At our April members meeting, we discussed some of the schemes that we have been approached with and the difficulties in deciding which to share and which not to share.
One of the schemes we chose not to share, was one which purported to avoid many of the new taxes which landlords need to pay (avoidance is legal, evasion is not). However, Hampshire Property Network (which coincidentally is run by a couple of our members) chose to invite the speaker to explain the scheme to their members and they have agreed to waive the normal fee and open the event to PDPLA members who wish to attend.
Read on for full details...
A working group has recommended that landlords should be required by law to arrange safety checks of the electrical installation in private rented sector residential properties. Whilst it is imperative that all properties offered should be safe, the PDPLA have objected to this specific proposal on the grounds that it simply creates work for electricians, costs for landlords which will inevitably be passed to their poor tenants yet does little to actually improve electrical safety.
At our April meeting members were updated on a number of new schemes which had been proposed to the PDPLA and reviewed by the committee, including one from PCC and one from a local church group. We also had 2 guests, Lucy Brown from the Salvation Army who invited us to visit for coffee one morning (pencilled in for June 1st, updates will follow) and also, Claire Ray from Langstone Estates who had several interesting propositions for members.
The meeting was completed with a presentation from our own Carl entitled, 'Accounting For Landlords' which allowed members to compare what they were doing as regards tax returns, software and book keeping compared to other members.
For more detail...
Alliance Remedial Supplies, who spoke to members about condensation and mould at our February meeting, are having a trade day on Wednesday 20th June which will include presentations, a FREE buffet lunch, a goodie bag and full access to explore Bursledon Brickworks Museum.
A long running case which started in 2011 has decided that a lady who chose to bring her horse indoors during the winter is not allowed to do so.
She was the owner of the house but her pet horse was removed on the grounds of the welfare of the horse not on the contraventions of several headings of the HHSRS (HHSRS is tenure independent.) Nice precedent for removing animals but not people from property based on unsuitability for welfare..
(We have to wonder whether HHSRS iHorse Health & Safety Rating System?) is fit for purpose).
We had a member who asked, "In a student HMO I always have individual contracts for each tenant but from a Council Tax perspective, I am better off using a Joint & Several contract (as if & when CT falls due, the local council will bill the landlord if on individual contracts but will not if the tenants are on a 'Joint & Several' AST - dumb distinction I know).
If I switched to Joint & Several ASTs but still collect the rent individually from each tenant, does that negate the J&S contract / would it be seen as such if it ever came to court / is there some other consideration I should be aware of?"
All PDPLA members are automatically members of the RLA and RLA members in the area are PDPLA members, even though both organisations are completely separate. So we thought we would take advantage of the excellent RLA helpline and forum and posted the question on the forum (though we could have called the helpline and got a response from the RLA rather than its members).
Most landlords who have more than one property have at least one leasehold property in their portfolio (and many who only have 1 just have a leasehold flat)..
What all of these landlords have in common, if you chat about it over coffee, is a real dislike of leasehold as a means of ownership and a desire to decrease the number of leaseholds in their portfolio.
Why? Service charges are always a bone of contention, the cost of insurance (including the kick back for the agent who thus looks for the best kick back rather than the best insurance), the lack of control or input, the peppercorn rent, the decreasing value of their property as the length of lease shortens, the high cost of extending the lease...
And for people who own a flat in a converted house, it is often not worth the managing agents while to bother with maintenance and the like so many smaller properties fall into disrepair.
And as a leaseholder, trying to work out who to talk to, to resolve issues, can be a real nightmare.
So why do we put up with it when there has been a perfectly good alternative ever since 2003?
Whilst the full switch over to Universal Credit does not happen in Portsmouth until September, the area became a 'Live Service' area, so some single jobseekers could claim Universal Credit (UC) during March.
We are hoping to have someone from the Department of Work and Pensions attend our June members meeting to talk to us about the processes around UC and some of the support available.
No, not a special offer to buy condensation or mould!
