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Farmers, are you aware of the barn conversion regulations?

NEW:Barn Conversions Data Report

A new data report by Planning shows that, in the second quarter of 2017, the latest period for which figures are available, nearly two-fifths of prior approval applications under the agricultural-to-residential PD right were refused. While the refusal rate has come down from late 2014, when it neared 60 per cent, it has remained at about 40 per cent since the second quarter of 2015. In comparison, the average refusal rate for all types of PD prior approval applications stood at just 19 per cent in the second quarter of 2017 – less than half the rate for Class Q applications – and has remained at about the same level for the past three years.

For rural lobby groups, the figures – which also show a slight dip in the number of prior approval decisions in the most recent quarter – are a source of concern. They lay the blame squarely at the door of councils, who they say do not support the PD right. “They will make any excuse they can find,” says Fenella Collins, head of planning at the Country Land and Business Association, which represents rural land and business owners. Suzanne Clear, the National Farmers Union’s senior planning and rural affairs advisor, says that the drop in decisions suggests there is a perception that because some local authorities do not support the PD right, it is therefore “not something farmers will do, even if they need more homes on their farm”.

But for Steve Ingram, president of Planning Officers Society, a local authority membership group, authorities are dealing with poor quality proposals. “Well thought-out proposals will be far easier to deal with and support than those which are not,” he says. “If local authorities are concerned about safeguarding the character of the countryside, it is totally right for them to challenge poor quality development,” he says. James Podesta, head of planning at consultancy Rural Solutions, adds: “This is one of those areas where people might think they can do it themselves. But if it’s an individual accessing the planning system themselves, the application might not have the technical details required.”

What all commentators agree on, however, is that the complexity of the rules governing the agricultural-to-residential PD right is an issue. While other PD categories tend to have a limited number of prior approval criteria to test applications against, applicants using Class Q have to face many more potential pitfalls, including six prior approval tests and a series of conditions. “The matters on which prior approval is required are more draconian,” says Collins. Clear adds that recent NFU research found that farmers felt it more difficult to get permission through Class Q than other agricultural PD rights. “The amount of information required was in excess of what would be required in quite a few planning applications,” she says.
The new Planning data report, which analyses nearly 450 local authority Class Q refusal notices (see table, below), found that the most commonly-cited reason for refusal – given in half of cases – was on siting and location grounds. The next most commonly-cited reason, mentioned in 35 per cent of refusal notices, related to structural integrity – the right only allows works that are “reasonably necessary” to facilitate such conversions. In third was a test relating to the use of the site. The right does not apply where the site was not solely in agricultural use at the cut-off date of 20th March 2013 or, if earlier, when it was last in use.

But data on appeals shows that, despite the high refusal rates, planning inspectors are not disproportionately overturning councils’ decisions. An analysis of a sample of Class Q appeal decisions collated by Planning’s sister service DCS over the three years since the right was introduced shows that, on average, 31 per cent of agricultural-to-residential prior approval refusals are overturned on appeal. In 2017, 35 per cent of the 31 appeals logged so far were allowed. Though higher than the 24 per cent of minor housing appeals allowed in the first quarter of 2017/18, the figure is lower than the 38 per cent for major housing appeals in the same period.
Some of the prior approval criteria have led to confusion and disagreements between applicants and authorities. But over time, following the publication of revised guidance and a series of legal rulings, the picture has become clearer, experts agree. An early battleground was the location of the building, with a number of prior approval applications being knocked back by authorities on the grounds that sites were too isolated. But guidance published in March 2015 made clear that, should an agricultural building be in a location “where the local authority would not normally grant permission for a new dwelling”, this is not a “sufficient reason for refusing prior approval”.


Another area of confusion has been structural integrity, with Class Q applicants required to prove that the works required to make a building suitable for a new use would not be so extensive that the process constitutes a rebuild rather than a conversion. Podesta says that there’s a “subtle difference” over whether a proposal amounts to a conversion or a rebuild. “If you have four poles and a roof, are you converting it or rebuilding it?” he muses. This issue came before the High Court last year in the Hibbitt judgement, which experts say has made it much harder for agricultural buildings with few structural elements to win approval for conversion to housing. Ingram says that the case “has done a lot to help arguments about what is a conversion and what is a rebuild”.

