Property

Most in demand areas in the UK to rent a property

Most in demand areas in the UK to rent a property

Fresh figures from Howsy has revealed the most in-demand cities to rent property in the United Kingdom, with some surprising findings.

The rental management platform analysed demand across 23 major UK cities as well as each borough of London, based on the proportion of rental listings that had already been snapped up by renters as a percentage of all listings available online.

The study found when it comes to existing demand, Newport is home to the highest level of tenant demand with 35% of all rental homes listed on the major portals already let.

Other highly ranked in-demand cities for rental properties include Bristol at 34%, Nottingham (33%), Cambridge (33%) and Belfast (25%).

Elsewhere, Plymouth (23%), Portsmouth (23%), Bournemouth (23%), Leicester (18%) and Manchester (18%) complete the top 10.

Aberdeen remains the least sought after area for rental properties in the UK with tenant demand at 5% followed by Swansea (8%) and Leeds (9%).

In London, Bexley, Bromley, Sutton and Lewisham are the hottest boroughs for tenants straight off the bat in 2020, with 38% of all rental stock listed online already being snapped up.

Merton (32%), Croydon (31%), Greenwich (30%), Haringey (29%), Enfield (29%) and Kingston (27%) are also amongst the most popular.

The high financial barrier of rental costs is evident at the top end of the ladder with Kensington and Chelsea (7%), Westminster (7%), Camden (11%), the City of London (12%) and Hammersmith and Fulham (13%) all ranking with the lowest number of properties let as a percentage of total properties listed.

Calum Brannan, founder and CEO of Howsy, said: “The buy-to-let sector may have had a rough ride of late but the UK rental market is still heavily relied upon by many in order to put a roof over their head and as a result, many cities still provide a great opportunity for buy-to-let investors due to the lower levels of available stock and consistently high tenant demand.

“When looking to invest, this combination of high demand, an affordable initial cost and a good rental yield should all be considered in order to maximise a return. For those that do their research and tick these boxes, bricks and mortar remains a very sound investment despite attempts to dampen the financial return via stamp duty hikes and changes to tax relief.

“Hopefully, a newly refreshed Government will realise that the buy-to-let landlord is the backbone of the UK rental market and we need to encourage investment into the sector rather than deter it.”

New regulations to combat carbon monoxide poisoning

New regulations to combat carbon monoxide poisoning

An assembly member has welcomed the introduction of legislation for carbon monoxide detectors in rented homes in Wales.

The Welsh Government says new regulations are to be introduced to tackle the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Around 60 people a year are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in Wales and thousands are hospitalised.

The regulations will require landlords in Wales and their agents to install working carbon monoxide alarms, smoke alarms and undertake an electrical safety test at least every five years.

The time frame is not clear at this stage, but it would appear that it will be implemented as part of the introduction of Section 91 of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 and prior to the end of this Assembly term in 2021.

Clwyd West AM Darren Millar previously expressed concerns to the Senedd over the absence of legal requirements for the detectors to be installed in rental properties.

But he has welcomed confirmation that a new section of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 will include additional requirements for landlords to install working carbon monoxide alarms, smoke alarms and undertake an electrical safety test at least every five years.

He said: “I’m absolutely delighted to hear that new regulations will be coming into force to ensure landlords install carbon monoxide testers in their properties and the Minister is committed to ensuring they are implemented by the end of this Assembly term.”

Many people are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, particularly if they do not have a CO alarm in their property.

In the short-term, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause dizziness, sickness, tiredness and stomach pain, while prolonged exposure can lead to loss of consciousness and have a significant impact on an individual’s mental state, coordination and heart health.

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is produced when fuel does not burn properly – usually from badly fitted or poorly maintained appliances.

Though carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas, it has no smell or taste, so it is not obvious when someone has been exposed to it. Just breathing it in can make somebody very unwell and it can kill if a person is exposed to high levels.

Millar added: Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas, but, being colourless, odourless, tasteless, and initially non-irritating, it is very difficult for people to detect.

“Unfortunately, many people across Wales still do not know enough about its dangers and it continues to claim lives or leave people with long-term chronic health problems.

“Currently 60 people a year are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning and thousands are hospitalised. Hopefully, these new regulations will help to reduce that figure.”

Mandatory electrical safety regulations to be introduced in England

Mandatory electrical safety regulations to be introduced in EnglandThe government plans to introduce mandatory electrical installation inspecting for all rented homes.

Detailed regulations for enforcing compulsory five-year electrical safety checks in the private rented sector from July this year have been put forward and are now subject to parliamentary approval.

