Study finds 41% of tenant’s ‘create issues’ and leave repair costs of £210

moneyhouse1A survey conducted by interiors company Hillary’s has found that 41% of tenants have issues with their agents or landlords. The study also found that the average tenant leaves a property requiring £210 of maintenance and repair fees.

The study was comprised of interviews with 2,302 Britons aged 18 or over, all of which owned at least one property to let.

The respondents were all asked about how they felt about letting out their property, to which 25% per cent of all respondents felt nervous about the situation as they had limited control over how the tenants treat their home. The remaining 13 per cent stated that they regret letting their property.

When asked if they had ever experienced issues with their tenants, over two fifths admitted that ‘they have. The top five were:

·         Tenants getting in touch too often about minor or imagined issues (58%);

·         Tenants making modifications in the home without gaining permission (41%);

·         Neighbours complaining about tenants (26%);

·         Tenants causing damage and expecting landlord to cover costs (23%);

·         Tenants not paying rent on time (18%).

Landlords who thought their tenants contacted them too frequently with minor or non-existent issues were asked how many times a month they heard from their tenants. The average was found to be four times per month, or once a week.

Finally, landlords were asked how much on average the repairs, general maintenance and cleaning required once a tenant moves out cost them. The average answer was £210.

In order to protect your investment as a landlord, the NLA offers a tenant check service which provides comprehensive background checks to ensure that your repairs and maintenance costs remain at a minimum. Also included are comprehensive background checks that ensure you choose the correct tenant for your property.

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Labour Party calls for three week maximum deposit

LabourAfter the first hearing of the Tenant Fees Bill this week, Labour is pushing for a maximum tenant’s deposit of just three weeks’ rent.

The Shadow Housing Minister, Melanie Onn, said in a tweet yesterday:

“Labour is fighting for a new three-week limit for rent deposits:

“The current deal for private renters is unacceptable – Labour in government would do more to protect them.”

Fellow committee member Jo Stevens MP also expressed support for motion, outlining in a tweet ’Tories just voted down our amendment to put a cap of 3 weeks rent on tenancy deposits for private renters. So much for PM’s promise to the ‘just about managing’  Hypocrites’.

Curtailing the power of private landlords and letting agents has been a consistent theme from the Labour Party, with its Scottish leader Richard Leonard unveiling new plans in March to introduce ‘stringent’ rent restrictions, controlling rent prices and limiting the power of private landlords. The proposed ‘Mary Barbour’ law aims to reform the private rental sector and help solve Scotland’s “housing crisis”.

Speaking after the Tenant Fees Bill Committee hearing on Tuesday, ARLA Propertymark chief executive David Cox said:

“As I laid out to the Public Bill Committee… the purpose of the deposit is to mitigate against unpaid rent and damage to the property.

“Many tenants do not pay the last month’s rent which is then covered by the security deposit.

“This amendment won’t allow for that, which risks leaving a landlord without the full final month’s rent or repairs for any damage.

“It’s not clear how this proposal of three weeks’ deposit has been worked out.”

The Bill has had its second reading in the Commons and during the committee stage, NLA CEO Richard Lambert also gave evidence.

Questioned by Rishi Sunak MP, the Minister for Local Government, Richard was asked for clarification regarding the NLA’s position on the appropriate level for the security deposit cap.

Richard stated that: ‘We would prefer not to have a cap at all. If the Government are determined to bring one in, six weeks is something that we think we can work with’.

Earlier in the proceedings, he had emphasised that the NLA advice to landlords is to charge a six week deposit, so that tenants do not see the deposit as their last month’s rent.

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Could Credit Scores now Include Rental Payments?

Parliament(coalition)Currently if a model tenant pays rent on time each month, their rental payment history does not count towards their credit score. However, with the introduction of the Creditworthiness Assessment Bill put forward by Lord Bird, founder of the Big Issue, this could all change.

The bill proposes conditions for lenders to take rental payments and council tax payments into account when assessing potential borrowers. Subsequently, it will be made easier for credit agencies to access tenants’ payment histories and include them in all-important credit scores.

One Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds, argued that up to 80% of tenants’ credit ratings would increase with the inclusion of rental payment history. There were fears that the bill would be held back by amendments, but these proved unfounded after the amendments were withdrawn. Industry experts also raised concerns surrounding difficulties of recording payment histories accurately when thousands of private landlords are involved, as opposed to a handful of major financial institutions and big retailers who provide the majority of credit in the UK.

Despite these concerns, the Creditworthiness Assessment Bill has passed two readings and the committee stage in the House of Lords already, making significant progress towards reaching debate in the Commons.

Lord Bird’s Bill has  received cross-party, public and industry support from NALS. Speaking to peers earlier in May, Lord Bird said:

“If there are any unintended consequences then it is our duty to look at legislation and not simply write-off 80 per cent of people in order to protect 20 when the best thing you can do to protect them is to find out who they are, get very close to them and embrace them. Those are the people I know, the people I work with and the people I come from and there is absolutely no way I would ever come close to grassing them up.”

