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Graham Awards


Buy to let rebellion gathers pace against council licensing plans

Agents and landlords in one of the country’s most politically-volatile cities are preparing to meet the local council to protest at a string of licensing schemes - and the buy to let investors say they will take their case to the Local Government Ombudsman if required.

In recent months Bristol’s Labour council has introduced a series of schemes for the private rental sector in the city; most recently, it announced it wishes to expand a selective scheme in the Easton suburb requiring owners to pay £470 per property to the council. 

Now local landlords are saying the council is guilty of maldaministration because some of the justification for at least two of the schemes is based on inaccurate information. 

The Bristol Evening Post quotes Paul Routledge, the chief executive of Cadogan House Investment Properties Ltd, as one of the driving forces behind the fight-back.

"Standing alone can become quite overwhelming, but the way forward is in numbers, proven by the North Somerset campaign this summer," he said. His reference to North Somerset was about a case - reported on Letting Agent Today - of a neighbouring council reversing its intentions on licensing in the light of agents’ and landlords’ protests.

"Selective licensing is all about public control over private rented sector homes, and has been on the agenda for a long time. Due to the housing crisis and the selling off of council houses, local authorities have to house people, and the only way they can do it is through the private rental sector.

"Once they've finished selectively licensing this country as much as they possibly can, by stealth, they will then consider capping rents. Once that's started, it's the beginning of the end and they'll have complete control over the private rental sector in this country," Routledge is quoted in the newspaper as saying.

Now he and others will meet Bristol city council's housing chief Paul Smith to raise their concerns.

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    Totally agree. This is the same sort of theft by deception practised by corrupt government in third world countries. Did I hear someone say that this is an over the top statement? You should go on and add Jeremy Corbyn and his ideas to the mix and any one with any common sense will be worried. That goes for the tenants as well. Gone will be nice flats you can rent in a city. They will be full of dossers given the privilege by the councils.

    I really hope this is a rubbish comment.

  • Barry X

    sorry about this rather long post - not sure if anyone will bother reading it but never mind - I'll make my comments....

    Although I agree there may well be a long term objective on the part of various councils (especially labour ones) to ultimately take over private sector property to replace the sold-off council stock I think there is a much simpler, much shorter term objective and I think it should be glaringly obvious; the councils just see us (landlords) as sitting ducks owning properties and unable to flay away, if you'll forgive me for stretching the metaphor - although they'd love to fleece and milk us which makes it a more complicated mixed-metaphor! but the way they are going they will ultimately cook the goose and/or simply kill the goose that they'd hoped would keep laying them golden eggs, or something....

    The point is they are simply hell-bent on taking money from us as they see us as an easy and more or less defenseless target. Look at the facts; disgracefully and dishonestly, across the country they've phased out council tax exemptions for empty and unoccupied properties.... from no time limit, to 1 year, to 6 months, for a while to a farcical 2 weeks and currently nothing. But don't believe for a moment that's the end of it.... oh no and far from it, their feeble excuse (lie) for ripping us off this way was to "incentivise" us to "bring unused properties back into use"! In reality they LOVE unocuppied proerties because they are now receiving 100% c/tax for them without having to provide a service to anyone! If a single person was living in the property they'd have to (grudgingly) allow a 25% discount while actually having to do something for the money.

    The next stage, already long planned incidentally, is to charge us A PREMIUM on c/tax for unoccupied properties! I read about this almost 3½ years ago as a suggestion from a left wing "think tank". For example they're thinking they might get away with charging perhaps 150%, or even more (or again phase it in starting with a 15% "surcharge" or whatever we might be stupid enough to have the "appetite" to swallow) on a daily basis for empty properties! You have been warned - you've now read about this up-coming scam right here.

    In theory c/tax is supposed to be collected from the people who use the services, in practice they'll take it from anyone they can get it from. We own quite a few properties and typically have several short rental voids a year - we used to use those periods for repairs and renewals but not anymore - now we try to work around tenants while they are living there, even if it annoys them a bit and is inconvenient! Otherwise we'd have to pay even more of this nasty landlord stealth tax. It surprises me how very little there has been in the press about all this - virtually nothing compared to the discussion (sadly dying down now) about other dishonest stealth taxes like phasing out tax relief on mortgage interest even though this results in taxing on gross turnover rather than net profit and so is a radical change from the fundamental principle of "income" tax - imagine if, for example, restaurants were not allowed to claim food or the gas or electricity they used to cook it with as allowable expenses?

    So..... given that these greedy, or perhaps just desperate, councils are simply after our money on any-old pretext, why not also scam us for "licensing schemes", selective or otherwise, and if possible more than one applying to each property in the end, e.g. one for "health and safety" and other for "landlord competence/compliance" another for "social impact" etc? Obviously absolutely none of the schemes will achieve any useful benefit or result for tenants or the public or indeed anyone else except of course for the council pocketing all the juicy annual fees (and having the full force of the law to back them up at the tax payers' expense and certainly not theirs).

    All of this is an utter disgrace but not in any way remotely unexpected or difficult to understand.

    Only wide-scale, well organised, well funded and long-term sustained rebellion has any chance against such forces, and I fear they will wear us all down and win in the long run. Sadly, history seems to teach us that. But the more hassle we can give them and the longer we can hold out the better!

    I probably don't have that long left to live (currently a cancer survivor) so from my selfish point of view just a few more years at the most should do it - but my legacy to the world (if I make any at all) might be to inspire others to fight on!

  • Barry X

    PS. to stretch my farming metaphors a little further, and by way of explanation - we have a worse problem in that we landlords are being used as a perennial cash-crop for two different farmers simultaneously; central and local government. One day when they find they've overdone it with c/tax and licencing schemes and capital gains and ultimately ending all tax relief relating to properties and all the rest.... in other words once we've been bled, fleeced, milked and so on to near fatal exhaustion they might start fighting between them over which of them "owns" us but until then they probably each think there's plenty for everyone to take from us so who cares?

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    Barry please don't forget the Green bit as if you take this to the logical conclusion with EPC minimums for rented property in place for the near future this minimum will inevitably change in time. Property will need to be refurbished especially the early 1900's 9" brick ones and to bring these to a more energy efficient level will not be cheap. I wholeheartedly agree with your comments and makes more sense than some of the articles in the press which sadly includes Letting Agent Today and Landlord Today.

    Barry X

    Thanks Paul


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