National Landlords Association

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Don’t be a victim of fraud: Protect yourself from rental scams

rental fraudAnother year, another group of victims of rental fraud; sadly it is that time of the year again where many have their excitement of coming to the UK to study or work turned into stomach-churning dread at the realisation of having been scammed at the hands of fraudsters when searching for a place to live.

Each year we receive reports of students being tricked out of their rent and deposits by criminals when looking on the internet for property to rent. Some have paid hundreds, sometimes thousand for accommodation which either doesn’t exist or does but doesn’t belong to the person you gave your money to.

Rental fraud happens when would-be tenants are tricked into paying an advance fee to rent a property. The victim loses the fee they have paid and is not able to rent the property they thought they had paid for in advance. It is well known that scammers often target students who are looking for university accommodation, particularly those coming from abroad securing property online, and use tactics such as NLA branding or fake letters from NLA Local Representatives to support their demands in order to lure their victims in to a false sense of security.

Tips to avoid being scammed

The National Landlords Association (NLA) is warning students and other would be victims to beware of rental fraud. We, in partnership with National Union of Students (NUS) and National Crime Agency, came up with some top tips which can help anyone who is not familiar with the rental market in the UK.

Never take things for face value, make sure you have your wits about you, and if your gut is telling you something, listen to it.

Here are our top tips to ensure you can protect yourself from scams:

  • Overseas applicants needing to secure accommodation before they arrive in the UK should first seek the help of the employer or university they are coming to as they will have an approved list of trusted accommodation providers.
  • Do not send money in advance or upfront to anyone advertising rental properties online until you are certain the advertiser is genuine and have viewed the property
  • Beware if you are asked to wire any money via a money transfer service. Criminals can use details from the receipt to withdraw money from another location.
  • Get paperwork. Ask for a copy of the tenancy agreement or safety certificates to confirm that the “landlord” has a genuine legal connection with property.
  • Contact the organisations the landlord says they are associated with to verify their status. Tenants wanting to check whether a prospective landlord is a member of the NLA or accredited should ask them for their membership number, then go to: landlords.org.uk/member-verification
  • Use government approved deposit schemes such as my|deposits
  • DO NOT be pressurised into transferring money. Transfer funds to a bank account after you have obtained the details by contacting the landlord or agent directly, but only after the above steps have been followed.
  • Remember, if the offer is too good to be true, it probably is! Use your common sense.

Remember to report it

Finally, any tenants who fall victim to such a scam should contact the relevant authorities in their own country and alert the police in the UK via www.actionfraud.police.uk


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May you live in interesting times…..

interest-rateIn February 2009 Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, Alistair Darling was Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mervyn King was Governor of the Bank of England.

Perhaps more significantly, the Bank of England Base Rate was 1 per cent. The following month it was to drop to 0.5 per cent a historic low at which it has stayed for more than 5 years.

In that time the private-rented sector has grown from around 14 per cent of households to more than 1 in 5, thanks in part to billions of pounds worth of buy-to-let lending.

Many landlords have become accustomed to low interest rates, in fact a significant number have never known base rates above 0.5 per cent, and it looks like rises predicted for late 2015 may come as an unwelcome surprise for some.

The calculator below will give an indication of what mortgage interest payment may look like – assuming lenders pass on future increases in full. Simply input your outstanding mortgage amount and current product rate (replacing the green examples) for an indication of the costs of rising rates.

Given the Government’s plans to drastically reduce the ability of landlords to deduct mortgage interest from their taxable income, landlords’ ability to cope with increased rates is likely to be a defining feature of the next few years. Although most predictions suggest that the base rate will increase very slowly – not reaching 3 per cent until around 2017/18.


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It was better when they forgot all about the PRS

budget announcement falloutFor some people, (teachers and dare I say Tube staff)[1] the summer months are a time of winding down at work, quiet relaxation and holidays with family and/or friends. For the policy team at the NLA however, the last few months have been very eventful.

What are we playing at?

No we haven’t been gripped by Corbyn fever (we will save debates about rent controls and renters having a right to buy for another time) but instead inundated with new government policies on the PRS and correspondence from members asking what the NLA ‘is playing at’ and what we intend to do about the Chancellor’s tax bombshell.

We always welcome interaction with members, and we plan to use many of the examples of the impact on their personal finances they have sent us in our representations to the Treasury. However we might not take up some of the more radical suggestions of lobbying tactics, my favourite of which was that the UK’s leading membership organisation for landlords should never speak to the Government again on any issue concerning landlords until they capitulate.

