July 2009 - Issue 4
In this edition
Summary of the Forum held on 22/04/09
Important changes to Housing Benefit
Unfair charge imposed on landlords
Electricity Safety Council
Good landlords list proposals
Digital switch over in 2011
Advertise your property
The Huntingdonshire Landlords’ Forum is a central part of the housing service the Council provides to
private sector landlords. The Forum exists so that landlords can meet Officers and other landlords to share their
experiences. The Council is there to arrange the meetings, invite along guest speakers, listen to what landlords have
to say and, where it is needed, offer support and advice.
What do we get in return? expertise in the rental business; a representative of the
We get good feedback about what landlords think of the Court Service; a representative of the Small Landlords’
services the Council provides and landlords use: Housing Association; the local secretary of the Association of
Benefits; Environmental Health Services, Landlord and Residential Letting Agents (ARLA); an expert on landlord
Tenant Advice and Housing Grants. We also get good and tenant law and a residential lettings insurance expert.
information about how an important group of local Topics discussed have included the accelerated possession
housing providers run their businesses. All this helps us procedure; landlord grants; taxation and financial matters
to plan services to the private sector that are rooted in an and buy-to-let mortgages.
understanding of what the key issues are for landlords,
their tenants and prospective private tenants. Hopefully If you are a landlord or a prospective landlord the Forum
this will help us to raise our standards and in so doing is for you. Join our mailing list by phoning 01480 388237.
help raise standards across the local lettings industry. We will let you know about our programme of meetings.
If you are new to the industry we will also send you a copy
The first Forum was held in September 2000. Since of our landlord pack which is full of the information you
then, guest speakers have included an accountant with will need to help you make a success of your business.
Summary of the Meeting Held
Wednesday 22nd April 2009
At Centenary House, St Mary’s Street, Huntingdon
James Fraser (JF) - National Landlords Association rep, East of England. (NLA)
Julia Barber (JH) - Head of Customer Services (HDC)
Barnes Huggins (BH) - Benefits Manager (HDC)
Sue Questier (SQ) - Housing Environmental Health Officer (HDC)
Keith Tayler (KT) - Private Sector Housing Officer (HDC)
15 landlords attended
Apologies: 4. Keith Tayler chaired the meeting and provided
Received from 15 landlords with 30 no replies. information, updates on Huntingdonshire District
Council’s policies and initiatives to support landlords
1. Julia Barber & Barnes Huggins gave a presentation and tenants and enabling and encourage responsible
on the changes to the Local Housing Allowance. letting and tenancy management. A range of leaflets
Huntingdon BRMA proposal which will commence were provided on the following topics;
August 2009. • Rent/Deposit in Advance Scheme.
Please see the news & information update below as • Tenancy Protection Scheme.
well as the HDC Local Housing Allowance web page: • HDC Home Choice Scheme.
www.huntsdc.gov.uk/Money+and+Benefits/ • Tax workshops - Cambridge Business Support
• Items for the next Forum.
2. James Fraser gave a presentation on the Governments • Tenants looking for accommodation
review of private rented sector - Its contribution Further information can be found on the website:
and potential (The Rugg report 2008). Also eviction www.huntsdc.gov.uk/Housing
proceedings, tenancy agreements and deposit
www.landlords.org.uk Keith reminded those present about the aims and
objectives of the Forum which include the delivery
3. Sue Questier explained the new ‘Gas Safe Register’ of current and useful information to landlords,
which started 1st April 2009 replacing Corgi for more an opportunity to take part in discussions and ask
information visit; www.gassaferegister.co.uk questions, share information and good practice. It
• Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation was agreed at an earlier meeting of the forum that in
(HMO’s), future meetings will be held in April and October and
• Regulation and encouraging responsible letting. a newsletter produced in January and July each year.
The next forum will be held in October 2009
and invites will be sent out two weeks berfore the meeting
News and Information Update
Important Changes to Housing Benefit
We are writing to you about changes to the way that Who will this affect?
