National Landlords Association

Encouraging renting

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Did the Shadow Chancellor have a point?


Blood letting seems the only king of private let the Chancellor approves of

Maybe that would be taking it too far, but in his response to George Osborne’s Autumn Statement the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, took inspiration from Chairman Mao.

He even went so far as to throw a copy of the infamous Little Red Book his way for advice.

Little could he have imagined that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stolen a (long?) march on his opposite number by embracing an ancient and very nasty Chinese custom.

It would seem that Mr Osborne is a committed student of  Chinese history and has managed to master and apply the ancient custom of ‘Lingchi’ – used for over a millennia in China until it was banned in 1905 – and otherwise known as the ‘death by a thousand cuts’.

Accordingly, one hundred and 10 years after falling out of favour the Chancellor and his colleagues have decided to resurrect the lingering death as a way of dealing with small landlords.

The lacerations started in the summer with the Chancellor’s Budget:

  • Finance costs – tax relief gone
  • Mortgage Interest – tax relief gone
  • Wear and Tear – reforms to come

These led to other consequences:

  • Landlords on low incomes forced into higher tax brackets
  • Effective Income Tax rates above 100 per cent
  • Moderate income households forced to sacrifice child benefit
  • Owners of larger portfolios losing personal allowances.

The Home Office joined in:

  • Immigration checks
  • Increased sanctions & criminal offences

Next up Communities and Local Government:

  • Restrictions on the use of s21
  • Seemingly endless proposals for ‘prescribed information’
  • Increased licensing of HMOs

And then back to the Treasury in time for the Autumn Statement where this week the Chancellor introduced what he described as “a tax on buy-to-lets and second homes”.

From next April, assuming the Government get their own way, landlords will be forced to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) at a rate 3 per cent higher than other purchasers.

In reality this means that an investment property bought today (November 2015) for £200,000 will incur an SDLT charge of £1,500. An effective rate of 0.8 per cent.

From April this will increase to a whopping £7,500, or in this case an effective rate of 3.75 per cent.

Even ignoring the efforts of the other departments of Government, which may be rationalised by other objectives, the Chancellor’s efforts will irrevocably alter the private rented sector.

For more information about the Autumn Statement see our briefing

Faced with the prospect of significant SDLT bills new acquisitions by small landlords will drop.

As a result of the Budget changes to finance relief existing portfolios held by individuals will become untenable – or drive accelerated rent inflation.

See our projections here.

So what’s next?

That is unclear. It is questionable that this is the end of the slicing. The Bank of England has been vocal about its concerns for the housing market and could yet make BTL lending more expensive and less available.

This Government has at least five more Budget Statements and four Autumn Statements before the 2020 election and there is still some revenue not yet re-classified as ‘profit’ for tax purposes.

What has been made clear is that the Government do not see small landlords playing a significant role in providing new housing. The target is larger commercial landlords and build-to-rent developments so far as renting is concerned – but ultimately home ownership is the prize for Osborne.

The mystery that remains is where these aspiring home owners of the future are supposed to live while Mr Osborne plans for 2020.

Perhaps that’s why he decided to increase funding to tackle homelessness…..


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Landlords are a social bunch

Did you know that three in 10 landlords visit property-focussed online forums on a daily basis? That’s a significant proportion.

A third of landlords say they visit such forums once every few days, a fifth visit once a week, and 10 per cent visit a few times per month.

The most referenced reason for visiting these forums is to obtain landlord advice and guidance (54%) and to keep up to date with general industry news (38%).

Interestingly, only a third (33%) say they use social media in a personal capacity, with the remaining two thirds (66%) using it for business purposes.

And at the time of the survey in 2013, the most used platform was facebook and linked in (both 50%), with only two in five landlords (40%) saying they had a twitter account.

Take our latest social media survey

It’s hard to believe that there aren’t more landlords engaging with social media and in particular twitter nowadays. As the largest landlord association the NLA is always looking to develop a better understanding of landlords and exploring new ways to engage with the landlord community.

So if you have a few minutes to spare and are willing to share your social media habits with us, then please take our latest survey here.




The looming ‘fraud’ cloud hanging over landlords

To Let signsThere has been a lot written about the risks that tenants face around ID fraud but what about the dangers to landlords?

