Posts with tag: letting agents

Lead Enforcement Authority Assigned to Oversee Letting Agency Regulation in England

Published On: April 23, 2019 at 9:57 am


Categories: Lettings News,Tenant Fees Ban


A new enforcement team has been appointed to provide better protection for tenants against letting agents charging illegal fees.

Following on from the decision to implement a ban on tenant fees (beginning 1st June 2019), this team will be led by National Trading Standards. It will be responsible for the regulation of the private rental sector (PRS), ensuring the compliance of letting agents. 

Funding will come from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team will take the roll of Lead Enforcement Authority for the purposes of the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Tenant Fees Act 2019.

Bristol City Council will lead letting agency regulation within England and Powys County Council will continue to drive estate agent enforcement throughout the UK.

David Cox, Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark, has commented on the news that Bristol Trading Standards will be the Lead Enforcement Authority for the PRS: “We welcome today’s announcement of the Lead Enforcement Authority, and hope this is a major step forward in improving enforcement in the private rented sector. At the moment, there is a severe lack of prosecution in the industry, allowing rogue agents to operate and thrive. We look forward to building a constructive working relationship with the Lead Enforcement Authority to eliminate these agents from the sector once and for all.”

James Munro, Head of National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, said: “Bringing the two functions – lead enforcement authority for estate agency work and lead enforcement authority for lettings agency work – under one team will mean there is a single point of contact for enforcement work in this area. This single team approach will help us uphold consumers’ rights and enforce the law.”

Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP said: “We are determined to make the private rented sector a fairer, more accessible market that works for all and I am delighted that local authorities will now be able to access the best advice and information from this new team. There is no place for unfair fees – now, with this new enforcement authority, we will be able to stamp them out.”

Cllr Steve Pearce, Bristol City Council cabinet member with responsibility for regulatory services, said: “We are delighted to be hosting this new function and playing our part in delivering a solution that combines both regulatory functions into a joint team that will provide a single coherent regulatory voice and help secure regulatory compliance for consumers.

“This places us at the heart of influencing the government policy to help enhance consumer protection. This is a hugely challenging area of regulation and we look forward to playing a leading role assisting enforcement authorities in the course of their duties.”

The main duties of the Lead Enforcement Authority team will include: 

  • Overseeing the operation of relevant estate and letting agency legislation
  • Issuing prohibition and formal warning order to any who are found unfit to engage in estate agency work in the UK
  • Approving & overseeing the UK’s consumer redress schemes, Ombudsmen, and Alternative Dispute Resolution entities in the estate agency sector
  • Issuing guidance and advice for the public, businesses and enforcement authorities on estate agency work in the UK and relevant letting agency work in England

Tenant Fees Ban Due for Introduction in Wales in September

Published On: April 10, 2019 at 8:56 am


Categories: Law News,Tenant Fees Ban

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The tenant fees ban is due for introduction in Wales in September, subject to the new law receiving royal assent.

The ban on charging fees by landlords and letting agents to tenants in Wales will be introduced on 1stSeptember 2019.

From this date, landlords and agents will no longer be able to charge tenants fees to set up, renew or continue a standard occupation contract, except those explicitly permitted by the new law.

Many landlords may not yet be familiar with standard occupation contracts, but they will replaced Assured Shorthold Tenancies(ASTs) in Wales when the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 is introduced – possibly later this year.

The Welsh tenant fees ban passed its final stage in Parliamenttwo weeks ago. 

The law will make it illegal for landlords and agents to charge anything other than permitted payments, which include: rent, security deposits, holding deposits, utilities, communication services, Council Tax, Green Deal charges, and default fees.

Under the tenant fees ban, holding deposits will be restricted to one week’s rent, with provisions to ensure their prompt repayment.

The law in Wales greatly reflects the Tenant Fees Billbeing introduced in England on 1stJune 2019. 

David Cox, the Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark (the Association of Residential Letting Agents), comments: “The tenant fees ban is now an inevitability in Wales, and agents need to start preparing for a post-tenant fees world.

“The bill will receive royal assent in the coming few weeks, before being passed into law and implemented on 1st September 2019.”

