Ever wondered where your team would come if they were ranked by deposit size?

Today we've released statistics showing that if football clubs were ranked by average deposit size for their postcode, Fulham would stand top of the league, with Everton in bottom place of League Two.

Tenancy deposits for those renting near Craven Cottage, Fulham’s home ground in SW6, have so far averaged £1,682.76 during the 2015/16 football season: the equivalent of top place in The Premier League.

Deposits for properties near Everton’s ground, Goodison Park, have averaged £383.26; the cheapest for any league club, meaning the club would stand in last place in the fourth flight of English and Welsh football.

Julian Foster, our Managing Director, said: “It’s fun to see how much the most passionate supporters have to pay in the form of a deposit to live a short walk from every home game, and looking at the football league from a different perspective certainly produces some interesting results.

“As a Leeds fan, I’m devastated to see us sitting in League One – although fascinated to see Manchester United facing relegation to League Two!

“Wherever the property, however, protecting deposits properly gives both landlord and tenant peace of mind and ensures that money is returned fairly to both parties.

“Landlords and tenants need a deposit protection service that is fast, efficient, clear and communicative, and The DPS has been entrusted with over 3.2 million deposits since we launched in 2007.”

Among the other ‘results’:

  • Eight Premier League clubs find themselves in the bottom division (Stoke City, Leicester City, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Liverpool, Southampton, Newcastle United and Everton)
  • Only five Premier League clubs retain a top-league place (Chelsea, Arsenal, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Watford)
  • Cambridge United, Reading and Dagenham and Redbridge face relegation from The Premier League
  • Crystal Palace and Stevenage Borough achieve automatic promotion from the Championship to the Premier League
  • Seven League 2 clubs all find themselves in the Premier League (Barnet, AFC Wimbledon, Crawley Town, Leyton Orient, Oxford United, Dagenham and Redbridge and Cambridge United)
  • Everton and Gillingham face relegation from the football league.

Landlords and letting agents across England and Wales rely on The DPS to keep tenants’ deposits safe during tenancies.

 The scheme aims to repay all deposits within two business days, on receipt of a jointly authenticated repayment instruction.

It also offers an independent, free Alternative Dispute Resolution service, which aims to resolve any disputes quickly and without the need for court action.

The DPS Fund – Revisiting the successful applicants (Part three)

Regular readers of our blog will know that we’ve been re-visiting successful applicants to the DPS Fund and finding out how our donations have been changing lives.

 


In this case study, we hear from Elmbridge Rentstart, whose application to the DPS Fund was rewarded with £10,000 back in 2014. Since 2001, they have helped well over 2,000 people in need. Here’s how with  money from the DPS Fund, they’ve been able to make a remarkable difference in the life of Mr M.

Sofa-surfing and the caravan

Four years ago, Mr M divorced, leaving his home, ex-wife and three children behind him. With no other option, he was forced into sofa-surfing until finding a job at a chocolate factory in West Sussex. However, things at the factory didn’t work out, and Mr M was forced to move to Weybridge, where he ended up living under a bridge.

‘Too much to handle’

It was at this point that Mr M went to Elmbridge Borough Council for a housing options interview. They agreed to help, but suggested he try Elmbridge Rentstart as well, as bidding for properties through the council can take a long time.

Rentstart immediately arranged for Mr M to go to a local night shelter that had recently opened. However, there was quite a lot of unrest in the shelter, and Mr M found the fighting between other residents was too much to handle. He couldn’t sleep at the shelter, feeling extremely uncomfortable and afraid. He decided to leave the shelter and live on the streets once again.

Though Mr M was forced to live rough for three months, Rentstart stayed in constant touch with him. As soon as a house became available, they took him to see it.

A suitable property

In early April, Rentstart found a suitable property for Mr M in the village of New Haw. After a brief viewing, he decided to move in straight away. Rentstart were able to help Mr M with all the necessary form-filling, and also provided him with a home starter pack containing a bed, soft bedding, kitchen equipment and all the basic requirements he would need to start living there.

Rentstart took him to the council offices to submit his forms and identification, and continued to offer tenancy support. This included arranging with the council that he pay his council tax in small manageable payments.

According to Mr M’s Rentstart adviser, he has settled well into the property, and his pride in his new home shows through in the excellent order in which he maintains it.

Mr M…store manager?

Mr M is now working four days a week in the Queen Elizabeth Foundation shop in Walton-on-Thames. While this position is unpaid, he is being given plenty of training, and has now applied for the position of Store Manager in another branch. If successful, Mr M will have moved from the streets into full time, paid employment. The support of Rentstart, has really helped Mr M escape the web of homeless and create for himself a future that is full of opportunity.

When we started the DPS Fund, we had high hopes that money we donated would have a real impact on people’s lives. However, we never imagined just how much difference we would help people to make. The feedback we’ve had from the charities and their beneficiaries has been truly heart-warming, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for the DPS Fund.

