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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lender tightens mortgage criteria

I've reported before about the Bank of England intention restrict buy-to-let lending to make obtaining a mortgage more difficult and more costly for landlords.

On Friday one of the biggest lenders The Mortgage Works (TMW) increase its rental cover for it's mortgages from 125% to 145%.  The rental cover refers to the percentage of the projected rent in relation to the mortgage payments.

The lender which is part of the Nationwide BS has blamed the move on the Chancellor recent move to place limits on the amount of mortgage interest that a landlord can offset against their rental income.  The results for many higher rate taxpaying landlords is that their tax liability will increase considerably. An increasing number of landlords are incorporating their rental business in an attempt to side step the changes.

TMW has also announced that from 11th May it will reduce the maximum size of a buy-to-let loan from 80 to 75%.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

BTL mortgage market update

The buy-to-let mortgage market continues to offer a large number of options for landlords – Property Hawk Mortgages currently has over 900 products on its sourcing and quotation system – which cater for the wide range of different requirements from clients.

For landlords who are looking to employ higher gearing in their buy-to-let property investments there are now more lenders offering products at higher loan-to-values. Although Kent Reliance is still the only lender offering rates at 85 per cent loan-to-value, there are now at least 10 lenders in the marketplace who have 80 per cent loan-to-value mortgages in their buy-to-let range, including Aldermore, Precise Mortgages, Mortgage Trust, Fleet Mortgages, Paragon Mortgages and Godiva.

For landlords with larger deposits available, some of the cheapest rates on offer are at lower loan-to-values of 60 or 65 per cent. A good selection of these rates are at below 3.00 per cent for two years and also have no completion fee or booking fee such as with Natwest, Skipton Building Society, Virgin Money, BM Solutions and TMW. So, buy-to-let clients with greater equity in their properties can get some very competitive deals at the moment.

There is currently an excellent ‘fee-free’ product which is available up to 75 per cent loan-to-value at 3.70 per cent fixed for two years with Newcastle Building Society; and Mortgage Trust has recently launched a range of products via Property Hawk Mortgages, including a 3.60 per cent two year fixed rate up to 80 per cent loan-to-value which has no completion fee and a free valuation.

There has been some growth in the number of longer term fixed rates available in the buy-to-let mortgage market over recent months, which cater for landlords who are looking for guaranteed monthly payments over a greater period of time.

In fact, there are well over 200 five year rates currently on offer from a range of lenders including BM Solutions, Virgin Money, Godiva, Fleet Mortgages, Axis Bank and Paragon Mortgages.

There is also a ten year fixed rate available with TMW at 4.99 per cent up to 75 per cent loan-to-value with a flat completion fee of £995. At Property Hawk Mortgages, we have found longer term fixed rates to be more popular with older applicants.

Following the announcement of the buy-to-let tax changes being phased in from 2017, we are starting to see some lenders adjusting their rent stress calculations in the expectation that landlords will need to generate more revenue from their properties to meet the higher tax demands.

Typically in recent times, lender rental calculations of 125 per cent have been the norm, but we may see more lenders increasing it to, say, 135 per cent in order to satisfy their concerns over landlords’ affordability.

Rent stress tests can make a big difference to the amount that clients can actually borrow and some applicants are falling short of the higher notional rate rental calculations required by some providers. Whilst there are still lenders who have lower pay rate calculations, for example Axis Bank and Foundation Homeloans, rent stress testing is definitely a factor that should be taken into consideration when sourcing a buy-to-let mortgage.

Although buy-to-let mortgage providers may become more cautious with their rental calculations over the next 12 months, the level of lending and demand for buy-to-let mortgages is unlikely to be significantly affected overall.

To discuss your buy-to-let mortgage requirements please contact the Property Hawk Mortgages team on:
Tel; 029 2069 5446



Last ever Land Registry HPI figures shows falls

The final Land Registry house price index has been published using data from sales during March ( the new national HPI out on the 14th June ).

In its last ever HPI, the LR has the average annual property price growth in England and Wales at6.7%, with the average property price at £189,901.

March saw prices fall 0.5%.

Key points -
  • London annual growth now at 13.9%
  • London and the East were the only regions to see increases in March.
  • the North East saw the only annual price fall with a movement of -0.7%
  • Yorkshire and The Humber saw the largest monthly dip, down 2.6%

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Charting the growth of PRS

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Tenants asking for energy-saving improvements

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Property inflation slows - Nationwide

It's time for another Nationwide's house price index.

Data from the bank shows an increase of  0.2 % in April, slowing their annual house price inflation  to 4.9%.

The average UK house price rose from £200,251 to £202,436.

Their Chief Economist, Robert Gardner comments:

“While UK house prices edged up 0.2% during the month of April, the annual rate of house price growth moderated to 4.9% from 5.7% in March.

This slowdown returns the annual pace of house price growth to the fairly narrow range between 3% and 5% that had been prevailing since the summer of 2015. 

It may be that the surge in house purchase activity resulting from the increase in stamp duty on second homes from 1 April provided temporary boost to prices in March.  