Landlords and letting agents, if you let properties in Wales, you must be aware of the upcoming tenant fees ban and its implications on your lettings businesses. 

It is wise to start preparing for how you might be affected now and put processes in place for the future, when you can’t charge fees to tenants. 

Letting Agents must Remind Landlords of the Benefits of Buy-to-Let

Published On: March 28, 2019 at 10:32 am


Categories: Landlord News

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With the tenant fees banfast approaching, letting agents should be doing all they can to remind landlords of the benefits of buy-to-let for investors, along with the downsides of leaving the sector, an industry expert urges.

The warning arrives as research shows that a rising number of landlords are leaving the market, due to financial pressures and increased Government legislative changes.

Buy-to-let still attractive

ARLA Propertymark reports that its member letting agent branches experienced an average of four landlords exiting the buy-to-let market in February. 

Neil Cobbold, the Chief Operating Officer of rental payment automation platform PayProp, says that, despite a turbulent few years, landlords have many reasons to remain in the sector: “Firstly, recent figures show rents up in every region of the UK over the past year. This gives landlords the opportunity to secure solid rental returns, particularly in areas where property prices remain below the UK average.

“What’s more, demand for rental property remains high and consistent, with the latest English Housing Surveyshowing that the private rental sector has doubled in size since 2002 and now represents the largest housing tenure in London.”

He adds that, due to Brexit uncertainty, the sales market continues to underperform: “If landlords look to sell now, there is no guarantee that they’ll be able to secure a quick sale for the best possible price.

“And, in the event they sell up and then decide to revisit buy-to-let investment in the future, they’ll be required to pay an additional 3% in Stamp Dutywhen purchasing a property, and could be faced with stricter mortgage lending criteria.”

Buy-to-Let Remains a solid investment option, Broker Insists
Letting Agents must Remind Landlords of the Benefits of Buy-to-Let

Agents communicate the positives

Letting agents should, therefore, be proactive when it comes to reassuring their landlord clients about the positives of operating in the private rental sector, Cobbold insists.

“It could be beneficial to check in with landlords personally to discuss the current market and any concerns they may have,” he advises.

“On top of this, you can communicate with your existing database, showcasing recent local market statistics and explaining some positive market viewpoints for landlords to consider.”

He adds: “During challenging times, it’s important for landlords to know that they have a letting agent on hand who is a property expert with their best interests at heart.”

Client retention crucial

With the ban on tenant fees due to come into force on 1stJune 2019, many letting agents will experience a dent in their income. This means that it’s more important than ever for agencies to retain landlords’ business for the long-term, protecting their revenue in the process.

Cobbold explains: “The post-fees ban landscape will see competition between letting agencies intensify, as they look to replace lost revenue from tenants with increased revenue from landlords.

“With this in mind, it’s vital that agents do everything in their power to impress existing landlords, while attempting to attract prospective clients at the same time.”

He suggests: “This can be achieved by providing a combination of expert advice, a professional and personal service, and efficient proptech-enabled processes, which ensure compliance with industry regulations.”

90% of Students Battle Housing Nightmares, Including Rats and No Water

Published On: March 21, 2019 at 11:13 am


Categories: Tenant News

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Rip-off student accommodation is leaving tenants battling housing nightmares, unaffordable rents and poor mental health, according to the 2019 National Student Accommodation Survey.

The research, conducted by advice site Save the Student, surveyed 2,196 students in January 2019. Their responses highlight a UK-wide scandal of overpriced and unsafe student housing, with 90% reporting a problem with their accommodation.

While fellow residents are a top cause of complaints, the vast majority are maintenance issues that leave student tenants without basic services or living in unsafe conditions – despite paying an average rent of £125 per week (£541 a month).

Portsmouth student Adele describes having to live in shocking conditions: “On move-in day, we found there was no door on the front of the property, then we had no heating for two months. We had a broken toilet, broken shower and rats/mice/fleas. An open drain in the back garden would regularly overflow, just filling the garden with sewage.

“Got to the point where we called in the local housing association – turns out we had no gas certificate, no fire door in the kitchen, and even the bannisters on the stairs were unsafe!”

Housing nightmares like these aren’t confined to cut-price accommodation – in fact, almost as many students report problems with university properties and commercial halls of residence as in private rental rooms and houses.

