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How can the empty housing crisis in England be improved?​

How can the empty housing crisis in England be improved?​

New research has shown that while England’s homelessness statistics are at a worrying high, empty housing across the country is also on the increase

With austerity measures causing more people than ever to tighten their belts and private rent prices soaring, many English cities have seen a rise in the numbers of rough sleepers and many are understandably concerned. Team that with the fact many properties lie empty and we are left with a crisis, in desperate need of change.

The total empty homes in England is currently reported to lie at over 600,000. Research shows a minimum of 4,500 people slept rough on England’s streets last year. But what can be done to improve this drastic imbalance?

The number of vacant homes in England rose in 2017 for the first time in ten years, according to research carried out by Attic Self Storage, and a third of the empty dwellings recorded are classifiable as long-term vacant. It’s important to note these houses are not only expensive properties owned by absent millionaires based abroad.

The research suggests that between 2013 and 2016, the North of England showed a higher volume of disused homes than the South, suggesting localgovernment may hold more responsibility than foreign investors for the number of vacant spaces.

One strategy that has been introduced to redress the balance is the much-talked-about £1 home scheme. This is where families with the means to renovate properties were sold houses in disrepair for one pound, on the promise they would commit to investing in the homes and remain in the property for ten years.

In many cases this involved better-off families relocating to deprived areas, in the hope of building both a home and a sense of community. 2018’s £1 house scheme was a source of controversy, but it seems hopeful that the project may have had a positive effect on empty property statistics.

Attic Self Storage’s findings break down the numbers of vacant dwellings by area, showing Liverpool and Camden to be among the regions where the percentage of empty homes is at its highest since 2013.

Since the government’s social housing projects have not always been reliable, it seems one of the best chances for England to address its housing crisis may be for local councils to make disused houses a priority. Kent County Council’s award-winning ‘No Use Empty’ scheme aims to bring empty properties back into use and raise awareness of the problems vacant homes can cause for local communities.

Another social enterprise in pursuit of fairer housing opportunities is Community Campus 87. The organisation began in the mid-1980s with the aim of buying vacant properties in the Middlesbrough area and rents them to previously homeless tenants for rates cheaper than social housing.

Given that some 440 homeless people died in England last year, for reasons including suicide, drug misuse and murder, the work of groups like CC87 – which also aims to get newly-housed tenants back into work and involved in community activities – is vital.

Several hundred other projects are underway across England and the rest of the UK to tackle the various issues surrounding homelessness, and while it is evident that dealing with the country’s housing crisis is a complex and ongoing process, empty homes cannot be overlooked as a factor in reducing homelessness.

Source: www.openaccessgovernment.org

‘Taxing’ Time for the 15,402 Coventry Buy To Let Landlords

‘Taxing’ Time for the 15,402 Coventry Buy To Let Landlords

Over the last twenty years, there has been a shift in the way the Coventry (and the UK’s) property market works. In the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, a large majority of twenty somethings saved up their 5% deposit, went without life’s luxuries of going out and holidays etc., for a couple of years and then bought their first home with their hard earned savings.

By 2000, 47.1% of Coventry 25 to 29 years owned their own home (compared to 46% Nationally (and 65.7% of Coventry 30 to 34 year olds in 2000 owned their own home – again compared to 64.2% nationally) whilst the remaining youngsters mostly rented from the Council and in some rare cases, privately rented.

Now it’s 2018, and those levels of homeownership have slipped dramatically and now only 25.1% of Coventry 25 to 29 year olds own their own home and 44.2% of Coventry 30 to 34 year olds own their own home (interestingly mirroring the National picture of 24.5% for the younger age cohort and 64.2% for the older 30 to 34 year cohort).

There was concern in Government since the late Noughties that this shift from homeownership to private renting wasn’t good for the well-being of the Country and things needed to change, to make it a more level playing field for first time buyers. House prices needed to be more realistic and there needed to be a carrot and stick for both landlords and first time buyers.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, interest rates were the weapon of choice of Government to cool or heat up the UK housing market – and it did work – up to a point. It’s just interest rates also affected so many other sectors of the UK economy (and not always a in good way). The policy of interest rates to control the economy is called ‘Monetary Policy’. Monetary policy is primarily concerned with the management of interest rates (and the supply of money) and is carried out by the Bank of England (under direction from the Government).

It’s just in this post Credit Crunch, Brexit environment, the use of higher interest rates wouldn’t directly affect landlords (as around two thirds of buy to let properties are bought without a mortgage). Therefore, an increase in interest rates would have hardly any effect on landlords and hit the first time buyers – the people the Government would be trying to help!

Also, given muted growth of real income (i.e. real income being the growth salaries after inflation) in the past few years, an uplift in interest rates (from their ultra-low 0.5% current levels) would have a massive effect on Brit’s household disposable income. Yet, over 90% of new mortgages in 2018 being taken are fixed rate and with such low rates, it has made buying a property comparatively attractive.