However, it is possible that the recent pattern of strong employment growth, rising real earnings, low borrowing costs and constrained supply will tilt the demand/supply balance in favour of sellers and exert upward pressure on price growth once again in the quarters ahead."

Read the Nationwide's house price index for April 2016

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Stamp Duty changes cause Foxton slump

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tenants name and shame landlords

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Record dip in Scottish rents

There has been a drop in average rents in Scotland according to letting agents, Your Move.

The average rent in Scotland dropped by 0.7% over the course if March to £544, the largest monthly fall on record.

The only part of Scotland to experience a rise in rent during March was the capital - Edinburgh.

Brian Moran, lettings director at Your Move Scotland reflects on the March rental data -

"What we do know, is that if landlords hit the brakes and cause a roadblock of supply in the private rented sector, tenants will be the casualties paying higher rents in the longer term,

March has seen a very unwelcome about turn in the direction of tenant finances. Up until now Scottish tenants have been making good ground over the spring months, and paying down levels of late rent but there’s still a mountain to climb for many households,

External factors and the wider economic climate obviously have a vital impact on tenants’ bottom line and the delicate balancing act between monthly income and outgoings, but landlords on the ground can help keep a lid on affordability pressures too.

Good management of buy to let properties and regular communication between landlords and their tenants is crucial to signpost any early concerns and avoid the likelihood of rental arrears. Tenants need properties they can afford, and landlords need tenants with a healthy grip on their household expenses, so it’s about striking a fair deal for both,"

On the surface, the new LBTT benefitting the vast majority of Scottish buyers made it more expensive to become a landlord last Spring, with average property prices sent skyward after an onslaught of high value house sales at the top end of the Scottish housing market,

This short term scramble and the impact this had on values at the time meant that many existing landlords experienced faster capital growth than they were counting on last year, and on the flip side, those who entered the fray at the peak of the rush seemingly paid a premium that they may not have obviously recouped back yet. But it’s worth remembering that they’ll have saved themselves the extra 3% stamp duty now liable on buy to let purchases,"

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Landlord blasts immoral property tax

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Top of the buy-to-let investment market

I've recently come across this investment deal being advertised by a national auctioneer house.

The block in leafy Kent is obviously a conversion property (not always the best - depending on the quality of the building work)  Often historic conversions were carried out to much lower levels of noise insulation, fire safety and non compliant electrical standards than modern standards would demand. The details on the website are:

Ten self-contained flats extending to a total of 777 sqm (8,358 sqft)

    •    All flats fully let subject to Assured Shorthold Tenancies
    •    Total Current income of £106,661 per annum
    •    Potential for further residential development subject to obtaining all necessary consents
    •    Potential to increase rent when tenancies come to an end

Value of investment

To me the asking price and investment multiple indicate that we must be close to the top of the market.  The asking price of over £1.8 million on the current rent gives a gross rental yield of less than 6%.  If the landlord then takes of the management cost and associated costs of the investment of say 2% you are left with a sub 4% net yield.  This implies the expectation of a massive increase in capital value either through development or growth in house prices.  I can't see it myself and given the lurking dangers that interest rates on any loan used to buy the property can only go upwards the upside on the investment is FULLY priced into the valuation.  At this price this and other similar investment properties are not a screaming buy and reflect the strong investment demand for buy-to-let properties rather than any long-term sensible investment criteria.

These are only my thoughts as a hard bitten investor and former surveyor.  I have been wrong before and I'm sure will continue to be proved wrong in the future.

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New national HPI starts in June

The Land Registry is re-jigging it's House Price Index.

It's throwing it's stats in with data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), Registers of Scotland (ROS), Land & Property Service Northern Ireland (LPSNI) and Valuations Office Agency (VOA)

The last of the old style HPI will be published tomorrow, then the first of the new GOV HPI will be published on the 14th June.

The new format will include first time buyer and new build statistics and will be located at the GOV.UK url.
new statistics in the reports including first time buyer and new build stats - See more at:
new statistics in the reports including first time buyer and new build stats - See more at:

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Amendment to the Immigration Bill

It's good to hear that some common sense has prevailed.

MPs agreed on Monday to amend the Immigration Bill to help protect landlords wanting to evict illegal immigrants.

The changes to the Right to Rent scheme gives greater protection to landlords along as they are perceived to have taken 'reasonable steps in an appropriate time frame' to terminate the tenancy of tenants in this country illegally.

Prior to the amendment to the Immigration Bill,  criminal sanctions against a landlord would commence immediately if it was upon discovered there had been a potential failure to carry out the proper Right to Rent checks. preventing a  landlord/agent from evicting a tenant.

RLA Policy Director, David Smith comments:  

“The RLA warmly welcomes the Government’s pragmatic changes to its Right to Rent scheme that will provide protection for good landlords from the unintended consequences of the policy. It is particularly helpful that the changes were approved by MPs without a vote, a sign of cross party support for the measure.”

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

More rent than buy property

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FTB's fill gap left by investors

First time buyers are back in the market as investors shy away.

