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22/09/2015 How should BTL landlords prepare for the tax relief ‘bombshell’?

When George Osbourne used his summer budget to deliver a sizeable cut to the mortgage interest relief buy-to-let landlords are able to claim, it sparked considerable consternation in the landlord community.

The news that the tax relief threshold for private landlords is to be reduced 20%, down from 45% for the wealthiest , was hardly welcome. However, with the changes not to be implemented until April 2017, there is at least plenty of time to prepare.

In fact, the first change which landlords will have to tackle, and one which largely slipped under the radar amidst the fallout surrounding the headline-grabbing slash in mortgage interest tax relief, is the abolition of the ‘wear and tear’ allowance . This is the allowance which entitles landlords to a 10% tax break for wear and tear of their properties.

Of the upcoming changes facing landlords, this is the first and will be introduced from April next year.

As things stand, landlords can deduct 10% of rent from their profit to account for wear and tear. The Government has announced that this is set to change, with a new system introduced whereby landlords will only be able to deduct maintenance and refurbishment costs which they actually incur.

While this is a development which has received considerably less media attention than other aspects of the Chancellor’s announcement, it is certainly something which buy-to-let landlords will want to pay close attention to as it will affect their taxable profits.

Turning attention back to changes in mortgage interest relief, we can see that now the initial shockwaves from the announcement have begun to dissipate, the outlook may not be as bad as many buy-to-let landlords had initially feared.

Once the new regulation is implemented, change will be incremental. From April 2017-18 existing rules change so that landlords will only be able to take advantage of the current tax relief threshold on 75% of their finance costs.

The year after this will change to a 50:50 ratio, then 25:75 the following year before finally settling at the basic rate of all 20% for all landlords in 2020-21 . That means it will be six years before the full weight of the changes will be felt by private landlords.

So there’s no need for landlords to panic. Rather than a ‘bombshell’ the changes in front of landlords are better described as gradual change. In fact, there are a number of opportunities which landlords can be weighing up to mitigate the effects incoming tax changes will have on them.

One option for landlords is to register their property portfolio as a limited company . Doing so would allow mortgage interest payments to be claimed as a business expense, negating the impact of tax relief changes and allowing them to continue receiving full benefit.

The fact that the Government is cutting corporation tax to 19% in 2017 and 18% in 2020  makes this an attractive proposition further still. Those landlords who do

decide to establish their buy-to-let portfolio as a business will be able to take money out of that business as a dividend, £5,000 of which will be able to be taken tax free from next year.

Re-mortgaging property to secure a more favourable rate has been put forward as an another potential solutions for landlords and there is of course the possibility that landlords may increase the rents they charge to offset the drop in profits which mortgage interest tax relief changes will force them to incur.

So, as we can see, there’s plenty of options open to landlords as they adjust to the implications of George Osbourne’s latest budget.

While the Chancellor’s move to supposedly level the field between landlords and homeowners may not be the news buy-to-let landlords wanted, it’s not calamity for the industry which a cursory glance at the headlines might have suggested.

22/09/2015 14 ways to help reduce condensation in your property

By EnviroVent

As the clocks change and the evenings get darker, we are reminded that the winter weather is just around the corner. During the winter months, we start to feel the cold more and this brings our attention to the damp and condensation issues that are lurking in our homes.

Condensation is perhaps the most common form of dampness that can appear in your property and can cause wallpaper to peel, damp patches to appear on walls and a build up of moisture on your windows. Left untreated the condensation can create mould growth which can be potentially harmful and lead to serious health issues and breathing difficulties.

The reason condensation appears in your property is due to a lack of adequate ventilation. As we spend more time indoors and make our property more energy efficient the build up of moisture and humidity levels increase.

In fact, four people living in a 3 bedroom property would create 112 pints of moisture a week from just breathing, cooking, showering and boiling the kettle.

So how can you reduce the condensation in your property?

If you constantly have to wipe condensation off your windows and have a dehumidifier running for lengthy periods of time then you may want to think about whole house ventilation as a permanent solution to condensation and to improve the air quality indoors for your tenants or family.