Updates in the Private Rented Sector

The Private Rented Sector has generated many talking points in 2015 and this will continue throughout 2016 and beyond.  New laws and proposals implemented by the Government look set to alter the way letting agents and landlords in the housing sector operate.

Right to rent checks roll out nationally

In 2015, the Government trialled a new immigration law that forces landlords to take responsibility for checking whether their prospective tenants are eligible to live in the UK.  The pilot was held in the West Midlands and though the results were inconclusive, the Government has decided to roll it out nationally.  

From the 1 February 2016, landlords across the country are required to have performed right to rent checks for any new tenancies starting after this date.  

The Home Office has provided guidance for landlords on how to administer right to rent checks, and the documents that prospective tenants must provide. These can be found on www.gov.uk.

Taxation changes

Along with changes to tax relief on wear and tear and on buy-to-let mortgages, the government is also looking to increase tax revenues by introducing a three percent Stamp Duty Land Tax surcharge on purchases of second homes. This includes buy-to-let residences, with exceptions proposed for investors buying multiple properties. 

The tax will be applied to all eligible second home purchases from 1 April 2016 and many commentators have said this could affect the PRS and home-buyers’ market, with some suggesting there will be a rush to buy property before the April deadline. Others expect the buy-to-let market to remain buoyant despite increased purchase costs. 

It’s not just about what’s being introduced by the Government, but what’s not  

Many people were shocked by the Government’s withdrawal of an amendment to the Housing Bill currently going through Parliament, which would’ve enforced mandatory Client Money Protection for letting agents.  

With many senior industry voices and letting agents calling for the change, it was disappointing that the amendment was removed. We believe along with others that this would have improved standards in the PRS.  

We were also disappointed to see the Government reject a proposal for rented properties to be fit for human habitation. Rogue landlords who disregard tenant safety have a negative impact on the reputation of the industry and most landlords and agents believe that more can be done to weed them out.  

Many of you responded to our survey about rogue landlords, allowing us to present a collective industry view to the Government consultation on the subject in late 2015. The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has now issued their response to the consultation, displaying strong support for the following measures:

> A blacklist of persistent rogue landlords and letting agents
> The introduction of Rent Repayment Orders
> Additional criteria in the fit and proper person test for licences
> The introduction of civil penalties
> New procedures for tackling abandonment
> An agreement for data held by deposit protection schemes to be made available to local authorities.

The government's response to the consultation discusses each of these proposals and the next steps they plan to take.  You can view the full response on the Government website, www.gov.uk.

The DPS Fund – Revisiting the successful applicants (Part two)

In our recent blog post about the DPS Charity Donations Fund, we looked back at the great things Chelmsford CHESS have achieved in their local community using money we donated.

Regular readers of our social media feeds may remember that in February 2015, one of the successful applicants to the DPS fund was Aylesbury Homeless Action Group (AHAG). In this blog, we’ll be going back to Buckinghamshire, and finding out how AHAG has been making a real difference in people’s lives.

 

 

Before we get started…what does AHAG actually do?

Since 2009, AHAG has been helping homeless and vulnerable people by giving them support and helping them to find accommodation. Here they tell us about how, thanks to money donated by the DPS Fund, they’ve been able to help one of their clients. Meet Mr S…

AHAG’s David Dickason introduces Mr S

“Mr S is a 30 year old male who presented at our drop in service in June 2015. Not only was he faced with imminent eviction, but he also had a number of support needs. These included a history of mental health issues which resulted in anxiety and depression. As a result, Mr S was vulnerable and susceptible to abuse. Added to which, as he’d never lived independently, he had issues with sustaining a tenancy.

“Mr S was sofa-surfing at his brother's property when he came to see us. As his brother was moving his partner and children in, Mr S could no longer stay there. We made an initial assessment, seeing Mr S at our offices to provide one-to-one support in a peaceful environment. We also encouraged Mr S to go and see his GP to get some extra care for his mental health alongside the support we were providing him during this difficult time.

Reaching the light at the end of the tunnel

“Before long, Mr S secured employment within the local area. We (AHAG) were able to support him in doing an affordability study that enabled him to budget for a property. Although on a 20 hour contract, he was working a 30 hour week. We were able to support him in getting his contract changed to reflect his true working hours, meaning he was entitled to Working Tax Credits.

“We supported Mr S in finding a private rental. One of our case workers met with the landlord and the client, and after ensuring that the property was suitable and that the correct paperwork was in place, we used £380 from the DPS Fund donation to cover the tenancy deposit.

The move into secure accommodation

“This enabled Mr S to move into secure accommodation, meaning he didn’t have to resort to becoming ‘street homeless’. We’ve provided Mr S ongoing support in terms of budgeting, and he’s now settled in his accommodation and remains in employment.”

