Landlords Forum Newsletter July 09

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Landlords Forum Newsletter July 09 Powered By Docstoc
Landlords Forum
                                                                                                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.                      • Tax workshops - Cambridge Business Support
       Benefits/Local+Housing+Allowance.htm                          Team
                                                                   • 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
       proceedings, tenancy agreements and deposit
       protection.                                        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;                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: 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:
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                      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;
                                       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 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,

                            We can advertise your property to
                          rent on the Huntingdonshire District
                                              Council Website

If you have a property or room to let in Huntingdonshire         to our website at
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;

    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

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