Posts tagged landlords advice
Rosalind Renshaw from Property Industry Eye reveals all:
The Right to Rent scheme – by which landlords or their agents must check the immigration status of tenants and evict any tenant who does not have right to live in the UK – is likely to go live nationally by next April, and possibly much sooner.
There could be a phased roll-out across England from this autumn onwards.
Landlords – and presumably their agents – who do not comply face fines or prison sentences of up to five years.
The eviction of illegal tenants will be abrupt, and without having to go through court.
It would follow the issuing of a notice by the Home Office when an asylum application fails, confirming that the tenant no longer has the right to rent.
The Government is expected to enact new criminal offences as early as next month. Normally, measures enacted in September come into force the following April. However, in view of the crisis in Calais, sources say there is speculation that ministers could decide to bring implementation sharply forward.
Greg Clark, the communities secretary, said the legislation will also create a blacklist of persistent rogue landlords and letting agents to allow councils to know where to concentrate their enforcement action.
“We are determined to crack down on rogue landlords,” said Clark.
There will also be measures to prevent the letting out of sub-standard properties.
The new measure looks to be controversial.
The pilot scheme in the West Midlands has been running only since December and awaits evaluation.
In the pilot, there is no criminal penalty, with civil sanctions of up to £3,000.
Also in the pilot, landlords are able to assign Right to Rent responsibilities to their agents, and it is thought that this same system will continue in the national scheme.
The new clampdown is already raising fears that landlords and agents will simply discriminate against certain types of prospective tenants – including those with a right to live in the UK.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said that the pilot has shown serious shortcomings, with British people who have foreign accents finding it difficult to find somewhere to rent.
Lawyer and policy director of the Residential Landlords Asociation David Smith told the BBC’s World at One that there was evidence that landlords in the pilot were reluctant to let their properties to anyone without a valid passport.
He said: “This means that huge segments of the population, including genuine UK national who do not have passports – of whom there are many – are being excluded.”
There are also accusations that the Government is guilty of a knee-jerk reaction to the Calais crisis.
However, David Cox, managing director of ARLA, said: “ARLA believes that the measures announced by the Government today are a good first step and we welcome the proposals in principle.
“The plans will help to weed out the minority of rogue landlords who exploit vulnerable immigrants for their own financial gain and, with the introduction of a new five year imprisonment penalty, will help to deter other such unscrupulous individuals from entering the private rented sector.
“The proposals also build upon the Right to Rent checks as imposed by the Immigration Act 2014.
“We will be organising training sessions for our members to ensure they are fully prepared and understand the new rules and we urge all letting agents to ensure they are ready for the impending roll out.”
Property Industry Eye explains why traditional agents are the best:
A property search agent has strongly advised people against trying to sell their own homes via one of the ‘passive intermediary’ sites on the internet.
David Brooke-Smith, of Stacks Property Search, also said that while online agents offer a better chance of success, there is still potential for failure.
He said: “Traditional agents tend to charge somewhere between 1% and 2.5% of the selling price, plus marketing costs, plus VAT. So it’s no great surprise that people are tempted to do the job themselves.
“A plethora of TV programmes has produced a nation of property experts, and there is now a range of options available to the would-be DIY seller. But I would encourage caution.
“If you are in a position to know the true ‘value’ of your property, if you know how to present it at its best, if you have a significant level of IT and SEO skills, if you have strong negotiating and diplomatic skills, if you have endless patience, and if you’re prepared to put in full-time effort and place your life on hold for several months, you may stand a chance.
“In our experience, those that try to go down the DIY route often find it’s simply not working and revert to more traditional methods.
“The greater chance of success comes from using an online agent that offers help with photography, floor plans, and crucially, listing on the main portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla.
“But even with all this help, there’s still a great deal of potential for failure.
“Valuing is the first hurdle to overcome. Vendors may find it difficult to recognise the weaknesses in their own property and will consequently overvalue and discourage enquiries.
“The owner will of course be required to conduct viewings, and whether or not this is a process they embrace, they will have to fall in with potential buyers’ timings, and adopt a non-emotional technique, not always easy when it’s the family home.
