Success for The DPS at the Negotiator Awards!

We’re delighted to announce that we took the Silver award in the Supplier of the Year: Professional Support category at this year’s Negotiator Awards, held at London’s Hilton Hotel on Park Lane.

The Negotiator Awards are among the most prestigious in the property industry and just to be nominated was a huge honour, so we’re incredibly proud to have won the Silver award. We’d like to thank all our clients who provided us with supporting testimonials and evidence. It reassures us that all the hard work we’re doing to deliver great customer service and streamline our processes is having an impact.

We also sponsored the award for Medium Lettings Agency of the Year (4-11 branches). We’d like to congratulate winners, Breckon & Breckon Letting Agents who received their trophy from our MD, Julian Foster. Our congratulations also go to Thomas Morris (Silver) and Martyn Gerrard (Bronze) and all the other companies on the shortlist.

See you all there next year!

How can landlords end an assured shorthold tenancy

Recently, there’s been some discussion in the lettings community about serving notice to end a tenancy, resulting in a range of responses with no clear view. To help landlords understand this complex issue, we’ve invited Tessa Shepperson from Landlord Law to explain how landlords can end tenancies. 

Please note: Comments regarding amendments arising from the Deregulation Act 2015 apply to tenancies in England only, not Wales.

How can landlords end an assured shorthold tenancy?

There’s generally a lot of confusion about the service of notices and whether they actually end a tenancy in the eyes of the law.

Before we explore this further, let’s take a look at the original form of notice that we used to use – a Notice to Quit.

Notices to Quit (NTQ)

An ‘NTQ’ is a special type of common law notice that will completely end a tenancy after the notice period. It’s not the same as, say, a section 21 (s21) notice, even though an s21 is a notice asking your tenant to leave!

People sometimes make the mistake of using the term NTQ to end their tenancies. Although NTQs are still used for common law and unregulated tenancies (such as company or resident-landlord lets), they’re invalid for the majority of residential tenancies.

Section 5 (s5) of the Housing Act 1988, which regulates assured tenancies (ATs) and assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs), states that landlords’ NTQs are of no effect, as:

> They can’t be used to end a fixed term early; and
> They can’t be used for ATs or ASTs!

If a landlord is able to use a NTQ (for example if they don’t have an assured or an assured shorthold tenancy), they’ll need to act quickly to issue proceedings to evict their tenant, as accepting another month’s rent from the tenant can resurrect the tenancy - meaning that they’ll have to serve another NTQ to end it again!

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that AT and AST tenants can still serve an NTQ - for example to end a periodic tenancy.

So, if an NTQ is useless for ending the vast majority of tenancies, what should landlords use instead?

Ending a tenancy under the Housing Act 1988 

The Housing Act 1988 governs most tenancies created since 15 January 1989. It put into place new rules about ending tenancies, set out in s5 of the act, and says that tenancies can only be ended in the following ways:

1. By a landlord getting a possession order from the Court AND the order being ‘executed’ – e.g. by a County Court bailiff physically removing the tenants - s5(1)(a); or

2. Where the tenancy agreement allows the landlord to end the tenancy - normally by exercising a ‘break clause’ - s5(1)(c)  (although it should be noted that if the tenant stays in occupation, a ‘periodic’ tenancy will then come into being, under section 5(2), meaning that the tenant will still have a tenancy.); or

3. By ‘a surrender or other action on the part of the tenant’ - s5(2)(b). This will normally be:

> Exercising a break clause;
> Moving out at the end of the fixed term;
> Serving a tenant’s NTQ during a periodic tenancy; or
> Surrender (which normally needs to be agreed with the landlord).

The Housing Act 1988 notices

There are two notices to be aware of here:

> Section 8 (s8) - landlords can use this when they want to base their claim on one of the grounds for possession set out in Schedule 2 of the Act.  The most common ground is ground 8, the mandatory rent arrears ground; and
> Section 21 – this is for when landlords want to use the ‘no fault’ ground for possession.

It’s clear from the legislation that serving these notices doesn’t actually end the tenancy in the same way as an NTQ.  They do, however, entitle the landlord to obtain an order for possession if they go to court.

The tenant can continue to live in the property and will be liable for the rent.  If the landlord doesn’t issue proceedings, the tenancy will continue indefinitely - unless the tenant leaves of their own free will.


What happens if the tenant leaves early?  

Does this ‘end’ the tenancy? This is an important point as the tenant is only liable for the rent while the tenancy exists.  

