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Axe plans to make landlords pay to boost energy efficiency, say campaigners

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Campaigners are urging the Government to scrap proposals to make landlords pay up to £10,000 to improve the energy efficiency of their rental homes.

The National Residential Landlords Association suggested that landlords could not reasonably be expected to pick up the tab in the way that the Government is suggesting for stringent new rules affecting buy-to-let properties.

In an official statement, NRLA said that the plans were based on the ‘misguided assumption that all landlords are property tycoons with deep pockets’.

By 2025, the Government is planning for all new rental properties to have an Energy Performance Certificate rating of C or above

By 2025, the Government is planning for all new rental properties to have an Energy Performance Certificate rating of C or above

In a consultation that closed in January, the Government proposed that from 2025 where a new tenancy agreement is signed, the property will need to have an Energy Performance Certificate rating of C or above. 

From 2028, all rental properties will need to meet the new standard, even where it is not a new tenancy agreement.

The Government has suggested that, in meeting these targets, landlords should be expected to pay up to £10,000 to make the necessary improvements.

However, the NRLA said that this imposed cap fails to accept the realities of different property and rental values across the country.

It follows research from NRLA that showed private landlords making an average net income from property of less than £4,500 a year. (Scroll down for more information about how this figure was calculated.)

The National Residential Landlords Association is calling on the amount that landlords should be expected to contribute to be linked to average market rents in any given area – known as broad rental market areas – as calculated by the Valuation Office Agency.

Under the NRLA’s proposals, this would mean the amount a landlord would need to contribute would gradually taper from £5,000 to £10,000, taking into account different rental values – and by implication, property values – across the country.

VAT and council tax reductions 

Alongside this, the NRLA is calling for a package of fiscal measures to support property investment.

It said these should include the development of a decarbonisation tax allowance, where VAT would no longer apply to energy efficiency and low carbon work.

And it said council tax should not be charged where energy improvements are being made to rental properties when they are empty.

Ben Beadle, of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: ‘We all want to see as many energy efficient rental properties in the sector as possible.

‘Besides being good for tenants, improvements made to rental properties ensure they become more attractive to prospective tenants when being marketed by landlords and agents.’

However, he added: ‘The Government’s proposals for the sector are not good enough.

‘They rely on a misguided assumption that landlords have unlimited sums of money and fail to accept the realities of different property and rental values across the country.

‘Ministers need a smarter approach with a proper financial package if they are to ensure their ambitious objectives are to be met.’

Improvements made to rental properties ensure they become more attractive to prospective tenants

Improvements made to rental properties ensure they become more attractive to prospective tenants

David Reed, of Richmond estate agents Antony Roberts, said: ‘We all want to see improvements to energy efficiency but If these proposals come to fruition, there’ll be a rush of landlords with property in vast swathes of suburbs – where older, less efficient properties make up a greater proportion of the stock – selling rather than incurring what could be considerable costs in retaining an investment in property.

‘With yields so low, returns barely meet costs as they are, especially as the latter have grown significantly in recent years either directly (Tenant Fees Act and electrical regulations) or indirectly (unable to offset mortgage interest).

‘Tenants love charming period conversion flats in good commuter territory and seldom is efficiency/an EPC rating at the forefront of the search criteria, whereas location and provision of attractive accommodation win hands down. There are simply not enough newer, in theory more efficient, properties being constructed to meet tenant demand.

‘The private rental sector vitally needs a healthy supply of good property and landlords who own one or maybe two rental properties make up a large sector of the market. Many are already disgruntled by recent changes and longer-term plans are under question. If they leave, the effect on tenants will be hard felt – a further restriction of supply giving more upward pressure on rental and lack of choice.

‘Hopefully consideration will be given to where there is no easy-fix or realistic programme of improvement to achieve grade C status or better.’

How much do landlords make? 

Private landlords make an average net income from property of less than £4,500 a year, according to the The National Residential Landlords Association.

Here is how the NRLA reached that figure… 

The English Private Landlord survey said that the average – median – gross rental income for a landlord before tax and other deductions is £15,000. 

 Average costs for landlords would be:

– Repair and replacement of furnishings – based on the previous tax exemption for 10% of annual rent (£1,500)

– Cost of a gas safety certificate (average £80 required annually – checkatrade average)

– Electrical safety check (average £265 performed every 5 years. £53 annually – checkatrade average)

– Deposit protection (£13 from TDS)

– Tenant referencing cost (for two tenants £49 NRLA tenant referencing)

– Interest-only mortgage for the average UK property (£250,000) with a 20% deposit (cheapest available £6,096 annual)

– Insurance (£531.15 for building and contents insurance from Hamilton Fraser using average floor space for PRS property https://www.statista.com/statistics/292206/average-floor-area-size-of-dwellings-in-england-by-tenure/)

– Agency fees (£1200 based on 8% agency fees)

The NRLA based its calculation on an average landlord of a house let to a couple with an interest-only mortgage, and assumed that tenants move annually.