How could this benefit you as an agent?

Under this legislation, tenants will have even more of an incentive to pay their rent promptly. Those who apply for loans or save for mortgages will want the highest credit score possible and will therefore be even more motivated to pay their rent on time each month.

This will contribute towards reduced arrears, which means you’ll have to do less chasing and will benefit from increased cash flow, which as highlighted on the letting blog last week, is an increasing problem in the UK.

Furthermore, if a renter’s payment history becomes more accessible, it would support the tenant referencing process, allowing agents to gain a clearer picture for prospective clients.

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New Figures Suggest Increase in Tenant Arrears among Rising Rents

Tcredit-card-gold-platinum-1512626he latest figures for April released by Your Move’s England and Wales rental tracker highlights an increasing number of tenants in arrears for the fourth consecutive month.

The agency figures found that 9.4% of all its tenancies were in arrears last month, up from 9.1% in March, 8.6% in February and 8.4% in January.

While the average yield across England and Wales remained steady at 4.4% throughout April, the regional data contained a range of fluctuations. The YourMove report found that the East Midlands was the only region to record an increase between March and April, which increased from 4% to 4.3%.

In the North West and East of England average yields suffered, dropping to 4.8% and 3.7% respectively.

The monthly study also factored in average rents and found the region with the highest increases was the South West, which registered a total increase of 3% in the previous 12 months, resulting in an average increase per month of 0.3%.

A similar growth was found in the East Midlands, which registered an average growth of 2.9% in the past 12 months, with the average rent now increasing to £654.

With this steady increase in rents likely to further affect tenants, ensuring you’re protected from arrears will continue to become an ever more important matter. UKALA tenant check offers extensive background information and credit checks that will take the risk out of renting, you will be able to find if the tenant:

  • Has County Court Judgments
  • Has been made bankrupt or are insolvent
  • Has NOT lived at the previous address given
  • Are NOT who they claim to be
  • Are NOT employed and/or earning the amount they claim to be earning
  • Have experienced problems with previous landlords/letting agents

Furthermore, if you are looking to recover losses in rent from past or present tenants, services such as NLA Rent Recovery will offer you a more personalised service.

Benefits:

  • Fully automated online system
  • Online case tracking facility
  • Free Support Line
  • Fixed Price solution under normal circumstances*
  • Discounted rates to NLA Full Members

Find out more about UKALA services here and NLA services here

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Property Ombudsman Report finds 11% Rise in Complaints for Letting Agents

ThePropertyOmbudsman-logo400x310In bad news for the lettings sector, The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has issued its annual report for 2017, which has highlighted an 11% increase in formal complaints.

Following a 3% rise in complaints to 3,658 from 2016, TPO made financial awards to consumers in 2,408 instances which totalled £1.36m, an increase of 11% on the previous year, mostly due to a rise on the lettings side of the property industry. Of those complaints some 67% were supported by the Ombudsman.

Some 49% of complaints were made by landlords, while 45%were made by tenants. The top causes of complaints were about management issues; communication and record keeping; tenancy agreements, inventories and deposits; and then in-house complaint procedures.

Continuing the trend from 2016, the regions with the highest volume of complaints were Greater London 23%, the South East 20% and North West 11%.

Commenting on the statistical and complaints figures, TPO spokesperson Katrine Sporle said:

“With 38,272 offices and departments now following our Codes of Practice, approved by Chartered Trading Standards Institute, I think it is encouraging that complaints have risen by just three per cent and that 10 per cent fewer agents had to be referred to our Disciplinary and Standards Committee

We agree with Government that there are gaps in the current provisions of consumer redress within the property sector which need addressing and, together with industry and consumer partners, we are keen to play our part in regulation and redress reform”.

The way forward for Letting Agents

In an opinion piece published on the letting blog last week, UKALA executive director Richard Price outlined a way forward for letting agents, asking them to understand their role in the PRS and fulfil it in a way that keeps their clients and consumers happy.

With the upcoming tenant fees bill coming into force next year, many letting agents are uncertain about the range, quality and reliability of services they will be able to provide to tenants.

Addressing these concerns and stating the importance of good practice, Richard Price said: “You will need to prove your worth to your clients, landlords, by making sure their expectations are met… But this should not be at the expense of the consumer, the tenant; if they don’t like the way you operate, or perceive a poor service, then they will take their business elsewhere and be more than willing to share their experiences. If you can’t fill properties then you may well lose the landlord too.

Read the full property ombudsman report here

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UKALA Director Richard Price: Fees Ban does not Mean Agents can be Devoid of Quality

fees400x310Recent void statistics have had me wondering how agents can juggle client and consumer demands in the face of the impending fees ban.

