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Almost £750k in tenancy deposits stolen by letting agents this year alone

Rogue letting agents have reportedly been convicted of stealing more than £750,000 worth of tenancy deposits so far this year – and one campaigner believes this figure could be the tip of the iceberg.

Analysis from anti-deposit campaigner Ajay Jagota of Dlighted shows courts have found at least 15 letting agents guilty of illegally pocketing renter’s deposits in 2017 so far, with an average theft of £48,091 per conviction.

Jagota, who wants to see more landlords and tenants to use his company’s deposit-free renting service, claims that hundreds of renters have been ripped, with at least one landlord or letting agent convicted every single month.

Jagota of North East letting agency Keep It Simple and deposit-free renting solution Dlighted said: “Within the next four years, almost £6bn will be held in tenancy deposit schemes, roughly £4bn of which will retained by letting agents and landlords. Not only is this money missing from the UK economy, it is far too easy for it to go missing altogether.

“It’s simple – if renting is deposit free, it isn’t possible for people to steal deposits. Not only does deposit replacement insurance better protect property investor’s assets and offer them compensation for legal fees and lost rent – as well as making it easier to find and keep good tenants – it also prevents crime.”

All three tenancy deposit schemes operated by MyDeposits, Deposit Protection Service (DPS) and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) are clear - deposit money must be placed in a completely ring-fenced account and not touched by the agent or landlord for any business purpose. But Jagota believes that there is a common misconception in the industry that to do so it completely legitimate.

He continued: “Almost £2m which landlords and letting agents have been convicted of stealing, is in my opinion and many of those in the industry, nowhere near the true scale of money misappropriated from tenancy deposit accounts with an alarming number of operators apparently happy to use money from tenancy accounts for other business purposes.

 

“Much of this money will be put back, but much of it won’t – and the fact money is missing will only ever be uncovered in the event of company collapse or criminal investigation. The legislation the government will be bringing forward to cap deposits is also the ideal opportunity to do something about this scandalous situation.”

 


Article courtesy of Landlord Today | Sign up for Landlord Today newsletter | Get this news on YOUR site!


Landlords step up post-Grenfell fire safety checks

A number of buy-to-let landlords are taking measures to check the fire safety of their buy-to-let properties in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, according to new research.

A survey of 500 private landlords, carried out by FWD Research on behalf of Simple Landlords Insurance, found that a third (32%) had checked their fire alarms, and 15% had instructed a professional to carry out a fire risk assessment.

Landlords of houses in multiple occupancy (HMO) and flats were among the most proactive over past month, with fire alarm checks being conducted in half - 50% - of HMO properties and 35% of flats. These properties also saw a higher than average number of professional checks, with 39% of HMO and 22% of flats being visited for professional assessments.

Various other measures have been undertaken by landlords, including the checking of construction materials and contacting the freeholder regarding fire safety checks, while 17% of landlords also said that they had installed a carbon monoxide alarm.

But gas safety remains a major issue for many buy-to-let landlords, with just 83% of respondents conducting gas safety checks within the last 12 months, despite the fact that landlords are required by law to have a Gas Safe-registered engineer check all gas appliances at least once a year.

The majority of the remaining landlords (11%) fell between the 12 and 18-month bracket - and an alarming 4% said it had been more than three years since their last gas safety inspection.

Alex Huntley, head of operations at Simple Landlords Insurance, said: “Fire safety is clearly on the agenda for landlords in the UK, with a little over half taking positive action in the last month alone. Landlords have a legal obligation to protect tenants under fire safety regulations, particularly those with large or shared properties.

“Gas safety is also of paramount importance, and although on the whole the survey has shown a positive and responsible response from landlords, they must understand their obligations; fire and gas safety must never be left to chance.”


Article courtesy of Landlord Today | Sign up for Landlord Today newsletter | Get this news on YOUR site!


BTL landlords ‘remain resilient’ despite ‘ever-changing property marketplace’

But-to-let landlords are a resilient bunch of people who continue to adopt a ‘positive’ attitude towards the private rented sector (PRS) despite justifiable concerns about the existing state of the economy and recent tax changes introduced by the government, a new report claims.

Fresh research by landlord insurer Direct Line for Business shows tax is a major issues for many landlords as they begin to feel the effects of the phasing out of the tax relief that they get for financial costs such as mortgage interest, which has started to be restricted to the basic rate of income tax.

Greater regulation, such as the Right to Rent checks, is also a major concern for 40% of landlords surveyed who admitted to being nervous about the increased risk of prosecution and higher penalties. 

Negatives in the landlord outlook for the short term

Factor

% Negative impact

Taxation

41 %

Economic uncertainty

41 %

Inflation

40 %

Regulation

40 %

Competition bringing rental process down

38 %

Source:  Direct line for Business 2017

But despite short-term concerns, almost a third (31%) of private landlords surveyed said that they remain positive about house prices improving in the short-term, while 29% are also confident that the low interest rate environment will continue for the near future, which partly explains why 32% of landlords surveyed are planning to remortgage their properties.

More than a quarter – 27% - of landlords are also optimistic that domestic demand for rental properties will remain buoyant and that the international market for UK properties will remain high.

Perhaps surprisingly, the UK leaving the European Union doesn’t rank in the top ten short-term concerns for landlords, suggesting they don’t think it will have an immediate impact on the property market.  Indeed, 28% of landlords said they thought Brexit would bring positive benefits for landlords.

Short term positives in the landlord outlook

Factor

% Positive impact

House prices

31 %

Interest rates

29 %

Domestic demand for rental properties

28 %

Brexit / Triggering Article 50

28 %

Foreign demand for UK rental properties

27 %

Source:  Direct line for Business 2017

Christina Dimitrov, business manager at Direct Line for Business, said: “It’s great to see landlord’s being resilient towards the ever-changing property marketplace and it’s really positive to hear they don’t appear to be worried about Brexit and the impact on demand.

“The continued low interest rate environment can only benefit landlords and tenants. However, experts are predicting an interest rate rise in the future and the Prudential Regulation Authority’s tougher underwriting rules for buy-to-let mortgage lenders may bring some challenges for landlords wanting to expand their portfolios.”


Article courtesy of Landlord Today | Sign up for Landlord Today newsletter | Get this news on YOUR site!