“If a vendor should succeed in overcoming these hurdles, potential failure still lurks at the negotiating and conveyancing stage.
“A good estate agent does a great deal of behind-the-scenes work holding a deal together and ensuring it reaches a successful conclusion. It’s often difficult to maintain a professional approach to tense negotiations, and sentiment can be the greatest saboteur of a property transaction.
“The problem with this journey, apart from not achieving a sale, is that you will have incurred substantial non-refundable expenses.
“Selling online requires upfront fees, so if you revert to selling through an agent, you will be duplicating a fair proportion of the cost.”
Source: Property Industry Eye http://www.propertyindustryeye.com/use-a-traditional-agent-property-search-man-tells-sellers/
Gov.uk have posted an article regarding potential changes to installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms within their rented properties:
Landlords will be required by law to install working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties, under measures announced by Housing Minister Brandon Lewis today (11 March 2015).
The move will help prevent up to 26 deaths and 670 injuries a year.
The measure is expected to take effect from October 2015, and comes with strong support after a consultation on property condition in the private rented sector.
England’s 46 fire and rescue authorities are expected to support private landlords in their own areas to meet their new responsibilities with the provision of free alarms, with grant funding from government.
This is part of wider government moves to ensure there are sufficient measures in place to protect public safety, while at the same time avoiding regulation which would push up rents and restrict the supply of homes, limiting choice for tenants.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:
In 1988 just 8% of homes had a smoke alarm installed – now it’s over 90%.
The vast majority of landlords offer a good service and have installed smoke alarms in their homes, but I’m changing the law to ensure every tenant can be given this important protection.
But with working smoke alarms providing the vital seconds needed to escape a fire, I urge all tenants to make sure they regularly test their alarms to ensure they work when it counts. Testing regularly remains the tenant’s responsibility.
Communities Minister Stephen Williams said:
We’re determined to create a bigger, better and safer private rented sector – a key part of that is to ensure the safety of tenants with fire prevention and carbon monoxide warning.
People are at least 4 times more likely to die in a fire in the home if there’s no working smoke alarm.
That’s why we are proposing changes to the law that would require landlords to install working smoke alarms in their properties so tenants can give their families and those they care about a better chance of escaping a fire.
Ensuring the safety of tenants
Other measures to support the private rented sector include investing £1 billion in building newly-built homes specifically for private rent, giving tenants support against rogue landlords and publishing a How to rent guide so tenants and landlords alike are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
The proposed changes to the law would require landlords to install smoke alarms on every floor of their property, and test them at the start of every tenancy.
Landlords would also need to install carbon monoxide alarms in high risk rooms – such as those where a solid fuel heating system is installed.
Those who fail to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms would face sanctions and could face up to a £5,000 civil penalty.
This would bring private rented properties into line with existing building regulations that already require newly-built homes to have hard-wired smoke alarms installed.
And it’s in line with other measures the government has taken to improve standards in the private rented sector, without wrapping the industry up in red tape.
New regulations will be laid in Parliament to require landlords to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties, and are expected to come into force, subject to Parliamentary approval, on 10 October 2015.
The allocation of funding to fire and rescue authorities to offer free smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to local landlords will be announced shortly.
The government’s Fire Kills campaign will be encouraging people to test their smoke alarms when they change their clocks to British Summer Time. The ‘Tick Tock Test’ campaign will run on radio, online and in the press from 16 to 29 March 2015.
See Fire Minister Penny Mourdant’s speech to the Local Government Association fire conference.
Rosalind Renshaw, on behalf of Property Industry Eye, writes about this interesting case that will see changes being made in property inspections by agents on behalf of landords:
An important new case has major implications for letting agents who manage properties and for landlords.
It may also have implications for insurance.
In the case of Edwards v Kumarasamy, the tenant tripped on a path outside the block of flats where he lived on the second floor, injuring his knee.
The landlord did not own the path and did not own the block. However, the landlord did own a flat within the block and the path was the essential means of access to the block.
Until now, it has always been assumed that repairing obligations only apply to what the landlord actually rents out to the tenant, and also that the landlord cannot be held liable if they have not been notified of the need for a repair.