Instead, over the last 8 years, the Government has encouraged first time buyers and clipped the wings of landlords with another type of economic policy – Fiscal Policy (Fiscal Policy is the collective term for the taxing (and spending) actions of the Government). First time buyers have had the Help to Buy Scheme, Stamp Duty Exemption and contributions to their deposit by HMRC. On the other side the coin, landlords have had the way they are able to offset the tax relief of their mortgage payments against income change (for the worse), an increase in Stamp Duty (for the worse) and they will be hit with additional costs as the Government will be phasing out fees to tenants in the next 12 to 18 months.

So, what does this all mean for the 15,402 Coventry landlords?

The days of making money in Coventry buy to let with your eyes closed are long gone. There are going to be testing times for Coventry landlords, yet there is still a defined opportunity for those Coventry landlords who are willing to do their homework and take guidance from specialists and experts.

It’s all about looking at your Coventry portfolio (or getting a property professional to do so) and ascertaining if your current portfolio, mortgage and gearing are designed to hit what you want from the investment (because that is what it is – an investment) in terms of income now and income in the future, capital growth and when you plan to dispose of your assets.

I have seen many Coventry landlords (both who use me and my competitors) to manage their rental property or find them tenants – and on many occasions recently, I have told them to SELL – yes sell some of their portfolio to either reduce mortgage debt or buy other types of property that match what they want in the short and long-term from their investments. I know that sounds strange – but my role isn’t just to collect the rent .. it’s also to give strategic advice and opinion on the landlord’s portfolio to help them meet their current and future investment goals.

The opportunities will appear in the Coventry property market for Coventry landlords from gentler growth in property values linked with a restrained Coventry property market, meaning if you put in the time, there will be deals and great bargains to have. Many landlords in Coventry (both clients and non-clients) send me Rightmove links each week, asking my opinion on the suitability of the investment. Some are exceptional – whilst others are duds. The bottom line is, private renting will continue to outgrow first time buyers in the next 5 to 10 years and as we aren’t building enough homes in the UK, which means rents can only go in one direction – upwards!

Government ‘scraps three year tenancy plan’

Government ‘scraps three year tenancy plan’

The government has scrapped plans to guarantee three-year tenancies for renters, according to reports.

According to an article in The Sun, the Treasury has opposed the move – which had been backed by secretary of state for housing, communities and local government James Brokenshire– due to fears it could dampen property investment.

The article also said that Theresa May’s team wanted to make three year tenancies voluntary, rather than mandatory, for landlords because they believed a mandatory system would be defeated by MPs in the House of Commons.

An eight-week consultation on the plans was launched in June. Under the proposals, landlords would be required to offer leases of a minimum of three years with a six-month break clause, but tenants would have the option to move out earlier if they wanted to.

Research by the National Landlords Association found that 40% of tenants surveyed wanted longer tenancies, but 40% did not.

Commenting on the news, Johnny Caddick, managing director at Moda, said: “We’re investing over £2bn building rental-only developments in seven British cities and I can guarantee you that offering three-year tenancies would be no burden for us whatsoever.

“On many levels, flexibility is crucial – particularly as people are far less tied to any one location anymore, largely because of increased mobility driven by tech and general liquidity of the labour market.

“But it’s crucial that for those who want it – particularly families – security of tenure is offered. We have a vested interest in filling buildings and keeping people happy. This could be a win-win for build to rent developers and whichever politicians push it through.”

Jean-Marc Vandevivere, chief executive at PLATFORM added: “It is disappointing to see the government backing away from what would have been a very welcome move. Far from discouraging property development, many build-to-rent investors are already committed to providing family-friendly tenancies of three to year five years, including PLATFORM_, as part of a wider a move towards professionalising the rental market, and new government policy would help all renters benefit from that security.”

Source: propertyweek.com

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Form 6A – Section 21 Notice Update Reminder​

Form 6A – Section 21 Notice Update Reminder​

From 01 October 2015 a new prescribed form of section 21 notice was required to be used for any Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (‘AST’) commencing on or after 01 October 2015. The Form 6A was also amended following its first publication by the Department for Local Communities and Government.

As confirmed by s.41 of the Deregulation Act 2015, from 01 October 2018 the new Form 6A will be required to be used for any AST in existence irrespective of the AST commencement date. This means all landlords are now required to use Form 6A in relation to AST’s..

The requirements are set out in The Assured Shorthold Tenancy and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015 now also apply to all AST’s rather than only those commencing on or after 01 October 2015, the requirements are to serve the tenant(s) with:

  1. How to Rent: Checklist for renting in England
  2. Energy Performance Certificate
  3. Gas Safety Certificate

Where the above prescribed requirements are not complied with no section 21 notice can be served until such time as the requirements are complied with.

It should also be noted that following the controversial case Caridon Property Ltd v Monty Shooltz. Central London County Court. 2 February 2018 (see judgement here)tenants must be served with the gas safety certificate before they take up possession of the property.

Where this is not complied with a court may find any section 21 notice served to be defective. From our experience, not many judges are following this judgement, whilst some judges have been persuaded by this judgement, notwithstanding it being a County Court Appeal and thus not binding on County Courts.
Note: The above only applies to England.

Source: landlordadvice.co.uk