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Saturday, October 31, 2009

LHA RULING good news for landlords

A Housing Benefit Tribunal has ruled that a tenant’s rental arrears begin as soon as their due date to pay rent has passed, not eight weeks later as some local authorities have argued.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is paid directly from the local authority to the tenant – but unlike most rent, it’s paid in arrears. If a tenant is eight weeks or more in arrears with their payments, their landlord can apply to the local authority to have LHA paid directly to themselves, bypassing the tenant.

But there has been disagreement between landlords and local authorities as to when ‘eight weeks in arrears’ begins, as landlords calculate from the beginning of the month, but local authorities follow Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) guidance which states that ‘a person cannot be in rent arrears in respect of a period that has not yet been served’ – in other words, arrears does not begin until the end of the month.

In his judgment (I Doncaster v Coventry City Council), Mr. C Jones, the Chairman of the Coventry Appeal Tribunal, disagreed with the DWP, saying

Rent is in arrears once the contractual date for payment has passed irrespective of whether rent is due in advance or in arrear.

The decision does not set a precedent, nor is it binding upon similar cases, but landlords with tenants in receipt of LHA who are in arrears may find it strengthens their argument with local authorities.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Calls to force landlords to fit fire alarms

The BBC recently reported about the heart rendering case of two children dying in a house fire.

Tragic and appalling. The local MP has typically responded by calling for legislation requiring all landlords to fit properties with fire alarms.

The landlord involved in this case was a public sector housing association the Rivieria Housing Trust.

I just worry that this could be the latest hobby horse that the politicians could get on and another opportunity for indiscriminate landlord bashing.

Currently there is no legislation forcing landlords to install fire alarms, but in 2004 a code of practice was issued by the government saying landlords had a "duty of care to fit compliant smoke and heat alarm systems".

I'm not against mandatory fitting of fire alarms in all property, although I can see lots of practical problems with this. Who gets prosecuted if alarm is disconnected because it keeps being set off every time somebody burns their toast? But what I would hate to see is that landlords get targeted in isolation.

What all of us landlords, homeowners and tenants need is to do is recognise that fire as a significant threat to life and take precautions to guard against it and not make certain groups more culpable than others.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Number of purchases increase in the Buy to Let mortgage market

Mortgages For Business has released its quarterly analysis of Buy To Let mortgages transactions for Q3 2009. There has been a shift towards purchase transactions away from remortgages with 77% of applications being for acquisitions against 65% in Q2. This trend has been maintained in transactions received thus far in October at 76%.

These figures have been matched by increased levels of business activity across the whole spectrum of property types. Funding for HMOs, freeholds with multiple flats and studios is becoming more available and Allsop’s Residential Auction on Thursday 29 October is packed with investment properties on attractive yields. Interestingly Allsops have commented that their auctions at this time last year consisted of nearly 80% distressed sales but this figure is now significantly lower. Having obtained decision in principle mortgage offers for several clients intending to bid on some of the 277 lots to be auctioned, logging onto their “live auction” web page could make for an interesting day.

If the start of the property production line is deemed to be “Greenfield” development or conversion of existing properties to create more flats, then the only real constraint to a market revival is the availability of property development finance. We are getting three enquiries a day from small to medium sized developers looking for funding between £500K and £5M – and two of the High Street banks have no development appetite whatsoever. Those remaining lenders are able to set robust terms as their own funding lines cannot be readily expanded in the short term.

SMEs are also active on both refinancing and acquisition. The former are driven by their incumbent banks imposing tougher terms on facility renewal and the latter are seeking more competitive terms on purchases as banks struggle to improve the weighting margin on their commercial mortgages. Understandably this is not a market wide problem so the recently more confident stance of the Santander brands is a welcome addition to the market.

As a whole of market broker we are seeing some quiet confidence amongst clients that the property market is stabilising; none of them expect or want significant growth in the short term but a lack of consistency from some lenders is a big break on market activity.

