[Ben Reeve Lewis' fingers are feeling sore ...]
My belated Xmas present from Frazzy finally arrived (see pic) an Epiphone Sheraton as used by John Lee-Hooker and Liam Gallagher and I am as happy as a sandboy.
Whatever the hell one of those is.
Despite being a professional musician for several years back in the 80s I haven’t had a guitar for yonks.
As a consequence my finger ends are frayed and sore and my hands bent into arthritic shapes trying to pick up new and unfamiliar jazz chords. Hey –la.Use it or lose it funding madness
Its coming up to end of year for local councils, whose accountability runs from 1st April each year.
Government money is given over on a ‘Use it or lose it basis’.
Basically you put in for a pot of say £150,000 to tackle a difficult local problem. If by the end of March you have only used £50,000 of it because you have been really efficient in your work then come the next financial year they knock £100,000 off of your available dosh.
So the incentive is a negative one. Do your job well and you get cut, display a need for more funds and BINGO, the cash tumbles into the waxed cup.
So smart council bods overspend at this time of year in an attempt to rid themselves of poisonous residues.
This is redolent of the general funding madness of the public sector.Cometh the tax man …
Tax is one similar rule. American politician Benjamin Franklin is famous for saying “There are only two certainties in the world, death and taxes’.
But this basic precept seems to have riled the people at Landlord referenincing who are preoccupied this week by a letter doing the rounds from our good friends at HMRC that is currently being sent out as routine to letting agents to fess up on the money they are paying to their client landlords so that the correct tax can be levied.
Many landlords commenting on Landlord Referencing said they had no problem with this as they pay their taxes anyway, the excellent Mary Latham saying:
“The only landlords who have to worry are those who have been breaking the law!”
But the article’s author Paul Routledge offered:
“I am sorry I do not think that it is acceptable either morally or ethically that the tax man thinks it is the job of a letting agent to submit the takings of their landlords to the HMRC. It is abhorrent that a client’s confidentiality can be breached in order to satisfy the tax man’s insatiable desire to squeeze the life out of us all”.
Whilst I have no sympathy with Paul’s view on the abhorrence of the practice I do wholeheartedly agree with his last comment about taxmen squeezing the life out of people.One rule for the tax man …
I interviewed a man last year who had taken early retirement as a cop so he could use the money to adapt a room for his seriously disabled son. HMRC then decided that they had underestimated his tax and whacked him with a further £20,000 bill, so he had to go back to work and the son remains crammed in an unsuitable room.
In a sane world it would be the rule that if HMRC makes a mistake they should take it on the chin and not go back to decent honest people with “Oh and by the way…..”, while corporations and politicians get away with all manner of tax dodges.
A source close to my heart as Frazzy has spent the last year paying off £10,000 that she was mis-assesed for which has seriously interfered with our abilities to buy fancy food.Planet property lost in space?
Regular readers will know I am a fan of blog Planet Property which I think is run by the Evening Standard’s Peter Bill but I’m getting a tad concerned as they haven’t had a new article since the 1st Feb.
Planet Property was always a good place to go for some of the wackier and insightful articles. Anyone know what’s going on? Is Peter just on holiday?Making it easier to evict
Channel 4 blog ran an article on the proposal to shorten eviction times. It’s a strange and not very well researched piece although my mate Heather who runs Hackney Renter’s Group DIGS gets a nice mention.
Tessa herself recently sat in on a seminar to discuss the pros and cons of changing the law [I think it was the one mentioned on the C4 blog - Ed].
Despite what people might think I’m not averse to it. The length of eviction times plus the snakes and ladders effects of getting it wrong in any tiny detail can drive matters into trench warfare.
No comfort for landlords with nightmare tenants who they cant shift for 6 months and I have to say, speaking as an enforcement officer and one whose job it is sometimes to defeat those possession claims that I meet as many nightmare tenants as I do landlords, which is why I wouldn’t be a landlord if you paid me.
What I would like to see is the shortening of eviction times for tenants who are at fault balanced of against the eradication of the S21 no-fault ground.
I know this is easy to say but legally much harder to do. Tessa will know more about the arguments being bandied about over this.