Data for March shows 28% of property sales went to first time buyers, up 4% on February.

The data released by the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) also shows that many estate agents (39%) are expecting this upward trend to continue as the introduction of 3% stamp duty on second homes deters investors.

Agents reported a fall in demand, as registered buyers fell from 463 to 417 from Feb to March.

Supplycontinued to rise, with the branch average up from 35 in February to 54 in March.

Mark Hayward, NAEA managing director comments -

‘The last few months first time buyers have had to compete with landlords for the same properties and those landlords have really pushed hard to complete ahead of the rise in stamp duty.

Now, in theory things should get easier for first time buyers as we have seen with a slight increase in sales this month and as those seeking to buy to let will tail off.

However in reality, it’s unlikely in the long term that first time buyers will notice a huge difference, as prices remain high and housing is in short supply. The Government needs to significantly increase the number of homes that are being built in this country to really make a difference to those that are struggling to get on the housing ladder.’

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Letting agent rips off 17 landlords

A letting agent has been sentenced to ten months in prison and banned from being a director of a company for 7 years by Kingston Crown Court.

Chandra Patel had ran Giraffe Residential in New Malden when he suddenly closed the agency owing a total of £27,000 to seventeen landlords.

Mr Patel had used money paid as security deposits and rent to pay off other business debts as the agency fell into financial difficulties between February 2014 and October 2014.

Judge Timothy Lamb summed up:

“He traded well until 2014, when things took a turn for the worst. The defendant decided to help himself to the monies which he held in trust. I take into account the defendant’s family circumstances, I take into account that he is of previous good character. However, the defendant became part of a system of retail letting which was created in order to instill trust and confidence. He was plainly not fit to play a part in the system. He abused his position.”

Following the closure of the agency, landlords were forced to pay back their tenants deposits using their own money.

Mr Patel is looking to appeal the sentence.

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Savills national property auction 9th May

 Here's 243 lots from all over the country to have a stab at  Savills next national property auction on the 9th May.

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DPS dispute worshop in Bristol

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Soaring housing costs

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Monday, April 25, 2016

More concern over Universal Credit

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Luton 'fake landlord' jailed

A 'rent to rent' case in Luton has lead to a 16 month prison sentence for the 'fake landlord'.

Moses Ogoe posed as a landlord/owner of seven rental properties that he'd himself rented from unsuspecting landlords under false documentation, before converting them into Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs).

An investigation by Luton Council Trading Standards and Private Sector Housing services discovered that Mr Ogoe had rented the properties using falsified documentation, claiming he worked in a number of different professions, including as a doctor, a security manager and a catering manager, when in fact he worked as a security guard on temporary contract.

Mr Ogoe then went on to rent the properties out on a room by room basis to unsuspecting tenants who presumed he was the landlord.

The Honour Judge Kay QC outlined: 

"You saw an opportunity to rent relatively sizable properties and sublet them to desperate individuals who needed somewhere to live. You were not providing a public service because you did this for greed. You defrauded them as you did not provide a genuine tenancy and the protection that would give".

Alongside the 16 months prison sentence, Ogoe was ordered to pay £7,500 in costs. 

The case underlines the importance of carrying out tenant referencing checks.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

LSL puts annual rental growth at 3%

The LSL rent index for March has the average monthly rent across England and Wales at £791 - putting the annual rental growth rate at 3%. 

In an uneventful month, March saw Midland rents hit a new high, whilst Wales and the North East saw falls, most other areas remained pretty much the same.

LSL director, Adrian Gill, shared his concern for the rental market following April's stamp duty changes

‘Ultimately this will only punish tenants and aspiring first time buyers, driving out buy to let landlords will reduce supply leading to lower choice and higher rents for those that can least afford them,’

‘In particular, this month’s new stamp duty surplus has driven an extra wedge between those aspiring landlords planning to invest in additional homes to let, and those existing landlords who have already built up their portfolios. That difference will not last for long. But by making it more expensive to invest in property, it will hamper the healthy growth of the private rented sector,’

‘For private renting to remain an affordable option and a high-quality home for millions, the answer is more supply and more choice. That means lifting the barriers to investment in property, rather than adding fresh penalties for landlords aspiring for their own financial security,’

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BTL surge boosts prices in UK cities

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Disclosure of foreign property owners

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Shelter's four future housing visions

Shelter put forward four future visions for housing - no change, renting focused, mass building and community led.

Whereas the Telegraph goes with the most likely reality.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Harrow landlord fined £16,000

Willesden Magistrates Court have ordered a Harrow landlord to pay more than £16,000 in fines and costs.

landlord finedLandlord , Kanagaratnam Kesavan's property on Rayners Lane was identified as 'hazardous' following an inspection by Harrow Council’s environmental protection officers.

Officers described the property as having serious hazards relating to excess cold,  personal hygiene sanitation and drainage, fire and food safety, as well as electrical hazards that included broken electric sockets, exposed wiring, and a broken cooker.

Cllr Graham Henson from Harrow Council, comments - "Kesavan showed no interest in the safety of his tenants nor did he bother to discuss the notices issued to him by the council. It could have been worse had our officers not intervened."