That is because as well as the fallout from the Budget in the last few weeks we have had announcements on Right to Rent immigration checks, the consultation to replace the Wear and Tear Allowance, and a consultation (sorry, technical discussion paper – which just means we have less time to respond) from the DCLG on ‘Tackling Rogue Landlords and Improving the PRS’. All this from the party we criticised before the election for forgetting to mention the PRS at all in their manifesto.

We saw it coming

Members might be interested in our correspondence with the Treasury. We wrote to the Chancellor before and after the Budget, and the content of the response, from David Gauke MP, isn’t encouraging. In fact, the Minister at one point worryingly seems to think we should be pleased with the Budget in that they didn’t abolish mortgage interest tax relief all-together.

As well as displaying (what we hope is just) a poor sense of humour, he also shows a worrying lack of understanding of the PRS. Firstly he says that: “The Government does not expect this to have a large impact on either house prices or rent levels…”

Err…how do you think landlords are going to afford this massive tax hike? As with any other business, they will absorb what they can, but they will have no choice but to raise more revenue from their customers to cover the shortfall, i.e. raise rents.

The Minister then says that, “Only around 1 in 5 (18 per cent) of individual landlords are expected to pay more taxes.”

What the Minister does not mention is that:

  1. A large proportion of those 18 per cent are likely to own more than one property, hence face a massive tax hike. (Don’t just take our word for it – try our calculator out and work it out for yourself). 
  2. This move will take more landlords into the higher tax bracket.

The NLA agrees with the Minister that there should be a fair tax system. To that end we think that landlords should be treated on the same footing as comparable businesses and only be taxed on their profit, rather than the costs they incur as a result of making it their business to provide homes for people in the middle of a housing crisis.

Not shouting from the rooftops

We recognise that the loss of tax relief is a very important issue for members, and one that goes straight to the very viability of their business. Notwithstanding the other policy initiatives, it has been the major focus of the policy team for the past six weeks, and will continue to be.  There is a lot going on, but unlike some other campaign organisations, the NLA finds it is often counterproductive to give a running commentary of our lobbying efforts.

The NLA is of course meeting both HMRC and Treasury officials to make clear our opposition to the restricting of finance cost reliefs and talk through the ramifications of the policy as it stands, and to mitigate its effects on landlords. This is an NLA briefing paper we provided the Treasury ahead of our meeting.

We have also met with mortgage lenders about its effects on their stress testing and borrowing restrictions, and set up meetings with prominent MPs when the Commons comes back from Recess.

We will, as ever, keep members advised (that is if we haven’t been successful in applying to be a teacher / tube driver).

[1] Legal disclaimer: that was a joke – teachers and Tube staff both have very demanding jobs and deserve their holidays / rights in the workplace.   


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Top five reasons for choosing a lender

top 5 reasons for choosing a lenderWhen it comes to finances it can be daunting to work out which lender you should put your faith in to ensure you get the best value for money and that all your needs are covered.

With so many buy-to-let (BTL) mortgage products to choose from, where do you start? Our latest research* looks at the top five reasons why landlords choose to use a particular lender.

5.   It’s all about the money

At the lower end of the scale, but still important, 20 per cent chose their lender because they offered the lowest arrangement or product fee. Good financial planning can mean the difference between a successful letting business and financial difficulty, so being prudent from the beginning is a good place to start.

4.   I can give you what you want

Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of landlords were swayed by the specific criteria used by their current lender.  Landlords have specific requirements, and it’s no wonder that this makes it into the top five when almost six in ten (58 per cent) landlords say that lenders don’t consider their individual circumstances.

3.   Déjà vu

Whether it is because they have a bank account or previous residential or BTL mortgages, an existing relationship is enough for 25 per cent of landlords to go back to a lender they’ve used before. Landlords seem to be creatures of habit when it comes to choosing a lender and it just goes to show that good service breeds repeat business.

2.   Get low

Nearly a third (31 per cent) chose their lender because it offered the lowest interest rate, which when doing overall calculations including fees and other costs, is high up on the list of top five reasons and is one of the most important aspects when sourcing new loans. But it doesn’t make the number one spot…

1.   Somebody told me

… The top reason cited by landlords when choosing a lender – at 42 per cent – is because they were advised by an intermediary.  It is not surprising to see so many landlords using a particular lender for this reason when previous NLA research shows that as many as seven in 10 say they rely on brokers or intermediaries to find them the best deal.

Have you got the lender know how?

It is plain to see that value for money and an existing relationship is what most landlords rely on when choosing a lender.

