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If you are a property owner or buy to let landlord, one of the important questions is likely to be what the recent general election means for you and your investment.

Certainty and stability …

Probably the best news about the election result – and such a large majority for the new government – is the economic stability it is likely to bring. The commitment is to “getting Brexit done”, there is a deal on the table, and that element of certainty is already lending a boost to the markets.

As far as property prices are concerned, that means some release for the pent-up demand that characterised the housing market while the future of Brexit looked in doubt. Certainty stimulates movement because property owners prefer to be doing something rather than staying put, asserted a story – citing accountants Price Waterhouse Coopers (pwc) – in the Telegraph newspaper on the 13th of December.

… but there are other factors at play

Although markets may be breathing a sigh of relief about the passing shadow of Brexit, that is by no means the only factor affecting property prices.

The property market is fundamentally determined by affordability – what buyers can actually afford to pay. In the recent climate in which house prices have been rising faster than incomes, there are naturally fewer buyers capable of paying those prices.

Furthermore, (as at the time of writing) the imposition of a surcharge on the Stamp Duty Land Tax means that you must pay 3% above the standard rate if you are buying a second home or, more critically for landlords, a buy to let property. In its manifesto, it was also proposed that an additional 3% surcharge would be placed on residential properties bought by both individuals and corporations based overseas.

In recent years, the Bank of England has also looked to cool what it considered to be an overheated buy to let market. It has done so by imposing much tougher affordability rules on mortgages for buy to let property – so dampening the ability of potential landlords to invest.

What it means specifically for landlords

Although landlords might look forward to a revitalised housing market as an impetus for investment – especially since demand continues to outstrip supply – planned legislation will go ahead.

For example, plans for the abolition of Section 21 “no-fault” evictions are still proposed. This forces landlords to rely on the often more long-winded – and expensive – Section 8 eviction and the need to prove a tenant has breached the terms of their tenancy.

And, with effect from the 1st of April 2020, any landlord must also ensure that the energy efficiency rating of any let property must achieve category E or above. It will become illegal to let properties achieving ratings of F or G.

2020 also marks the completion of a revised tax regime which completely removes any tax relief for landlords on the mortgage interest they pay, as a story in the financial pages of the Daily Mail reminded readers on the 13th of December 2019.

This month, we round up some of the latest recent news and views relating to property. So, whether you are a landlord or an owner-occupier, read on.

Property hotspots for buy to let investors in 2020

If you are investing in buy to let property, you want to know where in the country you are likely to make the biggest returns.

An article in Landlord Today offers a few suggestions.

The latest research shows that Oxford and Manchester are practically neck and neck – with the former slightly edging it in a survey of 25 cities.

In Oxford, some 28% of residents occupy the private rented sector, which has some of the most rental properties available. There are few vacancies across the rental market here, where the average rate is around £596 a month for a single room.

Although property prices in Oxford have risen by an average of 4.8% a year during the past ten years, the highest yields on rental investment are obtained over the longer rather than shorter-term.

Second and third places in these rankings are occupied by Manchester and Edinburgh, with London quite closely on their heels.

Rogue landlord fined

A district judge in the West Midlands perhaps had the approaching Christmas in mind when he described the Dickensian character Scrooge as a philanthropist compared to the rogue landlord who appeared before him in court.

The 55 year-old landlord from Birmingham was fined a total of £20,000, according to a report in LocalGov on the 11th of December.

The offences related to his failure to obtain a licence for the House in Multiple (HMO) he let, plus a string of health and safety infractions that breached HMO Management Regulations. The latter included the absence of smoke detectors, a lack of effective fire doors, blocked fire escapes, burnt electrical fittings, and a failure to obtain the necessary gas and electrical safety certificates.

Looking to improve your property?

On the 11th of December, What Mortgage published a brief list of dos and don’ts for homeowners and landlords looking to renovate their property:

  • check whether you need planning permission and, if so, apply for it in good time;
  • get written quotes from more than one builder and interview each of them to choose the most reliable;
  • if you are the leaseholder of the property, remember that you may need the permission of the freeholder;
  • keep your neighbours full informed of your plans and intentions;
  • when engaging professionals, do so before rather than after any problems have arisen; and
  • make sure to arrange renovation insurance and to review the property’s level of insurance cover once the works are complete.

For more details, you might also want to review our Guide to Renovating.

North Lincolnshire the best place to raise children

For young families, North Lincoln seems to have it all, according to a story published by Property Wire last month.

