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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Agents forced to choose - Rightmove/Zoopla

Annoyingly the launch of a new property search portal, OnTheMarket, will fragment the online property market place. Sadly it will mean we will all have to get back into the routine of checking in at numerous portals to be sure we've seen all the properties up for sale.

For a while, we've been able to go to Rightmove and feel that pretty much every property on the market is on there, but not after the new portal launches on January 26th. 

Rightmove or Zoopla?

OnTheMarket has been set up by a conglomerate of six estate agency chains, and in their wisdom they set down the requirement that any agency using the site can only advertise on one other major property portal. 

Put simply, if any agent wants to be on OnTheMarket they will have to drop either Rightmove or Zoopla.  

The founding agents have began to announce their own ' one other portal' choice, and so far Rightmove are sitting 2-1 up.

One founding agency, Chestertons have just announced they are opting to stay with Zoopla, whereas Savills and Frank Knight had already announced they are sticking with Rightmove.

The three remaining founders, Douglas & Gordon, Glentree Estates and Strutt & Parker are yet to announce their choices.

So be warned, if you don't want to miss out on property after January 26th you'll have to search in more than one place. 

New online accelerated possession form

A new online form for accelerated possession & eviction of a tenant has just appeared on the government website.

Initial reactions from landlords is that the form is easier to use than the N5B form which is the alternative. This is because the autofills and the date checker which makes it quicker to fill in and less likely that a landlord makes a simple error. There is always plenty of discussion around the questions posed by the N5B form on our forum.

The N5B form is a difficult one as there are a number of very ambiguous questions.

We found as part of our Property Hawk Training Event - Letting Essentials that the N5B workshop was particular helpful for our landlords.

New accelerated possession form

The new form may be slightly easier to use but it is no online end to end possession solution.  What would be really useful is if landlords could not only fill out the form online but also upload a copy of the tenancy agreement and proof of service and then pay the £280 online.  All this could be done and the form could have a digital signature from the landlord.  Having done all this online all a landlord would need to do would be to press 'Submit' and the whole legal bundle of paper work and payment would be sent as one job lot to the relevant court.

Dream on landlords!

To read more about filling out an N5B form for possession

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Brighton landlord fined £6000 for HMO

The landlord of a House in Multiple Occupation in Brighton has been fined £6,000 following a prosecution lead by Brighton and Hove City Council.

The landlord, Antony Paul Martin pleaded guilty to four management offences.

The HMO was described as being in 'filthy' condition, tiles were hanging from the kitchen ceiling, there were holes in the bedroom ceiling, the heating was broken and no fire alarms.

Martin was fined £2000 for failing to have the required HMO licence in place, and £1000 for each of the four property management offences. 

On top of £6000 in fines, Martin was also ordered to pay costs of £600 and a £120 victim surcharge.


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NLA claim landlords are owed £850m in rent

According to NLA research, a third of UK landlords have experienced rent arrears in the last 12 months. 

Their figures equate to nearly 500,000 of us 'lettings folk' being owed cash by our current or ex- tenants - poor us.

With the average figure for outstanding rent at £1,649, the NLA have concluded a total of £850m might be owed in unpaid rent across the UK.

The NLA research also reported that 22 per cent of landlords are worried that their tenants won’t be able to keep up rental payments in 2015.

Sellers cutting asking prices

Increasingly property owners are having to cut their prices to grab a buyer.

Zoopla are reporting that 3.8 billion have been knocked off the value of the initial advertised prices, with nearly a third of the properties advertised on the portal now discounted from when they first touched onto the market.

The property portal have also seen an increase in the value of these price reductions since the start of the year. The average reduction now sits at 6.7 percent taken from the initial asking price ( or £24,429 in hard cash ), a increase from the 6.3 percent (£20,781) that the site was seeing back in February 2014.

It seems increasingly owners are having to take a reality check, particularly those in the north.

Preston has the highest frequency of price reductions, along with Barnsley, Wakefield and Rotherham.

