Some economists are claiming Britain is now on the cusp of “economic escape velocity”, with our economy showing real signs of recovery. Initial Quarter 2 GDP figures indicate growth of around 0.6 per cent for the quarter which follows 0.3 per cent in Q1, and these figures could yet be revised upwards. The consumer confidence index published as the GfK consumer confidence barometer this month rose to its strongest level for almost 4 years.
All this equates to a growth rate of 2 to 2.5 per cent if this is sustained through this year and into next and, what’s more Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, has indicated that despite the improved figures, interest rates will be kept low, possibly until 2015 – all good news for landlords.
With this good news brings the fear in some quarters that the Help to Buy Scheme, although providing a welcome boost to the economy, could fuel another housing boom. However, this is discounted by government economists as lending is still quite tight and qualification for loans much more rigorous than in the boom years. Despite this, buy-to-let lending has had its best year since the crash and improved offers from many lenders on buy to let loans as increasingly available.
London mayor Boris Johnson this week published his final version of the London Rental Standard, which aims to raising standards of renting in the city’s under supplied private rented sector.
This scheme of minimum standards to be applied voluntarily by landlords and letting agents, and in conjunction with existing landlord and agent accreditation schemes, follows a 6-month consultation process within the sector.
The standard consists of 12 core commitments including on letting fees, deposits, repairs response times, plus initiatives on landlord and letting agent training and development through professional training courses.
We would encourage all London landlords and letting agents to participate in this scheme as effective voluntary action of this kind is by far the best way to stave off more compulsory and debilitating regulation of the sector.
The Select Committee Inquiry into the UK Private Rented Housing Sector has published its first report in July 2013. The (DCLG) Communities and Local Government Committee last year (2012) decided to conduct an inquiry into the private rented housing sector.
The Committee invited submissions from interested parties covering the quality and regulation of private rented housing, and levels of rent within the sector.
Those making submissions, which included well over 100 organisations and individuals, including LandlordZONE® See our response to the recommendations in this issue.
Our report in this issue from Bowlings Solicitors on the ongoing uncertainly created by appeal court decisions on the Deposit Protection rules highlights the importance of following these rules to the letter if landlords are to be successful when they are forced to use the section 21 possession process.
Judges interpret legal rules very strictly, and defending solicitors on the tenant’s side exploit this to the maximum, so any error, even minor ones, in the claims process, committed by landlord or letting agent, will result in possession claims, however justified, being thrown out of court.
Three key points to watch with deposits: (1) always protection a deposit within 30 days of taking it, re-confirm registration and follow the scheme’s procedures to the letter on renewal or when the tenancy becomes periodic (2) make sure you serve on your tenant the statutory prescribed information (s213) notice within the same timeframe, and (3) make sure you get proof of service. Unless you can prove you served the notice a tenant can easily block your possession claim by claiming it was never received.
Following revised guidelines recently published jointly by the tenancy deposit schemes, after the Superstrike v Rodrigues appeal case, landlords and agents are advised to re-issue the Prescribed Information (s213) after EVERY renewal or commencement of a statutory periodic tenancy. Under the new deposit scheme rules introduced in April 2012, it IS still possible to serve a valid s21 notice even if the s213 notice has been served late, but not if the deposit itself is protected late. In this situation though, the landlord could still be subjected to a fine.
Finally, this month we are delighted to report the successful launch of the New LandlordZONE® Website. With around 1.4 million pages on the site and many complex features, this has been a major undertaking which has been 6 months in the planning, preparation and pre-testing.
Our regular users will notice a much slicker and more modern look and feel, with less ads appearing at any one time, but we feel much more effectively. The design and structure is more suited to mobile viewing (phones and tablets) and as these devices represent use by a growing proportion of our regular audience, we feel this will give our visitors a much better experience and our advertisers more value for money.
Thanks go to the staff here that have worked so hard on this project and brought it to a successful conclusion, in particular our head of development and marketing, Joe Alexander. There is still much work to do as we add more exciting new features and advertising options, so if any of you have any feed-back we would welcome it.
Tom Entwistle, editor – comments to firstname.lastname@example.org