Here we are on Friday 13th with the news that Boris is to be our Prime Minister for the next 5 years.
Let’s look at some other news items.
Repreve for Welsh landlords
A law was due to come into force today, 13 December, requiring landlords of property in Wales to provide specific information to tenants before taking a holding deposit. But ARLA managed to get it put back.
ARLA board member for Wales Angela Davey and ARLA CEO David Cox met the Welsh housing minister Julia James.
They explained that insufficient notice – just 19 days – had been given of the changes to the laws around taking holding deposits.
Davey and Cox said that agents needed time to change IT systems, create new procedures and train colleagues.
The points were accepted by the minister, who said she had no intention of putting agents in the difficult position of not having enough time to prepare for new laws before they are implemented.
New regulations have been made and these are now due to come into force on 28 February.
Problems with McKenzie Friends
A study by Leeds Law School and Birmingham City University has found that worrying advice is being given by McKenzie friends. The Law Society Gazette article here does not specifically mention housing issues, but I include this news item as McKenzie friends do often help tenants who are unable to afford solicitors, on a paid basis.
The study was conducted by Dr Tatiana Tkacukova and Professor Hilary Sommerlad, and involved looking at online advice provided on 170 Facebook threads by 30 McKenzie friends. The study found that online advisers often delivered biased suggestions reflecting personal anti-court and anti-social services views.
Dr Tkacukova, the project’s principal investigator and senior lecturer in English literature at Birmingham City University, said:
While there are many positive experiences, the unregulated environment online means that our research found several instances of worrying, biased and misleading advice.
To help protect the many vulnerable people in these cases, we need to see a move towards a more regulated environment with increased transparency to make sure that people know the information they are accessing and the legal qualifications of those advising them.
The problem is that legal aid has been cut so severely that often an unqualified McKenzie friend is the only option for people who desperately need legal help and assistance.
As it seems that austerity has now ended, maybe our new Conservative Government could consider restoring aspects of legal aid which have been so savagely cut over past years.
Retrofitting existing homes
There is an interesting article in Local Government Lawyer looking at the difficult issue of retrofitting homes as part of the solution to dealing with the climate emergency. As the article points out, 80% of the homes we will be living in, in 2050 are already built and 64% of homes currently have an EPC rating of band D or below.
Some of the options identified by the article include;
- A new thermally efficient wall ‘wrapper’ created with prefabricated panels manufactured offsite
- Photo-voltaic (’PV’) heaters built into a thermally-insulated roof that also generate electricity
- Air source or ground source heating
- Removal of gas to create an electricity-only property
Several schemes are being watched carefully by the social housing sector, for example:
In Nottinghamshire, 155 hard to heat homes are being upgraded with new highly-insulated outside walls and windows, a solar roof, battery storage, and PV heaters. Household energy demand is being greatly reduced, and what energy is needed can mostly be generated on site via smart use of renewable energy technologies.
In Bristol, the city council is aiming to install solar panels to ensure 10,000 council-owned homes meet existing planning policy to reduce carbon emissions by 20% through on-site renewable energy generation.
Although the article points out that retrofitting to 2050 standards can be costly.
Private landlords will also have to deal with this at some time or another, and it will be more difficult for them as they will not have the economies of scale which social landlords have. Maybe landlord associations will be able to provide some help here. But do read the article here.
Note that we are looking to do some webinars in 2020 and are looking for your comments here.
Landlords need to educate themselves
Although a Tory government has been elected, this does not mean that the changes in regulations are going to stop. In this article Paul Shamplina says that part of the problem with the PRS is that many landlords started out being a landlord as a ‘lucrative hobby, not a job’.
As the increasing size of the PRS has resulted in more regulation, these landlords have struggled to keep up. Paul’s advice is
If you are a landlord that likes managing your rental property yourself, building a relationship with your tenant so that they are encouraged to stay longer and treat your property as a home, that is fantastic.
However, the latest count I read, was there are now 176 rules and regulations relating to letting a property, so my advice is to simply learn, learn, learn.
I tell all the landlords and letting agents I train to go online at the beginning of the day before they get stuck into work mode, emails and calls, and just read what is going on in our industry.
Including, of course, this Landlord Law Blog and the weekly bulletins from Landlord Law here.
Pauls final advice is that if you simply do not have time to be a professional landlord you should use a managing agent.
- HMO has fine for non-compliance cut by over £28,000
- Foxtons closes branches in affluent sites
- Landlord discovers meth lab left by tenant in property
- The best cities for buy-to-let investments revealed
There is an excellent study of homelessness in the Guardian ‘Today in Focus’ podcast from 11 December.
Newsround will be back after the Christmas break.