National Landlords Association

Encouraging renting


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Safeguard your rental income and get your Rent on Time

One of the biggest concerns for landlords today is arrears, and the potential income lost due to missed or late rent payments. The business of letting your property relies upon a working relationship between both landlord and tenant, particularly when income is so dependent on others.

Arrears on the rise

Cases of rental arrears are on the rise in the UK’s private rented sector (PRS). According to our research, 37% of landlords experienced rental arrears in 2015, and with a 4% increase in the incidence of arrears towards the end of the year.

In addition, as a recent article published by Property Wire points out, there are now 84,200 tenants who are more than two months behind on their rent. This means that, in 2015, the number of households facing financial difficulties rose by 10,200.

Naturally, the failure of tenants to keep up with rent payments can cause huge problems for them and for your ability as a landlord to operate a successful, profitable business, not to mention the wellbeing and future development of the PRS as a whole.

Secure your rental income with the UKs leading landlord association

To help landlords secure their rental income in the event of arrears, the National Landlords Association has launched a new service, Rent on Time.

When landlords register with Rent on Time, the NLA will manage the rent collection process, collecting rent directly from your tenants and paying it into your account on agreed-upon dates, even if the tenant fails to pay. In the event of arrears the NLA will work with your tenants to resolve any issues and, if necessary, will seek property repossession at no additional fee. Given the possible costs incurred from arrears and legal fees, Rent on Time could save you a potential £3664 a year.

With discounted rates for NLA members, Rent on Time offers a fully automated online ordering system, a dedicated telephone support line, and is available for both new and existing tenants.

Find out more here or just call 0203 819 8900 to discover how Rent on Time can protect your rental income and help your business thrive.

 

Reinventing Renting


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Get the most out of your lettings business with Reinventing Renting

Your ability to earn on an investment has a huge impact on your efficacy as a landlord. A worrying 17% of landlords experience difficulties in recovering their costs and, in some of the worst cases, suffer losses. In light of these findings, how can you ensure that your business is successful, profitable, and above all rewarding for both you and your tenants?

At the NLA, we believe in educating, informing and equipping landlords with the very best in tools, advice and expertise to enable your business to grow and flourish. We are proud to support and represent the rights and needs of landlords across the United Kingdom, and all our members enjoy exclusive access to a wide range of services.

By becoming an NLA member you can expect to gain the edge over your competitors, make substantial savings, and gain a complete and thoroughgoing understanding of your rights and responsibilities as a landlord in order to be at the top of your game.

To demonstrate our commitment to helping you achieve success in lettings, we have recently launched our Reinventing Renting campaign. Over the coming months, we will be addressing the key concerns and issues facing landlords today, and will be providing a wealth of materials, guides and presentations to allow you to overcome them.

You will learn how to choose the right investments, improve your financial planning, expand your portfolio, reduce your exposure to risks, manage an effective and mutually beneficial relationship with your tenants and maximise your financial gains to truly get the most out of your business.

Right now we have a number of guides to download and presentations to view, all from topics such as growing your portfolio, meeting financial commitments, how to equip your buy-to-let property, the issue of rising interest rates, preventing loss from arrears, and also key advice and guidance on entering the private rental sector and making an investment that’s right for you.

Find out how we can help you transform your business at:  http://www.landlords.org.uk/reinventingrenting


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Is the grass always greener on the other side?

Matt Oliver, NLA Public Affairs Officer, on more evidence to suggest rent controls simply aren't the answer.

Matt Oliver, NLA Public Affairs Officer, on more evidence to suggest rent controls simply aren’t the answer.

Today’s publication of the interim report from LSE, commissioned by the NLA  debunks the myth that rent control is a golden bullet, easy to implement and guaranteed to work in the UK.

The launch comes on the day that the four Labour candidates aspiring to be leader (and potentially our next Prime Minster) go head-to-head in a live TV debate.  The Private Rented Sector (PRS) and housing is going to be top of the agenda, especially as Labour’s London Mayoral candidates are all advocating some form of rent control in the Capital as they pitch for votes in their separate election primary.  This is all despite the fact the Mayor has no such powers to implement such a scheme.

