A leasehold reform campaigner claims estate agents face “growing calls to be held accountable for mis-selling leasehold properties.”
Louie Burns, managing director of the Leasehold Solutions Group, says: “Estate agents are facing mounting pressure to ensure they are listing leasehold properties correctly by providing prospective buyers with the information they need to make an informed decision. There is a high chance that failure to disclose these details could lead to accusations of mis-selling in the future.
“It is right that estate agents and online property portals should be transparent and provide home buyers with key details about the lease, including the number of years remaining, and the cost of any service charges and ground rent. However, we recognise that leasehold is a very complex area and estate agents are facing a steep learning curve to get up to speed with the ever-changing face of the leasehold system.”
Last year National Trading Standards published guidance for consumers seeking redress for leasehold matters, which states that estate agents must provide information consumers need to make an informed decision about a property and ensure that they treat the buyer and the seller honestly, fairly and promptly.
Burns continues: “Estate Agents should protect themselves and their firm’s reputation by adopting a policy of full disclosure. Any estate agent that does not disclose information relevant to the sale may find themselves in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (2008).”
Burns makes his claims in a statement promoting a half day course he is to hold, alongside Mark Chick, an enfranchisement lawyer and partner of central London law firm, Bishop & Sewell LLP.
The event takes place in London on February 4.
“Our training is intended to ensure estate agents fully understand the imminent changes in legislation to enable them to market and advise on leasehold properties most effectively and avoid any accusations of mis-selling” says Burns.
The number of residential transactions rose by 6.2 per cent in December – an unseasonal increase – according to data from HM Revenue & Customs.
There were 104,670 residential property transactions last month, when traditionally deals drop because of Christmas.
The industry is happy with the unexpected boom.
“These figures are encouraging because they show an increase in transactions in December, up on November and the previous year. While HMRC advises caution and not to get too carried away, it’s certainly a positive, particularly as the impact of the general election is yet to be felt on transaction numbers” according to Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman.
Meanwhile Neil Knight, business development director at Spicerhaart Part-Exchange and Assisted Move, says: “It’s normal that people don’t look to move house around Christmas so we’d have expected to see a bit of a fall-off in December’s figures, but that hasn’t happened. Taken together with the figures for the two months before Christmas, this is a huge shot in the arm and paints a picture of a real recovery starting to take hold.”
Ben Johnston, director of website House, adds: “Transactional volume is what the UK housing market desperately needs, rather than rising property prices, so these figures are encouraging … December’s transaction numbers are perhaps not as telling as those of Q1 2020. These will be the true indicator of whether we are experiencing a ‘Boris bounce’.”
Soaring demand in London is pushing up activity levels with the housing market seeing interest from would-be buyers, including property investors, rocketing, according to the latest report from Knight Frank.
The number of new prospective buyers registering with the company in London rose to its highest weekly total in more than 15 years in the second week of January as they look to capitalise on the certainty brought by December’s general election result.
Knight Frank does not reveal exact numbers but the figure was 92% higher than the same week last year and 95% up on the same period in 2018.
Christopher Burton, head of Knight Frank’s Dulwich office, commented: “The second half of last year was active as buyers ventured back into the market but interest has exploded at the start of this year.”
There are early indications that the relative political certainty provided by last month’s general election result is starting to boost activity in prime London markets, with the number of exchanges for existing properties increasing significantly.
Tom Bill, head of London residential research, said: “The reasons for this uptick include the relatively benign global economic backdrop, ultra-low mortgage rates, the currency discount and the fact prime residential markets have re-priced in response to political uncertainty and tax changes.
“The extent of the pent-up demand that has built over 2019 could also inject more urgency into the market.
“In the final quarter of last year, there were ten new buyers for every new property listed in prime central and outer London, the highest ratio in more than fifteen years.”
It now takes private landlords across the UK more than five months on average from making a claim to the courts for a property to be repossessed to it actually happening, with the problem most acute in London, new figures show.
The data reveals that the average length of time from a claim from a landlord in London to a court issuing an order for a property to be repossessed for legitimate reasons is currently 30 weeks, up from 23 weeks a year earlier.
Landlords in London have the longest wait in the country followed in second place by those in the North East who have to wait an average of 23.5 weeks.
The findings suggest that a major problem contributing to the backlog is the fact that the courts are unable to cope when landlords look to repossess properties for legitimate reasons.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is warning that without major reform and greater funding for the courts the time taken to process cases will only get worse as Ministers prepare to end Section 21 repossessions.
The RLA is calling on the government to establish a dedicated housing court with a view to improving and speeding up access to justice for landlords and tenants in the minority of cases where something goes wrong.
John Stewart, policy manager for the RLA, commented: “If landlords feel that they might have to wait forever to regain possession of their property where they have good reason, such as tenants committing anti-social behaviour or failing to pay their rent, increasing numbers are going to feel it is not worth the risk of letting the property out in the first place.
“This will just add to the already growing shortage of investment in rented housing which is badly needed to meet a rising demand.
“The RLA was delighted when the government consulted on its proposal for a housing court a year ago but nothing has happened since. It needs to get on and get it set up for the benefit of landlords and tenants alike.”
