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RLA Newsletter Online

September 2011

 

RLA CO-ORDINATES TENANT CHOICE ALLIANCE - (go to top)

As MPs and Peers returned from a summer recess the RLA has been leading calls for the Government to use the Welfare Reform Bill, now being considered by the House of Lords, to introduce the principle of tenant choice – allowing tenants to decide who they would prefer the housing element of the new universal credit to be paid to.

In lobbying for the measure, the RLA has co-ordinated the organisation of an alliance of organisations supporting Tenant Choice bringing together social and private rented sector landlords and managers, tenants organisations and those with an interest in housing finance such as the Money Advice Trust and the Council for Mortgage Lenders.

All groups agree that given that the government is committed to the principles of choice and responsibility, those same principles should be extended to tenants on benefits giving them the opportunity to decide what would be best for their own circumstances. Furthermore, the support of the Council for Mortgage Lenders is a clear sign that tenant choice would better support the wide housing sector to access much needed finance to provide new housing.

A meeting has been held in the House of Lords, hosted by Lord Best and addressed by the RLA, National Housing Federation and Council of Mortgage Lenders outlining the case for tenant choice. This has resulted in Lord Best tabling an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill providing for tenant choice, which is due for consideration in October following the party conference season.

 
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TENANTS AGREE WITH PAYING BENEFIT DIRECT TO LANDLORDS - (go to top)

Nine out of ten social housing tenants want their housing benefit to continue to be paid directly to their landlord, a new study has shown.

Research from consultancy Policis found that 80% thought the Government’s proposal to pay housing benefit direct to tenants is a ‘bad idea’.

It showed that 35% of social housing tenants are not confident they would be able to keep up their rental payments.

The research, supported by the National Housing Federation, found that 71% of social housing tenants received housing benefit with almost all (92%) currently having their housing benefit paid to their landlord.

Department for Work and Pensions minister Lord Freud has now said, in a speech to the National Housing Federation’s annual conference, that the housing benefit element of the new universal credit would be paid to social landlords when tenants are in arrears.

The concession does not yet apply to private landlords, but pressure will undoubtedly be put on ministers to ensure there will be the same rules.

 
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80,000 LOW-EARNERS COULD BE FORCED OUT OF LONDON - (go to top)

With caps to housing benefit biting, up to 80,000 poorer households living in private rental accommodation in London could be forced to move.

The claim is made in a new report into the effects of reforms of the housing benefit system.

It  concludes that the changes are likely to widen the gap between Britain’s richest and poorest areas.

The research by Professor Chris Hamnett of King’s College, London, shows that tenants on housing benefit worst affected by the cuts will be people in inner London and areas in the North, Scotland and Wales, which were formerly the UK’s major industrial and mining areas.

Professor Hamnett said: “In inner London where rents are very high, thousands of low-income households who receive benefit will be effectively excluded from the private-rented sector in much of central London, creating an even higher degree of social class and income segregation in the capital between a rich and increasingly gentrified central and inner area, and lower-cost areas.”

 
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HOUSING BENEFIT TENANTS FUEL PRIVATE SECTOR RENTAL DEMAND - (go to top)

Soaring tenant demand in the private sector is coming from people on benefit, says the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The latest RICS quarterly rental survey, covering the quarter to the end of July, says that 13% of all new lets were to housing benefit tenants. The figure is up from 8% the previous quarter and is the highest since the RICS began its surveys in 1999.

Overall, new tenant demand again outpaced supply of rental property in the three months to July, as more people continued to turn to the lettings sector.
 
As a result of this, rents continued to increase, although the survey indicates that the pace of growth moderated slightly.

However, the imbalance between demand and supply is likely to persist, suggesting that further gains in rents are likely over the coming months.
 
The number of new landlords continue to edge upwards, albeit only modestly.

Surveyors report that where tenancies are coming up for renewal, some landlords – particularly those in London and the South-East – are now choosing to put their properties on the sales market, leaving fewer rental properties available.
 
RICS spokesman James Scott-Lee said: “The combination of strong tenant demand and a limited stock of good-quality properties on offer is pushing rents ever higher across much of the country. This is the case both for houses and flats.

“Moreover, with mortgage finance for first-time buyers likely to remain in short supply for some time to come, this imbalance is set to persist.

“The inevitable outcome is that rents will continue to increase.”

 
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SELECTIVE LICENSING - THE WAY FORWARD - (go to top)

Ministers have been asked to reconsider regulating private residential landlords – but have made it clear they consider selective licensing in certain areas is the way forward.

