Squatting in a residential property becomes a criminal offence from tomorrow in England and Wales.
The maximum penalty will be six months’ prison and/or a £5,000 fine.
Trespassing will be where someone knowingly enters a residential building as a trespasser, and is either living there or planning to live there without the owner’s consent.
There will no longer be a requirement for the property owner to ask the trespassers to leave before being able to involve the police.
UNIVERSAL CREDIT: A CLOUD OF UNCERTAINTY? WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:
Over the last couple of years we have tried to keep our landlords upto date with the on-going changes to housing benefits.
In late 2010 we started to publish articles about the pending reductions in LHA that were to take effect from April 2011 and in late 2011 we published further articles about additional changes that affected under 35’s from January 2012 onwards. As a company we try to attend as many local council/private landlord association meetings as possible in order to stay ahead of pending changes and pass our knowledge onto our clients.
The vast majority of tenancies end with the landlord and tenant agreeing over the return of the deposit. Deposit disputes are rare but it makes sense to be prepared, so here are some tips to help you get started:
- Prepare from the start of the tenancy
Ensure you have a clear and concise AST agreement. Conduct thorough, check-in and check-out reports, take photographs and keep invoices and receipts. Remember it is the responsibility of the landlord to prove a deposit should be returned to them, legally the deposit belongs to the tenant until the landlord can prove otherwise. This requires the landlord to prove the starting and finishing condition of a property through a thorough inventory, as part of our tenant find and management service we provide a 366 point inventory.
As all Landlords should be aware, in April 2007 it became Law that all Assured Shorthold Tenancy deposits must be protected in a Government authorised tenancy deposit scheme.
There are three schemes to choose from; the most used probably being the free custodial scheme; the DPS (Deposit Protection Scheme). Whilst it is important to remember the key elements when protecting the deposit, such as making sure it is protected within the set time frames and ensuring tenants are given copies of the Prescribed Information, what is more important is ensuring that you have put the processes in place to ensure that if there is a reason to utilise the deposit at the end of the Tenancy you are able to.
Basic tenant referencing checks are not sufficient to protect a landlord against the possibility of future arrears, research from NGU can confirm, we found 5% of tenants we’ve vetted have one or more CCJ recorded at an undisclosed address.
While this information shows up in basic references – which verifies that the tenant is who they say they are and highlights any background information about the tenant’s history – there is a far more alarming picture which emerges from full referencing checks.
A majority of private landlords have rejected the Government’s welfare reform plans for housing benefit, saying there will not be enough accommodation available.
Releasing details of a survey of over 1,000 landlords across the UK, the Residential Landlords Association and the Scottish Association of Landlords found that 65.2% of respondents do not support the Government’s plans for Universal Credit.
Asked whether there are sufficient numbers of shared properties in their areas to cope with the extra demand as a result of a decision earlier this year to increase from 25 to 35 the age at which housing benefit claimants can claim only for a room in a shared property, 54.6% said there was not.
Avoid burst pipes in a cold freeze-make sure you give this information to your tenants!
How to avoid burst pipes in a cold freeze
1. Know where your stopcock is and how to turn it off
2. Check existing insulation and replace areas showing wear and tear
3. Fully lag all pipes if possible but especially those in unheated areas such as lofts, garages or gardens
4. Get advice about insulation thickness from the experts at a DIY store
5. Isolate and drain outside taps
6. On very cold days, leave the loft hatch open to allow warm air to circulate and prevent pipes from freezing
DPS launches new insurance
backed deposit scheme at cheapest rates on market…….
The cheapest tenancy deposit rates in the market yet have been announced by a new scheme being launched by the Deposit Protection Service.
The new insurance-backed scheme will be in addition to the DPS’s custodial service, and will go head to head with the TDS and Mydeposits – the first launched by ARLA and the second by the National Landlords Association. Another contender, to be run by Capita, has yet to show its hand.
Universal Credit is the biggest shake up to the benefits system in the last 25 years. In a nut shell, when Universal Credit goes live later this year it will mean that any of your tenants on benefits will receive one lump payment per month.
The reasons why one lump payment is a positive thing:
- Your tenants should not rely on the state to manage their money through it being broken down into different payments e.g. child tax credit, housing benefits, income support etc.
- By receiving one lump payment per month universal credit will allow tenants to have the independence to manage their own finances which we all do in the working world.
- A lot of my tenants openly admit that they are bad with money. They find the idea of having to manage their own finances stressful and if it someone else could do it, they would defiantly prefer this.
- The biggest worry for some of my tenants is that they never will have had this amount of money in one lump payment which universal credit will provide. Not only does the tenant need to make sure that they do not spend the rent but also that they have put enough money aside to feed their children because they are use to receiving payments weekly for this at the moment.
- The food shelters in the North East are really worried about universal credit. A contact I deal with in the Middlesbrough food shelter is worried that stereo typical situations will happen-payments will be made monthly, a tenant will not budget properly then in the last two weeks there will not be enough money for the bear essentials creating real poverty.
Now for the GOOD NEWS-breaking news:
Landlords who rent to tenants receiving housing benefit under universal credit will now see the payments being transferred directly to them under a change outlined by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).