Zoopla’s Lawrence Hall remains buoyant (but he would) saying  

"The property market typically slows in December as buyers postpone their plans until the New Year and become pre-occupied with the festive season, but these figures suggest that sellers may be being forced to rest their expectations and become more realistic in order to secure a buyer. People are well attuned to a bargain at this time of year, so homebuyers may want to capitalise on the latest raft of reductions."

Stressing the positives, Hall added:

 "The recent Stamp Duty reforms have injected a real feel-good factor into the property market that is likely to last into January when there will be a renewed surge in buyers looking for property. There would usually be an air of uncertainty in the lead up to an election, but the positivity created by the tax overhaul should ensure this isn’t as keenly felt as usual."

List of Savills property auctions in 2015

Savills have published the schedule of their property auctions for 2015.

Held in Nottingham and London, the first of their auction dates for 2015 will take place at Nottingham Racecourse on the 19th January.

See the full list of Savills future property auctions 

PRS All Party PG complain of 'bewildering' data

Following on from Sarah Teather's failed 'Revenge Eviction bill, the Private Rented Sector's All-Party Parliamentary Group has announced that far more work should be done to find out just how big a problem 'revenge eviction are in PRS.

The group complained the range of figures put forward were so “bewildering” and vastly different that they were impossible to properly judge what course of action should be best taken. They complained of not having access to “objective data that hasn’t been collected by a particular group with a vested interest was impossible”.

The data put forward by Shelter claimed that 213,000 tenants had faced eviction last year following a request to their private landlord for repairs, a figure that nobody in the lettings industry could vaguely recognise as been realistic.

The APPG chair Oliver Colvile said: “Evidence is crucial to making good policy – and at the moment we just don’t have that evidence.

“If the number of retaliatory evictions is as low as some of those who gave evidence at our inquiry suggested, then Parliament should consider whether making tenants aware of their existing rights might be better than introducing more regulations."

“If this latest amendment does go ahead, then we will still need good evidence to ensure that we can monitor its success.”


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ONS House Price Index for October 2014

The key points from the latest ONS data on UK house prices show that -

  • UK house prices increased by 10.4% in the year to October 2014, down from 12.1% in the year to September 2014.
  • House price annual inflation was 10.8% in England, 5.7% in Wales, 4.9% in Scotland and 4.9% in Northern Ireland. 
  • House prices continue to increase strongly across the UK, with prices in London again showing the highest growth.
  • Annual house price increases in England were driven by an annual increase in London of 17.2% and to a lesser extent increases in the South East (11.9%) and the East (9.6%).
  • Excluding London and the South East, UK house prices increased by 6.7% in the 12 months to October 2014.
  • On a seasonally adjusted basis, average house prices increased by 0.1% between September and October 2014.
  • In October 2014, prices paid by first-time buyers were 12.0% higher on average than in October 2013. For owner-occupiers (existing owners), prices increased by 9.7% for the same period.






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The new Starter Home Initiative

The Government's new Starter Home initiative has been launched by the Prime Minister

The aim of the scheme is to help 100,000 first-time buyers under the age of forty into new homes with the aid of a 20% discount with help from house builders.

Under the new proposals, those builders who offer up new Starter Homes under the scheme would have them exempted from any Section 106 charges and Community Infrastructure Levy charges. This exemption could save developers, on average, £15,000 per new home. A cost saving that would then be knocked off from the sales price. Well that's the scheme in principle.

The homes will not be able to be re-sold at market value for a fixed period to avoid a 'flipping' re-sale opportunity, so we'll have to all wait and see if these discounts really end up being 20% or just less than a price that was too much.

The big builders have been very good at getting un-realistic valuations placed on new developments in the past. I remember some of the fantastical city centre apartment valuing that was going on in the boom times.

A sale is not always sale.

Scottish prices settle after referendum


The latest data formulated by LSL/Acadata shows that Scottish average property price grew by O.7% in October.

Christine Campbell, regional managing director of Your Move, comments: 

“Since the independence question evaporated, a new ray of confidence and certainty is radiating through the market, as normality is resumed. The feel-good factor is especially pronounced at the highest tiers of the property market, where political uncertainty froze activity most acutely. Sales of properties worth £1 million or above have more than doubled from September to October, as high-end homes begin to change hands again. In fact, October 2014 saw the biggest number of million-pound properties sold in a single month since September 2008.

