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					                                      Landlords’
                                       newsletter
                                       Issue 5, April



Introduction &
        welcome
Hello and welcome!                                  agenda to seek to maintain its excellent
                                                    relationship with landlords operating within the
This April edition of Swindon Borough               borough boundaries. SBC values its landlords
Council’s Landlords’ Newsletter accompanies         and wants to work closely with them; informing
the change of season. Spring is upon us, and        and offering help when necessary.
at long last the days are getting warmer and
longer.                                             Good reading,

This latest newsletter presents a collection of     Stuart Hook
diverse articles, all brought together by the       Empty Homes Officer
importance of relevance—packed with                 Housing Enabling
information landlords need.                         Swindon Borough Council

It is worth reiterating that this newsletter is a   01793 464286
continuation of Swindon Borough Council’s           shook@swindon.gov.uk


 Dear Landlord,

 This Landlords’ Newsletter is for YOU, the Landlord. With you in mind we take every
 effort to make this newsletter as relevant and interesting as possible.

 There’s always room for improvement, however, and we are happy to receive
 suggestions or criticism.

 What would you, as a landlord in Swindon, prefer to read about? What would be more
 useful for you?

 In fact, why not participate yourself? You are welcome to send any articles that you’d
 like to be considered for the next issue to the following e-mail address:
 shook@swindon.gov.uk
The Rugg review: Praise for landlords at last
                         In January 2008,              that most medium landlords bought their
                         the Minister of               properties or paid deposits using savings and
                                                       support the properties during voids from income.
                         Housing
                         commissioned an               This debunks the myth that the PRS is
                         independent                   characterised by “a financially stable PRS based
                         review - “The                 on large-scale institutional investment, and a
                         Private Rented                volatile ‘buy-to-let’ market.”
                         Sector: its                   She also provides evidence that the satisfaction
                         contribution and              levels are no higher among tenants of
                         potential.”                   institutional landlords than they are among
                                                       tenants of smaller scale landlords and provides
This review was published in October 2008              anecdotal evidence of poor management
and has become known as the Rugg Review                practices amongst institutional landlords.
after one of its authors, Dr Julie
Rugg of York University—pictured above.                One of the Terms of Reference for the Report
                                                       was “Given the recent regulatory changes, what
It will not surprise the landlords reading this        more should or could be done to ensure a
article, but it surprised many others by               professionally managed and quality sector to
presenting a positive view of the private rented       meet demand pressures?”
sector (PRS) and the individual landlord.
                                                       In addressing this requirement, she divides
As David Salusbury, National Landlords’                landlords into three groups:
Association chair, commented shortly after its
publication the Rugg Review has dispelled              •    At the centre she says, are: professional
many myths about private landlords.                         landlords who are aware of relevant
                                                            legislation and act accordingly in all cases;
Rugg herself acknowledges the "substantial
amount of misinformation and stereotyping that         •    “to one side” she says are landlords who
has become associated with private renting"                 act informally, not necessarily acting
and sets about correcting many of them.                     against legislation, but rather acting in
                                                            ignorance thereof (she points out that this
She says that the PRS is wrongly regarded as a              type of behaviour may favour tenants);
‘third’ option of tenure, behind the preferred
options of owner occupation and social renting. •           and “at the other extreme” a “small number
She points out that the PRS is very diverse.                of landlords” who act illegally.

It provides a wide range of properties from            She emphasises the need to improve the
upmarket corporate lets to temporary                   management standards of the “informal”
accommodation for the homeless. The PRS                landlords and to eliminate the few rogue
caters to a number of niche markets: corporate         operators. To do this she suggests all landlords
lets, students, young professionals, middle            be licensed, though she suggests this as an
aged, middle market renters, housing benefit           option for change. The devil is in the detail as
tenants, slum rentals and asylum seekers.              she does not address how the licensing would
                                                       work.
The social responsibility of the PRS is
highlighted by some of Dr Rugg’s findings.             The PRS has broadly welcomed this report, but
                                                       it remains to be seen how the government will
She points out that 85 per cent of low-income          respond to it and how it will be used to inform
households are housed in the PRS, compared             the Housing Green Paper which is under
to 15 per cent in the social renting sector.           preparation.
                                                       info@landlords.org.uk
She draws on an earlier report to emphasise
                                                   2
Landlords’ legal duties remain the same
Landlords’ legal obligations have not changed with the
introduction of the Gas Safe Register in April
Gas Safe Register™, the          If you let properties, you
new gas safety body which        must make sure that pipe
replaced the CORGI gas           work, appliances and flues
register in Great Britain on     provided for tenants are
1st April, advises there is no   maintained in a safe
change to landlords’ legal       condition, and you need to
gas safety duties.               have an annual gas safety
                                 check.                          from the property before you
Landlords must continue to                                       re-let it.
use registered engineers to      Since 1st April, a Gas Safe
carry out work and safety        registered engineer, not a      A ‘Gas Safety Certificate’
checks on gas appliances in      CORGI gas installer, must       must be provided to the
their properties.                carry out the safety check in   tenant within 28 days of
                                 properties in Great Britain.    completing the check, or to
They should only use Gas                                         each new tenant before they
Safe registered engineers.       Peter Eldridge, chief           move in.
                                 executive of Gas Safe
                                 Register, says: “Landlords      Any gas safety record given
                                 have a legal duty to keep       to you after 1st April 2009
                                 tenants safe by making sure     will only be valid if the
                                 the gas appliances in           engineer is on the Gas Safe
                                 properties are suitably         Register.
                                 maintained. You need to use
                                 a Gas Safe registered           Before your registered
                                 engineer to carry out gas       engineer begins work on
                                 work on your properties and     your appliances, check their
                                 do your annual safety           Gas Safe Register licence
                                 checks.”                        card.