In Parliament, Labour MP Chris Williamson accused  housing ministers of allowing slum landlords to flourish.

But CLG minister Andrew Stunell made it clear that instead of regulating landlords, local councils could choose to introduce their own selective licensing schemes.

Williamson, who represents Derby North, said: “With more than one million people living in sub-standard privately rented accommodation, and with massive front-loaded cuts to council budgets making it harder to tackle slum landlords, the Housing and Local Government Minister is clearly failing in his responsibilities.

“However, as Henry Ford once said: ‘Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.’

“Will the Minister therefore adopt a more intelligent approach and abandon his laissez-faire attitude to regulation, which is creating a charter for slum landlords, by implementing the light-touch licensing system recommended by the Rugg Review, adopted by Labour and welcomed by the National Landlords Association and the Association of Residential Lettings Agents?”

The Rugg Review recommended compulsory licensing of all letting agents plus a mandatory register of all private landlords.

Stunell had earlier told another Labour MP, Graham Jones, who represents Hyndburn in Lancashire, where the local council’s bid to introduce selective licensing was overturned as being unlawful by a collective of local landlords, with RLA support, that the Government has not carried out any assessment of the effectiveness of selective licensing.

Stunell said that local authorities would be encouraged instead to carry out their own reviews.

Jones said: “The main problem with selective licensing, of course, is that it does not deal with stock condition, and we see many properties in selective licensing areas that are squalid. Can the Minister assure local communities that the Government will allow councils to include the most recent decent homes standard as a licence condition?”

Stunell replied: “Licensing conditions are matters for local authorities when they draw up their proposals.”

 
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RENT ARREARS RISE - (go to top)

Rents rose by their fastest rate in a year in August, bouncing up 1.2%, whilst tenants arrears grew by 19.5%.

The findings are in the latest buy-to-let report from LSL, which owns national chains Your Move and Reeds Rains.

It says that 10.7% of all UK rent was unpaid or late by the end of August – up from the 9% of rent unpaid or late in July. 

Unpaid rent totalled an estimated £300m across the UK in August, up 19.5% from the £251m unpaid in the previous month.

The mounting arrears come as the average rent in England and Wales rose by 1.2% to £713 per month, surpassing the previous record high of £705 in July. It means the average rent was £27 pcm higher than in August 2010. 
 
On a monthly basis, rents increased fastest in Wales and the South-East, where they rose by 2.1%. The next biggest increases were in London and the South-West, where they rose by 1.5% and 1.3% respectively. Rents only declined in the Midlands compared to July, falling by 0.4% in both the West and East Midlands.
 
David Brown, commercial director of LSL Property Services, said: “We are in the thick of the busiest time of year for the rental market, and red-hot demand for properties is driving rents up at their fastest monthly pace in the last 12 months.

“Recent graduates moving for their first jobs have further exaggerated the long-term and growing demand from frustrated buyers. In the last two years, average rents have risen by more than £50 a month.

“With significant improvement in the number of buyers able to secure a mortgage unlikely in the foreseeable future, competition for rental accommodation will not drop and further rent rises remain on the cards.” 
 
Brown said the scale of tenant arrears showed the pressure on tenant households.

He said: “With rents rising so quickly, soaring inflation and an uncertain economic outlook, over the long term we anticipate that rental arrears will become a growing financial problem for landlords.”

If you are experiencing trouble with rent arrears call our Landlord Advice Team on 03330 142998 or click here for professional support

 
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GREEN DEAL ‘RETALIATORY EVICTIONS’ TO BE OUTLAWED? - (go to top)

Landlords could be prevented by law from ‘retaliatory evictions’ of tenants who ask for energy efficiency improvements to be made to their properties – as they will be entitled to do from 2016.

Minister Greg Barker, in a debate in the Commons that took in the Green Deal and private rented housing, said that the Department for Energy and Climate Change “has set up a working group involving a range of key stakeholders to explore the issue of retaliatory evictions in relation to the private rented sector provisions in the Energy Bill”.
 
The group is due to report next month.

Under the Energy Bill, private rented homes which do not meet minimum standards of energy efficiency will be banned from the market from 2018, but Barker said the measure could be introduced sooner if thought necessary.

He said: “We are committed to working with the sector to encourage uptake of the Green Deal well ahead of 2018.

“For this reason, I have been clear that I see 2018 as the ‘finishing line’ as opposed to the ‘starting line’ for this policy. However, if we do not see the sector responding well ahead of this date we could reconsider the timing and introduce regulations earlier.”