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NEW buy-to-let tax guides launched

Two new 2009 tax saving guides launched:

* Tax Saving Tactics for Non-Doms

* The Investor's Tax Bible

Tax Saving Tactics for Non-Doms explains the very latest tax rules for non-domiciled individuals. Subjects covered include:

* How to structure a 100% tax-free overseas investment portfolio
* How to escape the £30,000 charge by giving assets to your children
* How non-dom couples can save an extra £1,599 tax every year
* Why a couple with £80,000 in overseas bank accounts can completely avoid UK tax

** The Investor's Tax Bible **

Shares have risen by over 50% since March. This guide contains a huge amount of unique tax saving information that will help you pay less income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax on your stock market income and capital gains.

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Billionaire - doesn't eat vegetables

Anybody who wants to find out how to make loads of money should watch the Money Programmes' documentary on Warren Buffet.

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This octogenarian investor is currently the second richest man in the world with a fortune of some $40 billion.

How has he done it?

Anybody watching the programme will be struck by how Buffet has shunned all forms of modern technology, fashions, trends conventions and stuck to what he knows and what he likes.

There may well be parallels with property investing.

How many unfortunate landlords ended up in the 'sh...i' after following volumes of property investing guides, manuals from so called property gurus.

The defining feature of Buffet is that every morning when he looks in the mirror he listens to his reflection rather than the background chatter that preoccupies the media.

This means that he has the conviction to follow his own rules when everybody else is saying that you are behind the trends. It also allows him the confidence to break his own rules when he thinks he needs to.

Landlords and property investors should take this on board and follow their own paths rather than trying to emulate others.

Whilst I'm keen to have some of his financial success I not sure of a diet of coke and steak would suit me but looking at the health of Buffet it clearly works for him.

I guess we are all different and maybe we should have more conviction to live our own lives rather than follow trends, fashions, fads and we will all be a little happier and potentially more successful too.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Landlords looking for the claims form for possession of property ( N5B )

Landlords who are looking at taking possession of their property through the county court will need to issue a claim for possession of property.

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If they have served a section 21 notice for possession they will need a N5B claim form for property (accelerated procedure)(assured shorthold tenancy) .

For the notes to assist you in filling out the form you should download a copy of the N5C

Make sure that you lodge your claim in the correct county court. It has to be the one that has jurisdiction over the area in which the buy-to-let property that you as the landlord are seeking possession of.

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Latest set of poor economic figures - good news for landlords

Looking at the latest economic news delivered at the end of last week which showed that the economy is still officially in depression, registering a 0.4% shrinking in the 3rd quarter. This means that the 'downturn' has now officially hit the depths of the last 'biggy' of 79-81. Hardly grounds for optimism. 'Au contraire' me thinks.

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Why the optimism?
Firstly house prices appear to be showing some signs of stability meaning that the sharp and painful falls may be coming to an end.

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Secondly, the latest data has strengthened many economists expectation that the government will be forced to keep interest rates on hold at their historically low levels for the entire 2010. For any landlords with tracker mortgages in place then this could mean another bumper year of rental profits.

It appears that all this gloomy news may not be so bad after all!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oxford Landlord Accreditation Scheme Crumbles

Landlord accreditation schemes just keep failing.

God bless the Government and Local Councils for their complete lack of common sense and any true grasp of reality.

If only things would work as they imagined, during those hours of speculation, discussion and tea and biscuits, the consultants and those time serving (let's pretend I have a lot to do, with all these meetings about meetings,) public sector managers.

This time it's Oxford councils turn to trumpet their new Landlord Accreditation Scheme which looks to change the face of renting in the area.

.....Sorry, just choked on my rich tea, .... carry on.

The new Oxford Landlord Accreditation Scheme, is apparently a list of the city’s best landlords, it started last month by Oxford City Council.

The schemes concept was a website with a list of approved landlords.

Here's where it falls down (as usual!!), landlords will be accepted on a self-certification basis, and, according to the council guidelines, only a number of applicants will be inspected.

A local letting agent commented that “The council is making promises to tenants that are a sham......... nobody is going to check any of this. The council has already confirmed it is not going to inspect all the properties so I just don’t get it."

“Where then is the benefit in being accredited?”

Can I have that last Hobnob? ...... OK, let's schedule in the next meeting, and shall we try getting some cake next time?


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Landlords losing out if letting agent goes bust

Reports in the Guardian on Friday highlighted one of the drawbacks of using one of the Governments Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS).