Recent figures from fraud prevention experts, Cifas show that there were 6,274 instances of ‘previous occupier fraud’ – when a fraudster moves into an address and take on the previous tenant’s identity to apply for credit or loans – across the UK from January to June 2015, with fraudsters attempting to obtain products or services worth an estimated £8.6 million. This ties in with recent Office of National Statistics data that revealed application fraud had risen by 14% to 60,451 in the twelve months leading up to June 2015.

Now, you may be thinking that it is not your problem if your tenant is the victim of ID fraud, but you would be wrong. Any fraud that occurs in your property could have a lasting impact not only on your wallet but also your property and potentially your ability to secure credit in the future.

The potential consequences of identity fraud occurring in your property are:

  1. You may lose money. The chances are that if someone has come into your property with the intention of committing fraud, they won’t pay rent, service bills etc.
  2. You could end up with a County Court Judgement against you. If your identity is stolen and debt is accrued in your name, you could end up with a CCJ against you which can affect your credit rating.
  3. If ID fraud occurs in your property, it could be placed on a ‘blacklist’ which means that it can be difficult (and take longer) for you and future tenants to secure services, utilities and financial products at the address.
  4. You will have to go through a lengthy eviction process to get your property back. This will take both time and money.
  5. Unrelated to fraud but something that could cost you – property damage. You will need to pay to sort out any damage at the property.
  6. Lots of stress, time and effort. It can take months, or even years, to resolve an ID fraud.

It is essential to do everything you can to protect your property. Taking simple steps, such as installing separate letter boxes for each residence, can help reduce the danger but what else can you do to minimise your chances of becoming a fraud victim through your rental property?

Here are a few simple steps to protect your property:

  1. Follow the tenant referencing process: use a comprehensive tenant application form, carry out credit checks on all new tenants, look out for previous CCJs or financial irregularities, and ask for/ contact previous landlords and employer references.
  2. If you have a house of multiple occupancy, try to ensure that mail for each residency is separated out by installing individual post boxes at the property.
  3. Remove the risk of financial details falling into the wrong hands. Recommend that your outgoing tenants take out a Redirection for 12 months when they leave the property. This removes the issue of sensitive financial details remaining in the property, working out where to send on the mail of previous tenants, and taking the responsibility for disposing of it safely.

Jim Conning is the Managing Director of Data Services at Royal Mail.

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The Housing and Planning Bill – could it contain a ‘win’ for landlords with abandonment issues?

AbandonmentAnother day, another piece of legislation landlords need to be aware of.  After a brief consultation over the summer (see here) the Government has published the Housing and Planning Bill, which is currently before Parliament.  It contains a lot of landlord specific regulations. Although for the most part it focuses on sanctions for criminals and tightening up enforcements so shouldn’t have much impact on landlords going about their business. However it also contains a policy, which if passed, would represent a piece of good news (and dare I say a hard fought win) for landlords.

If passed the provisions of Housing and Planning Bill would introduce:

  • A rogues database – Landlords and others found guilty of certain housing related offences will be placed on a private register which enforcement agencies will be able to apply for access to, to monitor for re-offenders. This will be time limited.
  • Banning orders – For aggravated crimes; a local authority can apply for an order to ban landlords and letting agents for a fixed period from engaging in letting or related activity.
  • Civil penalties – If a landlord fails to comply with an improvement order an EHO will be able to opt for traditional prosecution or the use of a civil penalty (up to £5,000 in the first instance.
  • Extension of rent repayment orders – Rent repayment orders of up to 12 months may be applied for in relation to disrepair and/or illegal eviction in addition to other sanctions.
  • A revised fit and proper person test – Where used, the test will include a requirement for a Disclosures and Barring Certificate at a cost of £25 every 5 years.
  • Wider availability of tenancy deposit data – Local authorities will be able to request access to data held as a result of deposit protection to aid enforcement activity etc.
  • A new abandonment process – Landlords left with an empty property which they believe to be abandoned will be able to use a streamlined process without the necessity of seeking a court order for possession in most cases.

You can find a brief summary of the Bill and a clause by clause briefing here.