In brief
  • Scottish property prices jump 0.7% (or £1,200) in October, as market confidence returns 
  • Average house price in Scotland now stands only £717 below pre-recession peak in May 2008
  • Million-pound property sales soar after independence vote concludes and buoys top of market
  • Biggest annual rise in East Renfrewshire, but prices drop in East Lothian and Aberdeen City in October 

Dr Peter Williams, housing market specialist and Chairman of Acadata, comments: 

"In October, house prices returned to positive growth in Scotland on a seasonally adjusted basis, finishing the month at an average of £164,800, up by £1,200, or 0.7%, on September. This was the tenth of the last twelve months in which house prices have risen, with falls limited to the months of August and September - the two months which straddled the referendum, and the resultant uncertainty that defined the period.
An example of the uncertainty that existed prior to the referendum, and the new-found confidence emerging in the housing market subsequent to the outcome being known, is shown by the number of property sales that were priced at £1 million or higher. Figure 1 below depicts the count of £1 million-plus property sales in Scotland by month, since January 2013."

Roll out of universal credit locations

Landlords letting to tenants on benefits should be interested in the roll out of universal credit.

These are the next locations for the universal credit scheme which could be coming to a town near your soon.

Cynical landlords might say "Wait for the results of the next general election" which will see the scheme jetersoned by the Tories if they get in as an unworkable coalition inspired cock up.  If the others get it they we just say it's unworkable.

We look forward to it's replacement with bated breath - possibly something like Housing Benefit perhaps?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rents keep moving upwards

Property Hawks sister website the Rent Index is sparking interest across the pond in New York from researchers at Morgan Stanley looking at what UK private rental sector rents are telling us about the health of the UK economy.

Rent Index unlike other indexes of rents is a real time index meaning that landlords and property professional can see what the average private sector rent is at that particular moment using actual rental figures from the tenancy agreement used to create a tenancy created a recently as the previous day.

The Rentindex currently shows that private sector rents continue the long-term trend upwards having peaked at just short of £650 in October time they have fallen back slightly reflecting the usual Winter slowdown in the rental market.  At the time of writing the average rent was £647 up 2.5% on the year.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Most popular BTL mortgages

Most popular buy-to-let mortgages
Max LTV Initial Rate Term Completion fee Booking fee Incentives Lender
85% 4.99% Fixed 2 Years 3% £130.00 No Kent Reliance Semi Exclusive
85% 5.49% Discount 2 Years 3% £130.00 No Kent Reliance Multi Let & Ltd Co. Semi Exclusive
80% 5.39% Variable 0 Years 2% £0.00 No Saffron Light Refurbishment
80% 3.99% Fixed 2017-02-28 £2495 £150.00 Free valuation Mortgage Trust Exclusive
80% 4.99% Fixed 2017-02-28 0% £150.00 Free valuation Mortgage Trust Exclusive
80% 3.9% Discount 2 Years 0% £0.00 No Hanley Economic Exclusive
75% 2.34% Fixed 2017-02-28 2.5% £150.00 Free valuation Mortgage Trust Exclusive
75% 3.69% Fixed 2017-02-28 0% £150.00 Free valuation Mortgage Trust Exclusive
75% 2.5% Discount 2 Years £1995 £250.00 One free Valuation on properties valued up to £1,000,000 Hinckley & Rugby Exclusive
75% 5.39% Variable 0 Years 2.5% £0.00 No Saffron Light Refurbishment
70% 2.35% Fixed 2017-01-31 £2495 £0.00 Free valuation and free standard legals for remortgages. Skipton Exclusive
60% 1.99% Fixed 2017-01-31 £2495 £0.00 Free valuation and free standard legals for remortgages. Skipton Exclusive
60% 2.45% Discount 2 Years £1950 £250.00 One free Valuation on properties valued up to £1,000,000 Hinckley & Rugby Exclusive
IMPORTANT! Due to current market conditions, lenders are withdrawing and replacing products with little or no notice.  Please check our website regularly to see the most up-to-date products available.  
 