86% of the local authority schools in the area were highly rated in Ofsted inspections, yet there were still plenty of vacancies for new entrants in the past year – one in seven, or 14%, of places remained unfilled.

North Lincoln is also an affordable place to live, with the average price of a home at £149,000 – which represents just 17% of the area’s average salary of £25,000 a year.

Buy to let property insurance (also written as buy-to-let insurance) is a form of buildings and contents cover designed to specifically meet the requirements of landlords. It may also be referred to as:

  • landlord insurance;
  • insurance for landlords; or
  • let property insurance.

Anyone can instantly become a landlord the moment they:

  • start to rent out a property;
  • rent out rooms or areas of a property they continue to occupy;
  • rent out their home infrequently for things such as holiday peak-periods or as an Airbnb.

Once you cross that boundary, your insurance requirements automatically change too.

One of the most important facts to appreciate about buy-to-let cover is that you typically can’t use owner-occupier home buildings and contents policies to protect you. You need to get a fresh quote.

For a start, any existing owner-occupier home buildings and contents insurance will become invalid. It’s advisable to recognise that and deal with it in advance rather than wait until you have to make a claim and find the claim being rejected.

What you need is buy to let property cover that provides buildings and contents cover for landlords.

How is let property insurance different to home insurance?

It’s all to do with the risks involved. Insurers typically see the risks associated with a rental property as being higher than those of an owner-occupied one. For start, owning a rental property is classed as a business.

Common sense may tell you that, for example, however responsible they may be, tenants may not be quite as quick as an owner-occupier to spot and deal with a potential problem such as weeping water pipe joint.

In fact, landlord insurance provides more than just buildings and contents cover for rental properties – there are many extras that an form part of a policy or as an add-on.

What does landlord insurance cover?

Buy to let landlord insurance can be an essential part of any landlords’ toolkit.

The facts for a landlord are typically:

  • your property is your business and generates income for you;
  • it was probably expensive;
  • if your investment is out-of-action, then your income will be zero.

Landlords’ insurance comes in various forms and different insurance providers will offer differing terms and conditions.

Typically, if you’re looking for buy to let insurance, you’ll need to ensure that your property is fully covered against:

  • buildings – related risks such as subsidence and heave etc;
  • natural disasters risks – including storms and floods etc;
  • contents and fixtures – whether occurring as a result of the above or due to burglary etc.

Third party liability

Another thing arising from having tenants in your property is that you may be more at risk of being sued for third-party liability type accidents and injuries.

If your tenants, their visitors or in fact a passing member of the pubic, suffers injury or property damage as a result of your building, then they may sue you for compensation.

In the case of tenants, if they have an accident that is judged to have been as a result of a maintenance problem with your property, the awards against you potentially might be very significant indeed.

That’s also an area where buy to let property insurance will need to offer you protection that you consider adequate.

Accidental damage cover and cover for loss of rent

When you compare buy-to-let insurance quotes, do note that some policies include elements of protection (such as accidental damage, malicious damage by tenants, or cover for loss of rent) as standard. Others may offer the option to pay for these as add-ons.

What doesn’t buy-to-let insurance cover?

Buy to let insurance typically may not include employers’ liability insurance cover – that may in some circumstances be a legal requirement if you employ staff directly (such as cleaners).

In terms of employees, it’s a good idea to note that employers’ liability may even apply under law if you have people (including friends and family) doing odd jobs for you on a voluntary basis.

As we touched on above – buy-to-let insurance policies may vary at the individual policy level too – with the terms, conditions and benefits and features being slightly different to that offered by another landlord insurance provider. This includes exclusions.

That is why, when carrying out a landlord insurance comparison, it important to compare the quote and the cover offered on a like-for-like basis.

What happens if the property is unoccupied or being renovated?

Don’t forget that as a rented property yours may be empty from time to time in between rentals or it if is being renovated etc.

Empty is typically defined in property insurance as a period of more than 30-45 consecutive days unoccupied (this may vary depending on your provider). Typical landlords’ insurance won’t cover empty properties – in fact this rule generally applies to all types of buildings cover, such as home insurance.

As an example of the latter, if you have an extended holiday or are working away for more than 30 or 45 consecutive days, your existing home insurance may become invalid or only offer restricted cover.

What that means is that to ensure you have the most comprehensive cover for your property, it may be essential to add unoccupied property insurance when the need arises. Failure to do so could invalidate your existing insurance arrangements.