However, in this case, the tenant took a disrepair claim under Section 111 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and, at the Court of Appeal, won his case.
Solicitor David Smith, of Anthony Gold, says this is “a big deal” for agents and landlords, and will have “serious consequences”.
Smith warns that as a result of the case, any landlord can now be sued for disrepair to areas serving their property, irrespective of ownership.
It also means that agents doing property inspections should look not just at the property itself but also at areas over which the landlord has rights, such as paths and drives.
There is, says Smith, no obligation on the tenant to report disrepair, so it is up to the landlord or agent to identify it and resolve it.
This particular case also raises another question, although one not dealt with by the Court of Appeal: paving stones that are merely uneven, rather than being in a state of disrepair.
The full case is reported here
David Smith’s commentary is here
Rightmove have printed this relevant article taken from The Muney Advice Service, reminding Landlords to complete their tax return before the end of the month:
There’s more to being a landlord than collecting rental payments and deposits. Paying your tax is one job you really need to be on top of – and the clock is ticking.
You must complete the online tax return by 31 January (if you’ve not paid in another way by 31 October 2014) having registered for self-assessment by 5 October.
All landlords need to keep HMRC in the loop
You must inform HMRC as soon as you start renting out a property, even if you’ve not yet made any income from it. Once you have earned £2,500 in rental income, you may be liable to pay tax on it. Landlords whose properties generate more than this amount in rent each year must complete a Self-Assessment Tax Return.
How you can reduce or avoid a tax bill
The amount of tax you pay depends on the type of property you are renting out and your personal circumstances. The tax obligations are different for each of the three categories – residential properties, furnished holiday lets and commercial property.
As a buy-to-let landlord you – or your company – pay tax on any profit you make from renting your property to residential tenants. This means you don’t pay income tax on what are known as allowable expenses – and there are plenty of these to get your teeth into. For example, you can claim back letting agents and accountant’s fees. Maintenance and repairs are also covered, as are buildings and contents insurance premiums.
Keep a record of your property-related outgoings
There are plenty of elements to renting out property that you need to keep a record of, including Council Tax bills, any utility bills you pay on the rented property and other direct costs like advertising and phone calls to tenants. Even so, it’s probably best to seek professional advice when calculating tax obligations and allowance expenses. The HMRC Self-Assessment helpline can be reached on 0300 200 3310 if required.
What you can’t claim for
You can’t claim for capital expenses such as buying the place or renovating it, but can lodge a claim for wear and tear. Be aware through that excessive claims will be scrutinised, so don’t think the tax office will automatically claim for the cost of a new bathroom suite or a plush kitchen. HMRC allows you to claim up to 10 per cent of the net rent as a wear and tear allowance if you provide a furnished flat or house, but make sure you have the receipts to hand.
Cheap rentals and HMRC
Even if you don’t earn £2,500 a year from your tenants – after considering all the costs you can claim to reduce tax – you still need to keep HMRC in the picture. They will be able to help ensure you tick all the right boxes as a landlord. You can also visit the Money Advice Service’s guide on your responsibilities as a buy to let landlord for more information.
Source: Rightmove, on behalf of Money Advice Service http://www.rightmove.co.uk/news/articles/buy-to-let-landlord-dont-forget-your-january-tax-return
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Landlord immigration checks – pilot scheme takes effect from 1st December 2014 – iConn Property Management, Canterbury0
‘Nearly Legal’ has informed us all that pilot areas for the landlord immigration checks came into force from the 1st December, under the requirement of the Immigration Act 2014. These areas include Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton. Other areas are expected to be announced in 2015.
Giles Peaker writes:
The equipment will apply to all tenancies, leases below 7 years, sub-lets or lodging arrangements granted on or after 1 December 2014 in the affected areas. Existing or renewed agreements where the tenancy/lease/lodging etc. is continuous from before 1 December will not be affected.
Councils are exempted (including discharge of homeless duty via private sector), as are other social landlords (where they have already been required to consider prospective tenant’s immigration status before allocating them the property) and hostels and refuges ‘which are managed by social landlords, voluntary organisations or charities, or which are not operated on a commercial basis and whose operating costs are provided either wholly or in part by a government department or agency or a local authority’.