If you don’t trust yourself to make an informed decision then using a broker or intermediary is good way to start. However if you like to do the legwork yourself make sure you check out the deals offered by NLA Mortgages. NLA Mortgages provides a free online buy-to-let mortgage search facility to help you find the best suited product for you, sourcing from over 600 mortgage products including offers that are not available in the general marketplace.

*NLA Quarterly Landlords Panel research – Q1 2015 (1,070 respondents)


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‘Student-proof’ your property by registering its appliances

By Douglas Herbison, Chief Executive, the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA).

September’s coming and so are the hordes of students looking for digs.  Each academic year, the half a million or so young people needing rented accommodation represent a real opportunity for landlords across the country. The private rental sector accounts for a substantial proportion of student housing, with 30 per cent of this population going down the lettings route.

A good student landlord needs to bear in mind that for many youngsters this will be the first time that they have lived independently.  They need to find ways of making the property as safe as possible for this particular type of tenant who may not have enough time to worry about anything beyond their dissertation deadline.

One essential but easy way to prepare a student property is to register all its appliances on registermyappliance.org.uk. AMDEA

Whilst safety recalls on appliances are rare (between 6 -10 recalls a year), if a problem arises it is very important that owners of the affected models can be contacted quickly, especially if the tenant has not got their eye on the ball.

Unlike cars, manufacturers of appliances hold few records for the majority of owners. The user-friendly website, whose growing number of supporters includes the Government’s Fire Kills campaign, aims to change this and provides quick access to the registration pages of over 60 leading brands of domestic appliances.

The web portal also offers tips on appliance care and home safety, along with a current product recall listing.

Once registered, in the rare instance that there is a safety action, a qualified engineer would visit the student residence to perform a quick fix, rendering the product safe for the rest of its working life. It is one of the simplest ways to prevent avoidable fires and ensure a tenant’s safety.

This simple and quick piece of administration should be on the to-do list of every responsible landlord as well as the vitally important task of installing working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

Allow anxious parents worrying about their offspring coping in their first rental property to sleep easy: at least the student digs are safe.

AMDEA’s Top tips for ‘student-proofing’ your property:

For more about AMDEA visit www.amdea.org.uk  


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Withdrawal of Green Deal

money_handoverThe Government announced the effective end of the Green Deal Scheme on Thursday 23 July when it confirmed that that no further funding would be provided to the Green Deal Finance Company, which makes and administers the Green Deal loans, or to the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF), which provide additional subsidy to install specific energy saving measures.

The decision will not make any difference to anyone who already has a Green Deal loan or a GDHIF voucher.  The Government has confirmed that these will be honoured.  The Green Deal Finance Company expects to be able to process the applications it has already received for Green Deal loans, but will not accept any further applications, at least for the time being.  It is possible that it will seek private finance to enable it to continue to operate.

The Government says that it remains committed to improving the energy efficiency of 1 million homes during the course of this Parliament, but concluded that, in order to ensure the money spent was giving proper value to the taxpayer, it should call a pause on the current arrangements and look at how to ensure that the funding was provided in a more coherent way for the future.  Amber Rudd, the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, is conducting a wider review of energy policies and funding of energy efficiency improvements will form part of this.

The Green Deal was a good idea in theory, but that was never matched in practice.  Its implementation in the private rented sector was held up for more than a year when it was discovered late on that it was not compatible with the Consumer Credit Act.  By the time this was resolved, the Chancellor had changed the rules by restructuring the ECO subsidy.  The stop-start nature of the GDHIF funding further undermined confidence.

The NLA has had its own difficulties.  We worked closely with the Coalition Government to develop the Green Deal, and thought it had a real opportunity to succeed where other energy efficiency promotion schemes had failed, because it focused on the building rather than the occupier.  We developed a service to support landlords through the whole process, but the funding problems meant that we struggled to deliver what we intended and had to face the entirely reasonable frustration, anger and disappointment of members who applied in good faith and did not get what they thought they had paid for.

That being said, the re-launched NLA Property Services is helping a growing number of landlords improve their properties, so that their tenants are warmer and happier in their homes.  The expertise built up through the past three years means that we are aware of all the potential sources of funding and work with the landlord to put together the package that works best for them.  Our partners have already confirmed that they were drawing increasingly on sources of funding other than the Green Deal and GDHIF even before last week’s announcement.

