Archive for October, 2011
Sam Macdonald, Lettings Negotiator for iConn Property Management writes:
I have recently completed some Canterbury rental demand reports generated through Rightmove.co.uk:
During the last seven days (05.10.11 – 12.10.11) Rightmove reported that:
6376 people searched for a 1 bed apartment in Canterbury (5847 of them have a maximum budget of £900.00)
5544 people searched for a 2 bed apartment in Canterbury (5291 of them have a maximum budget of £1000.00)
4882 people searched for a 3 bed property in Canterbury (4843 of them have a maximum budget of £1500.00)
4724 people searched for a 4 bed property in Canterbury (4695 of them have a maximum budget of £1750.00)
These are healthy figures showing that the rental market seems to be keeping up although normally at this time of year we will begin to see the market slow slightly as we head towards Christmas.
I think it is particularly useful to note the maximum tenants are putting in against properties. Rightmove gives us the option to really tailor make the report we receive so by adding in other factors like if tenants required parking, furnished properties or within a certain postcode we can receive a more specific report as to the average budget of new tenants which provides us with a good insight for valuations.
It also helps current landlords see the amount of rental which could be achieved at the top end of the market, helping to decide if refurbishment work would be beneficial based on the new rental return.
If you are thinking about investing in property or increasing your portfolio then we can provide you with the average rental price being achieved for the area and type of property plus the level of demand before you purchase. (more…)
Vicky Cranthorne M.A.R.L.A, Office Manager for iConn Property Management writes:
Some advice for student tenants regarding their utility bills and what to do when things are not right;
SENARIO ONE: If we are the managing agent for your property.
We have notified the utility companies on your behalf. When you first move into your property you are provided with an inventory which contains meter readings which were taken at the beginning of the tenancy. These meter readings are provided to all the utility suppliers registered for your address via our office as your opening readings. Some utility companies will take a while to update there information but you should start to see bills arriving this month.
SENARIO TWO: If your Landlord provided you with your inventory and completes your maintenance.
You need to confirm with your Landlord if they have notified the utilities on your behalf, if they do not then you will need to call the utility companies yourself and set up your new accounts. Use the start date on your tenancy agreement as your opening account date and provide them with meter readings. These should be on the inventory provided by your landlord but if not then call your landlord direct to confirm them and what companies are the suppliers.
SENARIO THREE: If your bills are included in your rental price.
You need do nothing further as the accounts for the property will remain in the landlords name.
ADVICE FOR ALL:
If post arrives that is not addressed to you then please either drop it into our office or back in the post box with “Return to sender – Not at this address” on the envelope. This is normally due to a cross over of information being received by the companies and by returning to the sender it should stop them from writing to the address again.
If the post is in the correct names but the dates or readings are wrong you will need to call the company and confirm your details with them. Use the date on your tenancy agreement as your start date (even if you did not occupy for summer months your tenancy started on this date and so you are responsible from the tenancy start date) then provide them with your meter reading from your inventory as your opening reading. You may want to provide them with a more recent meter reading at the same time. This is advisable as most companies base their bills on “Estimated” usage and if you have not been in the property they may be overcharging you, by providing a recent reading they will only generate the bill for your exact usage. Once you have confirmed these details with them they will then amend your details and resend you the correct bill.
Water bills – these are normally calculated at a set cost for the year regardless of occupation or usage. You should receive two bills for your water supply, one is the water IN and one is for the water OUT. You can arrange with them to pay on a yearly, quarterly or monthly basis dependent on your preference but again the account will be from the start date of your tenancy. Some properties may be on water meters and the companies will come and read these every few months and will adjust your payment schedule accordingly.
Council Tax – The Canterbury city council are notified through our office of all our student properties. They will sometimes write to the address with a yellow exemption slip for you to complete with your student details to confirm that you are entitled to the exemption. These forms are also in your welcome packs. This is standard procedure and once you have returned this to them they will send you a new bill with a zero balance to show that you are exempt. You must be aware that if your courses do not start till later in the year there is a chance they will charge you for the period between the start date of the tenancy and the course start date if necessary and if someone living in your property is not classed as a student then the exemption will not apply. They may be entitled to a reduction but the full exemption will not be allocated.
TV license, Telephone lines, Internet access, Sky or Digital Television Services – are not classed as utilities and you will need to set these type of accounts up directly with the companies you are choosing for supply.
At this time of year the utility companies do receive an excessive amount of notifications because of all the student tenancies in Canterbury which turn over in July and August. We do keep a record of the notification from our office as proof but, because of the large numbers of notification, the companies sometimes miss things or set up accounts incorrectly. It is no problem for us to re notify them for you but, if a bill is arriving in your name it is more advisable for you to call them direct, as once an account is set up the companies will sometimes not speak with us because of data protection. If bills are arriving in your name or some companies have your details but other do not it is evident that our notification has been sent and that some companies have not updated their details yet, so you may wish to call them to confirm your details or call us and we will re send the notification.
