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The rent race! Return to office means tenants are fighting for homes

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Roseanna Lane has found it almost impossible get a two-bedroom property in her price range

Roseanna Lane has found it almost impossible get a two-bedroom property in her price range

Roseanna Lane thought she had plenty of time to find a new flat to rent when she gave notice to her landlord two months ago. 

But despite registering with eight estate agents in Richmond, South-West London, Roseanna and her partner Nick have found it almost impossible to nail down a two-bedroom property in their price range.

Even after raising their budget from £1,500 to £2,000 a month and considering properties farther afield, the couple, both 24, were repeatedly outbid by tenants willing to pay more. 

And they are not alone. Experts warn that the rental market is in chaos following a spike in demand after lockdown — particularly in big cities where workers are returning to the office, and student towns now that universities have reopened.

Agents say properties are being snatched up in as little as 24 hours — in which time applicants are registered, vetted, shown the flat and have their paperwork processed — before tenants move in a few days later. 

Renters also complain of being gazumped by others offering more money at the last minute.

Nervous landlords are desperate for financial security after the Covid-crisis ban on evictions, which only ended in May. 

As a result, many are increasing rents, carrying out stricter income checks and demanding that tenants commit to longer contracts. 

So even those who manage to find somewhere to live now face paying hundreds of pounds more per month, forking out a year’s rent upfront and locking into three-year tenancies for a property that likely doesn’t tick all their boxes.

Supply has also been hit by reforms to the buy-to-let sector, which has left landlords struggling to make a profit after losing lucrative tax breaks. 

Many have sold up to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday and rising house prices. Others have converted their properties to holiday lets.

Picky landlords and huge fee hikes 

Roseanna, who works in technology PR, says: ‘We’d look at a property that was not quite right but before we could make an offer, it was gone. We were refreshing websites such as Rightmove constantly.

‘Some of the prices were ridiculous — I found it sickening. Before lockdown, I was renting a two-bed flat in Richmond with a friend for £1,500 a month, but we were seeing some for as much as £2,250 a month that were just not worth the money.’

The couple were warned about a shortage of properties but thought the agents were just trying to get them to move quickly. 

They were also told that landlords wanted more security and were becoming far fussier about tenants.

Hot property: Agents say properties are being snatched up in as little as 24 hours -  in which time applicants are registered, vetted, shown the flat and have their paperwork processed

Hot property: Agents say properties are being snatched up in as little as 24 hours –  in which time applicants are registered, vetted, shown the flat and have their paperwork processed

Roseanna says: ‘We made sure to emphasise that we are a tidy, professional couple with stable jobs.’

She also found that landlords were unwilling to negotiate on rent. For one flat, the couple offered £1,800 — £100 below the asking price — and it was rejected straight away.

The pair later learnt that the person who secured the tenancy offered more than the price advertised.

They eventually settled on a two-bed flat outside Richmond because they were running out of time. They offered £1,600 a month — £25 more than what was asked.

They had to pay a holding deposit of a week’s rent to secure the property and agree to a three-year contract with a one-year break clause.

Pounce first thing or there’s no hope 

Ida Amegbey, who works for an investment platform, is struggling to find somewhere to live in Bristol.

She says the first hurdle is price. Over the past few years she has seen rent soar. Before the pandemic, a room in a shared house cost between £300 and £500 a month. Now, the starting price is £500. Meanwhile, the cost of a one-bed flat has risen from £600 to about £900.

And with a small pool of eligible properties, securing a viewing, let alone the chance to put your name on a list, is difficult.

Ida, 30, says estate agents are no longer taking your details to let you know when something suitable crops up. 

‘You now need to check the various websites first thing in the morning when new accommodation is listed, accept the earliest available viewing, then hope that by the time you view the flat, someone else hasn’t been for a viewing and requested to take up the listing,’ she says.

‘It’s not a case of finding a place you can afford or you like, or making sure the people you’ll be living with are compatible. You just take what you can get. It is frantic and stressful.’ 

Ida says she has heard of people sleeping on friends’ couches because they haven’t found a place to live after hunting for months on end.

She adds that tenants are also so worried about the rental market, they are putting up with more unfair treatment by landlords.

‘People I know are less likely to contest unfair charges or report too many repairs,’ says Ida. 

‘We feel we are tiptoeing around our landlords. Ours put the rent up by £100 a month at the start of the pandemic when two of my housemates had been furloughed and elsewhere people were losing their jobs. We just paid it.’

Stuck in limbo with time running out 

Bethan Howe has been looking for a four-bed house in Bristol with three other young professionals since June, when their landlord told them he wanted to sell their flat. 

