All Posts by Charlie Overend

2020: The drive towards more tenant-friendly regulation

The past decade has seen many companies that converge property portfolios, hospitality and travel benefit from an unprecedented pace of growth.

Landlords have long been sat at the head of the table, with the market enabling them to best capitalise on and diversify short-term rental demand across their portfolios. As we head into 2020, however, the market will see a notable shift to better ensure tenants are also given a seat at the table. With change comes complications, though if armed and prepared, the result can usher in a new and improved trajectory.

Regulatory changes are poised to shake up the UK property market in the year ahead, heralding in a new benchmark for the future of landlords. To help assess how to survive, thrive and turn a profit in 2020 and beyond, here is a deep dive into the regulation that lies ahead…

Tenants to be freed from fees

From June 1 2020, The Tenant Fees Act will apply to all private shorthold tenancies, including those entered before June 2019 when the Act was first introduced. This legislation was designed to restrict the type of fees landlords and letting agents could charge tenants, meaning costs such as check-out fees are no longer enforceable by law.

Buy to let property

The push towards banning letting fees comes as no surprise given that, for some time now, tenants have been tasked with paying fees that solely benefit landlords. A key focus for landlords and letting management services should be to ensure that clauses in older agreements will accurately reflect shorthold tenancies. Another core component of this Act for landlords to take note of involves deposits now being capped at five weeks’ rent, or six weeks’ rent on tenancies where the annual rent exceeds £50,000. While existing agreements are still applicable, landlords will need to
reduce deposits to be in line with legislation before the tenancy renews and certainly before June 1.

Bringing all deposits in line with legislation well in advance will help landlords avoid fines ranging from £5,000 to £30,000. Failure to comply isn’t in your back pocket’s best favour.

Existing letting management services will turn to tech solutions to ensure landlords are able to effectively monitor and adapt to regulatory changes.

Fit for a king

Falling short on quality is no longer an option. While The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act is not new to landlords, it will see a heftier addition on March 20 this year. All existing tenancy agreements will now become subject to the Act. While buy-to-let properties may not have traditionally been the focus under this new Act, they will have to ensure they meet the correct standards or risk facing a claim larger than the required repair.

Up until now, the ability to get away with significant flaws or substandard offerings was easier, particularly in London where demand for short-term lets is especially high. With the reality now changing course, landlords must pledge to improve the quality and consistency of tenant experience.

With the spotlight now sharply on landlords to deliver, the pressure of looming deadlines and repair requirements can be a struggle to manage alone. With the help of an integrated management service, advice and support will provide not only how to adhere to the Act but how best to optimise space and the repairs able to stand the test of time and taste.

Efficient energy or else

From April 1 2020, The ‘Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards’ (MEES) will see some additions come into effect. Landlords with residential properties let on existing shorthold or fully assured tenancies must improve their rating to E- by April 1 otherwise an exemption is filed.

The penalties for renting out a property that fails to meet the rating for up to three months will be met with fines up to £5,000 and those over three months may be fined up to £10,000. It won’t stop there, those that provide false or misleading information will also face a £5,000 fine. It is important however to bear in mind that landlords can still legally avoid the regulations if certain special circumstances apply. For one, if landlords can prove that installing energy efficiency measures reduces the value of their property by 5% or more, they can be exempt.

A six-month respite is also on the table for those that have recently become the owner of a rental property.

Buy-to-let set for a bright future

As the introduction of more tenant-friendly regulation picks up momentum, landlords will have to adapt to become more strategic in their portfolio approach. Though this doesn’t necessarily mean the division between landlord and tenant needs to further widen. Instead, it can be an opportunity for all parties to see what can be done to make the market more attractive.

Landlords with multiple properties can effectively tap into or enhance their portfolio in this new landscape with a well-targeted and responsive management service to enable them to optimise their yields across short, medium and long-term lets. Change might be on the horizon, but one thing is for sure, the next decade will see a healthier balance of treatment between tenants and landlords. Property players will move towards a new chessboard strategy and the resources available to help navigate that change in growth are raring to go.

