Thousands of private sector tenants in Scotland have failed to collect their deposit when they moved out of their home, it has been discovered.
Staff at tenancy deposit scheme SafeDeposits Scotland have calculated that money due to tenants amounts to more than £500,000.
Tenancy deposit schemes were introduced in July 2012 and since then more than 156,000 deposits have been repaid by SafeDeposits Scotland. While millions of pounds have been returned to tenants at the end of their leases, a small proportion of people don’t claim back the money that is due to them. It is those people who SafeDeposits Scotland are trying to track down.
A large proportion of missing tenants are students, according to the firm. With the start of the academic year, September is the busiest time for deposits being paid both in and out. The busiest day sees almost 90% more deposits being paid in than the average day through the year.
Just over 2,000 tenants have ended their leases without claiming back the money due them, totalling more than £500,000. The clock is ticking and if deposits aren’t claimed back within six years, unclaimed funds go to the Crown, a process which will start in 2018.
SafeDeposits Scotland’s finance team do everything they can to reunite former tenants with their money including sending letters to forwarding addresses, emailing, calling and texting. While successful in the majority of cases, some people are more elusive. Money cannot be paid directly back into accounts as this isn’t information that tenancy deposit schemes have been given.
The Scottish Government introduced the tenancy deposit scheme in 2012 to make deposits safe for tenants. When landlords and agents take a deposit from a tenant they’re required by law to lodge the money with one of three approved schemes who ring fence the money until the end of the lease.
SafeDeposits Scotland is the largest of these three approved schemes in the UK, holds an estimated 60% of all private rental deposits and the only scheme to be based in Scotland.
‘It’s extremely surprising that people can leave their rented property and forget to ask for their deposit back. The vast majority of tenants remember to claim their money but there’s a small minority who don’t,’ said Jennifer Paice, chief executive of SafeDeposits Scotland.
‘Our finance team do a great job in tracking most of them down but there are a significant number they can’t get hold of. We don’t think it’s right that people lose out on what’s due to them so we do everything we can to try and get people the money they are owed,’ she added.
Confidence in European housing market has hit a plateau at a time when unaffordable prices are forcing people to live with parents or put off having children, according to new research.
Overall some 56% of people in Europe expect house prices to rise in the next 12 months and as a result 33% are delaying important life decisions, the homes and mortgages 2016 report from ING suggests.
But a breakdown of the survey data covering 15 countries shows that there are vast shifts in outlook across Europe and the most dramatic shift has been in the UK, where expectations of rising house prices fell by 13% prior to the referendum on its future in the European Union.
Following the Brexit vote the question was repeated and the number who expect house prices to fall grew 16%. It means that 46% of people in the UK now believe house prices will rise in the next year, the lowest proportion since the first survey was conducted in 2012.
Falling interest rates are one factor that can typically influence house prices. Across Europe, Luxembourg at 28% and the UK at 26% have the largest share of people who report that low interest rates have pushed up house prices where they live.
However, in all but two of the countries included in the study, when asked how the fall in rates has affected house prices where they live, some 39% of respondents say they ‘do not know’, indicating that few actually understand the effect on house prices.
Unaffordable housing is having an impact across Europe. Some 60% of people find that house prices where they live are expensive and 33% are putting their lives on hold as a result. Those affected admit to putting the brakes on their futures, with 29% being forced to live with others, 22% saying they feel trapped in their current jobs and 16% delaying having children.
High house prices are resulting in 24% of people finding it difficult to pay their mortgage each month, reaching highs of 41% in Poland and 40% in Romania.
As a coping mechanism, some 46% are compromising on their housing choices whether they rent or own their home. Of those who have compromised and are unhappy with their situation 39% moved to areas they do not like as much and 39% settled for a smaller home while 37% of those who are unhappy with their housing today say they opted for houses in poor condition.
Despite these challenges, 46% want to buy a house in the near future and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to call their place their own. Some 41% of people in Europe admit to curtailing spending a lot in order to buy, although this proportion rises to a survey high of 60% in Turkey.
The difficulties facing buyers have also led to a reliance on the...
