Should You Let to DSS Tenants?

Some landlords won’t let to DSS tenants under any circumstances, but others recognise that not all DSS tenants are going to wreck the house and turn it into a crack pad. In fact, some DSS tenants have more regular, stable incomes than employed people and may be a better bet for a buy-to-let landlord. So how do you sort the wheat from the chaff?

Delays in Payments

One of the key factors with DSS tenants is that they are dependent on the efficiency of the benefits systems which pays them. Universal credit has acted as a gigantic spanner in the works here. Because it involves a switch from the previous benefits system to a new set of processes, it was always going to be difficult, but add in the necessity to alter computer systems, which has never been a strength of government, and you have a recipe for tenants who are not getting the money they need to pay their rent.

This is not their fault, and if they were employees who had not been paid because the banking system had gone down, there would be abject apologies on their behalf. However government appears to think that not paying claimants is a risk-free activity, and government has also decided that DSS tenants who live in private rented accommodation are now personally responsible for paying housing benefit to their landlord.

Clearly, if there are delays in processing a person’s claim, they will not get their housing benefit on time and will be in a position where they must pay the landlord late. DSS tenants are people who are in receipt of housing benefit. How much they get depends on their circumstances and any other income that they have.

But tenants are usually very clear with landlords about the amount of benefits they receive, because if they manage to secure a tenancy, they need to inform the Housing Officer of the new rent that they have agreed to.

Poor Publicity has Affected the Better Tenants

Many tenants who are claiming benefits and want to pay landlords rent from their housing benefit are in their current situation through no fault of their own. They may have been diagnosed with a serious illness that has meant they could not continue in work. Or they may have lost their jobs, been unable to keep up their mortgage payments, had to sell their house, spent the resulting equity in private accommodation and finally ended up claiming housing benefit. Anyone dealing with lettings and Manchester property in general will have come across these cases.

Unfortunately, some reality TV programmes have given the impression that anybody claiming any kind of benefit is a drug-addled waster who will trash the property and leave without paying six months’ rent. This simply isn’t the case, any more than employed people who appear to have a lot of income are really faking it and waiting to sublet the property to another dozen tenants.

In the employed sector and the DSS sector, there are good and bad people who may make excellent or dreadful tenants. The key thing is to be able to distinguish between the two.

How to Get a Good DSS Tenant

One of the things you need to look for is any disparity between the amount that the tenant is receiving in housing benefit, and the amount that you are charging. The tenant has to make up the shortfall every month and if they are disabled or have no access to extra income, they are going to find this extremely difficult. So, to avoid rent arrears, make sure that your tenants can afford the rent from their housing benefit.

Make sure that you have a suitable landlord’s insurance policy in place and don’t gloss over the fact that you are letting to DSS tenants. Yes, they are slightly higher risk and you may need to pay a slightly higher premium but let’s face it, these tenants tend to be renting in areas where property is cheaper, and therefore rental yields are higher. Just accept slightly higher insurance as the cost of doing business.

And always meet the tenants personally. Your gut feeling is probably a better guide than any risk assessment. Look at why the tenants are dependent on DSS payments and you’ll get some insight into whether they are seeking a secure home or are irresponsible and likely to cause you problems.

North Manchester Lettings: Advice for First-time Landlords

The decision to enter the property market as a landlord is not one to be taken lightly, but if you’ve been thinking about it for a while, there’s no time like the present to set the ball rolling on your new venture. Manchester is a great spot for property investors – one of the UK’s major cities, it is well connected to the rest of the country by road, rail and air, and has a large student population. Both these factors mean there is always a steady stream of renters looking for the perfect property. If you choose wisely and research your target rental market, you should have no trouble generating interest in you property (or properties).

This article aims to provide practical North Manchester landlord advice for those who are new to the area, or new to the property market.

Decide What Type of Tenant You Want

You might not have any firm ideas of what type of tenant you would like to rent out your property to, but it’s very helpful to know who your market is. North Manchester is popular with a wide variety of renters – including students, young professionals, families and older couples – but not all groups will want to rent the same types of property. Students have become increasingly demanding in the last couple of decades, and the traditional cramped, damp, run-down red brick terraced student properties of the past will no longer cut it. Many students prefer to live in designated student apartments with all mod cons, excellent facilities and good transport links. It’s still possible to rent private properties to groups of students, but students tend to congregate in certain areas, particularly to the south of Manchester, so are unlikely to want to live in a district that is predominantly home to families.

