Agents displaying tenancy deposit scheme logo might not actually use the service at all, confirms DPS

One of the tenancy deposit schemes has confirmed that if an agent displays its logo, it is no guarantee that it is actually using it to protect deposits.

The Deposit Protection Service has told EYE that this is correct.

The matter was raised in a series of twitter exchanges between the DPS and EYE regular PeeBee, who – like EYE – has been taking a close look at an agency which displays a large number of logos.

PeeBee asked the DPS: “How do we go about finding whether an agent is registered with you? Their website displays your logo – but it is displaying several that they aren’t members of.”

The DPS replied: “You would need to check with the agent directly. We only provide logos/stickers to agents who are registered, but even if they are registered, it is no guarantee that they will protect a deposit.”

To this PeeBee replied: “REALLY? 1. I have just ‘lifted’ your logo from the site in question. Took me three seconds – and I could load it on to my own site in another three. 2. What is the point of ‘DPS’ if what you say above is correct?”

The DPS responded, saying: “It is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that the agent complies with current legislation.”

An unimpressed PeeBee responded: “I’m frankly amazed that you seem totally unconcerned that a company is displaying your logo – the ‘old’ one at that – POTENTIALLY without being authorised to do so. #Beggars_Belief

EYE asked the DPS if it is correct that an agent displaying its logo does not guarantee it is actually using the service.

A spokesperson told us: “That is correct.

“Our website has an easy-to-use page where we encourage tenants to check whether their deposit is protected at the DPS (https://myaccount.depositprotection.com/#tenancy/checkDepositStatus), and if landlords have any questions about the status of deposits for their properties, they can contact us at any time to discuss.”

The use of logos by agents is covered by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

There have been a tiny handful of prosecutions brought against agents who have used logos they are not entitled to – typically, NAEA or ARLA.

However, agents who register, for example, with a tenancy deposit scheme and show its logo even if they never actually use the service, seem to be a different case.

Government to review selective licensing as it unveils new guidance for HMO properties

The Government has announced a review into selective licensing to assess how well it is working.

The review will seek evidence from local authorities and bodies representing landlords, tenants and housing professionals, with findings reported next year.

A Government statement said: “In areas where selective licensing applies, landlords must apply for a licence if they want to rent out a property. This means the council can check whether they are a ‘fit or proper person’ to be a landlord, as well as making other stipulations concerning management of the property and appropriate safety measures.

“The review will see independent commissioners gather evidence from local authorities and bodies representing landlords, tenants and housing professionals.

“The review’s findings will be reported in spring 2019. There will be an update on progress in autumn this year.”

It comes as the Government set out guidance for the extension of mandatory licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation and the introduction of minimum room size requirements.

Local authorities have been told to start making landlords aware of the regulations – being introduced on October 1 – and existing licence holders will need to be given extra time to make their properties compliant when they come to renew their licence after deadline.

Currently, HMO landlords require a licence if letting properties that are three or more storeys and occupied by five or more people from at least two separate households.

From October 1, the licensing rules will be extended to HMO properties of all sizes, including two-storey houses and bungalows.

Government guidance published yesterday said: “Local housing authorities have a duty to effectively implement mandatory licensing in their district.

“This means that they must promote licensing in their area and accept and process applications before October 1st 2018.

“We expect local housing authorities to have the framework in place to process and issue licences in advance of this date and to encourage early applications from landlords who are due to become subject to mandatory licensing. Local housing authorities must also ensure that all applications for licences are determined within a reasonable time.”

The guidance also details rules on minimum bedroom size requirements for HMOs, with a fine of up to £30,000 for those who fail to comply.

The minimum sleeping room sizes are:

· 6.51 m2 for one person over ten years of age

· 10.22m2 for two persons over ten years of age

· 4.64 m2 for one child under the age of ten years.

Any area of the room in which the ceiling height is less than 1.5m cannot be counted towards the minimum room size, the Government said.

Local housing authorities are also required to impose conditions specifying the maximum number of people aged over and under ten who may occupy specified rooms provided in HMOs for sleeping accommodation.

Existing licence holders will have to comply with the new minimum room size requirements from when an existing licence is renewed after October 2018.

If a landlord is not compliant at the time of renewal a local authority must give them up to 18 months to make changes.

