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Andrew McCausland
Andrew McCausland
Managing Director
6362  Profile Views

About Me

Over 25 years' experience in residential and commercial property investment, refurbishment and renovations. Managing Director of an estate and lettings agency in Birkenhead. Owner of a building company in Wirral.

my expertise in the industry

Buying, selling, investing, building and enjoying all aspects of the property business since 1994.

Andrew's Recent Activity

Andrew McCausland
I am a landlord but also run a building company that are about to offer work under the green homes grant scheme. I think the idea behind it is great but the design and implementation of the scheme is flawed for several reasons: 1. Governments own analysis suggests the average cost to landlords will be £4,800 per property to upgrade to EPR C, much more if your properties have solid walls (see the link at assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/932403/prs-epc-c-consultation-stage-ia.pdf). A £5k grant is useful but LL will always end up having to pay out. 2. Achieving EPR C is a perverse incentive; the LL pay the cost but the tenants get the benefits through lower energy bills. The GHG does not overcome this issue and the comments in the report about the LL benefitting from having an improved quality of property do not hold much sway, IMO. 3. The GHG system is too complicated for fitters to access and manage without substantial outlay in time and money. It is not a matter of just getting Trustmark registered, we also have to qualify for and manage PAS2030:2019 and buy in a compatible QMS to run things. It will cost my company over £15k to do this for the full range of insulation measures, plus an annual fee on top of that to remain registered. 4. The scheme is overly complicated for both applicants (property owners) and fitters. Yes, there needs to be checks on the quality of the work and anti-fraud measures. However, the current system is so bureaucratic that it deters people from getting involved. 5. Payments to fitters are too slow, again deterring smaller companied form getting involved. The scheme was launched quickly to give a boost to the building industry and help landlords. It can work, but it does need pretty substantial reform to work well. The good news is that this reform to the grant system can be easily achieved and doing so will get many more builders involved. Without it, or a similar scheme in the very near future, we have no chance of achieving the carbon reduction targets we have already enshrined in law.

From: Andrew McCausland 01 March 2021 10:27 AM

Andrew McCausland
I am wholeheartedly behind the Zero Carbon 2050 target and improving home insulation is a big part of this. However, there are a number of problems associated with the EPR C 2025 plan: 1. The governments own estimate is that it will cost an average of £4,700 PER RENTAL PROPERTY to achieve the target in England. This means that the true cost for owners of older housing stock will be much higher. 2. The green homes grant only runs until March 2022 under the current plan. This is simply not enough time for owners to get the works done in normal times. 3. These are not normal times. LL's rental income has been hit by the effects of Covid and government has made no efforts to support LL, either via rent support or by allowing evictions. 4. There are simply not enough retrofit insulation fitters able to carry out the works needed to hit the 2025 target - that is the 2025 target, never mind the GHG March 2022 target for financial support. I never liked harping from the side lines, slagging off ideas without offering alternatives. I believe the ambition is a great one, but I would suggest a few changes to the existing plans: a. Extend the green homes grant timescale to 2025 now. This will encourage more fitters to get involved, knowing there is longer term work available. b. Make the GHG process much simpler for the fitters and make sure they get paid quicker. You don't have to change the requirements for them to be Trustmark registered and PAS2030 qualified - just improve the back office function as it is far too slow at the moment. c. Either increase the funding available to LL (and homeowners) to complete insulation works or create a tax incentive to get the work done. d. Change adult education training to include retrofit insulation qualifications within the scope of funded courses. This will allow more fitters to enter the industry, create jobs and progress the roll out of energy saving measures at a faster pace. It will also introduce more competition into the industry, offering more choice and drive down prices for consumers.