The draft regulations propose that, from 1 July 2020, all new private tenancies in England will need to ensure that electrical installations are inspected and tested by a qualified person prior to the start of a new tenancy.

The landlord will then be required to ensure that the installation is inspected and tested at least every five years, and more regularly if the most recent safety report requires it.

A breach of the regulations could see landlords fined up to £30,000.

David Cox, chief executive, ARLA Propertymark, commented: “We are supportive of this concept and believe it will create a level playing field for all agents and landlords as well as ensuring improved safety standards for tenants.

“Mandating electrical testing should have a limited impact on good professional landlords and agents in the market, many of whom already voluntarily undertake these inspections.

“We did raise concerns about the number of engineers available to undertake these reports by the April 2021 deadline but have received assurances from MHCLG about capacity in the supply chain.”

Top tips for new student landlords

Top tips for new student landlords

Student property remains one of the most lucrative investments available to landlords, with sky-high double-digit yields currently on offer in many parts of the country.

With students heading back to university over the next few weeks, demand for student housing is currently high thanks to the growth of international students coming to study in the UK, and rise in UK nationals signing up for higher and further education. It is therefore unsurprising that investing in student property is on the rise – up 17% according to Savills.

But being a landlord is not easy and there are many issues faced, therefore bill-splitting service Glide had created a guide on how to deal with various tenant issues in the best way possible.

Repairs

Although student tenants have a reputation for house parties and late night drinking, that stereotype is perhaps a little outdated.

With the rising cost of student loans and students themselves becoming more money conscious than other generations, ensuring that their deposit is returned to them at the end of term likely a key priority for the majority.

However, as with renting to anyone, wear and tear is to be expected, especially for larger multi-occupancy properties, while any issue with the structure or exterior of the property you are renting out is your responsibility to maintain. Issues relating to  flooring, walls and any sanitaryware, such as toilets, sinks or baths, must also be resolved by you if they break.

But items brought into the property by the tenant are their responsibility to maintain. It’s not the landlord’s responsibility to pay for the repairs on items like TVs which were provided by the occupant.

It is important to remember to take an inventory of the property before tenants begin their occupancy, in order to enable you to tell the difference between repairs which naturally develop and issues that are caused by tenant neglect. Photos of the premises are useful to have in case of dispute.

Utilities 

As a landlord, you are responsible for ensuring that all gas and electric appliances are safe in the property, and a gas safety check is required every year. It is also your duty to install smoke alarms on every floor of the building – and carbon monoxide alarms in every room where a fuel burning appliance is situated.

But while it is down to the landlord to ensure the safety of these features, if appliances provided by the tenant break, or light bulbs need replacing, that’s down to the tenant to replace themselves. It is important to clarify these terms in the lease agreement to avoid any disagreements.

Making sure the boiler works and is regularly serviced to maintain the constant and safe supply of hot water for an occupant is also a non-negotiable. Should a boiler break, or if any leaks in the water supply occur, it is the landlord’s responsibility to get these fixed as soon as possible. It is also worth checking with your tenants how long the property will be empty during the Christmas break – if the boiler is switched off for extended periods during a particularly cold spell, there is a risk that the pipes will freeze, which could lead to central heating issues when tenants return in January.

A landlord must keep the general state of the property to a level which is deemed to be fit for habitation. This essentially means they must be kept clean, tidy and without any health and safety hazards for when the tenant moves in.

From there, it is the occupant who is responsible for the upkeep of the home, including features such as the gardens. However, issues like mould, damp and pests – such as rats – must be resolved by the landlord if they  result from general wear and tear.

As the owner, you are entitled to inspect the property as many times as you like, but tenants must be given at least 24 hours written notice advising of your intentions to enter the premises.

Bills and payments

The collection of rent payment is a concern, especially for student tenants, who may not be used to the responsibility of regular payments and arranging bills. However, the stigma around students being irresponsible with money is outdated and not reflective of the current generation.

CPS Homes of Cardiff said that “Students make for reliable, almost guaranteed tenants each year due to the academic cycle. You know that if the current tenants are planning to leave at the end of their tenancy a new group is just around the corner, ready and waiting to move in at the start of the next academic year.

“And contrary to the beliefs of many, they are usually very prompt payers of rent because they’re in receipt of a student loan that they receive termly.

“Having confirmation of this student loan is far stronger than an employment reference because people are far more likely to quit or lose their job than drop out of University.

“If they ever do get into trouble with their rent payments, a parent or guardian will have usually agreed to act as a financial guarantor at the start of the tenancy. This means a landlord can approach said person and demand full payment of the balance owed.”

If you are the landlord of a shared property, it is not up to you to organise the payment of rent and utility bills.