In addition to the 2018 deadline, from 2016, landlords will not be able to ‘unreasonably’ refuse consent to requests from tenants for ‘reasonable’ energy efficiency improvements, Barker confirmed.
 

 
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TENANTS RENTING TERRACE HOMES ARE MOST AT RISK OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING - (go to top)

Tenants in private rented accommodation are 50% more at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning than both home owners and social housing tenants.
 
The statistic is revealed in a new report published by the Gas Safety Trust, based on carbon monoxide poisoning incidents linked to natural gas between 1996 and 2010.

The Carbon Monoxide Trends Report, which was part-funded by Local Authority Building Control (LABC), also shows a disproportionately high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in terrace properties.

Data show that the incidence is historically more than twice as great as in other types of dwellings. There is also evidence that detached properties are at less risk of a carbon monoxide incident than other types, possibly due to better flueing and ventilation.

Paul Everall, CEO of LABC, said: “Although the report shows there is positive news in terms of the working practices of many social housing landlords, it identifies that there is still much to do within the private sector.

“It’s important that work continues to raise the safety standards for private landlords and to reduce the CO risk to tenants.”

The evidence suggests that most cases have involved unserviced appliances.

The Gas Safety Trust is now calling for further action, on top of mandatory annual gas safety checks, to reduce risks in the private rented sector.

Nigel Dumbrell, head of charitable operations for the Gas Safety Trust, said: “Landlords are not only required by law to have appliances checked for safety on an annual basis, but they also have obligations with respect to the ongoing maintenance of appliances.

“This is not the same as servicing, though, which ensures the appliance remains safe until the next service period. One way of achieving this would be to require landlords to have appliances serviced annually.”

More than two thirds of CO incidents involved central heating appliances, of which 50% were older central heating boilers. Those tenants highlighted as being most at risk are people over 70, living in rented terrace accommodation, built before 1981, using a gas central heating system which is over 20 years old.

 
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STUDENTS UNION AND LETTINGS AGENCY GO INTO BUSINESS - (go to top)

In a deal thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, Liverpool Students’ Union and lettings agent City Residential are jointly forming a new business.

Student Union Lettings Ltd has been established as a 50:50 joint venture with two directors from each partner organisation, shortly to be joined by an independent.  

Student Union Lettings is already recruiting landlords who, once vetted and approved, will enjoy unrivalled access to 26,000 students through the company’s website, a dedicated office on Victoria Street and the student union itself. 

City Residential, established in 2000, is one of the region’s leading agents, managing over 1,000 properties on behalf of landlords.

Managing director Alan Bevan said: “This is a really special partnership between two organisations which can substantially improve not only the image of the student lettings market but also ensure that both students and landlords have a positive experience.”

Andy Brown, commercial manager from Liverpool Students’ Union, said: “We know the students, and City Residential know the lettings market. Working together through one student-focused business is a perfect solution. “

James McGarvey, student officer and Vice-President (Community), also welcomed the new company. He said: “For many of our students, renting their own accommodation and living with friends is an important part of their student experience.

“With Student Union Lettings now operating in Liverpool, the chances of that experience being a positive one are greatly enhanced.”

 
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COUNCILS TURN A BLIND EYE TO BAD LANDLORDS - SAYS SHELTER - (go to top)

New research published by Shelter says that rogue landlords are operating unchecked across the country, even after they have been reported to local authorities.

The report shows that local councils are dragging their feet when it comes to taking enforcement action.
 
The housing and homelessness charity used Freedom of Information procedures to ask every local authority in England 12 key questions about the scale of problems with rogue landlords and what each council is doing about it.

Out of 326 local authorities, all but four replied.

The results show there are 1,477 landlords known to local authorities who are said to be repeatedly making tenants’ lives a misery.

Of particular worry, the responses show that complaints about serious and potentially life-threatening hazards, including dangerous gas and electrics, have risen by 25% over the past two years.

The research also shows that overall complaints to local authorities about private landlords have increased, taking them to 86,628 in the last year.

Yet despite the sharp increase in problems, just 270 successful prosecutions have been brought by local authorities against landlords during the same period.

Shelter is warning that unless councils urgently crack down on this small but highly dangerous minority, more tenants will be at risk.

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said: “The reality is that rogue landlords are out there and they’re getting away with it.
 
“Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact rogue landlords have on people’s lives as they remain trapped in homes that cause misery and, in some cases, put lives at risk.

“What’s more, we believe there could be thousands more tenants who are suffering in silence, holding back from complaining out of fear of the consequences or because they don’t feel their voices will be heard. 