The legislation does not actually say anything on this point, and currently there is no guidance available from the courts.  Therefore, the requirement for the tenant to serve notice if they wish to end the tenancy remains. Whilst section 40 of the Deregulation Act 2015 adds a new section 21C to the 1988 act providing for landlords to refund any rent paid in advance where:

“as a result of the service of a notice under section 21, the tenancy is brought to an end before the end of a period of the tenancy”

This would appear to be limited to any overpayment received as a result of the landlord no longer being required to serve their notice to coincide with the rental due date, which may result in an overpayment of rent.

So far as s8 notices are concerned, information is limited to a point at the end of the prescribed form, which says:

“Your landlord cannot make you leave your home without an order for possession issued by a court. By issuing this notice, your landlord is informing you that he intends to seek such an order. If you are willing to give up possession without a court order, you should tell the person who signed this notice as soon as possible and say when you are prepared to leave.”

The important point to understand here, is that the tenant needs to inform the landlord if they wish to end the tenancy after the service of a notice. I do not think that the tenant can unilaterally end the tenancy by moving out after the service of a notice without doing this first.

To help illustrate the point, here are a couple of scenarios. Imagine a landlord has served an s8 notice on 23 May:

Scenario 1
The tenant just ups and leaves on 4 June, taking all his possessions and putting the keys through the letterbox. The landlord doesn’t find out until he visits the property on 23 June.

Scenario 2
The tenant tells the landlord that he will be moving out on 4 June. He moves all his property out on that day and gives the keys back to the landlord.

> In the first scenario, the tenant is liable for the rent up until the 23 June because they didn’t inform the landlord they’d be moving out on 4 June.
> In the second scenario, the tenancy ends on 4 June because the tenant let the landlord know. Therefore the tenant will not be liable for any further rent after that date.

In many cases where tenants leave in this way, the tenants liability for rent is academic as there won’t be any money available, other than by claiming against the deposit. However, it is always a good idea for tenants to minimise their liability to their landlords. 

To put it simply, tenants need to keep their landlords informed if they’re moving out and landlords need to keep a close eye on their properties.

Tessa Shepperson is a specialist landlord & tenant lawyer.  Find more of her writing on the Landlord Law Blog.

 

Struggling to make a debit card payment to us on your Apple device?

If you're having problems making a debit card payment to us on your Apple device, it may be down to the cookies…

Recently, a few of our customers have told us they’ve had difficulty making a debit card payment whilst using their Apple device, and through the Safari browser in particular. If you’ve struggled to make a payment on your iPhone or iPad, here’s how to get around it.

The problem is likely to be due to cookies; tiny pieces of data sent from a website and stored in your web browser while you use the internet. Cookies allow websites to do useful tasks like remembering your username for when you return to the site, or auto-completing a web address you’ve visited before.

 

 

Thankfully, the problem is very easy to put right. Just follow the steps below.

1. Go to Settings

2. Tap Safari

3. Tap Block Cookies under Privacy and Security

4. Tap Always Allow

And that’s all there is to it. If you’ve followed the steps outlined above, you should be able to make debit card payments on your Apple device without any problems. Of course, if you’re still struggling to make a payment, you can always give us a call on 0330 303 0030, and we’ll be happy to help.

Guest blog: Eric Walker shares his thoughts on how Brexit will affect the UK housing market

As election results go, they don’t come much more momentous than Britain’s recent referendum on the European Union. The historic vote to leave the EU has created uncertainty across the UK economy, and the housing market will undoubtedly be affected, though it’s too soon to say whether those repercussions will be positive or negative. To get an expert view on some of the possible implications of possible Brexit, we’ve asked Eric Walker, managing director of Northwood Lettings, to share his thoughts about the impact of the Leave vote in some key areas of the housing market.

DPS: What will happen to house prices and rents?

EW: We saw the property market enter a state of inertia in the run up to the referendum, but that was relatively short lived. This was most likely down to the uncertainty of the outcome. Thus far, however, there seems to have been little in the way of change.

Of course, it’s too early to say how the vote will affect the price of property. Our figures at Northwood show strong growth compared to the same period last year, but it’s impossible to say how the network would have performed if the vote had been to remain.

DPS: Will the fluctuating value of the pound affect the market?

EW: As the move towards our actual exit from the EU gathers pace, the value of the pound is likely to be unstable. However, that’s unlikely to affect the housing market too much. Property is and has always been a long term investment, and as such, short term fluctuations are unlikely to have much impact.