Search the whole BTL mortgage market free
 

Email:info@propertyhawkbtlmortgages.co.uk
Tel: 029 2069 5446
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HMRC gather £7.9m from Let Property Scheme


The HMRC Let Property Campaign has raised £7.9 million in additional tax since its launch back in Autumn 2013.
The Government's scheme was launched as part of initiative to recover  undeclared, or under-declared rental income by offering landlords the opportunity to take up more favourable terms on any voluntary disclosures.

Promoted Disclosure

40,000 landlords were sent a letter from the Let Property Scheme offering ‘promoted disclosure’ within a thirty day time window in which to make contact and regularise their tax affairs. The letters also made it clear that the same favourable conditions would not be available beyond the thirty day window. 

Landlords who ignored or failed to respond to the HMRC offer would then risk more substantial penalties on any paid taxes, of up to 100% of the unpaid liabilities (or up to 200% for offshore related income), investigation under Code of Practice 8/9 and in certain cases criminal prosecutions.

Penalties

The rate of penalties varies depending on the landlords individual circumstances and whether they made an 'unprompted' or a 'prompted' disclosure. Interest will be charged from the date the tax is due till the date it is actually paid.

Sources of Information

HMRC has recently started gathering information from a wider range of sources beyond Local Authorities, the Land Registry and the Electoral Roll.

In late 2014, hundreds of estate agents were sent statutory notices to provide details of rents collected on behalf of all landlords.

Ian Leigh, Property Tax Specialist at Accountancy Firm Jeffreys Henry LLP, commented:

“With increased data gathering actives, it’s less likely a case of if but more likely when HMRC catches up with you. Landlords with undeclared or under disclosed rental income who have not yet been contacted by HMRC and want to regularise their affairs should take this opportunity as soon as possible. Very favourable terms and affordable repayment plans can often be negotiated.”

HMRC estimates that up to 1.5 million landlords may be underpaying £500m in tax every year.

According to the official website, HMRC has so far collected £7,852,753 under the Let Property Campaign as at as at 30 Oct 2014.

Common Misconceptions

Many buy-to-let and accidental landlords have under declared rental profits having misunderstood the rules. The most common misconception is that landlords believe all of the mortgage repayments can be offset however it’s only the interest proportion.

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Southern property investors pile onto the North

Southern property investors are piling into northern cities according to report in the Sunday Times attracted by the low values and high yields.  Liverpool, Sunderland and Blackpool top the yield charts with 7%, 6.9% and 6.9% respectively.

A recent survey given to the Sunday Times shows 61% of investors buying in the north are based in London or the South.

Example of a property investor

The paper uses the example of Matthew Earl a 36 year old IT work who has used equity in his Streatham property to finance his northern portfolio which now numbers 10 properties in the likes of Chesterfield, Sheffield and Manchester.  He is attracted by the cash flow and favourable net rental yield of 4%.

All sounds familiar .....

Those of us who have been investing in property for a while recongnise the scenario of Londoners using their wealth into the north....will this bring about a property boom in our northern cities?  Probably not, unless the whole economy starts booming but it will help to support property values in the city and town centre apartment market.

One thing that landlords looking at investing in new apartments is the property management overcharging on the service charge.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Landlord licensing scheme fails

Enfield Council has just failed in its first attempt to be the latest local authority to introduce a comprehensive landlord licence for all landlords.

The licensing scheme was kicked out by Judge Mckenna on a technicality over the consultation process following representation from landlord Constantinos Regas.

The Council will be requesting leave to challenge the decision meaning that district a compulsive district wide license in Enfield is still on the cards.

This is another example of the creeping landlord licensing through the back door door as councils see it as a way of raising revenue through a blanket licence for landlords.  The proposed licence for Enfield landlords was to be £500 for each property owned and was originally to commence in April 2015.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Landlord Energy Saving Allowance (LESA) - ends 2015

Landlords looking at minimising their income tax liabilities and looking at also reducing their impact on the environment and retaining their green credentials will need to move fast.