“Local authorities have the powers to tackle rogue landlords but too many aren’t making the most of their armoury.

“They must follow the lead of those councils taking a zero tolerance approach to rogue landlords, and support tenants who are suffering by cracking down on the worst offenders in their area.”

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said the Shelter report is deeply concerning. She said: “Good landlords respond effectively to reasonable requests from tenants around repairs, maintenance and health and safety issues.

“However, we still see tenants threatened with eviction from rogue landlords if they complain. We have long campaigned on this issue.

“Tenants need protection from retaliatory eviction and other forms of harassment. This timely report from Shelter shows that the problem has not gone away.”

As part of its Evict Rogue Landlords campaign, Shelter has set up Rogue Landlord Watch, an interactive map to help people avoid falling victim to rogue operators in their local area.  

www.shelter.org.uk/evictroguelandlords

 
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1-IN-6 HOMES IS PRIVATELY RENTED - (go to top)

One in every six homes in England is now a private rental property, new figures from Communities and Local Government reveal.

The figures show that 17.4% of homes are now within the private rented sector, an increase from 16.4% in 2009 and up 229,000 by number.

Since 2000, the number of properties in the sector, currently 3.9 million, has risen by 1.8 million, reflecting the shift in housing tenures being seen in England.

Conversely, the number of properties in the owner-occupied sector fell from 14.9 million in 2009 to 14.8 million last year – the lowest since 2000.

Nigel Terrington, of specialist buy-to-let lender Paragon, said: “More people than ever before are now relying on the private rented sector and we are seeing a very different mix of tenants in the sector now.

"No longer is it dominated by students and young professionals: it is a much wider group including more families and mature tenants, and therefore we need to have a PRS adaptable to suit all.

“However, further growth is needed as tenant demand is clearly exceeding supply and landlords need to be encouraged to invest in their portfolios.”

The CLG’s figures (look for Table 104)  can be viewed here

 
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RLA ACCREDITATION SCHEME - (go to top)

RLAAS now manages accreditation schemes on behalf of Leeds City Council (the largest single local authority scheme) and the three Fylde Coast local authorities (Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Councils).

Our national accreditation scheme works closely with local authorities to address the needs for improvement in property standards and ensures acknowledgement for professional landlords.

By joining the scheme, members are provided with:

-    Extensive up to date information aimed at improving property standards
-    Access to the RLAAS help line
-    Discounts for a variety of landlord services
-    RLAAS Stationary Image Bank
-    Environmental Health Officer Support
-    And much more

The scheme provides public recognition that you are not only a reputable landlord but that you maintain and manage your property to high standards and treat your tenants fairly.

What is required to be accredited?
-    You must have a standard of management that complies with the RLAAS
-    All your properties are declared and must comply with the RLAAS Code of Management
-    You are a ‘fit and proper’ person with no history of bad practices
-    You fulfil ten hours of relevant Continual Professional Development a year (5 hours credit if you are a member of a valid landlord association)
-    You annually renew your declaration


Is your current scheme faltering? There are several voluntary accreditation schemes nationwide and we would like to hear your feedback.
Email accreditation@rla.org.uk

OR visit www.rlass.co.uk for more information about our scheme.

 
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SERVICE SPOTLIGHT: Video Inventory - (go to top)

One of the newer services we have introduced at the RLA is our video inventory service.

The service acts on several different levels to give landlords the protection they need and complete peace of mind.

Firstly when the tenant receives a proper professionally produced written document supported by high definition DVD evidence clearly showing the state of the property they are immediately put on notice that they will be held to account if they do not look after the property. Anecdotal evidence has shown that tenants look after a property better when they have a video inventory.

When they move out they have a DVD to refer to so they can see exactly where the furniture needs to be returned to.
If there is any dispute – both parties can refer to the inventory and DVD to settle any disagreement. Quite simply video doesn’t lie and in every single case that has arisen the matter has been resolved instantly – with out going to a dispute service.

Over 5000 inventories have been produced since The Video Inventory Agency, our official inventory partner, started and not one case involving our inventories has been taken to an adjudicator. However if it was it would be covered by our dispute resolution guarantee, meaning we will pay for our specialist solicitor to handle the case, giving landlords complete peace of mind that they will not incur expensive legal bills.

At a cost effective price, it is a service every landlord should take advantage of.

For more information on video inventories and our pricing structure click here

Testimonials

Thank you for a very efficient service again: I am likely to need another inventory in the same area and will contact you shortly: I will also recommend your services to friends.
 Many Thanks.
Mr Singh (Landlord)

Have never use you before, just wanted to thank you both for an excellent job. I'm very impressed with the service so far and will be sure to come back to you in relation to my other properties. 

