|House prices expected to continue rising – April 13, 2021
Figures from Halifax on Friday show house prices rose 1.1% during March, the biggest increase in six months. In annual terms, prices rose 6.5%, the strongest reading in four months and taking the average house price to a record high £254,606, Halifax said. The lender added that it expected the upturn to persist in the next few months as consumer confidence grows on the back of Britain’s swift COVID-19 vaccine rollout. “However, with the economy yet to feel the full effect of its biggest recession in more than 300 years, we remain cautious about the longer-term outlook,” Halifax added.
|What a Covid vaccine could mean for the property market – March 29, 2021
The coronavirus vaccine roll-out is going far better than any of us could ever have imagined, with more than a third of adults having already received their first dose, allowing us all a glimmer of hope of a return to normal life.
We still have a long way to go but in the short term, the vaccination programme is injecting much more than the power to create antibodies into our systems; it’s giving us confidence – and we all know that consumer confidence is intrinsically linked to the success of the property market.
Despite the economic uncertainty of 2020, the property market rode the storm remarkably well, with house prices stimulated by the stamp duty holiday as well as a general desire for more space at home and easier access to green spaces outdoors.
In 2021, the success of the vaccine roll-out is already having a positive impact on the economy, with the Office for Budget Responsibility predicting GDP will grow by 4% this year and regain its pre-pandemic level in the second quarter of 2022, six months earlier than it forecast last November, just before the vaccination programme began.
But there are still many hurdles to overcome and the economic picture could look very different once the government’s life support system of grants and reliefs is finally switched off.
For example, the business rates holiday has been extended to the end of June but after that commercial tenants – or, in the case of vacant properties, their owners – will once again have to foot the bill once any subsequent empty property relief comes to an end. And for those who own multiple commercial premises which cannot be let due to lack of demand, that bill could be a huge one.
We have already seen an increase in commercial properties being offered for sale by auction. Many of these are tenanted but their owners are astute enough to future-proof their portfolios rather than waiting to see if their tenants’ businesses can survive without government support.
These landlords are already anticipating that there won’t be enough tenants to go round, increasing the cost of ownership and potentially having a negative impact on values, making them reconsider if their commercial properties are assets worth hanging on to.
In the residential property market, the stamp duty holiday has boosted both demand and prices and its extension will have been welcomed by many. But unpredictable sale-to-completion times means even the new deadlines carry an element of risk and this unpredictability has already driven many private sellers and estate agents to take advantage of the speed and certainty of auction, many for the first time, to ensure completion takes place before the deadline.
Not all extensions have been welcomed so warmly within the property industry, namely the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions in England now runs until the end of May. When this is lifted, there could be a huge backlog of cases to work through, meaning landlords are unable to take possession of their properties as quickly as they’d hoped and still have their own overheads to cover. Many landlords will choose to cut their losses instead, selling their property with a tenant in situ to free up capital to reinvest later.
We can expect more movement in the whole of the property market this year, as by summer, most of us should have been vaccinated and feeling more comfortable about heading back out into the world.
Feeling fortified by the protection bestowed by the vaccine, not only will people be keen to socialise, eat out and go on holiday – all of which we hope they will approach sensibly – they should also feel more confident about considering the next stage of their lives.
After a year of living in limbo – whether furloughed or swamped by work – many people will be ready for change, perhaps a new home or a new job. Couples may be ready to move to a bigger property to provide space for a home office or to accommodate a growing family. Alternatively, months of close-quarter living may have put undue strain on the relationship and they may be looking to move into two smaller properties following a split.
Arla Propertymark’s Private Rented Sector Report showed a surge in demand for rental property in January, rising to 81 registered prospective tenants per branch from 64 in December, and I expect demand to remain high throughout the year.
Shrewd investors will anticipate this increased demand and buy now so they have rental ready homes to let when they are needed. This will also enable them to take advantage of the extended stamp duty holidays, potentially saving thousands even when the 3% second homes surcharge (4% in Wales) is taken into consideration.
