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Under the skin of the letting market

Here we share news and views on both the local letting market in & around Oxfordshire and all planned and recent legislation.


Border Control / Provocative planning / HMO problems / Stamp duty


Did all the Bank Holiday sun go to the industry’s heads? Suddenly the trade and national press are full of some juicy news:

Will agents have to act as Border Control as well?
Yes but less than we thought. This follows up the item from the Queen’s Speech which said that letting agents will have to check a prospective tenant’s visa status and right to stay in the UK. Details are sketchy but it seems that this is being watered down. We await details of exactly what we are meant to be checking for and, more importantly, how we know if someone has the legal right to stay in the UK.

 More provocative comments about new housing vs. green fields.
Even if the planning Minster Nick Boles was not trying to create a reaction, it is difficult to discuss building on fields without doing so. His comments that a home gives more joy than fields are difficult to argue with, although there is a clear gap between good and bad development. This issue is particularly relevant in Oxfordshire as it contains a great deal of protected green land.

 HMO restrictions are hitting local rent markets, government admits.
We have written before about the HMO legislation in Oxford. Essentially the City Council is using some planning powers called ‘Article 4 Directions’ to control the volume of HMOs. It works by demanding that planning permission is required if a property has 3 or more unrelated people in it, and this permission can be refused.
The news article discusses how the unintended consequence of the Article 4 powers is that there is less affordable housing available. Why? As many owners of 3 and 4 bedroom homes do not want the cost and hassle of obtaining an HMO licence, or they are not able to. The result = less property available for ‘sharers’.

Stamp duty’s negative affects.
Nobody but the Chancellor likes stamp duty. Even at the lowest rates the duty is expensive and acts as a block on house purchases. The argument goes that if you’re buying a property out of taxed income, you’ve already been taxed once. Anyway, a group called the HomeOwners Alliance claims that house prices rose 5 fold between 1995/6 and 2011/ but the stamp duty burden rose 11 fold. The Guardian has some good background on it and the report is here.