terms and conditions – a situation that is being replicated in various parts of the country.
We also learn (again via the helpful Eye) that the government intend to consult on widening the national licensing scheme for HMOs / shared properties, which would result in even more properties needing to be licensed.
At the moment, there are many landlords who are HMO landlords without realising it, as their properties fall within the HMO definition but do not need licensing. These are the landlords who may be at risk of prosecution if the requirements for more HMO licensing comes into force.
For landlords reading this – if your property has more than 3 people sharing who are not family or cohabiting, then the property is likley to be an HMO. Take a look at the HMO series on this blog that David Smith and I wrote here.
What made me smile this week
Not a lot really, although I had a bit of a wry smile when reading this article from the Guardian
On 1 June, Berlin began enforcing rent controls, stipulating that landlords may not charge over 10% more than the local average rent for new tenants.
The reason? “We don’t want a situation like in London,” Reiner Wild, chair of the Berlin Tenants Association told the Guardian.
The pride! London’s housing system is now so completely dysfunctional its reputation transcends borders.
Ben will be back next week.