Here at iConn we’ll continue to monitor the situation and keep you all up informed as and when we know more, especially concerning Canterbury and the surrounding areas!
Another interesting read by Rosalind Renshaw on behalf of Property Industry Eye:
The checking of prospective tenants’ immigration status by landlords and agents is set to become mandatory in October.
It follows the Royal Assent of the Immigration Bill last week – just days before the Home Secretary ordered an urgent investigation into an immigration documentation scam at the weekend.
Although the checking requirement – which will almost certainly fall upon letting agents who act for landlords – was highly controversial, it forms part of what is now law.
Its aim is to prevent people with no right to be in the UK from accessing private rented housing. The requirement specifically applies to the private rented sector, not the social sector.
Landlords – or their agents – will have to request to see at least one document from a specified list, yet to be published, to confirm if prospective tenants have the right to live in the UK.
The requirement will mean having to check all applicants – for example, birth certificates of those born in the UK, and passports, but checks might have to extend to much more complicated paperwork or its lack.
If the prospective tenant does not have permission to live in the UK and the property is subsequently let, the landlord could be fined up to £3,000.
If a tenant’s right to be in the UK has a time limit, checks must also be made either annually or before the expiry date if that is after 12 months. Failure to carry out these subsequent checks will also attract fines of up to £3,000.
There is also an obligation on landlords – or agents – to report to the authorities any suspicions that tenants might be illegal immigrants.
The landlord’s responsibility to make the checks and face the fines can be transferred to a letting agent, but that must be done specifically in writing – suggesting that agents will have to revisit their standard contracts, terms and conditions.
They will also need to see if their current referencing checks cover immigration status.
Agents and landlords should also be aware of some of the issues surrounding their new responsibility, not least that they could become liable to accusations of discriminatory practice.
There is also concern as to how far the responsibility extends. Lawyer Simon Kenny, of Moore Blatch, says: “If, for example, a landlord notes from the tenant’s visa that he has the right to live in the UK but not to work, does he breach these rules if he is also aware through credit referencing that the tenant works full-time?
“It seems at least possible such a landlord could also be prosecuted in respect of ‘facilitating a breach of immigration law’ in this situation – an offence with a penalty of imprisonment.
“Guidelines are expected to say that a passport will be the main method of checking a prospective tenant’s immigration status.
“There is also likely to be an online checking facility, where the immigration status of a prospective tenant can be found, together with a free telephone checking service.
The Home Office may also confirm that the new system will be piloted in one area before being rolled out across the UK.
A good blog which outlines the main issues is at the link below this story.
However, it was written before any mention could be made of the latest scam, by which immigrants who speak no English can buy, for £500, a certificate saying they have passed a language test.
The false documentation could open the door to British citizenship but as yet there is no advice as to how letting agents or landlords could detect false paperwork.
Home Secretary Teresa May has ordered an urgent investigation.
Rosalind Renshaw from Property Industry Eye writes:
The lettings industry and the Labour party remain on a collision course ahead of next year’s general election.
Labour has repeated its vow to make letting agent fees illegal, while agents are stepping up calls for wholesale regulation of the industry.
Speaking after Tuesday evening’s failed bid by Labour to have fees banned, Paul Weller, managing director of lettings chain Leaders, said: “Fortunately common sense has prevailed, but the vote was a wasted opportunity.
“The vote should have been on banning all unregulated agents from practising.
“This would have enabled Parliament to tackle all the problems at the heart of our industry in one motion: 40% of letting agents are not members of a professional body so it is clear that self-regulation is not enough.
“What is needed is legislation that ensures that – as a minimum requirement – all letting agents are qualified, have client money protection and operate to an agreed code of conduct for the whole industry.
“The issues go much further than agents charging fees to tenants. We need to rid the industry of rogue agents who charge extortionate fees, who do not protect their clients’ money and in some cases abuse it, who put their tenants’ lives at risk in unsafe properties and who provide a sub-standard service with little regard for the law.
“The best action politicians can take to protect tenants is to properly regulate letting agents. We have been calling for this for decades.”
