The usual crop of bad news items this week, but first let’s have some good news for pets.
Pets by default
The Labour Party it seems is looking to make a tenants right to keep a pet the default position in law.
Although, actually, it already is. That’s why its important for landlords who want to ban pets to have a properly drafted clause in their tenancy agreement. As I discuss here.
It will be interesting to see what they come up with because, as people have pointed out, pets can cause a lot of damage to a property and after the tenant fee ban comes landlords will probably be limited to taking a 6-week deposit.
As David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said:
“Will landlords be able to charge higher deposits to reflect the increased risks of damage to a property where pets are allowed? Will in
surance premiums increase for landlords to reflect the greater risk of allowing pets to be kept as a default position? What happens in shared homes and blocks of flats where one or more of the tenants do not want, or are allergic to, a pet?”
Changing the law is always more complex than people think.
New Software for EPCs
Good news for landlords with properties with solid walls – your old EPC rating may be too low.
New software is being introduced for the calculation of EPCs which it is claimed will give a more accurate rating for buildings. This follows pressure from the landlord associations after it was shown that the previous government software was inaccurate.
In particular, it seems that it was misrepresenting the insulation qualities of solid brick walls. So landlords of these properties should get new EPCs done, particularly if their current certificate shows a rating of below E.
Which you will recall will be the minimum requirement for all (or at least most) rented properties after 1 April.
Meeting the Minister
Heather Wheeler, the new Minister for the Private Rented Sector, had a meeting with various organisations including the two main landlords associations recently.
The RLA urged the minister to think more strategically about reform, and also took the opportunity to press for a dedicated housing Court, saying that if landlords know that cases will be dealt with quicker it would encourage landlords to give longer tenancies.
The NLA meanwhile told her that she should support the prominent role the PRS plays in the housing sector. A mix of tax reforms and tighter regulation for the buy-to-let sector must not prevent private landlords from being able to run a successful property business or they will simply exit the market.
Rise in first-time buyers?
The government may, however, be less willing to listen to such arguments as it appears that there has been a modest increase in sales to first time buyers (albeit with an average age of 30 and annual income of £41K), largely due, according to this report in the Guardian, to George Osborne’s tax reforms.
The government will be more interested in this than in helping unpopular landlords as
“home-ownership has always been the way to turn young people into Tories.
Although a more recent article reports that long-term home-ownership by young adults has ‘collapsed’ over the past 20 years, so the Tories still have some way to go.
Property Guardianship or nothing
Not to mention the findings in this report also in the Guardian showing that many young people are driven to live as property guardians in often substandard properties with fewer rights than ‘proper tenants’ as they cannot afford anything else
“It was either guardianship or homelessness,” said one. “London prices are impossible and I feel trapped in this situation,” said another.
You may remember that a couple of years ago I reported on a case where a landlord had been awarded some £8,000 against her former agents who had not taken sufficient care when choosing a tenant – who later ran up big arrears.
Now we have another case brought by amateur landlord Saul Shevlin against letting agents Sequence.
The tenant recommended by the agents had fallen rapidly into arrears, given noisy parties and caused damage to the property. After she left it had been found in a shocking state.
When Shevlin finally got hold of a copy of the referencing report it was found that discrepancies had not been followed up as they should. Had he seen the report earlier, he said, he would never have agreed to rent to this tenant.
The Court found that although not in breach of contract, Sequence had breached their duty of care and Shevlin was awarded £8,462.14 damages, plus £410 costs. Permission to appeal was refused, the Chelmsford County Court saying it had “no real prospect of success”.
This should give a strong message to agents that if they fail to reference tenants properly they are likely to be held liable for their landlord’s losses. It is also a warning to landlords that they should make sure they are always given a copy of the reference report before letting to tenants. Refusal by agents to provide this should be treated with suspicion.
Behind the garage door
Finally, a news item drawn to my attention by Ben about
A couple who converted their garage into a secret home used fences and a FAKE door to hide it from planning inspectors.
It didn’t work and they have now been ordered to put it back again to what it was before. Never try to deceive the planning inspectorate.
Newsround will be back next week.