At our March members meeting, Chris Reynolds of Alliance Remedial Supplies educated attendees on condensation, mould and damp - how to avoid them, how to get rid of them should you have them and he also compared and contrasted various forms of extractors along with explaining the role and relevance of devices such as Single Room Heat Recovery and Positive Input Ventilation.
For the 10% discount code for PDPLA members on his whole product range, see Chris' presentation in the members area of this website here.
After changing the planning requirements last November, making it harder to create new or extend existing HMOs thus further reducing the number of HMO’s in Southsea, Portsmouth City Council (PCC) have just completed a consultation exercise aimed at gaining approval to tighten the planning restrictions even further.
The PDPLA has responded pointing out that increasing minimum room sizes to 7.5 square metres will make hundreds of perfectly acceptable rooms unlettable and leave similar numbers of people either homeless or fighting for the smaller supply of remaining rooms with an obvious impact on rents in the area which will spill through to affect the whole PRS. We are also concerned that the new rules will leave many houses unsellable as they are sandwiched between HMO's when the sensible solution would be to allow them to convert to HMO's and our final concern is the widely held view that the city does not need HMO's as all the new student halls will replace them. There are 2 problems with this view - firstly, not everyone who lives in an HMO is a student and possibly more important, 80% of students cannot afford £200 a week to live in one of the new student halls - so we expect to see empty halls, bankruptcies amongst developers and firesale pricing of the new blocks. This could all be good for the city in the long term if there were an alternate use for these new blocks but unfortunately, they have been designed as sole use entities and converting them may not be an option.
Read on for more details of the consultation and PCC proposals and our full response.
A local letting agent had their licence to operate HMO’s in Southsea removed after they were found to be overcrowding a flat which they let. The agent appealed against the decision and the property tribunal found in favour of the agent, stating they “do not consider the breaches in this case to be serious breaches and that the breaches would not have been sufficient on their own to have been sufficient reason for revoking the license.” Interestingly the flat in question was over the office of the agent so we have some sympathy for PCC's view that of all people, agents ought to get the paperwork right.
It is clear that the individual should have known better and it does look like he was not paying sufficient attention to the conditions of his license. He accepted that he had been in breach of his licence on both counts but pleaded ignorance and misunderstanding.
What does this mean for PCC’s enforcement policy and is there something we should learn from this?
Mandatory licensing of large HMO’s with 3 or more storeys and 5 or more occupants was introduced in 2006 and it can be argued, that the aim of the legislation was to improve fire safety in these dwellings as more deaths occurred in buildings with 3 or more storeys than in 1 or 2 storey buildings and the likelihood of fire in bedsits (as many of these dwellings were) was greater.
Since 2010 when rules were relaxed, additional licensing schemes focussed on HMOs and selective licensing schemes focussed on Anti Social Behaviour problems have also become widespread. It is one such version of additional licencing which covers southern Portsmouth and Southsea and requires all small HMO’s to be licensed. This scheme was introduced in 2013/14 and ends this year.
The government now plans to extend mandatory licensing to cover any dwelling with 5 or more occupants regardless of the number of storeys, aimed at bringing smaller HMO's into the scheme.
Read on to see how this will affect you…..
Up until now, there has been no specific legal minimum size for a bedroom though a number of legal cases have set some boundaries and the building regulations do provide guidance for new builds. HMO landlords in Portsmouth, whether ‘mandatory’ (3+ floors, 5+ residents) or ‘additional’ (not mandatory but at least 3 unrelated residents) have been allowed rooms as small as 6 square metres depending on communal space and layout.
That is all about to change….
At this months PDPLA members meeting we had a presentation on the regulatory changes that now mean that ALL landlords should:
There was much debate about, for example, how often you need to check someone’s passport if they are British (and remember, 15% of Britons don’t have passports – so what do you do then?). But the key point in all of these areas is that you need to have a clear audit trail to show you are legally compliant. If you do, you should have no problems. If you don’t you run the risk of major problems in the future.
For details of what you must do, read on….