If you want to target families, you will need to think about the proximity of schools. North Manchester has a large number of primary and secondary schools, some more popular with parents than others. Proximity to a good school can have an impact on house prices, but you might also be able to command a higher rental fee if you are in a catchment area of a top school, so you should bear this in mind if your target renters have children.

Young professionals are likely to want a property that’s close to nightlife and shops, or at least has excellent transport links to the nearest decent nightlife. In the case of North Manchester, this is likely to mean excellent links to the city centre – so look for good train, bus or tram links, or at least somewhere that is a short and affordable taxi ride away. North Manchester’s Metrolink tram system is very popular with commuters, so properties near a tramline are always a good bet.

Don’t Over-estimate the Market

As an investor, you have the advantage that you are not part of a chain and you do not need to wait for your own property to sell before you complete. This can be a big attraction to vendors, and may allow you to drive down the price on your chosen property. Emphasise your ability to commit and proceed with the sale immediately when you make an offer, but don’t get carried away and be tempted to pay more than you can realistically afford, or more than makes sense given your likely return on investment. While North Manchester has some highly desirable areas, many districts – such as Harpurhey and Moston – are known for their affordable housing and tend to have something of a rough reputation. No matter how desirable or modern any property you purchase in areas like these, you will struggle to attract renters prepared to pay premium level rents.

Seek Professional Advice

If you have never let out a property before, you will need to ensure you fulfill all your legal obligations. There have been moves to clamp down on unscrupulous and negligent landlords in recent years, and tenants have a number of rights you will need to be aware of. If you are not entirely sure of all your responsibilities as a landlord, seek advice from a professional who can ensure you don’t fall foul of the law. There are numerous agencies with specialist knowledge of the North Manchester rental market and these can help you target the right renters for your property, and help ensure a mutually beneficial relationship for both you and your tenants.

Don’t Fall Foul of New Letting Regulations

The government recently revealed they are planning to crack down on rogue landlords and agents, with those who treat tenants poorly potentially being banned from letting properties. The new initiatives will target property agents and landlords who mistreat their tenants and do not provide them with safe and suitable accommodation. The plan is to improve standards across the rental market as a whole and to protect both tenants and the interests of responsible property owners who ensure their properties meet the required standard. Gavin Barwell, the government’s current housing minister, set out the proposals, which aim to ensure the worst offenders can be banned indefinitely from managing or letting a property. In the event of banning orders being issued, the landlord or property agent would have their name added to a national register to enable the authorities to see they don’t let or manage any other properties anywhere in the country in future. It is hoped that the proposals will help protect the millions of tenants currently renting properties in the UK.

Some of the most serious offences the proposals aim to address include the flaunting of health and safety regulations. In the event a landlord fails to complete work requested by the local council, a ban could potentially be issued. Other serious offences include things like making violent threats to tenants, or evicting tenants illegally.

It is hoped the proposals will force rogue landlords to ensure properties remain in a good state of repair at all times, and that the rights of private tenants are not neglected. Rogue landlords are commonly featured in the media, and the charity Shelter has an ongoing campaign that urges local authorities to sign up and pledge to stamp out irresponsible landlords. Over 100 local councils are currently taking part in the campaign.

Advice for Landlords or Would-be Landlords

If you are currently a landlord or are thinking about entering the property market as a landlord, you will have nothing to worry about if you adhere to all the necessary rules and regulations. In fact, for legitimate and responsible landlords and property agents, the new proposals should be seen as a positive thing. With rogue landlords and agents being forced out of the market, tenants will be safer and the remaining landlords will enjoy an enhanced reputation rather than being tarred with the same brush as the less scrupulous individuals who blight the property industry. If you’re looking for Harpurhey landlord advice, or own property in any other district of Manchester or the surrounding areas, dealing with a reputable property agency and ensuring you comply with all relevant regulations will be vital in order to ensure you are not faced with a lengthy ban.