Leading up to the case Mr Kesavan had ignored two improvement notices under the Housing Act 2004 and two notices under the Environmental Protection Act.

Rental growth in prime home counties

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Scottish property price February dip

Your Move's Scottish House Price Index has recorded the first fall for eight months.

Average prices dropped by 1%, despite sales volumes holding up.

The fall takes the average Scottish home to £168,020. 

The drop in prices coincide with strong sales at the lower end of the market fuelled by BTL investors looking to beat the April 1st stamp duty changes.

Edinburgh has been knocked off the top spot for price growth and Midlothian was the only area to break a record for property values in February, surpassing its pre-crisis peak.
Christine Campbell from Your Move comments:

"House prices are also down compared to the same time last year, but this tells us more about the turbulence caused by the introduction of the Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT) at the beginning of 2015, than anything happening in the market right now.

Purchase activity was concentrated at the lower end of the market with aspiring landlords snapping up affordable options. We can see evidence of this in Edinburgh and Glasgow, where sales of flats, a popular investment choice, have soared in the three months to February 2016.

But at the same time, there has been a slowdown at the top end of the market due to uncertainty surrounding the upcoming Scottish Parliament election and European Union referendum, particularly among foreign buyers. This imbalance between the volume of cheaper and more expensive property sales is skewing the overall measure of price growth, and tipping it downwards.

While the expensive side of the market pauses for breath, uncertainty surrounding the upcoming votes provides a great opportunity for those wanting to buy their first home. With stable house prices, low interest rates and reduced levels of LBTT on cheaper properties, now is the perfect time for first time buyers to take the plunge."

No revaluation of council tax bands in England

The Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis has declared - "There will be no revaluation of council tax bands in England" in his interview with the FT.

Which sounds pretty concrete, although we all know what politicians are like for changing their tune.

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Warning on letting on separate contracts

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Average SDLT repayment estimate

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Warning of Airbnb sub-letting

Eviction service, Landlord Action say they have received treble the number of cases of tenants sub-letting without the landlords knowledge.

Landlord Action point to sites such as Airbnb, which have opened the opportunities for tenants to sub-let.

Landlord Action's Paul Shamplina says:

“We have had concerns for some time now regarding the protection of properties which are being uploaded and offered as holiday lets via Airbnb. We continue to receive a growing number of instructions from landlords who want us to start possession proceedings against tenants who have sub-let their property via Airbnb without consent” 

Landlords need to be aware, the sub-letting of a rental property could be in breach of the tenancy agreement, create additional wear and tear, and breach both the landlords insurance terms and BTL mortgage terms. 

Paul Shamplina adds -

"Whilst Airbnb do provide a level of protection for hosts, naturally certain conditions and limitations do apply. My concern is that there is not enough safeguarding with regards to obtaining proof from the individual who is advertising the property that they are the legitimate owner. Or, if they are a tenant, that they have consent from their landlord to rent out the property in this way

In a recent case, it was thought that more than 300 people stayed in a landlord’s property in one year, unbeknown to the landlord. As well as damage to properties, landlords have received complaints from block managers with regards to being in breach of their head lease and unhappy neighbours in relation to anti-social behaviour, and that’s before considering issues regarding HMO licensing and possible invalidation of insurance and mortgage terms”

PH - If you haven't already, it might be worth searching on Airbnb to see if any of your rental properties are available to let. Better to be safe...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rightmove sees average asking price rise to £307,033

Rightmove's HPI for April 2016 continues to see an up-swing in asking prices across the UK.

The average asking price on the site is up by £3,843 to yet another high of £307,033, a monthly rise of 1.3%.

The rush of BTL'ers trying to beat the Chancellor’s April 1st second home stamp duty deadline is blamed for creating upward pressure from the lower end of the market (2 bed properties), that has then fed through to the 'second steppers' that has then helped fuelled interest up all steps of the property ladder.

Rightmove's analyst, Miles Shipside,  comments: 

“The onset of spring is traditionally when the housing market swings into full-on action, and while the early Easter this year could be credited with its very active current state, the housing market actually received a much earlier kick-start at the end of November. Chains need a buyer at the bottom to enable everyone to move, and that was boosted by investors looking to avoid the 3% levy introduced on April 1st."

Although April saw demand at the bottom sector of the market fall away, thanks to the end of the pre-April BTL surge, with prices falling 1.4%, the rest of the market has continued to push on.

The positive 'chain reaction fuelled by the 'BTL surge ' has enabled owner-occupiers to sell at the cheaper end of the market and trade up, and so on....

This has meant the typical second-stepper sector (three or four bedrooms excluding four bedroom detached properties) has seen prices go up by 0.6% (+£1,512) in April month, a rise of 8.6% (+£20,519) over 12 months. 

