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First up was Richard Arnold, the Station Manager at Bromley Fire Station on Fire Prevention and Security in the Home
He informed us on The smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, outlining the responsibilities of landlords, followed by advice that officers give during their Home Fire Safety Visits such as positioning of smoke alarms and what rooms require carbon monoxide alarms.
Personally I found his tip about not buying third party iPhone chargers and leaving them on at night or during the day very poignant to my family – apparently they are the most common reason they get called out to house fires – that and dishwashers being left on in the night and still drawing power. Long gone are the days of the chip pan fire being the reason for house fires!
More information about your obligations as a landlord can be found on this handy fact sheet from the Essex Fire Service.
Next up was Alison Broderick, Planning and Property Manager with Platinum Property Partners Ltd on “Challenges and Opportunties: – Planning for Landlords”
Alison covered permitted development rights and how they affect landlords, and HMOs and recent changes in planning.
She reminded us that basements come under Permitted Development rights, so no need for planning permission. You can also extend eight meters from the rear of a building – as long as this is measured from the original wall, not an existing historic extension, otherwise you need to take into account the existing extension within the allowance.
The property use class of ‘sui-generis’ was explained – not something we personally come across at Daisy Lets & Sales, as we don’t deal with larger mandatory HMOs, but at least one landlord in the room benefitted from some advice on dealing with extending her HMO to over 7 tenants. It has been widely reported that HMOs are now where the larger money can be made as a landlord, and many are pondering a change of strategy in their portfolios due to all the tax changes. Planning in respect of HMOs is a complicated area however and anyone wishing to extend or change their property into a large HMO would do well to seek out the professional advice of someone like Alison first before taking the plunge.
Another point of note is that it is highly likely that a change will come in around October this year requiring an HMO (House of Multiple Occupation with five or more tenants forming more than two households) of any number of floors to have a license – not just properties over three floors as it is now.
This of course is separate to Southwark’s ‘Additional’ (three or more tenants forming two or more households) and ‘Selective’ (any household in certain zones) licensing schemes which are already running and require Landlords of the properties falling within those schemes to have licenses regardless of the number of floors.
Currently Lambeth have no Additional or Selective licensing schemes running and Lewisham only requires landlords to obtain a license if the property is above a commercial premises. Croydon also have a blanket Selective licensing scheme, so all landlords must pay for a license. None of these boroughs have Article 4 directions applicable preventing requiring planning permission for HMOs unlike some other London boroughs.
For more information on Licensing Schemes and to be kept up to date on changes, the London Property Licensing website is a very good resource.
Richard Blanco, East London Representative, National Landlords Association gave us his top 10 Challenges for London Landlords. He outlined challenges that London landlords are currently facing; including tax, regulatory changes and Brexit. He has published information to go with his talk on his website – I would recommend taking a look as it was interesting listening with some facts and figures and changes on BTL portfolio mortgages along with comments on the idea of restructuring into corporation to mitigate tax – all of which may surprise you.
This excerpt may tempt you to read on as it looks beyond the popular belief that restructuring would save tax in the long run:
“This example really focuses the mind. The mortgage on my last purchase at 1.99% costs me £8,815 per year. If I had a Commercial loan at 4% – a typical rate – my mortgage payments would costs me £17,720 per year. That’s £8,905 more. Landlords need to decide whether they would pay as much tax if they kept the property in personal ownership.”
Lastly Alex Hill, Key Account Manger, Property Services, at The Sheriffs Office gave a talk on Enforcement and Security for Landlords including how to deal with evicting tenants and enforcing court orders effectively.
If this is an issue you would like to know more about, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) hold training days dealing with evictions and it’s well worth attending even if you intend to use an eviction service like Landlord Action so you know the process.
If you are a landlord managing your own properties, I would recommend joining either the NLA or RLA. We are being reminded in the media recently that there are 400+ regulations landlords need to adhere to now, and both associations run online and offline training for amateur landlords. As an industry we need to make sure standards are high to avoid more heavy handed regulation, and landlord education forms part of this process. Of course, if you are time poor and don’t want to fall foul of the law, then we are here to help with our full management service – give us a call!