The governments Landlord Energy Saving Allowance (LESA) where landlords can offset up to £1500 each year against their rental profits for certain types of insulation. The LESA is due to end in 5th April 2015 meaning that landlords only have about 4 months to make their investment and claim their allowance before the end of the current tax year.

 For details of how landlords can save money on their income tax.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Landlords suffering possession delays

 Landlord Action say that courts are struggling to keep up with a 15% increase in possession cases and the system is buckling under the pressure.

Julie Herbert, head of legal at Landlord Action says

‘We are forever chasing courts for updates on possession orders, Notice of Issues or bailiff appointments. By the courts' own admission, cases are getting overlooked, administrative errors are being made and there are simply not enough bailiffs to support the number of cases, leading to long delays,’

These delays are leading to landlords losing thousands of pounds in unpaid rent. One landlord, Mr Waller, who has suffered delays after the courts managed to lose his claim, not once but twice reflected,

‘Our eviction case has been delayed for almost a year due to severe maladministration by the courts. Files were repeatedly lost and the inefficiency we and Landlord Action encountered was astounding,’



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Dianne Abbott's rent control proposals

Diane Abbott MP is calling for rent controls in the private rental sector.

The prospective London Mayor proposes a calculation for her rent control, restricting monthly rents to no more than half of a properties annual council tax bill.

Abbott says that those landlords who wish to opt out of her rent control scheme can, as long as they pay a surcharge on any rental amounts that are in excess of her proposed rental cap formula.

The money from these surcharges would then be fed into a newly created fund controlled by the Mayor of London and used to fund the building of new social housing.

Abbott argues : “A major international city without measures to stabilise rent runs the risk of rents spiralling out of people’s reach. It is no coincidence that New York, Paris and Berlin all have some version of rent control. For too long politicians have rejected any form of rent controls but it is time to look at the issue again.”

She has sent these proposals to the Prime Minister and Ed Miliband, including demands for
these powers to be granted to other local authorities across the country, if their local public want it.

The revolution is upon us....

The Standard report on Abbott's rent controls

Channel 4 interview Abbott about rent control proposal





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Noisy tenants now a landlords responsibility

A decision by Bournemouth Magistrates Court could mean landlords and letting agents of holiday homes become responsible for the behaviour of their tenants.

District Judge Stephen Nicholls upheld a noise abatement notice issued to a Poole lettings agent after an appeal case. 

The noise abatement notice had been served to letting agent Michelle King by the Borough of Poole, following a number of complaints about noisy weekenders / hen and stag parties  at a number of holiday rental properties around Poole.

The letting agent's legal team had attempted to argue that though the noise was unacceptable, it was a problem caused by the tenants of the property, and therefore something beyond their client's control, as she had never been present at the time of any of the incidents.

However, this argument was dismissed by the judge, who upheld the noise abatement notice served on Michelle King and her letting agency Deluxe Holiday Homes.

Earlier this year, the issues with problem of wild parties had been raised in Parliament by the local MP, Robert Syms. 

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Sweet spot from new stamp duty rates

The changes to stamp duty in England and Wales have created a property price 'sweet spot'.

Those properties valued between the £250,000 and  £280,000 are expected to do well out of the stamp duty changes.

Previously, properties valued at this range had prices somewhat artificially suppressed by the £2.5k hit applied by the stepped 1 percent rating on purchase price at £250,000.

With the chancellor's new graduated system, this segment of the market should see added price impetus, as the new thresholds ease up the gradual stamp duty charges through the tiers of the new version of stamp duty

The industry is predicting the changes will bring a boom in sales of homes between £250,000 and £280,000 — roughly the national average house price, and a big tranche of the sales volumes.

The 2015 property market can only be helped by the changes.

But before that kicks in - Christmas.

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Buy to let lending hits post crash high

The Bank of England's official data shows that buy-to-let mortgage lending hit the highest level since the crash of 2008.

Official data showed lending rocketing from £5.9 in the 3rd quarter of 2013 to £8bn in the same quarter this year.

Buy-to-let mortgage choice continues to increase with Moneyfacts reporting in July that the number of buy-to-let mortgage products had expanded to a post crash high of 665, a rise of 42.7% on a year earlier.

