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The latest on lets and pets, £48,000 fine for a rogue landlord, and new ground rent legislation

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The week sees a welter of news stories with important implications for landlords, tenants, and leaseholders. Here is our pick of the most relevant.

The latest on lets and pets

Parliamentary support for letting tenants have their pets live with them in rented accommodation slowly inches forward.

The latest move – sponsored by Andrew Rosindell MP – is designed to allow landlords to charge tenants for the cost of the insurance they would need to arrange to cover for damage by any pets.

As the story in Landlord Today last week acknowledges, this would run counter to the recent legislation banning landlords from charging fees but for a very narrow range of exceptions – but the MP believes an exception for pet damage insurance would be acceptable. He argues that it might encourage more landlords to allow tenants to keep pets – a comfort and companionship that has proved its value during successive lockdowns during the Covid pandemic.

Rogue landlord fined £48,000

Yet another rogue landlord has emerged from the woodwork.

The latest incident concerned a landlord in Aylesbury, who was taken to court by Buckinghamshire Council following multiple warnings about his failure to maintain his House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in an adequate, healthy, and safe state of repairs.

In a press release from the council on the 31st of March, it was revealed that fire escape routes in the HMO were obstructed, a fire alarm and detection device did not work, and there was no lighting on the staircase or other blocked escape routes. In clear contravention of the law, the landlord also failed to provide his tenants with documents such as a tenancy agreement or a gas safety certificate.

Despite innumerable warnings and a formal improvement notice, the landlord failed to make the necessary improvements to the property.

Finally, he failed to appear in court – where he would have had the opportunity to explain his failings – and the Magistrates imposed a fine of £48,000.

Number of overseas landlords with UK properties hits five-year high

The number of foreign investors owning buy to let property in the UK has risen by 19% during the past five years – from 154,000 to the current 184,000. This is the biggest number of foreign property investors in the UK in that same period.

Commenting on the increase, Property Reporter this week, suggested that Brexit had not dissuaded overseas investors but the associated fall in the value of Sterling, and the resulting favourable rates of exchange, had increased the attraction of the UK.

As with any other buyer, foreign investors have been able to enjoy the benefits of the Stamp Duty tax holiday introduced by the Chancellor last July – and now scheduled to last until the end of June and on through the end of September at a reduced rate. Overseas buyers, however, also have an added cost in the shape of a 2% Stamp Duty surcharge.

Analysts point to the relative resilience of the UK property market during periods of economic uncertainty buoyed up by the continuing shortage of let property and, therefore, high rental yields.

NFB says Chancellor must honour Green Homes Grant applications

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) has issued a stern warning to the government about the need to restore trust and confidence in the industry following the abject failure of the Green Homes Grant scheme, according to a story in Property Wire on the 2nd of April.

The Guardian newspaper on the 27th of March reported that the government had decided to terminate the £1.5 billion grant scheme after only six months because of serious flaws in its implementation.

Through its present intervention, the NFB insists that the go-ahead is given to fund the completion of every valid application made by homeowners for the grants and ensure that retrofitted energy efficiency improvements are made to the 60,000 or more homes that are concerned.

Failure to honour that obligation risked leaving “a sour taste in the mouth”, said the NFB.

New ground rent legislation explained

A radical shake-up of legislation related to leaseholds promises probably the most far-reaching restructuring of the property market in decades, suggests a report by Property Investor Today on the 2nd of April.

The article explains the reforms that are in the offing thanks to the proposals for legislative reform:

  • granting leaseholders the right to extend their lease by 999 years – a significant extension on the current maximum 50 years for houses and 90 years for flats;
  • in any new-build leasehold flats, the ground rent will be set by law at zero – in other words, there will be no ground rent to pay – under legislation due to come into effect as early as 2022;
  • when the proposed legislation takes full effect, all ground rents will have been phased out because leaseholders will have been able to choose the exact length of their lease, which will be set at zero ground rent;
  • in 2019, reforms stated that all new houses must be sold freehold.

The radical reform of the law on leaseholds is expected to make homeownership cheaper and fairer by abolishing the practice whereby some freeholders forever increase the ground rent yet offer no comparable benefit to leaseholders.