Whilst it protect tenants amd their deposit should the landlord go bust it does not protect a landlord who has used a letting agent to protect the tenancy deposit. The scheme called Mydeposits allows landlords and letting agents to protect the tenants deposit through an insurance based policy.

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Mydeposits is 50% owned by the NLA. Steve Hilton a spokesperson for the NLA commented:

"Under the terms of the protection scheme, there is nothing to stop a landlord keeping a tenant's deposit for the duration of the rental, as long as it is kept in a ring-fenced account and protected via the scheme," Hilton says.

"Landlords need to be aware that the scheme offers them no protection in the event the letting agent disappears with the money. It was a badly worded law and, until the lettings business is properly regulated, these problems will continue to arise."

A spokesman for the Association of Residential Letting Agents (Arla) says that had Tower been a member of Arla, the landlord could have claimed from the association's Client Money Protection Scheme. "Landlords choosing an Arla member, or an agent who's part of its sister body, the National Association of Estate Agents, would be covered in the unlikely event that the agent disappeared along with the deposit."

Although 90% of lettings agents are not affiliated to either body, Arla says its members account for about 500,000 of the 800,000 new tenancies signed each year.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

TIP OF THE WEEK 2: Using your spouse to save property tax.

Another top tip from Stephen Fay - the property investor's accountant. Please feel free to contact Stephen, who is on hand to answer any more detailed questions - his email is

Using your spouse to save property tax:

Jointly owning investment property with a spouse can generate
substantial tax savings for married couples (and Civil Partnerships).
This is mainly because several important tax reliefs and tax bands are
available on a per person basis e.g. the personal allowance & the
basic rate tax band. This is especially useful where one spouse is in
a different tax band to the other, or if a spouse does not use up
their personal allowance.

It is possible to have any split of beneficial ownership for
properties owned jointly as Tenants In Common (it is easy and cheap to
switch properties held as a Joint Tenancy to a Tenants In Common basis,
the change does not incur capital gains tax).

Changing the beneficial ownership of a property means that rental
income and profits can be shared in a different way to the legal
ownership of the property.

This then means that income tax is charged on the profits according to
the agreed split, and not on a 50-50 basis. Couples need to jointly
elect for the income to be split in accordance with the beneficial
title in the property.

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Shortlist of the Homebuilding and Renovating Awards

For residential property developers / investors looking for inspiration, check out this years Shortlist of the Homebuilding and Renovating Awards.

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BTL is back ..........

Buy-to let is back in town!

RICS figures show a 2 per cent increase in the number of surveyors that reported an increase rather than a fall in buy-to-let demand in the three months to September.

The recovery in demand from investors is centred around houses, and not the blighted city centre apartments that continue to suffer.

Demand continues to be geographically variable, the Midlands remains weak and the Northwest has seen the strongest increase in demand.

Is BTL back for good........?

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Tenants the worms that turned.

Apparently more and more tenants are starting to check out the suitability of landlords.

After years of landlords been a bit sniffy about prospective tenants, it's now the tenants who like to give their landlords a good look up and down.

"Mmmm, dirty shoes, no proper job, unshaven, just got out of bed ... maybe I won't rent from him."

David Underwood, a lettings consultant at Darwoods in St Albans, Herts, has noticed a "marked shift" in emphasis. "Tenants have been far more interested in landlords' backgrounds and are asking more questions about where their deposit is being held," he says.

Tenants are also balking at the prospect of paying six months' rent upfront if they are self-employed and do not hold audited accounts.

"In this situation the agent can take the money, hold it in a non-interest bearing account and pay the landlord themselves," says Underwood.

Tenants are now increasingly taking references out on landlords, to check out their financial stability.

The worm is starting to turn.

Read more in this Guardian article

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Saturday, October 24, 2009


New 60% LTV tracker mortgage 3.99%
Interest rate: 3.99%
LTV: 60%
Product Detail: Barclays bank base rate + 3.49
Arrangement Fee: 1.75%
Early Redemption Penalties: 6 months within first 32 months.
Our thoughts: Watch out for the base rate - its Barclays bank base rate not Bank of England base rate so won't necessarily always be the same.