Rent controls are non-transferable policies

When it comes to the PRS, LSE’s report shows the grass definitely isn’t always greener. For example, the model cited for the policies advocated by Labour during the election was Ireland but, as the report concludes, the controls introduced in the last few years have had very limited effect.  In fact the country is experiencing a housing crisis, with rapidly rising rents and a near-standstill in new housing production.

Ah, but what about Germany?

Yes of course, Germany. This is often cited as the best example of a country with a stable PRS, yet LSE’s report found that the system of indefinite security and in-tenancy rent stabilisation has in the past been cushioned by low house prices and demand, something we don’t have here, whilst initial rents can be well above current market levels in high-demand areas. Meanwhile in San Francisco and New York it looks like the main beneficiaries of interventionist policies are older middle class households, with the young hardly getting a look in.

What’s the moral of the story?

Well, in a nutshell: rent controls sound great on the surface but the evidence points to the contrary. The NLA is a strictly neutral political organisation.  However, as Labour members listen to these proposals for the PRS and contemplate choosing their third leader in eight years, much like some do with Tony Blair (the only Labour leader to win three successive General Elections), they will remember that you often don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

*LSE’s final report, due to be published later this year, will examine London in more detail to see specifically how renters in the Capital would be affected by various proposals for change.


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Right to rent checks are being rolled out – how will you be affected?

Matthew Oliver, NLA’s Parliamentary Officer, outlines what the changes will mean.

Matt Oliver, NLA Public Affairs Officer, explains the Immigration Act Landlords Scheme

Matt Oliver, NLA Public Affairs Officer, explains the Immigration Act Landlords Scheme

In a written ministerial statement, the government yesterday announced the areas where they will be piloting the Immigration Act Landlords Scheme.  This is the scheme where landlords are required to check the immigration status of tenants, as prescribed in the Immigration Act.

What do you need to know?

From 1 December 2014, landlords in these areas will need to check that someone has the right to live in the UK before letting a property to them. This includes landlords who take in lodgers or sub-let property.

Therefore, the right to rent checks will only apply to:

  • landlords in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton
  • all adults aged 18 and over living at the property (children under 18 will not need to be checked)
  • only new tenancy agreements starting on or after 1 December 2014

Landlords will need to see evidence of a person’s identity and citizenship, for example a passport or biometric residence permit. Copies of the documentation will need to be taken as evidence the checks have been carried out and retained for one year after the tenancy ends.

Importantly, if landlords let a property after 1 December to someone who doesn’t have the right to rent, then they could be fined up to £3,000.

The landlords code of practice

The Home Office have released guidance to support landlords with the changes. The Landlords Code of Practice explains:

  • if your property is affected
  • if any exemptions apply
  • how to carry out a right to rent check
  • what documents individuals can show you as evidence of their right to rent
  • when and how to request a right to rent check from the Home Office

Our thoughts

We have to take a practical approach to the issue and it would be fruitless to make any more sweeping statements about our opposition to the plans – we’re far past that point.

However, right to rent checks bring about significant changes for landlords, so we hope that the pilot roll-out provides an opportunity for the Home Office to test the changes and to understand the implications they will have on the process of securing private rented housing.

Combatting illegal immigration is important, but we’ve always been concerned that if landlords are made responsible for making initial immigration checks then the process must be simple to carry out. And on the face of it, the system for checking and verifying a tenant’s right to rent seems both practical and workable, but only where someone’s right to rent is clear cut. Where there is doubt, landlords will need to check with the Home Office which could take up to two working days.

The changes could therefore make it harder for tenants with question marks over their eligibility to rent property in the UK, regardless of their legal status to remain,; any delay to verifying the immigration status of a given individual will hinder the usually expedient process of securing a home in the private rented sector, thus making them less desirable to let to.

What’s next?

The Home Office expects to continue with the phased introduction of checks across the UK next year.  To advise the implementation and evaluation of the measures, the Government is convening a Consultative Panel, consisting of key stakeholders, including the NLA.

We trust that our presence and feedback to the panel on the first phase of the roll-out will be thoroughly evaluated and considered to ensure a smooth transition for landlords.