Those at the top of the ladder’ (four bedroom detached and five bedrooms or more) saw the biggest April rise,  up 1.9% (+£9,970), bringing the annual growth rate to 5.1%.
Rightmove's analyst, Miles Shipside,  comments:

While some felt that there would be a stampede of existing landlords selling to other landlords, these figures indicate that many of those who sold during the buy-to-let rush were actually first-time sellers looking to trade up. They used the heightened demand from investors competing fiercely with first-time buyers to springboard themselves onto the next rung of the housing ladder. After several years of being held back from moving by post-credit-crunch price doldrums, they have now benefitted from a heady combination of price growth, historically cheap interest rates, and confidence of a quick sale with purchasers working to a tight deadline. Trader-uppers have now been unleashed and this has spread demand upwards and helped to form longer chains. Interestingly there has been a stamp duty double-whammy effect pushing up prices in these higher sectors too. Earlier reforms in December 2014 reduced stamp duty for all properties priced below £937,000, especially around the previous punitive thresholds, also boosting demand and prices.

It appears that first time buyers are becoming increasingly excited to have less competition and the 3% advantage over their 'landlording' rivals, with Rightmove experiencing its busiest March on record.
Rightmove's analyst, Miles Shipside,  comments: 

There’s a whole army of aspiring first-time buyers keen to get on the ladder and they now have a 3% price advantage over the formerly more agile legion of landlords, some of whom have retreated for the time being. First-time buyers could fill some of the gap but sellers of properties with two bedrooms or fewer need to realise that with less overall demand they need to price cheaper to match first-time buyers and highly-taxed investors.”

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Landlord insurance brokers - my experience

I currently insure my portfolio of properties through Alan Boswell insurance brokers. I have no grounds to complain. Of course you always want things cheaper and I would always recommend that landlords who have the time shop around to get the best landlord insurance deal. However, as well as price I've got to a stage in life that it isn't all about getting the absolute lowest price. For me it's all about service and trusted advice which is why I haven't brought any of my electrical appliances or computer gear from anywhere else than John Lewis in the last 15 years.

Quality of service - landlord insurance broker

One of my tenants has recently left one of my properties and I'm now left with an empty property.  I'm aware that under the Aviva policy I currently have that I have up to 90 days to fill my property.  However I just wanted to check out the details with Alan Boswell and I was delighted with the speed and depth of the response from young Amy:

Further to our telephone conversation this morning, I just wanted to email you some additional information.

I have referred to a colleague who commonly deals with the Ocaso policies and was advised that swapping to one of these policies would not be the best recommendation at the present moment. As tenants have just moved out, you do have 90 days of full cover to find new tenants. The cover under your current Aviva policy is much higher than the cover that you would receive from Ocaso.

After 90 days, if you are still struggling to find tenants, then we would consider looking at an Ocaso policy as they may not exceed Aviva’s cover, but would in fact exceed the restricted cover which follows after 90 days of unoccupancy. (Fire, Lightning, Explosion and impact of Aircraft).

Running the details through our system, Ocaso are quoting at £342.01 (this is not a guaranteed figure at present) which would be broken down into 12 interest free payments of approximately £28.50. So in this respect, they would be considerably more expensive than Aviva as well.

I hope this has been helpful – sorry for the delay in getting the information across to you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or queries.
To find out more about 5 star defaqto landord insurance ratings and where to buy these policies.

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HMRC's handy SDLT calculator

HMRC have kindly provided an online calculator to help landlords understand how much stamp duty we're going to have to pay on our next property purchase.

Thanks for that, you're just too kind ...

HMRC Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Getting around the NIMBY's

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Day One BTL Remortgages - why wait?

Day One Buy-to-let Remortgages - available for landlords

In the run up to the buy-to-let stamp duty changes on 1st April, some landlords have recently purchased buy-to-let properties either with cash or using short term bridging finance in order to avoid the levy increase. 

If you are in this position, you may now be looking to refinance your property.

Many lenders will only consider offering remortgage products once the property has been owned for six months, however there is a choice of lenders who will consider offering a remortgage immediately. These could be an excellent option for you and save you money, especially if you currently have costly bridging finance in place.

BTL Lenders who offer Day One Remortgages -
  • Aldermore
  • Axis Bank
  • Fleet Mortgages
  • Foundation Home Loans
  • Kent Reliance
  • Mortgage Trust
  • Paragon Mortgages
  • Shawbrook Bank
  • Virgin Money

If you would like to discuss your buy-to-let mortgage requirements please contact us and we will be happy to help.
Tel: 029 2069 5446

Rightmove's Rent Tracker for March

  • Buy-to-let purchases dropped 27% in March 2016 compared to March 2015 
  • Demand from home-hunters at an all-time high
  • Best rental yields in Durham and Merseyside: Peterlee offers a rental yield of 9.1%, Bootle - 8.6%

  • It seems BTL investors became battle scarred during March. 

    Despite Rightmove recording its busiest ever Q1,  BTL investors were increasingly scarce - down 27% from March 2015.

    It appears that the reported rush to beat the April 1st stamp duty deadline petered out at the end of February.