Nearly a third of home owners in the UK view estate agents as poor value for money but they dramatically under estimate the work involved in selling a house, new research has found.
Overall, the survey, which analysed the perceptions of UK home owners across a variety of property related topics, including the services consumers expect as part of an estate agent's fee, preferences for online property portals and the public perception of estate agents, concluded that there is a need for more transparency in a rapidly changing property market.
Only 18% of home owners regarded estate agents as helpful but 20% viewed them as knowledgeable. However, 35% thought they are too pushy and 30% perceived them as poor value for money.
When choosing an agent, the fee is the most important deciding factor with 56% rating this as their top consideration, according to the research from estate agent comparison site netanagent. The survey found that a personal recommendation is a close second and local knowledge and responsiveness also ranking highly.
It also found that home owners expect a lot for their money with 25% expecting to pay as little as 0.5% to 1% fee to cover all estate agency services, in comparison to the national average of 1.1%. The firm suggests that this reveals a clear need for better education by estate agents amongst consumers about what a fee covers and the work that goes into selling a property.
As part of the fee, 52% expect photography to be included while 49% expect their property to be listed on property portals. Some 10% expect the running of open days to be included as standard, along with 6% expecting video marketing services and 10% virtual tours to all be part of the fee.
The research also shows a major shift in how people are prepared to sell property. Some 85% are willing to consider using an online estate agent. The report says this is symptomatic of a changing market, with traditional high street agents not always the first port of call when selling a house.
Despite this trend, there is still a clear appreciation for the services offered by traditional agents, with reasons to not use an online agent including a desire to speak to people face to face when dealing with big decisions and for local people to sell a house in the local area.
With the increased competition in the marketplace from online agents, the survey reveals that 96% of home owners would consider comparing estate agents' fees and services online if they could, to help decide which agent to use when selling a property.
Findings from the survey also reveal that the most popular time for home owners to conduct estate agent research is in the evening, with 38% doing so between 6pm and 9pm, outside of traditional opening hours for many high street agents.
When looking for property online, only 13% of respondents visit OnTheMarket to...
The home building boom in New Zealand is continuing to gather momentum with planning consents up 13% in the 12 months to July 2016, and up 2% month on month.
p 52% in Bay of Plenty, up 37% in Waikato and up 21% in Otago.
The value of residential and commercial building work is also booming and hit an all-time record of $18.5 billion for the year to July, up from $15.6 billion the previous year. Of this, $6.3 billion was non-residential, and half of that was for education buildings such as at Victoria, Canterbury and Otago universities.
In Auckland, the total of all building work increased 32% to $6.9 billion for the year, while residential increased 29% to $4.4 billion.
In Christchurch post-earthquake building is continuing with the latest $300 million development of 600 homes confirmed by Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith. The development adds to three set up under the Christchurch Housing Accord, between the Christchurch City Council and the Government, which aimed to increase the longer term supply and affordability of homes and are the final phase of the Government’s housing response to the earthquakes.
‘I am hugely encouraged by the progress we are making in Christchurch, where the market is now well recovered from the loss of 10,500 homes in the quakes. Housing in Christchurch was an acute problem two years ago, with costs rising rapidly and record numbers of people requiring emergency housing,’ said Smith.
He pointed out that rents in Christchurch have declined by 7% in the past year as compared to a national increase of 3% and house prices have increased 2.6% compared to the national increase of 14.2%.
‘We are now well down the road of recovery. The completion of these four Government-initiated housing projects and the council’s new housing organisation will help give Christchurch a mix of social and affordable housing to meet future needs,’ added Smith.
Dirty properties are a growing problem for letting agents and landlords in the UK with cleaning becoming the top cause of disputes and it is getting worse, new research suggests.
The latest data from the Tenant Deposit Scheme shows that cleaning continues to take the lion’s share of deposit disputes, up almost 50% over the last five years.
Indeed, cleaning has consistently been the most common dispute in cases brought to the TDS and arises in 58% of the cases they deal with.
According to Imfuna, agents and landlords are increasingly facing filthy properties at the end of tenancies. Many tenants claim their landlord or agent failed to make it clear that the property should be left clean at check-out,’ said Jax Kneppers, the firm’s chief executive officer.
