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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Solicitor landlord ordered to pay more than £7,000

A St Helens landlord who works as a criminal law solicitor has been fined £3,500 and ordered to pay costs of £3,807 for failing to comply with a Formal Improvement Notice which tried to get her to bring shoddy bedsits up to standard.

Criminal law solicitor Grace France lives in Victoria, Central London but lets out property in St Helens.
The solicitor changed her plea during a trial at St Helens Magistrates’ Court and eventually admitted the charge. The judge heard how the council became concerned about conditions at a house owned by the defendant and converted into six bedsits.

Over a four-year period council officers had attempted to work with the defendant to remedy a series of disrepair issues including lack of a fire alarm system, damp and excessive cold.

Yet even after serving two Minded To notices – aimed at gaining a reasonable working relationship with the landlord – the necessary repair work failed to take place and conditions grew worse.

The Formal Improvement Notice was served in January 2013 but by the time it expired – in May 2013 – the work had still not been completed.

Even though several extensions were agreed, a re-inspection in December 2013 revealed that little work had taken place and that conditions had deteriorated further.

Throughout the process – until November 2013 – tenants had continued to occupy the bedsits.
Councillor Richard McCauley, St Helens Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, housing, planning and community safety, said: “This case shows that no one is above the law – and that we will take the appropriate action when necessary.
“Credit must go to the council officers who pursued this case with diligence and determination – and whose job it is to protect the rights of tenants across the borough.”

Friday 26 September 2014

A landlords story - a warning to everyone

Written by
A Landlords Story - A Warning To Everyone!
It has become a popular past-time of late to bash landlords. Day after day there are cynical stories in the media about rich capitalist landlords seeking to exploit poor beleaguered tenants, abuse them and then throw them out on the street for a minor infraction. This type of polarising and partisan approach is frankly divisive and unhelpful. The truth is that within any constituent group there will always be a minority of those who seek to hide behind the law and exploit it to the detriment of others. Sadly this is part of the human condition and at Landlord Action we get to see both sides on a daily basis. What is lost amongst all this is that there are genuine stories that deserve to be heard. Somewhere amongst all the debate there are real people who are having their lives upside down, enduring months,sometimes years, of stress to regain access to that most basic of human rights,their own property.It's not just tenants.
Last week I spend a considerable amount of time on the phone to Jo. Jo isn't a rich portfolio managing entrepreneur chasing the bottom line or profit cynically riding the crest of an ever growing market, she is an ordinary mother and grandmother who has seen the very worst that the rental market can offer. When I speak to her she is on her way to check out the progress of renovations on her property. This is a property that she reluctantly moved out of due to personal circumstances. It used to be well maintained, equipped, and a considerable source of pride to her. Today it is being effectively gutted.The place she called home for many years, raised her family in and which held many happy memories was obliterated and she is now spending thousands of pound to bring it back to something approaching habitable condition. Her only mistake she admits was to rent her property to someone in a  difficult situation,on the personal recommendation of  a family friend. Out of compassion she rented her family home to a women who systematically destroyed her life. The well furnished and presented property was reduced to a shell. Property stolen, windows nailed shut, interior doors kicked in, appliances damaged beyond repair,family members threatened, neighbours alienated and abused. The Police and the RSPCA  were a regular occurrence at a home which quickly resembled something from a war zone ( as we think the pictures will testify). After months of hard work, we sent the bailiffs in. Unfortunately what confronted us was an all too familiar scene of devastation. Realistically Jo realises that she has very little financial or judicial redress and the errant tenant escapes without punishment or consequence.
After nearly two years of exhaustive attempt to negotiate and abortive legal efforts Jo finally approached us, as many of our clients do via a personal recommendation. As she says.  " As soon as Paul and the team we were involved thinks started happening. Finally I managed to get these awful people out. The impact on me and my family has been terrible, I have endured years of hell and the family home which I cherished has been tarnished forever. I really want my story to serve as a warning to others.It really can happen to anyone."
Sadly Jo's story is all too common. As the demand for property continues to outstrip demand it is vital that landlords wether 'accidental' or 'professional' difference seek out the best advice. Due diligence, a proactive agent and the right legal backup and support can make all the difference between peace of mind and a situation that can test your sanity

