Review for Tori

“I wanted to drop you a line to provide some feedback for Tori, who’s been helping me throughout my search for my first mortgage!

Tori has been so helpful and accommodating, I have been speaking with her most days throughout the process and her communication has been fantastic. There has been quite of lot of toing and froing during the process due to a number of requests on my side and Tori has consistently responsive and continues to proactively resolve any problems and put my mind at ease.

I look forward to completing the application process with her and she’s made my first mortgage application much more stress free than it could’ve been.”

If you would like to leave us some feedback, please go to our VouchedFor page.

A Grand Lesson for Homeowners?

Are you ready for April’s BTL changes?

After a busy 2017 for landlords, it may come as no surprise to hear that 2018 has more in store for the buy to let sector. As well as the second phase of tax relief reductions coming into force, there are two other new changes heading the way of landlords relating to HMOs and EPC ratings. 

Changes to HMO licensing
From April 2018 many landlords of Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) will require new licenses. At the moment,some 60,000 HMOs require a license, which may now increase by a further 174,000.

Since 2004, a landlord with a property housing 5 or more unrelated occupants, or with over 3 stories, had to apply for a license from their local authority. This will now apply to all HMOs, and will require a set of minimum standards on room sizes, waste disposal and storage to be met.

Those not prepared could find themselves needing to do work on their property in order to comply. As well as possible fines, Landlords who fail to catch up to the new rules in time may also find themselves with rooms they can no longer rent out.

These new changes could also create an income gap that will put even more pressure on landlords already dealing with several recent financial headwinds. Fortunately, there is likely to be a grace period of six months to adapt to the new rules.

New standards for EPC ratings
As of April 2018 it will be unlawful to let or lease a residential or commercial property that has an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of F or G. These changes are designed to improve the efficiency of homes in the private rental sector.

Although this will be a requirement of all new lets and renewals of tenancies, it will not be until April 2020 that the rules will apply to all tenancies. Landlords letting out a commercial property, or a house to a tenant, could face fines of up to £5,000 for non-compliance.

Older properties are likely to need the most work to bring them up to standard. Many will lack double glazing and are likely to have solid walls with no cavity for insulation. Landlords can often improve their EPC rating through insulation, boiler replacements, double glazing and cutting out draughts.

Problems may arise if a landlord is letting out a house or flat after April that does not have the required EPC rating of E, which may include renewing a commercial lease. This may cause issues as an EPC survey for the period between Q1 2008 and Q1 2015 showed that 35% of commercial buildings and 26% of domestic properties had a rating of E, F or G.

Would you like to discuss these changes and see what it might mean for your investment plans? Call us today to arrange a meeting and we can work through your options!

Are Homeowners Ready for Mortgage Benefit Changes?

Questions have been raised on whether homeowners are ready for the government’s upcoming changes on SMI, or “support for mortgage interest”, a benefit designed to help households struggling to meet their mortgage repayments.

The free benefit will now close in April 2018, with its replacement taking the form of a government-backed loan to be paid back with interest. The government says the new loan provides households with a safety net, but critics suggest this is merely saddling homeowners with a “second mortgage” to consider.

With these changes on the horizon, now is the ideal time for those without protection to consider what might happen if they had to rely on state support. Nobody wants to find themselves in a financially vulnerable situation, but circumstances can change quickly, and without cover in place households can find themselves struggling.

Why has the change caused concern?
The biggest worry for the industry is not the transition to the loan itself, but the low number of people that have signed up. One report showed that under 7,000 households had signed up to the new loan, a fraction of the 124,000 households that receive SMI.

Some experts want the government to delay the changes, to give people more time to sign up. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has stated they are contacting all SMI claimants to ensure they are aware of the changes and point them towards the next potential steps.

How might this effect households?
Households could face genuine hardship and even repossession if they fail to complete the loan application process in time. To make matters worse, the previous 13-week waiting time on claiming for SMI has increased to 39 weeks, a significant period to be trying to cover household bills. Some experts suggest that possible increases in base rate may also see a climb in those relying on SMI.

To be eligible for SMI, a homeowner would need to be already receiving either Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-based Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit. But SMI will be unavailable to those with more than £16,000 in savings, which means without financial protection, hard-earned savings could be hit before any support is received.

How can I ensure I don’t need SMI?
This change has put even more emphasis on the importance of protecting household finances. But research by a leading provider indicated that less than half of homeowners have appropriate financial protection in place should they be unable to work, with just over 25% of the working age population having a savings buffer equivalent to three months’ income.

With a comprehensive protection plan, you can build your financial resilience to ensure you won’t need to rely on state support, or eat into your savings should your circumstances change. We can talk to you about your finances and help you ensure you do not find yourself relying on loans to fill the income gap left open by the unexpected.