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Airbnb regulation, Help to Buy closes, leaseholders recoup funds, UK house prices “losing momentum”, and other UK property news

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As a new leader of the Conservative Party takes over as the country’s Prime Minister, UK property news continues to steal as many headlines as all the other pressing issues on the political agenda.

Here are some of the stories behind the headlines.

Housing activists launch campaign calling for Airbnb regulation

Campaigners representing several housing pressure groups are calling for action from local councils to prevent homes that would otherwise be used for regular longer-term lets from being converted into short-term Airbnb accommodation.

Because premises that are used for Airbnb accommodation are typically in exactly the same planning category as any privately-owned home, local councils have no way of distinguishing between the two – a home can be listed as a short-term let without the council having any knowledge of that move or any control over the way the letting is used.

The pressure group Action on Empty Homes has launched an initiative titled Action on Short Term Lets which calls for coordinated action to give councils the authority to identify and potentially block the use of any premises as the type of short-term let most commonly associated with Airbnb.

First-time buyers have just two months left to use the Help to Buy equity loan scheme

It was once a flagship scheme introduced by the government to help first-time buyers to get that all-important first step on the housing ladder. Any first-time buyers still hoping to make use of the scheme had better act quickly because the 31st of October marks the closing date for final applications – before the scheme closes completely at the end of next March.

The Help to Buy scheme granted first-time buyers an interest-free loan for 5 years of up to 20% (40% in London) of the purchase price of a home and required a deposit of just 5%.

Although Help to Buy is closing, first-time buyers can still seek help through other schemes – such as the mortgage guarantee scheme (for 5% deposits), First Homes discounts (for key workers and first-time buyers), various shared ownership schemes, and the house purchase bonus incorporated into Lifetime ISAs.

Thousands more leaseholders to get money back

Thanks to intervention by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), announced the government on the 24th of August, nine more property developers have agreed to refund leaseholders who had previously faced a doubling of the ground rents for which they were liable.

The developers concerned have agreed to remove conditions from leases that would have leaseholders liable to pay ground rents that were doubling every ten years – effectively making the properties owned by such unfortunate leaseholders unable to sell their homes and buyers unable to raise a mortgage.

The latest agreement is estimated to benefit a further 5,000 leaseholders – making a total of 20,000 so far assisted in similar ways.

UK house price growth cools as property ‘market loses momentum’

There are signs that the UK housing market is beginning to lose momentum, according to a story in the Evening Standard on the 1st of September.

Citing the house price index maintained by the Nationwide building society, the newspaper noted that the annual rate of increase in house prices had fallen back to 10% in August – down from 11% the previous month.

Nevertheless, August was also the 13th month in a row that house prices have risen – 0.8% on a month-by-month basis – and that the continued double-digit rise in the value of the average home in the UK makes it £50,000 more expensive than just two years ago.

Oxford private landlords licence scheme launches

Almost half (49.3%) of all homes in Oxford are in the private rented sector and the local council has now introduced a scheme that requires every private sector landlord to be licensed, according to a report by the BBC on the 1st of September.

The council explained that its new licensing scheme is designed to offer an element of protection to tenants, generally stimulate an improvement in housing standards, and assist the authorities in clamping down on so-called rogue landlords who flout the various housing laws and regulations.

The licensing scheme will embrace an estimated 26,000 homes in the private rented sector, and it revealed that during the five years to 2020 tenants had filed complaints about housing conditions in almost 3,000 different properties.

Landlords will need to pay £480 for a five-year licence – although a discount of £80 is available for those who apply quickly within the next three months and “accredited landlords” will be able to buy a more heavily discounted licence for £280. Landlords who fail to get a licence, risk fines of up to £3,000.