Total gross rental income – £15,000

Repair and replacement costs – £1,500

Tenancy management costs – £726.15 (includes average cost of insurance, gas safety certificates, 1/5 of the EICR cost, deposit protection and tenant referencing)

Agency fees – £1,200

Total deductions before tax and mortgage costs – £11,573.85

Amount that can be taxed – £2,314.77 (£11,573.85 x 0.20)

Tax after mortgage interest relief accounted for – £1,095.57 (£2,314.77 – (£6,096.00 mortgage costs x 0.20)

Remaining balance after Tax – £10,478.28 (£11,573.85 – £1,095.57)

Mortgage costs – £6,096.00 (based on cheapest available 80% Loan to Value mortgage on the average property in the UK of £250,000)

Remaining balance after all average costs deducted – £4,382.28 (£10,478.28 – £6,096.00)

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Taoiseach’s family shaped by their working-class roots

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As a special needs assistant at Bunscoil Chríost Rí in Turner’s Cross on the south side of Cork city, Mairéad Martin-Richmond is often asked how she manages financially.

Martin-Richmond, a 59-year-old separated mother of two grown-up children, is a sister of Taoiseach Micheál Martin and says her family’s working-class roots keep her grounded.

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Hines invests in industrial portfolio in Northern Italy

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Hines has reached a binding agreement for an off-market investment to acquire 20 logistics assets located between Emilia Romagna and Lombardy through the Italian fund HEVF II Italy managed by Prelios SGR on behalf of the Hines European Value Fund 2 (HEVF 2). The transaction involves the acquisition of the real estate portfolio from four different selling companies and the simultaneous 15-year lease of the same portfolio to Snatt Logistica Group, a leader in the third-party logistics (3PL) sector focusing exclusively on the fashion industry. The portfolio of 20 logistics assets provides a total of 200,000m² of logistics space around Milan, Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Bologna. They are strategic, well-established logistic centres that enjoy effective, rapid connections with Italy’s main cities and the rest of Europe.

 

“We are pleased to start 2022 with an important investment in the logistics sector that consolidates our presence in the main intersections in Northern Italy. At Hines, we believe in the potential of the logistics sector in Italy and have set an investment target of around €1bn in 2022,” commented Mario Abbadessa, senior managing director & country head of Hines Italy. “We are proud to collaborate with Snatt Logistica Group, which is an international 3PL logistics leader in the luxury fashion industry, and we are certain that we will be able to develop a shared path for growth, guided by common values, including ESG, which is key to our DNA.”

 

Paul White, senior managing director and fund manager for HEVF 2 at Hines, said: “This is an attractive portfolio of assets with a strong, innovative tenant at the forefront of Italy’s fast-growing third-party logistics sector for the fashion industry. We believe that e-commerce will continue to drive long-term demand for high-quality logistics facilities in Italy’s northern cities, pushing the value of these investments forwards, while there is also a significant opportunity to enhance the sustainability performance of existing assets here. This is aligned with our ESG objectives as recognised by GRESB, with HEVF 2 achieving the award of Overall Global Sector Leader in the Diversified Office/Retail category for sustainability performance in 2021.”

 

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Latest Coveney gaffe shows new knack of ‘making small problems big’

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“Don’t mind your press releases,” a Fine Gael source was told by a more experienced hand on their first day in Leinster House; “If you want something out there, just say it in the PP [parliamentary party meeting].”

It’s a truism of Irish politics that these meetings – especially those of the two larger Government parties – leak like the proverbial sieve. This got worse during Covid, when virtual meetings meant members were unencumbered by the need to even appear interested, and journalists were freely briefed in real time. The content of the meeting, coupled with the observations of parliamentarians – arch, knowing, and unfiltered – populated twitter streams and news copy.

So, when Simon Coveney’s remarks about his surprise at the meeting between the Russian ambassador to Ireland and the head of the defence forces were promptly headline news, it can’t have been too much of a shock. “He knows he’s speaking at the leakiest meeting in Leinster House,” observed a source present.

Still, some in the room thought when Michael Creed raised the issue, Coveney would just “warble on like you normally do”. Instead, after a gap of several minutes while other questions were fielded, the Minister for Defence bit down. He said he was “surprised to put it mildly”, several sources present said, and questioned the judgement of it.

Afterwards, sources close to Coveney quickly asserted the Minister meant the tweet from the Russians, and the accompanying picture, were the issue, not the meeting. But multiple sources at the parliamentary party interpreted it as referring to the meeting, and what’s more, as a direct rebuke to the chief of staff. “The tone I got was he was f***ing livid,” said one source.

Either way, the remark was leaked, it was controversial, and early the next morning, Coveney was mending fences in the Dáil, expressing confidence in Clancy and contrition for having brought him into the line of political fire.

A kind interpretation, offered by some at the meeting, is that he feels honour-bound to respond fully to questions from parliamentary colleagues. There is likely truth to that. But equally, many believe he would have known his comments would have been controversial, open to interpretation as a rebuke to the head of the Defence Forces, and that it was meant as a shot across the bows.

Others postulate that – perhaps more worryingly – he didn’t detect the political risk inherent in the remarks, which the Opposition would say had undermined the Chief of Staff . “Simon should have known this was going to result in public comment,” said another person there.

That, in truth is the bigger concern – that Coveney’s bad run of form is down to a blunted political dexterity. “You’d know by the way he said it he wasn’t trying to cause controversy,” one colleague said – adding that it was, however, evidence of Coveney’s new knack of “making small problems into big ones”.

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