The DCLG is quoted in the article as saying:
“We have put in place strong measures to ensure that tenants are protected against rogue landlords…
In addition we have set up a working group to look at ways to protect landlords and tenants, to ensure a fair eviction process in the private rented sector and as part of wider efforts to increase the availability of longer tenancies.”
I know that is a quote in isolation but it sounds reasonable enough to me but then I’ve never subscribed to the simplistic myth that Landlord = Bad, Tenant = Good.
[The reasoning behind the move to consider quicker evictions is explained in >> this blog post - its really about changing the system so tenants can get longer security - Ed]Living the internet life 24/7
The Telegraph this week ran a piece on house prices being adversely affected by slow broadband speeds.
I confess to being an internet nut, Frazzy too. We have her laptop on the go 24/7 in the living room while my PC hums away all day in the back room, neither of which interferes with the persistent ‘Ding’ of emails constantly dropping onto our iPhones.
I even check my phone at 3am when going to the toilet to make sure I’m not missing anything and even while I’m sleeping Frazzy is often sitting up in the dark using her Kindle for god knows what.
So I get the broadband speed argument. It would lessen the appeal of a property dramatically.
When searching for weekends away we look at pictures of gorgeous cottages nestling in the hills of the peak district or the Scottish highlands and immediately contact the owner to find out what the broadband situation is before we book.
The Telegraph article reports that Rightmove now adds a broadband speed checker to it’s property listings. Quite right too, I mean how the hell are you going to be able to stop yourself going insane by trying to remember the name of some obscure actor in an old Bogart film without having instant access to IMDB?
Or how can I work out the fingering to a dflat 13 minor 7th without clicking the mouse?
See ya next week.
On Friday 9th May 600 sales and letting agents, suppliers, press and VIPS will descend on the Hilton (Park Lane, London) to see who receives an award for their work in the residential property sector.
The ESTAS is an awards scheme where feedback from customers (32,000 this year) dictates which agents & suppliers provide the best levels of customer service across the UK.
Phil Spencer, who will be Master of Ceremonies again, said: “I think these awards help us all to focus on customer service for the greater good of our own businesses as well as the wider industry. We must all drive standards higher, raising the bar in terms of the quality of advice we offer and the level of customer care we deliver”.
Simon Brown, who owns The ESTAS, commented: “Its client feedback which determines who is shortlisted and ultimately who wins that makes the ESTAS so valuable for agencies. It takes a lot of commitment to enter the ESTAS and to make it to the shortlist is a great achievement”.
Please see the attached document for the full shortlist of entries.
- ESTAS 2014
- Shortlist revealed
With time running out before the Chancellor's 2014 Budget announcement, various representatives from the property industry continue to lobby for action.
The latest to do so are the NAEA and ARLA which issued a joint statement from managing directors Mark Hayward and Ian Potter.
They said: "A major theme for this year’s Budget needs to be the supply of homes and more specifically, mobility in the property market. Having a place to call home is of upmost importance to every one of us, whether we own or rent.
"To ensure this is possible and affordable, the Government needs to address the restrictions people face when finding a place to live.
"NAEA and ARLA are therefore calling on the Chancellor to support mobility in the property market by:
1) Addressing the unfair and hugely expensive Stamp Duty slab structure which restricts home ownership; and
2) Reiterating support for institutional investment in the private rented sector by fully regulating the industry
"Affordability is a central issue and the introduction of the Government’s Help to Buy scheme has offered a welcome boost to buyer confidence. However, costly barriers still need to be addressed – namely the thousands of pounds demanded up front in Stamp Duty.
"Stamp Duty, in its current 'slab structure', distorts the UK housing market, acts as a barrier to first-time buyers and therefore restricts the demand to build new homes. Help to Buy is a good temporary measure, but tackling the unfair and hugely expensive Stamp Duty is an achievable, long-term and sustainable way to support access to, and mobility up, the housing ladder.
"For those who choose to rent, or cannot afford to buy, many will have experienced first-hand the tight supply of the UK rental market. Demand for private rented housing has seen sustained and consistent growth over the past five years. For the first time since the 1960s, more people now live in private rented accommodation than in social housing, with 3.8 million tenants – a 30% rise over the last five years. Pressures are acute, and yet the industry remains unregulated. Restricted supply leads to increases in rogue landlords and the number of tenants forced to choose inadequate properties.