Commenting on the announcements, David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, said: “Licencing doesn’t work, and it never has done. The Government’s aims are laudable; we’re all striving for the same end goal of improving the private rental sector for consumers, but these policies are impractical.

“Licensing means councils spend all their time administering schemes, rather than enforcing against rogue, criminal landlords – a fact which has been proven time and time again over the last decade. Implementing standards for minimum bedroom sizes means small, cheap bedrooms will be taken off the market at a time when there’s an acute housing shortage.

“This will increase costs for other tenants living in the property, and means those who need or want these small, cheap bedrooms will be left without anywhere to live.

“The announcement, coupled with the gradual removal of mortgage interest relief, new energy standards for landlords, and the ever-increasing fees for these schemes, means landlords are being hit from every side.

“At a time when the Government is concerned with rising rent costs, all its policies are just increasing costs for landlords, fostering a private rented sector where financial burdens due to ever-changing legislations will keep rising.”

Estate agent publishes his first novel – set in a VERY steamy estate agent’s office

An estate agent has written his first novel – a steamy tale of sex, jealousy and lies, not to mention the everyday thrills and banter of working life.

Secrets of Agent 13, by Chidi Duru, is the story of a young estate agent whose life is changed when a beautiful, twice-divorced and stupendously wealthy woman calls the office for a valuation.

And the appraisal visit is, well, a bit more exciting than most, with Colin Benz – aka Agent 13 – being well and truly put through his paces.

Author Duru, 50, pictured, is the managing director of London estate agency Samanthajane – which he set up 13 years ago and which is named after his wife.

He describes his book’s hero as a young estate agent with big dreams and a willingness to take risks.

As to the book, he thinks other agents would find it a “good read while waiting for that late client to turn up”.

Secrets of Agent 13 is available from Amazon in paperback (374 pages) at £9.50, with Kindle downloads at £2.24.

You can read free sample pages here:

https://read.amazon.co.uk/kp/embed?asin=B07DR419H7&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_bYokBbJKQZGW4

Misery on stock market continues for Countrywide and Foxtons

Shares in both Countrywide and Foxtons fell heavily yesterday.

Countrywide shares sank to 90p, rising only slightly to finish at 91.8p – 5.85% down over the day, giving it a market capitalisation of £232m. Countrywide shares have been lower, at 70.5p  in April, but four years ago they were 686p.

Foxtons shares hit a new low and fell by almost 4% to finish the day at 58.7, giving it a market capitalisation of £168m. At one point yesterday, they had sunk to 57.8p. On its first day of trading on the stock market, in September 2013, the shares hit nearly 300p and went to 386p in March 2014.

By contrast, Purplebricks’ shares yesterday soared almost 4%, ending at 356p and giving a market capitalisation of over £1bn. However, Purplebricks shares are still trading below a high of over £5 last August.

Separately, property consultant Cushman & Wakefield has announced plans to float as a public company.

Russell Quirk due to speak to City analysts on the state of the housing market and online agents

Emoov boss Russell Quirk is to be the speaker at a confidential, and highly influential, City lunch next week organised by analysts at the bank JP Morgan.

He is due to speak on the housing market, trends in the industry, the influence of the internet and how it has affected estate agency, and on specific new start-ups.

Quirk’s views are described as likely to be ‘key’ to analysts’ verdicts on the likes of Purplebricks and Rightmove.

RICS member estate agents told they must sign up to one of two remaining redress schemes

Agents who are RICS members have been told that they need to be registered with either the Property Ombudsman or the Property Redress Scheme, following the withdrawal this August from the market of Ombudsman Services: Property.

The RICS yesterday announced that it has appointed the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution as its default Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider for its member firms.

However, CEDR will not be able to process complaints relating to estate agents, letting agents or property managers, as these activities require additional approvals from the Government.

The RICS said it is working “collaboratively” with Ombudsman Services and CEDR to ensure that all its member firms have the necessary ADR provision throughout the transition period.

The organisation also said it would be in further communication with members as details are finalised.

Propertymark and agents’ charity sign memorandum of agreement

Chris Brown, chairman of Arbon Trust, and Chris Hamer, chairman of Propertymark, signed a memorandum of understanding at the AGM of Propertymark held in London last week.

It sets out how both bodies will support and work together for the benefit of both parties.