Some of the reasons a landlord or agent could be banned include:

– Evicting a tenant illegally
– Letting out unsafe properties that have failed inspections by the local council
– Committing or conspiring to commit a criminal offence with the tenant, including supplying illegal drugs or tax evasion
– Criminal damage or theft
– Growing cannabis on the property
– Committing housing benefit of identity fraud
– Violently threatening a tenant, or actually using violence against them
– Letting a property to anyone who is in the country illegally
– Failing to complete any work the local council requires in order for the building to comply with health and safety regulations

The minimum ban length will be 12 months, while there is no upper limit for the maximum time a rogue landlord or agent can be banned for. This will allow the authorities to ban the worst offenders indefinitely, and potentially for life. Anyone served with a banning order will be unable to profit from renting out any other properties he or she owns or manages. Those banned will also be unable to work in the property management sector subject to banning orders will not be able to earn income from renting out housing or engaging in letting agency or property management work. Unscrupulous landlords might also have their properties taken over by local authorities, who would then manage the properties themselves and rent them out to tenants.

The proposals are good news for responsible landlords and property agents who uphold high standards and provide suitable accommodation for tenants. By improving the standards and practices across the industry, the new proposals will ensure reputable landlords do not lose tenants to those who charge cheaper rents by bypassing applicable rules and regulations and failing to properly maintain their properties.

Is Manchester becoming too much like London?


Is Manchester becoming too much like London?


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Manchester may have a reputation for playing by its own rules, but increasingly it is starting to resemble the capital – and not always in a good way

Ever since George Osborne dreamt up the Northern Powerhouse, Manchester has been in the national limelight, held up as a shining example to other cities as the sort of fully-fledged post-industrial revival the north has long been seeking.

As the city – and particularly the city centre – vies to compete with the capital, some of the boom signs associated with London are starting to materialise here, too: an explosion of new restaurants and bars, tower blocks that scrape the skies and even a new elected mayor.

But equally some of the capital’s high profile problems are making themselves felt too.

Mancs are being priced out

You’ll probably have seen the headlines this week about Londoners being driven out of the capital by an exponential growth in property prices.

Yet there are also glimmers of that here.

Manchester city centre is seeing a property boom that’s taken even the council by surprise. The town hall is expecting to bring in an extra £400,000 in planning fees next year just thanks to that growth.

But who are those apartments being built for?

Every town hall planning meeting sees councillors tear their hair out over the lack of affordable housing being proposed in new city centre blocks – as officers and developers argue on virtually every occasion that including a cheaper element would make it unviable.

Figures from Rightmove show the average sale price for a flat in the M1 postcode rose by 7pc just between April and September last year, to more than £188,000. And a great many are being marketed only to buy-to-let investors.

And it’s not just London that faces a dire shortage of new social housing. While the ten Greater Manchester authorities have declared an aim of 10,000 new homes a year, there is so far minimal talk of council homes within that.

Foreign investors

On the same note, it isn’t just London that is being built on foreign money.

Much of the talk about the capital’s property boom this week has been over whether Russian oligarchs are to blame, having been overly courted by politicians.

We don’t have so many oligarchs of our own up here. But increasingly it is overseas cash fuelling the huge new commercial and residential developments shooting up in Manchester.

Chinese investors BCEG have a hand in both Gary Neville’s new development at Jackson’s Row and the expansion at Manchester airport, German giants Patrizia originally owned the First Street development before flogging it on to someone else, Hong Kong’s Peterson group are slated for a massive overhaul of the Great Northern on Deansgate and then – most significantly of all – the Abu Dhabi United Group are providing most of the the capital behind a £1bn expansion of new housing to the north and east of the city centre.

Is that a bad thing? Council chiefs would argue no. A city whose public sector has seen government cash dry up is now able to get things built – meaning growth, jobs and place for people to live.

But equally there are questions over who Manchester’s boom is going to profit, particularly as house prices continue to soar out of the reach of so many ordinary Mancunians – and the wages of people living in the city remain £78 a week lower than those who work in it.

Skyscrapers

As Londoners ponder the 83-storey ‘Paddington Pole’ colossus being planned by the people behind the Shard, Manchester’s own booming skyline is looking upwards too.

