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Councils must crack down on rogue letting agents

Local authorities must take much firmer action against rogue letting agents that tarnish the image of the private rented sector, the National Landlords Association (NLA) has said.

New research by the NLA found that more than half of local authorities did not prosecute a single letting agent in the four-year period from 2014/15 to 2017/18.

In a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to 20 local authorities, the NLA discovered that 53 per cent of local authorities did not prosecute any letting agents.

A further 32 per cent prosecuted three or fewer.

Liverpool City Council was the outlier, prosecuting 13 letting agents. By contrast, Hammersmith and Fulham Council did not even bother to respond to the FOI. Of the 20 councils questioned, 13 had already introduced landlord licensing schemes.

The NLA expressed concern at the fact that some letting agents make unauthorised alterations to a landlord’s property, leading to a breakdown of trust between the tenant and the landlord.

In addition, they sometimes let out a landlord’s property to multiple tenants, effectively creating an illegal “house in multiple occupation” (HMO).

Given that the licensing laws on an HMO are stricter than those for a single occupancy property, this can leave the landlord liable to fines of up to £30,000 or even criminal charges.

Richard Lambert, CEO of the NLA, said: “It is clear that too many local authorities to failing in their duty to prosecute rogue letting agents.

“These bad ones can really poison the relationship between landlords and tenants. We want to see local authorities take much firmer action.

“We were shocked to find that so few letting agents are being prosecuted by local authorities. While many local authorities have introduced licensing schemes to crack down on rogue landlords, they seem to be allowing letting agents to get off scot-free. This must stop.

“In the meantime, landlords should make sure their chosen agent is reputable and is a member of a client money protection scheme that will safeguard their assets — rental money, deposit or other funds — if they misappropriate them or go bust.”

Source: Simple Landlords Insurance

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Council proposes crackdown on student Houses of Multiple Occupation

Houses with several students living in them could face tougher restrictions under new plans approved last night by Broxtowe Borough Council.

Families are thinking of leaving the area, because the number of student Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) have increased so much around Beeston, according to one councillor.

Several councillors said the number of HMOs has ‘eroded the character of parts of Beeston’.

Currently, no additional planning permission is needed to convert a ‘family house’ to an HMO in Broxtowe if there are six or fewer students living there.

With two successful and growing universities, and pressure for student housing still high in the city, there has been a growth in recent years of student living across the border in Broxtowe, and Beeston in particular.

Now, concerns are being raised about the quantity of HMOs, and Broxtowe Borough Council is looking to impose new restrictions.

In Nottingham, to convert a ‘family house’ to an HMO, you need to get special planning permission if there are going to be three or more unrelated people living in a house – lower than the threshold in Broxtowe.

Now, Broxtowe is considering bringing its rules in line with the city’s, and is now looking into whether a policy would work.

It is hoped the move could help the council control the amount of new applications it receives, and give it power to reject applications it feels are inappropriate.

However to impose a scheme like this, the council has to have evidence showing there is a need for the new measures.

Now, Broxtowe Borough Council plans to collect this information, before a scheme could potentially be introduced by the end of the year, or early next year.

Councillor Lynda Lally represents Beeston Central for Labour, and said: “I’ve never known anything in the 20 years of being a councillor for Beeston Central which has been as controversial as this, apart from the tram.

“I genuinely feel this is a huge probelm, and we can’t just say ‘we’ll see how this goes’, we can’t do that any more.

“I’ve had people in an emotional state saying I’m going to move out of here because I can’t stand what’s happening to my street any more.

“Family homes with three bedrooms are turning into homes with eight, nine and 10 bedrooms, so I’m really glad we are tackling this.”

“We cannot see our communities destroyed any more.

“This is not against students, this is about getting a better mix.”

Councillor Stephen Carr is the leader of the Liberal Democrats, and represents Beeston North.

He said: “Nottingham seems to now be saturated with HMOs.

“Just over the last few months (in Broxtowe) there are more, and more and more (HMOs) coming in.

“What we are trying to prevent at this stage, is not shutting the door after the horse has bolted, but preventing us becoming Dunkirk, or Lenton which, when you go there now when the students aren’t there, it’s deserted. It has no character, it has hardly any families left.

“We really need this policy quickly.”

The plan was approved unanimously at a meeting of Broxtowe Borough Council’s Jobs and Economy Committee yesterday (Thursday, July 4)

By Local Democracy Reporters

Source: West Bridgford Wire

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Help for landlords who struggle to keep up with pace of change

Many landlords in the UK are struggling to keep up with changes to the law that have been introduced over the past year, according to an independent survey.

Some 30 per cent do not understand the changes to House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing, which came into effect in October 2018 and 28 per cent are not aware of the abolition of Section 21, which came into force at the start of June 2019 to prevent unfair tenant evictions.

The survey commissioned by bridging lender Market Financial Solutions, also found that 27 per cent are uncertain about the tenant fees ban, with a further 19 per cent saying they understand the reform but are unsure how it will affect them.

When it some to tax, there was also significant confusion, with the poll showing that 28 per cent do not understand the reforms to inheritance tax that have changed the tax free allowance on properties being passed down and 25 per cent do not know about the reforms affecting tax relief on mortgage repayments, which were implemented in April this year.

The research also found that far more landlords opposed these reforms than supported them.

Some 44 per cent are against the banning of letting fees, compared to 23 per cent in favour, 37 per cent against the abolition of Section 21 with 16 per cent in favour, while 48 per cent are against changes to buy-to-let mortgage relief and 16 per cent for.

Source: Simple Landlords Insurance