    Sam Mitchell, Rightmove’s Head of Lettings, comments:

    “This waning of interest definitely seems to predict a slowdown in the buy-to-let market, but what’s not yet clear is if this will only turn out to be a short-term pause. It could be that some investors are waiting until the tax changes have some time to bed in before they review their business and continue to make purchases. If this removes some of the competition for smaller properties then it could spell good news for many first-time buyers with a deposit ready as they may find now is the ideal time to make a move.”

    Greater London (+1.3%) and the North West (+1.1%) saw the biggest increases in rental yields during March.

    Agents manage cannabis farms

    A pair of estate agents have been found guilty of growing cannabis at rental properties they managed.

    The pair from Forest Hill’s Home to Home estate agents were found to have forged tenancy agreements for properties used as cannabis factories.

    Aidan Lynch, 51, and Jason Smart, 47 were jailed for five years at Woolwich Crown Court for one count of conspiracy to produce cannabis and six counts of permitting a premises to be used as a cannabis factory. 

    Police discovered 526 cannabis plants growing in four interlinked tunnels below a parade of shops in Crystal Palace. The police estimate the cannabis to have a street value of £497,000. 

    After further investigation the police found evidence that Lynch had previously used at least seven other properties as cannabis factories.

    Detective Constable Kirsty Marchi, the investigating officer from Lewisham, commented:

    "Lynch and Smart ran a very sophisticated operation and they thought they would get away with it, but the execution of the drugs warrant at the address at Crystal Palace Parade brought their operation crashing down."

    Saturday, April 16, 2016

    Midlands landlords - it's showtime!

    Midlands landlords are invited to the latest EMPO landlord event to be held at the Nottingham Belfry on Thursday 5th May.  It's landlord showtime and an opportunity to network with fellow landlords and check out suppliers if that's your bag.

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    Friday, April 15, 2016

    Can tenants keep a cockerel?

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    Hot Bath - latest YourMove HPI

    Another set of property price data - this time data from Your Move for March 2016 for England & Wales. 

    • Strong sales – with 80,000 properties sold during March.
    • Accelerating growth, annual increase of 6.9%.
    • Average property increased by £18,745 over 12 month period.
    • London annual house price growth now at 8.2% (£44,548).
    • Bath & NE Somerset performs best, up 5.3% (£18,603) during March. 

    Adrian Gill, director of Your Move estate agents, comments: 

    “This Spring, with a frantic flurry of activity, the housing market has come to life. As a result of the impending stamp duty hike, this has been the strongest March for home sales in nine years. The surge was widespread across England and Wales, with a 30% upswing in transactions since February. This goes beyond any normal seasonality, with second-home and buy-to-let investors rushing to beat a bigger tax bill.

    House prices have also reached a new record in March, with the value of the typical home rising 6.9% (£18,745) year-on-year. This is an acceleration from the previous month’s 6.5% annual growth and represents the largest year-on-year growth since February 2015. The green shoots are resplendent right across the country, with 73% of local authorities in England and Wales experiencing a monthly upswing in home values – the highest proportion of areas seeing positive property price rises since July 2014. This will be welcome news for homeowners, who now have a fantastic opportunity in the current sellers’ market. The pervasive shortage of homes on the market is still driving up values, as buyers have to compete for each available property. If they are going to make it easier to get a foot on the property ladder, the Government will have to double-down on its help to first-time buyers, or let up on landlords."
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    Thursday, April 14, 2016

    Landlord gets gas fines reduced

    A Plymouth landlord faced with £20,000 fines has managed to get his fine reduced at appeal.
    Landlord Abdul Manik, fined back in November for failing to properly maintain gas appliances at his rental property, had his fines reduced to £12,000.

    Heard at Plymouth Crown Court, magistrates took heed of the landlords defence, who argued that Mr Manik had made no profit from his rental properties and was now in the process of selling them.

    Recorder Julia Clayton summed up the decision -

    "The level of fines was such that they could not be paid off by you in a sensible period.”

    Savills research - Prime Regional Location?

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    UK waves goodbye to BTL boom

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    Wednesday, April 13, 2016

    BTL surge expected to subside

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    Prospective London mayors Housing policies

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    Homelet rental data for March

    Homelet's latest rental index for March 2016 shows -
    • Fastest rental growth in Greater London, the East Midlands and Scotland over three months to March; North West is the only region to experience falls
    • Average monthly rent in the UK (excluding Greater London) is  £755  – up 4.9% on 12 months ago; Average monthly London rent now at £1,536, up 7.7%
    HomeLet report that rents continue to rise ahead of inflation and demand for rental property remains strong. 

    Homelet's Martin Totty, comments: 

    “We’ve continued to see increases in rents on new tenancies in almost every part of the UK during the first quarter, as the private rental market has responded to the pressures of an imbalance between demand and supply.

    However, external factors may now come into play: the stamp duty increase has already had an impact and that surge in the acquisition of property by landlords could now cause a short-term increase in the supply of rental property in some areas of the country. In the longer term, changes to rules around buy-to-let mortgage interest being offset against tax bills, coupled with the Bank of England’s instruction to lenders to apply more exacting criteria on buy-to-let lending, may have a limiting effect on supply.

