Landlords ‘to pay higher mortgage premiums for properties below minimum EPC standard’

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Landlords have been warned within the government’s Heatings and Buildings Strategy that they face having to pay higher mortgage premiums if they buy or remortgage properties that do not meet minimum EPC standards.

The proposals are part of, and run alongside, the government’s plans to make Britain ‘net zero’ by 2050.

But despite 17 million out of the nation’s 29 million homes being EPC band D or below, the government expects the scheme to be voluntary and market-based at first, using the lure of lower interest rates offered by lenders to persuade landlords and home-owners to upgrade their properties.

The scheme will have to be ambitious to succeed – the government estimates the cost of upgrading these 17 million homes to be up to £65 billion.

But if the green mortgage scheme is not successful and housing stock upgrade targets are not met then the government is proposing to make it mandatory for lenders to have all properties within their managed portfolios reach EPC Band C by 2030.

The lending market is at least beginning to respond – some lenders now have ‘green mortgages’ which offer lower interest rates for eco homes But progress has been slow.


“While green mortgages are potentially a good way of encouraging the implementation of energy efficiency measures, the current low mortgage interest rates in the market are likely to reduce their effectiveness in this regard,” says a spokesperson for the National Residential Landlords Association.

“The Government’s English Housing Survey confirms that the private rented sector has the highest proportion of older dwellings of all tenures, with 32% built pre-1919.

“The cost of upgrading these properties to the highest energy efficiency ratings is significant, and the savings of a green mortgage are unlikely to be sufficient to cover this.

“What is needed in the future is a more strategic approach which recognises the specific challenges facing many landlords in the private rented sector is needed.”

The strategy document also proposes to prevent new-build homes from connecting to the gas grid in England from 2025.

A recently-closed consultation on requiring all rented properties to meet a minimum EPC band C by 2030, with an announcement expected later this year.

©1999 – Present | Parkmatic Publications Ltd. All rights reserved | LandlordZONE® – Landlords ‘to pay higher mortgage premiums for properties below minimum EPC standard’ | LandlordZONE.

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Calls for major reform of business rates ahead of Cop26

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The CBI and 40 industry trade associations have issued a statement calling on the Chancellor to consider sweeping reforms of the business rates system in the forthcoming Budget later this month, emphasising the urgency of reform.

Combined, the statement represents the views of employers of around 261,000 businesses and nine million employees, including British Retail Consortium, UK Hospitality and SMMT. They are arguing that reform of the long derided business rates system is essential if the Government is to reach its green investment targets.

Autumn Budget

The autumn Budget will take place on 27 October and these trade associations think this is an ideal time to reform what they collectively see as an outdated and outmoded business rate regime which acts as a drag on the Government’s goal of a high wage, high productivity and high investment economy. They think that reform of the system could unleash a wave of business investment which will lend support to the key Government priorities of working towards net zero and levelling up.

Currently, as the system operates, 50 per cent of business investment is potentially subject to business rates. The system thereby actively acts as a disincentive to new business investment and to decarbonisation. Without new investment there will be no improvement in the all-important productivity rates, the only sustainable route to higher wages, the statement argues.

CBI Chief Economist, Rain Newton-Smith, says:

“Action to get investment flowing into and around the UK is sorely needed to reinforce our recovery. The Government deserves credit for convening the supply chain advisory group to unblock temporary challenges, but as we’re seeing with energy prices, there is no substitute for longer-term planning and investment.

“The Chancellor has an opportunity to fix this, starting with fundamental business rates reform at the Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review. By setting out an approach which attracts investment, he can equip the UK with the tools it needs to secure the high wage, high productivity and high skill economy of the future.

“With up to half of business investment potentially subject to business rates, it has literally become a tax on investment. Action to stimulate investment, starting with business rates reform, unites firms spanning the whole economy. If the government is serious about achieving its net zero ambitions, kicking reforms further into the long grass cannot be the answer.”

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, says:

“Sky high business rates are closing stores up and down the country and preventing new ones from opening. A recent BRC survey found that four-in-five retailers will be forced to close shops unless the rates burden falls following the Government’s upcoming Fundamental Review. Without change, the areas most in need of levelling will be hit hardest, and the Government’s levelling up agenda will fail. The choice is clear – cut rates and boost investment and jobs, or leave them unchanged and see more shops closed and jobs lost.”

Business Rates Consultation

Following a recent business rates consultation and review the Government has confirmed that policy announcements on business rates are to be made this autumn. The statement reminds Government that UK business need to see “fundamental reform of the system” if it is to address these long-standing barriers to investment.

The forthcoming business rates revaluation is coming two years later than planned and seven years after the last revaluation, a delay that has made worse an already dysfunctional system.

Major shocks to the system

The statement argues that the current system creates “major shocks” to businesses and local government revenue streams, and the system is not responsive to economic conditions. The current five-year revaluation cycle means that “over time businesses are often paying rates based on out of-date valuations.”

The system involves a “long and technical process of valuation, and a lack of correlation between the rates and businesses’ ability to pay”, plus the annual changes in the business rate multipliers, all combine to make the system opaque and hard for businesses to navigate, says the statement.