If you are looking for a short term fix rather than a permanent solution then here are our suggestions to reduce the condensation levels in your property:

  1. If you have a washing machine or tumble dryer in your property, ensure that it is vented correctly. From just one load of washing two litres of water is emitted into the air.  
  2. Where possible, try to dry clothes outdoors to prevent excess moisture escaping into your property. If you have no choice but to dry clothes inside we would always advise that you open your doors or windows in these rooms.  
  3. When cooking, boiling a kettle, taking a shower or bath, ensure that your kitchen or bathroom door are kept closed to prevent steam going into colder rooms which will cause condensation to form.  
  4. When cooking ensure that you cover your pans with a lid to reduce moisture. Also ensure that you have opened a window or you are using an extractor fan if you have one fitted. Don’t turn off the extractor fan or close the window as soon as you finish cooking - leave it open for 15-20 minutes afterwards to clear the air.  
  5. Similar to when cooking in the kitchen, when you are taking a shower or a bath ensure that you turn on an extractor fan or open a window to get rid of the steam that is created when running warm water in a cold environment. This will help reduce the amount of condensation that appears on your bathroom windows but won’t eliminate the problem.  
  6. Portable gas bottles and paraffin heaters produce a lot of moisture, along with a lot of toxic fumes. Not only is this form of heat causing excess condensation in your property, it is also a health and safety hazard and is stated in most tenancy agreements as not allowed in rented flats.  
  7. Many families have house pets and plants which produce moisture. Make sure you cover fish tanks and if you are suffering from excess condensation look to move your plants outdoors.  
  8. If you don’t have an extractor fan in your bathroom or kitchen then make sure that you wipe down the surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen when you have been cooking or taking a shower to remove any moisture that has settled on the surface. This excess moisture that sits on the surface will quickly turn to mould which is difficult to completely remove.  
  9. Do not overfill your bedroom wardrobes and kitchen cupboards. With lack of ventilation and trapped warm air your overfilled cupboards are a breeding ground for mould as the air is not able to circulate freely inside.  
  10. For the same reason as above, make sure that your furniture is at least 50mm away from the surrounding walls so that air can move around the property. Also try to put wardrobes against internal walls in your bedroom which will be less cold than external walls.  
  11. Ensuring an adequate amount of heating in your property will improve the internal temperature of surfaces in the house and reduce the likelihood of condensation.  
  12. If you use a room on a regular basis, such as a living room, open a window slightly to improve the ventilation in the room. Breathing is a major cause of condensation so this will help to improve the ventilation in your property.  
  13. Double glazing, loft insulation and draft proofing will help to reduce the amount of heat that is lost from a property. Installing insulation will help to keep the temperature of the surfaces inside your property high.  
  14. Adequate ventilation is essential to allow the moisture to escape from a property before it turns into condensation. Installing an energy-efficient extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom can improve the humidity levels and prevent condensation.

 

27/03/2015 Carbon monoxide and smoke alarms required in all rented homes by October

The Government has announced that a new law requiring all rental properties to have a working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms installed will come into force in October this year.   

Currently there are no legal obligations for landlords to provide smoke alarms in single occupancy rented homes; they are only mandatory in Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) which are commonly considered to be a greater fire risk.

Communities Minister Stephen Williams said “We’re determined to create a bigger, better and safer private rented sector – a key part of that is to ensure the safety of tenants with fire prevention and carbon monoxide warning. People are at least 4 times more likely to die in a fire in the home if there’s no working smoke alarm.”

The new law will require smoke alarms to be fitted on every floor of a rental property and carbon monoxide alarms in rooms that present a high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as those containing solid fuel heating systems, e.g. wood or coal fires.  

Landlords who do not meet the minimum requirements and fail to comply with a remedial notice within 28 days will face fines of up to £5,000. To assist with the implementation of these new rules, the Government is also providing £3 million of funding for 445,000 smoke alarms and 40,000 carbon monoxide alarms. Each of England’s 46 fire and rescue authorities will be responsible for distributing the free alarms to private landlords. It will be at each authority’s discretion to determine their own arrangements for the distribution of the alarms between now and when the regulations come into force in October.