Stories like Mr S’s were the reason we started the DPS Fund, and it’s truly humbling to see our donations having such a profound and wide-reaching effect.

If you’re a charity working in the housing sector, or you know a cause who could benefit from our help, find out more about our charity donations fund on our website.

The DPS Fund - Revisiting the successful applicants (Part one)

Since 2014, The DPS Charity Fund has been donating money to worthy causes in the property sector. In this blog, the first of three, we re-visit one of our successful applicants, and take a look at how our donation has helped individuals and their community.

Chelmsford CHESS

Based in Chelmsford, and working across Essex, CHESS aims to relieve hardship, distress and poverty among those living in adverse housing conditions. We felt they were ideal recipients of a donation from The DPS Charity Fund because their pledge to help people in need to pay deposits and rent with repayable loans really exemplified what the fund is all about, as well as having a recyclable nature that could go on helping people into the future.

Mr P

A typical beneficiary of Chelmsford CHESS’s work is a man who, in the interests of anonymity, we’ll call Mr P.

Here we look at how the CHESS Temporary Supported Housing Scheme, which received £10,000 from The DPS charity fund in the Autumn of 2014, helped Mr P turn his life around after hitting rock bottom.

Client Background

Back in February 2015, 40-year-old Mr P presented himself as homeless to CHESS. After discovering his wife was having an affair with his work colleague, his relationship had deteriorated very quickly and his situation was exacerbated following the issuance of a court order preventing him from returning to the joint tenancy he had shared with his wife.

At the time of approaching CHESS, Mr P had recently suffered 2 heart attacks, and the haulage business he owned at the time he became homeless, was in roughly £60,000 debt.

CHESS Temporary Supported Housing Scheme

After Mr P became resident within the CHESS Supported Housing Scheme, his support worker helped him to claim welfare benefits and to contact Christians Against Poverty (a charity that helps people overcome debt issues). Christians Against Poverty quickly took on Mr P’s case and they were able to negotiate with creditors to eradicate the debt.

Before long, the debt issue had been dealt with, Mr P was far more stable emotionally, and thanks to help from his friends, found work as a banksman on a waste disposal site.

The move into Private Renting

By now, Mr P’s support worker had decided he was ready to move on. Having been referred to CHESS’s Private Renting Scheme, he began researching suitable properties. With the funding given by The DPS, along with a rent guarantor (a friend), Mr P was able to secure a 1 bedroom property on a six month tenancy (£650 pcm) close to his new place of work. CHESS’s Secure Tenancies Officer was able to contact the letting agent and arrange for a cheque to be raised to cover the upfront costs of the tenancy, amounting to £1,300. Mr P took possession of his new home on 30th July 2015.

Since then, the Secure Tenancies Officer has remained in telephone contact with Mr P, who has now settled into his new accommodation and is continuing his employment.

We’re delighted to hear about stories like Mr P’s and hope our donation continues to help other people in need find the same support and success against adversity.  If you’re a charity working in the housing sector, or you know a cause who could benefit from our help, find out more about our charity donations fund on our website.

UK floods: what happens now

We’ve been saddened to see the impact of the terrible floods that have plagued so many regions of the UK over the last month, and our sympathies go out to all those affected. While the waters have now receded in many areas, the effects of the inundation will in many cases be long-lived and costly.

The rebuilding process is now underway and whilst the immediate focus is obviously to make homes habitable once more, where the property has been rented out, it’s also worth bearing in mind how the floods may affect the tenancy agreement.

How badly a property has been damaged can affect the tenancy and, of course, the tenancy deposit. If it’s still generally habitable, and can be repaired with the tenant in situ, then it should be in the mutual interest of the landlord and tenant to work together to limit damage and get the house back in order quickly. Whilst tenants shouldn’t be liable for any damage to the property or contents caused by the floods, they do have a responsibility to allow reasonable access for the landlord or contractors to carry out any work required. It’s vital for affected landlords and tenants to maintain good communication with each other during this period to make sure repairs are completed as soon as possible.

It may be that the property is so severely damaged, that it’s uninhabitable, requiring the tenant to move out whilst repairs are completed. In this situation, the tenant is not usually expected to pay rent for the period they’re unable to live there. In certain cases, the tenant may even be entitled to terminate the tenancy immediately, and agreements often contain some sort of provision in this regard. Again, it’s important for landlords and tenants to discuss the situation and agree a course of action together.

If the tenancy does continue after the repairs are complete, we recommend a new inventory is prepared, documenting the condition of the repaired property and any furnishings that have been removed or replaced. The new inventory should detail the extent and quality of the repairs and replacements, along with documentation such as receipts, or insurance claims. An updated inventory benefits both landlord and tenant with a clear and agreed record of all mid-tenancy changes, and reduces the likelihood of disputes arising when the tenancy comes to an end. For guidance on how to create a strong inventory, you can find our top 10 tips here.