Figures show wide variations in local authorities’ attitudes towards Class Q conversions. According to the new Planning data report, some authorities, including Reigate and Banstead in Surrey, West Lancashire and East Hertfordshire, have very high refusal rates of more than 75 per cent (see table, below). In a statement, East Hertfordshire Council said that it was initially of the view that many of the proposals could not be supported due to an “inconsistency between the regulations and government guidance” and that, to test this position, it had unsuccessfully challenged a related appeal decision in the High Court. “The ruling has now clarified matters and it is likely that approval rates in East Herts will be comparable with other areas in the future,” the statement said.
In a statement, West Lancashire Borough Council, which refused 83 per cent of applications in the three years to March 2017, said that it does not have a policy of resisting agricultural-to-residential PDR applications. However, it added that Class Q is very specific in terms of the conditions that need to be complied with. “Unfortunately, many of the applications received by the council have not complied with the legislation and consequently the council has had no option but to refuse them,” the statement said.

But in other districts, such as Eden, Cumbria, where only 10 of 177 decisions have been refusals, authorities appear much more receptive. David Wright, Eden District Council’s planning development manager, says that while the PD right is “at odds with its local plan”, the guidance is “quite clear on what is considered acceptable and what is not”. In Eden, Wright says, a lot of the barns are robust enough to be converted to residential properties. “We would much rather see them maintained and used for generations to come because they have become part of our landscape,” he adds.
With plans in the pipeline for the government to relax rules further to allow conversion of agricultural buildings with a floorspace of up to 750 square metres to a maximum of five new dwellings, arguments over barn conversions are likely to rumble on. But for Ingram, such proposals should really be subjected to the rigour of the planning process, so that they can be properly scrutinised, the local community engaged, and occupancy conditions imposed to ensure rural workers and local people benefit. “We live with bad planning decisions for a very long period of time,” he says.

If you have a barn and are considering using Class Q permitted development rights, call Helen at Appledore Lettings 01548 853555.

Get the VALUE ‘Feeling’

Landlords, when you deal with your agent do you get the feeling they are offering you VALUE?

Ebook banner

They may VALUE your business and property but WHAT is it that YOU as a Landlord, value?

Good tenants, rent on time, property management, etc, any good agent should do that!

But what sets an agent apart? What do agents give you that you VALUE?

What about up to date knowledge on compliance and the new data protection legislation? Of course you expect your agents to know all of this information at their finger tips but keeping abreast of the plethora of changes this government is throwing at agents, it is pretty hard work and can be a considerable expense, paying to keep staff updated, but this gives landlords security and peace of mind, adding to that feeling of VALUE.

Can you discuss, exit strategies with your agent and can they offer solutions for you particularly for ‘staged’ exits? Has your agent got Rent to Own in place? Guaranteeing you a rental income with a sale at the end, with internal property maintenance as a additional comfort? Would that give you a feeling of ‘Value’?

How about, advice on how to build your portfolio? Do you know which properties will give you the least void periods? Which areas are always popular? Do you know which part of your investment area gives the best yields or ROI? Do you know the statistics of the % of BTL properties V Owner occupier? Does your agent? Would this kind of information make you  feel that you were getting value?

 

Planning on making alterations to your property?

Do you need planning or building regulations consent? Do you know the rules for development in a conservation area or for Listed Building consent? No? Does your Agent know the basics? If the answer to that one is YES then you should feel the ‘Value’ oozing from your agent!

Project Management!

Which are the best contractors for the job? How long will it take? Do you have to move the Tenants out to do the work? Who will oversee the daily management of the project? Can Your agent assist with this? If they can then that definitely counts on the Value stakes!

Funding?