    However, despite these factors, we expect the private rental sector to continue to play a crucial role in a housing market where population growth will continue for the foreseeable future according to official projections.”

    NEW tax guide - Landlord Interest

    Landlords looking to shelter from the latest tax changes, those starting in April 2017 restricting the amount of mortgage interest relief they are able to obtain, should have a look at the latest tax saving guide called Landlord Interest in the Property Hawk Tax Books. 

    Here are details of the loss of mortgage interest relief faced by many landlords.

    The tax guide gives some very useful practical worked examples of how landlords can save tax on their residential investment business. 

    Topics covered in the guide include:

    * How to beat the tax increase by simply increasing your rents.
    * How to accelerate your finance costs while full tax relief is available.
    * How to save tax by transferring property to your spouse/partner.
    * Why you should postpone certain tax deductible expenses until 2017.
    * How to increase your tax deductible expenses when interest relief is cut.
    * How one family will save £17,900 by paying salaries to family members.
    * The benefits and drawbacks of selling property to beat the tax increase.
    * How one landlord will save £10,000 per year by selling some properties.
    * Using alternative investment structures (shared equity and syndicates).
    * How to completely reverse the tax increase by making pension contributions.
    * The benefits and drawbacks of using a company.
    * How one investor will enjoy a £33,800 annual saving by using a company.
    * Who can and who can not transfer existing property into a company.
    * The cost and availability of mortgages for company investors.
    * All tax changes announced in the March 2016 Budget (including the big stamp duty changes).

     For more information on landlord tax

    Tuesday, April 12, 2016

    ONS February House price index

    The ONS February 2016 House price index has just been published showing -
    • Annual UK house growth now 7.6%, down from 7.9% in January
    • Annual house growth in in England now 8.2%,  2.8% in Wales, -0.8% in Scotland and 2.4% in Northern Ireland.
    • Annual house growth driven by South East (11.4%), the East (10.3%) and London (9.7%).
    • Excluding London and the South East, UK annual house growth at 5.0% 
    • Annual UK house growth for first-time buyers at 8.0% 
    • Annual UK house growth for owner-occupiers (existing owners), at 7.4%
    • The average UK  house price is now £284,000.

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    BTL mortgage rates still falling

    According to data from Moneyfacts, BTL mortgage rates are continuing to fall.

    Moneyfacts say the average rate on a two-year fixed rate BTL mortgage is now at 3.32%, down from 5.21% in 2011. 

    Rates on Five-year fixed rate BTL mortgages are also lower, now at 4% compared to 6.24% in 2011.

    Drones to check planning applications

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    Granny flats to be exempt from Stamp Duty

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    Bradford landlord fined £12,000

    A Bradford landlord has been handed £12,000 in fines and costs.

    Kabir Hussain, 46, pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to comply with regulations in respect of management of houses in multiple occupation.

    The large rental property on Keighley Road, Bradford is divided into eleven flats.

    Following an inspection from the Bradford Council Environmental Health Team in December 2014 the rental property was found to be breaching a number of fire safety regulations - the fire alarm was not working,  smoke detectors were missing or broken, and some bedrooms did not have the required access to escape.

    The property was also described as being in a poor state repair - with holes in the fabric of the building, alongside insufficient heating causing  damp and mould that prompted concerns over the impact on the health of some of the tenants. 

    Mr Hussain was accused of "poor management of this property over a significant period of time."

    Getting rich from Crossrail 2?

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    Regional UK house price map

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    Monday, April 11, 2016

    An Airbnb calculator

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    First Criminal Behaviour Order for landlord

    Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court has handed out the county's first Criminal Behaviour Order to a landlord.

    The Criminal Behaviour Orders were introduced in 2014, replacing ASBOs.

    The landlord, Jaspal Singh Sahota has been issued with a 10 year Criminal Behaviour Order, over his poor management of rental properties in Osier Place and Sherwood Street in the city.

    Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court said it was 'satisfied he had caused harassment, alarm and distress to his tenants through the poor standards and management of his rented homes.'

    Sahota has been ordered to submit a list of all his premises across the city and his interest in them for rental purposes to Wolverhampton Council and must employ an agent to manage all his rental properties.

    His agent must be in place by June 1. If Sahota fails to meet this or any other of the conditions of the Criminal Behaviour Order he could face a five years prison sentence and/or an unlimited fine.

    Wolverhampton Council's housing director, Lesley Roberts comments: 

    “This is an excellent result and shows that we are determined to use whatever legislation we can in order to protect our residents from rogue landlords."

    Pre-April BTL rush increases supply

    The 'pre-April rush on property purchases ( resulting from the stamp duty change on second homes) has fuelled supply in the rental market according to Countrywide.

    The agents estimate that there was a 76% increase in March 2016 property purchases compared to  March 2015, with half of these made by landlords.

    As a result, Countrywide report that rental supply is up by 22% in the first quarter of 2016 compared with Q1 2015.

    In the capital, the increase was even larger, with rental supply in London up 40%.

    With increased supply easing the supply/demand pressure on rents, rental increases slowed.