Our thoughts go out to all affected by the floods.

The DPS team

Our Christmas Opening Hours

On behalf of everyone at The DPS, we'd like to wish you a very merry Christmas.

Our Customer Service Centre will be open at the following times over the festive period:

Monday 21st December - 8am – 6pm
Tuesday 22nd December - 8am – 6pm
Wednesday 23rd December - 8am - 6pm
Thursday 24th December - 8am - 5pm
Friday 25th December - Closed
Saturday 26th December - Closed
Monday 28th December - Closed
Tuesday 29th December - 9am - 5pm
Wednesday 30th December - 9am - 5pm
Thursday 31st December - 9am - 5pm
Friday 1st January - Closed
Saturday 2nd January - Closed
Monday 4th January – 8am - 6pm (Business as usual from now on).

 

Guest blog: Eric Walker on how new Government changes may affect the letting industry

Recently, George Osborne issued his Autumn Statement, containing some surprising announcements that may have an impact on the letting industry. Following our summary of the key points in the statement, we thought it would be good to find out the opinions of one of the industry’s most respected experts, Eric Walker, MD of the Northwood group, and his thoughts on how the Government’s recent raft of housing market changes might affect the future of the letting industry.  Here’s what he had to say!

There is no doubt both landlords and agents face challenges, but this is nothing new and this industry is one that adapts better than most. I have read the prophecies of landlords leaving in droves as I have read reports of an imminent crash in the housing market every year for as long as I can remember. Not even Robert Peston has ever called it right. Nevertheless, we are currently experiencing an unprecedented number of changes. These changes can be categorized under the headings ‘regulatory’ and ‘financial’.

Red tape is on the increase and undoubtedly there will be more to come. New rules over smoke alarms, immigration checks, licensing, consumer protection and the relentless voice of Shelter and Generation Rent make letting a complex business.  Whilst I support the need to improve standards, increasingly the lack of policing and enforcement creates an unfair burden on those who comply. Once the consumer enforcers start policing, and they will, there may be many landlords who unwittingly find themselves with large fines and even criminal records. Further, they will find that regaining possession of a property even where a tenant is in breach of the tenancy agreement will become much more difficult.

There was a time that all the Court required to grant possession under S21 of the 1988 Housing act was a tenancy agreement and a copy of the notice. Now, you must prove the deposit is protected, the tenant was given prescribed terms, provide a copy of the Gas Safety certificate, the EPC, proof of providing the Government’s ‘How to Rent’ pamphlet and that there were no repairs reported which were not dealt with appropriately.  My advice as one would expect is to use a professional, accredited letting agent.

Quite why George Osborne is targeting the buy to let market when more and more people chose to rent is baffling especially as there is such a shortage of homes and the private rented sector is a rich vein of supply. Some investors may well rush to buy before the April deadline, but this may cost them more as there will be lots of competition. What investors may not have considered is that Stamp Duty can be off-set against your future capital gains tax liability when you sell your property. Therefore, perhaps we should just look as the increased stamp duty charge as an advanced payment on CGT!

Towards the end of next year, landlords may well find an increase in the number of tenants looking for a home reducing void periods and raising rents through simple supply and demand. Interest rates remain artificially low and are unlikely to exceed 2% until 2020 at the earliest which will continue to mitigate the increased tax burden on mortgage interest. There is little doubt that property remains a safer and better long term investment than putting your savings in a bank account.

Some commentators believe many landlords will simply sell up creating an even greater housing shortage. I don’t subscribe to this as it implies a majority of landlords are professional investors. In fact, over 70% of landlords only have one property and 20% make no money from letting and rely upon capital growth as a long term investment. If I am wrong, then the seemingly anti-landlord measures will spectacularly backfire on those who called for them. If I am right, the market will simply adjust as it usually does. It will be a bumpy ride, but within 18 months we will have wondered what all the fuss was about.

The single most important element of improving this marketplace is consumer protection. I urge people to support the need for regulation and compulsory client’s money protection insurance. In an ideal world, I would like to see all deposits held in a custodial scheme. Landlords and tenants should seek out agents who choose to be members of a regulatory body and question those who do not. Tenants are quite properly becoming more aware of their rights. By providing a fair and professional lettings industry everyone but the rogue element benefit.

Eric Walker, MD Northwood

Autumn Statement 2015 – What it means for landlords

Yesterday’s Autumn Statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer contained some unexpected tax changes that stand to make it harder for small investors to enter the Private Rented Sector as landlords. From April next year, the Government is to introduce new rates of stamp duty for buy-to-let properties and second home purchases, set 3% above the rate for first home purchases.