Ian Potter, outgoing managing director of ARLA, said: “Fees are not arbitrary or unnecessary – they represent a business cost that those tabling the amendment failed to recognise.
“ARLA’s call, as ever, is for wholesale regulation of the market to ensure fair and transparent practices for all consumers, landlords and agents alike.”
Darren Harley, of EweMove, said: “Whilst we agree that there are far too many lettings agents across the country who don’t disclose their application fees too readily, banning all fees to tenants isn’t the way to promote fairness. It will simply drive up fees to the landlords which, in turn, will drive rents up.
“Ewemove charges no application fees, and only ever charges tenants once a property has been offered to them. We believe this is a much better system because it ensures more applications per property, and we can find the very best tenant for the landlord every time.
“Yes, the agent earns slightly less under this model, but it’s not all about the agent.
“Regulation of the industry is clearly required.
“We’ve all seen the reports from Shelter and other organisations, declaring the unscrupulous practices of a few rogue agents. I really don’t believe that those horror stories are the norm in the UK, but I do think that things can be improved, and a professional standard would be the way forward.
“The most obvious route would be compulsory membership of ARLA, and ARLA’s standards being strengthened.”
However, one person who took to Twitter to complain about the way the vote went was London Evening Standard columnist and landlord Victoria Whitlock.
She said: “Am disappointed MPs bought that bunkum that tenants would have paid more if letting agent fees were banned.”
The tireless Stella Creasy, Labour shadow consumers minister, was back on Twitter yesterday claiming: “An agency has contacted me to argue fees to tenants justified because they ‘give them a bag for life & mug’ upon arrival. Yes really.”
Meanwhile, shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds put the industry on warning by making it clear that the whole issue has not gone away.
She said: “Generation Rent needs proper protection against being ripped off.
“A Labour government will ban letting agent fees on tenants.”
* There were just three rebels when it came to Tuesday evening’s vote on letting agent fees – one Tory and two Lib Dems who refused to toe their party line.
Phillip Hollobone, the Tory MP for Kettering, and Lib Dem MPs Julian Huppert (Cambridge) and Ian Swales (Redcar) all voted to ban letting agent fees.
Of the Lib Dems, 38 voted against a ban, and 16 were missing. Among the absentees were Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Andrew Stunell, Sarah Teather and Jo Swinson.
There were 242 Tory MPs who voted against the ban, with 58 absent from the vote. Absentees included David Cameron and George Osborne.
Labour’s attempt to ban letting agent fees was defeated by a majority of 53 (281 to 228).
Another interesting read from Property Industry Eye:
Eric Walker, managing director of Northwood, was scathing about Labour’s proposals, including the pledge to make it illegal for agents to charge fees to tenants.
He said some agents would not be able to survive such a move. “Contrary to the universal misconception that agents are raking it in, many make small profits indeed and this policy may push some over the edge.”
He went on: “If agents are forced to scrap fees from tenants, then inevitably, landlords will end up paying more which in turn could increase the rent the tenant pays.
“Couple this with the proposed draconian rent-capping idea, then of course some landlords will reconsider their position.
“It is of sinister concern that rent caps would be introduced at a time interest rates are predicted to rise, which spells disaster for many landlords.
“The lettings market is fine. It’s regulation and consumer protection which should be Miliband’s priority, not State controlled pricing.”
Carole Charge, director at lettings chain Leaders, said: “Labour’s three-year tenancy proposals are unrealistic. Without the right to regain repossession of their property, most investment landlords would not take the risk and pull their property from the market.
“The picture painted by Labour of tenants being forced out of their homes is not accurate. Reliable statistics show that the majority of tenancies are ended by the tenant rather than the landlord.”
Dorian Gonsalves, director of franchising at Belvoir, said his firm would be “dead against” the changes proposed.
“The existing Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement can already run for a longer period, and changes to this could have a devastating effect on the supply of available rental properties.
“Ultimately, tenants would bear the brunt of fewer rental properties, higher rents and no alternative housing solution being provided by the Government.
“Experts have warned of the dangers of making changes to the existing AST or forcing landlords out of the market, which clearly some of these proposed changes by a Labour Government are likely to do.