Investors – is it worth buying a property in a flood-prone area?

Britain has faced a challenging winter so far. Flooding has affected most parts of the country, submerging entire villages and forcing people out of their homes over the festive period.

Floods can occur out of nowhere. Burst riverbanks, storm surges and heavy rainfall all cause terrible destruction. Last year, one of our properties was even flooded in London when a waterpipe burst in Finsbury Park. But while flooding could affect every property investor, certain areas are naturally more predisposed to face flooding than others. The question for an investor is, as floods continue to plague our winters, is it worth investing in a flood-prone area?

What are the risks?

Certain areas naturally face greater flood risks. Low-lying areas such as The Fens in East Anglia and the Somerset Levels will often face flooding, with heavy rainfall quickly leading to serious damage to properties.

Coastal areas are also at risk of floods, with coastal erosion and rising sea levels all putting brick and mortar at risk. There are, of course, payoffs to living in these areas. Coastal areas are highly sought after and can make great investments as holiday lets.

Assessing and understanding the risks will, ultimately, give investors a better understanding of whether it is worth their while investing in areas of the country that are likely to flood. Before investing, it is worth checking the risk your property faces. The government has a helpful website that allows you to see both the flood risk for a property and whether a flood warning has been issued.

Although flooding can be unpredictable, what we can say with some assurance is that floods are getting worse. Even if the government’s website suggests a property is not at risk, there is still good reason to consider preventative measures to flooding. As Britain faces more rainfall in autumn and winter, produced by climate change, flooding has become a more constant fixture in the news.

The old stereotype about English people and the weather seems to be changing from inane chit-chat to a genuine issue.

Preventing flooding

There are a number of steps that can be taken to prevent flooding. The most important thing to consider is how water drains away from your property. In the first instance, this means understanding where the water has come from. Allowing water to run off your property is essential to avoiding damage to your interior. Water can effectively be diverted using drainage and, if flood warnings are in place, temporary flood defences such as sandbags and barriers. Natural measures can also be an effective ally in preventing floods. Landscaping gardens can improve drainage and water retention while also acting as barriers to direct flood water and protect the property from significant damage.

Flooded street with benchConcrete, on the other hand, does not allow water to drain away effectively, leading to a higher risk of interior damage. If you live in a flood prone area, grassing your gardens will help manage the flow of water outside your property. However, while it is essential to take out sufficient measures if you do live in a flood-prone area, sometimes flooding emergencies are uncontrollable. Recently, one of our properties was flooded on Queens Drive in Finsbury Park when a water pipe burst. The flooding caused thousands of pounds worth of damage. The moral of the story for investors is that flooding can happen anywhere, so it is worth your while investing in interior flooding measures.

If water does come into your property, there are certain preventative steps that should be taken to avoid serious damage. Installing a damp-proof membrane on top of a concrete floor will prevent water from standing in the property. Likewise, avoid carpeting the property; tiles or floorboards will allow water to run off the property quicker. In order to avoid electrical damage, homeowners should also raise socket heights.

All of these steps can help reduce the damage that is done to your property and reduce the time to recover from any damage. Given that there are many causes of flooding, it is worth considering these measures regardless of whether the property is in a flood risk zone.

Is it worth it?

Ultimately, property investors should work out whether investing in a flood-prone property is worth the risk, and the cost. Completely flood-proofing your property is likely to rack up into the thousands, as is the home insurance for properties in flood-prone areas and ultimately could prove to be futile.

Though there has been some effort to reduce the cost of premiums, they are still likely to be higher if you live in a flood zone.

But there is, of course, a payoff to all of this. Many of Britain’s most idyllic properties lie in flood zones. Whether that is a coastal village or secluded riverside property in the countryside, investors should not abandon the perfect property out-of-hand. Certain steps can and should be taken to prevent flooding, regardless of where the house is situated. For investors who are confident in their ability to minimise the risk, the right investment might certainly be worth the reward.

