In this article I give an update on property issues which may be of interest to readers. As everyone will appreciate, there is much uncertainty in the property market at the present time. This is chiefly caused by the anxieties over Brexit. All the prognosticators seem to suggest that we are in for a rather bumpy ride, so hang on to your seats over the coming months.
LETTING FEES BAN
Lewis Ridley recently hit the news when he found a studio flat to rent after graduating. The letting agent tried to charge him a £150 administration fee and £30 referencing check. It appears the letting agent was unaware of a new law which came into effect on the 1st June in England. This banned charging upfront fees for services including viewings, credit checks, references and setting up a tenancy. Before the ban the average amount of additional fees a prospective tenant was expected to pay was between £100 and £300. Landlords or agents found charging these banned fees can be fined up to £5000 for a first offence.
WHAT STILL APPLIES?
In England the only payments you can now be asked for by an agent of landlord are:-
- Security deposit – which is now capped at five weeks rent
- A holding deposit to take the property off the market – which is now capped at one week’s rent
- Early termination payment – payable if you decide to leave before the fixed term of your tenancy has ended
- Change of sharer fee – payable if you replace the tenant
- Lost keys or security device (such as an electronic fob)
- Interest on rent payments which are more than 14 days overdue
The CAB advises tenants to question all upfront payments. They should also ask for receipts from their landlord or letting agent. Interestingly, Scotland has had the ban in place since 2012. The law came into effect in Wales this September.
BUSINESS RATES ARREARS
Business researchers estimate that one in six businesses in this country has been issued with a summons for non-payment of business rates over the last 12 months. Increases in business rates appear to be having a detrimental effect on the economy. About 190,000 businesses (which equates to over 500 a day) were issued with a summons last year. London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds all showed high numbers of firms really struggling to pay their rates bills. Perhaps Boris should look at this as there is a desperate need for a tax stimulus with many retail and hospitality businesses pulling out of this sector, usually blaming rates as one of the main factors for doing so.
My parents married after the war ended. There was an acute shortage of housing. The Government of the day met the challenge by building huge numbers of prefabricated homes. These were bungalows made offsite with all plumbing and electrics bedded in. The erection on site was extremely swift. The properties were essentially a short-term fix, but many still exist. With the current housing shortage prefabs have been looked at as another quick fix. However, one of the major players L & G Homes Modular has just announced an operating loss in excess of £20 million after a loss of £46 million in the previous year. They are aiming to build 3000 properties a year. One can only hope that the company and the idea survive as prefabs are among the best ways of providing accommodation for homeless people.
GREEN BELT HOUSING
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) carried out a recent poll. This found 63% of us oppose changes to planning rules to make it easier for homes to be built on green belt land. Only 15% expressed support for such changes. The Chancellor has been advocating the relaxation of restrictions on green belt land. CPRE’s spokesman said “people understand and value the benefits that easy access to nature brings to their health and wellbeing, as these survey results clearly demonstrate.” Those of us who have travelled extensively in the USA will, I am sure, testify to the value of preserving the green belt. Over there, it is almost impossible to see open countryside. Ribbon property development seems to flourish along most of the arterial routes. Although many of the houses look very nice, they cannot beat the beauty of open countryside.
A number of Councils are trying to crackdown on Council tenants illegally subletting their Council homes on short-term letting sites like Airbnb. The conditions of the Tenancy Agreement provide that there should be no illegal subletting, no misuse of Council housing and a ban on anti-social behaviour. A number of the London Boroughs as well as local authorities in Manchester, Oxford and Bath have now started to crack the whip.
The Experian credit barometer shows the average amount a first-time buyer now needs to raise for a deposit went up by 17% in the last year. The average deposit now required by a first-time buyer is £30,945. This time last year the amount required was £26,498. This increase can only add to the woes of first-time buyers – not only have they to find a hefty deposit, but they then have to find a mortgage. Experian spokesperson said “our barometer shows it continues to remain challenging for younger people to get their first foot onto the property ladder with deposits continuing to grow, which means finding the right mortgage deal to make the most of their deposit is crucial”
RENT OUT YOUR DRIVE?
One of the latest initiatives to be floated is how to get a profit from your own driveway. The thinking is that homeowners could profit if they rent out their driveways and install electric vehicle charging points to enable vehicles to be charged. It is estimated that homeowners living near locations such as town centres, railways stations and sports stadiums could offer the service to drivers of electric vehicles – interesting thought!
If you need help on any property matters then please do get in touch with us. You can contact us here at Busbys on 01288 35 9000, visit our website at www.busbyslaw.co.uk, or e‑mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. See also Busbys’ advert in this paper.
Bude & Holsworthy