Number of damaged properties sparks stark warning for landlords

One in three landlords (28%) have had their property damaged by tenants in the past 12 months according to the latest research from the National Landlords Association (NLA).
The findings, estimated to affect more than 400,000 of the UK’s 1.5 million landlords, come as a stark reminder about the potential problems of letting property.
Furthermore, the findings showed that landlords in the North East were most likely to face damage to their properties by tenants, with 46% having encountered the problem in the last year. Landlords in the South East were least likely to experience the problem, with one in five (21%) having encountered property damage.
The NLA figures also show that on average one in 10 (8%) – approximately 120,000 – landlords in the UK have had to make an insurance claim of some kind in the past 12 months.
With this in mind, the NLA is reminding all landlords to ensure they have the right protection in place to cover all eventualities and to insure their investment against the unexpected.
NLA chairman Carolyn Uphill said: “Property damage is just one of the many different problems a landlord can experience when letting property. Many are unaware that a simple home insurance policy will not provide sufficient cover for all eventualities, so we’re urging all landlords to protect their investments.”

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Flat prices up by over £50,000 in the past 10 years, how has Southampton performed?

The average price of a flat in the UK has risen by nearly £51,000 (£425 per month) from £157,172 in 2004 to £208,169 today, according to latest research from Halifax.
The 32% increase in the average price of a flat is more than double the 15% rise for all residential properties over the same period. Detached homes (12%) and bungalows (13%) have recorded the smallest rises over the past 10 years.
Whilst flats have increased most in price nationally since 2004, much of this rise is due to the performance of flat prices in London, where flats represent a relatively high proportion of the property market.
Terraced homes have been the best performing property type in the greatest number of regions (five of the 12): North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands, East Midlands and East Anglia. 
Semi-detached and terraced homes have remained the most popular types of property purchased over the past ten years. These two types represent 60% of all home sales in 2014; up from 56% in 2004. For first-time buyers, semi-detached homes have risen in popularity, accounting for 29% of purchases in 2014 compared with 25% in 2004. Detached sales have fallen from 21% of all property sales to 16% over the past decade.
Prices have improved across all property types since 2009 with flats recording the largest increase between 2009 and 2014 (43%). Terraced properties (31%) experienced the next biggest rise. Bungalows have seen the smallest gain (15%). The increase in flat prices nationally has been led by London (44%) with a more subdued performance elsewhere in the country.
All property types recorded substantial price falls during the housing market downturn between 2007 and 2009. Terraced houses (-33%) and flats (-32%) performed the worst, declining in value by approximately one-third. Bungalows (-21%) and detached homes (-26%) fared best.
The tightening in credit criteria and the reduction in mortgage availability following the onset of the financial crisis made it more difficult for first-time buyers (FTBs), in particular, to enter the market. This helps to explain why terraced houses and flats – which are very popular with FTBs – recorded the largest price falls during 2007-2009.
Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, said: “There has been a significant increase in the number of first-time buyers since 2010 compared with a modest decline in the number of those moving home. This difference is reflected in a bigger rise in prices over the past five years for those property types that are most popular with first-time buyers: flats and terraces.
"Since 2009, larger property types – such as detached homes, semis and bungalows – have underperformed flats and terraces. The demand for such properties has been partly constrained by a widespread lack of equity amongst homeowners who bought for the first time around the peak in the market. Many of these homeowners are still finding it difficult to finance a move to a larger home."