And of course our old favourite for 75% LTV
BM Solutions
Interest rate: 4.35%
LTV: 75%
Product Detail: 1 year tracker
Arrangement Fee: 3%
Early Redemption Penalties: 3% in first year.
Our thoughts: The lowest rental cover for 75% loan to value mortgages but watch the reversionary rate after the first year

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Choosing an Estate Agent

When one thinks of estate agents it is rarely fondly. Most people have been disappointed with their service or feel disadvantaged. But are all estate agents the same? If you are looking for a new home, and are contacting estate agents to help you with your search it might be a good idea to first conduct some research on the agencies themselves in order to choose the best estate agent for you. Thus a good place to start is their portfolio and look at what kind of houses for sale and rent they offer. Estate Agents usually differ in their area of expertise, most specialise in the buying market with fewer focusing on rental properties.

Larger estate agents may have offices in many different regions across the country but as a prospective buyer or tenant their knowledge of the local area you’re looking at is more important. You might wish to check if they are keeping up to date with new property developments and town planning as well as knowing about good schools, transport links and if for example the neighbourhood is child friendly etc.

Many estate agents will also be able to help you with mortgage calculations and arrange inventories; sometimes they will take on full property management duties if the landlord is absent. Especially when you are thinking of renting a property it is important to check what services the managing agent offers, as you will have to deal with them throughout the tenancy.

Usually after having contacted various agencies and having gained an insight in their marketing and managing strategies it will become clear that not all estate agents are the same.

Hamptons international- properties for sale

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DPS provides no protection for landlords

Reports in the Guardian at the weekend highlight one of the drawbacks of the Governments Deposit Protection scheme.

Whilst it protect tenants amd their deposit should the landlord go bust it does not protect a landlord who has used a letting agent to protect the tenancy deposit.

A recent

"Under the terms of the protection scheme, there is nothing to stop a landlord keeping a tenant's deposit for the duration of the rental, as long as it is kept in a ring-fenced account and protected via the scheme," Hilton says.

"Landlords need to be aware that the scheme offers them no protection in the event the letting agent disappears with the money. It was a badly worded law and, until the lettings business is properly regulated, these problems will continue to arise."

A spokesman for the Association of Residential Letting Agents (Arla) says that had Tower been a member of Arla, Benn could have claimed from the association's Client Money Protection Scheme. "Landlords choosing an Arla member, or an agent who's part of its sister body, the National Association of Estate Agents, would be covered in the unlikely event that the agent disappeared along with the deposit."

Although 90% of lettings agents are not affiliated to either body, Arla says its members account for about 500,000 of the 800,000 new tenancies signed each year.

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Tax - the Holly Grail of the "wholly & exclusively" test

Once a landlord has decided an expense is a revenue expense, they must apply the ‘wholly and exclusively’ test.

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- where do professional landlords go?

This rule says that expenses cannot be deducted unless they are incurred wholly and exclusively for business purposes. Tax inspectors will want to see documentary proof of contentious expenses – like documents, agreements, notes of meetings and any other records – so make sure you keep detailed and organised records to prove your expenses.

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The taxman will listen to what you say about why you are claiming an item as a business expense, but will look at disproving at what you say unless you can back it up with documentary evidence.


For example, a property owner lives in London and also owns a cottage in Cornwall. The cost of travelling to Cornwall for a family holiday will fail the ‘wholly and exclusively’ test even if the property owner says the visit was to inspect and prepare for a letting. This is called a ‘dual purpose’ expense.

Dual-purpose expenditure

If an expense is not wholly and exclusively for the rental business, then strictly, it should not go in the accounts. In practice, some dual-purpose expenses include an obvious part spent for the purposes of the business. Tax inspectors are told to allow a proportion of dual-purpose expenses that are ‘apportioned’. When expenses may be apportioned HMRC guidance for tax inspectors says they may allow a proportion of an expense when a definite part or proportion of it is wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the rental business. Where a definite part or proportion of an expense is wholly and exclusively incurred for the purposes of the business, that part or proportion can be deducted.


An example is the revenue running costs (including standing charges and hire-purchase interest) of a car or van used partly for business and partly for private purposes. If 20% of the car mileage is business mileage, deduct 20% of the running costs of the car, including standing charges.

