Category: News (5)

We believe no-one should have to sleep rough

  • Stronger advice and information duty

Legislation should more clearly set out the types of housing advice and information local authorities must provide to people before they become homeless or are threatened with homelessness. Services that deliver this should be designed to be able to meet the needs of people who are at particular risk of homelessness through working with local public and voluntary organisations.

  • A prevention duty for all eligible households

This new duty should be owed to all eligible households who are threatened with homelessness, regardless of priority need and intentionality. Local authorities would have to demonstrate that they are taking reasonable steps to prevent homelessness. Examples of these steps, including mediation with landlords, support in managing debt or an offer of alternative accommodation would be included in the legislation. Local authorities would also be empowered to intervene much earlier, for example almost as soon as an eviction notice is served. People would be considered as ‘threatened with homelessness’ if they are at risk of losing their accommodation within 56 days, rather than within 28 days, as is currently the case.

  • A relief duty for all eligible homeless people who have a local connection

If a local authority is unable to prevent an applicant’s homelessness, they should have a duty to take reasonable steps to help secure accommodation regardless of priority need and intentionality. Local authorities could help to secure accommodation in a number of ways, including offering accommodation in social housing, providing a grant or loan, or advice and advocacy to help secure a tenancy in the private rented sector. The relief duty should last for a period of 56 days. When the relief duty has ended, an applicant would be assessed to see if they were eligible for the main homelessness duty. People who are unintentionally homeless and in the priority need groups set out in current legislation would continue to be offered settled accommodation. The prevention and the relief duties would only apply if applicants cooperated with local authorities’ efforts to help.

  • A duty to provide emergency accommodation for people who are homeless and have nowhere safe to stay

We believe no one should have to sleep rough. If someone has nowhere safe to stay they should be entitled to emergency interim accommodation. Local authorities would have a duty to secure this accommodation. Applicants would only be able to access emergency interim accommodation under this duty for a maximum of 56 days and on no more than one occasion every six months. A robust assessment would ensure the duty was only applied to people without anywhere safe to stay.

The Home Office’s evaluation of Right to Rent checks has been released and explains exactly what landlords need to do to fulfil their obligations.

The Immigration Act 2014 brought in sweeping changes and introduced new obligations that buy-to-let landlords must comply with. One of these changes is the requirement to complete Right to Rent checks to ensure all tenants have the correct immigration status to rent a property in the UK. Failure to comply with the new regulations could result in a fine of up to £3,000 per tenant.

The new rules are to be extended across the UK on 1 February 2016, after initial trials in the West Midlands. They will make it a legal requirement for all private landlords, or their agents, including those sub-letting or taking in lodgers, to check new tenants have the right to be in the UK before renting out a property.

What checks must you complete?

The government has issued a code of practice for landlords to follow, including guidance on avoiding unlawful discrimination, which has been drawn up with the assistance of the Human Rights Commission.

Within 28 days before the start of a new tenancy, you must make checks for:

  • All adult tenants (aged 18 and over)
  • All types of tenancy agreements, written or oral

Tenants in some types of accommodation will not need to be checked. That includes:

  • Accommodation involving local authorities
  • Social housing
  • Care homes, hospitals and hospices
  • Hostels and refuges

 When making your Right to Rent checks, you need to complete the following steps:

  • Check which adult tenants will live in the property as their only or main home
  • Ask tenants for the original documents that show they have the right to be in the UK
  • Check the documents are valid while the tenant is present
  • Make and keep copies of the documents and record the date you made the check

 What documents do they need?

When checking the prospective tenant’s documents, you are looking for one of the following:

  • A UK passport
  • European Economic Area passport or identity card
  • Permanent residence card or travel document showing indefinite leave to remain in the UK
  • Home Office immigration status document
  • Certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen

You need to make sure that:

  • The documents are originals and belong to the tenant
  • The dates for the tenant’s right to stay in the UK haven’t expired
  • The photos on the documents look like the tenant
  • The dates are the same on all documents
  • The documents aren’t too damaged or look like they’ve been changed
  • If any of the names are different on the documents there are supporting documents to show why – marriage certificate, divorce decree etc.

If a tenant has an outstanding immigration application or appeal you can check that person’s right to rent by using the Landlords’ Checking Service. If the tenant is arranging their tenancy from overseas, you must check their original documents before they start living in your property.

Copying the documents

The landlord must make a copy of the documents provided. Landlords have to keep these copies for the duration of the tenancy, and then for at least one year afterwards. Documents containing personal or sensitive data must be stored securely and original documents must not be kept.

 What about existing tenants?

Existing tenants with agreements that started before 1 December 2014, or renewals of those tenancies after this date, are not affected by the checks as long as there’s no break in the tenancy and any renewed agreement is made between the same people.

How can we help?

You can also ask any agent that manages or has let your property to carry out the checks for you. At Open House Torbay, we can complete the right to rent checks on your behalf, ensuring total compliance and peace of mind.

t: 01803 659 000



Government grants might have been scaled back, but there is still support out there for buy-to-let energy efficiency improvements if you know where to look.

Energy efficiency is one of the most important facets of a rental property for prospective tenants. At the top of the desirability tick list is a comfortable and well maintained interior, a nice neighbourhood and a location that’s close to work, but energy efficiency follows closely behind.

Experienced tenants understand just how much difference the energy efficiency of a rental property can make to their living costs, so those in the know will always take a property’s energy efficiency rating into account before they make a decision.