Beetham Tower architect Ian Simpson has spoken of a new ‘cluster of skyscrapers’ around the southern gateway of the city – and true to his word has drawn up plans for two new giants to rival the Hilton.

Not only is he proposing a sister tower for the Beetham, down the road near First Street, he also recently unveiled his vision for a massive 64-storey beast on nearby Great Jackson Street.

Meanwhile down the road at the old Granada Studios site, plans for a ‘vertical village’ by Allied London could also see at least one tower dwarf the Hilton.

Notably even Ian Simpson cautions that there may only so many that can be built before the next inevitable economic crash though, so they’d better get their skates on.

Everybody else hates us

It used to be that everyone much north of Watford hated London, down there with its soft southern ways and sense of entitlement.

But there’s a smug new kid on the block.

In recent years all national politicians have done is go on about Manchester, to the point that other northern cities must be looking on with increasing irritation as they are told to be more like us.

Closer to home, the city is not even always that popular with its Greater Manchester neighbours.

In recent months persistent complaints have swirled round outlying parts of the conurbation – particularly Rochdale, Oldham and Tameside – that Manchester is calling too many of the shots. That’s always been the case, but those complaints are growing louder.

New Oldham West MP Jim McMahon broke ranks in his maiden parliamentary speech last week, his first since leaving office as Oldham council leader, to hint strongly at just this.

“Devolution must be more than a love affair with big cities,” he said, a coded attack on those within Manchester town hall seen as focusing too much on shiny new things for the city – rather than the former mill towns to the north.

 

Homelessness

The painfully high profile poverty of rough sleeping used to be associated with the supposedly gilded pavements of central London.

Westminster council in particular has come under fire for shifting homeless people out into outlying boroughs (partly because of the housing market mentioned above) – but also for a range of measures that have caused public outcry, including a ban on soup kitchens.

In Manchester some would argue the town hall has been just as draconian, launching a court bid last year to shift a group of tents from its streets.

But the camp, with its relatively small group of protesters, was in some ways a distraction from the bigger problem: rough sleeping has gone up 10-fold in Manchester since the coalition took power.

Increasingly homeless people are moving out of the city centre and into the southern suburbs of Withington, Didsbury and Chorlton, signs that the problem is finding new ways to manifest itself.

Action is being taken by a council with dwindling resources, including opening dozens of new hostel beds and using empty public buildings as drop-ins.

Yet perhaps this is the visible downside of a London-style boom: it also proves to be a magnet for the destitute.

A mayor

An obvious one, perhaps – but a symbolic parallel with London’s voice on the national stage.

The profile of Ken or Boris has been repeatedly used as an argument for Greater Manchester’s own new elected mayor, due to be introduced next year. That’s the idea, anyway.

So far public support has been pretty thin on the ground up here, not least because the last government confused matters by making cities hold mayoral referenda – which in Manchester came back as a ‘no’.

But like it or not, Greater Manchester is getting one.

The big question is whether that position is able to carry the same kind of clout afforded by the cartoonish characters that have so far held the reins in our capital and others around the world.

All the signs are that Labour – or possibly a charismatic independent – will probably win here in 2017.

But while the party nationally focuses its attention on London’s upcoming mayoral race, little thought seems to be going into ours.

Yet this could be make or break for a project that Manchester’s Labour hierarchy is just as invested in as George Osborne.

If Labour get the wrong candidate, or suffers a painfully low turnout, our mayor could end up merely whispering as London’s city hall continues to roar.

Gridlock

Manchester council won’t thank me for saying this, but memories of being stuck, not moving, on the bus down Charing Cross Road as a student have been looming ever larger in my mind of late.

The kind of city centre traffic seen in Manchester at the moment is reminiscent of pre-congestion charge gridlock in the capital, as a perfect storm of roadworks conspire to bring commuters to a halt.

Those roadworks are only temporary, obviously.

But while the town hall is keen to get people out of their cars and onto the tram, it’s hard to escape the sense that as more flats go up, the streets are inevitably going to get more congested.

Indeed several big new multi-storey car parks are being planned as part of big forthcoming development schemes, including on Oxford Road.

So even when those roadworks die down, the streets are surely only going to get busier.

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