A Victory in the 2015 Budget

Raise the Roof logo

As most of you who’ve used SpareRoom in the past six years will know, we’ve been campaigning hard to get the chancellor to increase the Rent a Room Scheme tax threshold. We just found out he did just that in the budget, raising it from £4,250 a year to the £7,500 we asked for.

This is great news for renters – especially flatsharers. With around 19 million empty bedrooms in owner-occupied properties in England alone, we’re just not using our housing effectively. As we’re not building in anywhere near the numbers we need to, unlocking some of those rooms will make a big difference.

Here’s how:

  • Encouraging people to rent out their rooms means more supply – that helps keep rents down
  • There’s a huge demand for affordable rentals right now, especially rooms. This addresses that need head on
  • Average rents for people living with the owner are lower than traditional rents – good news for renters on a budget
  • Unlocking just 5% of those empty rooms would house almost a million people, that’s the equivalent of a city the size of Birmingham!

It’s great to see the government addressing the housing crisis with simple, effective measure that will make a difference to hundreds of thousands of people quickly, while they work out the longer term policy changes we need to fix the housing crisis for good.

Thanks to all of you who signed the petition or helped spread the word. We’d also like to thank the people and organisations who’ve supported Raise the Roof publicly over the past six years, including Shelter, Sarah Beeny and Generation Rent.
Great news all round.

Matt

Supporting Social Tenants during the introduction of Welfare Reforms

The Chartered Institute of Housing today launches a new guide aimed at helping its members deal with some of the issues raised by Welfare Reform, and in particular, the Bedroom Tax or Social Sector Size Criteria.  The rules come into force next April, and will mean that social tenants of working age with a spare bedroom or two will lose some of their housing benefit.

One of the options for impacted social tenants to cover the shortfall is to rent out a room, which will also serve to bring in extra income for the household.

SpareRoom has over a decade’s experience in helping people through the process of finding lodgers, and are pleased to be able to share some of our expertise. Beyond offering a marketplace to advertise for lodgers, we also provide information and guidance on many other aspects of the process including: who you need to inform, how to interview lodgers and what kind of house-rules to put in place.

The CIH worked with SpareRoom to produce ‘How To Support Tenants to Find a Lodger’, the latest in a series of How To guides.  It explains clearly and succinctly the ways that councils and housing associations can support their tenants in exploring the option of getting a lodger. As well as highlighting the changes coming into force, the guide sets out how social landlords can benefit from putting together a strategy to help tenants find lodgers, covers legal matters, financial matters including the impact on tenants’ benefits, and offers links to further resources such as lodger agreements, advertising tips and the Rent a Room Scheme, whereby anyone can earn up to £4250 per year tax free by renting out a room.

Practical suggestions cover how to communicate the options to tenants, as well as how to support tenants through the process of finding a lodger. In “Learning from others” the CIH highlights proactive organisations and what they’re doing to support their tenants to rent out their spare rooms.

‘How to support tenants to find a lodger’ is available for free download  from the Chartered Institute of Housing. Find out how to get a lodger to cover the bedroom tax shortfall.

Raise the Roof campaign update

After more than a year of campaigning for an increase to the Rent a Room Scheme tax threshold it looks like this won’t be happening any time soon. We always knew it would be tricky to convince the government to tackle this issue head on but, despite a negative outcome, there has been much to be proud of.

Not only did we manage to bring the issue to the attention of the housing minister (both the current minister and his predecessor) we also had the opportunity to meet with Treasury officials and make them aware of the need for change, even if that change doesn’t happen now. In a time of severe cuts across the board it was always going to be tricky to get this through.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank every single one of you who signed our petition, urged your MP to sign the EDM and helped us with anecdotal evidence. We’d also like to thank Shelter, Sarah Beeny, The National Landlords Association, Landlordzone and Zoopla for their support for the campaign.

Having made inroads and helped raise awareness this is an issue we will be returning to – after all, the out of date tax allowance will only become further undervalued as time progresses.

In the meantime thanks to all of you, we really do appreciate your help.

Cheers

Matt

How to de-clutter and rent out your spare room

This week’s guest blog comes from Big Yellow self storage and deals with de-cluttering to make space for a lodger. It also contains some excellent advice on how to best store your things to keep them in good condition.