    UK annual rental growth slowed to 3.4% with average monthly rent now at £931.

    Research director at Countrywide, Johnny Morris comments: 

    “Quite at odds with the intentions of the policy, the first measurable effect of the introduction of the new Stamp Duty rate has been to increase the number of homes owned by landlords, although this will likely be a temporary effect as we see reduced investor activity in future months.”

    Saturday, April 09, 2016

    Liverpool property investment opportunity

    1 Beresford Road, Prenton, Liverpool, CH43 1AB
    This lovely looking property is located in leafy Birkenhead over the Mersey from Liverpool City Centre.  The asking price is perhaps a reflection of the overheating investment market with a yield well into the single digits at less than 6% on the current reserved rent.  There maybe potential for a little bit of arbitrage by disposing of the individual properties as leasehold apartments and retaining the freehold.  Given the size of the plot there could be some development opportunities.  However,  bearing in mind that this is Liverpool not Lambeth rental growth is probably limited and not lively!

    The investment property is located in Birkenhead, Liverpool. Central Liverpool is approximately 8 km (5 miles) to the east of the property and is accessible by either the Birkenhead or Kingsway Tunnels. This area is well connected via a number of A-Roads as well as the M53 Motorway, which links the area to Ellesmere Port (approx. 22km (14 miles) and Chester (approx. 34km (21 miles) to the south.

    The essential marketing details for this property are:
    • Freehold detached block
    • 18 self-contained flats (8 x one bed and 10 x two bed)
    • 16 flats let subject to Assured Shorthold Tenancies with two vacant flats
    • Total Current Rent Reserved: £104,100 per annum
    • Estimated Rental Value: £126,900 per annum
    • 18 car parking spaces
    • Gross Yield: 7% (based on ERV)
    For any landlords that are interested offers are invited of over £1.8m.  Lets face it you would be getting a lot of property for your money compared to central London but at these rental yields even allowing for the recent yield compression on residential investments the price is not compelling.  I'm thinking a value of £1.5m would be nearer the mark but then I've not inspected the property. 

    For more information contact:

    Finance my investment - property hawk mortgages

    Friday, April 08, 2016

    Cardiff HMO landlord fined

    A Cardiff landlord has pleaded guilty to eleven offences under the Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Additional Provisions)(Wales) Regulations 2007 
    This offences relate to 42 Penylan Road, a House in Multiple Occupation rented out by Choudhry and his family. 

    Mr Choudhry was accused as renting out a HMO not to be 'fit and proper state to rent to his tenants.

    Khizar Choudry  was fined  £1,867.50 and ordered to pay costs of £2,938.00.

    In his summing up, District Judge Bodfan Jenkins described how Mr Choudry had failed to run the business 'in a safe or legitimate manner.'

    Choudry was fined a total of £1,867.50 and ordered to pay costs of £2,938.00.
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    Thursday, April 07, 2016

    Halifax report annual property growth of 10%

    • Three months to March were 10.1% higher than in the same three months of 2015.
    • January-March 2016 prices up 2.9% higher October-December 2015. 

    Halifax housing economist, Martin Ellis, comments:

    "House prices in the first three months of 2016 were 2.9% higher than in the final quarter of 2015. The annual rate has grown from 9.7% to 10.1% in March.

    Worsening sentiment regarding the prospects for the UK economy and uncertainty ahead of the European referendum in June could result in some softening in the housing market over the next couple of months.

    Current market conditions, however, remain very tight with an acute supply/demand imbalance continuing despite an improvement in the number of properties coming on to the market for sale in recent months. This, together with continuing low interest rates and a healthy labour market, indicate that house price growth is set to remain robust.” 

    View the full Halifax House price Index for March 2016

    ONS figs on rent / earnings growth

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    Lodger allowance rises to £7,500

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    Wednesday, April 06, 2016

    ES sum up Stamp Duty changes

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    Ratings agency positive on BTL outlook

    The Fitch ratings agency are confident strong rental demand will manage to outweigh any detrimental impact from the stamp duty changes. 

    However, the agency shared its concern for the future growth of the sector if the Bank of England  goes forward with regulation proposals, including affordability tests requiring landlords to meet  minimum interest rate stress of 5.5%.

    Fitch comments: 

    “The proposal does not set limits on loan-to-value, debt-to-income, or interest coverage ratios. If these were adopted, this could make buy to let less attractive for landlords if rental yields do not rise sufficiently to offset the impact of such affordability rules. This could have a knock-on impact on buy-to-let lending volumes and RMBS [residential mortgage backed securities] prepayment rates.”

    The agency also noted that future performance of the sector would also be dependent on future net migration levels.

    Fitch comments: 

    “Demand will keep rental yields attractive even as property prices rise, and give affected landlords the option of raising rents, rather than forcing them out of the market. If the tax changes discourage new buy-to-let entrants, this could be another constraint on availability that supports higher rents.”

    “Government initiatives to support homeownership and boost housing supply will take time to bear fruit, and we forecast UK house prices to rise by 4%-5% this year,”