Free Golf Session!

Calling all the Golfers out there!

We have a 4 ball freebie for the Gillingham Golf Course! Simply like and share the photo and we will draw a winner by the 12th September 2015. It really is that easy, just like and share and you and 3 friends could enjoy a full 18 holes!

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Stunning Pool!

At least the hand rails are shiny and clean?!

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Timing!

And they say children ahve the worst timing! Or maybe perfect timing?!

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ARLA calls for rogue letting agents to be banned from industry

ARLA has told the Government that it should make it a legal requirement for all letting agents to belong to a Client Money Protection scheme.

It has also told ministers that all letting agents should be professionally qualified and required to undertake Continuous Professional Development – and that rogue agents should be banned from the industry.

ARLA wants to see bans in place whereby prohibited sales agents cannot work in lettings.

Calling for a scheme similar to the London Rental Standard to be placed on the statute books, ARLA said that regulation would ensure fairness and “the removal of those agents who bring the industry into disrepute”.

The calls to action are made by ARLA in its official response to the Communities and Local Government consultation on its discussion paper, Tackling rogue landlords and improving the private rental sector.

The paper represents a landmark in the industry, the first time that the Government has proposed a mechanism for banning bad letting agents. Currently, only sales agents can be banned, under the Estate Agents Act.

In its notably robust response, ARLA backs the proposals – but goes a lot further.

It criticises the current low number of prosecutions for housing offences and says that the fines should be ring-fenced and pay for further enforcement.

It also calls for the Sentencing Guidelines Council to set judicial guidelines, with unlimited fines.

ARLA says that culpable individual letting agents rather than companies should be banned from trading, pointing out that if a firm is banned, there is nothing to stop its directors simply starting up a new company.

The body also says that rather than create a blacklist of rogue landlords and letting agents – as DCLG is proposing – it would be better to extend the Estate Agents Act 1979 to include letting agents and, potentially, landlords.

The ARLA response says: “Many letting agents are also sales agents and therefore regulated under the Estate Agents Act 1979. This presents us with an opportunity to remove the current situation where an estate agent can be banned from selling properties but is still legally allowed to undertake lettings activities.

“Should a blacklist and banning orders come into being, we would strongly urge the Government to ensure sufficient dialogue between the body responsible for administering the blacklist and any register of banning orders and Powys County Council in order to ensure both bodies are aware of new entrants on to either list and ensure that any individuals banned from one activity are also banned from the other.”

ARLA also calls for any blacklist to be made publicly available.

The discussion paper also proposes a regime of civil penalties imposed on landlords and agents.

ARLA says: “Fines currently issued by courts are very low and provide only a limited deterrent to criminal landlords.

“By way of an example, there has been a recent case where a property had no smoke alarms, no hot water and a cockroach infestation. The landlord only received a £350 fine, £324 in costs and a £35 victim surcharge. The landlord had failed to fully comply with the notice to improve the property and pled guilty by post. The landlord was receiving £750 a month in rent and the maximum penalty available to the court was fines totalling £20,000.

“In many cases criminal landlords are now accepting these low fines as another operating cost to their business. Fines of less than one month’s rent are not a sufficient deterrent.”

ARLA calls for £5,000 fines to be standard.

The consultation was launched on August 3 and closes today at 11.45am.

You can find it here

Picture of the Week: Is this your five a day?

Here is the picture of the week – and it’s a great one for vegetarians.

This unusual street view that goes with the details is apparently of a modest one-bed flat in Sheffield.

Just one question, though: how did the Google car manage to get in to take the picture?

Anyway, take a look at the Street View. It’s all apples and lemons to us!

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Treasury tells landlord protesters that Osborne will stand firm on tax changes

A ‘say no to George’ petition demanding that the Government reverses its decision to cut tax relief for private landlords has attracted over 20,600 signatures.

The Government has responded, after the 10,000 mark was achieved, and if the petition achieves 100,000 signatures will consider it for debate in Parliament.

The official response is from the Treasury and is a polite way of saying a very firm no.

It says: “The Government is committed to a fair tax system so is restricting tax relief landlords can claim on property finance costs to the basic rate of income tax.

“Landlords are currently able to offset their mortgage interest and other finance costs against their property income, reducing their tax liability. This relief is not available for ordinary home buyers and not available to those investing in other assets such as shares.

“Currently the landlords with the largest incomes benefit the most, receiving relief at their marginal tax rates of 40% or 45%.

“By restricting finance cost relief available to the basic rate of income tax (20%) all finance costs incurred by individual landlords will be treated the same by the tax system.

“This recognises the benefits to the economy that investment in property can bring but ensures the landlords with the largest incomes will no longer benefit from higher rates of tax relief.

“By unifying the treatment of finance costs for all individual landlords, the Government is reducing the distortion between property investment and investment in other assets, and reducing the advantage landlords may have in the property market over ordinary home buyers.

“Less than 1 in 5 (18%) of individual landlords are expected to pay more tax as a result of this measure.

“Taking account of the other measures from the Summer Budget, the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) have not adjusted their forecast for house prices. The OBR expect the impact on the housing market will be small. Furthermore, this change is being introduced gradually from April 2017 over four years. This will give landlords time to plan for and adjust to these changes.”