In particular Propertymark agrees to use its wide range of facilities to assist in the promotion of the Arbon Trust as it develops its fundraising activities and support for members, their staff and families who may have fallen on hard times and need a helping hand.

http://www.propertymark.co.uk/arbon-trust.aspx

Seventeen letting agents fined by one council in £150,000 transparency crackdown

A letting agent that is now in liquidation and two branches of Foxtons have been named among 17 letting agent offices fined by one authority for failing to comply with legislation.

Tower Hamlets, in London, investigated 401 letting agents and landlords between July 2016 and the end of this May to check compliance with regulations such as fees transparency and displaying how a deposit will be protected.

The council described it as a crackdown on hidden fees.

Tower Hamlets didn’t go into detail for each case but revealed that a total of 27 letting agents, landlords and managing agents have been fined a combined £150,000.

Fines issued ranged from £1,000 to £10,000.

Two Foxtons branches – one in Wapping High Street and one in Canary Wharf – received fines.

Those who have been fined are required to immediately make adjustments to meet legislation requirements. The council says it will carry out further checks shortly to ensure this has been implemented.

Another agent on the list, Citiside Properties – which received negative press coverage earlier this year over the accuracy of its listings – voluntarily wound up the company in April, appointing Edge Recovery as a liquidator.

Citiside was previously a member of The Property Ombudsman but no longer shows up on the membership database.

EYE has tried to contact Citiside Properties on several occasions but has not received a reply.

A TPO spokesman said: “Citiside Properties Ltd ceased to be members in April 2018 as the company ceased trading.”

A spokesman for Tower Hamlets said the law only lets councils chase companies rather than individuals for payment, so if an agency is in liquidation the money has to be written off.

John Biggs, mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “We are committed to ensuring people wanting to live in our borough are not exploited by rogue letting agents or landlords. We will not tolerate individuals or organisations actively trying to mislead our residents.

“The majority of letting and managing agents in Tower Hamlets successfully help people to settle within our diverse and growing borough. It’s disappointing that a small number are acting dishonestly and misleading people looking for a new home.”

Cllr Sirajul Islam, deputy mayor for housing, said: “We are protecting our residents by ensuring they have all of the information needed prior to renting their property. Transparency from letting agents, managing agents and landlords is imperative to ensure the process is fair for everyone involved.”

The full list of letting agents and managing agents fined is below:

(Some letting agents appear twice if they have been fined for different matters but there are 17 standalone branches in the list)

Name Address Address Type of business
Avas Residential Flat 6, Express Wharf 3 Hutchings Street Lettings
London Corporate Apartments 93-101 Greenfield Road Managing agent
Flatsgo 1 College Yard Lettings
Flatsgo 1 College Yard Lettings
London City Home Estate Agency Ltd 409 Roman Road Lettings
Flatsgo Residential Ltd Unit 11 58 Marsh Wall Lettings
Flatsgo Residential Ltd Unit 11 58 Marsh Wall Lettings
Quick Rent Properties t/a Quick Property Group Suite 11, Ensign House Admirals Way Lettings
Privilege Property Managers Ltd 5 Indescon Square Managing agent
London Corporate Apartments 93-101 Greenfield Road Managing agent
G Crawford Management Services Limited 453b Westferry Road Managing agent
Calingford Limited t/a X-Press Link Ground 172 Commercial Road Lettings
Sterling De Vere 120 Chrisp Street Lettings
X-Press Link Property 124-126 Stepney Way Lettings
Keystone Properties Keystones 146 Roman Road Lettings
A.R.S. Properties 1 Brady Street Lettings
Ridlee & Stroud 17 Fordham Street Lettings
Prestige Lettings Ltd 11 Greenwich Quay Lettings
Field and May 10-16 Tiller Road Lettings
S 3A Management Ltd Flat 2 63 Commercial Street Managing agent
Foxtons Canary Wharf Ground Floor Level, Little Unicorn 20 Canada Square Lettings
Foxtons Limited 75 Wapping High Street Lettings
Citiside Properties 222 Bow Common Lane Lettings
London City Home Estate Agency Ltd 409 Roman Road Lettings
Kenneth Lloyds (E1) Ltd 91 Burdett Road Lettings

Home ownership now cheaper than renting in every single part of the UK

Owning a home is now cheaper than renting in all parts of the UK – once you can actually get on the housing ladder.

The claim comes from Santander which says households could save £2,268 a year if they were able to purchase a property rather than rent.

