A report from leading landlord mortgage lender, Kent Reliance, has revealed that landlord confidence in the buy to let sector is falling. Three years ago, 67% of landlords were confident about their prospects, but in the intervening years, this has fallen to 41%.
Value of PRS Rising
The value of the buy to let sector has risen in the last three years and is now worth £1.3 trillion, but tenant demand is falling. Three years ago, 39% of landlords reported an increase in tenant demand, but this figure has fallen to 27%. More landlords are reporting plans to reduce their property portfolios and many amateur landlords have already quit the sector. Many landlords are also having problems securing buy to let finance, with 25% reporting difficulties in this area.
Tough Times for UK Landlords
The report highlights some of the difficulties facing UK landlords at the moment, which is a reflection of the uncertainty facing the wider economy as a whole. Recent changes to landlord taxes and a lack of political stability are all affecting landlord confidence in the sector.
The Residential Landlords Association has highlighted problems caused by the government’s ‘Right to Rent’ scheme. Nearly half of all landlords quizzed by a leading landlord insurance company categorically stated that they would not let a property to anyone without a UK passport. 22% of landlords questioned also expressed doubts about offering a tenancy to EU nationals.
With continued confusion surrounding Brexit and the status of EU citizens living in the UK, this makes it much harder for anyone without a UK passport to find somewhere to live. It is also a problem for 17% of citizens who don’t have a passport.
Landlords Afraid of Repercussions
When asked why they were so reluctant to let properties to non-UK passport holders, landlords explained that they feared the repercussions of allowing a bogus passport holder to slip through the net. Unfortunately, this is having an effect on UK citizens without a passport.
Any landlord who has “reasonable cause to believe” that the person letting their property does not have the correct immigration status is committing a criminal offence. Penalties for conviction range from fines to a prison offence, and possibly both.
Changes to Right to Rent Scheme
The new changes to the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme came into effect in December 2016. If a landlord finds out a tenant is disqualified from letting a property, they must issue a 28-day eviction notice. If the landlord submits a Section 8 notice and doesn’t refer to the Immigration Act 2016, it is invalid and the eviction will fail on technical grounds.
Calling a snap election was always a risky strategy, but until the exit poll came in at 10 pm, many still believed Theresa May would walk away with a majority. Sadly, this was not the case and now we are left with a hung parliament and no clear way forward.
Today, the property industry and landlords have reacted to the news. The general consensus of opinion appears to be that the next few months are going to be difficult for everyone.
Uncertain Times Ahead
A hung parliament signals uncertainty. An extended period of uncertainty is bad for the economy, bad for the property market, and definitely bad for landlords. Uncertainty leads to procrastination. Sellers are reluctant to sell because they are worried they might not achieve the right price for their property and buyers are reluctant to buy in case property prices fall in the interim.
The whole point of the snap election was so that Theresa May could have a mandate to take the UK forward into Brexit negotiations without too much interference. Unfortunately, she has now lost the majority she so badly needed.
A New Housing Minister is On the Cards
The Tory Housing Minister lost his seat in the election, so the post will need to be filled by someone new. This will have an effect on government housing policy going forward and housing is likely to take a back seat for a while.
In the short-term, a lack of confidence in government’s ability to make decisions is going to have a knock-on effect on the housing market. This is bad for landlords and the property market in general.
Research carried out by the UKs largest tenancy deposit schemes has revealed that 40% of students don’t get their deposit back when they leave their student accommodation at the end of an academic year. The mass exodus of students leaving their rental accommodation is about to begin. The university term finishes in June and most students won’t return until late September or early October. Many of them are hoping to have their deposits returned, but sadly this is not going to happen for a considerable number of them.
Cleanliness is an Issue
The biggest issue for landlords is cleanliness. Unfortunately, students are not known for their clean-living lifestyles and there are numerous shocking photos online of ghastly kitchens and mountains of empty pizza boxes next to several weeks’ worth of dirty dishes. It’s enough to make a landlord turn pale.
It’s also more than enough to persuade a landlord to hang on to a student’s deposit, as paying for professional cleaners to come in and deep clean a property is expensive.
The TDS is advising students to do a deep clean before they move out of their property. They also advise them to tidy any garden at the property. Property damage is another bone of contention, so students are advised to report damage to their landlord, preferably in writing.
Landlords cannot make unfair or unjustified deductions from the deposit. They are also not allowed to withhold deposits at the end of a tenancy.
When it comes to housing, Hong Kong is the most unaffordable place on earth. In fact, a lack of affordable homes is Hong Kong’s biggest social problem. Soaring rental prices have forced the poorest members of Hong Kong society into so-called ‘coffin homes’.
An Insult to Human Dignity
Some of these homes are so small that the inhabitants don’t even have enough room to stretch out their legs when lying down. In fact, the situation is so bad that the United Nations has condemned the coffin homes as an insult to human dignity.
Photos published online show residents living in horribly cramped conditions ranging from tiny – and illegal – rooftop shacks to metal cages and shoebox apartments. Often, dozens of people have to share a single toilet and sink.
One woman with two young children lives in a tiny windowless cubicle that is only 120-square feet. She pays £447 a month in rent, which is half her monthly income. The space is so small that her children don’t have enough room to do their homework.