So with the changes to the EPC legislation coming in April 2018, are you all sorted? Can you raise  your EPC to the minimum of an ‘E’ rating? Could you do with some financial assistance? Can  your agent access the financial assistance required? If they can, then you have hit the ‘Value Jackpot!‘ Congratulations!! You must truly feel the Value your agent is providing.

If you are NOT getting that Value feeling, come and talk to the Appledore Team! We know the meaning of VALUE!

Landlords Funding Assistance!

 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy (BEIS) have recently published their guidance on the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 (MEES Regulations).

The MEES Regulations set out a minimum standard of energy efficiency for privately rented property, being an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of at least E. Property falling below that standard, i.e. F or G means that:

a) from 1st April 2018, landlords are restricted from granting new tenancies, or renewing, or extending to periodic existing leases: and

b) from April 2023, landlords cannot continue to let the property without carrying out works to improve the EPC of the property to raise it’s rating to at least an E or, alternatively, registering an exemption where one applies.

When is an EPC required?

Usually, the landlord or letting agent is required to make an EPC available to the prospective tenant.

An EPC may not be required in a number of circumstances, such as temporary buildings, buildings used as places of worship, buildings due to be demolished and protected/listed buildings.

BEIS have clarified the status of exception relating to listed buildings, stating that some listed buildings may be exempt from the EPC requirements but NOT all. An EPC will not be required only in so far as compliance with the EPC requirements would unacceptably alter its character of appearance.

Exemptions:

In limited circumstances, an exemption may apply to the prohibition on letting a sub standard property. The landlord will need to provide details and evidence of the exemption to a centralised self-certification register (the PRS Exemptions Register).

Some of these exemptions may include where the energy efficiency measures would reduce the market value of the property by more than 5%, or where consent is legally rehired to undertake the improvement works (i.e. from a lender, planning authority or superior landlord) and where that consent is not forthcoming.

The exemptions will usually only apply on a 5 year temporary basis and it must be noted that any exemptions claimed y a landlord will NOT pass to a new owner or landlord upon the sale or transfer of the property. Therefore any new owner must either carry out the improvement works to raise the EPC to the minimum standard or, if they intend to continue to let the property (as sub-standard) must register an exemption where one applies.

An enforcement authority may impose financial penalties of up to £5000, or 10% of the rateable value of the property whichever is the greater (to a maximum of £50,000) where the landlord has been in breach for less than 3 months. Where the landlord has been in breach for 3 months or more penalties increase to £10,000 or 20% of the rateable value (to a maximum of £150,000).

Will this new legislation affect you and your property?

We may be able to assist you. We currently, and for a limited time have access to funding to help you improve your EPC rating.  Funds are available for replacement boilers, loft insulation and a raft of other improvement measures. For more information please call the office on 01548 853555.

Landlords, Rent to Own – Savings plan!

We have just been approached by a landlord to find him a good buy to let with the sole intention of finding a Rent to Own. What are the advantages of this?

  • Buy a property at todays value and have a RICS valuation, with a buy to  let mortgage (there are some excellent deals around at the moment for buy to let products).
  • Ask the RICS valuer to estimate the price for say the next 5 or 7 years.
  • Take on a Tenant buyer who then pays the rent for the next say 5 or 7 years
  • Sell on the property in 5 or 7 years at the pre agreed RICS projected valuation at a profit.
  • Collect rent for 5 to 7 years (or however many years you have opted to have the agreement period).
  • Not only do you have capital growth in the property from the date of purchase to the point of sale, you also have a constant rental income for the fixed period with no voids.

Come and talk to us to show you how this can work for you!

Landlords can save money using Agents.

Landlords Can Save Money Using Agents

An insurance company has recently carried out research across the market and claims that on average landlords can save up to £2,000 per year if they contract letting agents, when compared to those who prefer to deal directly with tenants.

The company says that landlords working with a good and reliable letting agent on average save £1,910 per year. The main savings are made by having less void periods and a higher rental income secured by their agent. Apparently landlords who deal with tenants direct save an average of £159 in monthly costs. The significant advantages of using an agent are because of their local knowledge and strength in achieving higher rents for their ‘clients’.

