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“No DSS”, remortgages, new tenancies, and planning concessions

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Now that the housing market is returning more or less to normal for homeowners, landlords and tenants, there is lots is going on in the world of property.

To help keep you informed of the latest news that might have some impact on the way in which your property dealings will fare, here are one or two snippets.

'No DSS' letting bans ruled unlawful by court

The Department of Social Security has not existed since 2001 (when its functions were replaced by the Department for Work and Pensions), yet there are still some landlords who maintain a policy of ‘no DSS’ tenants – by which they mean no benefits claimants need apply.

Indeed, the housing charity Shelter has revealed that almost two out of every three (63%) of all landlords in the private sector say they would not let to – or would prefer not to let to – tenants on housing or other welfare benefits.

In a landmark ruling reported by Inside Housing on the 14th of July, York County Court found any such blanket refusal to entertain benefits claimants is unlawful.

The District Judge made the ruling in the case of a disabled single mother who had had an application for private sector rented accommodation rejected on the grounds that she received housing benefit. The Court found the rejection to be unlawfully discriminatory – on the grounds of the applicant’s sex and disability – in contravention of the Equality Act 2010.

You can read our full blog on this subject later this month.

More investors remortgaging to raise funds

Landlords and investors in buy to let property are taking advantage of the recently announced stamp duty holiday on purchases of up to £500,000, according to a report by Property Investor Today on the 22nd of July.

Some lenders are reporting that around 60% of their buy to let lending is now by way of remortgages – up from 48% at the beginning of the year – as investors arrange replacement mortgage deals to finance the purchase of further buy to let property.

Although investors in buy to let property continue to pay the 3% stamp duty surcharge (introduced in April 2016) on new purchases, the remaining stamp duty enjoys a holiday until the 31st of March 2021.

New tenancies almost back to pre-pandemic levels

According to statistics kept by the Deposit Protection Service (DPS), the number of new tenancies now being granted has practically reached the levels achieved immediately before the recent pandemic lockdown, reports Landlord Today on the 22nd of July.

During the height of the pandemic in April, new tenancies dropped by almost a half, to 32,000. By June, new registrations received by the DPS had reached 56,000 – only a little short of the 60,000 registered pre-lockdown.

The report by the DPS also showed that rent levels continue to increase. The average rent during the second quarter of this year was £782 a month – £7 a month or 0.9% more than in the first quarter of this year and £12 a month or 1.56% more than in the second quarter of last year.

Two-storey extensions allowed without full consent

Major planning concessions kick into effect at the end of this month, reported Estate Agent Today on the 22nd of July.

New, fast-track planning procedures will allow homeowners in England to build up to two further storeys on top of their homes without seeking formal planning consent. By easing the planning regulations, the government hopes to reduce pressure on the demand for developing greenfield sites.

The changes will be allowed under what’s known as Permitted Development.

With similar aims in mind, property owners are also permitted to demolish or change the use of unused commercial and retail properties to residential housing without seeking full planning consent.

Empty shops, for example, may be converted to residential use without the need for formal planning consent.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says this will provide much-needed new homes and revitalise town centres across England.  “These changes will help transform boarded up, unused buildings safely into high-quality homes at the heart of their communities” says Jenrick.

“It will mean that families can add up to two storeys to their home, providing much needed additional space for children or elderly relatives as their household grows” he adds.

Pubs, village shops, libraries, and other buildings essential to communities will not be covered by these flexibilities, “recognising these form part of the fabric of areas.”

The Evening Standard reported that in London, its application will be limited. The new rules will only apply to detached homes, and those built between 1948 and 2018 – which leaves out hundreds of thousands of Londoners living in red-brick terraces, top-floor flats or new-build homes. Homes in conservation areas are also out.