Kerry, a student in Bournemouth, comments: “Halls were a terrible experience. Building work almost constantly, rats, and a very irritating flatmate who was loud and disgusting and inappropriate.”

Save the Student’s findings are particularly relevant, as the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force yesterday (20th March 2019). The new law gives students, as well as other private tenants, a way to take action against landlords who ignore their legal responsibilities.

The ten biggest housing nightmares for students

  1. Noisy housemates (45%)
  2. Damp (35%)
  3. Housemates stealing food (33%)
  4. Lack of water/heating (32%)
  5. Disruptive building work (20%)
  6. Inappropriate landlord visits (16%)
  7. Rodents and pests (16%)
  8. Dangerous conditions (5%)
  9. Burglary (5%)
  10. Bed bugs (3%)

Asking for help with housing issues is no guarantee that anything will be done, however. Although half (45%) of students said that problems were resolved within a week, one in five waited more than a month. A handful (4%) said that their housing nightmares were never resolved.

Lily studies in Newcastle: “Last year, I had no hot water for the entire year. I had to boil the kettle and fill up the sink that way to wash my face.”

The cost of student accommodation

The pressure to find decent housing is so high that one in three students start looking for next year’s accommodation in or before November – that’s just weeks after the beginning of the academic year.

This is brutal on finances, as students pay an average of £970 in upfront housing costs: deposit (£311), admin fees (£119) and a month’s rent in advance (£541). The stress on students and their parents/guardians is even greater, as the typical maintenance loan – money the Government awards for living costs – is just £541 per month.

Housing charity Shelter deems housing affordable when costs are no more than 35% of a renter’s income. However, with the average student rent eating up 100% of the typical maintenance loan, tenants are left with no money to cover their other housing or living expenses.

As a consequence, half of all students struggle to pay the rent, while two-thirds borrow from family, banks or other lenders to cope with housing costs.

Parents/guardians who earn enough are expected to contribute towards university living costs. However, this latest study uncovers the burden on family finances. Parents/guardians contribute an average of £44 per week (£2,288 a year) to help students pay their rent, but one in five give more than £100 a week (£5,200 per year).

Banks are the next most common source of borrowing, with 40% of students turning to overdrafts, loans or credit cards to find the extra cash.

Students are therefore under immense pressure to make ends meet, yet many are rewarded with housing that isn’t fit for purpose. The consequences include stories of damp and mould-related illnesses, plus distress caused by money worries.

Two-thirds (63%) of students said that housing costs have affected their mental health, while 37% said that they have had an impact on their studies.

Mark, in Sheffield, is only part way through his course: “I have suffered from severe depression and anxiety at university, and have undergone counselling and CBT [Cognitive behavioural therapy] because of it. 

“My parents help as much as they can, but it is hard for me to afford my rent and living expenses on minimum student loan when my parents are putting two other children through university. I had a part-time job, but that, plus studying, was too much and made my mental health worse.”

Most troubling of all, the National Accommodation Survey shows a clear link between money and wellbeing at university. The more rent prices exceed the financial support on offer, the more students suffer mental and financial stress.

Jake Butler, a Student Money Expert from Save the Student, states: “Too many people – including students – seem to believe that poor living conditions are just a part of student life. Our investigation confirms how students are being unfairly treated as if second-class citizens, expected to put up with dire conditions throughout their studies. 

“It’s even more outrageous considering the sums of money being handed over to landlords. Rent swallows up the entire maintenance loan for many students, piling on added stress of having to make ends meet while living in squalor.”

He adds: “Whilst the laws around renting are constantly improving, there needs to be a much easier way for students to report and resolve problems with their accommodation.”

Kelly-Anne Watson, the Delivery Officer for student housing charity Unipol, continues: “It’s imperative for ourselves, universities and students’ unions to be educating students on their rights, and to give well informed advice on housing. 

“We must work collectively as a sector to improve standards and make sure that there are a range of varied rents for students to choose from, so there are not further barriers into education.”

She urges: “We’d encourage providers to voluntarily join one of three national codes: UUK, ANUK and Unipol. Within a code, it is unacceptable for landlords to ignore reported issues, such as the third of students (from this survey) who report living with damp, or without hot water and heating.”