“Tenants already have the choice of not paying letting agent fees. They can rent privately and this may be attractive to those tenants who prefer a lower standard of service, with no consumer redress and a landlord who may or may not respond to maintenance issues.”
Carol Pawsey, lettings director at Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, described Labour’s proposals as “disastrous”. She warned that rent caps could lead to “many” landlords quitting the market.
The National Landlords Association said the proposals were “completely unworkable”.
Richard Lambert, its chief executive, said: “Were they to become government policy it would strike a devastating blow to investment in housing of all tenures and further constrain supply at a time of real housing crisis.”
The Residential Landlords Association said Labour had quite simply got it wrong. Vice-chairman Chris Town said: “All the evidence clearly shows that rent controls of the kind proposed would critically undermine investment in new homes to rent and are not needed, given that official statistics show rents increasing by much less than inflation.”
The British Property Federation also savaged the rent controls proposal. Director of policy Ian Fletcher said: “It makes no sense.
“Good landlords will be getting a perverse message that if you are providing a premium product the most you can expect is the ‘average’, whilst bad landlords with sub-standard accommodation can find another justification for charging over the odds.”
Source: Written by Rosalind Renshaw on behalf of Property Industry Eye http://www.propertyindustryeye.com/ban-fees-tenants-kill-agents-warning/
Samantha Hooper, Lettings Negotiator at iConn Property Management writes;
Autumn season has arrived and we have been experiencing a lot of rain over the last few days! At this time of year, our tenants start drying clothes inside their homes, which later down the line can result in damp / condensation build up in the property. Here’s a few tips on how to avoid this common problem!
Open bedroom windows when you go to bed at night; a 10mm gap will do. If it really is too cold to do this, wipe the condensation off the windows first thing in the morning, but please do not put the cloth you used on the radiator to dry as this will create more condensation.
Ensure full use of extractor or ventilation fans. Where these are not provided, open a window after bathing or showering to give the steam and damp air a chance to escape. Wipe windows, walls and mirrors to remove condensation (a microfiber cloth is the most efficient means of doing this), and dry the shower tray or bath. Keep the door closed while the bathroom is in use to prevent the steam escaping to other parts of the house.
When cooking, cover pans. Use exactor or ventilation fans where provided. If you do not have an automatic kettle, take care to ensure it is not left boiling. These precautions will help to reduce steam and therefore moisture in the air. Keep the door closed while the kitchen is in use to prevent the steam escaping to other parts of the house.
Where there are chimneys, do not block them up. If a wall appears to be damp, do not put furniture right up against it; allow some circulation of air.
Make sure that any ventilation bricks or openings in the building are not obstructed.
Keep glass as clear of condensation as you can. Wipe away any moisture that has formed using a soft cloth. Leave open any ”trickle” vents in double glazed units. Get into the habit of opening windows to keep moisture content in the air down and to air the property when you can.
Avoid drying clothes on radiators. Tumble dryers should be vented to the outside, unless fitted with a condenser.
Provide a reasonable level of heating (no less than 10°C in an unused area, or 16C if in use); cold rooms are susceptible to condensation. Remember, the best way to heat a room and avoid condensation is to maintain a low level of warmth throughout the day rather than to turn the heating off while you are out and put it on at a high level when you return home.
Portable gas and paraffin heaters can create a significant amount of damp and condensation within properties. Please do not use these types of heaters unless you have permission from your landlord or property manager.
Mildew may be removed from clothes by using a dry cleaning process.
Remove and kill mould by wiping the affected area(s) with a fungicide which carries a Health and Safety Executive approval number, precisely following the manufactures instructions. Alternatively a mild bleach solution will have the desired effect, but do test on a small area first.
Do not disturb mould by vacuuming or brushing as this can give rise to respiratory complaints.
Amy Chilvers, Lettings Negotiator at iConn Property Management writes;
Well done to our Lettings Negotiator, Sam Macdonald who did her bit for charity this month and ran the Race For Life in aid of raising money for an amazing cause, Cancer Research UK. If you would like to make a donation, please feel free to donate online and show your support!