Housing Benefit will be worked out for people living in This change will affect new claims for Housing Benefit
the Huntingdonshire area from 1 August 2009. from people living in the private rented sector made on
Since April 2008, new claims for Housing Benefit for or after 1 August 2009.
people living in the private rented sector have been For existing claims, the Local Housing Allowance rates
based on the Local Housing Allowance (LHA). This is a used in the benefit calculation are effective for 12
flat rate allowance based on the size of the household months. Existing customers will usually be protected
and the area, known as a Broad Rental Market Area from any reduction in the Local Housing Allowance rate
(BRMA), that a person lives in. up to a maximum of 12 months depending on when
There are currently three BRMA’s covering the they initially claimed benefit. For example, if someone’s
Huntingdonshire area - Cambridge, Northants and claim for Housing Benefit originally started on Monday
Peterborough. The Local Housing Allowance is different 11 August 2008, the new Local Housing Allowance rate
for each of the three BRMA’s. will apply from Monday 10 August 2009.
Housing Benefit will be based on the appropriate Local
What are the changes? Housing Allowance rate regardless of how much rent
The BRMA’s and the Local Housing Allowance rates are you actually charge.
set by the Valuation Office Agency (previously The Rent We are advising you about these changes now so that
Service). As a result of a recent review, they are making you can decide whether to review the rent you currently
changes to the BRMA’s from 1 August 2009. charge.
The main charge is the introduction of a new BRMA We will be writing to all of our benefit claimants who
covering the Huntingdon area. This has also led to may be affected to inform them of this change.
boundary changes for the Cambridge and Peterborough
BRMA’s. How to find out more information
As a result of this, people who were within the Cambridge We will not receive the August Local Housing Allowance
BRMA but will now come under the Huntingdon BRMA rates from the Valuation Office Agency until the end of
are likely to receive a lower amount of Local Housing July. As soon as we receive them, we will publicise the
Allowance than before. rates on our website: www.huntsdc.gov.uk. Our website
Currently, 655 people claiming Local Housing Allowance also has further information on the Local Housing
from Huntingdonshire District Council fall within the Allowance.
Cambridge BRMA. From 1 August 2009, only 11 will You can also obtain advice by telephoning the Benefits
come under Cambridge and 752 will come under the Section at Huntingdonshire District Council on 01480
new Huntingdon BRMA. 388308.
Indications show that 62% of people currently receiving You can find out more about the Local Housing Allowance
Local Housing Allowance from Huntingdonshire District including which BRMA a property is in on the Valuation
Council could see a reduction in their Housing Benefit of Office Agency website: www.voa.gov.uk
up to £35 per week.
Unfair Charges Imposed On Landlords
BBC News reported on 10 July 2009
High profile estate agency paying commission to the Contract regulations. The agency's
Foxtons has been told by the High agency, even after Foxtons had contracts had demanded an 11%
Court that some of the charges it sold the property renewal commission if a tenant
imposes on landlords are unfair. • be paid full commission for stayed beyond the initial one-year
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) selling the property to the tenancy, and charged 2.5% of the
had asked the court to uphold tenant, regardless of whether value of the property if the tenant
the regulator's decision from or not it had had a hand in the went on to buy it.
2008 that the charges broke sale During the hearing in April 2009,
consumer regulations. The OFT "This ruling sends out a clear the regulator described the
said clauses in the small print of and unambiguous message that charging of renewal commission
Foxtons' agreements for managing businesses offering services need as a "time bomb". Mr Justice
tenanted properties were a "trap". to ensure unexpected or surprising Mann agreed that the terms had
It said the court ruling sent out a terms are not hidden away in small been buried in the small print
"clear and unambiguous message". print," said OFT chief executive, of the estate agency's standard
'Not hidden away'. John Fingleton. "Contracts terms and conditions, which were
The clauses which Mr Justice need to be written in clear and unlikely to be read thoroughly by
Mann agreed were unfair said straightforward language with clients. They were also not written
that Foxtons could: important provisions, particularly in "plain and intelligible" language.