Prevailing market pressures seldom affect the market’s long term position as much as the availability of funding. Property is one of the few investments that can be leveraged; with interest rates as they are, yields are increasingly attractive and a viable alternative to traditional pensions.

DPS: There’s a new Prime Minister and Cabinet. Will housing policy change?

It’s far too early to tell if the new Government’s views on current housing policy and the legislative calendar will be impacted by Brexit, as MPs have only just returned from holiday. I believe that as long as Theresa May shows decisive leadership and offers a clear plan for Brexit, confidence will replace the damaging uncertainty that makes investors nervous. The property market is incredibly robust and where sales may be affected, lettings take over and vice versa.

DPS: What about replacing EU regulations with UK regulations?

EW: EU regulations have little effect on the UK housing market as far as the majority of the public is concerned. Most EU rules have been absorbed and the fact they may cease to exist altogether will make little difference. UK regulations continue to expand, but until they are actually policed and enforced, their influence is limited.

The single most important thing the industry can do is to promote consumer awareness, making sure tenants are aware of their rights, and landlords are aware of their obligations. Renting privately is becoming more challenging but sadly, many landlords - including the best intentioned ones - only discover this to their cost when things go wrong. This can be an incredibly steep and indeed expensive learning curve.

What does a good letting agent look like?

Rogues in the housing sector are a regular theme in the current discourse on the housing sector, so much so The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) recently published a toolkit designed to help local authorities take action against rogue letting agents, improving standards in the industry and protecting tenants and landlords alike. 

Whilst it only takes a few bad agents to tarnish the reputation of the rest of the industry, good agents can help to increase standards further by following best practice, so they become, well, the industry standard. We’ve pulled together our top tips on what we think makes a good agent great! You can download our infographic here.

What do you think makes a good letting agent?  Why not share your ideas in the comments section below?

No Limits – Helping young people help themselves

Every three months we award up to £20,000 to charities that focus on housing related issues. Since the launch of our charity fund, we’ve given more than £160,000 to charities doing fantastic work in their local communities. 

In the eighth round of awards, No Limits fought off some stiff competition to claim a donation. We were delighted to hand over a cheque for £5,000 and find out a bit more about their operation on our recent visit.

No Limits

No Limits offers free and confidential advice, information counselling and much more to young people and children who live in Southampton and Hampshire. Some of these children suffer from mental or physical ill-health, which makes the work No Limits do even more challenging. 

Their ‘Floating Support’ and ‘Homemaker Volunteers’ initiatives are fantastic ideas which help those who are at risk of homelessness. But their work doesn’t stop there - they also give people the skills to make their house more of a home.

The donation will go towards Homemaker Volunteer courses, designed to give young people the skills to be independent - such as cooking on a budget, cleaning and money management. 

Natalie Hutchins at No Limits, said: “We’re really grateful to The DPS for the money, which will really help us empower young people to truly enjoy their new homes.

“Some of the young people we work with have never had the welcoming, comfortable home that many of us take for granted, and we want these young people to feel like they have a home of which they can be proud.”

Daren King, Head of Tenancy Deposit Protection at The DPS, said: “We’re really glad to be able to support the services provided by No Limits, which represent a really important source of assistance for those who need it in Southampton and the surrounding area.”

Congratulations to No Limits, we look forward to hearing how the donation has helped. 

Calderdale SmartMove – helping homeless and vulnerable people find their feet

Through the DPS Fund, every three months £20,000 is awarded to charities that help those who are affected by housing-related issues. 

In our eighth round of awards, the applications were stronger than ever so every detail was taken into consideration.  We’re really pleased to announce that Calderdale Smartmove was one of the successful charities. 

Here’s a little bit about what they do…

Calderdale Smartmove

Calderdale Smartmove provides a high quality, client-centred service that helps homeless and vulnerable people find accommodation in their local area.  

Chris Leonard, Senior Business Manager at The DPS said: “Calderdale SmartMove plays an important role in the local community by housing those in need and providing support and education to help people access employment…”

The donation will allow Calderdale Smartmove to provide security bonds that will help them secure accommodation for the people that need it most. 

Craig George, at Calderdale Smartmove, said: “For many people, finding long-term accommodation is extremely challenging, and by giving more individuals and families a helping hand, we can make sure more people have somewhere safe and comfortable to live.

“We’re really grateful to The DPS for the funding, and it’s great to work with organisations that share Calderdale Smartmove’s ethos.”

