Letting agencies across the country have come under fire today for charging fees of up to £350 on top of the deposit and rent payments tenants have to pay. The housing charity Shelter recently undertook a ‘secret shopper’ exercise in order to find out how much letting agents are charging their customers on average, and the results have shocked and angered both the charity and those working in the private rented sector. Continue reading
There has been an on-going debate recently concerning whether letting agents should have the same regulations placed upon them as estate agents, with many claiming that this is the only way to protect both landlords and tenants from rogue agents. However, some have argued that the regulations placed on estate agents would not be appropriate for letting agents, which is why at a meeting in the House of Lords yesterday Housing Minister Mark Prisk made an amendment to the Bill. Continue reading
The BSA (Building Societies Association) has warned the Welsh Government that their plans to regulate all private landlords could mean increased rents for tenants. They want the Government to carry out a full cost benefit analysis of the policy outlined in a White Paper in May before they become law.
Housing Minister Huw Lewis announced proposals that mean anyone wanting to let properties privately will have to sign a register before being allowed to have tenants move in. All private landlords will be expected to sign a mandatory register and they will also have to pass a fit and proper person test that will include having landlord insurance. The new scheme will apply to all landlords and agents, regardless of whether they let one property or they have a large portfolio of properties. The BSA are warning that there is a danger that the changes will see rents increasing as private landlords pass on the extra costs associated with registration, to their tenants.
BSA Mortgage Policy Advisor, Colette Best, said “The Homes for Wales White Paper suggests that the private rented sector should be regulated, to include a register for landlords and an accreditation scheme for those managing rented properties. The expectation is that the scheme will be self-financing with a modest fee for registration. Some of the areas of cost which will be involved are: setting up policies, decision making panels and separate appeals panels, plus a system to monitor which landlords and agents have registered. Similarly, there will be a need to decide how to handle those who choose not to register and the accreditation scheme will need to be set-up and managed, and codes of conduct enforced.”
If fees turn out to be very high it may see some landlords deciding to move out of the private sector altogether, with the potential knock-on of reducing supply. This would be bad news for tenants as the private rental sector has seen a surge in demand as people have struggled to get on the property ladder. The Welsh Government has acknowledged the comments from the Building Societies Association and say they will consider their input, along with observations made by other interested parties.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps is calling on social landlords to help their tenants save at least £500 per year on energy bills. He wants them to start their own Green Deal that would allow money to be saved in the current time of high energy prices as well as create jobs in the local community.
With the Coalition’s Green Deal initiative due to start in twelve months time the minister is urging councils and housing associations to make their tenants life’s better by using existing funding to start a Pay As You Save scheme. Mr Shapps feels that by varying rents and service charges paid by their tenants they can gradually recoup a proportion of the upfront costs of the energy efficiency improvements and this would very quickly make a huge difference.
The CLG (Communities and Local Government) also agree that this will help make homes warmer and more comfortable to live in, and at the same time make them much cheaper to run. The comments of the housing minister and the CLG come at a time when millions of United Kingdom households are at serious risk of fuel poverty.
Projects similar to how the Green Deal will run have already started and could be copied elsewhere. In the largest scheme of its kind in Manchester, improvements such as solid wall insulation and better heating systems are currently being made to social houses which are all protected with insurance for landlords. The improvements will make homes more energy efficient, at no upfront cost to the tenant.
Grant Shapps said: “Our homes count for over a quarter of all UK emissions – it’s essential we do more to make them greener. And at time when tenants are feeling the pinch of high energy prices, it is more important than ever that social landlords use this opportunity to take the simple steps that could save their tenants hundreds of pounds through reduced bills. Measures such as the Green Deal will make a huge difference to the lives of tenants, and help landlords in their efforts to make their homes cleaner and greener. By making the most of the opportunities that are available now, social landlords can get a head start on upgrading their homes and give an immediate shot in the arm to the local economy.”