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Professional & Surveying Services

Commercial Property Services

'.... probably the best independent Estate Agency and Lettings and property management covering the Medway Towns, Rochester, Chatham in Kent.' This is the opening paragraph on the UK Letting Agents' directory website for Sweet Property Services.

However, it is alleged that this is not the case.

It is reported that Sweet Property Services recently went into liquidation (precise details are "unclear") and has closed, with a Notice of Forfeiture on the door of its leased office in Rochester.

Allegedly, landlords have lost thousands of pounds after rents were withheld, and tenants are concerned that their deposits are unprotected and irrecoverable. The Property

Ombudsman (TPO) has received a number of complaints.

Prompted by this story and the fall out, Alan Stewart, director & head of Residential Lettings & Management at Caxtons Chartered Surveyors is frustrated by the lack of statutory regulation. Alan explains:

"In October, TPO issued a press release highlighting a sharp increase in the number of consumer complaints in the residential lettings sector. This was at the same time as the requirement for every agent to register with an approved redress scheme came into effect. It is clear that the voluntary code of conduct amongst letting agencies is still not working and that landlords and tenants are left at risk.

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Alan Stewart

One of George Osborne's 'property surprises' was to be discovered carefully buried on page 51 of the 2015 Budget Red Book, which provided for an amendment to the rules on sub-letting.

According to the record it says.... 'the intention is to legislate to prevent the use of clauses in private fixed-term residential tenancy agreements that expressly rule out sub-letting or otherwise sharing space on a short-term basis, and consider extending this prohibition to statutory periodic tenancies.'

Alan Stewart, director and Head of Residential Lettings and Management at Caxtons, says "If this does comes into law it will open a can of worms for landlords and poses so many questions that require full consultation with the industry. Alan Ward, the Residential Lettings

Association Chairman, has already raised the question of who would be responsible for the property if the original tenant leaves but the sub-letting tenant remains? And who would be responsible for checking the immigration status where sub-letting occurs? From a managing agent's point of view, I think this move would be a calamity for landlords and the rental sector."

Landlord Action founder Paul Shamplina has concerns, citing their experience of some tenants who take out fixed-term agreements then don't move into the property, but partition it and sub-let to as many people as possible. When landlords eventually discover what has happened, damage to properties from over-crowding can be very expensive to rectify, and the signatory to the fixed-term agreement is long-gone.

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Alan Stewart

Falling unemployment, and wages predicted to rise will be welcome news to landlords in the private rental sector. Historically, improving prospects supports high demand from new or existing tenants, who may wish to move to better properties.

As tenancies end and property is re-let, high demand and limited housing stock can result in improved yields for landlords, and an uplift in local rental values.

Allowing for regional variations and property differential, figures released by LS Property Services Group report private rents rose by three per cent during 2014, far outstripping inflation.

Some areas have increased more than others with London leading the way. During 2014, eight out of 10 regions in England and Wales recorded rent rises with only the North East and South West of England bucking the trend.

The continuing news that property is a sound investment and has proved its worth in spite of the recession has resulted in a plethora of advice for would-be landlord entrepreneurs. And the evidence is clear - with the right property, yields have far outstripped even the best saving rates available. Add to that the fact that the value of the property will, generally, increase, buying a property to let would appear to be a a sensible move*.

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Alan Stewart