The business rates appeals system also creates financial uncertainty for local authorities. There is constantly a large volume of appeals to the Valuation Office Agency and the delays in solving these cases creates uncertainty for authorities, meaning they may have to refund several years’ worth of rates to businesses, playing havoc with their budgets.

Finally, the current system can reward perverse behaviour as it rewards large “space-hungry developments” often out of town, often to the detriment of town and city centres.

©1999 – Present | Parkmatic Publications Ltd. All rights reserved | LandlordZONE® – Calls for major reform of business rates ahead of Cop26 | LandlordZONE.

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Eco Clampdown on landlords and fines of up to £5,000

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New support for councils to raise awareness and enforce rules banning landlords renting homes with worst-performing energy efficiency ratings has been announced by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

Along with a campaign to fund local radio ads

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Was this landlord right to be fined over his ‘agricultural tenancy’ repair failures?

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A landlord who failed to repair his tenant’s property, arguing that it was not his responsibility under an agricultural tenancy, has been fined £8,500 despite a leading property law expert questioning the veracity of his enforcement notice.

Jonathan Clough Williams-Ellis, 62, who owns Parc Glasfryn near Pwllheli and other properties, was found guilty of ignoring an improvement notice to repair damp and other issues at his 220-year-old farmhouse.

He has been fined £2,250 and ordered to pay £6,250 towards costs and a £190 victim surcharge by Caernarfon Magistrates Court.

A previous hearing heard that the businessman “buried his head in the sand” when ordered to tackle damp and other issues at his tenants.

Williams-Ellis, 62, insisted it was his tenant’s responsibility to deal with problems inside the property because they had a tenancy agreement under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, while he looked after the outer walls and roof.

Magistrates disagreed, saying responsibility for the property lies with the landlord regardless of any contractual arrangements.

The court heard the authority had sent out an Improvement Notice in 2019 to do the work on the five bedroom, two-storey, detached building, including repairing damp, installing a mains-operated fire alarm and other issues.

Wilful blindness

Chairman of the bench Elfed ap Gomer said Williams-Ellis had shown “wilful blindness” in not complying with the improvement notice over the damp.

However, David Smith, property solicitor at JMW, says the landlord should have appealed the notice at a tribunal as it shouldn’t have been served on him.

He tells LandlordZONE: “It wasn’t the most appropriate penalty. The local authority should have taken the type of tenancy into account and replaced it with a Hazard Awareness Notice.”

Under an agricultural tenancy, landlords usually have to repair and maintain the outside of the property, the heating system, gas water and electricity.

They can claim compensation at the end from tenants for disrepair such as not repairing the farmhouse in line with the obligations in the agreement.

©1999 – Present | Parkmatic Publications Ltd. All rights reserved | LandlordZONE® – Was this landlord right to be fined over his ‘agricultural tenancy’ repair failures? | LandlordZONE.

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Student HMO market in ‘rude health’ as pandemic weakens PBSA rivals

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The fast growth in purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) is unlikely to displace HMO stock, which continues to attract the bulk of the student market, according to new research.

StuRents, which manages some 160,000 properties nationwide, estimates that there are 870,000 HMO beds in the UK, making up 70% of all private stock or 55% of all accommodation, which has proved particularly resilient during Covid.

It reports that enquiries from domestic students for HMOs followed the usual seasonal trend, while uncertainty around international travel, proposed teaching methods, and the pandemic resulted in a slow lettings cycle for PBSA – which tends to attract more international students.

StuRents’ annual report on the sector shows that the average weekly cost of an HMO bed increased by 3.4% year-on-year to £104 compared with a PBSA bed which increased by 0.2% to £158.

calum macinnes student rentals

Calum MacInnes (pictured), founder of Student Tribe, says it doesn’t foresee PBSA stealing significant market share.

“Even if the PBSA players were to cut their prices, the desire of the domestic student to live with their mates in an environment which resembles the security of home life but with the excitement of being with your friends, who either live with you or near you, is an intoxicating mix,” says MacInnes.

The most important driver for investment into PBSA has been the unrelenting growth in Chinese students.

StuRent believes the biggest risk for PBSA operators is a decline in demand and notes the slowing annual rate of growth; in 2019 the number of Chinese students studying abroad grew by 6.3% compared to sustained double-digit growth a decade earlier.

Planning application activity across the UK has also slowed since 2016. In the first seven months of 2021, fewer than 15,000 PBSA beds were put forward compared with 32,000 for the same period in 2017. Activity in Coventry and Cardiff for example, has all but dried up, a sign that investors have moved on from these locations.

Read more: Ultimate guide to student landlording.

©1999 – Present | Parkmatic Publications Ltd. All rights reserved | LandlordZONE® – Student HMO market in ‘rude health’ as pandemic weakens PBSA rivals | LandlordZONE.

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Tenants – It’s getting worse unless you see both sides and write your MP

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Tenants, your rents are getting more expensive. It’s getting worse for you unless you see both sides of the story and write to the MP’s.

The Green Party wants a 1% tax on All Landlords property. Because they say we’ve had rent increases of 6.6%.

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