Your mortgage lender and landlord insurance

If you have a mortgage on your property, it may also be a condition of your agreement that you have suitable buildings insurance in place at all times. If you fail to do so, in theory your mortgage provider could demand that you pay back the full outstanding mortgage balance (including any interest) for breach of contract.

Speak to your insurance provider

If you wish to be confident that your business interests are protected, it’s important to declare openly when you’re applying for property insurance or getting insurance quotes that the use is buy-to-let or rental etc.

It’s equally important to inform your insurance company (and your mortgage provider) if you change the use of your property from owner-occupied to rental (in full or even part).

Failing to get this right may result in a future claim being rejected. Insurance companies do have methods of checking the actual occupancy status of a property in the event of a claim being made.

Buy to let landlords’ insurance – supplemented by unoccupied property insurance when required – could make your life a lot easier in the event of a crisis. So making sure you have suitable cover in place to protect your business is key.

With the 12th of December now firmly in politicians’ minds you might expect the whole of the country to be caught up in general election fever.

In these strangest of times, however, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Life – and other news in all its various forms – continues as normal.

If you are a homeowner or landlord, of course, that means any news on the property front. So, to help you keep up to date, here are a few of the latest snippets.

What do homebuyers search for online?

With the many resources available these days, it’s little wonder that many prospective property buyers search the internet for properties in which they might be interested.

But what are the most common search terms used by buyers when trawling the web for that purpose? An article in Landlord Today on the 21st of November suggested a few answers.

It found that the following were the six most common search terms (ranked in this order):

  1. garage;
  • garden;
  • parking;
  • bungalow – reflecting the growing number of mainly older house-hunters who want single-storey accommodation;
  • detached; and
  • annexe – used by those who are looking for a multi-generational home or space for newly independent teenagers.

Homeowners call for a ban on gazumping

It’s the bane of any home buyer’s life – the risk of being gazumped. And now the overwhelming majority of buyers – four in every five – have had enough and are calling on the government to formally ban the practice.

An article in Property Reporter on the 21st of November revealed the strength of home buyers’ feelings and pointed out that nearly a third of all property buyers had been gazumped in the past 10 years. Plus, out of these, almost 40% had wasted money on professional fees even though their purchase had fallen through.

Despite that strength of feeling, however, such is the competition in the market that 43% of house-hunters admitted they would think about gazumping a rival bidder.

Gazumping appears to be peculiar to England and Wales. It doesn’t happen so often in Scotland.

Landlords losing confidence

Landlords are more pessimistic than ever about running a buy to let business.

Figures released by the Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) on the 20th of November show a widening gap in just the past three months between those landlords looking to sell up and those planning to buy a property to let.

The RLA’s survey shows that more than 55% of landlords are less confident about the buy to let market in the third quarter of this year.

That declining confidence is underscored by the fact that 34% of landlords are looking to sell buy to let properties in the coming year (compared to just 22% two years previously), while only 13% are planning to buy at least one property (compared to 18% two years ago).

Subletting scams on the rise

It increases the risk of damage to your property, accelerates wear and tear, may contravene local authority licensing conditions, and may even invalidate your landlord’s insurance – but what can you do to prevent unauthorised or illegal subletting?

An article in Landlord News recently warns that illegal subletting is on the increase – especially with the growth of online accommodation-sharing platforms such as Airbnb.

But the article also suggests that regular inspections and visits to your let property may help to detect some of the more obvious signs – abnormal volumes of rubbish, for example, or the presence of individuals you have never named on the tenancy agreement.

With winter on its way, you have probably taken steps to maintain your home and protect it against the worst the weather can do. You might be thinking that the garden can take care of itself.

Whether you are a homeowner or a landlord of let property, however, it pays to spend that little extra time giving the garden an adequate level of protection, too. A well-maintained garden after all invariably adds value to your property.