Filling the void

UKALA’s latest research found that 35% of landlords experienced a void period in the last three months; up from 33% the previous quarter.

In the North of England, this was even higher, at 53%. Perhaps unsurprisingly, landlords in the South East had the lowest percentage of voids at 28%.

Most voids were due to natural tenant changeover, but in a quarter of cases landlords said the void was a consequence of challenges with finding new tenants.

Tightening the belts

Agents are, of course, best placed to ensure landlords can sidestep a potential void. But with tougher taxation now in place it’s more important than ever for landlords to minimise a costly void and maintain a steady income.

Some landlords will also be looking at ways to minimise their operating costs so they can maintain a healthy return on investment, and while rents are increasing in most regions at the moment, eventually the market will naturally reach a tipping point where tenants will no longer accept higher rents, as seems to be the case in London.

The challenge for agents

Agents, meanwhile, will need to rethink their operating models, particularly as the tenant fees ban approaches. While we still don’t know exactly when this will be implemented, we know that it’s coming and we need to be prepared.

Naturally some agents, under pressure from the imminent fees ban, are growing concerned at what impact this will have on the level of quality and service they will be able to provide consumers. If you’re in this boat then you need to remember that as an agent, you are being paid to act on behalf of the landlord to fulfil their duty of care to their tenants.

You will need to prove your worth to your clients, landlords, by making sure their expectations are met, and provide a cost-effective, reliable service. But this should not be at the expense of the consumer, the tenant; if they don’t like the way you operate, or perceive a poor service, then they will take their business elsewhere and be more than willing to share their experiences. If you can’t fill properties then you may well lose the landlord too.

So here is my challenge to you: understand your role in the PRS and fulfil it in a way that keeps your clients and your consumers happy.

Remember that your trade association is always here to help you do this. If you don’t belong to one, then there’s your first step to achieving that challenge.

*Richard Price is Executive Director of the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA)

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Government Publishes Tenant Fees Bill

MHCLG LOgoYesterday, the Government published its tenant fees bill, which will ban all letting and agents fees charged to tenants by agents and landlords in England.

The Government first announced in that they would ban letting agents’ fees in the Autumn Statement 2016. From April to June 2017 the Government held a consultation on introducing a ban on letting agent fees paid by tenants which received over 4,700 responses.

The Government had initially proposed in the consultation to cap security deposits at no more than 4 weeks’ rent. From the beginning of the process, the NLA has been actively campaigning around raising the cap to 6 weeks. This was outlined when Richard Lambert, CEO of the NLA, met with the Minister of State for Housing and Planning Alok Sharma MP in September and pressed him to rethink the level of this cap.

The NLA argued that imposing an arbitrary cap on security deposits of one month’s rent would have unintended consequences, which could be damaging to certain groups of prospective tenants. It could also have the counter-productive effect of reducing some households’ abilities to secure suitable accommodation in the sector.

The main measures contained in the Tenant Fees Bill will:

  • Ban letting agents or landlords from charging fees for the granting, renewal or continuation of a tenancy.
  • Cap holding deposits at no more than one week’s rent and security deposits at no more than 6 weeks’ rent. It is important to note that this six weeks will be ‘an upper limit and not a guideline’, with each landlord deciding this on a case by case basis.
  • The draft bill also sets out the proposed requirements on landlords and agents to return a holding deposit to a tenant.
  • Create a civil offence with a fine of £5,000 for an initial breach of the ban on letting agent fees and creating a criminal offence where a person has been fined or convicted of the same offence within the last 5 years. Civil penalties of up to £30,000 can be issued as an alternative to prosecution.
  • Require Trading Standards to enforce the ban and to make provision for tenants to be able to recover unlawfully charged fees.
  • Appoint a lead enforcement authority in the lettings sector.
  • Amend the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to specify that the letting agent transparency requirements should apply to property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla.

Alongside rent and deposits, agents and landlords will only be permitted to charge tenants fees associated with:

  • A change or early termination of a tenancy when requested by the tenant
    Utilities, communication services and Council Tax.
  • Payments arising from a default by the tenant such as replacing lost key.
  • The new measures are subject to Parliamentary timetables and will be introduced in law next year.

Speaking on the bill, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson Becky Perks said:

“We have accepted the majority of their recommendations, which have refined and informed the final Bill. After careful consideration, the Government has decided not to accept the Committee’s recommendation to lower the cap on tenancy deposits to 5 weeks’ rent. We believe that a cap of 6 weeks’ rent will better support both landlords and tenants by giving landlords greater financial flexibility and security. A deposit of 6 weeks’ rent will of course be an upper limit and not a recommendation. We expect that landlords should consider on a case by case basis the appropriate level of deposit to take”.

“This will ensure that each and every agent is giving tenants and landlords the financial protection that they deserve”.

Read the full bill here & the Government response here

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