Monday, 5 April 2010

New stamp duty threshold is of national significance

The scrapping of stamp duty for first-time buyers who pay less than £250,000 for a property is set to strengthen the market.

First-time buyers are the lifeblood of the industry and the new stamp duty threshold will substantially increase the number coming onto the property market.

Already we have taken more enquiries from first-time buyers looking to get a foot on the property ladder. Although the average first-time buyer still needs a decent deposit before they can purchase a property, the fact that they no longer also have to save up one percent of the purchase price means that there will be many more properties available to them.

This new measure is of national significance and is good news for the industry and economy in general. It will particularly help those first-time buyers in London and the South East where property prices are generally much higher.

However large numbers of would-be first-time buyers are still being frozen out of the property market because they are unable to secure a deposit. We strongly believe the government should either help decrease the amount of deposit required or assist first-time buyers with securing funding through the Government-owned lending institutions.

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Landlords must be aware of new planning rules

Landlords may not realise they need to apply for planning permission to let houses in multiple occupation (HMO) under new rules.

Where a landlord lets or is considering letting a property to three or more sharers, this creates a house in multiple occupation (HMO). As a result, they will need to apply for planning permission for “changing the use” from a family home to a HMO.

The new planning rules have been introduced in response to the growth of “sharer properties” in certain areas predominately occupied by sharers such as students and migrant workers.

This legislation has come into place at very short notice and has not been very well-publicised, so many landlords may not be aware of it.

In effect, it means they need to obtain separate planning approval if they wish to let any property as an HMO. Furthermore, as the planning process takes about two months, landlords need to take this into consideration.

The new rules do not apply to tenancies which are currently in place, but a planning application may need to be made on tenancy renewal.

This will undoubtedly cause a massive increase in the number of planning applications and the number of appeals, as well as an increase in cost to landlords. Inevitably, many will now have to consider whether to let to sharers and what hoops they have to jump through to do so.

Do not forget that the HMO licensing introduced in 2006 is still very much in force, where certain types of HMOs require mandatory licensing. In addition, local authorities are able to create selective licensing for other HMOs by type or area under the licensing regulations. This new requirement for planning permission is an additional requirement to licensing.

Conditions are also likely to be attached to the new planning permissions. These could include an order to carry out a full health and safety assessment or perhaps restrictions on the number of cars allowed at the property.

I suggest landlords check with their local planning authority on their particular situation, or call us for advice.

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