From: Andrew McCausland 21 January 2021 09:35 AM

Andrew McCausland
Gents, it's a serious situation not made easier by either insulting or ill thought-out comments. Many tenants and landlords, myself included, have lost £1,000's due to covid but the government's actions have placed all the financial burden onto the landlords. Some people say that this is just tough luck - why should LL be a special case needing support when other businesses are failing and they should just suck it up. This misses the point. LL are not special, except in one regard. Government legislation means we have to keep providing a service to tenants whilst having no prospect of receiving payment for this. NO other business or sector is in this position. If you went to your local Shell garage and filled up with petrol then told the person behind the till you didn't have to pay due to the Covid situation the police would quickly be called. A number of my LL clients are retired and rely entirely on rental income to top up their state pensions. Without this they are really struggling, especially if they still have to service the mortgage (deferred payments still have to be repaid to the lender, they are not written off). Personally I had 1 case at court in March for eviction for non-payment of rent and the case was delayed; i have had zero rent since then. I had another case about to go to court for ASB which was also delayed. Since then the tenant has set a fire in the car park of the block of flats and damaged another tenants car. He was arrested but returned to the flat the next day. I can't evict him despite his continued abuse of his neighbours. They are countless other cases like this. The eviction ban is creating as many landlord and tenant losers as tenant winners. If government are serious about addressing the problems this has caused they should: 1. Give hardship loans to tenants who can prove losses due to covid, paid direct to LL. 2. Reopen the courts immediately. 3. Put substantial extra resources to both the courts and also tenant support organisations like CAB to make sure that both LL and tenants get a fair hearing. Without these measures I fear that the fallout of unintended consequences from the tenant eviction ban will extend for many years to come.

From: Andrew McCausland 16 September 2020 11:02 AM

Andrew McCausland
Dear Mr Jagota, I note your stance on deposits but am unable to support your view.  Many of the properties we manage are occupied by tenants on a range of benefits and landlords would never be able to access insurance for them.   People often come to us with no job, no money for rent in advance, limited money for deposits, and no-one who can stand as guarantor for them.  This is not untypical for many areas outside London and the South East.  Despite this lack of cash they still need to be housed, and we do our best to help them into decent accommodation.  Most of these tenants act responsibly but quite a number do not.   We try and mitigate the risk by asking for direct payment of the housing element of Universal Credit (UC) to us rather than the money going to the tenant.  Even then, the landlords can sometimes take 6 to 8 weeks before they get their first rent payment.   If we do not get direct payment of UC our experience is that the level of rent arrears increases further.  You may say this is a failure on our part to chase rent arrears efficiently but it is an experience borne out by every other agent working in this sector, and by the RSL's now that they are no longer guaranteed direct payments either.  If the tenant's circumstances change during the tenancy (break up of a relationship, children leaving home / education / taken into care, deductions for Court fines, etc) the whole UC payment claim is stopped for reassessment and the landlords must wait again for payment to be reinstated.  We have 1 on our books now where the landlord has had no rent for 11 weeks because of changes by “the system”.  When can this ever be acceptable?  The landlord still has to pay his mortgage in the interim and is effectively subsidising the state. It is not unreasonable for landlords to take repossession action when debt levels rocket, but they get vilified by the press (and organisations like Shelter) when they do. Maybe in an ideal world the state would own all the housing and everybody could access a good home at a low and affordable rent.  Unfortunately, this is not how life is and the tax payer cannot afford to supply all the housing the country needs – hence the rise of the private rented sector.  Landlords will only continue to use their own money to house low income families if they can limit the risk, and they do this by taking deposits. Tenants with good jobs and a steady income, a good credit history and someone to act as guarantor probably should not have to pay a deposit.  If they came to us we could certainly organise this.  The insurers would gladly take their money knowing that the risk was minimal and it is, frankly, an easy profit for them. But what about the people at the bottom of the financial heap?  Who is going to offer them insurance?   So Mr Jagota, unless you can answer this question I will continue to take deposits. PS.  The first, and simplest step, to reduce risk to landlords and therefore reduce deposits would be to reintroduce direct payments of LHA and UC to landlords.  Over to the new housing minister for a quick and effective crowd pleaser?