He gave them until the end of September to find something but they have had no luck.

Bethan Howe has been looking for a four-bed house in Bristol with three other young professionals since June

Bethan Howe has been looking for a four-bed house in Bristol with three other young professionals since June 

Bethan, 23, says: ‘There are so few houses available for sharers — and when one does appear, we hardly even get the chance to arrange a viewing before they are booked up or people put in an offer without seeing the house. 

‘Also, one of the people I’m trying to rent with is doing a PhD and although she is salaried, landlords often consider her a student and reject us on that basis.’

Their landlord has now given them until November to move out, but Bethan says she is still not confident they will find somewhere.

Another tenant, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Money Mail she is currently battling her landlord’s demand for an extra £150 a month for a new tenancy once her existing one ends.

The 29-year-old pays £800 a month for a one-bed flat in Manchester, but has been told this will rise to £950. She says: ‘The justification has simply been ‘the market’. It’s crazy this is happening just before Christmas.’

Some pay a year’s rent up front 

There were nearly half (46 per cent) as many homes available to rent across Britain in August compared with the same month last year, according to estate agents Hamptons. 

At the same time, the firm saw an 8 per cent increase in people looking to rent.

The average monthly rent on a new let increased by 7.4 per cent across the country, from £1,010 to £1,085. 

Tenants in the South West of England saw the biggest hikes, with the average rent rising by 13.9 per cent, from £868 to £989, while those in the South East faced rises of 12.8 per cent — £138 more a month.

Along with Wales, Scotland has seen the sharpest drop in rental properties in Britain. As a result, the average rent in Wales has risen by 12.9 per cent while in Scotland it has gone up by 10.8 per cent, according to HomeLet.

Trade body ARLA Propertymark, which represents lettings agents, says the number of tenants being hit by rent increases jumped significantly for the second month in a row in August, with 79 per cent of agents saying landlords were raising rents, compared with 71 per cent in July.

It also reported record high numbers of new prospective tenants, with 107 per branch.

The house-share site Spareroom currently has more ‘room wanted’ adverts than it has postings for rooms available. This is only the third time this has happened in the UK in the past six years (the last was in 2019).

Lucy Devine, lettings consultant at Hamptons in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, says 27 per cent of properties have gone for over the asking price in the past year.

This means an extra £194 a month for landlords, on average.

Tenants hoping to make themselves more appealing to landlords have been offering as much as six months’ rent upfront.

Ms Devine says: ‘I had to block out a whole day for viewings of a four-bed home because the interest poured in. We usually spread viewings over a few weeks.

‘That day we had six offers, with tenants offering above the asking price, longer tenancy agreements and advance rent.’

Tenants who earn average salaries spend almost a quarter of their income on rent, according to the Office for National Statistics — in hotspot London you would have to spend 37.7 per cent of a typical income on rent.

Adam Stone, lettings manager at Winkworth’s Clerkenwell and City office, says: ‘We have been getting dozens of enquiries for all our properties and generally receive up to five or six offers, some well over the asking price.’

Joseph Cooper, from The Keel, a development of 240 apartments in Liverpool, says flats are being snapped up unviewed within an hour of being listed online.

Enquiries were up 1,650 per cent last month compared with the year before, he adds, as young people returned to the city after moving in with their parents during lockdown.

Amelia Greene, director in the prime lettings team at Savills, says the return of international travel, combined with full easing of lockdown restrictions, has sent the market into a frenzy.

She adds: ‘Demand is up across the board, but hotspots in North and East London have been particularly popular. 

In some instances, tenants are ensuring that they are the most appealing candidate by paying for a full year upfront, or by committing to properties unseen.’

Sarah Coles, from investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown, says: ‘Generation rent has been hit hard during the crisis. They were more likely to have borrowed money to make ends meet, and those already in debt were more likely to have borrowed more.

‘The pandemic pushed the finances of many of them to breaking point, so a hike in rental costs is the last thing they need.’

a.murray@dailymail.co.uk

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Former US presidential candidate Bob Dole dies aged 98

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Bob Dole, the long-time Kansas senator who was the Republican nominee for president in 1996, has died from lung cancer. In a statement, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, founded by Dole’s wife, said: “It is with heavy hearts we announced that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died earlier this morning in his sleep. At his death at age 98 he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years.”

In late February, Dole announced that he had advanced lung cancer and would begin treatment. Visiting him, President Joe Biden called Dole his “close friend”.

On Sunday the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, like Biden a Democrat, ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

Born in Russell, Kansas in 1923, Dole served in the US infantry in the second world war, suffering serious wounds in Italy and winning a medal for bravery.