Rents look set to rise over the next 12 months as the supply of new rental properties dries up, according to the latest survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
It said small scale landlords are pulling out of the market due to recent tax and legislative changes which have made buy-to-let investments less profitable.
Landlord instructions remain in decline, with this indicator having been stuck in negative territory since 2016.
Going forward, rents are expected to increase as a consequence of the imbalance between rising demand and falling supply.
In the sales market, activity levels are benefiting from greater political certainty following the outcome of last month’s general election.
There has been a notable increase in residential property sales and this trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
The December 2019 RICS Residential Market Survey shows that sales expectations have increased significantly, with a number of other key activity metrics turning positive for the first time in several months.
Sales expectations for the next 12 months have increased to a net balance of +66%, up from +35% in November, following a sharp rise in enquiries from potential buyers.
This change in activity levels is expected to lead to property price growth in the near and longer-term due to continued imbalance in supply.
In December, 17% more survey respondents saw a rise rather than fall in enquiries from new buyers, up from -5% in November, at the headline level across the UK.
Regionally, the majority of areas saw growth in interest from new buyers, with respondents in Wales and the North East in particular reporting solid growth.
Enquiries also rose in London and the South East, marking a noticeable turnaround from the negative results in November.
Aside from a rise in enquiries from buyers, the number of agreed sales edged up at the national level to +9% net balance. This is the first time since May 2019 that the number of agreed sales has shown a positive result.
Agreed sales in London and East Anglia delivered amongst the strongest improvement in sentiment, with net balances of +22% and +23% respectively, while sales reportedly weakened in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Sales expectations for the next three months are also positive, for the third month running, with +31% of respondents anticipating transactions will increase.
This sentiment is mirrored for sales prospects over the 12 twelve months, which have seen an even greater improvement.
A net balance of +66% of survey participants forecast that sales will rise in the year ahead, up from +35% previously. The strongest net balances were returned in Wales and the South West, although all regions are showing strong improvement.
Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, commented: “The signals from the latest RICS survey provides further evidence that the housing market is seeing some benefit from the greater clarity provided by the decisive election outcome.
“Whether the improvement in sentiment can be sustained remains to be seen given that there is so much work to be done over the course of this year in determining the nature of the eventual Brexit deal.
“However, the sales expectations indicators clearly point to the prospect of more upbeat trend in transactions emerging with potential purchasers being more comfortable in following through on initial enquiries.”
While new instructions picked up at the national level, a net balance of +9% of contributors reported an increase, outside London and the South East, new sales instructions were more or less flat rather than picking up to any degree.
With regards to house prices, the survey’s headline net balance came in at -2%, compared to -11% previously, signalling a broadly flat national trend for the time being.
Going forward, however, near term price expectations were revised higher in all parts of the UK. This indicates a large shift across previously weakening areas, such as London and the South East.
Back at the national level, a net balance of +61% of survey participants see prices increasing at the twelve month horizon (a rise from +33% last time). What’s more, the outlook for house price inflation was adjusted higher right across the UK.
Rubinsohn added: “The ongoing lack of stock on the market remains a potential drag on a meaningful uplift in activity although the very modest increase in new instructions in December is an early hopeful sign.
“Given that affordability remains a key issue in many parts of the country, the shift in the mood-music on prices is a concern with even London expectations pointing to a reversal of course both over the coming months and looking further out.
“This highlights the critical importance of the government addressing the challenge around housing supply particularly with the gradual phasing out of the Help to Buy incentive.”
The 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.”
Fresh research from Proportunity reveals how different property types performed over the past decade, based on price growth.
The data, collected across England and Wales, shows that terraced houses have been the best performing housing type in the past 10 years, with terraced homes in London enjoying the highest house price growth during that time.
The company, which provides Help to Buy-style equity loans, analysed the changing price per square metre of all properties sold in England and Wales since 2010, and found that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for each property type by region, and also at an England and Wales-wide level.
Despite recent stagnation, Greater London was home to the highest performing property types in all but one category over the past decade. The capital’s flats, terraced and semi-detached houses all outperformed their counterparts in other regions, with growth of 4.93%, 5.07%, and 4.33% respectively.
But owners of detached houses in the East of England saw only a marginally higher growth: 3.07% compared to 3.06% in London.
Across all of England and Wales, the top performing property type was terraced houses, with an average growth of 3.05%. Semi-detached houses had growth of 2.9% on average, with flats seeing growth of 2.35%. The slowest growing property type was detached houses, with annual growth rates of 2.33% since 2010.
Flats in the North East performed the worst of any regional property type, with an average decrease in price of 0.5%. Flats in Yorkshire and The Humber, and the North West also lost value over the decade, with 0.12% and 0.04% decreases annually respectively.
Vadim Toader, founder and CEO of Proportunity, said: “The 2010s were marked by the after-effects of the financial crisis, and then by Brexit uncertainty.
