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Criticisms over Letting Agent fees

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

Liverpool Council to crack down on rogue landlords

The issue of rogue landlords is becoming extremely serious recently, especially as there are a number of people in the UK who are living in properties that are a danger to themselves and others around them. For example, one woman in north Liverpool had her entire front room floor eaten away by rats, while other homes in the area were found to be infested with a type of mould known to cause cancer. This investigation was carried out by the housing charity Shelter, and the shocking results have led to Liverpool Council considering bringing in mandatory registration for all landlords. Continue reading

Deposit Protection Schemes still Causing Controversy

Landlords are being urged to make sure tenants realise their deposits will be independently protected as research shows many rental clients are not aware that deposit protection schemes are now demanded by law.

A report released by well known homeless charity Shelter claims that complaints from tenants involving tenant deposits has risen by over 80% in just 12 months and at a time when most property investors with an interest in landlord insurance are complying with the newly strengthened regulations. The rules surrounding tenant deposits now oblige landlords to keep deposits separate from other income and insist they are passed into an independent tenant deposit scheme within 30 days of collection. This ensures the money will still be available in any circumstance when the tenancy comes to an end and should give the tenant peace of mind when he enters into a rental agreement.

However, Shelter says a large number of tenants are still ignorant about the scheme and with the average deposit in the UK now almost £1000 many are still finding it difficult to retrieve their money when their agreement ends. Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, said “While we know that most landlords do the right thing, some cause absolute misery for their tenants, accusing them of owing thousands of pounds for damage that does not exist or falsely claiming to have protected their deposit and then never returning it. Without protection, renters are putting themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords and risk losing their hard-earned money that they paid in good faith.”

Shelter has now set up a link on their website called the Deposit Protection Scheme Checker which they say will help tenants check that their deposits are safe.

Council criticised for leaving homes empty for two years

Despite the average length of time being 11 weeks for a council property to remain vacant, two council houses in Alloa have been empty for almost two years. The two homes are due to be adapted for tenants with disabilities and council officials say the delay is due to the extensive work required as well as the tendering process.

The controversial delay comes at a time when thousands remain on the council’s waiting list for a new home and even though the percentage of vacant council properties in Alloa is less than 2%, putting it among the lowest throughout Scotland, Councillor Mark English feels that the time taken for the work calls into question the whole process. Social housing is in high demand across the country and the council are planning to build the first new council houses to be protected by landlords insurance in thirty years. According to figures from homeless charity Shelter Scotland, there were 3000 people on the council house waiting list.

Councillor English said: “A clear inspection of the processes involved seems to be required in this case to ensure housing is not left void for long periods of time. We have a housing shortage at the moment and many are desperate for a house. Properties which are left empty for long periods of time lead to a loss of income for the council. I am fully supportive of the need for the council to realise housing for the disabled is crucial to enhance quality of life; however, two years seems an excessive amount of time for a property to be vacant.”

The two properties have had eighty applications, of which thirty-two have a moderate or severe medical priority. The council say they are very close to starting the work and are looking forward to seeing new tenants moving into the refurbished homes.

Right to buy scheme virtually disappeared

An astonishing statistic released by homeless charity Shelter reveals that the number of properties now purchased under the right to buy scheme has dropped by over 90% in less than eight years.

Shelter gleaned the figures from their housing data bank and they really do show a dramatic difference. In 2003 over 70,000 homes that were once covered by the cheapest landlord insurance were bought by their former tenants. In 2010 the figure was down to 2.300, a drop of 97%. The figures go some way to explain Prime Minister David Cameron’s assertion at his party conference last week that the Government would do all in its power to increase discounts to encourage more tenants to buy their council homes and at the same time release money for housing associations to fund new building projects.

Campbell Robb, the chief executive of Shelter, was keen to see proof of the Government’s stance saying “Whilst new thinking to tackle our lack of decent, affordable homes is a positive move, it is absolutely critical that any proposals will actually deliver at significant levels to make a real difference. We must ensure the one-for-one commitment to replace right-to-buy homes by building new homes is met, otherwise it will do more harm than good.

“It is also important to recognise that the new right to buy scheme is a small measure and will only benefit a limited number of people. On its own, it will not deliver the quantity of new homes that we need to meet the growing need. The government’s new housing strategy now needs to set out a long term sustainable plan to end the squeeze on families who can’t find a decent affordable home.”

Shelter also revealed that on average, in 2010, housing associations put their rents up three times more than local councils. Association rents going up by £4.40 while council rents went up by just £1.31.