I hope this information is useful to you but obviously if you have any further queries then please do not hestiate to contact us and we can confirm the best way forward.
Vicky Cranthorne M.A.R.L.A, Office Manager for iConn Property Management writes:
When tenants view a property to rent if a telephone socket is visible or advertised as available then the landlord has a responsibility to ensure it is in working order. This means that the physical lines and wiring into the property are in place.
It is a tenants choice as to whether they wish to have a working line during their tenancy. If you do require a telephone line then it is their responsibility to pay for any set up fees that may be applicable to have a working line as this is the tenants account set up fee.
Most telephone line providers have a general rule that if a line is not used for longer than a month they will disconnect it from the exchange and allocate the space to someone else. This means that if the previous tenants choose not to have a line, or used a different provider to the one the tenant would like to use, there is a high chance that the provider will charge the tenant to reconnect the line to the exchange.
Vicky Cranthorne M.A.R.L.A, Office Manager for iConn Property Management writes:
When viewing a property to rent if a telephone socket is visible or advertised as available then the landlord has a responsibility to ensure it is in working order. This means that the physical lines and wiring into the property is complete.
It is a tenants choice as to whether they wish to have a working line during their tenancy. If you do require a telephone line then it is your responsibility to pay for any set up fees that may be applicable to have a working line as this is your account set up fee.
Most telephone line providers have a general rule that if a line is not used for longer than a month they will disconnect it from the exchange and allocate the space to someone else. This means that if the previous tenants choose not to have a line, or used a different provider to the one you would like to use, there is a high chance that the provider will charge you to reconnect the line to the exchange.
As far as I am aware there are three main providers of telephone lines:
BT – charge up to £130.00 set up fee
Virgin – charges vary and they often have offers on for free installation dependent on package.
Talktalk – again charges vary dependent on package.
This website may be useful to those looking to shop around: http://www.homephonechoices.co.uk/new-line/how-to-get-a-new-phone-line.html
A great idea is that if you decide to have a landline or your line was still connected when you moved in then please call us to provide us with the landline number, that way we can provide any new tenants with the number and provider so they can ensure the line is not disconnected before they move in. If you are viewing properties in the near future remember to ask the current tenants or the letting agent to see if you can do the same.
Vicky Cranthorne M.A.R.L.A, Office Manager at iConn Property Manager writes:
I came across some new information this week which may be very useful for Landlords who provide furniture in their rented properties.
One of our current landlords wanted to purchase a second hand sofa for their furnished property. They visited a reputable charity shop in Canterbury and found an ideal sofa but on inspection it did not have any fire resistant labels…..well actually, the last owener had cut them off!
It was evident the sofa was nearly new and they called us for some advice. As far as I was aware the regulation is as follows:
The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 Amended 1993:
It is an offence to supply in a property any furniture that does not comply with the regulations. The regulations cover all upholstered furniture and furnishings with permanent or loose covers including cushions, pillows and headboards which must be able to pass a ‘smouldering cigarette’ and ‘match flame’ test, and carry labels to prove it. Failure to comply with the regulations carries a fine and or imprisonment, and in addition a Tenant could sue you for damages against any loss or injury caused as a result of a breach. Furniture manufactured prior to 1950 is exempt. There are also stringent controls on houses in multiple occupation (i.e. sharers) involving formal registration with your local council which we can undertake on your behalf.
I did however call the Canterbury Council housing department to confirm and they advised me that if an item of furniture does not display the required labels there are another two options a landlord could take in order to prove that the furniture is up to regulation.
1. If the item was made and/or purchased after 1993 and the landlord can provide proof of this then this is sufficient. This is because the law changed in 1993 relating to the production of fabric and upholstery items and it became illegal to sell any products after this date that are not fire retardant.
2. There are companies that provide a spraying service and will provide a certificate to prove that the items is now fire retardant. This is ideal for antique furniture and could be useful for older second hand furniture.
Iris O’Connell M.A.R.L.A, Managing Director for iConn Property Management writes:
♦ Make sure you opt for the best Buy To Let Mortgage rate.
♦ Talk with local letting agents and use their local knowledge to ask for advice. They will advise you what areas are popular with a certain type of tenant. Which type of property will be suitable for the type of tenant you are looking for and what type of property to purchase to ensure you get the best return for your money. They will also advise you what rental levels you would hope to achieve from certain properties in different local areas. iConn is a local letting agent with years of experience and local knowledge. Call us for free helpful advice.
♦ Make sure that there is a demand for the certain type of property you want to invest in. Again ask your local agent for an insight into the local market. A member of staff at iConn will be happy to help you with any advice you may seek.