Agents should advise their landlords of the upcoming requirements and make them aware of the penalties if they don’t comply. Not only are the alarms essential to protecting their tenants safety and wellbeing, but they can also help to protect their investment. As an early warning system, smoke alarms may prove invaluable to limiting fire damage to the property if it is detected and contained quickly.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 has been laid before the House of Commons, and is currently awaiting parliamentary approval. It has  gathered strong support after a period of consultation and is likely to come into force on 10th October. The regulations will require all landlords to ensure alarms are installed in their rental properties and make sure they are working before the start of every tenancy. Tenants will however continue to be responsible for regularly checking the alarms for the duration of their tenancy.

23/01/2015 Drying your washing indoors 'can pose serious health risk'

Drying washing indoors can pose a serious health risk to people with weakened immune systems or severe asthma, doctors have warned.

Clothes draped on drying frames or warm radiators can raise moisture levels in the home by up to 30 per cent, creating ideal breeding conditions for mould spores.

Experts are particularly concerned about Aspergillus fumigatus spores, which can cause lung infections.

 

Drying washing indoors can raise moisture levels in homes by up to 30 per cent, creating ideal breeding conditions for mould spores. These spores can cause lung infections, doctors warn

Professor David Denning and his team at the National Aspergillosis Centre in Manchester have issued the warning after treating a growing number of patients who have inhaled Aspergillus fungal spores.

Professor Denning said: ‘One load of wet washing contains almost two litres of water, which is released into the room. Most of us are either immune to the fungus which grows in these humid conditions, or have a sufficiently healthy system to fight the infection.

My advice would be when in doubt dry wet washing outside, in a tumble dryer or in a well-ventilated indoor space away from bedrooms and living areas to be safe rather than sorry.’

Craig Mather, a father of three from Bolton, contracted tuberculosis in 1997. The disease left his lungs weak and aggravated the problems he had been left with after childhood asthma.

Mr Mather, 43, said: ‘I only started to recover when my consultant diagnosed chronic pulmonary aspergillosis and prescribed me special drugs to fight the fungal infection. However, I noticed coughing fits and night sweats particularly when I had wet washing drying on the warm bedroom radiator.

WHAT IS ASPERGILLOSIS?

Aspergillosis is the name of a group of conditions caused by a fungal mould called aspergillus.

It usually affects the respiratory system (windpipe, sinuses and lungs), but it can spread to anywhere in the body.

Depending on a number of factors, the symptoms of aspergillosis can vary in severity from mild wheezing tocoughing up blood. Someone with a weakened immune system is at greater risk of being more severely affected.

Doctors sent out a warning about Aspergillus fumigatus spores (pictured), after treating a rising number of patients who have inhaled them. These can cause lung infections and aggravate other health problems

Aspergillosis is caused by breathing in small spores of aspergillus mould. Most people's immune systems will quickly isolate and destroy the mould before it can spread to their lungs.

However, a person with damaged lungs or a weakened immune system is more likely to develop aspergillosis after breathing in aspergillus spores.

Aspergillosis isn't contagious and can't be passed between people or animals.

 Source: NHS Choices

‘He told me that it could be making my problems worse, so for the last 12 months I haven’t dried my clothes indoors and I’ve notice a huge improvement in my health.’

Aspergillosis is the name of a group of conditions caused by a fungal mould called aspergillus. It usually affects the windpipe, sinuses and lungs, but it can spread to anywhere in the body.

Depending on a number of factors, the symptoms of aspergillosis can vary in severity from mild wheezing to coughing up blood.

A previous study carried out by the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow found many homes had too much moisture. Up to a third of this moisture was attributed to drying laundry.

Researchers called on housebuilders to build dedicated drying areas into new housing to address the health concerns.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2851908/Drying-WASHING-indoors-harm-health-Damp-environment-creates-ideal-breeding-ground-mould-spores-trigger-infections.html#ixzz3PdaphzmO

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