We have cautiously welcomed this Bill, as it is designed to target criminal landlords.  Our Chairman, Carolyn Uphill, gave oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee this week, and you can watch it here:

However, there is a very large caveat to that cautious welcome.  The Bill gives the Secretary of State a lot of powers to make further regulations and secondary legislation, which if approved now, will require minimal scrutiny later on.  Fresh from the farces regarding Carbon Monoxide Alarms and the Section 21 forms, we want to see the guidelines and secondary legislation published in draft and consulted on properly as soon as possible so we can get the details right and drive the criminal elements out of the sector.

What we warmly welcome is the Bill’s proposals to simplify the legal process where a landlord reclaims a property which has been abandoned by their tenant, namely by no longer needing to seek procession via the courts. The NLA has long campaigned for reforms, which will save landlords and taxpayers alike time and money by freeing up court time, and help those tenants looking for a home by getting abandoned properties back on the market in a much shorter time.

We are aware that some tenant organisations are concerned this is an erosion of tenants’ rights and could lead to increased homelessness. Crisis has written a blog post here explaining their concerns. Bluntly we think this is scaremongering as it fundamentally ignores the two stipulations the Bill insists must both be met before the landlord can reclaim possession.

The first of these is the unpaid rent condition, which stipulates that a tenant must be at least 8 full weeks in arrears before any new process can go ahead. The second is that the tenants must have not replied to two separate attempts by the landlord to get in touch beforehand (which is what any landlord would be doing anyway if they were owed monies).

Abandonment is a major concern for landlords, who not only face the prospect of going to court to regain the property, but also have to worry about the loss of valuable income at the same time as the possibility of squatters and subsequent criminal damage to the empty property.

Crucially under existing law, the landlord would be entitled under the Bill’s stipulations to claim possession anyway, under section 8 of the Housing Act.  The trouble with this process if the property is abandoned is that they have to wait weeks if not months for the case to come to court.

Crisis are right to say that figures vary, as no figures for recorded abandonment are available but DCLG conservatively estimate about 1,750 abandoned tenancies are resolved through the courts each year. The NLA believe these figures will only increase in light of landlords new obligations under the ‘Right to Rent’ national roll-out.

The Bill outlines several further safeguards for tenants, in terms of notice periods, and right of appeal and any abandonment case will always have to satisfy the ‘court of public opinion’.  It is also worth highlighting that the tenants possessions would always be stored under The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977.

Hopefully then this part of the Bill will be one public policy ‘win’ for landlords at a time of considerable legislative change for the sector.

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EPCs and why they are important if you are a landlord

EPC PICYou might not think much of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and less than 10% of tenants say they considered the energy efficiency of their current home as an important factor when deciding to live there. However, having an up-to-date EPC is a must and there are situations which could prove difficult for a landlord if you don’t have one, including not being able to regain possession of a property or being able to let it out at all. More immediately a landlord could already be breaking the law if they haven’t provided a valid certificate when marketing the property.

So here are three reasons why you need one:

1.     From 2020 you might not be able to let your property unless it’s rated E or above

By 1 April 2018 new and renewed tenancies will have to meet an EPC rating of E or above, with all tenancies falling in line on 1 April 2020. Failure to ensure that your property is up to this standard will mean that you will be breaking the law and as a result you could face a fine of up to £4,000. You won’t be able to rent out the property until improvements have been made to ensure it meets the energy efficiency requirements. However, there are circumstances which may mean you’re exempt which you can read about here.  To find out if and what you need to do to meet the approved rating book yourself a free energy assessment now!

2.     You have to give one to your tenants at the start of the tenancy

All landlords should provide their tenant with a valid EPC (among other things) at the start of all new tenancies as of 1 October 2015. If an EPC has not been supplied, you will not be able to serve a valid Section 21 notice, effectively preventing you from gaining possession of the property until the EPC (as well as other Prescribed Information) has been given to the tenant. However, this only applies if an EPC was required when the property was marketed – see below.

The Government has issued guidance which can be found here and for more information see here.

3.     EPCs are necessary for when you market your property

Back in 2013 Government legislated that all advertisements for either selling or renting property must clearly show the energy rating of the building. This includes ads placed in newspapers and magazines, any written material produced by the landlords or estate/letting agents, and on the internet.