Preparing a home to let creates work for tradespeople, while tenants and buyers alike will be eager to put their own stamp on their new homes with furniture and décor items, again illustrating the important links between the property market and the wider economy.
As the economy begins to recover, job opportunities may open up to graduates, who may need to relocate, while other young adults who have been living with parents will be more than ready to spread their wings. For this age group house shares and HMOs, particularly those with big communal spaces, will remain a popular choice as a reaction to the loneliness and isolation that many single people felt during lockdown.
We all know that consumer confidence – or lack of it – is a critical component in the property market, with the ability to drive prices up or down. Similarly, rental increases are ultimately driven by tenants’ ability to pay, which is naturally linked to the state of the economy. So if the successful vaccine roll-out can boost the economy as well as allow us to hug our families and meet our mates at the pub, then we should all feel able to look forward to much brighter days ahead.
|Stamp duty holiday boosts sales by almost 140% – February 23, 2021
The stamp duty holiday has restored housing transactions to the highest level since 2007, according to the Centre for Policy Studies. Following an initial sharp decline in sales between April-June 2020, the number of transactions increased from 132,090 in the second quarter to 225,870 in the third and 316,300 by the end of the fourth – the highest level since before the global financial crisis in 2007-08. The think tank’s research shows that stamp duty revenues actually rose by 27% in the third quarter compared to the previous three months, from £1.1bn to £1.35bn, and suggests they will rise again in the last quarter of the year given the continued increase in transactions. The stamp duty holiday has helped hundreds of thousands of homeowners – the CPS’s research shows that 87% of people buying a primary home escaped the deeply unpopular tax thanks to t he holiday, a figure which rises to 93% outside of London and the South East.
|Landlords have no choice but to evict after new Universal Credit hitch – February 9, 2021
Landlords with tenants on Universal Credit are struggling to set up Alternative Payment Arrangements because the UC portal is closed to new claimants.
As a result, some landlords are obliged to serve notice on tenants according to specialist advice service Caridon Landlord Solutions.
It says the Department for Work and Pension is overwhelmed by new claims, and in response the department has closed access to the portal for new claimants.
“The pressure that DWP must be under due to the rise in claimants is enormous, but when tenants are struggling to meet their rent payments, we know that APAs not only have a significant impact on limiting arrears, they also help to sustain the tenancy” says Sherrelle Collman, Caridon’s managing director.
“The government wants landlords to support tenants, but there has to be a middle ground. The landlords we are speaking to say they are going back and forth on the phone, only to be told they will be called back by a case manager, then hearing nothing” she continues.
“We’ve seen a 20 per cent uplift in landlords wanting our assistance to set up APAs, and all were at the point where they were considering serving notice to their tenants because they had no other choice.”
Last year the DWP launched an online landlord portal to allow landlords to verify rent and submit managed payment requests online, rather than by email.
This meant if a tenant was having difficulty meeting rent payments, the landlord could request to set up an APA, ensuring the housing element of the tenant’s Universal Credit payment would be paid directly to the landlord.
Many tenants, particularly in the social sector, find this an easier way to help them budget.
However, Caridon says that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people claiming Universal Credit across the UK has risen from 2.9m in February 2020 to 5.9m in January 2021.
Many of these people will be tenants who previously signed up to private tenancies based on their income at the time, but due to Covid-19 are now facing changes to their employment status and finding that Universal Credit simply does not cover their rent.
Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action – who is also inundated with calls from desperate landlords – adds: “Universal Credit faces heavy criticism from landlords and tenants at the best of times. If landlords are now confronted with yet another barrier to access direct payments, it is inevitable that many more landlords will be encouraged to serve notice on those tenants in receipt of Universal Credit, which goes against the government’s intensions.”
And he continues: “Clearly the government needs to provide more resource to facilitate the onboarding and management of the Universal Credit system so that landlords and tenants can work together.
“Many landlords with tenants who have suddenly had to start claiming Universal Credit are aware that their tenants cannot meet previous rental payments, but if a portion of it is allocated to the landlord then that provides a temporary solution for both parties, helping to sustain the tenancy for longer.”
|Living large – rents for larger homes spiked in Q4 2020 – January 26, 2021
UK rent levels continued to rise faster for larger properties during the last quarter of 2020, according to The Deposit Protection Service (The DPS).
