Will George get Britain building?

In the Commons at the end of November, George Osborne conjured several unexpected rabbits out of his Autumn Statement hat. His U-turn on tax credits hogged most of the headlines, but the Chancellor also had various major announcements to make regarding housing, including news of a 3% surcharge on stamp duty for buy-to-let properties and second homes from April 2016. This will hit landlords hard said critics, and could drive up the cost of rents.

The Chancellor also said he was going to tackle the “crisis in home ownership” with a £7billion pledge to deliver “the largest house building programme since the 1970s”. That means delivering 400,000 new homes by 2020.

It’s very nearly 2016. Better get building.

2015: That was the year, that was

It’s been another roller-coaster 12 months for property watchers — and a year when ‘dead certs’ never materialised. For instance, variable rate mortgage-owners braced themselves for a ‘definite’ rise in interest rates in the first half of 2015 — but the predicted increase never came.

Then, in May, a second cast-iron certainty bit the dust. A coalition government of indeterminate hue was predicted by all the political pundits on election day — except, um, the Conservatives romped home with a majority, putting the final nail in the coffin for Labour’s proposed mansion tax.

For landlords, June was a big month: the cut off date by which they had to meet official deposit protection rules, or risk heavy fines; but then came the whammy of George Osborne’s announcement that tax breaks for landlords are to be restricted from April 2017. The pressure for buy-to-renters didn’t let up, as the Government then gave details about how it would controversially force landlords to evict known illegal migrants from privately rented properties with its Right to Rent scheme.

As the end of the year approaches, we do seem to be back where we were at the start of 2015: no interest rate rises (so far) and house prices heading north (figures suggest that property prices in UK cities are on track for 10% growth in 2015). And there is still a housing shortage…

Revenge isn’t sweet

Tenants: have you ever made a complaint to your landlord about some aspect of your rental property — but then found that your tenancy has ended suddenly and you are being asked to pack your bags and leave?

If you have, you’ve been the victim of a ‘revenge eviction’ — which, thankfully, are rare.

What you might not know is that new regulation has been introduced that aims to protect tenants from retaliatory evictions, spearheaded by housing charity Shelter. This change affects short-hold tenancies that were started or renewed on or after 1 October 2015 and means that landlords would be prevented from serving a Section 21 notice to end a tenancy if a tenant has made a valid complaint about the state of the property.

Safe Decs

‘Tis the season to be jolly, once again — and what better way to get in the Christmas mood than by putting up the decorations?

There is a proviso, of course: make sure all your illuminated decorations, such as fairy lights, are safe. The ELECSA and NICEIC, the UK’s regulatory body for electricians, advises against extensive use of extension sockets and adapters, and plugging multiple extensions into each other. Don’t re-wire your lights, either, and make sure that any lights you use outside are certified safe for external use. Don’t leave lights on for long periods — or when you go out — and only use Christmas lights that have been certified for use, identified by the European Standards Symbol (represented by a CE) and the British Standards Kitemark.

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