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Our new Housing Minister is keen to stress the positive role of the PRS

Pity the minister re-shuffled in July.  While you or I spent our summer holiday reading for pleasure, they resign themselves to packing a stack of briefing papers next to the must-read political biography and the highly recommended literary novel that they told the Sunday heavyweights were on their summer booklists.

CEO Richard Lambert on the NLA's meeting with the Housing Minister

CEO Richard Lambert on the NLA’s meeting with the Housing Minister

The new Minister for Housing and Planning Brandon Lewis doesn’t appear to have been tempted to slip a couple of thrillers surreptitiously into his suitcase.  When NLA Chairman, Carolyn Uphill and I met him yesterday, he was well on top of the subject – interested, engaged and keen to stress to us the positive role he saw the private rented sector playing in the provision of housing.

This was very much an introductory meeting.  We wanted to ensure Mr Lewis could put faces and names to the NLA when it came up in future, and that he had a sense of who we represent and what we are trying to achieve. Equally, we wanted to get a feel for how Mr Lewis was approaching the issues and to put some thoughts into his mind for the future.

Retaliatory eviction

We hoped that we would get some pointers on the Government’s attitude towards Sarah Teather’s private member’s bill on retaliatory eviction.  However, the Minister was carefully non-committal, saying that the Government was “not yet ready” to declare its position on the Bill.  Questioning whether there was the evidence that retaliatory eviction was as widespread as is often perceived, Carolyn Uphill stressed the importance the NLA and landlords in general attached to the no-fault possession procedure, and expressed our concerns over any call to reduce the flexibility section 21 gave to the market without good reason and sound evidence.

Model tenancies

We’ve been waiting through the summer for the launch of several initiatives which emerged from the Government’s response to last year’s Select Committee report, and he confirmed that we should see these shortly.  One of these will be a model tenancy agreement.  The Government’s aim was not to trump all existing tenancy agreements, but rather to change tenants’ understanding of how tenancies work, and raise awareness that longer tenancies are possible, and that they can ask for them.  This gave us the opportunity to outline the NLA’s recent campaigns which have highlighted the business benefits of long-term relationships between landlord and tenant.

Licensing

More generally, we wanted to stress our concerns over the way local authorities are using the power to introduce discretionary licensing schemes.   Over the past year or so, we’ve seen more and more councils propose selective or additional licensing schemes, and some worrying trends have emerged:

  • The growing number of proposals for blanket borough-wide licensing
  • Poorly drafted consultations, based on flimsy evidence, which do not demonstrate how the case for licensing meets the specific criteria of problems caused by low demand or anti-social behaviour
  • The imposition of additional property or management requirements as conditions of licences
  • The absence of an independent check on whether local authorities have made their case and properly justified their licensing proposals, which means that there is no scrutiny of or check on how the powers are used – or in many cases, abused.

Brandon Lewis was very sympathetic to these points and said that he was “very aware of blanket licensing as an issue, especially in London”.  We pointed out that in reality licensing is a burden on the law-abiding, as they are the ones who accept the obligation, and pressed the case for accreditation as a method to filter out the responsible landlords from those who do not comply with the law or standards, who should be subject to more rigorous enforcement.

Further reading

All in all, it was a very useful conversation.  And I’m afraid we are going to add to his reading pile: we promised a couple of recent issues of UK Landlord for his red box.


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Are you having abandonment issues?

Lucy Regan, London Representative for the NLA advises landlords on the issue of tenant abandonment.

Abandonment isn’t something that happens often in the private rented sector but when it does it can be distressing and confusing. But how do you know if your proREGAN Lperty has been abandoned and what are the steps you need to take?

Things you need to consider

Has the property been abandoned?

First of all a landlord must decide if the property has been abandoned. If a tenant has given notice or handed back the keys this is then termed ‘surrender of tenancy’. Secondly a landlord must establish the reason: there may be a valid reason as to why a property is left unattended, for instance a hospital stay, an extended holiday or the tenant has gone to prison.

Insurance

Your insurance may not be valid if the property has been left unattended for more that the stipulated period. This could prove costly as empty properties are susceptible to squatters and vandals.