You must therefore provide an EPC free of charge to a prospective tenant at the earliest opportunity.

There is a penalty of £200 per advert for failing to provide an EPC so you have been warned, but again there are exceptions such as if there was insufficient time for the prospective landlord to be reasonably expected to have obtained an EPC before letting the building or if the landlord has given a valid EPC to the tenant as soon as reasonably practicable after letting the property.

Certain properties, such as listed buildings and some forms of shared housing are exempt from these regulations. For more information see our online library.

Avoid fines and falling foul of the law and get yourself an EPC for your property now!

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Is your property winter-ready?

winter tips

Now that the clocks have gone back it marks the start of shorter days, colder nights and, if you aren’t careful, a range of troublesome and costly problems associated with the cold weather. So don’t forget to follow these top tips…

1.     Damp and mould

Mould can be, and often is, caused by the tenant’s actions (or lack of) around the home, for instance insufficient heating or ventilation of the property, or perhaps drying clothing indoors. That is why you need to make sure that your tenants know what they can do to prevent the build-up of condensation and mould.


As a landlord make sure you have done your part by providing adequate ventilation systems and ensuring the property is free of damp either in the form of rising damp, penetration from the outside or condensation.

Condensation can be especially troublesome during the winter months and can damage paintwork and fixtures and fittings. As it gets colder your tenants may start to keep windows closed to save precious heat. But poor ventilation leads to a build-up of condensation, which leads to mould and in-turn leads to unhappy tenants. Make sure that you explain the importance of keeping the house ventilated, for example by using extractor fans when cooking.


Some tenants opt to pull on a jumper instead of turning on the heating, and who would blame them with the cost of rising energy prices. But this too can contribute to a build-up of mould because it is important to maintain an even temperature throughout the property to prevent condensation. You can remind tenants of their right to switch energy suppliers if they are concerned about costs, as there are always good deals to be had.


Autumn brings leaves so make sure you check the guttering as leaves can cause blockages and water to overflow, which can damage walls and rendering causing damp problems.


A well-insulated home can lead to condensation if it is not properly ventilated but it can help combat against mould and help with the energy bills, making your property more attractive to let. However, insulation measures aren’t cheap, so shop around and get a free energy assessment here to get expert advice on what improvements you could make to your properties.

2.     Pipes

A burst pipe can be an expensive problem to fix but it can be prevented by ensuring that the heating remains on during cold spells. If your property has pipes on the outside it is even more important to keep the heating on as they will be more susceptible to freezing. It may also be worth investing in pipe insulation.

Remind your tenants to leave the heating on or to use a timer to ensure it comes on regularly (especially if they are going away). A gentle reminder can save you the cost of fixing burst pipes and your tenants from the hassle of no hot water and/or heating while it’s being fixed.

3.    Break-ins

Winters can sometimes be a give-away for people not being at home. As it is darker for longer it gives thieves the opportunity to see if people are home by whether the lights are on or not. Again, advising your tenants about preventative measures such as automatic lights is always a good idea, and installing several so that they turn on and off at different can help deter opportunistic thieves.

4.     Stop taps

Be sure to tell your tenants where to locate water and gas stop taps and the fuse box and make sure they know how to operate them. In an emergency it will help to ensure swift action is taken and minimise any damage or danger.

5.     Fire Hazards

While fire safety is important all year round, the winter period can increase the chances of fire due to a number of factors such the use of candles, fires and heaters.

Properly working alarms, connected to smoke or heat detectors play a large part in saving lives in the event of a fire and it is now law to have smoke alarms fitted in rental properties on every floor.

Stress to your tenants the importance of not tampering with the alarms, for instance taking out the batteries, and to test them regularly.

Provide your tenants with primary means of fighting fire, such as fire blanket and extinguishers; you can find fire and gas safety equipment here.  For more advice and guidance on health and safety, you’ll find chapters on fire, gas and electricity safety in the NLA’s online library.

6.   Contact details

It is important that your tenants know how to get in touch with you or the property manager in the event of an emergency. All of this information can be included in a tenant’s information pack which you should provide to all your tenants.