How to De-clutter and Rent out your Spare Room

It’s no surprise that so much of our home space is filled with useless clutter – 61% of people questioned in a Big Yellow Self Storage survey admitted to hoarding useless items around the house. But hoarding can really cost you; households across London could be making up to £38 billion a year, just by storing excess clutter to rent out a room. (This equates to over £250 million a month based on average rental incomes across the UK, or an extra personal income of as much as £320 a month or £3,840 a year per household). Just under a third (26%) of us that have a whole room in our home filled with junk and the research found that over a third (41%) would definitely rent out a room to make money to help in these tougher financial times. Looking at these figures it could well be time to get the junk out of the spare room.

So now you’ve decided to de-clutter and rent out your spare room, what’s the best way to store the things you’ve no longer room for?

Storing Clothes

Clothing should be stored in wardrobe boxes, on hangers, to retain their original shapes. Keep out of season clothes accessible, as you may need to store your clothing for longer than anticipated. Before you pack anything away, make sure it’s dust free and clean:

– Don’t cram too much into a box, as fabrics need to breathe. Make sure the boxes aren’t packed too tightly.

– Refold items regularly to prevent dust settling.

– Don’t store fabrics against wood and bear in mind that certain fabrics need specific care i.e. use muslin or acid free tissue between delicate fabrics for added protection.

Wooden Furniture

Before placing any kind of wooden furniture into storage, wax well with wood varnish. This prevents moisture from affecting the wood. Likewise, if your furniture can be dismantled easily, then do so as it will prolong the life of that piece. If you dismantle furniture, collect the nuts and bolts of each item into a plastic bag and tape it firmly to the dismantled set. In addition, place thick cloth such as old carpets between wooden pieces to prevent them scratching one another.

Storing Sofas

It’s worth taking into consideration which type of material your sofa is made from before storing. Generally, it’s better to store vertically on a flat sided arm. Leather handles the pressure very well, as does micro-fibre. Silky high end fabrics are better to kept on their feet as they don’t have the structural integrity to withstand the additional pressure. For transportation itself, a professional mover knows how to use furniture pads to keep the pressure off the arms. If you are doing this yourself, you’ll need to stand the sofa on end with several double folded blankets to provide a soft surface for the arm.

Avoid Rust

If you are planning on storing metal objects like lawnmowers or filing cabinets, it is a good idea to treat them with rust protector first, or at least wipe them down with an oily rag. You can use the cheapest oil available; it makes no difference as you’re just using it for its lubricating qualities.

Compact Discs

Store your discs in a CD wallet (don’t place compact discs in plastic wrap because if your storage area heats up, these might destroy or compromise the disc). Always back up data in several different ways and store in several different locations. Take tapes out of VCRs, camcorders and data backup devices, and CDs and DVDs out of drives and players.

Big Yellow Self Storage can store items of all shapes & sizes, in rooms from 9 sq ft to 400 sq ft, with leases starting at just one week long.

Budget is a chance for govenment to make a real difference to rental market

With reports already circulating of plans to increase the stamp duty threshold to £250,000 it will be interesting to see what else the government has up its sleeve in the 2010 Budget when it comes to property.

The main change we’d like to see is an increase in the tax threshold of the Rent a Room Scheme from £4,250 to £9,000. Despite 60 MPs (including 30 Labour members) in agreement we won’t be holding our breath as the limit hasn’t been raised in almost 13 years (i.e. not at all under the current government).

The National Landlords’ Association have again voiced their support for the Raise the Roof campaign, which hopes to make it easier for people renting out rooms in their own homes (whether rented or owned). There’s a desperate shortage of rental accommodation in the UK and there’s a source waiting to be tapped into.

We’ll find out what the budget holds in due course – our guess is that there won’t be too any giveaways along the lines of an increase in the stamp duty threshold.

40 MPs back Raise the Roof – so far…

Support for EDM 860, which backs the Raise the Roof Campaign, is growing. So far 40 MPs have added their signatures to the list with Labour topping the party list at this point.