How to check that property has been abandoned

  • Contact – A landlord should first attempt to contact the tenant. If they do not respond to calls, voicemails, text messages or emails, it could be the first bit of evidence that the property has been abandoned?
  • Is the tenant still making rent payments? – When did they stop? Is that normal or have they been late with payments before?
  • Are the tenant’s possessions still at the property? If they have been removed, it could be another tick in the box of abandonment. Checking for possessions can be difficult. In some cases a landlord may be able to see through a window, but if this is not possible, they must then seek permission from the tenant to access the property. But with the suspicion of abandonment this may not be possible. However if a landlord thinks the property is in an unsafe state they may enter, but they must be cautious and make sure there is a clear reason for entering. It would also be a good idea to have a witness come along.
  • Is the tenant claiming housing benefits? If so, then a landlord can contact the Housing Department. They may even be in contact with the tenant and could shed some light on the situation.

Where do you stand legally?
A landlord needs to be aware that the tenant is legally entitled to return and take up residence again, and that the landlord is responsible for the tenant’s possessions.

If a landlord takes over the property and re-lets it, there could be serious trouble as it is a civil offence relating to the breach of the existing tenancy contract. It is also a criminal offence to prevent the continuation of the tenancy.
There have been cases where landlords have been fined up to £20,000 for re-letting their properties when then tenant is clearly not coming back.

The safest way to deal with abandonment is to get a court possession order before taking over the property.

What to do next

If a landlord has established significant evidence that the property has potentially been abandoned they should follow these steps:

  • Remember to ensure that all communications and actions are documented.
  • Make sure that there is a witness available and willing to give a statement at any time when at or dealing with the property and tenant. A local authority’s Tenant Relations Officer can help with this.
  • Serve an Abandonment Notice. This note must be placed on the tenant’s door. However, be aware that this may attract squatters, so do it as discreetly as possible. It is advisable to take a picture of this with a newspaper to show the date. To be safe, post a copy through the door. After five days, the locks may then be changed (unless already done so to secure the property or see to any present dangers).
  • Any possessions remaining in the property must be stored for a reasonable amount of time.
  • Under no circumstance must you deprive the tenant of their rights to access.
  • Inform the local authority rent officer of your actions in writing.
  • Seek expert advice: the NLA advice line is on hand for NLA members.
  • Always obtain a court possession order before taking over the property or re-letting if there is any doubt.

To avoid getting into this kind of situation it is best practice to get a thorough reference on the tenant at the start of the tenancy. Check for rent payments, and visit the property regularly. If you are on good terms with a neighbour, you could ask them to keep an eye on any suspicious movements, or provide a weekly cleaning service.

Finally, it is a good idea to build up a relationship with the tenant and make them aware that if they do go away for an extended period of time that they can let you know.


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New guidance to promote successful tenancies

Make sure you know your rights as a renter

Make sure you know your rights as a renter

New guidance has been produced to help private renters in England who are looking for a house or flat to rent.

The guidance has been produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and provides a checklist of the most important and common aspects to help protect renters from problems at every stage of looking for, and moving in to, private rented property.

The guidance is for renters who are entering in to an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) agreement – the most commonly used tenancy agreement in the private sector – but doesn’t cover lodgers or people with licences , nor tenants where the property is not their main or only home.

What’s in it?

It provides a host of information that should enable a better understanding about the rights of the tenant, and their responsibilities so that a positive relationship with their landlord can be maintained. It contains lots of detailed information about what to consider:

  • before searching for a property –  whether through  letting agent or directly from a landlord;
  • once you’ve found a place –information about the important documentation tenants should receive from their landlord or agent;
  • during the tenancy –  including the rights and what’s expected of tenants, and how to deal with problems or issues;
  • When the tenancy is coming to an end –how to renew or extend the tenancy and how the property should be left upon tenancy expiry to ensure no issues arise.

What if problems arise?

The guidance also contains important information about tenant’s legal rights and offers further sources of information and support for renters who experience problems during the tenancy, such as:

  • financial problems
  • Concerns over the safety of the property
  • Fear of or actual harassment by the landlord/ illegal eviction.

Download the full guide now

You can download the guidance from he DCLG’s website here.

Most of it will equally apply if you are in a shared property but in certain cases your rights and responsibilities will vary.

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