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Study finds standards have improved in rented homes in Britain

Standards have improved in rented properties in Britain but safety, particularly relating to gas and fires, still falls short, according to new research.

Over the past four years, during which time there has been a raft of new legislation relating to the private rented sector, there have been significant leaps forward in landlords’ professional standards, but safety is still compromised in too many rentals, says a report from insurer AXA.

It points out that the sector still has catching up to do on important areas like fire and gas safety. Every rental property requires an annual gas safety inspection but just 58% have had this check in the past 12 months.

Four in 10 tenants say they do not have smoke alarms installed, despite landlords being legally required to fit them on each floor of a property. This is still a marked improvement on 2014, prior to the rule being introduced, when six in 10 tenants lacked them.

Two other key requirements are that landlords provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to tenants, and in England and Wales the Government’s ‘How to Rent’ Guide, which informs them of their rights and responsibilities.

Yet only a third of tenants say they have seen the EPC, up from 19 in 2014, and just 15% of those eligible have received the Government’s mandatory guide.

AXA notes that landlords compromise their rights with these omissions, as those who have not provided the guide, EPC and gas safety certificate cannot evict a tenant under a Section 21 notice.

While recent legislation has increased pressure on landlords to raise their game, there is still little awareness among tenants of basic rights and entitlements. This means vital consumer pressure to push standards up further is largely absent.

Some 75% of tenants did not know their landlord is legally required to ensure a minimum energy rating for the property, and a similar number were unaware of the requirement for EPCs and gas safety checks. Most, some 89%, said it was the tenant’s responsibility to keep any chimneys swept too which is untrue as this is the landlord’s responsibility.

Last year, AXA found that one in 20 rental properties were still rated F or G for energy performance, categories now outlawed from the rental market. This has now fallen to three per cent of properties in the, equating to 150,000 properties nationwide.

Seven in 10 rental properties are now A to C bands for energy performance, but ‘cold hazard’ is still rated the number one health risk associated with living in private rented accommodation.

Indeed, half of tenants surveyed said they feel their rental property negatively impacts their health and poor energy performance was quoted by 21%. Most tenants in this group also cited damp or out of date heating systems at the same time.

Change is afoot, however, as AXA’s latest figures on energy saving features in the private rental sector show that landlords are upgrading their properties at a rapid rate, with figures jumping on smart meters in particular.

It also found that 78% of properties now have full double glazing, up from 73% last year, 26% have smart meters installed, up from 14% in 2017 and 34% have roof insulation, up from 32%.

‘Landlords are getting more professional, and we are seeing standards rise in British rentals, driven by legislation and desire of landlords themselves. We know that many start out as accidentals, and there is a big learning curve for them at the start, particularly as legislation changes so often,’ said Gareth Howell, managing director of AXA Insurance.

‘We find that both landlords and their tenants lag behind, so public awareness campaigns are vital to correct myths and promote new rules and standards. Gas and fire safety should be the priorities here: our research suggests that millions of properties are not compliant with today’s laws,’ he added.

Source: Property Wire

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Rental supply fails to keep up with demand as landlords ‘are pushed out of the market’

Demand for rental property has hit its highest level so far this year, but supply has failed to keep up, letting agents report.

ARLA Propertymark’s July Private Rented Sector Report – based on responses from 191 members – shows that the number of new prospective tenants registered per branch increased from 71 in June to 79 in July, the highest level so far this year.

It matches the previous high reached last September.

However, the supply of available properties moved in the opposite direction to demand, falling from 191 in June to 184 last month.

There are also reports of fewer tenants experiencing rent increases, with the proportion of tenants seeing hikes falling from 35% to 31% between June and July.

David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, said: “Buy-to-let investors are being pushed out of the market by increasing costs and continued regulatory change, and new landlords are being deterred from entering.

“Last month, an average of four landlords took their properties off the market per branch, up from three this time last year – and as supply falls, competition among tenants increases, which pushes up rent costs.

“Almost a third saw their rents rise last month, and although this figure was down from June, it’s still far too high. To put tenants back in the driving seat, we need more homes available to rent, and the only way this will be achieved is if the Government makes the market more attractive for buy-to-let investors.”

Source: Property Industry Eye

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UK property: Tenants to be offered longer tenancies?

Three-year tenancies are being proposed by the UK government, underlining the continued demand for rental property and the need for greater regulation in the sector.

Summary:

  • The UK government is consulting over the minimum tenancy term in the country
  • Under new proposals, tenants would be able to access three-year tenancy terms, helping people to “put down roots” without worries over short tenancies
  • Not only does it underline the growing reliance on the UK’s rental sector, but also the need for greater reform to provide more professional standards of management

UK tenants could soon be able to live in their rental property with three-year tenancies.

New government proposals aim to give more security to renters, with consultations on minimum tenancy lengths likely to continue until August 2018.

It comes at a time when homeownership rates in the country have fallen to 63% in 2017, compared with 72% 10 years’ previous. Of course, while affordability is preventing many people from making it onto the property ladder, there’s also a rising number of tenants that are turning to the rental sector as their long-term rental solution.

Indeed, research published in June found that 70% of UK tenants have no plans to buy a property in the future.

As a result, the UK government has recognised the importance of improving standards for those living in the country’s rental market. Tax reforms in recent years have been regarded as a means of moving the UK away from its traditional, outdated buy-to-let sector, and to instead focus investment into the purpose-built rental sector.

And these tenancy reforms, the government argues, would help those tenants that want to stay in the same rental property for a longer period of time to feel more settled in their home.

“It is deeply unfair when renters are forced to uproot their lives or find new schools for their children at short notice due to the terms of their rental contract,” argued Communities Secretary James Brokenshire.

“Being able to call your rental property your home is vital to putting down roots and building stronger communities.”

Source: Select Property