His wounds cost him use of his right arm but he entered state politics and soon became a longtime Republican power-broker, representing Kansas in the US House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969 and in the Senate until 1996. He had spells as chairman of the Republican National Committee and as Senate minority and majority leader.

In 1976 he was the Republican nominee for vice-president to Gerald Ford, in an election the sitting president lost to Jimmy Carter. Two decades later, aged 73, Dole won the nod to take on Bill Clinton.

Against the backdrop of a booming economy, the Democrat won a second term with ease, by 379 – 159 in the electoral college and by nine points in the popular vote, the third-party candidate Ross Perot costing Dole support on the right.

Dole received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest US civilian honours.

In the Trump years and after, Dole came widely to be seen as a figure from another time in Republican politics.

On Sunday, the political consultant Tara Setmeyer, a member of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, tweeted: “I cast my first ever vote for president for Bob Dole in 1996. A war hero with a sharp sense of humor ? another piece of a once respectable GOP gone.”

However, Dole remained a loyal Republican soldier, telling USA Today this summer that though Donald Trump “lost the election, and I regret that he did, but they did”, and though he himself was “sort of Trumped out”, he still considered himself “a Trumper”.

Dole called Biden “a great, kind, upstanding, decent person”, though he said he leaned too far left.

He also said: “I do believe [America has]lost something. I can’t get my hand on it, but we’re just not quite where we should be, as the greatest democracy in the world. And I don’t know how you correct it, but I keep hoping that there will be a change in my lifetime.”

On Sunday, Jaime Harrison, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, said: “Sending heartfelt condolences and prayers to the family of Senator Bob Dole. We honor his service and dedication to the nation. May he Rest In Peace.”

– Guardian

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Bournemouth is the most popular coastal town for buyers, says Rightmove

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The most popular seaside location for house hunters this year has been Bournemouth, new research has revealed.   

Rightmove identified the top ten most in-demand coastal areas in Britain, based on the highest number of buyer enquiries via its website.

The Dorset resort is the most popular, followed by Southampton, Hampshire and Brighton, East Sussex, with the South coast dominating the list. 

Rightmove has identified the top ten most in-demand coastal areas in Britain

Rightmove has identified the top ten most in-demand coastal areas in Britain

The top ten list also includes Blackpool, Lancashire – a coastal resort known for its amusement arcades and donkey rides – where prices have increased 8 per cent in the past year to £137,301.

It compares to the average house price in the top 10 locations, which rose 6 per cent this year. 

It is just ahead of the national average rise of 5 per cent, from £318,188, to £333,037. These figures are based on an average between January and November 2020 compared to January-November 2021. 

At the same time, Rightmove provided a list of coastal locations that have seen the biggest increases in house prices this year.

Padstow in Cornwall topped that list of coastal hotspots, with prices rising 20 per cent this year, from from £548,382, to £658,588.

The most popular seaside location for house hunters is Bournemouth (pictured), according to Rightmove

The most popular seaside location for house hunters is Bournemouth (pictured), according to Rightmove

AVERAGE ASKING PRICES IN COASTAL HOTSPOTS 2021
Rank Location Average asking price 2021 Average asking price 2020 Average asking price increase 2021 vs 2020
1 Padstow, Cornwall £658,588 £548,382 20%
2 Whitby, North Yorkshire £254,218 £217,620 17%
3 St. Ives, Cornwall £473,161 £411,484 15%
4 Porthcawl, South Glamorgan, Bridgend (County of) £307,051 £270,505 14%
5 Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire £173,612 £153,140 13%
6 Newquay, Cornwall £317,846 £281,204 13%
7 Filey, North Yorkshire £214,617 £189,914 13%
8 Pwllheli, Gwynedd £222,607 £197,213 13%
9 Brixham, Devon £299,127 £266,604 12%
10 Preston, Paignton, Devon £303,684 £272,029 12%
Source: Rightmove       

It was followed by Whitby, in North Yorkshire, which came second, with prices rising 17 per cent from £217,620, to £254,218. 

Cornwall’s St. Ives is in third place, with average values rising 15 per cent from £411,484 to £473,161.

A house with a good sea view and location will cost you, as it will probably be worth at least 40 per cent more than the equivalent inland, if not more.

Robin Gould – Prime Purchase 

Robin Gould, director of buying agency Prime Purchase, says: ‘Many people love the idea of living beside the sea, even more so since the pandemic struck and we have all been spending more time outside. 

‘However, a house with a good sea view and location will cost you, as it will probably be worth at least 40 per cent more than the equivalent inland, if not more. 