Majority of renters may be breaching their tenancy agreement

The majority of tenants may be breaching their tenancy agreement, according to new research.
The study was conducted on behalf of mortgage and loans provider Ocean Finance. It found that 94% of people who rent their home admit to acting in a way that may breach their tenancy agreement.
The most common potential breach was the burning of candles, which more than half (58%) of respondents who rent admitted to doing. However, it’s unlikely burning a few candles now and again will have a lasting effect on the property, unlike the second-most popular possible breach – redecorating. One in two renters (54%) revealed they had redecorated their home.
Another potential breach that could put the tenant’s future in the property at risk was the decision to keep a pet. Half (50%) of all renters polled admitted they had kept an animal at their rented home.
Some of the rule breaks were small, such as using Blu-Tack on the walls (36%) – which can damage the wallpaper or plaster, or leave a mark – and over-filling the bins (22%), which may encourage rodents. However, these breaches were less likely to be made by tenants than some of the more serious rule breaks, like keeping a pet or redecorating.
Perhaps the most serious breach in many tenancy agreements is the sub-letting of rooms in a property. However, one in 20 (4.9%) respondents in rental properties revealed they had done this.
While not all tenancy agreements include all of these rules, many do. Perhaps the reason so many tenants have committed these acts is less a deliberate flouting of the agreement and more the case that they are unaware of the detail of the agreement they have signed. A quarter (23%) of people who rent admitted they did not fully read their tenancy agreement when they moved in and just half (57%) of respondents said that they did thoroughly read their agreement. A further one in five (20%) revealed they don’t have a tenancy agreement in place with their landlord or agent.
Ian Williams, spokesman for Ocean Finance, said: “Many standard tenancy agreements contain a lot of ‘niggly’ clauses about cutting the grass and emptying the bins. Whilst breaking these conditions might seem trivial, doing so could have serious consequences. Blu-Tack stains on the walls might be just the excuse the landlord needs to withhold some or all of their deposit, while keeping a pet or sub-letting rooms could result in being asked to leave the property.
”To avoid this, it’s important tenants always read their tenancy agreements and ask their landlord about anything they’re not clear about.”

Tuesday 9 September 2014

The pace of house price inflation slows, are we seeing this in Southampton?

The average price of a property in the UK now stands at £186,270, 9.7% higher than a year ago, according to the latest Halifax house price index.
However, house price momentum has slowed since July when it saw a 10.2% year-on-year jump.Halifax said there were “tentative signs” that a better balance between demand and supply might be emerging which, if sustained, would help to dampen the pace of price growth.
Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: “The combination of more property coming up for sale and the prospect of an interest rate rise at some point in the future is applying the brakes to the runaway market. However, with a number of lenders reducing their two- and five-year fixed-rate mortgages in the past couple of weeks there are still some excellent deals available for buyers who are concerned about rate rises and want to lock in. Assuming you can meet stricter lending criteria, it could be a great opportunity.”
Guy Meacock of buying agency Prime Purchase, said: “On balance the next few months will be the time to buy a home rather than sell. Vendors who want to exchange by Christmas are coming to market at an unfashionable time of year and may need to be more flexible on the price if they want to meet that deadline. Prices are already softening so there are good opportunities for buyers.”

Thursday 4 September 2014

Southampton’s property market has outperformed most of Hampshire

Surrounding the city of Southampton we have many towns and areas that make up our fine County of Hampshire taking in a great range of towns and cities with their different appeals, prices and rents including Winchester, Brockenhurst, Petersfield, Southampton, Southsea, Portsmouth and Gosport.

Winchester is a sophisticated market town which enjoys a well-earned reputation for stylish and convenient living close to abundant countryside and commons. The thriving High Street offers a comprehensive range of upmarket shopping facilities and the schools are highly sought after. All these factors make the average value of a property in Winchester around £455,600.

Our city of Southampton also has an excellent choice of shops, banks and restaurants. It also offers excellent rail and road links and there is a good choice of schooling within the area, including The King Edward VI School and St Anne’s Catholic School and a number of good primary schools. All these factors make the current average value of a property in Southampton around £241,500.

In the last 12 months, an average property in Winchester has only risen in value by 2.6% or £11,500 whilst an average property in Southampton during the same time period has risen by 6.9% or £15,500. It got even more interesting when we compared other locations/towns - Brockenhurst average values have risen by an impressive £34,700, a 5% increase, whilst Portsmouth’s average values have increased by £11,700 over the last 12 months or 6.4% (similar to Southampton). Other towns close to Southampton which have seen even better results include Eastleigh, with average values increasing by 7.4% or £19,000 and Romsey where average property values have increased by £40,500 to £375,000 which is a rise of 12%.

By keeping an eye on the local market, I am able to judge if a property is good value to buy for a landlord. If you would like to discuss my thoughts on the rental market, whether you are an existing landlord or looking to invest for the first time, please feel free to contact me on 023 8001 8222 or email  

Quality units will improve your yield in Southampton

HSBC: Quality counts when it comes to buy-to let


Buy-to-let investors may need to get the paint-brush out, after new research showed that property in immaculate condition can command up to 75% higher rents.