On a buy-to-let property costing £180,000, stamp duty will be £6,500, whereas under current rules it would add a mere £1,100 to the purchase costs. The new rate applies to all second home purchases, not just buy-to-lets, so investors can’t just purchase a house for personal use and convert it to a rental property at a later date.

The new stamp duty rules, combined with recent increased regulation and tax relief changes for wear and tear replacement and buy-to-let mortgages, suggest that the Government intends to restrict the role of private investors in the PRS, and there is a real risk that landlords feeling the squeeze may exit the market. It’s interesting to note that the higher stamp duty rates will not apply to corporate entities or funds making significant investments in residential property, which indicates the Government is seeking to shift towards a more institutionally managed Private Rented Sector. The Government plans to consult on the policy detail, including on whether an exemption for corporate entities and funds owning more than 15 residential properties is appropriate.

The Government intends to use some of income generated by the increased duty to inject £60 million into the affordable housing budget for communities in England where the impact of second homes has had a particular impact, to help first time buyers get on the housing ladder. It’s not clear how an area will qualify as impacted by second home ownership, nor if new affordable housing can be created in these locations.  

There’s also little indication that the funds generated by the changes will be used to increase the provision of affordable renting. In fact, the statement announces that a pilot to extend right-to-buy to Housing Association tenants will commence shortly with five associations, further reducing the availability of social housing, with the expectation that the Private Rented Sector will absorb the strain.

Many commentators are already decrying the Chancellor’s changes, suggesting that they will in effect choke off investment in the PRS, but it remains to be seen how they will alter the make-up of the market and the type of investors operating in this sector.

Letting Agent in Wales? Remember to display your fees…

With effect from Monday 23 November letting agents in Wales will be obliged to display their fees, or risk receiving a fine of up to £5,000.

As stated in the Consumer Rights Act 2015, agents must display their fees:

  • at each of the agent’s premises at which the agent deals face-to-face with persons using or proposing to use services to which the fees relate, and
  • at a place in each of those premises at which the list is likely to be seen by such persons.

Put simply, this means that any letting agent with premises in Wales must display a list of their fees in a place that their customers can easily see them. The new rules also stipulate that agents must also publish a list of their fees on their website (if they have one).

Any breach of this new obligation could result in a financial penalty of up to £5,000 being imposed, so it’s important that you act quickly to be ready for the 23 November deadline.

Full details of the new regulations can be found here.

 

A new contract, the same high standards

We’re delighted to announce that we’ve retained the government contract to continue operating our Custodial tenancy deposit protection scheme following a competitive tender.

Our Managing Director, Julian Foster, said: “I’m delighted that the government has again chosen to entrust us with this substantial responsibility.

“This contract reflects the smoothness, transparency, fairness and security with which we have run the scheme over the last eight years – as well as its huge popularity among landlords and letting agents.”

We’re the largest provider of tenancy deposit protection in the UK to date and have been the only operator of a Custodial scheme since our launch in April 2007. We’re thrilled that we have the opportunity to continue providing high quality services to the almost half a million landlords and letting agents we have registered with us, as well as over 2 million tenants who depend on us to keep their deposits safe.

The government invited prospective partners to submit tenders for the scheme in March this year, and as well as awarding us a licence to continue operating our existing Custodial scheme, have given licences to two other businesses to set up new Custodial schemes to run alongside our existing scheme and the three Insured deposit protection schemes.

With the rental sector expanding and evolving, we’ll continue to play a leading role within the industry, focusing on rapid deposit repayment; clear, regular communication with landlords and tenants; and the provision of the best support, whether online, over the phone or in person at events, exhibitions and workshops.

We look forward to building on our relationship with you in the future, and continuing to provide you with the same high standards of service you expect!

The DPS Team

Don't lose your deposit on bonfire night

We all know how fun bonfire night can be, and it’s always tempting to outdo the neighbours with your display, but it does have its risks. There are over 1,000 firework-related injuries* every year, and also damage caused to gardens and properties. If you’re a tenant in rented accommodation, it can prove costly and could lead to you losing your deposit if you’re liable for any damage caused to the property.

When planning your evening, here are just a few facts for you to bear in mind… 

  • Fireworks can travel at speeds up to 150mph*
  • Three sparklers burn together at the same heat as that of a blowtorch*
  • The majority of firework-related injuries happen at family or private parties*

We want you to have a great time, but more importantly we want you, your family and friends, and your homes to be safe, so here are some safety tips to help avoid bonfire night going with the wrong sort of bang! 

1)    Make sure you only buy fireworks from a reputable retailer
2)    If you’re having a bonfire, make sure it’s at least 18m (60ft) away from buildings trees, hedges, fences or sheds
3)    To avoid your fireworks ‘firing’ in the wrong direction, put them in a bucket of soft earth and in a suitable location
4)    Keep a close eye on the weather. Any sudden changes in wind direction could change the direction of aerial fireworks
5)    Don’t ever light fireworks in or near your property
6)    Never throw any used fireworks on a bonfire
7)    Never use flammable liquids like paraffin or petrol to get a bonfire going. This can cause an uncontrollable spread of fire or even an explosion.