This is the responsibility of the occupants, as the money is ultimately to be paid to you, while any disputes should be settled between tenants.

However, encouraging your tenants to sign up to a bill splitting service takes the headache out of arranging bill payments – each tenant receives a bill for their share of the utilities, meaning no-one is stuck chasing for payments and all potential arguments are negated.

The Guild supports clampdown on rogue landlords

The Guild supports clampdown on rogue landlords

The government’s decision to invest an additional £4m in funding for local councils to tackle criminal landlords and letting agents has been warmly welcomed by The Guild of Property Professionals.

The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced on Friday that he has pledged new funding to be used to clamp down on rogue landlords, with the money set to be shared between more than 100 councils across England

He commented: “Councils already have strong powers to force landlords to make necessary improvements to a property through the use of a range of measures, including civil penalties and banning orders for the worst offenders.

“The grants will support a range of projects to enable councils to make the best use of these powers. This will include trialling innovative ideas, sharing best practice and targeted enforcement where we know landlords shirk their responsibilities.”

There are more than 4.5 million households in the private rented sector in England, with recent statistics showing that 82% of private renters are satisfied with their accommodation, which although impressive, does suggest that there is room for improvement

The Guild’s inhouse Compliance Officer, Paul Offley, said: “We fully support this initiative as it will ensure that rogue landlords and letting agents are punished for breaking the law and it will also ensure that more tenants are treated fairly.

“With the funding providing councils with a means to crack down on illegal activity in the lettings market, tenants will have more protection and the standards of the rental sector will be raised.”

“An environment where exploitative landlords are stamped out will enable good landlords and letting agents to thrive,” he added.

But the government funding to root out criminal landlords has been described by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) as inadequate to tackle the scale of the problem.

David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “We welcome the government’s focus on rooting out criminal landlords. For too long the debate has been driven by ideological calls for more regulation of the sector. What is needed is better enforcement of the powers already available to tackle the minority who bring the sector into disrepute.

“The funding though is nowhere near enough. Instead of offering inadequate and sporadic pots of money, it is critical that the government provides proper, multi-year funding to enable councils to plan and prepare workable strategies to find the criminal landlords. This should be supported by councils having the political will to prioritise enforcement against the crooks rather than tying good landlords up in licensing schemes which do nothing to protect tenants.”

Rogue landlord fined £27k for unsafe HMO

Rogue landlord fined £27k for unsafe HMO An unscrupulous landlord has been fined £27,000 over an unlicensed HMO in Luton with multiple fire and safety breaches. ​

Luton Magistrates Court heard that the unlicensed property at 14 Kenneth Road, Luton, LU2, had poor fire alarm systems and blocked fire exits, missing and broken tiles on the roof, and evidence of rat infestation.

Marco Caruso of Verulam Court, Hendon, pleaded guilty to illegally managing a HMO and seven breaches of HMO regulation.

He was fined £27,000, which included a £170 victim surcharge and costs of £848.70.

Cllr Tom Shaw, portfolio holder for housing, commented: “This is a great result for the rogue landlord project [being operated by the council] and an excellent example of how we are working together to ensure that private housing in Luton is of a good standard.

“If an HMO is poorly managed, the tenant’s safety could be at risk.

“We are committed to identifying rogue landlords and making sure the properties they manage are in a good condition and adhere to safety regulations, or face prosecution.”

Help and support available for landlords paying tax and keeping records

Help and support available for landlords paying tax and keeping records The tax return deadline when filing your online Self Assessment for the tax year ending 5 April 2019 is less than a month away.

Filing an annual tax return is a necessary task for every self-employed person, including buy-to-let landlords, with the 31 January deadline for the 2018/19 Self Assessment tax return at midnight on 31 January 2020.

Whether you have just started out as a buy-to-let landlord or you are an established property investor, there is much to consider from a financial point of view.

Around 10 million people must complete a self-assessment tax form every year, typically because they are self-employed, run their own business or have untaxed income or capital gains, such as from a buy-to-let property, a trust or investment portfolio.

There is no need to fret over filing your tax returns, as it does not even require an accountant.

However, if you are concerned about going it alone and doing your own tax return, you may wish to check out HMRC’s ‘help and support for landlords’.

For more information, click here.

HMRC also offers online tax return help for landlords to their online series of help and support webinars.

View all HMRC webinars.

New trade body launches for BTL landlords

New trade body launches for BTL landlords A new landlord organisation, which is the largest ever trade body in the letting sector, has been officially launched.

The National Residential Landlords Association, which came into force yesterday, has a membership of more than 80,000 landlords.

The new organisation has come about after the National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) agreed to merge in autumn, with a view to delivering a stronger voice for landlords in the private rented sector.