From: Andrew McCausland 05 July 2017 13:22 PM

Andrew McCausland
Following on from last post, so what is the solution? My I be so bold at to make a few suggestions: 1. Scrap Section 24. Yes, it raises tax revenue but it is killer blow to future PRS investment and is simple wrong. Duhh!!! as my 8 year old daughter would say. 2. Keep the SDLT additional homes surcharge. Controversial within the sector, I know, but it is a progressive taxation policy and helps level the field between owner occupiers and investors. Any investor knows the score before they buy so, doing the maths, they know what they are getting in to before they buy (unlike S24 which is retrospective on those who bought, sometimes decades ago). 3. Don't ban agents fees, but do include a cap on fees. The increasing amount of work in starting a tenancy has to be done and someone has to pay for it. An outright ban of these costs being applied to the person who incurs them (the new tenant) means rents will rise for everyone including long term tenants. Anyone who says this will not happen has no idea how tight the margins in the sector can be, especially if you are dealing with LHA tenants where the time taken to establish the tenancy is often longer. I don't often say this, but anyone who claims rents won't rise as a result of this policy is just plain wrong. 4. Introduce a compulsory code of practice for letting agents. There are too many crooks in the industry - it is in everyone's interest to drive them out. 5. Simplify existing housing legislation. I often see demands in the media for more regulation, often on matters that are already covered by existing laws. Even the experts often find it difficult to wade their way through the plethora of existing laws to find a solution. Now is the time for a massive simplification of the law, bringing them all under one Act. This will leave no wriggle room for the rogues and also ensure the good landlords and agents don't get things unintentionally wrong. Now that is off my chest I can get back to work. Comments and other suggestions welcome.

From: Andrew McCausland 18 May 2017 10:48 AM

Andrew McCausland
The law of unintended consequences. The Government were told by pretty much every body representing the PRS that the effects of their housing and taxation policy towards private landlords would result in fewer homes available to rent and higher rents for everyone. Now those policies decisions are doing exactly what we said they would; and things will only get worse in the short to medium term at least. The promise is that RSL's will solve the supply side problem of the housing market by an extensive government funded building programme. A great idea, socially responsible and a progressive taxation policy (reducing the bill for LHA over the long term). But will it work in 5 years, by the end of the parliament (any governments seeming event horizon). On one hand we have an ever greater demand from an increasing population, a change in the make up of many families altering the housing provision required, a flawed planning process hindering new build through the "localism agenda" and NIMBY'ism, and a lack of funding because as a country we are already living beyond our means. On the other we have private individuals willing to fill this funding gap and provide the quality homes the country needs, but who are discouraged form doing so by the very government who need their support. The Conservative Party manifesto promises 100,000's more "council houses" but these won't suddenly appear the day after the election. Until these extra units become available the onus will remain on the PRS to meet the growing need. Instead of supporting the sector government policy seems set to greatly restrict it. Will someone in the Conservative Party (presumably the next government) explain how they intend to square this circle?

From: Andrew McCausland 18 May 2017 10:20 AM

Andrew McCausland
I have to agree with Barry. I have put up all my rents to cover the additional costs of the changes to legislation introduced over the past 2 years; the first rise some of my tenants have had in 5 years. Homelessness is an increasing issue in my area of Merseyside. Many agents and landlords want to help but the Government's policy seems disjointed. The government want the PRS to house low wage tenants and keep the rates of LHA down. They then insist we pay substantially more tax to central government due to s.24, more money to local government in the way of licensing fees and compliance costs and higher purchase costs due to the SDLT changes. Government cannot afford to build the hundreds of thousands of extra houses the country needs. They certainly can't afford the costs of renovating and improving the existing poor quality stock that is the target of much of the PRS investment. The country therefore needs a functioning private sector that sees investment in housing to be a worthwhile use of their time and money. All the recent changes do nothing but drive investment away from the sector. We are long overdue a grown up discussion of the issues around housing affordability, home ownership and the relationship between government, landlords and tenants. There is so much that can be done to improve "the system" to decrease homelessness, whilst still making the concept of BTL attractive to investors and without bankrupting the state with excessive LHA payments. I had some useful meetings with Frank Field MP, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee. He seems receptive to many of the ideas put forward by the PRS representatives and I am hopeful he can carry forward some of these ideas in the next parliament. Despite being a long time Labour man he is not stuck toeing the party line on housing issues. His committee can help with many of the things that discourage landlords from letting to benefits recipients: late payment of UC, rent guarantees, direct payments and safeguarding, credit / fir and proper person checks, etc. Housing is one of the hot button issues in the election. Please, all you politicians, don't make any more silly promises on housing. We don't want to be stuck with policies after the election that will make it substantially less attractive to invest in the housing stock that the whole country needs.

