Another tricky week at Westminster. But what about landlord and tenant-related issues?
The Queen’s speech
This was notable for its absence of anything housing related – except for a commitment to building safety.
The briefing document which accompanies the Queen’s speech makes it clear (p74 onwards) that this is primarily aimed at high rise buildings and preventing another Grenfell, but the bullet point at the top of p75 is more broad-based:
Developing a new system to oversee the whole built environment, with local enforcement agencies and national regulators working together to ensure that the safety of all buildings is improved.
If we are to take climate change more seriously though there will need to be more than that, with a national retrofitting exercise. Still, I suppose it is a start.
It would have been nice to have seen a mention of some of the other PRS issues that have been proposed but now seem to have gone off the radar. Particularly the regulation of letting agents which is long overdue.
A huge number of illegal HMOs
I was shocked but not surprised when I read in Property Industry Eye and elsewhere that research has shown that there is a huge number of unlicensed HMOs. Apparently, there is a non-compliance rate of 75% in London and the research found over 310,000 properties that should be licensed.
All of these will be vulnerable to prosecution and if Local Authorities can get their act together they could get a bonanza from money raised by penalty charge notices. Tenants too will be able to apply to the First-Tier Tribunal for a Rent Repayment Order and get their money back.
Those landlords, little though they probably know it, are walking on the edge of financial disaster.
If you think one of those landlords could be you – take a look at my free HMO 101 course and find out. Then put in your HMO license application (taking all due precautions to do it property) as once your application is in you are (mostly) safe.
Cannabis farms and stolen electricity
I was interested to read in this post that analysis by the insurer Direct Line has shown that there is an increase in landlord insurance claims for damage due to people using rented properties as cannabis farms.
The analysis also shows that these farms are also responsible for a quarter of all electricity stolen in the UK. You will find the figures in the post.
Cannabis farms do immense damage to properties and if your property is not covered by proper insurance landlords you could lose huge sums. The article has a helpful list of signs that a property may be being used as a cannabis farm:
- The tenant wishes to pay cash upfront for the lease and is keen to discourage any inspections of the property
- Windows and vents sealed or blocked off to prevent heat or the smell of cannabis escaping
- Tampering with the electricity meter or wiring
- Mould, condensation and excess humidity in a property
- Fertiliser and an excess of gardening equipment for the size of the property’s garden
- Fortification of the building, such as an increased number of locks or window bars installed
- Noise and light pollution from ventilation fans and lamps
Two other points –
- Make sure your insurance covers this – our free Insurance Mini-course will help you. Then,
- During the tenancy – make sure you do proper and regular inspections. In fact if prospective cannabis farm tenants know that you will be doing this it will probably put them off renting your property in the first place. Our Property Inspection Kit will give all the guidance you need.
New Garden City at Ebbsfleet
I was interested to read in the Negotiator that Housing Minister Esther McVey has announced government backing for building some 15,000 new homes at Ebbsfleet in Kent. This project has been around for years but looks as if it may now finally happen.
Bit worried about its location though. I see it is fairly close to the Thames. I do hope, what with the impending climate disaster and sea-level rise, that it will not be at risk from flooding in the decades to come. I would prefer to see all new big building projects built on higher land.
Profiteering from misery and squalor
A big report from Tom Wall in the Observer looks at households stuck in temporary accommodation, mostly in the private sector. However, no misery for the housing companies providing this accommodation who apparently are getting some £10,000 of public money per booking and doing very nicely thank you.
The article looks at the landlord companies and those living in their properties, generally with depressing stories to tell. For example
Hackney councillor Polly Billington, whose ward includes the hostels, says families routinely complain about overcrowding, pest infestations, broken furniture and lack of laundry facilities. “These companies are making money out of distress. They therefore have a moral responsibility to treat families in their accommodation with dignity and respect,” she says. “But too often the standards fall short of what is acceptable.”
Not a happy story. But one that needed to be told.
I was very sorry to hear about the closure of Upad and even more sorry when I learned that it was due to its founder, James Davis’ health problems.
I suppose it just goes to show that working relentlessly for years without a break takes its toll – reader, don’t let it happen to you.
I wish him all the best.
- Criminal letting agents escape jail
- Significant financial distress in the property sector since the referendum
- New report calls for reform to preserve the health of future generations
Newsround will be back next week.