Thursday 13 September 2012

Landlords: Do Make the Most of Grants!

Last Thursday evening RBC officers ran the annual event bringing landlords up-to-date with legislation and grants available for "green" improvements.  The event has been running for the last few years although this was my first one.  Attendance had gone up from just 25 last year to 70 landlords this time; and feedback afterwards has been very positive.

David Cox (National Landlords Association - Senior Policy Officer) kicked off with issues for the private rented sector.  He spoke about the Energy Performance Chart (EPC) that will need to be on all marketing literature from April 2013 and also the changes made back in April 2011 on Stamp Duty.  He pushed landlords to make the most of the Landlords Energy Savings Allowance (LESA) of £1,500 per property, per year offset against Income Tax, which is available until April 2015.

There was a presentation on Welfare Reform which included information about under occupation of social housing which comes into affect from April 2013 for new and existing claims and on caps to benefits.

By January 2013 RBC has to have set up its own scheme to replace Council Tax Benefit and you can have your say by responding to RBC's consultation.

You will probably have heard about the "Green Deal" which is exciting as already the pilots have reduced household energy bills whilst improving the energy efficiency of homes.  It is part of the Energy Act 2011 and will be rolled out in January 2013 across Britain.  The "Green Deal" is an innovative financial mechanism which eliminates the need to pay upfront for energy efficiency measures and instead provides reassurances that the cost of the measures should be covered by savings on utility bills.  The landlord will approach a Green Deal Provider to assess the property and decide the necessary improvements and then organise for these to be completed.  The energy efficiency upgrades are paid by the Green Deal Provider and then repaid by whoever pays the utility bills.  The "Golden Rule" is important as it ensures the cost of the new utility bills plus the loan repayment must be lower than if nothing had been undertaken. 

In the meantime landlords are advised to take up the free loft and cavity wall insulation grants which are available for the next 3 months.  It was emphasised that cavity wall insulation techniques have improved drastically over the years and in the unlikely event that there was a problem with a new installation the responsibility would be entirely on the insulation company to make good the problem.

There was an interesting presentation on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).  On the one hand HMOs provide affordable accommodation for students and others, but the downside is the impact HMOs can have on parking, rubbish, estate agent signs, etc in areas where they are prolific.  RBC has implemented an Article 4 which, subject to confirmation, will come into force in May 2013.  Do check page 7 of the presentation to see the area covered (which roughly is the area around the University within the borough).

For more detailed information, all the presentations can be accessed via RBC's website here