It used to be estate agents and bank managers who were the Public Enemy No 1, but now, thanks to government policies and pressure, that dubious honour has been bestowed to landlords. Councillor Jonny Bucknell, who used to be Camden Conservatives’ spokesman for housing, was prosecuted by his own council for failing to carry out improvements to a rental property in Primrose Hill. The Belsize Ward councillor in Labour-run Camden was fined £30,000, after he pleaded guilty to failing to comply with an improvement notice, said a council spokesman. Bucknell said that he initially intended to contest the charge, but pleaded guilty because he was warned that legal fees would mount up, according to the Camden New Journal.
At the Conservative party conference, he criticised the government for demonising landlords and making them `public enemy number one`. He called on the government to slow down the number of landlords who are being prosecuted and ending up in court. He felt Camden should not prosecute until all attempts at reconciliation have failed. He felt the local authority should have taken a pragmatic view as long as a job is moving along and there is goodwill. He said he was stripping the flat himself when the council officer walked in and commented that not much work had been done. He went on to say that solicitors and bankers were the number one enemy previously, but now the government has made landlords top of the list.
Although the government initially said it was adding a stamp duty surcharge on second and subsequent homes to encourage first-time buyers into the market, it can feel as though landlords are being seen as a cash cow. It is a tough time for landlords, with tax changes, stamp duty increases and new regulations designed to make it harder to get loans to invest in buy-to-lets in the first place. These new regulations mean the entire portfolio is assessed when a landlord seeks funding, rather than the individual property concerned. The changes could mean an increase in the amount of work needed to apply for a mortgage, while some banks are pulling out of this market altogether. This is expected to lead to higher fees and interest rates, according to some reports. Santander, which is one of Britain’s biggest lenders, has said it will stop lending to landlords with large portfolios, who want to borrow more funds.
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