The survey asked landlords who took part the main reasons for using a letting agent and 50% said the biggest benefit was their local expertise, 41% said being able to enjoy the feeling that they did not have to worry about the property as it was in a ‘safe pair of hands’.

Managing director of property specialist, Allison Thompson, said: ‘There is a misconception among some landlords that a successful letting agent will not add value to your investment. This is not true, as the figures show landlords who work with letting agents enjoy a significantly higher return. The marketing power of an established agent gives your property the best chance of being rented by a quality tenant as soon as it goes on the market.”

She continued: “Some DIY landlords understandably struggle to bring a home to the attention of prospective tenants and suffer lengthy and costly voids as a result. However, a good agent will not stop at finding a great tenant for your property. They will also offer support with legal matters, repairs and maintenance, avoiding rent arrears and minimising risks, all of which can help to reduce overall costs and provide you with ultimate peace of mind.”

Extract from PIMMS.co.uk May 11 2017

Energy poor efficient homes.

Landlords warned about looming ban on poor energy efficient homes

Once poor performing buildings are identified, landlords can improve their rating through a few ‘quick win’ energy efficiency measures if not already put in place

Property management specialist, Lee Baron, is advising residential landlords to check the energy efficiency of their property portfolios and take simple measures to boost the efficiency of any poorly performing property, before they become illegal to let.

From the 1st April 2018, it will be illegal to rent a property with a new lease or renewal of an existing lease that falls below a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of an E. The regulations then apply to all existing leases after April 1st 2020. If the property falls below this EPC rating, it would be deemed ‘substandard’ and illegal to rent.

The impact for landlords of having an illegal property are serious, with enforcement by Trading Standards which can impose a fine up to a maximum of £4,000.

Steven Room, Head of Residential Development at Lee Baron, advises: “Landlords can act now to avoid being slapped with a hefty fine. The first step is to ensure properties have a valid and up-to-date EPCs that take account of any changes and improvements made to a building. Once poor performing buildings are identified, landlords can improve their rating through a few ‘quick win’ energy efficiency measures if not already put in place.

Once landlords have their properties assessed, they can schedule in boosting energy efficiency to coincide with any maintenance and redecoration work at the end of the tenancy. Although there is cost and effort involved, energy efficient properties will have greater appeal to investors and this will reflect in improved values.”

Top tips to boost energy efficiency:

1

Most of a building’s heat is lost through poor sealing of doors and windows and through poor insulation in the roof and walls. Checking and renewing or adding new window and door seals can eliminate drafts, while insulation, if missing in attics can be installed or existing insulation thickened to reduce heat loss from roofs. Cavity wall insulation should also be considered, but this can be disruptive to install.

2

Installing low energy lighting – LED spots and/or compact fluorescent lights, which fit into existing light sockets are quick and easy to install.

3

The installation of modern compact combi boilers which are considerably more energy efficient should also be considered.

4

Consider installing a smart meter. You can see the effect of reducing energy immediately via your smart energy monitor which will help you to make better choices and start saving money. Plus you’ll receive accurate bills without submitting a meter reading as your smart meter will send us regular and accurate readings of your energy usage automatically.

Courtesy By Warren Lewis

Would you like to own a barn conversion in rural Devon?
Well this is our first Rent to Own property.
Purchase price £300,000.
Rent £850 pcm under the scheme.

Period to be determined.

Decorate to your own tastes and improve!
Please call the office to discuss.
01548 853555

    

RENT TO OWN! APPLEDORE LETTINGS NEW INITIATIVE!

RENT TO OWN! An initiative to help Tenants buy a Home.

Appledore Lettings are pleased to be introducing an innovative and unique product to its services that helps Tenants to purchase their home.