“Despite these headwinds, we have largely seen growth across the board but the clear winner is terraced housing, or more specifically, terraced homes in London, with buyers likely attracted to their historic characteristics and charm, as well as their limited supply, compared to new builds. Yet, despite their popularity, they are out of reach for many first time buyers in the capital, with Help to Buy restricted to new-builds only, which are typically flats or semi-detached or detached houses.”
Compound Annual Growth
|Region Name||flat cagr 2010-2019||terr cagr 2010-2019||semi cagr 2010-2019||detached cagr 2010-2019|
|East of England||2.62%||3.47%||3.59%||3.07%|
|Yorkshire and The Humber||-0.12%||0.91%||1.30%||1.32%|
|England and Wales||2.35%||3.05%||2.90%||2.33%|
Price per square metre (£)
|Region Name||flat ppsqm 2010||flat ppsqm 2019||terr ppsqm 2010||terr ppsqm 2019||semi ppsqm 2010||semi ppsqm 2019||detached ppsqm 2010||detached ppsqm 2019|
|East of England||2563.4||3234.3||2423||3294||2474.8||3398.9||2703.6||3550.2|
|Yorkshire and The Humber||1791.2||1772.2||1496.3||1623.3||1691.7||1899.9||1966.6||2212.7|
|England and Wales||2417.1||2978.6||2225.2||2915.7||2347.2||3037||2600.9||3200.3|
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.
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.
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.
Landlords of the draughtiest homes in England and Wales will be required to upgrade their properties ahead of new rules requiring the installation of energy efficiency measures.
Since April 2018, new rules have been in place across England and Wales, setting out minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES).
These regulations made it unlawful for landlords to grant a new lease for properties that have an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating below E, from 1 April 2018, unless the property is registered as an exemption.
While April 2018 heralded an initial change in the rules regarding energy efficiency standards, the bigger picture will see regulations that affect all rental properties, irrespective of the length of tenancy, in April 2020, when it will become unlawful to rent any property that has an existing or continuing tenancy that fails to meet the minimum required energy rating.
What’s more, the government is considering raising this target in another couple of years, at which point ‘D’ is expected to be the minimum EPC rating, so it is worth getting your properties up to scratch now to prevent even more work later.
To help landlords understand the rule changes, Fladgate, a City law firm, has shared some information below to allow them to understand what precautionary measures they should take and the consequences of not complying with MEES.
Do I benefit from an exemption?
If your property is caught by the EPC regime, you must comply with the MEES Regulations, unless you can rely on one of a few exemptions available to landlords, including but not limited to:
1. Exemption due to devaluation – a temporary exemption of 5 years will apply if a landlord can demonstrate that the installation of energy efficiency measures would reduce the market value of the property by more than 5%;
2. Exemption for new landlords – if a person becomes a landlord recently or suddenly in specified circumstances under the MEES Regulations, a temporary exemption of six months will apply; and/or
3. Third party consent – if a landlord cannot obtain necessary third party consents to improve the EPC rating of the property (including but not limited to lender consent, superior landlord consent and/or tenant consent), then a landlord may let a “sub-standard” property.
A landlord wishing to rely upon an exemption must register an exemption on the online Private Rented Sector Exemptions Register. Local authorities give and keep these fines and so are incentivised to enforce the legislation.
What if I don’t comply with the MEES Regulations?
If a landlord fails to comply with the MEES Regulations, there are financial penalties, which vary depending upon the length of the breach.
A landlord renting out a “non-compliant” property (less than three months in breach) may be fined up to either £5,000 or 10% of a rateable value up to a maximum of £50,000, whichever is greater.
A landlord renting out a “non-compliant” property (three months or more in breach) may be fined up to either £10,000 or 20% of the rateable value up to a maximum of £150,000, whichever is greater.
There is also a fine of up to £5,000 for providing false or misleading information, or failing to comply with a compliance notice.
What should I do?
The tightening of the MEES Regulations imposes further onerous obligations on landlords operating within the private rented sector.
If you have a property with an EPC rating of F or G then unless one of the exemptions referred to above applies, you should begin preparing now for the extension of the regulations to existing tenancies to take effect on 1st April 2020.
As the deadline fast approaches, landlords would be well advised to consider the following, in order to protect their assets:
1. Review your property or property portfolios to identify whether or not properties are compliant;
2. Consider the cost and extent of any works required;
3. Consider access to the properties (lease terms permitting) to carry out works required to bring the properties up to the minimum ‘E’ rating; and
4. Consider whether any exemptions may be relied upon.
Failure to do so will impact upon landlords’ abilities to market and deal with their properties.
There is speculation that MEES will rise again in 2022, making ‘C’ or ‘D’ the new minimum requirement. When considering any works to upgrade a property to comply with the MEES Regulations for April 2020, landlords should also bear in bind the potential future impact of the regulations.
TSB has introduced a new range of buy-to-let mortgages.
Available at up to 60% loan-to-value (LTV) there is a two-year fixed rate deal at 1.69%, along with a 75% LTV product at 1.94%.
In addition, there are two buy-to-let five-year fixed rates, starting from 1.99% up to 60% LTV and a 2.24% up to 75% LTV.
All of the products come with a £995 arrangement fee.