The changes to landlords’ tax breaks were announced by George Osborne in last month’s Summer Budget.

The petition is here

Highest sales since crash – but conveyancing delays will worsen and last a decade

Agents  are warned that they must manage their own and their buyers’ and sellers’ expectations, as conveyancing looks set to become more and more protracted for years to come.

Serious delays in some parts of the country which were already being experienced just as property sales increased this summer, are likely to spread and to worsen considerably.

Local authorities are increasingly dragging their heels as they cut back on their search departments and fail to invest in technology.

They are doing so in advance of the Land Registry taking over the property search function – but this is a process which could take almost a decade.

The cutbacks come after what one firm has called a “crazy number of conveyancing transactions”.

Property search firm STL said that in July, it dealt with the highest transactions numbers since 2007.

STL said that July transactions are still being held up because of long turnaround times in local searches.

It said that these have been exacerbated by staff taking holidays, but said some personnel are not being replaced as they leave.

The controversial centralisation of Land Charges information has a very long timetable.

Secondary legislation is scheduled for October. It will then take two years to build the infrastructure, starting in 2017.

This, says STL, will be followed by five years to capture all the Local Land Charges data.

According to STL, many local authorities are still using non high tech methods which means physically inspecting old maps and paper files.

It warns that while privately owned search firms offer a more technologically advanced and faster service, they often have restricted access to the information required.

For example, Doncaster is only open for appointments three days a week, and Calderdale is only open on Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings.

Other councils require advance notice for an appointment. Examples include Flintshire which requires ten days’ notice, with Hackney and West Lindsey both requiring 20 days.

STL said some councils are already winding down their local land charges departments in readiness for when the Land Registry takes over.

It said that when staff leave, they are simply not replaced.

The firm cited staffing issues at Channock Chase, North East Lincolnshire, Oadby and Wigston, Weymouth and Portland, West Dorset and Wiltshire. It said that the last full-time member of staff has apparently now left South Hams in Devon.

Alan Thorogood, chief executive at STL, said: “Despite much controversy and with few passengers on board, centralisation of all Local Land Charges by the Land Registry will now progress as a result of the Conservative election.

“But the journey will be long and it’s unlikely to be all plain sailing.”

He went on: “Everyone in the industry needs to pull together to manage client expectations.

“We need agents and solicitors to assist in this as much as they can in the affected areas.

“While it’s not ideal and may be a last resort, when an extended delay occurs, search delay insurance is an option.”

Young investors set to fuel buy-to-let boom

Many young people may be struggling to get a foot on the housing ladder, but that does not mean that they do not recognise the potential benefits of investing in residential property.

Fresh research provided by letting agent Rentify shows that nearly half – 49 per cent – of 18-39 year olds believe that acquiring buy-to-let property represents the best investment option in the UK today, with almost 4million people in this age group actively seeking to buy an investment property.

With buy-to-let landlords having benefitted from a booming property market earning returns of up to almost 1,400 per cent since 1996 – capital growth and returns combined – it is easy to understand why it is an investment type that appeals to many people across all age groups, not just the young.

George Spencer (left), CEO at Rentify said, “The fact that 49 per cent of first-time buyers would consider investing in buy-to-lets is fantastic and shows that there are more options out there and more people who want to get on the ladder.”

But-to-let continues to beat returns on all other mainstream investments, including commercial property, UK government bonds, shares and cash, and that trend looks set to continue, on the back of soaring demand from tenants.

The latest HomeLet Rental Index revealed that overall rent price increases were running ahead of inflation and house price growth to hit an all-time high of £977 per month in July, up 11.8 per cent year-on-year, helping to ensure that many investors are continuing to rent out their homes at a healthy profit.

The latest buy-to-let index from Your Move and Reeds Rains shows that the gross yield on a typical rental property in England and Wales increased to 5.2 per cent in July, up from 5.1 per cent the preceding month and 5 per cent in July 2014.
The data also revealed that a typical landlord achieved overall returns of 8.7 per cent, on average, over the year ending July 2015. Although this marks a significant drop from the 10 per cent recorded in June and 12.5 per cent in the year ending July 2014, it remains considerably higher than all other investment assets in today’s market.

With attractive rental returns still achievable, the reality is that an increasing number of people will continue to enter the private rental sector, as buy-to-let consolidates itself as the investment of choice, partly due to the dismal returns savers are currently receiving from banks and building societies.

Charlotte Nelson (right), Finance Expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk, said: “With high rents and poor savings rates, it’s little wonder that the buy-to-let market is booming.”

In light of this increasing demand, buy-to-let mortgage product numbers have soared to more than 1,000, up from 460 products available just two years ago, according to data from Moneyfacts.co.uk.

“The boom in deals has undoubtedly been boosted by providers taking advantage of the new demand from thousands of pensioners making the most of the new pension freedoms,” Nelson added.

The last thing you see before you’re added to the missing persons database.

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This is where the party started!

The bathroom is well appointed, spacious, and capable of withstanding a direct hit from an anti-tank missile.
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