The average rental income for a two-bedroom property in immaculate condition is up to 75 per cent higher than for properties in poorer condition, according to HSBC.
Just 38 per cent of landlords are prepared to take on the challenge of a fixer-upper when expanding their buy-to-let property portfolio, despite the much higher costs associated with buying a property in perfect condition.
While an immacualte property costs an average of 43 per cent more, according to HSBC's research, it will command an average £838 per month compared to a lesser property's £498 per month.
On average properties requiring extensive refurbishment offer an average yield of 4.4 per cent, a full percentage point lower than the average yield on an immaculate property. Only in Liverpool and Edinburgh is it more beneficial to buy a fixer-upper.
Renovation could be a viable option; while a new kitchen, bathroom and redecoration of four rooms typically runs around £10,428 the work could add as much as £58,557 to the value of a property.
Peter Dockar, head of mortgages at HSBC, said: "Ready-to-move-into properties are often the savvier choice for landlords looking to purchase additional BTL properties. Not only does this avoid the need for lengthy and expensive renovations, it can also result in higher yields in most areas of the country. While the initial purchase price will be significantly higher, rental returns are also improved, making monthly mortgage and maintenance costs more palatable.
"The choice is clear for landlords hoping to make the most out of their investment: either purchase or renovate a property to good condition or risk lower rental income and reduced overall yields."

Extra tax breaks for Southampton Landlords

Give good landlords tax breaks, says new report


Extra tax breaks should be offered to landlords who sign up for a national accreditation scheme to raise standards in the private rented sector, according to a new report.
The report, from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and the Resolution Foundation (RF), says that targeted incentives for landlords would encourage them to improve the maintenance and management of their properties, offering a ‘something for something’ deal. Private landlords currently receive around £7bn of tax allowances a year, including for repairs and maintenance, but there is no incentive to carry out work above the minimum standard – and that standard is not being enforced effectively.
The report, entitled “More than a roof: how incentives can improve standards in the private rented sector”, suggests that financial incentives could either take the form of new additional funds for those who sign up for accreditation, or diverting more of the existing allowance to those who do.
But it also warns that more effective regulation is needed to tackle the most unscrupulous landlords – and to ban letting agents from charging tenants fees.
Current government policy is mostly focused on improving standards by encouraging greater competition in the sector, while Labour policy is mostly focused on greater regulation. But CIH and RF said a combined ‘carrot and stick’ approach would be more effective.
The report recommends:
• Creating a single, easily understood set of minimum standards (covering both property conditions and housing management) for landlords and making sure that sufficient resources are made available for enforcement
• Extending the regulation covering estate agents to letting agents and stopping letting agents charging tenants fees for their services
• Considering the use of incentives by the government to encourage landlords to commit to higher standards (over and above the legal minimum)
• Developing a nationally agreed set of standards for accreditation (covering both property conditions and housing management)

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Some landlords never learn...

Plymouth landlord fined for endangering tenants


Tuesday 2nd September 2014
The landlord of a property in Plymouth risked the lives of a young mother and her child, by providing a dangerous gas oven installed in the house a court has heard.
Giles Boardman was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at Plymouth Magistrates on 29 August following an investigation.
HSE began inquiries when Plymouth City Council alerted them to the lack of a gas safety certificate for the property in Dickiemoor Lane. The council had asked him to provide a certificate on several occasions.
HSE served an Improvement Notice on Boardman, requiring him to provide a landlords’ gas safety check but this had not been done by the notice expiry date.
In April, 2014, an engineer called in by Boardman, found problems with the gas controls that controlled the gas flow for oven and notified HSE. The oven was classified by the Gas Safe registered engineer as “immediately dangerous”, meaning if operated or left connected to the gas supply it could cause an immediate danger to life or property. The oven has now been replaced.
Giles Boardman of Wheatridge, Plympton, Plymouth pleaded guilty to two breaches of gas safety regulations and a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act. He was fined a total of £4,050 and ordered to pay costs of £513.
HSE Inspector, Simon Jones, speaking after the hearing, said: “Landlords have a legal duty to carry out gas safety checks which are there to protect their tenants from death or injury.
“In this case, Mr Boardman ignored repeated requests to carry out the checks and as a result, a serious fault with the oven went undetected until discovered by an engineer.”
Further information about landlords’ responsibilities for gas supply can be found on the HSE website at