Of course, the best way of protecting your deposit on bonfire night is to leave it to the professionals and go to a public display.

Have fun, be safe and keep your home in one piece.  

The DPS Team

*Source: NHS choices  

New smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations for landlords

On 1 October 2015, a number of new regulations for landlords were introduced, as a result of the Deregulation Act 2015. This included a requirement for landlords to have smoke alarms installed in their properties. Landlords are also legally obliged to provide carbon monoxide alarms in any premises which contain a solid fuel burning appliance – this applies to any kind of wood burning stove or an open coal fire. It will also extend to equipment such as a solid fuel Aga in the kitchen.

We think tenant safety should be the top priority for landlords, so we asked the London Fire Brigade if they would share their advice following the introduction of the new regulations. Mark Hazelton, Group Manager for Community Safety Development at London Fire Brigade, discusses the recent changes in the law and what this now means for landlords.

Did you know that…

  • 40 people per year are killed by carbon monoxide
  • You are four times more likely to die in a fire at home without a smoke alarm
  • You are seven times more likely to have a fire if you’re living in rented or shared accommodation

Due to a recent change in the law, it is now the landlord’s responsibility to fit smoke alarms at the beginning of each tenancy. It is also their responsibility to test them regularly to make sure they’re working. If these measures aren’t put in place, not only could you be risking the lives of your tenants, you could also face a possible £5,000 fine.

It is vitally important to fit at least one working smoke alarm on each level of a house or home. As the Government statistic above shows, those in rented accommodation are much more likely to have a fire. Many fires happen at night when people are sleeping and smoke alarms are the best early warning, buying precious seconds for people to escape. Only recently, a smoke alarm saved four people from a house fire in Lewisham.

Following the change in the law on October 1st 2015, the Government is giving away free smoke alarms via Fire and Rescue services across the country.
 
In London, fire chiefs are offering free alarms to landlords in areas that have been identified as being more at risk of having fires. You can fill out the following application form to see whether you are eligible for one: http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/freesmokealarms.asp

If you’re a landlord in another part of the UK, please contact your local fire and rescue service to ask about whether you are able to get a free alarm. The scheme also provides carbon monoxide alarms to landlords of properties that contain a solid fuel burner, like a wood stove. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms can also be bought relatively cheaply at most hardware shops.
 
It really is easy to fit them in your properties and necessary if you want to stay on the right side of the law.

Visit Emma's House of Horrors for the chance to win tickets to the London Dungeon!

Are you feeling brave? You'll need to be if you want to explore my House of Horrors for a chance to win* a family ticket to the London Dungeon.

We've got five family tickets to give away, one for each of the five despicable deeds you'll uncover that are sure to turn the stomachs of tenants and landlords alike.

To be in with a chance of winning, search high and low to find the five sinister situations and simply decide which one is based on a real happening that we've seen in a deposit dispute.

When you think you know the answer, to enter the competition, send us a tweet to @The_DPS including the location where it occurred (e.g. "kitchen") and the hashtag #DPSHalloweenHorrors. You must include the hashtag, and your tweet must be made by midnight on 31 October 2015.

Visit my Halloween House of Horrors!

(For the best viewing experience, please download and open with Adobe Reader)

Good luck!

Emma

*P.S. Don't forget to read our not so scary terms and conditions before entering. It would be frightful if you missed out for failing to follow them.

PLEASE NOTE: Our competition is now closed so we are no longer accepting entries. Did you get the right answer? Follow us on twitter @The_DPS to find out whether you guessed right.

Your views on tackling rogue landlords and improving the private rented sector

As the home of deposit protection, we believe we've an important role to play in making sure the government hears and understands your views on changes to the private rented sector (PRS). So, when the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) opened a consultation on the issue of tackling rogue landlords, we got on the case, seeking your feedback through a survey and some in-depth discussions, before collating your responses and submitting them to the consultation.   

We thought you’d like to know what your collective position is on the topics we asked you about, so here’s a summary of what you told us.

We found out that you're overwhelmingly of the opinion that rogue landlords and letting agents tarnish the reputation of the good operators in the PRS, and are generally supportive of stronger penalties to encourage better standards in the sector.

You’re open to the idea of a centralised national register of landlords and letting agents rather than individual registration or licensing with local authorities. You also believe that a national register would be the best way of both administrating fit and proper person tests and keeping a blacklist of rogue landlords and letting agents.