Its latest quarterly Rent Index, which is based on 1.8 million current tenancies, shows that the average monthly cost of renting a detached property in the UK between October and December 2020 was £1,055 – 2.83% more than in the previous quarter and 5.71% more than Q4 2019.
Average rent for semi-detached homes increased to £847 in Q4 2020 – 2.29% more than in Q3 and 4.05% more than in the same period the previous year.
While the rate of increase in the cost of renting a flat rose faster in Q4 than earlier in the year, it grew at a much slower rate than larger properties, reaching £803 – 1.01% more than in Q3 and 1.13% more than in Q4 2019.
Matt Trevett, managing director at The DPS, says: “Lockdown has meant many more people are spending longer at home, including far more extensive remote working, and as a consequence more tenants are seeking larger properties with more space.”
“While there seems to be a particular focus on detached and semi-detached properties, the rental market as a whole remained remarkably resilient throughout much of 2020, despite broader economic uncertainties and restrictions that affected home viewings and public movement during the first national lockdown.”
Which region saw declining rents?
Rents in London continued to drop during Q4, standing at £1,317 – 0.38% lower than in Q3 and 2.08% less than the previous year.
This drop was biggest in Central London, where average rent was £1,377 in Q4 2020 – 1.01% less than Q3 2020 and 3.77% less than the same period in 2019.
Unsurprisingly, the capital remains proportionately the most expensive area to rent, with costs standing at 39% of average UK income.
Two other regions experienced a decline in average rent between Q3 and Q4 2020 – the North East, where it fell 1.70% to £520, and Yorkshire, which saw a fall of 2.15% to £546.
The North East remained the cheapest region during Q4 2020, with rents 23% of the average UK income.
|Asbestos: what are your responsibilities as a property owner? – January 14, 2021
It’s common knowledge that asbestos is a highly damaging group of microscopic fibres that can severely impact the health of our lungs if inhaled. Many wonder if there is an actual need for asbestos considering how dangerous it can be if not dealt with correctly.
As of 1999, the use for asbestos was banned in the UK. However, during the 1950s-80s, asbestos was commonly used in buildings due to its strong resistance to chemical attacks, its poor ability to conduct heat, and its overall superb tensile strength.
With this in mind, it is important that property owners take on the responsibility of checking their buildings for this substance in order to protect their occupancies.
Asbestos and the dangers it involves
As previously mentioned, asbestos was a mineral fibre commonly used in building structures and additional maintenance work such as water supply lines, roofing materials, and for building insulation.
But when asbestos is inhaled, the fibres become trapped within your alveoli where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. Since the fibres are lodged, they can irritate and scar lung tissue, resulting in damage or scarring of your lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
Although the immediate effects of inhaling asbestos may not be noticed at first, this can severely impact your health later in life. Health conditions such as asbestosis — an inflammatory disease that results in the scarring of the lungs — are a potential risk. In addition to this, cancer of the lungs can occur.
Taking health and safety seriously
With this in mind, finding out if there is a presence of asbestos in your buildings is essential. Before proven otherwise, always assume that there is.
Firstly, hiring a company that specialises in asbestos is advised to conduct an asbestos survey. They will be able to determine the locations, conditions and extent of asbestos within the property. After recording where the presumed asbestos is located, putting together a plan or drawing to illustrate where exactly this is should be done.
By hiring an asbestos company to do this for you, they will know the next steps to take in terms of the removal of the asbestos and whether it is in a damaged or disturbed condition. After this analysis has been concluded, it is essential you take on board their advice and follow their instructions on what to do next.
Are you a landlord? Here’s the asbestos need-to-knows
To help prevent your tenants being exposed to asbestos, Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 outlines that landlords have certain responsibilities towards this. Depending on the extent of the maintenance and repair of non-domestic premises the tenant agreed to, this will decide the degree of legal duty landlords have.