From: Andrew McCausland 10 May 2017 14:13 PM

Andrew McCausland

From: Andrew McCausland 27 July 2016 11:22 AM

Andrew McCausland
Sorry Charles, but this research only shows that the majority of landlords in the UK are either unaware of the affects of the planned changes or are deluded. Section 24 of the Finance Act is a game changer and the sooner the PRS faces up to the challenges of this the better. Many smaller scale landlords in the lower tax band will be pushed into a higher tax bracket. This change to their marginal rate will have an affect on the tax they pay on BTL or dividend income from elsewhere. The addition to their "apparent" pay of adding in the gross rental income from their property may push them past the thresholds for working tax credits and family allowances. For the first time in UK business history people will be asked to pay tax on money they have not made. Often paying more in tax than the income they have made from their property. I know of a number of landlords in my area who have a number of properties and will be pushed to the edge of bankruptcy by these regulations. They can't roll their existing stock, owned in personal names, into limited company structures as they would have to pay higher rate SDLT payments and CGT on transfer. They are being forced to sell their investments as a direct result of this. However, the timescales involved mean they can't do so in an orderly manner over time and so will get hit by excessive CGT payments. As long term investors they have taken further advances on their mortgages over the years. Therefore they can't sell the property, repay the mortgage and pay the CGT bill without effectively paying cash into the deal - whilst losing the income from the property once it is sold. They have to pay if they keep the property and they have to pay if they sell it. If you are in the lucky position to be mortgage free then you are in the clear. For the majority of landlords, especially the small scale investors who are the backbone of the PRS, this can destroy their investment plans. If you are in your 40's or 50's and plan to use your existing BTL investment to fund your retirement then think again. This Conservative government has attached the people it says it wants to help - the aspiring, hard working individuals, who want to supplement their income by working additional hours as a landlord, who plan ahead and save for their retirement. Those on middle incomes, not the super rich. If you have an investment property on a mortgage you need to be fully aware what these changes mean to you. Despite the survey results quoted above, it will change things for you Mr and Mrs Landlord. We need to fight these unfair tax changes now.

From: Andrew McCausland 01 April 2016 09:30 AM

Andrew McCausland
We have the same problem in my local area of Wirral and Liverpool. The advice of both the local Councils and CAB is to stay until after receipt of a court order or until the bailiffs physically put them out. The result of this is to increase costs and delay repossession claims for landlords. The courts system is creaking under the strain and dates for possession hearings are being delayed further than ever. It is pointless to complain as a landlord in the current climate - we are seen as the devil's spawn and can do nothing right. However, this approach also disadvantages both the tenant and the taxpayer. The tenant is unable to get another home in a timely manner and is often left in emergency accommodation. This leaves the taxpayer to pick up the bill for the emergency accommodation, which is many times more expensive than the local housing allowance rates that were probably being paid prior to repossession. There is also the time and cost to consider of the various Council officers and other agency staff involved in rehousing families under these circumstances. A conservative estimate of these costs would be £750 per move. If the aim of this policy is to avoid having to rehouse families then it will obviously not work - they are going to leave the current property at some time so delaying this decision achieves nothing. The same number of families are still in the housing system, just at an earlier point along the journey. If the aim is to save money, then it is failing miserably. It adds costs at all points of the process and landlords and taxpayers all lose out. The law of unintended consequences?