Let's take a look at some of the numbers:

  • Over 90% of you believe that rogue landlords and letting agents give the PRS a bad name and that something more needs to be done.
  • More than two thirds of you think that fines at their current level aren’t enough to deter rogue landlords and letting agents.
  • Almost three quarters of you think that a national, centralised register of landlords and letting agents would be better than multiple registers or licensing schemes maintained individually by local authorities.
  • 59% of you believe a national, centralised registering body would be better suited to operate a fit and proper person test than local authorities, and 80% of you felt that it would be better at keeping a blacklist of offenders.
  • Almost three quarters of you feel that blacklisted landlords or letting agents shouldn’t be able to accept deposits from tenants.
  • Over half of you also felt that records of civil penalties and previous Rent Repayment Orders should be available for prospective tenants to view.

Weeding out rogue landlords and letting agents is something you clearly want, and you’re heartened that the Government is listening to your views. Whilst you’re willing to work with them to achieve this, you want to see better enforcement of the rules, rather than regulation for regulation’s sake. The general view is that good letting agents and landlords are already adhering to the existing rules and regulations and that more must be done by government, local or central, to police these. For example, Trading Standards enforcing the requirement for all fees to be published in letting agents’ windows.

Thank you for sharing your views with us. It’s allowed us to use our position as a key industry body to ensure your combined voice is heard by the DCLG. We’re looking forward to the results of the consultation soon, and sharing our take on the Government’s response with you.

New Deregulation Act rules come into force

Earlier this year, the Deregulation Act 2015 introduced changes to tenancy deposit protection law to resolve issues raised by the Superstrike Ltd vs Rodriguez case in 2013. The Deregulation Act also contained a number of new requirements for landlords which come into force today (1 October 2015). As part of our commitment to helping you keep abreast of changes to the Private Rented Sector, we’ve summarised the changes for you here.

Changes to eviction procedure

Where a landlord has failed to address a tenant’s complaint about the condition of the property they’re renting, and the local authority has both verified the complaint and served either an improvement notice or a notice of emergency remedial action, the landlord can’t evict the tenant for 6 months, and must also complete the repairs demanded by the local authority notice. By introducing this law, the Government hopes to protect tenants against retaliatory evictions.

The Act also introduces changes to simplify the process of eviction for landlords in cases where it’s justified. A new form has been introduced for use when applying to court for a ‘no-fault’ (section 21) eviction, and is designed to reduce the likelihood of cases being thrown out on technical errors which lead to increased costs, lost time and inconvenience for landlords. The form must be used for all tenancies starting on or after 1 October 2015. Use for tenancies starting before this date is optional but encouraged. You can find the form in the snappily titled document The Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 No. 1725, which can be accessed here.

There are also some additional new rules on evictions and the information which must be provided to tenants before landlords can start the eviction process. More detail on these will be available in guidance available on the Government website from today (1 October 2015). 

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations

To reduce the risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning to tenants, Parliament has approved new regulations, meaning from today, 1 October 2015, private sector landlords will need to have installed at least one smoke alarm on every storey of their properties, and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance such as a coal fire or wood burning stove. This applies to all tenancies, not just those starting on or after 1 October. Landlords must ensure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy. It has been suggested that they’ll even need to have them tested on the  day tenancy begins, to properly ensure they are in working order, rather than a few days before. An alarm failure in the intervening days between the test and the tenancy commencing could result in a breach and the potential for a large fine to be imposed. To find out more, download the Government’s explanatory booklet for landlords.

The Government will be updating their ‘How to rent’ guide to reflect the changes that have now come into force, helping to  ensure both landlords and tenants are clear on their key rights and responsibilities and improve standards in the private rented sector.

Students, 12 tips to safeguard your deposit and have a happy tenancy

Students, it’s that time again – your new academic year. We hope by now you’ve sorted your accommodation and are looking forward to moving in, if you haven’t done so already.

Here at DPS HQ we’ve been recalling our student days, remembering how we made it through the long hours of study with the help of the great friends we made and some epic house parties…but we also haven’t forgotten the weird unidentifiable objects in the fridge, the post-party disaster zones, and, of course, always being skint!

There’s no good time to lose money but it’s worse when you have hardly any in the first place, which is why we were sad when our research into deposit repayments suggested students are twice as likely to lose part/all of their deposit than other renters.

Common sense should tell you that you’ll need to keep your house clean and in good order to get your money back, but there’s actually a lot more to keeping your deposit than you might think.

To help you, we’ve put together these 12 tips:


1.    First and foremost, make sure your landlord protects your deposit with an authorised deposit protection scheme.

2.    When you move in, agree an inventory with your housemates and return it to your landlord. Take date stamped photographs of any damage or problems that you record on the inventory as evidence.

3.    If you don’t know your landlord, check their name against your university or student union’s list of approved landlords.

4.    Remember, every tenancy agreement can be different: make sure you read yours and understand your obligations.

5.    Record all communication with your landlord in writing, particularly any agreements you make. Follow up phone calls with an email confirming what was agreed. 