So, here are some tips culled from a variety of authoritative sources:

Shelter

  • although some of the work will have been determined by the planning that went into the positioning of plants and shrubs, extra protection can be provided by wrapping the more vulnerable in horticultural fleece;

Water

  • the more plants you have in your garden the better – they help to mop up all that excess rain;
  • once again, advance planning in your planting may help to determine areas which are likely to remain wetter than others – so, for those parts of your garden choose water-loving plants such as lilies, hydrangeas, and luxurious ferns;

Lawns

  • that low-maintenance lawn you hoped might take some of the work out of gardening might as easily turn into an unsightly quagmire after a downpour or two;
  • serious waterlogging might call for the lawn to be completely re-laid when spring comes around, but a temporary remedy might be found in spiking it well to ensure as good a drainage as possible;

Raised beds

  • if other areas of your garden regularly become water-logged, you might consider building raised beds to keep plants and shrubs above the waterline;
  • these are easier to control when winter is doing its worst and also help to maximise the space and planting opportunities in your garden – just make sure to keep them topped-up with good quality soil;

Debris

  • wind, rain, ice and snow are all likely to increase the amount of general debris strewn across your garden;
  • this needs to be cleared away not only for appearances sake but also to keep planted areas healthy and paths and walkways accessible;
  • fallen leaves and other compostable material may be kept until spring, when you can re-apply it as fertilizer for planted areas;

Wildlife

  • play your part in maintaining what is a mini-ecosystem in your garden – including both its flora and fauna;
  • birds are likely to be among the most frequent visitors to your garden, so put up feeders for them and ensure they have enough water not only to drink but also to bathe in;
  • you might be surprised by how many other animals make use of any ponds or water features in your garden, so, keep them from freezing over.

Time spent winter-proofing your garden is likely to prove more than worthwhile. Protecting what is already established means that there is less work to do come the springtime and you may take comfort in the fact that the maintenance you do now helps protect the value of your home or let property.

Property renovation may be an attractive alternative to finding and moving into another home.

If you are the owner-occupier looking for more space for your growing family, renovation, a loft conversion or an extension is likely to be a cheaper solution than moving home. And the end result adds at least something to the capital value of your home.

If you are investing in buy to let property, renovation not only increases its capital value but may also boost your rental income. And a previously abandoned property, in need of renovation, is almost certain to be cheaper to buy.

As we explained in our Guide to Renovation in January 2019, however, there is a lot involved in any renovation project – not least of which is the need to keep your insurers fully in the picture.

Why is insurance important?

Your home insurance or buy to let insurance (if you are a landlord) is vital for protection against all manner of risks leading to loss or damage – even to the extent of the loss of the entire building and its contents.

But insurers attach conditions to the cover they provide and are especially concerned about the additional risks to which your property may be exposed while it is unoccupied during any renovation or building work.

For that reason, you need to inform your insurer before starting any renovation work on your property.

Renovation insurance

If the renovation works are substantial and involve any structural alterations to the property, your current insurers may increase your premiums or even remove the cover for any loss or damage caused by the building works. In the fine print of your insurance documents, you may find the particular clauses that relate to exclusions for any loss or damage resulting from structural alterations to your property.

But, of course, your home or let property continues to need building and contents cover while renovation works are in progress – and this is where purpose-designed renovation insurance steps in. The nature and scope of this standalone renovation insurance cover is described in greater detail on our website.

This ensures that you remain covered for any loss or damage resulting from the alterations that are made to your property and typically extends protection to the additional items likely to remain onsite during the works – machinery, plant, building materials and supplies, for example.

A further peril that is often overlooked is the risk of additional theft, loss or damage by virtue of your property being unoccupied for the duration of any renovation works.

A property that is left empty in this way for longer than a month or so is also likely to suffer a reduction in the scope and level of normal insurance cover (a property can still be classed as empty if there are tradespeople there during the day but no one actually living there). For that reason, renovation insurance typically incorporates an element of unoccupied property insurance to plug the gap.

While websites such as Real Homes may provide a detailed breakdown of the various costs likely to be incurred by different renovation projects, one element you might want to make sure you take into account is the need to keep your insurer fully informed.

The response may help you decide whether or not you also need the security and reassurance of specialist renovation insurance.

Buy to let landlords rarely have an easy time of it running their business in a difficult private rental sector.

If there is one thing that might help you keep on top of the current themes and issues, it is likely to be a regular update on the latest news.

Bearing that in mind, here is our pick of some of the topics making the headlines.

Social media is putting your home at risk of being burgled

Before you are tempted into using social media to showcase the property you want to let, spare a thought for the valuable secrets you might be disclosing by posting pictures to the world at large.

A story in the Daily Mail newspaper recently warned that pictures of home interiors maybe a giveaway to potential thieves and burglars of the valuable contents of the property. Even a seemingly innocent shot of the front door to the place might reveal the make, model and standard of the lock that is fitted – saving burglars precious time in breaking into and entering your let property.