Keep a business mileage log for each trip, recording:

- The date of the journey
- The start and end point
- The business reason for the trip
- The miles travelled.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

The PropertyFinder Rent Index for September 2009

PropertyFinders September data shows rents stabilising which will bring further relief to landlords.

The figures show a sharp fall in supply of rental properties of 6.2 percent, but it is still 37 percent higher than this time last year.

Download the full September Report here

The average rent for a property in England and Wales is a whisker under £600 according to our Rent Index of actual live rents.

This shows a steady recovery since the lows of January this year.

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National Landlords Association Conference - don't forget!

Another reminder for the National Landlords Association conference, NLA landlords should book now to secure a place.

Date: Friday 20 November and Saturday 21 November 2009

Location: Holiday Inn, Birmingham City Centre

To read more on the days events and to book a place - click here

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Former nurse scoops landlord award

A former nurse from Blackpool has scooped a national award for landlord of the year.

Nicola Milner, director of the Blackpool Company C and L Property Ltd, which rents out 45 properties in the resort, received two commendations for achievement and customer service at the national Landlord and Buy-to-Let awards.

Nicola only started building her portfolio 10 years ago when she spotted her gap in the market renting out property to medical staff at the nearby Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

Her technique is to buy run down property and then spend about £20,000 refurbishing them.

She has been particularly keen to work with tenants to work through any difficulties in paying rent.

"I've never had to evict anyone because I arrange payment plans with tenants. It took one girl two years to get back on track but she's done it."

To read the full story.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009


40% of your life insurance claim could be at risk.

Over the last few months we have helped many of you property investors to get the right cover in place to protect your buy to let properties. We look at your current circumstances from a property investor's viewpoint and in almost every case we have found ways to improve your cover.

What does this really mean?

Well, if you died today do you have things in place to cover your portfolio?
Would your partner struggle to remortgage your properties should the lenders call the loan in?
Are you paying money every month from a standing order and not even know what it covers you for?
In most cases the answer is really simple - consider putting your life cover in trust.

1. Quicker payment of claims. If someone dies and their plan is not in a trust, their representatives will have to obtain Grant of Representation before they can deal with the plan. This can take several months.

2. The plan proceeds may be free of inheritance tax.

3. At the moment, inheritance tax is payable at 40% on any part of an estate valued over £325,000 (2009/2010). But you can use a trust to gift some (or all) of the benefits on the plan to other people. The gifted benefits would no longer be part of your client's estate if they die, which means these benefits would not be subject to inheritance tax.

If you do have life cover remember this - every month a payment is coming out of your bank account - make sure it counts!

As always, call one of our advisors today for more information on any of these deals
Tel 01424 205 373 ref PropertyHawk

BTL Mortgage NEWS & VIEWS - FSA the clunking fist

OK, I know the mortgage market isn't always the most interesting subject, but this week in mortgage terms it really did 'kick off'.

The FSA published their Mortgage Market Review which contained their proposals for the future of the mortgage market, and reflected their intention of a more obtrusive approach. So, here I offer a quick rundown of the points and my own take on their impact:

Banning 'self-cert' mortgages.

Up to 1 million of mortgages were arranged on a self cert basis. As I have mentioned before, if self cert is banned, then these people will be at risk of never being able to get a mortgage again, even when the market improves. So, unable to move OR remortgage, they are left to sell up or stick with their current lender. Now, as most mortgage interest rates are low this may not intially be a problem, but as rates rise it will become more of an issue - some may be able to switch to a fixed rate (if the lender is gracious to offer a product transfer) but if you are with a lender who doesn't offer product transfers, or a lender who has left the mortgage market, then you will be at the mercy of those interest rate rises.

In fact, the irony is that for someone stuck in this trap, it could result in mortgage arrears and ultimately being repossessed - and this will be a direct consequence of new regulation to protect the consumer!

Lenders will be required to hold more capital and liquidity.

This has certainly happened already and the effect is simple: fewer and more expensive funds available within the mortgage market.

Regulation to cover buy-to-let (and all lending secured on a home).

I haven't quite got my head round the impact this may have. From a brokers point of view (which I have) most of our buy to let advice is treated as regulated anyway (best business practice etc), however it all depends on what impact it has on the lenders. For example, if stricter affordability practices are adopted, it could lead to even more restrictions on the number of buy to let mortgages anyone person can have.