From: Andrew McCausland 12 January 2016 10:33 AM

Andrew McCausland
Sadly this is all too common. As agents we take up references, secure deposits and get rent in advance. We hold out for guarantors - although not everyone can get one. We even do social media checks on prospective tenants (and you wouldn't believe some of the things that come up on this). This system works well for the majority of tenants. However, there are a substantial minority where they simply do not have the money or support required to achieve this. They have no savings and no one of suitable standing to act as guarantor. They still need to live somewhere. There are also far to many toe-rags out there taking advantage of a system that seems, at times, to work in their favour. The Councils refuse to pass on information about a tenant's history, quoting data protection concerns. Dodgy tenant lie repeatedly and concoct webs of deceit that take hours of our time to unravel, giving false details for previous addresses or landlords. Tenants take benefits money given to them for rent but don't pass this on to landlords (surely one of the worst decisions in PRS history was to make LHA payments direct to tenants, even when they didn't want it) . The agents go for safeguarding (direct payments of LHA to them), but by that stage the landlords have lost at least 1 and probably 2 months rent. The Councils were slow to enact safeguarding, but things have become substantially worse under Universal Credit. We check properties regularly and any problems quickly come to light. However, it is impossible to get a bad tenant out quickly. The courts are slow to act, even in cases of anti-social behaviour where the tenants are making life hell for their neighbours. In my area there is now an 8 week wait to even get a court date, assuming the courts don't lose or incorrectly file the papers (which they seem to do about 50% of the time). When problems are identified, the police or Council don't want to know saying it is a civil matter. The Council's standard response is "keep a diary of problems and get back to us in 12 weeks". We have had cases where there have been criminal damage, even drugs cultivation, and the police have to be cajoled into action. In our latest case we had a marihuana farm in a large flat along with all the associated £1,000's damage to the property. We told the police as soon as we had our suspicions (bypassed electricity meter, strong smell of drugs from the flat, tenant refusing to let us in and threatening us if we tried to do so). Despite this, the police took a month to act by which time the drugs crop had been harvested and more damage had been caused. It took another 4 weeks, numerous phone calls from me, a visit to the police station and finally a call to our local newspaper before the police even arranged to take a statement from me. This may sound like an exaggeration but unfortunately it is not. The upshot of this is that a small number of individuals are going around wrecking rental properties and there seems little in the way of deterrent or sanction for them. The "system" such as it is, is creaking under the strain. The government want us to house the people it can't. There are nowhere near enough rented properties for the decent people in this country, never mind the idiots. The RSL's do not have the capacity to take up the slack despite changes to their remit allowing them to act commercially. This leaves the PRS. The recent announcements about tax changes affecting landlords will potentially have a serious effect on the sector. There is a misconception that landlords are a group of people milking the poor tax payer for everything they can get. Yes, there are bad landlords. However, I would suggest there are many more bad tenants. One of the many reasons rents are so high is the need to offset losses from these bad tenants. "The System" needs to change; better passage of information, much swifter action, effective sanctions and penalties. Until these things change a small minority of tenants will continue abusing landlords - and the rest of the communities in which they live. I am aware that my whole posting comes across as very negative. However, in 22 years I have not experienced the confluence of issues now heading our way. Whilst supporting the austerity programme, I would like to see central Government more aware of the affects of all the changes they make, in poorer areas particularly. Police budgets are cut, Council budgets have been decimated, social services are barely coping, the NHS are under pressure, the Courts system is failing. All this means there is less money to put towards interventions to support (or in my opinion preferably jail) these dodgy tenants. The article above highlights one bad case. I feel very sorry for the landlord concerned. However, it will not be the last case of this sort we hear about. If the Daily Mail want to contact me I would be delighted to spend a week with them showing what we "dodgy landlords" have to put up with.

From: Andrew McCausland 02 December 2015 11:21 AM

Andrew McCausland
This is not news for those of us living in Merseyside. We have been marketing lower value properties to Southern based investors for some time now and have on average 5 groups a month visiting our offices in Wirral to view a range of options. There is a huge amount of inward investment into this area (Liverpool 2 deep water port, Wirral Waters £4 Billion development, the new conference centre and show venues, increasing work for Cammell Laird ship yard, Liverpool airport being the fastest growth airport in UK [according to the CAA], Burco Bank wind farm, the Golf Coast concept [anchored on the new Jack Nicholas course beside Royal Liverpool at Hoylake], Liverpool Waters and the £5 Billion redevelopment of Liverpool water front, the £200 million revamp of Europe's oldest Chinatown [in Liverpool] - the list goes on and on). All this is affecting trends in the local residential and commercial property markets. Those in the know are aware of all these changes and the benefits to the region. The old image of Merseyside based on events of 30 years ago (when Militant Tendency almost destroyed the city) no longer holds true. We have decent houses for under £60,00, many with sitting tenants giving investors an instant 8% yield. We have HMO's at under £150k giving a straight 15% gross. We have sourced, redeveloped and let properties that have given investors 30%+ ROI within the past 12 months. You don't get these sort of returns many places elsewhere. We all know the Chancellor has changed the dynamics for buy to let investors with his recent announcements. Despite this, maybe even because of this, the North West is still a great place to make a sound residential or commercial property investment.

From: Andrew McCausland 26 November 2015 14:29 PM

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