Landlords, if you provide student accommodation, ensure that your tenants aren’t living with housing nightmares!

Letting Agents can Support Landlords in Staying Up to Date with Legislation

Published On: February 26, 2019 at 10:01 am


Categories: Landlord News

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Landlords should remember how important letting agents can be in supporting them to stay up to date with ever changing legislation in the private rental sector, haart estate agent insists.

At a time when landlords are being bombarded with regulatory changes that could affect their buy-to-let businesses, they are being reminded to ensure that they are clear on the rules. 

With a range of new legislation to comply with, from the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Actto the Tenant Fees Bill, landlords must be up to date with changes in the private rental sector, which is becoming more regulated, especially as a new housing complaints service is due for introduction.

The Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire MP, announced plans last month for a new Housing Complaints Resolution Service, which would legally require private landlords to become members of a redress scheme, as part of wider efforts to protect tenants.

Paul Sloan, the Operations Director at haart, says: “For many landlords, it is difficult to keep up to date with new regulations that seem to bombard the private rented sector every year.

“That’s entirely understandable. For many smaller landlords, in particular, being a landlord is not their full-time job – it’s a useful extra income.”

However, he insists: “But keeping up to date with the latest legislation is vital. That’s one reason why it can be good for your peace of mind – and even your pocket – to have your let professionally managed by a vigilant agent with an established track record.

“Many landlords think their lettings agents are most useful at the beginning and end of their let. In fact, things can change mid-let – not because of something that has happened at the property, but because of something that has happened in Parliament.”

We remind landlords of how essential letting agents can be in keeping you up to date with legislation changes.

We also offer free, useful guides on lettings law to help you understand your responsibilities:

Tenant Fees Bill Receives Royal Assent to Become Act of Parliament

Published On: February 13, 2019 at 11:01 am


Categories: Law News,Tenant Fees Ban

Tags: ,,

The Tenant Fees Bill has received royal assent to become an Act of Parliament in England. It will come into force on 1stJune 2019. 

From this date, landlords and letting agents in England will no longer be able to charge upfront fees to private tenants. It is expected to save renters at least £240m per year.

It will also cap the amount a tenant can pay in a refundable security deposit to the value of five weeks’ rent, as well as capping the amount of holding deposit a tenant would be required to put down to secure a property to just one week’s rent.

The Government believes that the act will make renting properties in England fairer and more affordable for tenants, by reducing costs at the outset of a tenancy, at the same time as improving transparency and competition in the private rental sector.

David Cox, the Chief Executive of ARLA Propertymark, responds to the news: “We’ve known the tenant fees ban has been coming for a long time, but, with only 109 days to go until it comes into force, the industry must start taking time to prepare.

“The Government will soon publish its guidance now that we have legislative certainty, which will give agents a better understanding as to how the ban should practically be implemented.”

Under the terms of the new law, the maximum amount that can be charged for a change to a tenancy is £50. Any landlord or agent breaching the ban for the first time will be hit with a £5,000 fine.

The Housing and Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire MP, says: “Tenants across the country should not be stung by unexpected costs from agents or landlords.

“This is part of our ongoing action to make renting fairer and more transparent, and make a housing market that works for everyone.”

Brokenshire explains that, under the act, agents will only be able to recover reasonably incurred costs from tenants, which will put a stop to, for example, “tenants being charged hundreds of pounds for a damaged item that actually only costs a few pounds to replace”.

He continues: “The act also ensures that tenants who have been charged unfair fees get their money back quickly, by reducing the timeframe during which landlords and agents must pay back any fees that they have unlawfully charged.

“Taken together, these provisions help reduce the costs that tenants can face at the outset, renewal and termination of a tenancy.”

Brokenshire explains: “The act is part of a wider package of Government reforms aimed at rebalancing the relationship between tenants and landlords, to deliver a fairer, better quality and more affordable private rental market.

“We have introduced a range of powers for local authoritiesto enable them to crack down on the small minority of rogue landlords and agents who let unfit properties. This includes fixed financial penalties of up to £30,000 and banning orders – possibly for life – for the most serious offenders.”