Imposing affordability tests for all mortgages and making lenders ultimately responsible for assessing a consumer's ability to pay.

I can only imagine this is going to mean more comprehensive underwriting, which no doubt will lead to longer application time lines and possibly more rejections.

So lets get cliched here - where there's a change there's opportunity (and other such motivational ramblings), so if you have solid provable income, keep your credit clean and have access to cash deposits then now's the time to take advantage of a market in flux.

As always, call one of our advisors today for more information on any of these deals
Tel 01424 205 373 ref PropertyHawk

Latest Local Housing Allowance (LHA) Research

LHA research
Research published yesterday by the National Landlords Association (NLA) confirms what many landlords letting to tenants have know for some time. That is that many tenants have failed to pass on the allowance to their landlords, who are now suffering average local authority arrears of £4,400. The study, based on nearly 1,000 landlords and 13,000 tenants receiving LHA, found that these landlords are experiencing rent arrears of £4.4m.

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Steve Hilton, a spokesman for the NLA, says: "If this is extrapolated out to cover the 675,000 tenancies operating under LHA, the total rent arrears for all LHA landlords could be in excess of £220m."

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Government announces enquiry on LHA

The Work and Pensions Committee has announced an inquiry into Local Housing Allowance (LHA).

The allowance was introduced last year, replacing Housing Benefit for new tenancies.

The move was aimed of increasing tenant choice as LHA is paid direct to the tenant, whereas Housing Benefit is paid to the landlord.

Problems have arisen in cases where tenants have not passed the allowance on to their landlords, leading to claims that LHA is contributing to a shrinking supply of homes for benefit claimants in the private rental sector, with more pressure being placed on social housing as a result.

The Committee says it will be examining the objectives of LHA and whether they are met in practice.

It will also look at whether LHA is understood by claimants and landlords and consider the impact of direct payments to claimants, on both tenants and landlords.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Landlord Action respond to government U turn on LHA

Paul Shamplina, director and co-founder of Landlord Action, a company specialising in tenant eviction is delighted that the government are reviewing the LHA system commenting, “hopefully common sense will prevail and they will revert to landlords being able to receive rent directly from the council. Most tenants are happy for the landlord to get direct payment. No one more than us have seen the massive increase in landlords having to evict a LHA tenant for rent arrears and there are plenty of landlords falling behind with mortgage payments because of the current system.

We are continually trying to expose this problem and have talked about it openly in the national press on many occasions. I am regularly doing talks to landlords across the country and this is the biggest complaint from landlords and is actually putting landlords off buy to let.

We also speak to the councils themselves regularly and the LHA departments workloads have risen dramatically because of tenants not passing on the rent to landlords. We recently had a case where a tenant family did not pass on their rent to the landlord and were found to be sending the money back to Kosovo to pay for a new house.”

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Gosport Borough Council Landlords Forum

Gosport Borough Council's landlords' forum is taking place tomorrow at the Chapel, St George's Barracks, from 4pm to 7pm.

Any landlords who wish to go need to call the council on (023) 9256 5511 or email, to enable them to judge the quantity of biscuits required.

'Self-cert' mortgages to be banned by FSA - add to 'landlords pickle'

The end of 'self-certs could add further cauliflower to landlords already in a piccalilli.

Here's the current state of play -

Liar loans to be banned - Guardian

The end for self-cert mortgages? - Which
FSA tightens mortgage lending rules - Guardian

Mortgage ban to have limited effect - Press Association

Regulator shakes up mortgage market - Financial Times

What the mortgage shake up means to you Q&A - Times
FSA crackdown - how it affects you? - Money Saving Expert

I'm just wondering - does it need more spice?

ARLA response to rise in rental arrears

“Latest figures from the NLA highlight that nearly three quarters of landlords have experienced rental arrears. Our research shows that 28% of landlords have seen an increase in the number of tenants struggling to meet rental payments – while this is down on the previous quarter (32%), it is still a worrying issue. “Rental arrears is more common during a recession as redundancies occur and tenants’ financial stability changes. With the private rented sector continuing to grow, it is important that those tenants struggling to meet payments are supported. “For landlords, using an ARLA or NAEA member letting agent is one way to help prevent payment problems, as an approved agent will find suitable tenants, carry out credit checks and draw up the Tenancy Agreement – ultimately protecting both the landlord and tenant. In addition rental protection insurance, of which NLA highlights the benefits, is available through an approved agent.”