You know that potential tenants might be looking for somewhere to rent that has access to a back garden. But think about how those carefully shot photos of the garden and the back of the property might also point the way to vulnerable entry points – windows and sliding doors, for instance, which might often be left ajar.

Professional Airbnb sub-letters exposed

Reporting on a BBC Inside Out documentary, a story in Property Reporter on the 28th of October illustrated how things might go horribly wrong if your sub-letting tenants are acting to all intents and purposes as professional Airbnb hosts.

It relates the case of one landlord who suffered losses of around £10,000 after having told his tenants to stop using his let property as a commercial venture on Airbnb, only to discover that the same activities resumed after a brief pause.

Not only had the tenants breached their tenancy agreement – since the landlord had given no permission for the sub-letting arrangements – the property was also in breach of various local authority licensing requirements and material damage had been caused.

Landlord fined for not licencing HMO

In a separate story appearing in Letting Agent Today on the 28th of October, it is clear that substantial penalties await those landlords who are in breach of local authority licensing regulations.

For failing to obtain the necessary licence to run a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) from South Holland Council in East Anglia, a landlord was fined £750 by Boston Magistrate’s Court and, together with other costs that were imposed, faced a total penalty of £1,205.

In pursuit of the prosecution, the local council insisted it would apply the law to ensure unlicensed and unsafe landlords were brought to justice.

Crisis looming in supply of rented homes

There is little doubt about the demand for private rented accommodation.

In the results of a survey published by the Residential Landlords’ Association recently, a quarter of all landlords had witnessed an increase in demand; 41% believed there has been no change; and, only 15% detected any fall in demand.

Despite that growing demand, landlords are continuing to sell up. 31% reported plans to sell at least one of their let properties during the coming year and only 13% said they planned to buy.

The widening gap between demand and supply of private rented accommodation heralds a looming crisis warned the RLA.

October is National Home Security Month.

When the clocks go back on the 27th we can expect the usual spike in burglaries that customarily accompany the darker evenings. This swells the already high number of break-ins and attempted break-ins that occur in the UK – the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says there were 669,000 incidents in 2018.

Although burglars might relish the cloak of darkness, there is never a time to let slip the security of your home. The website Safe Style, for instance, points out that the majority of break-ins occur between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. – when many people are out of the house at work.

Furthermore, it doesn’t take any intruder at all long to break in and make off with your valuables. The time taken by most burglars is no more than an average of just 10 minutes.

What you can do

Firstly, take another look at our detailed Guide to Protecting your Property. It is packed with helpful advice for all property owners and landlords in particular. The more secure your let property, the happier your buy to let insurance providers are likely to be – and, conversely, you or your tenants’ failure to take reasonable precautions might be interpreted by your insurer as contributory negligence if you ever need to make a claim.

As part of the annual awareness-raising initiative of National Home Security Month, on the 1st of October, the Residential Landlords Association issued some guidelines with particular interest to landlords in improving the security of their let properties.

Some of that advice might appear only a matter of common sense – but no less worthwhile in reminding your tenants. Remember to lock the front door whenever they go out, for example, since an estimated 5% of all burglaries are committed through an unlocked front door.

In addition to reminders to your tenants, though, there are several straightforward, simple and relatively inexpensive measures you might take to improve the overall level of security:

  • ensure all doors – external and internal – are undamaged and fit properly and snugly into their frames;
  • upgrade the lock on the front door – with a five-lever mortice lock on external timber doors and a three-point lock on PVC-u doors;
  • fit a door chain on all external doors;
  • if your let property has a patio door, fit a purpose-made French-window lock;
  • don’t leave ladders or other tools outside where a burglar can use them to gain entry to the property but keep them locked securely away;
  • a prominently visible burglar system may deter some opportunist thieves but needs to form part of your overall security measures, says Police UK – consider installing spy-holes on doors, a burglar alarm system, and security lighting or motion-detector lights; and
  • if you are the landlord of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) consider delegating responsibility to one of your tenants for ensuring that the door that gives common entry to the premises remains locked at all times.

That extra vigilance on the part of you and your tenants may avert the hassle, inconvenience and danger of break-ins this autumn and winter.

The central heating boiler is the beating heart of any home. And as winter approaches – and if you haven’t already – now is a good time to make sure yours is maintained and ready for the cold weather.

Certainly, breakdowns are incidents you want to avoid. Any breakdown is likely to happen when you need the heating the most and turns into something of an emergency. And emergency callouts to get it fixed are then going to be all the more expensive.