*Israel Moskovitz is the founder and CEO of the Avon Group. He has over 30 years’ experience as a developer and property manager.

Should investors be considering London’s empty properties?

An ‘astonishing’ £10.7 billion’s worth of properties are sitting empty in London, according to new research by HomeProtect on unoccupied homes.

The overall number of long-term unoccupied (6 months or more) properties in the capital grew by 2.8% between 2013 and 2018 to a total of 22,481, accounting for 0.63% of all properties in the city.

The boroughs of Southwark and Croydon are home to the most vacant dwellings in London, with 1,766 unoccupied properties in the former and 1,521 empty homes in the latter. Continue reading

Brexit blight refuted by UK property market

A majority of active home sellers in the UK are unfazed by political uncertainty in 2019, and only 14% think a no-deal Brexit would strongly impact their decision to sell, new research by Jackson-Stops has revealed.

The estate agent surveyed more than 1,100 of its clients to understand the impact both Brexit and stamp duty are having on their current property decisions. Continue reading

Top tips – how to get maximum value for your rental property portfolio

Increasingly, landlords have had to adapt to stay on top of the trends within the property and lifestyle sector to boost their portfolio’s appeal. The days of basic décor and minimal effort are gone.
Any homeowner looking to turn a profit for their properties must not only select the most appropriate rental model but also ensure their property reflects the tastes of the market.

Not every redesign is made equal, and some homeowners stand to gain a bigger increase in their property’s value than others. Before you invest your money into a renovation, it’s important to identify the factors in line with your expected return and also consider if it is worth evaluating your chosen rental model.

But what is the winning formula and how can you use it to your advantage? Continue reading

Development focus: car park renovations to no ground rent new-builds

It might be best-known for its status as a so-called bellwether seat in general elections, and this week saw Jeremy Corbyn make a major Brexit speech in the Essex town, but Harlow is also home to a number of new developments, including the planned Edinburgh Way scheme.

Weston Homes recently acquired the former Pearson Education HQ car park, with the site bought from developer Land Charter Homes and set to be redeveloped into a £93 million residential scheme providing 361 new apartments. The one, two and three-bedroom apartments will be surrounded by landscaped gardens, while the development is set to be 11 stories high at its peak. Continue reading

Hong Kong residents flock to buy in London amid political and civil unrest

There has been a surge in the number of Hong Kong residents travelling to London to invest in residential property, according to luxury London estate agency Aston Chase.

Amid significant political and civil unrest and tension in recent months – with fears over the Chinese plans for an extradition treaty and Xi Jinping’s government’s growing influence over
the area – Hong Kong natives are seeking a 'safe haven’ abroad and, despite Britain’s own political uncertainty, London is proving to be a favoured destination. Continue reading

Build to Rent continues to thrive research shows

The latest research from global real estate firm CBRE has revealed that the total institutional investment into multifamily housing (much more commonly known as Build to Rent in the
UK) is 20% higher in the first half of 2019 than the same period of 2018.

The total investment in Build to Rent – where institutional investors create bespoke homes specifically for renters, often with various add-ons and residential amenities – was just under £1.4 billion for the first half of this year. CBRE’s UK Residential Investment MarketView for Q2 2019 found that there was £359.4 million of institutional investment into the UK private rented sector in Q2, lower – as expected – than the record volumes seen in Q1. Continue reading

First opportunistic fund launched by Property Partner

A leading property investment platform recently announced that it is launching an opportunistic fund.

Property Partner, which was launched in January 2015 by Daniel Gandesha, said that the current political and economic uncertainty is causing the UK property market to slow, with sellers who need to sell coming under significant pressure as a result. These conditions, the platform argues, offer an ideal opportunity for experienced investors who can move at speed. Continue reading