                             Neither landlords nor               You can find, or check, a
                             tenants should ever attempt         Gas Safe registered
In relation to domestic gas  to install or repair a gas          engineer 24 hours a day,
under the Gas Safety         appliance themselves. This          seven days a week online at
(Installation and Use)       is breaking the law and puts        www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk
Regulations 1998, landlords’ lives at risk.                      or call 0800 408 5500. To
legal duties apply to a wide                                     help you educate your
range of accommodation,      Peter Eldridge added:               tenants about gas safety,
including residential        “Keeping your tenants gas           you can order free leaflets
premises provided for rent   safe should be a top priority       from
by private landlords.        for landlords. All gas              marketing@GasSafeRegister
                             equipment, including any            .co.uk
This includes bed-sits and   appliance left by a previous
rooms rented out in private tenant, must undergo a
households.                  safety check or be removed
                                               3
 Rain, rain – go away
 The last few years have seen some of the
 heaviest rainfall since records began, and the
 flooding, burst drain pipes or high winds
 caused over £3bn of damage.

 Sadly not everyone affected had the right
 type of buildings or contents insurance to
 protect them. And remarkably some didn't
 have any home insurance whatsoever.

 Stay high and dry in 2009
                                                       •   Review your existing home insurance
 If you’re in a flood-risk area, there are steps           policy to make sure you are covered for
 you can take to alleviate the risk.                       flood risk, and that your contents value is
                                                           up to date.
 You can get early warnings if you call the
 Environment Agency on 0845 988 1188 and               •   Think about what items you can move
 sign up for free flood alerts.                            now to limit the affect should you be
                                                           flooded – for example your TV, furniture,
 And it’s worth knowing how to turn off your               computers and irreplaceable items such
 gas, electricity and water mains in case of an            as photographs and cherished gifts
 emergency.
                                                       •   Prepare a flood kit for emergencies –
 Here are other ways to lessen the potential               including your insurance documents,
 impact of flooding:                                       contact details, first aid kit, waterproof
                                                           clothing and a torch.


Does your tenant need Safeguarding?
Check out the safeguarding policy at www.swindon.gov.uk/housing/housingbenefit.htm

Did you know?
If your tenant falls under the safeguarding policy then we may be able to pay the Housing
Benefit payments directly to you.

Still not sure? Then call 0845 8500962.


                               Digital TV switchover
                               Are you ready?
                               The digital TV switchover has started and takes place around
                               the UK at different times.
                               Who is responsible for adjusting television sets?
                               If you, the landlord, are providing a television as part of the
                               tenancy then you will be responsible for ensuring that it can
                               pick up a digital signal after the switchover.

                                                   4
Empty Property Renovation: VAT Exemptions & Reductions
Did you know that there are                                          - This is the developer's or
special VAT rates for the                                            house owners' evidence if
renovation of empty                                                  Customs need to check.
properties?                                                          Customs will accept this as
                                                                     proof that the building was
If you’re a developer, or owner,                                     empty.
you can receive:
                                                                     4. What other information
1.   A reduction in VAT from                                         will Customs accept as
     17.5 per cent to five per                                       indicators that the building
     cent on cost of renovating                                      was empty?
     single house dwellings
     that have been empty for                                      - Electoral Roll, Council Tax
     two years;                                                    data
                                                                   - Information from utilities
2.    Zero rating the sale of    can make a claim for the VAT, companies
      renovated buildings that under the DIY Builders Refund
      have not been used for     Scheme available from             5. What do Customs mean
      residential purposes for   Customs and Excise if they are by "empty"?
      at least 10 years.         retaining the property for
                                 private residential use and not No part of it the property has
3.    The rate has also been     selling it.                       been lived in during the last
      cut to five per cent on                                      two years (reduced rate) or 10
      other Urban                - A builder can charge a          years (zero rate)
      Regeneration Measures/ reduced five per cent rate of
      projects including cost of VAT on work to renovate a         - Use for storage can be
      converting housing into    house that has been empty for ignored
      flats or bed-sits or vice  two years.
      versa.                                                       - Illegal occupation (squatters)
                                 2. How can Local Authority        can also be ignored
In the past developers have      Empty Homes Officers help?
been deterred from conversion                                      6. Where can I get more
work and refurbishing empty      •     By confirming that a        information?
properties because VAT meant           property has been empty
they could not recover their           for 10 years (zero-rated    Telephone the Customs and
costs.                                 sales);                     Excise National Advice Service
                                 or                                on 0845 010 9000
Key Questions:                   •     By confirming that a
                                       building has been empty - View the Customs and
1.    How does VAT affect              for two years (reduced      Excise website:
      empty properties?                rate for building services) www.hmce.gov.uk

