The UK’s 2.5 million private landlords will be forgiven for wondering what 2021 has in store for them.
Even the most optimistic will admit that the previous 12 months are a period of their landlording career they’d rather forget.
LandlordZONE asks some of the sector’s leading lights what they think the next year could offer them. Here are their answers.
The housing benefit expert
Bill Irvine, of Universal Credit Advice
“I don’t think 2021 will get any easier for landlords and letting agents when it comes to tenants relying on Universal Credit and housing benefit – the number of claims has doubled since March and DWP staff are still largely working from home which doesn’t help.
“I expect to be doing more chasing of the DWP to minimise landlords’ losses, particularly on behalf of those who have applied for the alternative payment scheme. Some landlords have lost thousands of pounds while they wait to hear back, and have applied many times without success.
“The ongoing pandemic means tenants continue to get into debt and many of those who hadn’t claimed before are now starting to experience difficulties and will decide to hold onto their money rather than pay rent.”
The commercial property agent
Adam Diamant, MD of Land Commercial
“There’s no demand for offices at the moment and I hope that will come back but as this country has long leases, even if a company wants to move tomorrow it might have to wait for years until the lease expires, meanwhile some premises are getting converted to residential.
“It’s surprising that retail still remains strong but we’ve done a lot of lettings in this sector. This has been helped by the change to use class E which has provided flexibility for properties to be used for a wider range of businesses.
“Looking forward, the current rules around forfeiture are a big problem as there are a lot of people still not paying rent, which needs to change.”
The property licensing tech chief
Joe Webb, chief marketing officer at Kamma Data
“The pandemic has put a huge strain on councils, while also putting standards of accommodation under the spotlight.
“These two factors create a perfect storm for legislation which will mean growth in both the number of licensing schemes and, crucially, enforcement. There are 44 live local authority consultations currently taking place; in a normal year we’d see 20-25 over a full 12 months, so, in essence, we’ve got two full years’ worth of schemes being planned for the start of next year.
“At its worst, licensing is a tax on high standards as those landlords who already look after their properties and tenants pay for inspections and licence costs, while those who don’t, ignore the regulation. Kamma wants to change this in 2021 with a tenant-focused directory making it easy to see who is complying and who isn’t, at the click of a button.”
Two regional landlord leaders
Giles Inman, EMPO business development director
“EMPO will be requesting that local councils come together to establish a universal approach over licensing schemes so we don’t continue to experience confusion around different fees, conditions and inspection expectations across council enforcement areas.
“We will continue to promote the message that it’s not acceptable for councils to threaten landlords with revoking licenses and large fines for not taking responsibility for dealing with tenant rubbish issues, bins on streets, drug dealing, vehicle damage and tenants riding Quad bikes around their rented properties.
“We will also attempt to encourage a conversation with social housing providers where we create an appreciation and understanding that these issues exist in both sectors and that both sectors should come together for an open discussion and to share best practice.”
Ruth Clarke, chairman of the Cornwall Residential Landlords Association:
“The business of being a private landlord can be stressful at the best of times but this year has been particularly trying.
“We’ll continue to produce monthly newsletters and I’ll be available at the end of the phone to listen to landlords’ problems and to try to help. “We’ll hold our bi-monthly meetings online as well as with Cornwall Council officers and MPs to discuss housing generally and the challenges of the PRS in Cornwall, and will respond to consultations and calls for evidence.
“We are urging members to take up any funding available; with the consultation to make EPC requirements more stringent over the coming years, there’s the usual problem for Cornwall with few local companies registered with TrustMark.
“We will encourage members to lobby their local MP to try to have more trade bodies included as acceptable and to encourage their preferred contractor to consider joining TrustMark.”
The property redress scheme boss
Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the PRS
“At the turn of year a mere 12 months ago, experts stuck their necks on the line and made various predictions on what the change of decade was to bring.
“And then all the educated guesses when out the window with Covid19 and its aftermath.
I am therefore caution about sticking my neck on the line and forecasting anything more than a continuation of uncertainty and a Government in a reactive mode in terms of policy and direction.
That said, a few things will need to be dealt with as a matter of priority.