7.   Get the right insurance

Finally, even if you have taken all appropriate measures to ensure your property is in ship shape, problems can still occur and the current cold weather should act as a reminder for landlords to ensure your properties and investment are properly protected by having the right type of insurance.

Normal home insurance policies are not valid so it is vital that you have a comprehensive landlords’ insurance policy that suits your needs and covers for weather-related problems such as frozen pipes and subsequent flooding, storm damage, water leaks and third parity liability for injuries to others.

NLA Property Insurance has a comprehensive range of policies to suit the needs of any landlord. Whether you have a single property or a portfolio NLA Property Insurance will give you value for money. For more information and to see the highly competitive premiums click here.


If you want change, petitions are not the answer

Budget lobby petitionsSince the Budget in July we’ve had a number of members call or email in to ask why we haven’t actively promoted the online petition against the Government’s proposals to reduce mortgage interest tax relief.

The simple answer that we’ve given to members is we believe the process is a waste of time, and that while we would never discourage landlords from signing it, we are not making it the main focus of our lobbying efforts.

Granted not everyone will agree with us – but we thought it would be useful to explain why the NLA tends not to promote petitions, and what we suggest landlords do to make their voices heard.

How the process works

If a petition gets 20,000 signatures the Government responds to it. In practice this just means that they repeat the same thinking and justification for the scheme that they outlined when they announced it, which is exactly what the Government has done in this case.

If a petition gets over 100,000 signatures then it is considered for a debate of MPs. That sounds impressive to some; however the reality is very different.

Even if it is granted a debate (and remember it needs only be considered) it won’t take place on the floor of the House of Commons but instead in the Grand Committee Room.  This sounds posh but, as you can see, it is effectively a side room which consists of table and cushioned chairs; very different from the grandeur of the Commons and Lords opposing benches. It will also only take place when ‘parliamentary time allows’ meaning that it could be months down the line, by which point the chance to affect change may well have passed. 

Why the scepticism for the process?

Attendance at debates is often abysmal, and most MPs that attend will have been put up by their whips to speak on the petition’s behalf; or more accurately to go through the motions, speak around the general subject and then ask MPs to consider the petition and note its contents. However, relatively few petitions ever reach debate stage.

An example of one which did was entitled ‘To debate a vote of no confidence in Health Secretary the Right Hon Jeremy Hunt’.  At the start of the debate however, MPs had to stress that the Petitions Committee does not have the power to initiate a vote of no confidence.  Furthermore, the Secretary of State did not answer for the Government, but instead the Under-Secretary of State for Health, Ben Gummer responded to questions.  As you can see, it was really packed to the rafters. 

Other lobbing groups share our scepticism

The online petition site was a good innovation, but petitions are rarely an accurate gauge of public feeling on any issue and should not be used as such.

For example, the combined number of teachers and nurses in the UK stands at approximately 800,000, yet just 12,000 or 1.5% (at time of writing) have signed a petition entitled Remove the 1% public sector pay cap. Teachers, nurses etc. deserve a pay rise too’. This shows that the trade unions lobbying for change for these professions share the same scepticism for the process that we do, and that ultimately they’re not taking it seriously as a means of effectively changing government policy.

Government is already debating the proposals

Finally, and more importantly in this case, the Budget proposals are already being debated by MPs, so why do we need a petition? The Budget is a piece of legislation which, like any other, needs to be debated and follow the proper passage of a Bill.

It’s in Parliament that the NLA is focusing its effort, working hard to meet with and brief MPs in order to gain support for possible amendments to the Bill. 

Join us and lobby your MP more effectively

Not all MPs are aware just how much this will impact on landlords and their tenants, so we need to get as many on board to be our voice in Parliament in order to influence change on the Finance Bill.

And here’s where we ask for your support. We need you to contact your MP. To help we have introduced NLA Lobby, which will allow you to send a pre-written email to your local MP voicing your opposition to the proposals. All you need to do is input just a few bits of information in order to find out who your local MP is. It’s simple and takes a matter of minutes.

So sign a petition, by all means. But if you’re concerned about being able to survive the proposed Budget changes once they come into full effect in 2020, then your best option is to get lobbying your local MP before it’s too late.


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