This is based on HomeLet data showing that the average monthly rent in the UK is currently £912 per household, compared with monthly repayments of £723 for the average first-time buyer.

This then gives home owners a saving of £189 a month or £2,268 a year compared with renters.

The bank’s research is based on some bold claims, though. It uses Land Registry data to take an average first-time buyer house price of £213,462 and assumes a 76% loan-to-value mortgage at 2.48% with no fees.

There is also a regional breakdown showing the biggest annual savings are in London, at £3,468, while the smallest difference is in the east of England at £516.

There is also the issue of first-time buyers raising a deposit, which Santander puts at £51,905.

Asked how they would raise these funds, one in five said they would consider selling shares in the property, 38% would move back in with their parents while saving for a deposit and 21% said they would give up alcohol to raise the funds.

Miguel Sard, managing director of mortgages at Santander UK, said: “Many first-time buyers understandably focus on the challenge of saving for a deposit and wonder how they will afford a property. However, it is often assumed that when you purchase a property you will be under greater financial pressure, and our research shows the reverse is true.

“Of course, buying a property is a major financial investment with upfront costs to consider, but long-term the financial benefits can be significant.

“With annual savings averaging well over £2,000 this can really mount up over time and of course once the mortgage is paid off you have a valuable asset to show for it.”

UK region

Average rent

Average FTB house price

Average FTB deposit

Average monthly FTB mortgage repayment

Amount better off buying (per month)

Amount better off buying (per year)

London

£1,569

£420,500

£134,660

£1,280

£289

£3,468

Northern Ireland

£629

£131,076

£30,435

£451

£178

£2,136

North West

£689

£149,816

£29,877

£537

£152

£1,824

Scotland

£644

£142,329

£28,311

£510

£134

£1,608

Yorkshire and The Humber

£623

£143,810

£27,527

£521

£102

£1,224

West Midlands

£679

£168,287

£35,207

£596

£83

£996

South West

£799

£212,062

£50,514

£723

£76

£912

South East

£998

£276,807

£67,866

£935

£63

£756

Wales

£596

£146,557

£27,135

£535

£61

£732

North East

£509

£123,189

£22,712

£450

£59

£708

East Midlands

£622

£161,682

£32,816

£577

£45

£540

East of England

£905

£252,158

£59,553

£862

£43

£516

United Kingdom

£912

£213,462

£51,905

£723

£189

£2,268

 

Will centralising the search process make home buying simpler and quicker? Yes – but not just yet

Could search digitisation be an historic step in improving the home-moving process?

Hopefully yes, but it’s unlikely for many years to come .

Under the Infrastructure Act 2015, responsibility for the 326 Local Authority Land Charges registers will be transferred to HM Land Registry in a phased approach beginning very shortly.

HMLR claims that taking the decision to go live with Warwick District Council next month will be a historic step forward in the Government’s ambition to make the home-buying process simpler, faster and cheaper.

Just for clarification, HMLR are not looking to take over the supply of an entire Local Search, just Land Charges (as prescribed in the revised legislation) and are only doing so for English local authorities. Welsh authorities have continued to resist this change.

The plan is to digitise 26 of the 326 local authority areas in England between now and the end of next year, with the rest to follow in the years to come, using a phased approach depending on the readiness of the local authorities themselves. The reality is that the process could go on, and on, until 2030.

However, at Warwick District Council from July 11:

  1. There will no longer be such a thing as an Official LLC1 and CON29 Search at this authority.
  2. A land Charges Search (no longer called an LLC1) needs to be carried out with HMLR.
  3. A CON29 search still needs to be carried out with Warwick District Council.

One search supplier asked the Land Registry who would answer questions on the subject of Land Charges. It replied by saying that they would be directed to the local authority.

But the local authority will no longer hold the records and they will, possibly, have made all of their experienced Land Charges officers redundant as a result of the Government’s decision to centralise the information.

Further details of the Local Land Charges programme can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hm-land-registry-local-land-charges-programme/local-land-charges-programme

I am a great believer in innovation and modernisation and hope that the long-term benefits of this project prove worthy of the time, effort and money being spent now.

Just to clarify, conveyancers can continue to use their existing suppliers/agents.

I would like to thank Index Property Information and Conveyancing Data Services for contributing to the above.

* Rob Hailstone is founder of the independent conveyancers’ association, The Bold Group