♦ Research properties on property portals like Right Move or Property Live. You will see what is currently being marketed and for what rental levels. Study the market thoroughly before you buy!!!
♦ Make sure that you are aware of the cost of fully insuring your property. This will include building Insurance, contents insurance and public liability cover. iConn can arrange this for you.
♦ If you are looking to furnish the property, furnish it according to what type of tenant you require. Furnishings for a student property will be different compared to a property a family will rent.
♦ Decorate it and repair it to a high standard; the better its condition, the higher the overall yield.
♦ Consider using an Agent to manage the property. iConn offers four levels of service. Contact us for further details.
♦ Always understand your legal obligations as a Landlord. Be realistic in understanding that your tenant will expect you to repair, replace and maintain as and when necessary.
♦ You will be expected to follow council requirements and housing law. It is also essential that you provide all necessary safety documents; e.g. Gas safety certificate.
♦ Understand your financial limits. Do not purchase an investment property if the rental level achievable just covers your mortgage repayment. What happens if you have an unexpected boiler break down? Will you have enough money in the pot to make repairs as and when required? What happens if there is a rental void period? Do you have a contingency plan for any such an event? Be realistic about what you buy, the level of mortgage compared to the level of rent achievable and the condition of the property.
Vicky Cranthorne, Office Manager for iConn Property Management writes:
The local Canterbury City Council are due to make a decision to introduce a policy from December this year regarding planning permission required for HMO Properties (Houses of Multiple Occupancy).
If the policy is introduced in December it will only really effect Landlords looking to invest into the student market. If the property the landlord purchases is already rented in a student or sharer capacity then they do not need to do anything BUT if the landlord purchases a property with the intention to rent to students or sharers and it is not already being rented this way they will need to apply for planning permission from the council for a “change of use”.
In principle the council are looking to regulate the amount of HMO’s in Canterbury in order to not flood certain areas of the city and to keep the neighbourhoods diverse.
From past experience I would say that the timescale for obtaining the permission could be lengthy and as the permission is not a guarantee could be risky for new landlords and obviously i’m sure there will be costs involved!
There are some interesting points raised on the Councils website from local residents and businesses, both for and againist and further information can also be found on the website:
Here is a snippet from this page:
The Article 4 Direction, which requires planning permission to be obtained for the change of use of residential dwellings (Class C3) to Housing in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)(Class C4), has been consulted on for a period of 6 weeks, (from 9th December to 21st January 2011), and people were invited to comment on the Direction. Once comments on the Direction have been considered, the Council will have to decide whether or not to confirm the Direction.The Article 4 Direction applies to the urban area of the City of Canterbury, and the wards of Sturry North, Sturry South, Barton, Wincheap, Blean Forest, and the parish of Harbledown and that part of Lower Hardres parish to the north of the A2.The Council recently consulted on a draft supplementary planning document relating to HMOs, and the comments received in relation to the SPD will be considered by the Council in due course. The making of the Article 4 Direction will not affect the Council’s consideration of those comments, and there may be amendments to the draft SPD. The Article 4 Direction simply provides the framework in which an SPD can be implemented.
We are very happy with the way iConn markets and lets our property in Canterbury.
We have found the service to be professional and speedy – we are kept up to date with what is happening when marketing the property and have regular reports on the condition of the property when it is let.
Having been referred by a friend, we had no hesitation in signing up for our property to be managed by iConn Property Management.
From the outset they showed their knowledge & experience of the market and communicated this clearly to us. Their advice was sound and they followed up talk with plenty of action. They found consecutive tenants immediately and since then it has been plain sailing and trouble free lettings.
Thank you to all the team for your efforts thus far
I have been very happy with the professional service provided by iConn. The staff have always been courteous and prompt and communication has been excellent. I expect to continue to use them to manage my properties for the foreseeable future
I am delighted to tell you that we have always been most impressed with the professionalism and speed with which your staff have dealt with our requirements. Indeed, your staff have always kept us informed of the process and progress of marketing our property and once a suitable tenant has been found your efficiency at preparing and producing the various contracts and references are second to none. The management and staff at iConn are a pleasure to work with which is why we return to look for your services year after year.
