Update on new leases for ASTs
All new tenancies granted on the estate by Knight Frank for Trinity House are assured shorthold tenancies ("ASTs"). Until recently, most ASTs have been on one year contracts, although four years was offered to good tenants. Recent lease renewals have entailed rent increases in line with inflation. Knight Frank's new proposal is for a standard lease of three years with a two month break clause option from month 10.
TNRA has now been contacted by 11 tenants with concerns about the new rent setting mechanism. This is described as follows:
"The rent will be reviewed in accordance with the retail price index ("RPI"). The Landlord and the tenant must agree that the rent is to be increased a minimum 3% and a maximum of 5% in years two and three in line with RPI and your renewal date."
In our view there are two fundamental problems with this approach. First, RPI is discredited as a flawed measure of inflation has been replaced by CPI. A recent House of Lords report stated that RPI uses an exaggerated number - see https://www.parliament.uk/the-use-of-rpi. The Government therefore uses CPI as a measure of inflation for benefits etc. Second, the Government targets the Bank of England to achieve CPI of 2%. Trinity House's minimum rent increase of 3% is 50% above this 2% target. Repeated rent increases of between 3% and 5% a year, regardless of inflation and rents in the broader lettings market, will be unaffordable for most tenants.
We have asked Graham Hockley, the Secretary (ie CEO) of Trinity House, to delay the implementation of the new policy so that a more reasonable approach can be adopted for setting rents in years two and three. Cdr Hockley has written back to say that they are implementing the new approach without change. TNRA is considering its response to this.
Ultimately, our efforts to influence Trinity House rely on an appeal to their "better side" - Trinity House is a charity, after all. In the meantime, we are conscious that many tenants will be under pressure to either sign the new lease or leave Trinity Village. If you are in this position and would like TNRA's advice, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have no choice but to sign the contract, you should make it clear that you are doing so under duress. You should object to a minimum increase of 3% after one and two years, regardless of the level of RPI. Such a rent setting mechanism is not "RPI linked". You should highlight that CPI is the Government's preferred measure of inflation and is the index that should be used. You should make it clear that you will look to Trinity House to waive the 3% minimum if we should see a sustained period of lower CPI.
Crime in Trinity Village
Crime in Trinity Village is usually minimal and limited to minor incidents. However, from time to time, we experience an uptick in crime and this has been the case recently. There have been three burglaries - two in Merrick Square on 11 December and 13 February and one in Falmouth Road on 23 February. A car was broken into on Brockham Street on 24 February. There was a mugging in Falmouth Road last weekend.
We have been in contact with the local police, who have visited houses in the area to raise awareness and provide advice. In particular, they suggest that residents ensure that all doors are locked and keep items of value out of sight from the street. If you have a communal door, you should not "buzz" people in you don't know but meet them at the door.
We will be discussing matters further at the next meeting of the Chaucer Ward Safer Neighbourhood Panel on 11 March and residents who want to raise issues directly with the police are encouraged to attend the next Police Community Contact Session in Henry Wood Hall at 7pm on Wednesday 27 March.
The police are only able to respond to crimes that are notified to them. So please ensure that you report all crimes. Dial 999 to report emergencies, when something is happening right now, requiring an immediate police response. Dial 101 to report non-emergencies. Please email TNRA with the date of the crime and, critically, your crime/incident number. This information will remain private to TNRA and will only be shared with the police and councillors to support our case for action to be taken.