• continue to demand "renewal" those which may disadvantage The judge said landlords would
commission from a landlord consumers as in this case, given be "astonished" to find they had
if a tenant stayed on past the prominence and actively brought to pay Foxtons commission for
initial tenancy period - even to people's attention," he added. the sale of a property, even if the
if the agency had played no The OFT started its legal action agency had played no part in the
further part in arranging early last year, after investigating deal.
or managing the extended complaints from landlords, to After the ruling, London-based
tenancy uphold its powers under the Foxtons claimed that the ruling was
• force the landlord to continue 1999 Unfair Terms in Consumer partly a victory for itself because
Are You Switched On?
Graham Shipley our Buildings Domestic electrical installations
Control Manager and Chartered came under the control of building
Surveyor wrote an article for District regulations in January 2005,
Wide, May 2009 (issue12) about following a number of deaths and
the ruling meant that renewal safe electrics. This issue of District serious injuries caused by faulty
commission was not always unfair. Wide can be viewed along with past wiring and installations.
But in response to the judgement issues on our website; A free leaflet giving more information
it has now reduced the level of www.huntsdc.gov.uk/ can be downloaded from our
its renewal commission, and is News+and+Communications/ website under ‘building control’ or
now changing its literature and Publications/District+wide.htm by telephoning 01480 388494.
contracts, so that the commission
is "spelt out prominently, clearly
and in straightforward language".
The agency said it had already
dropped the other contentious
contract terms - its third party
renewal commissions, and sales
commissions contained in lettings
agreements. "We are extremely Electricity Safety Council (ESC) launch
pleased that this matter has finally
been clarified in a way which is landlord's guide to electrical safety
to the benefit of consumers and
the industry," said Michael Brown,
chief executive of Foxtons. The Electrical Safety Council has private rented sector and includes
In a separate case last year, the published a new Landlords’ Guide advice on what landlords must do
Court of Appeal ruled that Foxtons to Electrical Safety as part of its to ensure their rental properties are
was not entitled to commission campaign to improve electrical safety complying with the law.
for selling a house merely for in privately rented accommodation. A copy of the leaflet can be obtained
showing the buyer around it. The guide, which is supported by from the Council or from the web
LACORS, highlights the legislation site; www.lacors.gov.uk
most relevant to landlords in the
‘Good Landlords’ List Proposals
Gas Safe Register replaced the • Incorrectly fitted, badly repaired for Isle of Man.
CORGI gas register in Great Britain or poorly maintained gas • Gas Safe Register replaced CORGI
and the Isle of Man on 1 April appliances are a major cause as the gas registration body in GB
2009. of lethal carbon monoxide (CO) on 1 April 2009. The HSE carried
There is only one gas safety register poising, and can also lead to gas out a review of gas safety in 2006
that you need to use. Look for the leaks and explosions. which, after consultation with
yellow Gas Safe Register triangle • To carry out work on gas the gas industry, engineers and
not the orange CORGI registration installations and appliances safely the public, led to the decision to
badge. and legally, engineers in Great change to a new gas registration
Anyone carrying out work on gas Britain and the Isle of Man must scheme. The contract to run the
must be registered with Gas Safe be on the Gas Safe Register. new scheme was awarded to
Register. If not, they are breaking • Gas Safe Register makes sure Capita and they launched Gas
the law and putting you and your the 120,000 engineers on the Safe Register. The sole focus of
family at risk. register are safe by inspecting the the register is on improving gas
• Only a Gas Safe Registered gas work they have carried out. safety.