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TIP OF THE WEEK: Review your relationship with your letting agent

This weeks tip comes from a friend of mine, Greg Jackson, who I really cant recommend enough. From personal experience, I know he practices what he preaches and is one of the few true mentors, for want of a better word, that actually is out there buying rather than just teaching.

If you dont know Greg, then he is an experienced property sourcer and full-time landlord, and this is what he says re: letting agents.
Letting agents take your money from you. Most of the time they do nothing other than process rental payments, and then when you do need them you can often feel you dont get the support you pay for.

All the time, from your personal letting agent skills point of view, you are becoming weaker and weaker personally from lack of practice.

This is what agents want. They want you to be dependent on them. Like most professions, they have a vested interest in mystifying what they do so that it seems hard for you to do it.

For some landlords, with remote portfolios, they dont have the luxury of not using agents. Personally, I recognised years ago that as my portfolio grew, I would have logistical problems if the portfolio grew in a widespread geographical area. Hence my decision to portfolio build on my doorstep.

I have no letting agents helping me. I do have a well organised system of dealing with the mundane aspects of what letting agents do. It isnt difficult its just common-sense housekeeping. It also forces you to speak to your tenants and that way you can anticipate issues, good or bad, before they hit you in the face. It makes you a better landlord.

I accept that many people will always use letting agents the main reason being lack of time if they are working in full-time employment. In that case, dont sit on your laurels! Youre probably paying too much for management of your properties.

Explain to your letting agent that you are strongly considering self-management, but may stay with them if they can match the great rates other agents locally are offering (Ill be very surprise dif you cant find better prices by spending 2 hours phoning round). Dont just tell them this show them the evidence of your research in order to totally convince them of your efforts.

A friend of mine has recently saved £1200 per year by using this tactic on his 8 rental properties!

I strongly advise that you at least consider doing self-management. Why not simply try it with a few properties and evaluate matters from that point?

You can contact Greg on .

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As always, call one of our advisors today for more information on any of these deals
Tel 01424 205 373 ref PropertyHawk

Empty homes exceeds one million for the first time

Considering the supposed housing shortage, for the first time ever, the number of residential properties that have been empty for six months or longer has exceeded one million.

“About 50 per cent are empty for transient reasons, such as the owner dying or having financial difficulties. However the other half are empty due to long-term failures such as abandoned regeneration schemes which leave compulsorily-purchased homes boarded up, blighting entire areas,” says David Ireland, head of the Empty Homes Agency.

There are a number of local schemes that offer incentives to landlords and property investors to develop and reinstate empty properties.

“Owners can lose as much as £10,000 per year through lost rent, repairs and security measures, especially if the property becomes a target for vandals”

So for many landlords it would be worth contacting their local council to see if any such schemes are on offer.

Read more in this article in the Independent

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Post office launches - best fixed rate 75% according to moneyfacts

According to financial comparison site moneyfacts the latest buy-to-let mortgage from the Post Office merits an impressive four out of five stars.

The Post Office has launched a range of new fixed rate mortgages for second time buyers and remortgages.

The product which stands out from this new range is for 6.69% fixed to 31.12.14, with a maximum loan-to-value of 75% and an exceptionally low fee of £599.

This buy-to-let mortgage is the cheapest deal available at the 75% LTV level and the small fee should add further to its appeal.

The launch comes at a time when the FSA has set out proposals to regulate buy-to-let mortgages which were previously unregulated being considered as a commercial rather than consumer financial product.

Any additional regulation will in our view result in more expensive finance and a more limited choice of buy-to-let products.

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Tax - every landlord should NOW be claiming £156 a year for home office expenses

Landlords should NOW be claiming a minimum of £3 per week for running their letting business after a change in the tax rules. Last year it was only £2.

It's always nice to get something back from Gordon and the taxman even if it is only an extra £1 per week.

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The relief is claimed as way as an expense when calculating a landlords expenses in running a letting business.