She pointed out that it is essential that landlords and agents conduct a thorough inventory, with photography and detailed descriptions on the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy. This ‘proof of condition’ should be shared with the tenant when they are issued with the tenancy agreement.
The biggest problems that agents and landlords face are dirty ovens and fridges, stains and marks on carpeting and flooring, bathrooms which have not been cleaned for months and pet hair and excrement on floors, furniture and soft furnishings.
‘At the check-out stage, the tenant should be made aware of the areas requiring cleaning and the potential cost involved. It is important to remember that the tenant is only obliged to return the property in the same state of cleanliness as at the start of the tenancy, after allowing for fair wear and tear,’ added Kneppers.
Howard Lester, director of Balgores Property Group, said he has seen a sharp rise in the number of properties that require professional cleaning services at check-out over the last 12 months.
‘There is a definitely a lack of respect for property amongst tenants and it appears that they are happy to live in dirty accommodation. Many tenants fail to leave their property in the same condition when they leave a property and we have seen many properties in a filthy state at the end of the tenancy,’ he explained.
He pointed out a recent case where the property was left in a disgusting state. The tenants had not cleaned the oven for months and it was caked with grease and spills on the hob and on the inside. Bags of rubbish were left in the kitchen and the worktops were filthy with grime. The carpets were heavily marked with pet excrement and numerous spills. The garden was left with an old washing machine, rusty bikes and worn out tyres. It cost the landlord several hundred pounds to have the property professionally cleaned.
‘Tenants are often shocked to realise that professional cleaning can be costly, depending on the area and type of work required. Some tenants think cleaning issues...
Access to finance and input costs such as VAT are the key barriers to increasing the housing supply in Ireland, according to new research from chartered surveyors.
In particular they say that the introduction of rent certainty measures have forced private landlords out of rental sector and that treating residential investors on par with commercial property investors is needed.
The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) is calling for a reduction of VAT to 9% for houses under €300,000 and the establishment of a finance agency to support house building.
Over half of the 300 chartered surveyors who took part in the survey said the introduction of rent certainty measures by the government was one of the main reasons private landlords are exiting the sector. The other reasons cited were the indebtedness of private landlords and tax restrictions.
SCSI president Claire Solon said that reducing VAT on affordable housing and establishing a Development Finance Agency with expertise in construction lending were measures the government should introduce in the upcoming Budget.
She pointed out that the ESRI has estimated that Ireland needs to build 25,000 residential units per annum, with the bulk of them being required in the capital. However in the second quarter of 2016 planning was only granted for 2,590 units in Dublin, of which only 620 have commenced construction.
‘The VAT reduction for the hospitality sector has worked extremely well. We would like to see a similar reduction to 9% for a defined period focusing on houses under €300,000. We feel such a move, access to finance for builders and a Capital Gains Tax ‘holiday’ for a set period to free up development land, are three measures which would provide a much needed kick start to house building,’ she said.
She explained that the return of boom era rents caused by the shortage of housing supply together with the slow gearing up of the construction sector meant Ireland might not be in a position to avail of any opportunities created by Brexit unless swift action was taken.
‘It is crucial for the Government to address the depletion in investor activity in the overall residential market. One solution would be to apply the principles of commercial property investment to residential development and investment. Specific measures which would help level the playing field would be to reinstate full mortgage interest relief and to remove USC and PRSI on rental income,’ she pointed out.
The survey found that the most significant challenge facing provincial towns and villages in Ireland was the inadequate provision of broadband services. In its submission the SCSI calls on the Government to provide additional funding for the roll out of reliable, high speed broadband services in all rural and provincial areas, a doubling of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme Grant Scheme to €20 million and an overhaul of the regulations of the...
House prices in the UK increased by 0.6% in August and are now 5.6% above a year ago, according to the latest index figures to be published.
This continued growth takes the average price of a home to £206,145, the data from the Nationwide shows, indicating that an expected fall due to Brexit has not yet materialised.
The pick up in price growth is somewhat at odds with signs that housing market activity has slowed in recent months, according to Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist, saying that this includes a softening of new buyer enquiries to the introduction of additional stamp duty on second homes in April and the uncertainty surrounding the EU referendum. Meanwhile, the number of mortgages approved for house purchase fell to an 18 month low in July.