"ARLA has always campaigned against poor practice and our members adhere to a professional code of conduct. As a consequence, we urge the Government to introduce a full mandatory regulation of agents. Regulation will bring two key benefits: better standards for those using industry services and, a much needed stamp of professionalism and quality on the lettings industry which will help trigger the much-needed investment in a large-scale development of homes by professional organisations. The industry needs to be seen as stable, attractive and above all comprehensively regulated in order for significant investment to be secured. This needs to happen so that we all have a place to live."
- stamp duty
The Land Registry has this week launched a new service, Property Alert, to protect property owners from fraud.
Property fraud can happen in many ways. For example, fraudsters may attempt to acquire ownership of a property by using forged documents, or by impersonating the registered owner. The fraudsters may then raise money by mortgaging the property without the owner's knowledge before disappearing without making repayments, leaving the owner to deal with the consequences.
Alasdair Lewis, Director of Legal Services, said: "Following a successful trial of Property Alert, we hope that many homeowners will want to sign up for this new free service to help them protect what is probably their most valuable asset."
According to Land Registry, people can sign up and register up to three properties to be monitored. Email alerts will be sent when Land Registry receives an application to change the register as well as for official searches.
The property owner can then judge whether or not the activity is suspicious. For example, if a bank search has been conducted but the property owner has not applied for a mortgage would be suspicious.
On receiving an alert detailing suspicious activity, the owner is then able to seek legal advice, contact Action Fraud or contact the bank in question to tell them they are the owner and have not applied for a mortgage.
- land registry
- Property fraud
- Property Alert
The Knight Frank Wealth Report ranks cities based on four factors: Economic Activity, Quality of Life, Knowledge & Influence and Political Power, as well as taking into account the number of Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals who inhabit each city.
The report has found that London continues to remain the most ‘important’ city for the ultra-wealthy, although its reign will end within a decade when it is overtaken by New York.
Knight Frank's Liam Bailey said: "History, location and their long-established wealth mean that London and New York’s positions look unassailable, at least for now.
"It is further down our leader board that the real city wars are being waged”.
"The main battleground is Asia, where a handful of locations are slugging it out in the hope of establishing a clear lead as the region’s alpha urban hub."
- super rich
- knight frank
In our hyperconnected world many of us take broadband for granted. But agents should be aware of how much value a good connection is worth to a property sale.
Strutt & Parker said location correlating to internet speed was now more important than ever for buyers.
"We have a number of clients who move out to the country or who want to buy second properties in the country with the increasing tendency to work from home," said Fiona Stewart, Head of Marketing.
"Our research has shown that access to broadband is a vital part of the plan. Lack of broadband can be a deal breaker on which location to choose when looking."
She added: "Across the business, we are seeing more and more applicants looking for homes on their tablets and smartphones who are constantly on the go.
"Direct enquiries from buyers about connection speeds in certain areas are on the up. Without doubt, internet connectivity has never been more of a necessity than it is today and will continue to be as the next generation of buyers pushes through."
- strutt & Parker
- property sale
More and more people are choosing equity release to provide them with much-needed financial support, according to the Equity Release Council.
Its Equity Release Market Report examines the profile, property wealth and product choices of more than 37,000 customers who have taken out new equity release plans since 2011. The total annual value of plans agreed has grown by 36% in that time to £1.07bn while customer numbers have swelled by 17%.
The report reveals that the growing uptake of equity release is being driven by 65-74 year olds as people work for longer. This age group made up 59% of new customers in 2013, up from 56% in 2011.
It also shows the average equity release customer owns property worth £254,943 – 5% more than the UK average – and releases less than a quarter of this housing wealth (22% in 2013).
Equity Release Council Chairman, Nigel Waterson, said: "A growing number of older people are using their properties to offer financial as well as physical comfort.
"In a climate of low retirement incomes and a recovering housing market, equity release offers an increasingly attractive way to live comfortably in later life without sacrificing the place you call home.
"Those choosing equity release enjoy low borrowing rates and three levels of protection through a structured financial advice process, face-to-face legal advice and product safeguards that have underpinned the industry for more than 20 years."
- Nigel Waterson
- equity release
Halifax has announced that it will once again pay the full Stamp Duty bill for first time buyers purchasing properties up to the value of £250,000.