Mr Gibson, London (Landlord)

Thank you for the inventories you have so far produced for us. They are as you said they would be, namely complete, clear and concise, and I am confident they will help us overcome the challenges we are experiencing with the Deposit Protection Scheme and some of our tenants. And the video proof should help prevent problems in the future. Good luck and many thanks.

Ms Foxwell, Landlord and Letting Agent

We use the Video Inventory Agency for all our inventories. As a company which invests in student properties, we have found their service cost effective and invaluable for protecting the interests of our landlords and minimising time and money previously wasted on dealing with disputes over deposits. With video inventories, everything is there and there’s no room for argument.

Mr Bone (Landlord)

 
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The Video Inventory Agency

 

JUSTLIFE IS LOOKING FOR LANDLORDS - (go to top)

The voluntary organisation and registered charity Justlife is holding a Manchester event for landlords who are interested in renting property to one of their clients.

It’s at 5pm on Tuesday 1st November at the Justlife Centre, 1479-1489 Ashton Old Road, Higher Openshaw, Manchester M11 1HH.

‘Justlife’ – which facilitates access to healthcare, housing and employment – has one of its aims to help people move out of unsuitable temporary accommodation and into private rented accommodation.

They are seeking landlords with suitable properties and who will:

• offer a rent guarantee
• ensure tenants understand their responsibilities
• ensure housing benefit claims are submitted
• prefer housing benefit payments to be made direct to landlords
• improve/decorate property, where necessary, including Green Deal improvements
• be a named contact in case of problems
• offer property management and support
• interview prospective tenants to determine the right match with landlords
• support tenants to set-up their home
• provide ongoing tenancy support as required - including financial inclusion
• support the setting up of a multi-agency steering group, and take part in it
• produce high quality information to promote, publicise and market the scheme across Manchester - including a launch event.

If you can attend the ‘Justlife’ event on 1st November please email sue@justlife.org.uk

And if you are interested, but live outside the Manchester area, please contact Sue and she will arrange to visit you and discuss renting your property.

 
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JOIN US AT THE LANDLORD & LETTING SHOW - (go to top)

After a successful exhibition at Olympia, the next show for private rented sector landlords, letting agents and associated property professionals will be at Birmingham NEC on Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th November 2011.

A ‘must attend’ event for all landlords, letting agents and associated property professionals, it offers access to the best advice, information and product and service deals on the market.

Free to attend if you pre book online, visitors can benefit from a comprehensive exhibition, over 35 free seminars and an advice clinic where you can have your confidential questions answered by industry experts on a 1-2-1 basis. The show also offers the opportunity to network with like-minded private rented sector professionals and share best practice.

RLA staff will once again be exhibiting at the Landlord & Letting Show with some great offers for existing members, as well as reduced annual membership fees for those who sign up during the show. Members of the RLA team will also be on hand to offer expert advice and guidance throughout the two days as speakers in some of the informative seminars and advisors in the clinic.

If you are involved in property, either on a professional or personal basis, you really cannot afford to miss this event!

Book now to find out why thousands of property professionals keep returning year on year!
Click here for free tickets worth £10!

Don’t forget to come along and say ‘hello’ to your RLA team on stand 22.

 
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FREE PROPERTY MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE - (go to top)

•    FREE for RLA members, the RLA Landlords Property Manager software lets you:
•    store property and tenant details
•    manage tenancy information including tenancy start/end dates, rent and deposit amounts and frequencies
•    set important reminders
•    print out pre-completed documentation including the RLA tenancy agreement and welcome pack
•    quickly access various RLA services including the RLA Landlord Advice Team, members’ forums and credit check services

Download the FREE RLA LPM now
UPGRADE OFFER: Get £25 off Landlord Property Manager Professional

 

 
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NEW RLA DEVELOPMENT COURSES - (go to top)

We’ve added more RLA development courses throughout the remainder of 2011. Courses that are currently available include Lettings for Landlords, The Complete Letting Agents Course, County Court Small Claims Proceedings and many more.

With venues located in Newcastle, West Yorkshire, Manchester, London, Norwich and Birmingham you can be sure that a course is being held, or will soon be held, convenient to you.

Click on any of the following links for course information, dates and venues:
Letting for Landlords Course
The Complete Letting Agents Course
County Court Small Claims Proceedings
Property Inventory Course
Local Housing Allowance Course – How to Benefit as a Landlord

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