Good luck to Calderdale Smartmove. We hope the donation helps you continue doing great work.  

Bosco House – A warm and inviting home for single homeless men

Did you know that every three months £20,000 is up for grabs? Through the DPS Fund we donate to charities that do amazing work in a range of housing-related issues. 

We recently visited Bosco House, a successful applicant to our eighth round of awards to hand over a ‘big cheque’ (see the picture below). 

Bosco House 

Bosco society is a small charitable organisation which provides 23 bed spaces to single homeless men. Many of whom have a troubled background, such as misuse problems, mental health issues and other offences.  

“Bosco House undertakes fundamentally important work helping young people find housing and teaching them the skills to live on their own” Daren King, our Head of Tenancy Deposit Protection.

The £5,000 award will help with the opening of a new hostel in Sefton that will house 13 homeless young people.

James Heller, a Senior Worker at Bosco House, said: “We are extremely delighted and grateful to The DPS for the funding provided for our new hostel.  

“The funding provided will go a long way towards providing a safe and secure environment for our clients and will contribute to rebuilding lives and combating homelessness in Merseyside.”

 We look forward to catching up with Bosco House soon, to see how the donation has helped.  

 

5 steps to better communication with your student tenants

With the end of term approaching, it won’t be long until students leave their rented accommodation, hopeful that their deposits will be repaid in full.  

Good communication with your students at this time is essential for the end of tenancy to be as smooth as possible.

1)    Get in touch with your students sooner rather than later

Don’t leave anything to the last minute: encourage students to bring up any problems as they arise to avoid surprises further down the line. A quick phone call or visit before they move out can help start a conversation, but remember everything you discuss should always be confirmed in writing.

2)    Make sure they know their deposit and repayment IDs

At the end of the tenancy, your students will need their deposit and repayment IDs to get their money back.

We’ll send these to them at the beginning of the tenancy, as soon as we receive the deposit from you. We also include their ID in the repayment notification your students receive when you start the claim process.

If they have lost their repayment ID, they can request a new one by SMS or email using an online form. The deposit ID is universal, which means you can provide it to them. Alternatively, they can contact our customer service team on 0330 303 0030.

3)    Invite students to the check-out in writing

If possible, all the students should attend the check-out process. It will be easier to discuss the condition of the property and eventual repairs or deposit deduction. Make sure to take notes of any admissions or agreements from the students, and ask them to date and sign the notes.

Check out our infographic for more useful check-out tips.

4)    Managing multiple deposit repayments

With thousands of students around the country moving out of rented accommodation over a short period of time, deposits repayment can be a long and tedious process for some of you.

Our simple multiple repayment function is available when you need to repay 2 or more deposits. All you need to do is log in to your account, then under “Custodial” select “Bulk Repayments”.

More information on how to repay deposits.

5)    Dispute resolution

It’s not always possible for landlords and tenants to agree how much of the deposit should be paid to each party, which is why we offer a free dispute resolution process. The process can begin once both parties have completed a Joint Deposit Repayment form, and or when a Statutory Declaration for a single claim is disputed by the respondent.

Our guide to the Dispute Resolution process.

Our top tips for managing disputes.

The ‘new’ model tenancy agreement

In February the Department for Communities and Local Government updated their ‘Model agreement for a shorthold tenancy’. The agreement is designed to strike a fair balance between the needs of the tenant and the landlord when entering a new tenancy. 

With property prices rising ever higher, getting on the housing ladder is becoming more difficult all the time. As a result, demand for rental properties with longer tenancies is expected to be higher than ever. 

A longer tenancy does have its advantages. A tenant can plan for the future, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be looking for a new place to live in three months. And landlords will have a steady rental income without the hassle of always looking for new tenants (and the hefty fees that often go with it). 

The agreement has a really useful step-by-step process that a landlord and tenant can go through before entering a new tenancy. If you’d like to know more, download the document here

We’re proud sponsors of Lettings Live and The Lettings Agency of the Year Awards 2016

Lettings Live and The Lettings Agency of the Year Awards are just around the corner (10 June 2016) and we’re delighted to be one of the official sponsors. The prestigious annual event is the highlight of many letting agents’ social calendars.  

Last year, we were delighted to win the Silver Award in the Supplier of the Year category. We’re in the running once again for the 2016 awards and we’d love to go one better and take home gold. 

We’d like to wish all our customers who’ve entered the awards the best of luck in their categories. 