For those that rent out properties, the same concept applies. For all the ‘common’ areas the building includes, you have the responsibility to ensure no potentially harmful asbestos containing materials are found. These common areas include:
Boiler and plant rooms
It is always important that you are aware and up-to-date with all the information regarding the responsibilities you have as a landlord to protect your tenants from exposure to asbestos.
The consequences of not caring
As previously mentioned, depending on the extent of the legal duty both the tenant and the landlord have agreed upon in their contract, it can be up for debate who is responsible for dealing with asbestos issues. If the agreement excuses the landlord from any statutory compliance, this would mean that the tenant is obliged to comply with all common law and codes of practices that are presented — meaning the landlord would not be held accountable for any issues with the property.
To add, it will also give the landlord the right to take direct action against the tenant for breaching their lease conditions.
Although, if this type of contract isn’t present, the responsibility usually is in the hands of the landlord. But again, this could differ if the tenant holds the greatest accountability over the premises.
As the Landlord and Tenant act of 1985 states, the property must be fit for human habitation before it can be leased. Part of this act states that any asbestos material that is in unsafe conditions must be dealt with before the property can be leased. If this is not the case, legal actions may be taken with the landlord.
|Call for government to review stamp duty holiday – January 7, 2021
The government should review its stamp duty holiday after implementing a national lockdown, industry stakeholders have claimed. Lee Birkett, founder of JustUs, called for the extension on the stamp duty cut on purchases of homes up to £500,000 in England and Wales, which was introduced in July. He said the stamp duty holiday was a “welcome boost”, adding that the industry also needs “a robust housing policy to replace Help to Buy and help mortgage prisoners”. Separately, Andrew Montlake, managing director of mortgage broker Coreco, said he “would not be surprised” if the lockdown leads to an extension of the stamp duty deadline, with a Treasury announcement possible by the end of the week. CrowdProperty chief executive Mike Bristow said any stamp duty extension should come alongside other measures, including incentives to increase the nation&rsquo ;s property inventory.
|Government to publish New Code of Practice for Commercial Letting – December 6, 2020
On 29 May 2020 the Government announced an intention to issue a new Code of Practice to provide high street businesses and landlords with clarity and reassurance over rent payments. The purpose of the new Code of Practice, which will be developed between Government and Trade Associations, is to support high street businesses through the Coronavirus pandemic. The Code will help to guide and encourage parties to work together to protect viable businesses and ensure swift recovery.
A working group has been established by the Government to develop the Code with a view to encouraging fair and transparent discussions between landlords and tenants over rental payments during the pandemic. The guidance will also cover rent arrear payments and treatment of those who are subletting and suppliers. It is hoped that it will enable collaboration and cooperation within the sector to ensure that no one part of the supply chain shoulders the full burden of payment.
The group has indicated that they will seek to involve wider business input through its sector members to ensure a greater number are consulted and able to share their views prior to the Code being published.
Community Secretary, Right Honourable Robert Jenrick MP, said that he expects all parties to come to the table so that our high streets and town centres are in the best possible position to come back from these challenges. He hoped that the new Code would give “clarity to landlords and tenants who are both facing equal pressures on their finances so they are all able to stabilise their finances and bounce back”.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, stated that “we continue to work with lenders to ensure flexible support is provided to commercial landlords, including payment holidays and restructuring facilities, and it is right that where landlords receive support, they extent this to their tenants”. This statement appears to be contrary to the experience a number of commercial landlords are facing when dealing with their lenders, where they are coming under increasing pressure to meet their obligations, which they then have no option but to pass on to their tenants.
The Code will be temporary in nature and the Government is considering options to make it mandatory, if necessary. It is expected to be published prior to the next quarterly rent payment date.
It is expected that ahead of the June payment day, all main commercial lenders should be in contact with their major commercial landlord borrowers to identify concerns that they have and provide support where appropriate. How productive those discussions will be remains to be seen.