6.    Keep copies of any documents, receipts and emails relating to your tenancy.

7.    Report any defects with the property promptly and in writing, including the cause of the problem where you can.

8.    Take photos of problems that arise in the property, and make sure they are date stamped.

9.    Remember your obligations as tenants are what are known legally as “joint and several”: if an individual tenant does not accept personal responsibility when something goes wrong, such as a breakage, then it becomes the joint responsibility of all the tenants.

10.    Keep in mind that with most tenancy agreements you’ll be liable for damage to communal areas as well as your own room.

11.    Remember in most cases you’ll be liable right until the end of the tenancy, even if you move out before your housemates. You could remain jointly responsible for any cleaning or repairs to the property, even if the damage happened after you left.

12.    Attend the checkout inspection at the end of your tenancy and take your own photographs if necessary.

It may seem like a long time before you’ll need to think about moving out, but now’s the right time to be thinking about your deposit, so you don’t lose out. Now you’re in the know, why not do a good deed and share these tips with your housemates and friends? 

And don’t forget to watch our short video to see some amusing ways you could lose your deposit.

Government Proposals Could Mean Big Changes for Private Rented Sector Landlords

During recent weeks, the Government has proposed a number of changes to legislation, each of which is expected to have a significant impact on landlords in the Private Rented Sector .

The lettings industry is coming under ever greater scrutiny. This added attention is generating a wide range of viewpoints from many commentators, and in many cases, dividing opinion. In this post, we explain each proposal in turn, and discuss the implications each would have.

Tougher Punishments for Rogue Landlords

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), recently invited input from the PRS on new proposals that will make it harder for rogue landlords to operate.

It must be stressed that, whilst rogue landlords make up a very small percentage, they have a large effect on public opinion, and damage the reputation of good landlords everywhere.

The DCLG ’s recent discussion paper was clear -  they want to do more to drive rogue landlords out of the industry - and it included a variety of ways that may help achieve this, such as fines for offenders and the possible introduction of a blacklist and bans for repeat offenders. 

It also explored the use of rent repayment orders, civil penalties and other ways to weed out the rogues, including fit and proper person tests. While these tests already exist, the document proposes making them stricter and less open to interpretation.

We’re really pleased to see the DCLG reaching out to gain the views, insight and experiences of landlords and agents. It’s clear from the discussions and feedback we’ve had, that many of you welcome these steps, providing they don’t result in more red tape. We look forward to seeing the outcome of the consultation later this year.

We also recently surveyed landlords registered with us asking for their opinions on the government consultation, and we’re currently analysing the results. We’ll share our findings with you soon.

Big Changes to Tax Relief

In his recent budget, the Chancellor announced a shake-up of the tax relief rules landlords can currently take advantage of. The capping of buy-to-let mortgage tax relief to the basic 20% tax rate has divided opinion, with many people suggesting it will price landlords out of the market and ultimately drive rents up.

Others, however, have suggested that it levels the field of landlord taxation with homeowners who can’t claim tax relief on their mortgage repayments, making it fairer for everybody.

Then there are some who claim that landlords should treat the renting of their property as a business rather than simply as an investment, and should, therefore, be taxed accordingly. 

Much of the discussion rests on whether landlords view buying a property to let as a way to get more money coming in every month, or whether they see it as a long-term investment, relying on the house to increase in value over time.

Wear and Tear - Consultation

Another area where tax relief changes have been proposed is for wear and tear of furniture and fittings.

Currently, landlords can claim a wear and tear allowance of 10% of rent received, regardless of the level of costs incurred. This means some landlords gain relief where no expenditure has been made, whilst others spending above the 10% level are limited on the relief they can claim. It’s also restricted to fully furnished properties only.

The new proposals will allow all residential landlords (with the exception of those providing furnished holiday lets) to claim a deduction for the cost of replacing furniture, furnishings, appliances and kitchenware provided for the tenant’s use. 

It is important to note that this tax relief is strictly for the replacement of existing furniture and fittings and not for furnishing a property in the first place.

If you’d like to make sure your voice is heard, HMRC are currently running a consultation on the proposals until 9th October 2015. You can view the consultation here.

Right to Rent to go Nationwide

Another recent announcement is the plan to roll out nationally the responsibility for landlords and letting agents to perform ‘right-to-rent’ checks, to ensure the tenant has a right to be in the country. The idea has been trialled in the West Midlands, and whilst the full results have yet to be released, the Government have decided that they will press ahead with expanding the scheme to the rest of the UK.

It’s certainly an intriguing time for the Private Rented Sector and we expect more changes to be proposed. There’s still much discussion and debate to be had about all of these topics, and we expect there to be further changes to the proposals. We’ll be following them closely to see how they develop.