Weekly landlord news digest: 11/01/19

Aside from tenants, maintenance, rental arrears and the multitude of other issues we landlords face on a daily basis, one of the toughest parts of the job is keeping on top of the latest news and legislation. Not a week seems to go by without a substantial change; we know it’s hard to keep up.

So each week, this news digest will keep you up-to-date and informed about the latest developments in the private rental sector. This week, rental prices are making headlines, health and safety laws are getting stricter, and the confusion around gas safety won’t go away.


New health and safety laws for buy to let

Buy-to-let landlords must meet tougher health and safety standards in a few weeks. From March 20th, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 comes in to force.

The law will require landlords to ensure homes are fit to live in at the start of a tenancy and remain in good condition while renters are in the property. If standards drop, tenants can take landlords to court for breach of contract.

The same health and safety standards that apply to shared houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) will extend to buy-to-let homes. Minister for Housing and Homelessness Heather Wheeler said: “Everyone deserves a safe and decent place to live, regardless of whether you own your home or rent it.

“That’s why the government has introduced a range of measures to help ensure that people who are renting have good quality and well-maintained properties to call home. This new law is a further step to ensure that tenants have the decent homes they deserve.”


Rents up £1 a week in a year

Rents have risen by just over £1 a week in the past year, according to official data.

The average buy-to-let rent across the UK increased by 0.9% in the year to the end of November 2018, says the Office for National Statistics. Statisticians calculate this added £4.50 a month or £54 a year to average rents.

Tenants in England are paying slightly more as rents were up 1% year-on-year, while those in Wales saw rents rise by 0.9% and those in Scotland nudged up just 0.5%. The report did point out that rents have increased by 6.8% since January 2015.

Around the country, London rents stood still with a 0% change, with the North East seeing a 0.4% rise. Landlords in the East Midlands saw the largest rise (2.7%), followed by the West Midlands (1.8%) and Yorkshire & Humberside (1.7%).


Landlords accused of illegal rent hikes

Lawyers allege landlords in Scotland are hitting tenants in the pocket with illegal rent hikes. A study by the Govan Law Centre, in Glasgow, claims landlords are ignoring rules that limit rent increases to just once a year – and only then by giving three months’ notice.

Scottish Government data shows rents in three areas soared at faster than the rate of inflation between 2010 and September 2018. Inflation hit 18.7% for the period, but rents in Lothian rocketed by 42.3%, while those in Greater Glasgow were up 31.3% and 19.5% in the Forth Valley.

Law centre principal solicitor Mike Dailly said: “Our casework provides cogent evidence of unlawful rent hikes by private landlords. In practice, many tenants are meeting rent hikes by using their social security money for food and heating costs.

“There is clearly a need for greater public awareness that rent hikes require formal written notice and must comply with certain legal procedures to be valid.”


Ageing renters can’t afford to buy homes

Huge numbers of middle-aged and older renters don’t believe they will ever be well-off enough to own a home. New research by Intus Lettings has found one in five renters over 55 years old do not think they will ever save a deposit or qualify for a mortgage.

And the number of renters aged between 45 and 54 years old has increased by a third because they cannot save for a deposit to buy a property.

Renters aged 18 to 24 years old are more hopeful of owning a home, but 43% admit they cannot afford a deposit and most say they are saving less than £50 a week towards buying a property.

“With the cost of rent rising faster than wages, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of people find themselves unable to save up for a deposit to buy a home well into their 40s, 50s and beyond,” said Hope McKendrick, manager at Intus Lettings.

“The survey results reveal that a large proportion of older renters don’t believe they’ll ever be able to buy a home. This is a particularly worrying trend, as only around one in five middle-aged tenants feel renting actually suits their lifestyle.”


Gas safety confusion rumbles on

Landlords should protect their rights by giving new tenants a gas safety certificate when they move into their home.

Following a court case last year, the law is unclear over when landlords need to serve the certificate on new tenants, says the National Landlords Association (NLA). In some cases, landlords have found they cannot serve a Section 21 possession notice if they did not hand the certificate to the tenant as part of the prescribed information package handed over on moving in.

The confusion arises from a ruling made a year ago in the Caridon Property Ltd v Monty Shooltz case. The NLA has asked the government for clarification, but a housing spokesman replied that online guidance would be updated in due course.

And that’s all the news for this week. We’ll see you next Friday for more news and views from the UK’s private rental sector.


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