Whatever our immediate frustrations over this decision, the Government now has an opportunity to construct a more certain and sustainable means of supporting landlords to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. But it will have to move quickly, as the deadline of April 2018 for the introduction of minimum energy efficiency standards in the PRS remains unchanged.  The exemption which will be granted to any property which cannot be brought up to an EPC E rating without upfront cost to the landlord also remains in place, and without the Green Deal or an alternative, the amount of funding available for that is very limited.


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Don’t take the risk, call our experts

advice line 2

Staff photos

Of the many services provided by the National Landlords Association (NLA), perhaps the most useful and unique benefit is the help and assistance offered by the Advice Line. In an increasingly complex regulatory environment, it is a great comfort for NLA members to know that on the other end of a telephone line is the sympathetic ear of a trained adviser able to offer practical aid and pragmatic advice on any and all issues to do with running a lettings business.

The NLA receives over 38,000 calls a year covering a wide variety of issues from landlords who need some advice. We are here to give professional and practical assistance to all our members, whether small, one property landlords or larger portfolio landlords and agents. Alan Jakeway, Head of NLA Advice Line, gives you the low down on the NLA Advice Line.

Who are the advisers?

Our Advice Line consists of 18 professional members of staff all with extensive experience of the lettings business. The advisers come from various backgrounds: some are legally trained to a high level, others are housing law practitioners, and many have been trained in the gentle art of negotiation. All advisers receive regular training and professional development, so that they are all fully aware of current legislative requirements.

In most cases, the NLA member will find they are also talking to a fellow landlord, who will empathise with the issue they are discussing. The advice team all work part-time, on average two days a week; for the rest of the time they will be running their own businesses. It is not uncommon to hear an adviser say to a member: ‘Yes, the same thing happened to me only last week.’

What does the Advice Line do?

As a UK-wide organisation, we deal with queries from landlords based in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the role of an adviser is not just to give advice, but also to listen.

Call times can vary between five minutes to thirty minutes or more if the matter is more complex, such as assisting in the filling out of court forms. In some cases, landlords are very distressed and need time to relate the full issue and it’s vital that we tease out all the necessary information after which we can get to work on briefing them and offering advice on the most appropriate course of action.  There are times when more than one possible course of action is available; in such instances the member will be presented with the various options available to them and the likely outcome of each one.

There is always a minimum of five advisers working at any one time, with six on what we class as peak days (Mondays and Fridays). Calls are received from the moment the lines are opened at 9am and continue non-stop until 5pm when the lines close. Members who cannot get through immediately are able to leave a message and all calls are returned, usually within the hour. On a typical day, the advice line receives on average 160 calls.

What issues does the Advice Line commonly deal with?

A high percentage of calls will be concerning possession proceedings. It is an unfortunate fact that landlords will occasionally have to go to court to secure possession of a rented property. Most of the advisers have had experience of court possession procedures and assistance can be given with what to expect in court, how to instigate the process and how to correctly fill out the court forms. While there can be no guarantees, the NLA can confidently assert that if the correct procedures are followed a successful result will almost certainly be achieved. This has been our experience even with difficult and defended claims.

But there are a whole host of other issues we advise members on, and each poses a slightly different scenario. The most common subjects landlords raise with the Advice Line include:

  • Possession
  • Rent arrears
  • Dealing with letting agents
  • Contract law matters
  • Court procedures
  • Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit regulations
  • Council Tax liability obligations
  • How to go about serving a Section 21 and Section 8 Notices
  • Deposit protection
  • Tenancy contract issues
  • Queries relating to houses of multiple occupation (HMOs)
  • Joint Tenancies/Deed of Assignment
  • Housing Benefit regulations

Don’t take a gamble, get the right advice

If you can relate to any of these problems, or are currently grappling with an issue you’re unsure about, why turn to the internet when you’re not guaranteed a correct answer? As one of our experienced advisers has said: ‘I can look at any so-called legal advice website for landlords and within 5 minutes find a legal error.’ You could always call a solicitor, but that might prove more expensive in the long run.

Full NLA members have free access to the Advice Line as part of their membership. If you are not an NLA Full Member, then we also offer a more flexible solution in Call Credits, which gives you the opportunity to try out the Advice Line without committing to NLA membership. When you purchase Call Credits for the first time we’ll enrol you as an NLA Landlord Associate which gives you FREE access to our approved tenancy agreements, forms and letters which cover England, Wales and Scotland. We’ll also deduct the cost of previously purchased Call Credits from your membership fee if you later decide to join as a Full Member within 90 days.

Join the NLA and find out exactly how we can help support you to make a profitable success of your letting business.

NLA Full members can access the Advice Line on 020 7840 8939

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