- A developer or house owner       3. How can your Empty             - Public Notice 708 Buildings
can claim back all the VAT         Property Officer help you?        and Construction (July 2002)
charged on the renovation of a
building that has been empty       Write an Official letter to the   - Contact Stuart Hook, your
for 10 years. The developer        developer/house owner with        Empty Property Officer, at
will have to register for VAT.     relevant details, confirming      Swindon Borough Council on
Sell the house to claim the        that the property was empty       01793 464286, or e-mail him
VAT (this relief is not            (date property last occupied,     at shook@swindon.gov.uk
applicable where a property is     address etc).
put to let). The house owner
                                                   5
Our pest control service
The Council provides a comprehensive pest              usual refuse collection system.
control service that can deal with a wide range
of pests, including rats and mice, wasps, fleas,       Our Pest Control Officers are unable to
cockroaches and bed bugs. We also offer                perform treatments in circumstances where
advice on other common pests. You can                  their safety would be at risk, such as in certain
request treatments or advice using our general         loft spaces, or above safe working heights.
service request form below. Please note that
                                                       The Pest Control Officer will assess this at their
charges may apply for the pest control service.
                                                       first visit.
Charges
Charges for pest control treatments in
domestic premises vary by pest, and according
to whether a Swindon Card is held by the
person booking the service. Prices for
treatments in domestic premises can be found
on the specific pest pages of the SBC website.

Treatments in commercial premises will be
charged at £55.00 for the first hour, and
£27.50 for every additional hour thereafter in
all cases.
                                                       Pests we do not treat
Please note: treatments in tenanted
property will be charged at the commercial             Ants, Squirrels, Bees, Foxes, Moles, Scabies
rate.                                                  and Pigeons.

Please call the contact centre on (01793)              Pest Control Services -
445500 to book and pay for a treatment.                General Information
Pests we can treat                                     Local Authorities have a duty under the
                                                       Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 to
                                Rats, Mice,            keep their district free from rats and mice.
                                Wasps, Fleas,
                                Cockroaches            Treatments may be carried out directly by the
                                and Bedbugs.           authority or alternatively the occupier of the
                                                       premises can be required to eradicate pests by
                                In all of the          the service of a legal notice. Fortunately such
                                above cases            formal action is rarely needed.
                                where we do
                                generally offer        Swindon, like most authorities, provides a
pest treatments, we are unable to remove               comprehensive pest control service for its
dead pests, and the householder has the                residents and businesses.
responsibility to dispose of them.
                                                       Some pests such as rats, mice, bedbugs and
Where dead pests can be reached, it is                 cockroaches are known to present a risk to
recommended that they are placed in two                health when infestations are present in the
polythene bags and disposed of through the             home or commercial premises.
                                                   6
The risk to health is less significant where        Once a request for treatment is made the
these pests are found outside and people are        council aims to contact the customer within two
less likely to come into contact with them.         days to arrange a suitable appointment for the
                                                    treatment to be carried out.
Other pests, such as wasps, book lice, bees
and ants generally only present nuisance            However it is inevitable that in some
problems rather than health risks.                  circumstances, for example where we have
                                                    difficulty in making an appointment or in times
Swindon Borough Council makes a charge for          of peak demand, we may not always be able to
carrying out pest control treatments. The           meet this high standard.
amount charged will depend on the type of
treatment required, some customers may              Despite this we consistently achieve the target
qualify for concessionary rates or even free        in 95 per cent, or above, of cases.
treatments for certain types of pests.
Commercial treatments are charged on an             Please note that it may not always be possible
hourly rate or at an agreed contract rate.          to effectively treat a pest infestation. In such
                                                    circumstances we will always provide an
We aim to provide a cost effective service that     explanation and offer advice on the other
is competitive with charges levied by other         options available to you.
Local Authorities. Our charges are reviewed on
an annual basis to ensure that they remain      You can contact us to request a Pest Control
competitive.                                    treatment, or simply for advice, on the following
                                                telephone number and email address:
Generally the Council’s charges for pest
control services are significantly less than    Swindon Borough Council Pest Control Service
those charged by commercial Pest Control        Telephone: 01793 445500
Companies.                                      E-mail: residentialservices@swindon.gov.uk


Housing benefit can be paid directly into your account

 Landlords—BACS is now our preferred method of payment

 Are you being paid your tenants’ Housing Benefit by cheque?