An elderly man lives in a small coffin home that is only 1m x 2m. It is barely large enough for a sleeping bag, electric fan, and small colour TV.
Young People in Despair
The coffin homes are a far cry from the luxury apartments enjoyed by Hong Kong’s wealthy elite. One activist said the housing problem in Hong Kong was so bad that young people despaired of ever owning their own home.
An East London landlady has been fined a massive £235k and ordered to hand over the money within three months or face a two-year jail sentence. The landlady was caught out by housing officers from Barking council. After receiving an anonymous tip-off, housing officers raided an illegal bed-in-shed development built in the back garden owned by the landlady.
Illegal Extension in Landlady’s Back Garden
The illegal extension was only 37 feet long, so each room was very small. The conditions were described as “squalid”, yet the four rooms were being charged out at £2,850 a week. Indeed, conditions for the tenants were so bad housing officers described the rooms as more akin to a Rio favela than a legitimate rental accommodation.
A Victory for Tenants
‘This is a victory for tenants, decent landlords and the dogged determination of our diligent investigation and enforcement officers,” said Councillor Laila Butt, who also happens to be a Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement.
“Through our tough enforcement action they have been demolished so no one else has to suffer such bad living conditions,” she added.
The landlady has also been ordered by the court to pay an extra £2,000 fine for the illegal extension, which also must be paid within three months. She has an additional £11,649 in costs to pay, too.
Sadly, despite the huge fine, slum landlords continue to flout the law and rent out illegal beds in sheds, as in property hotspots like London, there is a lot of money to be made.
Controversial Landlord, Fergus Wilson, has asked the police to investigate after being trolled online by anonymous posters calling him “racist”.
Wilson caused a storm in the media when an email penned to his letting agent was leaked into the public domain. Mr Wilson allegedly decided to ban “coloured” tenants because they left his properties stinking of curry, which caused damage to carpets. He claimed to have spent £12,000 in lost rent and new carpets in six months because of the curry problem.
Since the email was made public, Wilson has been sent offensive Facebook posts and a link to a YouTube video where he is the subject of vile abuse. Kent police say they are looking into the allegations and if they find any wrongdoing, they will prosecute the offenders.
Mr Wilson has also had some of his To Let boards vandalised, with some of the boards now carrying offensive statements.
Despite the backlash to his comments, Mr Wilson has refused to apologise or back down to the haters. Instead, he stands firm on his decision to ban coloured tenants, single mothers, plumbers, smokers, and dog owners. He claims his decision is economic rather than racist and any landlord has the right to ban certain groups of tenants.
There is no doubt that Wilson is a savvy businessman. He’s worth a staggering £100 million and owns hundreds of properties in the Kent area. However, many people believe his views are questionable and the furore surrounding the leaked email is unlikely to go away just yet.
Since the introduction of Universal Credit, many landlords don’t accept tenants claiming benefits. Under the old system, housing benefit was paid directly to the landlord so it was impossible for a tenant to fall into arrears. Universal Credit has changed all that and under the new system, the housing benefit component of Universal Credit is paid directly to the tenant. Not surprisingly, the new system has caused landlords many headaches and a recent Residential Landlords Association found that 25% of landlords with UC tenants were chasing arrears.
Tenants and Money
If the tenant is responsible with their money, they hand it over to the landlord when the rent is due, but if they prefer to blow their cash down the pub, the landlord has to wait two months before they can request that an Alternative Payment Arrangement is put in place.
Tenant Budgeting Resources
Often, tenants fall into arrears because they are not good at managing their money. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has created a new online budget tool for Universal Credit claimants. The DWP says the tool is not intended to replace face-to-face contact, but it is available 24/7 and is full of useful information for tenants.
Vulnerable tenants and people without access to the internet will still have access to resources and help in the usual way. However, whether this extra resource will persuade landlords to take on UC tenants is debatable.
Fergus Wilson, Britain’s largest landlord caused uproar after he was reported to have told letting agents not to let any of his properties to “coloured” people. He justified his remarks by telling letting agents in Evolution, the agency he uses, that “coloured” people leave curry smells at the end of the tenancy. The agency said they did not condone Wilson’s remarks and would therefore not implement anything he said in his email.
Landlord Faces Legal Action
The Equality and Human Rights Commission watchdog are now investigating Wilson’s comments and have warned him that he could face legal action. Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the commission, described Mr Wilson’s remarks as “truly disgusting”. She said they reveal the “deep inequalities” still prevalent in UK society.
“As a country we all assume we have left the dark ages behind, but clearly there is more to be done. We will investigate and will be asking Mr Wilson to explain his actions. Unless we are satisfied that he will not commit unlawful acts in the future we will take legal action”.
Campaign Group Condemns Landlord
Campaign group Hope Not Hate were quick to respond to Wilson’s comments and described them as “serious in their implication”. They told the Guardian newspaper that landlords like Wilson could not treat people in such a despicable fashion.
“This is the unacceptable face of the housing crisis,” said a spokesperson for the group.
Fergus Wilson has been unavailable for comment ever since the news of his email comments broke, but he may have to resurface if Kent Police decides to get involved in the matter.