Totals for the main parties are:

  • Labour 19
  • Lib Dem 8
  • Conservative 5
  • others 8

See whether your MP has signed the EDM – mine has, and I got a reply to my letter telling me he was going to!

MP for North Devon, Nick Harvey, has gone a step further and issued a press release stating his support for the campaign.

Cheers

Matt

A question for the housing minister

We attended a lecture given by Housing minister John Healy last night as part of the New Thinking for Britain’s Next Decade series, run by Labour Progressives. As often seems to be the case with discussions about housing there was plenty of talk about both public and private rented accommodation but nothing about shared accommodation. Luckily there was a short amount of time at the end for questions so I asked the minister why we didn’t hear about shared accommodation as an option and, with this in mind, did he agree with the call to raise the Rent a Room Scheme threshold to help people avoid repossession whilst sending a positive message about shared accommodation as an option.

Mr. Healey replied that one of the things he liked about these meetings was that there was always something he wasn’t expecting to hear about – in this case shared accommodation – and asked for more information. Luckily we were prepared and had a copy of our briefing document for MPs and the Treasury with me (although I had to pursue him down a corridor on his way out to a TV interview to give it to him). We’ll also be emailing him a copy today.

Hopefully this will get our concerns some attention and, at the very least, make the minister aware of the problems as we see them.

Also…a quick note to say we’ve passed the 4,000 signatures mark for our petition to raise the Rent a Room Scheme threshold so thanks to all of you who’ve signed. We’ve never run a campaign like this one before but 4k seems like a healthy figure for the first couple of weeks.

Many thanks

Matt

Raise the roof progress report

I’ve been away from the office for a few days (mostly without either mobile reception or email access) so it was a pleasant surprise to arrive back this morning and see where we’d got to with the Raise the Roof Campaign.

We got some great press mentions for Raise the Roof over the weekend, including The Independent on Sunday and The Sunday Mirror and the campaign has started getting wider coverage online on sites such as This is Money. We’re up to 3,700 signatures on the petition too and more are coming in every day.

After our delivery of hundreds of letters and briefing documents to MPs and members of the Lords last week we’re also starting to get responses via email and letter – several people who signed the petition also got in touch to let me know they’d also written to their MP about the campaign so word around Westminster is starting to spread.

If any of you write blogs or use social media such as Twitter and Facebook on a regular basis then it would be great if you could help spread the word – things are really starting to move now so we can’t afford to lose momentum.

Thanks again for all your support to those of you who have signed the petition or been in touch. As always we’ll keep you updated as to the campaign’s progress.

Thanks,

Matt

LandlordZone add their support to Raise the Roof

Residential property website LandlordZone.co.uk have added their support to SpareRoom’s Raise the Roof campaign.landlordzone

The site’s director Tom Entwistle says:

“The Rent-a-Room Scheme was sent up as a way of encouraging home owners to take in lodgers. This is an eminently sensible idea as it not only encourages better use of the national housing stock and minimises the housing shortage, it also provides accommodation for, in particular, students and young singles, and it helps considerably with labour mobility. However, government in their wisdom have failed to see a need to raise the allowance from its 1997 amount of £4250, which in today’s real terms should be considerably more. LandlordZONE fully supports the campaign to increase this now derisory allowance.”

LandlordZone also covered the campaign on their news pages yesterday

National Landlords Association back Raise the Roof

The National Landlords Association have added their support to the Raise the Roof campaign today. The campaign is asking the government to raise the amount homeowners can earn tax free by renting out a spare room under the Rent a Room Scheme from £4,250 a year to £9,000 to encourage people to take in lodgers.NLA-logo

In a press release issued today David Salusbury, Chairman of the NLA said:

There is no way of telling just how many potential ‘live-in’ landlords are not letting out their spare rooms because of the hassle-factor of having to complete a self-assessment tax form. Today we are sending a clear message to the Chancellor: a fair deal for those looking to rent a room by increasing the tax-free threshold will help homeowners and the economy. It is a win-win situation that helps both parties and it is about time the exemption reflected the increase in market rents

Read the full press release on the NLA site.

Thanks for your support, it’s much appreciated. To find out what you can do to help visit our Get Involved page.

Matt