Engineer is legally allowed to • You can report good or bad gas
install gas appliances, boilers, work to them via their web site What about CORGI?
hobs, ovens or fires in your home The CORGI gas registration scheme
or workplace. Who runs in Great Britain and the Isle of Man
• You must only use a Gas Safe Gas Safe Register? ended on 31 March 2009. It is no
Registered Engineer for any Gas Safe Register is run by Capita longer recognised by law as the gas
type of gas work, including Gas Registration and Ancillary safety register.
installation, maintenance and Services Limited, a division of Capita Some CORGI gas engineers have
servicing. Group Plc. transfered over to Gas Safe Register.
• Gas Safe Register is the official gas Check and see if your gas engineer
What is Gas Safe Register? registration body for Great Britain is now on www.gassaferegister.
Gas Safe Register exists to protect (GB) and Isle of Man, appointed co.uk. You should also ask to see
you, your family, and your property by the Health and safety Executive your engineer’s Gas Safe Register
from dangerous gas work. (HSE) for Great Britain and HSWI ID Card.
Digital Switch Over In 2011 Action
Although the Anglia region will not well before decisions are made Landlord Action have recently
switch over to digital until 2011 the about upgrading systems. produced a leaflet ‘help for landlords
County Council has already started • Given an explanation of the available with problem tenants’
work on this project. options and choices and time to They offer services for fixed fees to
Letters will be written to Housing consider them. deal with;
Associations so that advice can be • Consulted, as far as possible, about • Eviction
given to help them make sure that their needs and wishes. • Debt recovery
their tenants will be able to receive • Notified in advance of any work that • Tracing an ex tenant
the digital TV signals. needs to be carried out. • Evicting squatters
Digital UK suggests that potential • Given an explanation of the likely • Rent protection
difficulties can be avoided if residents financial implications and related • Tenant referencing
are: service charges • Property insurance
• Informed about the implications of If you have any further questions For further information about
digital switchover, and the landlord regarding this please contact Cathy Landlord Action and what they can
or managing agent’s policies on Inman on 01954 284646 or email do for landlords see their website;
aerial and satellite dish installation, firstname.lastname@example.org www.landlordaction.co.uk
We can advertise your property to
rent on the Huntingdonshire District
If you have a property or room to let in Huntingdonshire to our website at www.huntsdc.gov.uk/housing
why not advertise your requirements on the District We also post details of tenants looking to rent in the
Council website. private sector on our website. You may wish to look at
You can either telephone the Private Sector Housing this to see if there are any tenants that may be interested
Team, Housing Services, Pathfinder House, St Mary’s in your property and you can then contact them directly
Street, Huntingdon, PE29 3TN, on 01480 388285 or go either by phone or email.
Useful Contact Numbers
Keith Tayler, Private Sector Housing, HDC 01480 388 237
Sue Questier, Housing Environmental Health Officer, HDC 01480 388 286
Julia Blackwell, Energy & Efficiency Officer, HDC 01480 388 288
Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) 0845 345 5752
National Landlords Association (NLA) 020 7840 8937
Warm Front, Eaga Partnership Ltd. 0800 316 2805
Tenancy Deposit Protection Team 0207 944 4400
Rent Officer: (1st Floor St. Mary’s House - 90 Victoria Road, Chelmsford, Essex) 01245 266 861
Energy saving Trust (For free, independent and local energy saving advice) 0800 512 012
The Landlords’ Forum is organised and delivered by the Council’s private housing section which is a division of
Housing Services. The section may be contacted by private landlords and tenants seeking general advice on landlord
and tenant law. Advice is also available online at; www.huntsdc.gov.uk/Housing/Private+rented+property
This section may also be contacted for information about;
• Landlord Grants
• Repairs Assistance
• Landlord and Tenant Law
• Tenancy Agreements
• Finding suitable tenant for accommodation
• Advertising available property for rent
• Registered Rents and Local Housing Allowance
• The Council’s Private Sector Housing Strategy
• The Council’s Empty Property Strategy
For information or advice please contact; Keith Tayler, Private Sector Housing Officer - Telephone: 01480 388237
The next landlords forum will be held in October 2009
Produced by HDC Document Centre HPS-1000