Let property news round up

Posted: 10th May 2015

Latest statistics

To judge by the number and value of mortgages that continue to be granted, the purchase of buy to let property continues to ride high.

Statistics published by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), for example, show that in February 2015 there was growth in practically every indicator compared to the same month in 2014:

  • a total of 15,900 buy to let mortgages were granted in February 2015 – an increase of 11% on 2014;
  • the loans accounted for a total of £2.2 billion – an increase of 16%;
  • looking just at the mortgage lending for the purchase of buy to let houses, February 2015 saw 7,400 advances – up 1% on the previous year;
  • these loans represented a total of £900 million – an increase of 3%
  • the number of buy to let remortgages in February 2015 reached a total of 8,400 – an increase of 23% on February 2014; and
  • the value of these remortgages was £1.3 billion – up some 31% on the previous year.

Despite this healthy economic contribution to the national economy and the continuing buoyancy of the buy to let market, however, it seems that not everyone is happy

A story in the Telegraph recently, accused all the political parties – at that time in the run up to the election – of rounding on the buy to let property market and on landlords in general.

Post-election, it remains to be seen of course just how such political posturing might actually translate into new obstacles or difficulties in the private rented sector of the housing market.

“Revenge” evictions 

This is the name given to occasions when landlords are alleged to evict or seek to evict tenants in an angry and vindictive response to the tenant who has complained about the condition of the property they are renting.

As reported by Inside Housing on the 17th of March 2015, the House of Lords passed into law – as part of the current Deregulation Bill – measures designed to prevent landlords making such evictions and for the courts to strike out any application for eviction if it follows a tenant’s complaint that the landlord appears to have responded to inadequately.

It is difficult to know how many tenants have been directly affected by such attempts at eviction – known as “Section 21 notices” – but the housing charity Shelter, which had led the campaign for the present change in the law, estimated that upwards of 200,000 tenants face the prospect of revenge eviction every year. Shelter has been running its campaign for change since March of 2014.

Selective Licensing

Since its introduction in the 2004 Housing Act, some private sector landlords have been obliged to apply to the local council for a licence to let their property.

The rationale for what gave council’s the right to introduce “selective licensing” was that in certain poorer, socially deprived areas, commanding lower rents, licensing schemes might help to improve the general condition of housing in those areas – and in the process also contribute to a reduction in antisocial behaviour.

Licensing schemes have become a favourite of many local authorities and as many as 40 of them have pressed the relevant legislation to the limit by imposing on landlords the need for licences not just in selected areas of the city but in whole boroughs and towns.

According to the website Landlord Zone, in a news story published in March 2015, licensing adds an annual charge of an average of £500 for landlords who are letting their properties in affected areas.

Better news for landlords now, however, is that central government – in the guise of the Department of Local Government and Communities (DLGC) – looks set to rein back councils who are adopting a “blanket” licensing system and instead ensure that licensing schemes are in future reserved for housing areas in particular need of special assistance.

Although the licensing of landlords in some areas has not gone away, therefore, there are promising signs that curbs will be in place to prevent blanket licensing schemes across whole areas of the community.