‘However, the decline in demand appears to have been matched by weakness on the supply side of the market. Surveyors report that instructions to sell have also declined and the stock of properties on the market remains close to 30 year lows,’ Gardner explained.
‘This helps to explain why the pace of house price growth has remained broadly stable. What happens next on the demand side will be determined, to a large extent, by the outlook for the labour market and confidence amongst prospective buyers,’ he pointed out.
He believes that it is encouraging that the unemployment rate remained at a 10 year low in the three months to June, though labour market trends tend to lag developments in the wider economy and it is also positive that retail sales increased at a healthy rate in July, up almost 6% compared to the previous year, even though consumer confidence fell sharply during the month.
‘However, business surveys suggest that the manufacturing, services and construction sectors all slowed sharply in July, and, if sustained, this is likely to have a negative impact on the labour market and household confidence,’ he said.
‘Most forecasters, including the Bank of England, expect the economy to show little growth over the remainder of the year. Indeed, these concerns prompted the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to implement a range of stimulus measures at the start of August, which will provide support to economic activity and the housing market. Monetary policy measures will provide some support for households and the housing market,’ Gardner commented.
‘The MPC’s decision to lower UK interest rates from 0.5% to a new low of 0.25% will provide an immediate benefit to many mortgage borrowers, though for most the boost will be fairly modest. The MPC’s stimulus measures will also provide indirect support to the housing market, and not just by boosting wider economic activity,’ he added.
According to Nicholas Finn, executive director of Garrington Property Finders, the data reveals a property market that is still unsettled rather than upbeat. ‘On the front line we’re seeing some strong intent but a lack of clarity among buyers. The cut in interest rates and resilient...
Monthly gross remortgage lending in the UK was at its highest level for almost eight years in July, reaching £7.1 billion, according to the latest data to be published.
Conditions for remortgaging were boosted by the decision in June to leave the European Union, says the accompanying report from outsourced property services provider LMS.
This monthly figure for July is up by 27% from £5.6 billion in June and is the largest amount since October 2008 and 42% higher than July last year when £5 billion of loans were made.
The number of remortgage loans also increased by 27% from 32,400 in June to 41,157 in July, the most since January 2009. The July total was up by 36% year on year.
Rising house prices, declining swap rates and speculation about an imminent base rate change at the Bank of England have all contributed to a favourable outlook for the remortgage market, the report says.
LMS data also shows that home owners are remortgaging more frequently and keen to capitalise on the competitive rates currently available. The term of the average loan that was remortgaged fell by 15% or nine months from five years in June to four years and three months in July, the lowest since October 2009. This was also 18% or 11 months lower than the average for July 2015.
As the average remortgage loan size increased to £172,184 in July, up 9% from £157,557 in June, the average LTV also increased from 54% in June to 58% in July.
LMS data suggests that more home owners are remortgaging to fund home improvements and pay off debt and this is a sign of consumer confidence, despite widespread speculation about the effects of the UK’s vote to leave the EU.
The surge in remortgaging meant the total amount of housing equity withdrawn via this route in July rose 27% from £951.8 million to £1.2 billion. This was the greatest amount for more than eight years, since £1.4 billion was withdrawn in April 2008.
‘The aftermath of the UK’s vote to leave the EU has not overshadowed an environment that is ripe for remortgaging as product rates plummeted to new lows. Home owners have been quick to capitalise on this and there’s little sign that incentives to remortgage will disappear any time soon,’ said Andy Knee, chief executive of LMS.
‘People who remortgaged in July did so more frequently than they have for more than six years, no doubt to take advantage of low rates in many cases and reduce their outgoings. Feedback suggests almost two thirds remortgaged in July to take advantage of competitive rates, highlighting that significant savings are ripe for the taking,’ he explained.
‘Although there is little for home owners to fear in terms of a base rate rise over coming months, many could seek stability by remortgaging and fixing now, and we expect...
This year looks like being a record for new home building in Australia but the outlook for 2017 is not buoyant with predictions that it could be very different as new homes sales are falling.