The lender said that it would pay the entire levy on purchases between £125,001 and £250,000, reducing a first time buyer's costs by up to £2500.
Those first time buyers purchasing a property below £125,001 - and thus exempt from Stamp Duty - will receive £250 cashback.
Craig McKinlay, Halifax Mortgage Director, said: "We know that Stamp Duty can often be a cost that is overlooked, particularly by first time buyers who are focused on saving an initial deposit for a house.
"We helped ease the burden of Stamp Duty for over 14,000 first time buyers last year and we're keen to do what we can to once again support those buying their first home, at what's already an expensive time."
Nationally last year almost half (46%) of home purchases by first time buyers were between £125,000 and £250,000. However, there were significant regional variations in the prices paid, with those in the South East (75%) and South West (71%) purchasing properties between £125,000 and £250,000. In contrast, only 14% of first time buyers in Northern Ireland and 23% in the North of the country purchased within this range.
- stamp duty
- Craig McKinlay
Pocket Landlord from Reidmark is an innovative app which allows you to manage your properties via a device you can keep in your pocket!
It works for both iphone and tablets (such as ipad) but when I met up with Mark and Peter and they showed it to me, I thought it worked best with the tablet.
But what do they have to say about things? First – who are they?
Reidmark are multi award winning software developers and business transformation consultants with a substantial track record within the property sector.
We are now forging ahead with high end business apps aimed at the UK and US residential property markets.
And what about the app?
Our latest innovation is the Pocket Landlord app that offers a responsive approach for letting & managing residential property on the go.
The software is ideal for the single buy-to-let owner through to larger scale property owners and developers. A complete letting agency experience that covers preparing for letting, matching applicants, sign up, rent management and reporting.
Neat! So there you go. The Pocket Landlord boys will be there at the Conference to demonstrate it to you, so you can see if its what you want.
Here’s what they say about the Conference:
We are delighted to be supporting the Landlord Law conference and being part of a programme that helps to maintain the necessary legal competencies of operating as a Landlord.
You can find out more about Pocket Landlord >> here (and on your iphone or ipad apps page).
You can find out more about the Conference at www.lllconf.com.
Due to the ever increasing demand for rental properties the Government have decided that a consultation on this area is needed. The discussion titled ‘Review of property conditions in the private rented sector’ is in its initial stages so no changes are imminent; but certain topics have been raised with a view to helping the system perform better and raise the standard of the housing industry to make sure tenants are protected and are able to live in a safe environment.
The intention of the consultation is to protect tenants from rogue landlords and agents but to try to balance this by not adversely affecting the good landlords/agents. The aim is to avoid imposing unnecessary legislation which could create more hassle, decrease much needed investment in private rented housing and result in further costs which will eventually be passed on to the tenant in the form of increased rent etc.
There are a number of topics that have been proposed as talking points for which they are inviting comments and suggestions. These include:
• Rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants – How can it be made clearer to both sides what is required of them and what can be done if the other side has breached their obligations?
• Retaliatory evictions – How to prevent landlords from simply serving notice to evict a tenant that has notified them of necessary repairs to the property?
• Illegal evictions – Should the penalties against landlords convicted of illegal evictions be stricter?
• Safety conditions – Should smoke and carbon monoxide alarms be mandatory in all properties?
• Licensing of rented housing – Should there be mandatory licensing for all properties? Should there be voluntary accreditation schemes for Landlords so that the good landlords can be found more easily?
• Housing Health and Safety Rating System – Is more information required to make the system clearer for all parties?
This is a non-exhaustive list and so if you have any ideas of how to improve the housing market the details of where to send your proposals are detailed below and any suggestions made should be considered and discussed.
The closing date for responses is 28 March 2014 and they can be sent to PRSReview@communities.gsi.gov.uk
We will be looking to keep an eye on this and will update the blog when there are any further developments.
Filed under: England & Wales Tagged: comment, consultations, disrepair, HHSRS, HMOs, Housing Act 2004, LACORS, tenancy agreements
Hello all, I need a bit of advice on how best to get my vacated tenants to pay for a slightly cracked basin, stained mattress and dirty walls which I think are all beyond anybody’s reasonable expectation of fair wear and tear. They were good tenants and were in the property for three years and only... Read more
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