The Government has already sought to introduce a package of measures for the commercial sector which includes the following:
Measures under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to prevent any business being forced out of their premises if they miss a payment until 30 June 2020.
|UK house prices hit 10-year low in May – November 6, 2020
British house prices were at a 10-year low in May, according to a survey by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), but there are signs that confidence is returning to the market after the government lifted its coronavirus lockdown for buyers and sellers in England. Rics said its headline house price balance slumped to -32% in May, its lowest since 2010, from -22% in April. But expectations for house prices in 12 months were less negative than a month earlier and new buyer enquiries recovered from a record low of -94% in April to -5% in May. Near-term sales expectations were now broadly neutral and the 12-month outlook improved, Rics said.
|Valuers share COVID-19 inspection requirements – November 5, 2020
Valuation and audit services provider, VAS Group, have canvassed 40 of their top valuers during lockdown who shared with them feedback on their minimum requirements for property inspections. The resultant list of criteria for inspections included building keys to be left separately with a two-meter exclusion zone maintained. Properties should be vacated, and people told in advance that a surveyor will be attending; doors should be left open with lights on and all communication conducted via phone or email. If anyone is unable or unwilling to abide by these, it would result in the cancellation of the appointment. Most valuers are not currently looking to do HMO or student accommodation. Valuers should wear PPE and taking require precautions regarding hand sanitisation pre and post inspection.
|Buy-to-let tax relief changes for landlords – October 4, 2020
The new tax year got underway earlier this week, bringing with it a new set of rules.
Since April 2017, the amount of money landlords can write off for tax purposes has dropped 25% year-on-year.
From this month landlords will no longer be able to deduct any of their mortgage expenses from rental income to reduce their tax bills and instead they will receive a tax credit, based on 20% of mortgage interest payments.
The reforms to mortgage interest relief are likely to adversely affect many buy-to-let landlords, as the new system will potentially increase tax bills in a number of ways.
Higher and additional rate taxpayers will no longer receive all tax back on mortgage repayments, as the credit will only refund tax at the basic 20% rate.
In addition, as landlords must declare the income used to pay the mortgage in their tax returns, they could now be forced into a higher tax bracket as a consequence.
The government was urged last week to consider postponing upcoming tax changes because of the COVID-19 outbreak, but chose to proceed with the changes anyway.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and the National Landlords Association (NLA), now part of the newly formed NRLA, wanted to see the government delay implementing the final part of the loss of tax relief on borrowing to buy a rented property.
In a joint statement, the RLA and the NLA said: “To support landlords in this we are calling for a package of measures from government and mortgage providers. This includes a temporary scrapping of the five week wait before Universal Credit claimants get their first payment, pausing the final phase of restricting mortgage interest relief to the basic rate of income tax and ensuring lenders look sympathetically on requests by landlords for mortgage payment holidays where their income is being affected through reduced or non-payment of rent.”
|COVID-19: Lending industry updates – September 4, 2020
With CBILS struggling to have the desired impact, UK Finance have shared data revealing that just 2,022 loans (totalling £291.9m) have been drawn down through the loan scheme. Their figures reveal that just over 300,000 applications have been made so far, meaning a paltry 0.65% of enquiries have resulted in a coronavirus business loan. Some lenders are blaming British Business Bank officials for delays, citing a lack of resources and cumbersome processes. Elsewhere, NACFB brokerage Bespoke Business Finance, have launched a guide for borrowers and brokers that seeks to help navigate the many potential CBILS ‘traps’ for the unwary applicant. Precise Mortgages have shared a useful guide to help those adjusting to working from home. And finally, a petition has been launched pressuring the Government to provide a COVID-19 support package for directors and shareholders of small limited companies, in line with that offered to the employed and self-employed.
|Stamp duty holiday could save average English buyer £7,000 – July 7, 2020
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce plans in his Summer Statement for a temporary stamp duty holiday that could save the average English buyer £6,915 – and make 88% of English property transactions exempt from the tax, according to Savills. Mr Sunak is predicted to raise the threshold at which buyers start paying tax on their purchases from £125,000 to as much as £500,000. The holiday would come into effect at the moment analysts are expecting the economic impact of coronavirus to hit the property market hard. Both mortgage holidays and the furlough scheme are due to end in the autumn, meaning there could be a spike in forced sellers, and a fall in the number of people able to purchase.