Unfortunately for landlords with inefficient properties, government support has been scaled back in recent months with the end of the Green Deal and the reduction in feed-in-tariffs for solar panels. However, for buy-to-let landlords who know where to look, there is still some help available.

The staples of energy efficiency

Tenants are not looking for properties with energy generating photo-voltaic cells or wind turbines to power the washer-dryer, but they do look for a few basics when considering their choice of rental property.

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) takes account of factors such as the insulation, heating and hot water systems in the property, as well as the ventilation and the fuels used. The EPC rates the energy efficiency of the property on a scale of A to G, with an ‘A’ rating reserved for the most energy efficient homes. The average property currently in the UK is a band D or E.

Tried and tested methods of improving the energy efficiency of your property, without costing the earth, include:

  • Insulating the loft while allowing ventilation to circulate around it
  • Insulating the hot water cylinder and water pipes
  • Fitting a new energy efficient boiler
  • Installing cavity wall insulation
  • Installing high quality double glazing
  • Fitting a water meter if there is not already one in place

A landlord’s obligations

From 2018, all rented properties must have a minimum energy efficiency rating of ‘E’ before they can be let. Any landlords who fail to comply with these regulations can be fined or banned from letting the property.

In April 2016, all tenants will be given the right to ask their landlord for consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements. The landlord will only be able to refuse the request if it is deemed to be ‘unreasonable’.

However, the majority of forward thinking landlords should seek to make their properties more energy efficient if they are not already efficient enough. Energy efficient properties help to attract and keep tenants, and in our experience, happy tenants make happy landlords.

What kind of support is available?

Before paying for improvements in energy efficiency out of your own pocket, it’s worth checking if there are any local council or energy provider schemes in your area to help you foot the bill.

Support for everyone

  • Solar panel feed-in-tariffs – Landlords in England, Scotland and Wales can all benefit from feed-in-tariffs for solar panels. However, this is being reduced drastically from January 2016, so the returns you can expect will be considerably reduced. Take a look at the Energy Saving Trust website for details of the feed-in-tariffs in your area.
  • Biomass fuels – There are also incentives available in England, Wales and Scotland for the installation of heating systems which burn biomass fuels.

Landlords in England

  • Support from energy companies – The government is no longer backing the Green Deal, but energy companies are required to help make properties more efficient. More than a billion pounds has been set aside under the Energy Companies Obligation for insulation and energy saving improvements to reduce heating costs. However, this is targeted at vulnerable or low income households. so not all properties will qualify.

Energy efficient properties are easier to let and make for healthier, happier tenants. At Open House Torbay, we specialise in placing professional tenants in high quality accommodation to remove the worry of void periods and rental arrears. Please get in touch today to find out how we can help you.

 t: 01803 659 000



We break down the findings of an 11-page HMRC consultation document to help you understand exactly what the new wear and tax relief rules mean for you.

By now, the vast the majority of you buy-to-let landlords will be familiar with the changes that are being made to the current wear and tear allowance. If you’re not, then the relatively old news is that from April 2016, the formal wear and tear allowance – which allows 10 percent of rental income to be written off for notional wear and tear, even if there has been no actual expenditure in that year – will be replaced with a relief which allows all landlords to deduct the cost they actually incur on replacing furnishings in the property.

Now, an 11-page consultation document has been published by HMRC, which announces the full scope of the changes. This article aims to break all that down into more palatable bite size chunks so you know exactly what is expected of you.

The HMRC consultation

Perhaps the most important change is that while the old wear and tear allowance applied only to fully furnished properties, the new tax relief will apply to all landlords of residential properties regardless of the level of furnishings. This removes the current uncertainty about whether a property is sufficiently furnished to claim the new replacement furniture relief.

The new relief will only apply to the replacement of furnishings. The initial cost of furnishing a property will not be included. The relief entitles landlords to claim a deduction for the cost of replacing furnishings, appliances and kitchenware provided for the tenant’s use. This includes:

Movable furniture such as beds or suites

  • Fridges and freezers
  • Carpets and floor coverings
  • Televisions
  • Curtains
  • Linen
  • Crockery and cutlery

Fixtures that are integral to the property, which would not normally be removed if the property was sold, will not be included. However, these items are tax deductible as repairs to the property itself. This means landlords will no longer need to concern themselves with whether the item being replaced is a fixture (and therefore a repair to the property) or not, as in either case the cost can be deducted from their rental income.

This includes items like:

  • Baths
  • Toilets
  • Sinks
  • Boilers
  • Fitted kitchen units

The difference between replacements and improvements

The consultation document makes it clear that if a replacement item represents an improvement to the property, the part of the cost that relates to the improvement would not be an allowable expense.

The consultation defines an improvement as something ‘the new asset can do that it could not be used for before’. For example, if you replaced a washing machine for a washer-dryer, the drying element is a definite improvement. If the washer-dryer cost £500, and the cost of a replacement washing machine was £300, you will only be able to claim tax relief on the £300.

The administrative impact

This change will be accompanied by an additional administrative burden for landlords that currently claim the wear and tear allowance. No longer will they simply be able to claim 10 percent of their rental income in tax relief for improvements they may have not even made. Instead, they will need to keep a detailed record of their actual expenditure. However, in practice the real burden will be slight, as landlords already keep detailed records of their other expenses.

What do the changes mean for you?

If you’re unsure of the impact of these changes on you or any of your properties, the team at Open House Torbay will be more than happy to help. Get in touch today:

01803 659 000