£140,000 in fines for buy to let couple failing to maintain properties

29 Aug 2019

A husband and wife pair of buy to let investors have been prosecuted after letting out a property that contained serious hazards and defects.

Hamedur Choudhury and his wife Roshon let out two flats and staff accommodation above a restaurant in East Grinstead.

Environmental health officers from Mid Sussex council inspected the property 18 months ago and discovered serious issues including unsafe electrics, a lack of adequate heating, sub-standard kitchen facilities, unsafe stairs, faulty fire alarms and the majority of windows were either cracked or broken.

The officers offered to work with the couple to identify the deficiencies and repair works necessary but when the Choudhurys did not carry out any of the repair work voluntarily, they were issued with an Improvement Notice that legally required them to carry out certain improvements.

The majority of these essential repair works were not carried out and the council took the decision to prosecute the landlords for their negligence.

Earlier this month the couple were found guilty of failing to comply with the terms of an Improvement Notice (s.30(1) Housing Act 2004). Additionally, Hamedur Choudhury was found guilty of four offences under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2016. Brighton magistrates also find the couple £55,568 including the council’s costs.

It was not the couple’s first offence.

They had previously been found guilty of similar housing standards offences relating to a separate HMO; at that time, Horsham magistrates’ fined them £87,996 for failing to address a number of serious defects within the property that led to damp and mould growth, excess cold, electrical hazards and fire safety issues.

Link to original article

Significant Rent Increases due to HS2 before it is (or isn’t) built

23 August 2019

A very interesting chart showing serious rental value increases in the Midlands and North (from the article below) and how Birmingham expects its gains to continue whether HS2 gets built on not.

Could HS2 be the best thing to never happen to Birmingham?

On Wednesday 21August 2019, it was announced by the government that it is launching a review of the high-speed rail link HS2, which is expected to be published in the autumn.

It has put the infrastructure project in serious doubt, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps saying a ‘go or no-go’ decision will be made by the end of the year.

On Wednesday, it was announced by the government that it is launching a review of the high-speed rail link HS2, which is expected to be published in the autumn.

But Damien Siviter, executive director of SevenCapital, has suggested that HS2 could be the greatest thing that never happened to Birmingham.

“The enhanced connectivity that HS2 brings to the regions could be hugely beneficial to business by significantly improving access to skills which allows business to grow,” he said.

“Based on that, HS2 should happen. However, for an incoming government, due to the scale and cost of the project, it is right to make sure that it will work based on their objectives for the future of business and transport in the UK.”

“Should the decision be made to scrap HS2 completely, whilst it would be a blow, it is unlikely to undo all the progress that it has kickstarted already, particularly within Birmingham.”

Birmingham, the second largest city in the UK, has seen its economy, population and regeneration boosted in the years since HS2 was announced.

This, Siviter argues, has had less to do with the reality of speedier connections and widened access that the high-speed rail line will introduce, and is instead based more on how HS2 has actually highlighted all the benefits that Birmingham has to offer.

“London has started to burst at the seams and has been pulling on the purse strings of businesses and its population for a long time. HS2 has presented Birmingham as a seriously good, affordable alternative, and with significant room to grow,” Siviter added.

He said Birmingham has succeeded in proving itself as a place where global business can thrive, offering ‘a fantastic way of life’ and ‘unrivalled connectivity’ to the rest of the UK.

“Even without HS2, Birmingham’s position, at the heart of the UK’s transport network, already provides access to all major cities in under four hours, with major motorways, the busiest rail station outside London and one of the busiest airports in the country, all easily accessible,” Siviter continued.

In recent times, the likes of HSBC and HMRC have committed to the city as a base for their major headquarter operations, with HMRC securing the largest pre-let seen in the city for a decade.

As we’ve seen in various stories on Property Investor Today, there has also been billions of pounds invested in infrastructure and regeneration projects which are either completed, under construction or in the pipeline. These include a sold-out scheme in Digbeth and SevenCapital’s own flagship Birmingham city centre development, St Martin’s Place, which is almost sold out just one year since going on sale off-plan.