I have worked with many property managers in the US and the UK for the last 20+ years and iConn stands head and shoulders above them all! The staff is knowledgeable about the ins and outs of property management and has systems in place to keep landlords informed. They are helpful and friendly and follow through on what they say they will do. They are also enormously helpful on things that are a little outside the standard property manager’s routine. When we decided to completely renovate our flat in Canterbury, they found good contractors, obtained estimates and coordinated all the work for us—and the flat turned out really well. When we needed a property valuation, they arranged that for us. An altogether capable and delightful group of people!
iConn has received some great advice from our friends at Roombuddies.com with some tips for tenants looking to share a property:
Safely Seeking Flatshares
When looking for a new flatshare opportunity, it is important that you exercise good judgement and stay safe at all times. This isn’t paranoia; it’s just being sensible. No; not everyone is out to get you, but one or two might be and they’re the ones you need to watch out for. Statistically speaking, you are very unlikely to be hurt by someone that you are seeking a flatshare or house share with. Of course, the same can be said about being struck by lightning, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to walk around holding a golf club over your head during a thunderstorm (unless you are either a hard-core golfer and/or a total nutter). Being sensible and keeping your eye-out for potentially dodgy situations will help you avoid trouble as much as possible.
Always remember the old cliché, “if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is” (it’s a cliché for a reason after all). Flats that are priced considerably lower than other similar properties in the same area will undoubtedly come with a catch. Always practice caution when an advertiser tells you that you won’t be able to view a property until you have either signed something or parted with cash and try to keep away from deals that involve paying/receiving money through a money transfer system (such as Western Union). When an advert is written in concise English, you should expect a similar standard in the rest of your correspondence (if the correspondent’s language use is broken or inconsistent then suspect foul play).
You need to view property before you agree to take it on and certainly before you hand over any cash. Property should always be of a safe and reasonably inhabitable standard. Any flatshare or house share opportunities that are not up to spec should be avoided and not taken on because of promises that they will be put right before you move in (wait until they are put right before agreeing to anything/giving a deposit). If there is to be a tenancy agreement (and you are advised to ask for one, though a landlord is not legally obliged to provide one to you) you should be given a copy and time to read it before you sign.
You will also want to ask what deposit protection scheme your landlord will use before you give them a deposit (deposit protection is required by law), though this does not guarantee your money will be returned in full when your tenancy is over (but it will give you more power to dispute any unfair deductions). Though these financial safeguards are important, they are not as important as making sure you are physically safe. You will want to check that the locks in a potential flatshare or house share are suitable for your purposes. If you are looking at getting a http://www.roombuddies.com/ then make sure the room has its own separate lock.
When you are actually attending a viewing, you need to take steps to ensure your safety then too. Ask the advertiser for a landline number (rather than a mobile) and call them on it to confirm they are where they say they are. Make a note of the address you will be viewing (and don’t agree to meet anywhere other than this address) giving it and the name of the person you are meeting to someone you trust (so they know where to look if you go missing). Arrange a time to call or meet your friend after the viewing so that they can react quicker if you don’t turn up and (preferably) take another friend with you when you attend the viewing.
My properties have been managed by iConn for almost ten years. During that time they have invariably found good tenants and always kept both my properties fully tenanted. They are thoroughly professional and experienced and have always advised me superbly as to what the best action to take is. They are a strong team of talented individuals who provide an excellent service. i have many friends who rent through other agents and their experiences confirm to me that iConn is a great choice.
We have used iConn for more than two years now and have been very impressed with their service. They have been very efficient at finding us tenants and when an issue arose with one set of tenants, they resolved it successfully through negotiation with the tenants in a timely and professional manner. All our contacts with the office have been friendly and constructive. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend their services to other landlords.
The staff at iConn really do work together as a team and are always willing to help and offer sound advice. Over the past few years they have found good tenants for my two properties in Canterbury.
I live overseas and have been renting out 2 properties with iConn since the day of the companies formation. The efficient process that iConn follows to find tenants, their frequent property status reports, the way they follow up rent collection, and their active involvement in the refurbishment of the properties means I’ve never had to visit or worry about our properties for over 10 years. This leaves me confident to continue using their services well into the future.
I wish to thank Iris for her excellent service; the iConn team do provide very good customer service!
The iConn team – About us….
Iris O’Connell M.A.R.L.A – Managing Director
Your contact for new business and letting and tenancy advice.
Iris has 10 years experience within the lettings and property management field and is both ARLA (Association of Residential Lettings Agents) and APIP (Association of Professional Inventory Providers) qualified.
Vicky Cranthorne M.A.R.L.A – Lettings Negotiator / Office Manager
Your contact for letting and tenancy queries
Vicky Cranthorne has 5 years experience within the lettings and property management field and is ARLA qualified and is currently studying for her AAT accountancy qualification. She oversees all lettings negotiating within the department and is responsible for the general day to day running of the office.
Sam Douglas – Accounts Coordinator
Your contact for all account queries and general enquiries
Sam Douglas has 2.5 years experience within the lettings and property management field and oversees the daily accounts; she also specialises in the insurance side of the business and can provide policies such as Home & Contents, Landlords Rent and Legal Indemnities.
Sam Macdonald – Lettings Negotiator
Your contact for letting and tenancy queries
Sam Macdonald has 6 years experience within the lettings and property management field and specialises in letting negotiations and property marketing.