The monthly survey of Australia’s largest volume builders by the Housing Industry Association (HIA) reveals that total seasonally adjusted new home sales fell by 9.7% in July 2016 following an increase of 8.2% the previous month.
HIA chief economist Harley Dale said that the overall trend decline in new home sales is accelerating, signalling a relatively sharp drop from a record high in new dwelling commencements from 2017.
‘New home construction has been the kingmaker of the Australia economy, but the cycle has peaked. In all likelihood we will experience sharper falls in new home construction in both 2017 and 2018,’ he explained.
‘The magnitude of decline in new home construction in coming years will of course be exaggerated by where we are coming from and that is record levels of medium/high density construction and historically healthy levels of detached/semi-detached dwelling construction,’ he pointed out.
‘There will no doubt be a tendency to sensationalise any negative results for new housing as the trajectory of the down cycle unfolds. We would do well to remember that this down cycle is following a record high that is some 24% higher than the previous peak in 1994 and that there is an unprecedented degree of uncertainty this time around as to how the next few years of new home building unfold,’ he added.
A breakdown of the figures shows that detached house sales fell in all five mainland states in July after rising everywhere in June. Sales dropped by 12.6% in South Australia and were down by 8.7% in Queensland, by 8.2% in Western Australia, by 6.2% in New South Wales, and by 6% in Victoria.
Dale also explained that the current new home building boom is unlike any other that has come before it. It is the longest and largest in Australia’s history but he added that it is marked by substantial regional divergences in the levels of activity in various markets around the country and the mix of dwelling types being built has changed dramatically.
‘As the down cycle in new home building unfolds, the record pipeline of medium/high density dwellings in particular creates considerable uncertainty as to the timing and magnitude of the decline in construction,’ he concluded.
HIA’s forecasts are for a peak of over 232,500 new dwelling commencements to have been reached in 2015/2016, which will be followed by three consecutive years of decline. New dwelling commencements are forecast to bottom out at a level of around 166,500 in 2018/2019.
A new report reveals that a third of tenants in the UK have paid for energy efficiency improvements despite recent Government legislation that requires landlords to do so.
Currently landlords are required to bring their property up to the minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating E. Under the legislation, which came into force on 01 April 2016, if a tenant requests a more efficient home and the landlord fails to comply, the landlord could ultimately be forced to pay a penalty notice.
However, the study conducted by online letting agent PropertyLetByUs, shows that one in six tenants have paid for roof insulation, 7% have paid for double glazing and 92% have paid for draft excluders for windows and doors. A further 71% have paid for their boiler to be repaired.
The research also shows that 88% of tenants want their landlord to install a more fuel efficient boiler, while 78% want their draughty front door replaced, 72% want more loft insurance and 48% want double glazed windows fitted.
Properties with EPC ratings of F and G will be progressively banned from the market, starting with rental homes with new tenancies. That will become the legal minimum for private rented properties when new regulations come into force in England and Wales from 2018. The Residential Landlords Association estimates that a total of 330,000 rental homes in England and Wales are likely to be affected.
Though Government officials have estimated it could cost landlords between £1,800 and £5,000 to bring energy-inefficient properties up to an E rating, according to PropertyLetByUs it could be tenants that have to fund the improvements.
‘Our research shows that is falling on tenants to pay for energy improvements to their rented properties which is simply unacceptable. Many tenants are finding that their landlords are refusing to make improvements to the property, leaving tenants no choice but to dip into their own pockets,’ said a spokesman.
‘Tenants should not have to pay for roof insulation and repairs to old boilers, when it is the landlord’s responsibility. Landlords should comply with the current legislation that requires them to make energy efficiency improvements and they also should start improving their properties, if they have an EPC rating of F or G, so they are brought up to the required standard by 2018,’ the spokesman added.
The Government has recently given guidelines on the costs with a typical package of measures for a small semidetached house. Gas central heating and low energy lighting is estimated at £4,000, loft insulation at £300 and cavity wall insulation at about £500.
The firm also pointed out that the Government will need to put measures in place to ensure that landlords are compliant or it fears that the financial burden on tenants could be even greater.