Will HS2 be scrapped?

The government review – which will be chaired by Douglas Oakervee, a civil engineer and former chair of HS2 Ltd, and his deputy Lord Berkeley, another civil engineer who worked on the construction of the Channel Tunnel – will evaluate whether and how the scheme, which aims to connect London, the Midlands and northern England on a greater scale than ever before, should proceed.

While billions have already been spent, Grant Shapps refused to rule out scrapping it entirely, saying it was ‘responsible’ to look at whether the benefits of the project add up.

Phase 1 of the development – linking London and Birmingham – is set to open at the end of 2026, while the second phase to Leeds and Manchester has a scheduled completion date of 2032-33.

These dates are now much less certain for a project which has been beset by complications, delays, controversy and protests since it was first announced by the-then Labour government in 2009.

One of the biggest criticisms of the project has been the rapidly rising costs involved, with warnings that the current budget of £56 billion could increase by another £30 billion. The existing budget is already way above the original budget of £32.7 billion. So far, some £7.4 billion has been spent on HS2.

“Just because you’ve spent a lot of money on something does not mean you should plough more and more money into it,” Shapps insisted.

“Go and find out genuinely what it would cost to complete this project, and then we’ll be in a much better position to make that decision by the end of the year.”

Current Prime Minister Boris Johnson is known to have reservations about HS2. While Johnson has said he would not scrap the plans for the new rail link, during the Conservative Party leadership race he did say he had ‘anxieties about the business case’.

Many are for scrapping the new rail line completely, though, with the Stop HS2 campaign the most vocal and organised opposition group.

Joe Rukin, part of the Stop HS2 campaign, said: “If this is a genuine review, [the government] must stop work now, because irreparable damage is being done to unique habitats, ancient woodlands.”

Rukin also accused HS2 of ‘sending out possession orders like there is no tomorrow’, in reference to the project’s controversial practice of buying up homes in the path of the line with the compulsory purchase of properties.

The campaign also highlighted concerns that the review is being chaired by Douglas Oakervee, a former chair of the project, saying that he was being given the opportunity to effectively ‘mark his own homework’.

However, his deputy, Labour peer Lord Berkeley – having been critical of the scheme before – should help to offset any conscious or unconscious bias.

The project divides politicians and business leaders, too. While Andy Burnham, the Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, supports HS2, he has complained that the review panel includes two elected representatives from the West Midlands but none from the North of England.

Andy Street, the Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands, who will have a seat on the review panel, argues that HS2 is crucial for the West Midlands and is already helping to create jobs and build new homes.

His colleague, Dame Cheryl Gillan, Tory MP for the constituency of Chesham and Buckinghamshire, which HS2 will run through, is not in agreement. She told the BBC that the costs of HS2 had risen ‘astronomically’ and, as such, it was now ‘completely unviable’.

Lord Adonis, the Labour peer and former transport secretary who worked as an infrastructure adviser to Theresa May, was blunt in his appraisal of the review. He labelled it ‘as stupid as you can get’ and claimed it would ‘screw Birmingham and the North’.

There are worries that the North of England will lose out if the scheme is scrapped or reduced. Even in its present state, the project could be short-changing the North, according to a report by a committee of peers in May this year.

On the other hand, business leaders have called on the government to deliver HS2 in full, arguing that continued backing for the next phase of the scheme is vital. In an open letter written in June, signed by more than 20 business leaders including the CBI, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, the British Chambers of Commerce, London First and Business Improvement Districts, they urged the new prime minister to back the project.

What will the review examine?

HS2, which is designed to carry trains capable of travelling at 250mph and would cut journey times from London to Birmingham to around 41 minutes, will be subject to a review which looks into:

  • cost estimates up until now
  • chances for efficiency savings
  • the environmental impact of the project
  • whether the economic and business case made for HS2 has been accurate
  • the extra costs of cancelling the project or changing its scope

According to HS2, there will be 9,000 jobs supported by the railway and a 345 miles new high-speed track cutting journey times dramatically between London and Birmingham, as well as Manchester, Leeds, Crewe, Liverpool and Sheffield. It will also improve journey times between the major cities of the West Midlands and the North.