The cost of borrowing for landlords also continues to fall with rates of 4.17% for the average fixed rate and 4.03% for the variable rate mortgages as of July this year.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Oxford HMO landlord fined £11,500

An Oxford HMO landlord, Juan Zaide Avila pleaded guilty to five breaches of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006.

Environmental Health Officers from Oxford City Council discovered Avila was renting out an unlicensed House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) . The property was described as being in a'poor state of disrepair'.

Avila pleaded guilty to all charges. He was fined a total of £11,500, of which, £7,500 was for not having the required HMO licence, £2000 was for insufficient fire detection and fire doors and a further £500 for each of the four other offences relating to the properties poor state of repair.

The Council’s costs of £1,124 were also charged to the landlord.


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Cheapest street in Britain

Limetrees Close in Stockton-on-Tees has been named as Britain's cheapest street.

A two bedroom semi on the street is set for Eddison's property auctions in Leeds on Thursday with a guide of £5,000.

However, before we all get on the train to the North East, the street does seem to have it's fair share of issues - houses have been firebombed and gangs of flatbed trucks go around stealing scrap metal - including water and electricity meters.

One for the brave.

Read more on Britain's cheapest street in the Telegraph


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BOE report on impact of rate rises

Here's the Bank of England's report on the impact of a interest rate rise on households - the 2014 report from NMG consulting - alternatively titled - 'when the s**t hits the fan.'


Tax guide for landlords living abroad

Those lucky landlords who have the luxury of living abroad in warmer climes. I'm hoping to join you in the not too distant future. Perhaps Palma, Majorca or somewhere with a relaxed tax regime such as Belize. However, absent landlords need to take note of the latest guidance just released by the UK government on paying tax on rent to landlords abroad.

It appears that there is no escape for UK landlords living abroad even for more than 6 months a years under the Non-resident Landlord Scheme (NLS) which requires tenants paying over £100 per week in rent or letting agents to collect the tax from the rent and pay it direct to the Government  unless HMRC informs them that this is not required.

Yet another example of Government using us all as their own unpaid little tax collector.  Anybody who has a business that is registered for VAT will know all about this.

Guide on landlord income tax

Monday, December 08, 2014

Site glitch and server upgrade

The site glitches and software 'ave' now been sorted.

The issues were the result of our server upgrade.

We do apologise for any frustrations caused.

Progress is never straight forward!

The Property Hawk team

Exeter Council adds to HMO classification

Exeter Council have ammended their regulations covering Houses in Multiple Occupation following a recent consultancy period.

Two additional property types will be classified as HMO from the 23rd February 2015.

These are -

Flats or maisonettes either above commercial premises (shops, offices etc.) or in mixed use buildings, where the flats or maisonettes are let to three or more people, forming more than one household, who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet
 

Buildings which have been converted entirely into self contained flats, where the conversion does not meet the standards set by the 1991 Building Regulations, and where less than two thirds of the flats are owner occupied (properties converted into 2 flats or maisonettes will only require a licence if both flats or maisonettes are rented).

Go to the Exeter Council Site to download the additional HMOs clarification document

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Low interest rates until 2020?

According to Stephanie Flanders writing in This is Money today, the 'Office for Budget Responsibility is assuming that the first interest rate rise will come late in 2015, and that rates will be below 2 per cent for a further two years, reaching 2.2 per cent only by the start of 2020.'

So hopefully landlords will benefit from cheap money for a few more years to come, but nothing is guaranteed.

Read Stephanie Flanders evaluation of interest rates in This is Money




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Savills final property auction 2014

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Landlord fined over electrical safety offences

Landlord Shahzad Afzal was fined by Teesside Magistrates under offences against the Housing Act 2004 relating to the electrical safety in a rental property.

The offences came to life after a tip off to environmental health officers in Middlesbrough. The electricity meters at the house had been removed in December last year by the electricity provider due to alleged tampering and following an inspection of the rental property a number of electrical installations at the property were found to be unsafe including sockets with exposed wiring.

The landlord was fined £525 and ordered to pay costs of £1,641 along with a victim surcharge of £52. To read more about the case.

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