Rent to Own enables potential homeowners to purchase a property and save for a deposit of around 10% of the agreed sale price and to move into their new home straight away. They pay an agreed fixed monthly rent and a ‘top up’ which builds up an amount that is used towards the mortgage deposit, therefore making it very easy for the tenant buyer to save up whilst living in the property.

Director Andrew Ruffle of Appledore Lettings stated, “We have put a modern twist to the strategy by designing policies that are aimed at being transparent to both Landlords and Tenants. Although we are just commencing the roll out of the service, the feedback has been amazing and re have received a great deal of interest from both Tenant buyers and potential Vendors”. This product has been widely used in other parts of the Country with huge success.

Andrew Ruffle added, “The scheme also assists Landlords who are looking to sell their properties within the next few years, or who want to sell now due to high existing mortgages and the tax changes which will be implemented in Section 24.*

Rent to Own is a great mid to long-term exit strategy suitable for accidental Landlords or Landlords with multiple properties that wish to have a structured disposal strategy and take advantage of annual Capital Gains Tax exemption.

‘It’s a win-win for everyone, the Tenant buyer gets to move into a property and can purchase at a time in the future once they have the deposit, and the Landlord gets to sell the property having had several years of constant rental income with no void periods’.

For further information about Rent to Own, please contact Appledore Lettings on 01548 853555 or email us info@appledorelettings.com

* The amount of Income Tax relief landlords can get on residential property finance costs will be restricted to the basic rate of tax.

The changes will:

  • affect you if you let residential properties as an individual, or in a partnership or trust
  • change how you receive relief for interest and other finance costs
  • be gradually introduced over 4 years from April 2017

Finance costs won’t be taken into account to work out taxable property profits. Instead, once the Income Tax on property profits and any other income sources have been assessed, your Income Tax liability will be reduced by a basic rate ‘tax reduction’. For most landlords, this will be the basic rate value of the finance costs.

Could renting to pet owners be the best option?

Could renting to pet owners be the best option?

 

Cats

When it comes to pets, a lot of landlords don’t want to consider the hassle of renting to tenants who have them. Many letting agents will also advise landlords not to accept pets due to the possibility of more repairs or issues with the property when the tenant comes to leave.

However, renting to tenants who own pets may not be as bad as many people think. While there may be an increased risk of damage to a property, there are also a number of benefits to opening properties to potential tenants who have animals.

Here are five reasons it could be a good idea to discuss the possibility of renting to pet owners with more landlords:

More demand

Finding a property that allows pets or at least will consider them on a case-by-case basis is not an easy task. There are so few properties on the market that advertise as pet-friendly that demand is significantly increased.

Not only does this mean there is a greater pool of prospective tenants to choose from, it also results in properties not being vacant for very long. Pet owners who are looking to rent know they need to move quickly once they have found a place that suits them so they’ll snap a property up as quickly as they can.

This is why it is a good idea to make it clear in listings that pets are allowed or can be considered.

Tenants stay longer

Most pet owners look for places with long-term leases because they know what a struggle it is to find a suitable property. This means they are likely to stay for longer, which reduces management costs and means you won’t be advertising the property again in six months’ time.

So long as the landlord is happy for the tenants to stay on, pet owners are more likely to put roots down and remain in a single property for years.

Responsible tenants

Because pet owners want to stay in properties for longer periods of time and avoid having to search for somewhere else that allows animals, they don’t want to do anything that could jeopardise their lease. They are often some of the most responsible tenants as they don’t want to cause problems that could mean they need to move out.

Similarly, if their pet does cause damage, there is a greater chance that they will address it themselves compared to those without pets in order not to be seen as problematic tenants.

Blanket bans are classed as unfair

The Office of Fair Trading considers complete pet bans in rental properties as unfair due to the Unfair Terms and Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. This means that landlords shouldn’t have a ‘no pets’ clause in their tenancy agreements or risk discrimination complaints.

Instead, they should always consider pets when looking for a new tenant or existing tenants should, by contract, ask for consent before bringing a pet into the property. However, unreasonably withholding consent can also cause problems.

Courtesy Gary Whittaker for Rentman