Critics point to its mammoth cost, environmental impact and damage to local communities as reason to scrap it. We will only know more by the end of this year which way the scheme will go.

Link to original article

Landlords: Protect Yourself against 10 Million New Housing Inspectors

Seminar: What EVERY Landlord needs to know about avoiding massive fines and ‘ambulance chasers’.

Full day in-depth seminar.
Thursday, 5 September ’19   12pm – 6pm London SW1

Book tickets here

On 20th March this year the Government appointed 10 MILLION new housing inspectors.

They are not employed. They are on commission for getting Landlords sued.

Which means they are highly motivated to ‘get’ YOU the Landlord.

They will be promoted and assisted by Shelter, Citizens Advice and the Councils themselves.

But FAR, FAR WORSE than that, they will be backed up by No-win No-fee “Ambulance Chasers” advertising on TV and in the newspapers.

So, who are these 10 million new Housing officers and why didn’t you see the announcement?

Well, actually, you did hear the announcement – you just didn’t understand the ‘code’ it was dressed up in.

The ‘code’ was the “Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018” and the new Housing Inspectors are Your Tenants and they are on commission!

That’s because the new Act gives Your Tenants the RIGHT to sue you, their Landlord, if you fail to comply with the 29 Hazards in the Housing Health and Safety Regulations (HHSRS). 

And, by the way, these regulations are not new. They were introduced in 2006 and many of them go back to the Housing Act 1985. 

So, if you’re not compliant you’re sunk! Because you’ve had somewhere between 15-34 years to understand them and ensure your property(s) are fully compliant.

Yet most Landlords have never even heard of HHSRS, and don’t have any idea whether they comply or not, until a Housing Officer inspects and decides to prosecute or fine them.

Until now, the risk of getting caught was low because, the Councils didn’t have enough Housing Inspectors to visit you.

Now they do. They have 10 million more!

And these new ‘Inspectors’ are going to LOVE the opportunity to make money by suing you – especially as the ‘Ambulance Chasers’ are going to advertise, advertise, advertise – and make the process for tenants as easy as ‘just sign here’. 

However, unlike the no-win, no-fee accident claims business which those companies have been milking for years, the claim is not going to be against your insurance company. It is going to be against you personally.

So, it’s about time, dear Landlord, that you found out EXACTLY what your obligations are in relation to complying with the 29 Hazards of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.

And even more important HOW to protect yourself from prosecution, fines, Council Investigators and Ambulance Chasers who WILL initiate proceedings against you. Because that’s their business. And they have deep pockets and massive ‘legal’ resources.

Landlords Defence (the clue is in the name) are running the first of many one-day, in depth, seminars for help Landlords understand the rules and protect themselves on 5th September 2019 in Central London.

Who is this 1 day Seminar for?

All Landlords – whether you have one Rental Property or five hundred.

It’s also for HMO Landlords – and Landlords who have HMO’s that they don’t even know are HMO’s.

For HMO Landlords, we’ll also be talking about avoiding Rent Repayment orders where, if you don’t have the correct licence, Your Tenants are encouraged by Shelter, the Councils and the Ambulance Chasers to claim back 12 month’s rent from you (in addition to the £12,000 fine you’re likely to get from the Council for not having a licence). 

We’ll share with you case studies of the horror stories we see every day of Landlords getting massive fines due to incompetent letting agents. As well as Landlords’ own failures to learn what they need to comply with.

We’ll share some stories of Landlords for whom we have been able to help quash fines or massively reduce them.

But mainly we’ll be talking to you about the many, many, Landlords we have helped to avoid prosecution and fines by getting compliant quickly – before their Council, Shelter or their tenants can find out they were previously breaking the Law.

