Apart from the passing of the 1988 & 2004 Housing Acts by Parliament I have never experienced such a collection of changes to renting a flat all in one go. The following Legislation has just become effective (April 2012).
Tenancy Deposit Protection information must now be provided within 30 days or you may be fined and invalidate your right to evict a Tenant by issuing a S21 notice.
An EPC must be commissioned before a property can be marketed and the EPC must actually be issued within 7 days of marketing.
In 2018, rental properties with the two lowest EPC scores are due to be banned from the market, meaning that landlords must have improved them by then.
Local Housing Allowance rates are reduced so that about 3 in 10 properties for rent in the area should be affordable to people on Housing Benefit, rather than every 5 in 10 properties as before.
Local Housing Allowance weekly rates in any area cannot exceed:
£250 for a one bedroom property
£290 for a two bedroom property
£340 for a three bedroom property
£400 for a four bedroom property
Local Housing Allowance (Housing Benefits) will be set in line with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) instead of the Retail Prices Index (RPI)
Small-shared houses or flats occupied by between 3 and 6 unrelated individuals who share basic amenities were reclassified under planning laws from “C3 Dwelling Houses” to “C4 Houses in Multiple Occupation“. Depending in which part of the country you are you may need Planning Permission to rent these.
So from today the tenancy agreements that you use should be different to the ones that you used to use. The way that I keep up to date with legislation is through my membership of the Guild of Landlords which costs me £80 p.a. and provides me with current documents and a legal advice line to advise me on their use. I chose the Guild because it was strongly recommended to me, and I appreciate the personal nature of the organisation. However the other landlord organisations have their own supporters, and I don’t think that it is important which one you join, just that you do join one of them.
Nearly half of Westminster’s 22,000 council homes have been sold through Right-to-Buy in the past 30 years, and because government rules don’t allow local authorities to keep the proceeds of sale the properties haven’t been replaced by further social housing. Of course many of the flats purchased under Rent to Buy have been recycled into Private Sector renting – I personally know of 4 people who were able to retire to the country in middle age on the proceeds of the Right to Buy windfall which could be as much as several hundred thousand pounds in extreme cases.
This has left the council with a situation where they are paying housing benefit to tenants who are renting ex-council properties from private landlords – and this costs the council around four times the rent charged for a council home rented directly from the council, and on occasions up to five or six times the council rent.
What a mess – but probably not a mess that the government wishes to acknowledge as it stems from a conservative policy a generation ago, rather than something that can be neatly pinned on the last government.
This month I had a very good reason for being late with the Newsletter – I’m making 11 people homeless and I wanted to talk to them about it first.
It has been a long time coming and I think that most of us knew that it was on the cards, nevertheless when the time came it has been a hard parting of the ways. Modern housing standards require more space for people than those of the past, and this means that cheap small properties must be converted into more expensive larger ones. Consequently the 11 Flats of 71 Winchester Street are due to be converted into 6 Flats as detailed by Westminster Council .
I have now served section 21 notices on all the tenants of 71 Winchester St. that their tenancies are terminated in 2 months. I consider all my tenants personal friends and I like to think that I treat everybody as such, and that they treat me as a friend also. As such I am in the process of making a friend of 21 years homeless. I am also making two friends of 13 years homeless. These things are not lightly done, but I am prepared to take the criticism that I deserve. I have written to Westminster City Council asking them to rehouse my friends, and they have replied telling me that homeless people are not their responsibility.
Their reply makes me angry because I know full well that the council is playing a game with people’s lives. I look at the lives of my 3 friends who have been living with me over the last two decades – one has worked for the charity Brick by Brick housing the homeless another runs their own photography business, and the third is a chauffeur. These are people contributing to society, who I am making homeless through no fault of theirs. Can you understand why I feel that my council is letting us all down?