This amount could be more but a landlord will have to be able to evidence this by ways of demonstrating apportionment of household bills. In his case a landlord can get tax relief for the extra household expenses that you have to pay because you run your letting business from home. Typically these extra expenses include:

  • the extra cost of gas and electricity to heat and light your work area

  • business telephone calls
However, before landlords get too carried away you won't be able to get relief on domestic expenses that you're paying anyway - like your mortgage or council tax. You also won't be able to get relief for expenses that relate to both business and private use - such as your telephone line rental, or Internet access. This is because the HMRC apply the rule of 'wholly and exclusively' when assessing whether an expense is allowable as a deduction.

For full details on homeworking go to the HMRC website.

For details how you can calculate your tax for your rental property for FREE.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What next? - How can we improve the site and software?

Our aim is to keep on improving our property management software and the content on the site.

The only way for us to do this is for you to point us in the right direction.

Please leave your ideas, thoughts and comments here, by posting a comment.

More property price song, twitter tweet tweet..

London property prices above 2007 levels - Guardian
Surge in property prices at auctions - Guardian
Irish property prices to fall 45 percent - Telegraph
UK property prices show annual increase - Propertywire

Modest growth in mortgage lending - FT Adviser
There won't be another housing crash - LoveMoney
Auction property prices soar - Times
London first time buyers need 93k wages - BBC

Prices go up due to chronic lack of supply - PropertyWire

Half of mortgage requests rejected -Telegraph

See all the property price tweets

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Landlord's Energy Saving Allowance

Property Sparrow thinks that it's a truly beautiful Autumn this year. But it's a bit nippy today, isn't it? Time to fluff up your feathers and think about how to keep warm.

How can you try and keep your tenants nice and cosy?

Insulation in all its forms: in the loft, in the cavity walls, under the floors, round the hot water system and on top of the teapot will all make a difference to reducing tenants' bills and may make them more likely to stay.

The Landlord's Energy Saving Allowance (LESA) is a tax allowance that allows you to claim up to £1500 against tax every year. Corporate landlords have been able to make use of this scheme since July 2008. There are two pages on the directgov website about this allowance; as always on this website the facts are presented in perfect plain English. Note that there is a link at the bottom of the second page to information about how you could claim tax deductions on other energy-saving measures you may be doing such as installing double glazing or a more efficient boiler.

The Energy Efficiency Partnership has also done a useful factsheet one page that sets out what you need to think about if you are considering insulation work in your property.

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Landlord sees red over green improvements!

Landlords who are struggling with difficult tenants, voids, government bureacracy should spare a minute for a Stone Landlord. George Cooper who rents out his former home in Stone.

He is apparently considering legal action after a TV company who ripped out his back garden fencing while filming a programme about cowboy workmen.

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Election officer Mr Cooper, aged 45, told the Newsletter the production company had removed his fence panel and gate post to enable them to get their equipment into the next door garden and had also replaced a shared chain link fence with a panel fence without letting him know. The firm has offered compensation to Mr Cooper but he says it is not enough.

He said: “ The first thing I knew about my fences being removed was when my tenant got in touch with me to tell me - but then it was too late.

“The fact is, I was perfectly happy with my chain link fence and I don’t want a panel fence because you have to keep painting it regularly. I am a landlord and I live in London so I don’t want to have to maintain it. I also don’t like the look of it.

“I can’t believe the company has also removed my own fence and gate post without permission. ” Mr Cooper said he had received quotations of around £2,000 to rectify the work but Mentorn had only offered him £1,000 compensation.

He added: “I have spent a lot of time trying to sort this out - making phone calls and driving between London and Stone. I even had to postpone my holiday when it happened. The compensation is an insult.” James Jackson, who works in business and legal affairs at Mentorn, said they had attempted to contact Mr Cooper during filming and “felt confident” he would approve of it before carrying out the job.

He said: “We made every effort to get hold of him but couldn’t, so we spoke to his tenants and they were keen on the idea. We were under the impression that the tenants were going to let Mr Cooper know, and we felt confident he would be happy. We did the work in good faith, and obviously wouldn’t have gone ahead with it if we had known.

“We are trying to resolve the issue and have made a second offer of compensation through his solicitor and are waiting to see if he is happy with that.”

For the full article

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