 If so we can now pay you directly into your bank or building
 society account.

 Direct payments are better for you for a number of reasons:

     Security – there are no cheques so they cannot get lost or
       stolen.

     Convenience – the money goes straight into your account so you don’t have to pay the
       cheque in or wait for it to clear.

     Peace of mind – the money is always in your account on the due date so you don’t have
       to worry about it being delayed or lost in the post.

If you would like to be placed onto BACS please visit
www.swindon.gov.uk/housing/housingbenefit.htm for a form.

This can then be sent to Swindon Borough Council, Civic offices, Euclid Street, Swindon,SN1
2JH. Please mark for the attention of the Swindon Benefits team.
                                                7
Affordable warmth and energy saving
Did your tenants have a comfortable winter in a well insulated,
economic to heat home or did they struggle to maintain a healthy
warmth in a poorly insulated expensive let?




As a landlord you have an obligation                1. Improve the Insulation – what have you
to ensure that your tenants can heat                got to lose?
their homes adequately.                                                                All private
                                                                                       landlords can
Information for Landlords on Energy                                                    get
Saving, Affordable Warmth and                                                          substantial
Energy Performance Certificates                                                        discounts
                                                                                       from the main
There are a number of things that you can do,                                          domestic
as a landlord, to improve your investment in                                           energy
your property and make it more affordable,                                             suppliers for
reduce its carbon footprint and improve its         cavity wall and loft insulation.
attractiveness to future tenants.
                                                    If your tenants are on a qualifying benefit, or
      •    Improve the insulation                   are over 70, you can get a 100 per cent grant
                                                    for the works.
      •    Improve the heating system
                                                    Landlords who let residential properties and
                                                8
pay income tax or corporation
tax can claim for energy
savings works through the
Landlords Energy Saving
Allowance (LESA), see
www.hmrc.gov.uk/budget2007/
bn63.htm for more details.

Swindon Borough Council can
assist you through its
WarmLet scheme, to find the
discounts available through a
local installer.

Alternatively any CIGA and
BBA Insulation Installer can
obtain the discounts for you.

For free and impartial advice
contact the Energy Savings
Trust on 0800 512 012.

Not sure if your properties
need an update?
                                  heating and £4,000 for oil-fired the energy efficiency of the
With your tenant, fill in a Home systems.                          property.
Energy Check . Your tenant
                                  Please contact me if you want For detailed information go to
will then receive a free tailored
                                  some referral leaflets, or       www.communities.gov.uk for
report from the Energy
                                  details are available at         downloads on guides for
Savings Trust outlining the
                                  www.warmfront.co.uk.             landlords and tenants.
most cost effective action you
can take to improve the energy Affordable Warmth for               The EPC register at
efficiency of the property.       Tenants – Help your tenants www.epcregister.com has a
                                get the best from your let      search facility to locate
Home Energy Checks are
                                                                assessors in a given postcode
available from me, Alison       We can provide you with a free area, or contact your letting or
Robinson, on 01793 466100 or    information pack, which         management agent.
from the following website:     includes help sheets on saving
www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/   energy, reading meters and      Swindon Borough Council
proxy/view/full/165/            getting the best deal for fuel, Accredited Landlords can take
homeenergycheck                 for your tenants.               advantage of a discount for
                                                                EPCs with Swindon Energy on
2. Improve the heating          Energy Performance              01793 430451.
system – free or a              Certificates                    www.swindonenergy.co.uk
substantial grant for tenants
on a qualifying benefit.        You will be aware that from 1st   If you need any further
                                October 2008 an Energy            information, or want to order
The Government’s Warm Front Performance Certificate (EPC)
                                                                  an Affordable Warmth
scheme is also available to     must be made available free of    information pack, then do not
private landlords with tenants charge to prospective tenants
                                                                  hesitate to contact me on
on qualifying benefits and will and a copy must be provided
                                                                  01793 466100 (Tues-Thurs) or
help with faulty inefficient    to all new tenants.               e-mail:
heating schemes.
                                                                  Alison.robinson@swindon.
                                The EPC gives detailed            gov.uk
Warm Front can give grants of information on how to improve
up to £2,700 for gas central
                                               9
This newsletter can be produced in a range of languages and formats (such as large print,
Braille or other accessible formats) by contacting the Customer Services Department.

Tel: 01793 445500    Fax: 01793 463331 E-mail: customerservices@swindon.gov.uk
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