Maintenance

The best way of avoiding those unexpected breakdowns, of course, is to ensure that your boiler is regularly serviced.

Whether it is the home you live in as the owner-occupier or one that you let to tenants, timely maintenance helps to prevent those troublesome and costly callouts when boiler engineers are likely to be at their busiest. It may typically even be a condition of your buildings insurance policy to ensure that your boiler is regularly serviced.

If you are a landlord, it is more than just prudence, but a matter of law. You have a general obligation to ensure that the accommodation you let is fit for habitation – and that means a warm environment in winter and, hot water on tap. More specifically, you are required to have any gas-fired boiler installation – together with any other gas appliance – inspected and checked by a Gas Safe-registered engineer at least once a year.

What to do if your boiler breaks down

Despite the compelling reasons for having your boiler regularly maintained, a recent survey published by Heating and Plumbing Monthly on the 13th of September revealed that one in ten households have never arranged such maintenance and one in five had not had their boiler serviced within the past year.

The inevitable result is that boilers break down. What should you do if and when that happens?

  • whether you are a homeowner or landlord safety first is paramount;
  • if there is a smell of gas, the normal colour of the flame changes, or there are sooty marks around the boiler, turn it off straight away and call the emergency gas line on 0800 111 999 (open 24-hours a day, whatever supplier you use);
  • if the pilot flame keeps going out, once again don’t try to re-light the boiler, but call out a Gas Safe engineer;
  • these include resetting the pressure gauge on your boiler, checking that the condensate pipe (on the outside of your home) hasn’t frozen up, resetting the thermostat or boiler temperature gauges, relighting the pilot light (provided it is not constantly going out – in which case, call the gas engineer), or resetting your boiler if it has “locked out”.

It is important to stress, however, that you should only try these suggested remedies if you are confident in what you are doing and are absolutely certain that the boiler and its gas supply remain safe. Otherwise, shut everything down, make that call to the emergency gas line, and await the arrival of a certified engineer.

New opportunities open up, different challenges come along, and the business environment for the buy to let landlord is forever in flux.

So that you keep abreast of those changes, seize any new opportunities and rise to any challenges, it is important to stay tuned to the news. So, here are a few snippets as to what has been going on in the world of buy to let investors recently …

Latest changes to the How to Rent Guide

As a landlord, you probably know that you are required to give (or email) any new tenant a copy of the official How to Rent guide.

But had you considered that the version of the guide you provide to any new tenant must be the current version – and that the versions change on a fairly regular basis (updates were issued as recently as in June and again in July, for example)?

The Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) issued a warning on the 13th of August reminding landlords that you must give your tenants a copy of the latest version of the How to Rent guide for the date on which the tenancy started.

If you fail to do so, you are likely to find it difficult if you subsequently try to serve a Section 21 “no-fault” eviction notice to the tenants concerned.

Private rents rise by 1.3%

Landlord Today reports that average rents in the private sector have risen by just 1.3% in the year to the end of July.

This is the third month in a row that the average private sector rents have remained the same. It also means that rental income for landlords is effectively falling, relative to inflation.

Rents may have risen by 1.3% in the past year, but inflation has climbed more steeply over the same period – by 2.1% when measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and 2.8% in terms of the Retail Price Index (RPI).

Section 21 is not responsible for causing homelessness says NLA

The National Landlords’ Association (NLA) robustly challenges any suggestion by government that the use by landlords of so-called Section 21 – or “no-fault” eviction notices – has led to an increase in homelessness.

Research by the NLA instead suggests that the main reason for homelessness is the result of family or friends no longer being prepared to share their home with them.

Where former tenants have become homeless at the end of an assured shorthold private rented tenancy, this has been because of the landlord evoking Section 8 “fault” eviction notices, or the tenants have simply abandoned the let property or have fallen into rent arrears.

What constitutes the perfect home?

Online estate agents Zoopla – in a joint exercise with the Society of Garden Designers – have discovered the somewhat surprising premium which house hunters place on a well-groomed garden.

A pleasant outside space appears to be just as important to those looking for a new home as the latest in designer kitchens or bathrooms – and those looking to buy a property are prepared to pay an average of £15,000 for a home with a garden.

The priority given to that outside space is underlined by the finding that 74% of homeowners have already invested in improving their garden or are planning to do so soon – in the expectation of the investment increasing the capital value of their property.