Ben Beadle is the NRLA’s new chief executive, having joined from Touchstone, part of the Places for People housing group. He was previously managing director of TDS Northern Ireland and director of customer service with the TDS.

The two previous chairs, Alan Ward of the RLA and Adrian Jeakings of the NLA, said in a joint statement: “After more than 20 years of friendly competition the time is right to create a single organisation to represent and campaign for landlords.

“With so much of our work done in parallel there are major benefits to be gained for our landlord members.

“We will be stronger together when presenting a unified voice to government both nationally and locally about the importance of supporting the majority of landlords who do a good job providing the homes to rent the country needs.”

Section 21 changes: time to prepare for reforms to the eviction system

Section 21 changes: time to prepare for reforms to the eviction systemLetting agents are being urged to do more to protect buy-to-let landlords by preparing now for the government’s plans to scrap Section 21 of the Housing Act, as part of a new Renters’ Reform Bill.

PayProp is advising agents to adapt to upcoming changes to the eviction system by updating key documentation and automating arrears management to cut the chances of having to evict tenants and leave landlords with an unnecessary rental void period.

The lettings payment automation provider wants to see letting agents take the following steps.

Neil Cobbold, chief operating officer of the lettings payment automation provider, said: “For some time, the political will – regardless of party – has been to remove Section 21 from the Housing Act 1988 and reform the eviction system.

“Following the Queen’s Speech, letting agents and landlords need to start preparing for change and updating their processes accordingly as it has been confirmed that the evictions process will be reformed through the same Bill.”

Cobbold points out that amendments to the eviction process will see agents needing to update their contract templates and eviction notices to fall in line with a new system – highly likely to revolve around a strengthened Section 8.

He explained: “One of the most important aspects of eviction reform for agents will be educating and informing landlords and tenants about how the new system will work.

“However, on top of this, they will also need to make sure their documents are up-to-date and watertight to evidence their adherence to current and proposed legislation. This will give landlords and tenants the best chance of a smooth eviction process.”

“Agents who adopt thorough record-keeping and arrears management can prove their worth to landlords and increase their chances of new business and client retention.

“Having the right technology and systems in place can be a huge help in making these changes seamless and efficient.”

He says that the removal of Section 21 has the potential to impact the methods landlords use to regain possession of their properties, although he feels that the government’s acknowledgment that it needs to improve the court process was a welcome addition to the Queen’s Speech.

But reforming the grounds for possession has the potential for teething problems and agents could mitigate this by improving their own internal procedures.

Cobbold continued: “With this in mind, agents need to think about the ways they can help to reduce the frequency of evictions. Encouraging good relationships between landlords and tenants is all-important, as is staying on top of repairs and facilitating good communication between both parties.

“Rent arrears are one of the most common reasons for evictions, so agents can help landlords to keep them to a minimum by sending automated emails and text messages – which are proven to be more effective when it comes to chasing rent payments.”

You and your tenants need to be vigilant over the Christmas period

You and your tenants need to be vigilant over the Christmas periodThe Christmas season is upon us and there is a good chance that your tenants may be going away, leaving your property empty and therefore vulnerable.

To help ensure that your property remains protected, there are a number of measures that you and your tenants could take to keep your property safe while the occupants are away.

As the landlord, you should advise their tenants to check the functionality of locks, not only on main doors and windows, but also on sheds and garages, as bikes are often the number one choice for festive felons.

Tenants should also be told to ensure that valuables are kept out of sight so that they are not actively advertising the property to burglars.

You or your tenants may wish to consider installing timers for lights and lamps so that it looks like someone is at home.

It may also be wise to ask your tenants if you or a representative can enter the property if their plan to be away for an extended period. That way, post can be taken in, curtains can be opened and closed, and a vehicle can be seen to be at the property.

To help alleviate any concerns you may have over the festive period, here are some tips that you may care to share with your tenants:

+ Keep valuables out of sight: Keep valuables out of sight such as laptops, televisions and car keys might just prove to be an incentive to an opportunist.

+ Lock all windows and doors: If you are sharing a house or a flat, make sure that the last person to leave does a quick check around the property to ensure that all windows and doors are locked.

+ Keep a light on: A cheap plug-in timer will turn lamps on and give the impression that somebody is home when your property is empty over the holiday.

+ Take down Christmas decorations: While it may make your house look a little cheerier, if your house is going to be vacant until after the New Year decorations may indicate to that the house is empty, so take down the decorations before you leave for Christmas.

+ Neighbourhood watch: If you are comfortable and friendly with your neighbours then inform them that you’re going away and how long for, and ask them to keep an eye on your property.