‘A frontline house is arguably worth 30 per cent more than one immediately behind it.

‘I recently bought a “frontline” house near Polzeath in north Cornwall for a client, which was right on the cliff top with stunning coastal and sea views.  

‘Although the house itself was very “vanilla”, most people would have forgiven it anything to have that ever-changing, interesting view.’

Also among the most popular coastal locations for homebuyers is Brighton (pictured)

Also among the most popular coastal locations for homebuyers is Brighton (pictured)

QUICKEST COASTAL MARKETS TO FIND A BUYER
Rank Location Average asking price 2021 Average time to find a buyer 2021 (days) Change in time to find a buyer 2021 vs 2020 (days)
1 Saltcoats, Ayrshire £111,419 19 -35
2 Troon, Ayrshire £178,666 22 -8
3 Westward Ho, Bideford, Devon £297,138 24 -46
4 Ayr, Ayrshire £161,301 25 -15
5 Kessingland, Lowestoft, Suffolk £219,538 25 -22
6 Littlehampton, West Sussex £364,180 26 -28
7 Goring-By-Sea, Worthing, West Sussex £396,078 26 -23
8 Marske-By-The-Sea, Redcar, Cleveland £181,882 28 -15
9 Canvey Island, Essex £308,261 28 -23
10 Weymouth, Dorset £283,585 29 -25
Source: Rightmove       

The red hot property market this year has translated into the time it takes to find a buyer hitting a record low number of days.

The average time find a buyer across the whole of 2021 is 44 days, 15 days quicker than the average in 2020.

Saltcoats in Ayrshire is this year’s quickest coastal location to find a buyer, at 19 days on average.

Troon in Ayrshire came second at 22 days, and Westward Ho, in Bideford, Devon was third at 24 days.

Calshot beach was included as Southampton, which features in the top ten most in-demand coastal areas in Britain

Calshot beach was included as Southampton, which features in the top ten most in-demand coastal areas in Britain

THE INCREASE IN COASTAL SEARCHES IN 2021
Rank Location Average asking price Increase in searches 2021 vs 2020
1 Morecambe, Lancashire £164,424 32%
2 Blackpool, Lancashire £137,301 21%
3 Great Yarmouth, Norfolk £194,066 15%
4 Swansea, Wales £180,603 15%
5 Saltburn-By-The-Sea, Cleveland £227,611 15%
6 Southampton, Hampshire £249,053 14%
7 Llandudno, Conwy (County of) £235,316 13%
8 Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, South West Wales £319,587 12%
9 Southport, Merseyside £215,838 12%
10 Scarborough, North Yorkshire £191,879 12%
Source: Rightmove     

Meanwhile, Morecambe, Lancashire saw the biggest jump in coastal buyer searches compared to last year, up 32 per cent, followed by Blackpool, up 21 per cent, and Great Yarmouth, up 15 per cent.

Tim Bannister, of Rightmove, said: ‘After a year where coastal locations really captured the imagination of British buyers, it’s interesting to reflect on how the overall picture looks at the end of the year.

‘In terms of average asking price growth, homeowners in Cornwall and Devon are the real winners this year, with properties in some areas outpacing the national average, though this does mean that it is increasingly difficult for some locals to get onto the ladder.

‘The speed of this year’s market really is astounding, seen in the time to find a buyer in some areas, particularly in Scotland.

‘Overall, this has been the year that either through changed lifestyle priorities, or the ability to work remotely, living in coastal areas has become possible for more buyers, which is reflected in the data we’re seeing in this study.’

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UK to require all incoming international travellers to take Covid-19 test

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All international travellers arriving into the UK will be required to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test – while Nigeria is being added to the British government’s travel red list, British health secretary Sajid Javid has said.

Mr Javid said the government had decided to move after receiving new data about the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, which emerged in southern Africa.

“Since we have learned of this new variant our strategy has been to buy time. We have always said we will act swiftly should new data require it,” he told broadcasters on Saturday.

“Over recent days we have learned of a significant number of growing cases linked to travel with Nigeria.

“There are 27 cases already in England and that’s growing. Nigeria now is second only to South Africa in terms of linked cases to Omicron.”

Mr Javid said that the number of cases of Omicron in Britain had now risen to about 160.

Under the new rules, from 4am on Monday only British and Irish nationals travelling from Nigeria will be allowed into the UK and they must isolate in a government-managed quarantine hotel on arrival.

And from 4am on Tuesday, anyone travelling to the UK from countries not on the red list will be required to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test a maximum of 48 hours before leaving, regardless of their vaccination status. – PA/Reuters

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