Come see us at our stand during the live event

We’ll also be at the Lettings Live event during the day. Two of our business experts, Chris and David, will be on hand to share their knowledge and answer any questions you have about our service, or about tenancy deposit protection in general. 

If you’re attending the event, here’s why you should pop over and have a chat…

›    We’re experienced  - We’ve protected over 4.2 million deposits since 2007
›    We offer great service - Callers rate our Customer Service Team over 9/10
›    We’re fast - We repay deposits within 2 working days

If that’s not enough to tempt you, there’s also a prize draw – visit our stand for the chance for you to win an iPad mini. 

It promises to be a great day and we’re looking forward to meeting you all.  
 

David Hackett

David joined us in 2011, working in Customer Service and Dispute Resolution before recently moving to our Account Management Team as our Senior Account Manager. He’s responsible for ensuring his team continues to provide top service to our managed clients.

 

Chris Jackson

Chris is our Business Support Team Manager and has been a member of our team since 2010. He makes sure his team gives you the highest levels of customer service possible whilst providing the guidance and advice you need.

SAFEagent Awareness Week – we’re fully behind it

From the 6-10 June, letting agents and organisations from across the UK will come together in support of SAFEagent Awareness Week. SAFEagent was set up “by the industry, for the industry” to protect landlords’ and tenants’ money. As a company that is committed to protecting tenants’ deposits, we’re fully behind it.

Throughout the week, SAFEagent will highlight the importance of choosing a letting agent that is part of a Client Money Protection (CMP) Scheme. In an industry that’s estimated to be worth £2.7 billion, it’s vital that our customers’ deposits are safe. There are still too many cases where tenants are losing money to rogue agents. 

John Midgley, Chair of the SAFEagent Steering Group, says: 

“Choosing a letting agent without CMP in place is a massive risk for both landlords and tenants. Who can afford to lose thousands of pounds? We might finally be getting closer to mandatory CMP but we aren’t there yet. It is so important that consumers understand that they need to choose their agent wisely by asking if they are part of a CMP scheme before entering into a contract with them.”

While it’s not mandatory to protect client money in a CMP, it is now firmly on the Government’s agenda. It’s definitely a step in the right direction and one that is supported by many organisations in the housing industry, including us. 

We’d like to encourage all letting agents to become members of SAFEagent. The blue and black SAFEagent ‘mark’ gives tenants and landlords the peace of mind that their money is protected.

Competition: What’s that coming out of the fridge…is it a monster?

We know that with exams out of the way and summer break beckoning, there are things you’d rather be doing than cleaning your student let before you move out. Unfortunately, if you want to stand any chance of getting your tenancy deposit back, a good clean up is a must. Our #fridgemonster is back to remind you not to lose your deposit dough unnecessarily. Watch our short video and check out our tips for students to help you prepare for the end of your tenancy.

Win a professional clean for your property!

We’re offering one lucky household the chance to a professional clean for their student let when their tenancy ends.

What do you have to do?

For a chance to win this great prize, take a photo of the inside of your fridge, and tweet it @The_DPS along with the hashtag #fridgemonster. Whether it’s clean as a whistle, or your own little fridgemonsters are nestled in the vegetable drawer, tweet us a pic and we’ll choose our favourite image. You’ve got until Midnight on Friday 10 June to get your entries in.

Don't forget to read the rules of entry.

LAMP – supporting young homeless people in the community

As you may have seen, every three months we award up to £20,000 to charities that focus their efforts on housing related issues. 

In our seventh round of awards, we had some really strong applications and every detail was scrutinised. We’re delighted to announce that Luton Accommodation and Move-on Project (LAMP) was one of the successful charities in England and Wales.   

LAMP

LAMP is a small, local charity and for over 20 years they’ve provided accommodation and support to homeless young people aged between 16 and 25 in Luton, Bedford and the surrounding area. 

The £5,000 award will help provide privately rented accommodation for between eight and ten homeless young people. It will also help teach them basic household management and develop independent living skills.  

Our Head of Tenancy Deposit Protection, Daren King said: “LAMP is doing excellent work helping people find housing and teaching them the skills to live on their own.”

John Archer, Chief Executive Officer at LAMP, said: “LAMP is delighted to receive the support funding from The DPS.

“It will make a real difference to our operations and how we are able to provide safe accommodation to support young homeless people to encourage and enable them to build their self-confidence and move on to independent living.”

We wish them all the best and look forward to finding out how our donation has helped.

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