Book tickets here 

Don’t fool yourself.

If you’re a portfolio Landlord or a one property Landlord, you need to learn this stuff before it’s too late and you are in financial crisis.

Book tickets here

Full disclosure: 10 million is a bit of a guess. We know there are 5.1 million families renting in the Private Rental Sector and we’re guessing an average maybe two highly motivated tenants once they start to read the adverts. Plus there are many millions more in the Social Rented sector.

Government scores spectacular own goal as rents rise rapidly following Tenant Fee Ban and s24.

02 Aug 2019

It’s not like we didn’t all warn them that rent rises were the inevitable outcome of their “not thought through” strategies! As Phil Turtle at Landlords Defence says: “When will Governments ever apply the test of ‘Be careful what you wish for!’ “

The Association of Residential Lettings Agents says there has been a record number of rent increases reported by its members.

In a market snapshot for June – which was the third month in which the Tenant Fees Act banned fees levied on tenants by agents and landlords in England – ARLA says the number of tenants experiencing rent rises increased to the highest figure on record.

Some 55 per cent of agents saw landlord clients increasing rents during the month, a full 22 per cent up on the previous four weeks which itself had been a previous record high.

Year-on-year, the number of tenants facing rent increases is up from 31 per cent in June 2017, and 35 per cent in June 2018.

Meanwhile letting agents had an average of 199 properties under management per member branch in June, a decrease from 201 in May.

Demand from prospective tenants also increased marginally in June, with the number of house hunters registered per branch rising to 70 on average, compared to 69 in May.

Year-on-year, demand has fallen, from 71 tenant house hunters registered per branch in June 2018.

In June this year, the number of landlords exiting the market remained at four per branch. This stood at the same figure in June 2018.

“Unsurprisingly, rent costs hit a record high in June as tenants suffered the impact of the tenant fee ban. Ever since the government proposed the ban, we warned that tenants would continue to pay the same amount, but the cost would be passed onto tenants through increased rents, rather than upfront costs” notes David Cox, ARLA Propertymark chief executive.

“In addition to the repercussions of the Tenant Fees Act, the proposed abolition of Section 21, coupled with the Mayor of London’s recent call for rent controls, will only cause the sector to shrink further. In turn this will increase pressure on the sector because it will discourage new landlords from investing in the market, causing rents to rise for tenants as less rental accommodation is available.”

Link to original article

Another council seeks government backing to widen licensing

02 Aug 2019

Another local authority has announced that it wants to introduce another selective licensing scheme and designate its entire patch for HMO licensing.

This time it’s Waltham Forest which has applied to the government for consent to make the changes which would take effect on April 1 2020.

The council claims its decision follows on from “extensive consultation with residents, stakeholders, private sector tenants, landlords and lettings agencies” on proposals for selective licensing covering 18 of the borough’s wards, and a borough-wide HMO licensing designation.

Overall, almost 60 per cent of respondents agreed with the council’s proposal to introduce the additional licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation across the borough to regulate property conditions.

Since earlier, less restrictive licensing came into effect in 2015 the council says it has issued over 100 Civil Penalties and over 40 interim management orders.

It claims to have “improved 3,000 privately rented properties” and pursued 94 successful prosecutions, resulting in more than £300,000 in court-imposed fines.

A council spokeswoman says: “We have been at the forefront of protecting our residents living in the private rented sector by using our licensing scheme to effectively drive up standards. Licensing has the wide spread backing of key stakeholders who have seen first hand the difference it can make to the lives of residents.”

“While we have made tremendous progress in the last few years, there is still more work to do. With more of our residents now renting privately, it is so vitally important that we have the powers to tackle non-compliant landlords, who pay no regard to the rules and exploit vulnerable tenants by letting out overcrowded, unsuitable and dangerous properties.

“It would be entirely wrong and a backward step for private renters rights if government was to deny us the right to continue with this effective scheme which tackles criminal landlords and protects vulnerable individuals and families within the private rented sector.”

Link to original article

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