|2m taking mortgage holidays – July 5, 2020
Analysis by Capital Economics shows that around 2m home-owners are on mortgage holidays. This equates to almost a fifth of mortgage holders in the UK and is 400,000 more than the last official figure of 1.6m. The analysis looked at data from the five biggest banks and scaled up for the wider industry, including building societies. The five largest banks, which account for 57% of residential mortgages, reported 1.15m customers on mortgage holiday last week, led by Lloyds with 404,000 and Barclays with 238,000.
|75% see BTL investment as ‘worthwhile’ – June 1, 2020
A survey conducted by Perrys Chartered Accountants shows that 75% of people still believe that investing in buy-to-let is worthwhile, with the proportion jumping to 83% among millennials. Among reasons that may deter people from BTL investment, 28% said Brexit uncertainty was a factor, while 29% pointed to increased tax and stamp duty rates.
|Day two of ‘simple, quick, and easy’ Bounce Back loans – May 5, 2020
Lenders received more than 45,000 applications yesterday for the new Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS). As outlined by Rishi Sunak last week, the BBLS scheme went live at 9am on Monday morning, with Barclays seeing 200 applications in the first minute and Lloyds 5,000 within three hours. The new loan scheme is designed to complement the existing CBILS facility and is available for loans of up to £50,000. Brokers should note that the BBLS and CBILS loans cannot be used in conjunction with each other. Last week, the number of CBILS loans agreed was 8,638, down from more than 9,000 the previous week. Of the 52,807 loans applied for, almost 28,000 have still to be approved. The NACFB has also issued guidance to all Members yesterday, advising brokers to signpost all BBLS enquiries straight to an accredited lender on the scheme.
|Watchdog calls for end of mortgage payment holidays – April 8, 2020
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has suggested that homeowners struggling with mortgage repayments should not be offered payment holidays, saying that that further breaks are “unlikely to be the appropriate solution” for borrowers. While lenders have been offering three month repayment breaks on mortgages, credit cards and personal loans amid the coronavirus crisis, the FCA says new measures may be more appropriate, such as extending the term of the loan or allowing borrowers to resume payments at a lower level than they were before the crisis. Analysis shows that while one in every five mortgages in Britain went unpaid at the peak of the crisis, far fewer borrowers applied for a second three-month pause on payments.
|Growth in buy-to-let business predicted – April 2, 2020
An increase in buy-to-let mortgage business over the next year is predicted on the back of strong remortgage levels and portfolio expansions, with research by Paragon finding a fifth of brokers expect more buy-to-let business this year, compared to 11% who believe there will be less. Richard Rowntree, managing director of mortgages at Paragon, commented: “Buy-to-let lending has been driven by remortgage business in recent years, so it’s great to see the proportion of lending for portfolio extension purposes increase and hit its highest level for nearly three years.” He went on: “It’s also encouraging to see that the balance of brokers expecting to write more buy-to-let business is positive for 2020 as confidence has been subdued for much of the past four years.”
|House prices and mortgage approvals fall – March 6, 2020
House prices fell 1.7% in May from the previous month to an average of £218,902, the largest monthly fall for 11 years, according to Nationwide. As well as the biggest monthly slump since February 2009, annual growth in house prices slowed to 1.8% from May 2019, down from 3.7% in April and the slowest rate since December. Elsewhere, Bank of England data show a record collapse in mortgage approvals in April, with 15,800 home loans given the green light. This marks an 80% dip on February, when the market had yet to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The figures represent the lowest monthly total since Bank of England records began in 1993.
|What will the election mean for the markets? – December 12, 2019
The Telegraph’s Tim Wallace looks at various predictions for the market with different election outcomes, with ING predicting 10-year bonds could almost double to 1.5% by late 2020 under a high-spending Labour government. However, investors favour Labour’s Brexit plans as they are much closer to simply remaining in the EU than the Conservatives’ proposals.