Letting agent news in May was dominated by post-election discourse, rent rises across the country and the proposed national roll-out of immigration checks. In partnership with Letting Agent Today, we have compiled a brief summary of the biggest stories affecting the lettings world in the last month.
While lots of column inches were dedicated to the fallout from the election, plenty of other important events were taking place. One story in particular caught our attention around the time of the election result. A former Andrews letting agent and his ex-girlfriend pleaded guilty to forging tenancy applications for properties which subsequently became cannabis factories and brothels.
The commonly circulated headline: ‘Brothels, cannabis, fake tenancies and the letting agent’ certainly made you look twice, and the story was particularly shocking as such behaviour is extremely rare and in no way representative of the vast majority of landlords or agents.
On the whole agents reacted well to the Conservatives’ surprise election victory; although Belvoir was unrepentant over an ‘anti-Labour’ letter it sent to tenants in Peterborough and Cambridge in the lead-up to polling day. According to Savills, Build to Rent was also set to receive a post-election boost as the nervousness surrounding the election was swept away and more deals could now be completed.
There was a mix-up over the naming of the new housing minister, Oxford-based letting agents Finders Keepers calling on the Tories to regulate the lettings sector (something Leaders letting and estate agency agreed with later in the month), and an ‘alternative Queen’s Speech’ set out by pressure group Generation Rent.
Elsewhere, news of significant rent rises came to the fore – and not just in London. As our own index showed, the average rent throughout the UK is now growing roughly in line with those in Greater London for the first time since 2008 (before the global financial crisis took hold). Rents rose by 7% across the country, with the average rent in the UK now standing at £916. The average rent in Greater London stood at £1,436.
This was further backed up by data from LSL, whose research found that private sector rents in England and Wales have increased 4.6% year-on-year, the fastest rate of growth since November 2010.
One of the more astonishing pieces of news in May was the story of a £219,000 flat in Surrey selling out in just 35 minutes after it had been advertised on the Property Partner crowd funding platform. 126 investors purchased shares in the flat as investments came in at a rate of £6,000 a minute!
Lastly, in a speech towards the end of the month, Prime Minister David Cameron promised to roll-out immigration checks on tenants across England and Wales. These checks will have to be carried out by letting agents and landlords themselves. Cameron said now the Tories have got a majority they will roll this policy out nationwide, changing the rules ’so landlords can evict illegal immigrants more quickly’. The prime minister also pledged to clamp down on unscrupulous landlords who exploit illegal migrants for their own gains.
The proposed checks drew a mixed industry response. While ARLA said it was happy with more regulation of the private rented sector, it also argued that Mr. Cameron’s pledges weren't going far enough in their attempts to eradicate rogue landlords from the market.
Meanwhile, the National Landlords Association welcomed the measures, but insisted councils must be given adequate funding to implement these new powers in an efficient and effective manner. Lisa Simon, head of lettings at Carter Jonas, also cautioned against rushing through with these new measures, arguing that the extra burden on letting agents and landlords needs to be properly analysed.
That’s all for May 2015; we now look forward to what June has in store for letting agents all over the country.