So many thanks for all your very professional advice and tremendously helpful information.
With thanks, and my best regards
Mr Gerard O’Sullivan
Tanya Macleod, Property Manager at iConn Property Management writes;
In April, two members of staff attended their annual First Aid Training Course and I’m pleased to announce that they both passed with flying colours! Congratulations to Iris O’Connell, Managing Director and Sam Douglas, Accounts Coordinator! We are in safe hands for another year!!
Sam Macdonald, Lettings Negotiator at iConn Property Management writes;
Here’s some great advice from The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) regarding buy to let properties:
Think of buying to let as a medium to long term investment.
Seek advice from an ARLA letting agent on local market demands.
Get your sums right. Will the rent cover borrowings and costs, after allowing for void periods?
Decorate, fit out and furnish to high quality standards, especially kitchens and bathrooms, to attract the best tenants and let quickly every time.
Use an ARLA member as your letting agent. They have Client Money Protection, hold Professional Indemnity Insurance to required standards, have staff trained to ARLA’s competency standards and are kept up to date with the latest legal and regulatory requirements.
Let personal taste cloud your judgement. Be sure the property you choose meets market requirements
Purchase anything with potential maintenance problems like a lot of woodwork or large gardens. It will add nothing to the rental value and cost a lot to keep up.
Think that the running of an investment property to let can be left to friends or relatives in your absence. Tenants require a full management service.
Use off-the-shelf tenancy agreements from HMSO or law stationers, or forget to issue the right notices or fail to have a proper inventory and condition report made before a tenant moves in. Leave all documentation to a professional agent.
Furnish with second hand furniture or cast-off soft furnishings. These will probably contravene the Furniture and Furnishing Regulations.
If you require any further information regarding renting your property, please feel free to contact us on 01227 765008.
Sam Macdonald, Lettings Negotiator of iConn Property Management writes;
Information to landlords – iConn have noticed a rapid change to the student market this year which has been an accumulation of increased University accommodation, high University fees and a considerable reduction in UK and International students applying for places; which in turn has produced an unexpected high level of properties left on the market.
Normally at this time of the year most of our student properties have been Let for the next academic year.
We have been in discussions with other local agents whom are experiencing the exact same scenario and are looking at ways to attract those students that are still looking for accommodation.
What we are proposing to do is to reduce our administration fees for the students; making it more affordable for them at the start of the application process. A further option is to adjust the rental figure in order to become more competitive.
There will of course still be students that have not secured a property as of yet and those students that will come through the clearing process later in the year once their course has been confirmed.
We do not want to alarm you at this stage; however the purpose of this letter is to forewarn you of the situation and to agree a plan of action now in order to secure a tenancy going forward.
We would normally advise our Landlords to increase their rental income but with the high level of stock still on the market, an alternative solution must be found in order to secure you revenue for the next academic year.
If you would like any further information regarding this, please feel free to contact our office on 01227 765008.
Sam Douglas, Accounts co-ordinator for iConn Property Management writes;
I came accross an article from LetRisks which I think may be an interesting an useful read.
Important safety alert
In a recent claim a landlord suffered over £100,000 worth of damage to his property and loss of rent following a fire from a faulty fridge freezer. This case highlights the number of potentially dangerous brand new appliances in rented property and the action that letting agents can take to protect their landlords and tenants.
Over the past few years there have been hundreds of fires involving white goods, particularly fridge/freezers, tumble dryers and dishwashers, with more than a dozen blazes deemed “serious”. According to recent press articles, almost half a million potentially dangerous dishwashers are still being used in households because their owners cannot be traced. As an example, a batch of faulty Bosch dishwashers, made over a seven-year period, are at risk of catching fire. Just one in four has been traced.
Although manufacturers issue product recalls, via national advertising, letters and phone calls to consumers there are difficulties in tracing the purchasers, particularly if tenants have moved address or landlords have appointed an agent.
The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) found that the average success rate of recalls is just 10-20%. With 266 electrical product recalls in the last six years and manufacturers often producing hundreds of thousands of units, there are likely to be millions of dangerous products threatening safety every day. Following a survey, they claim that 2 million adults have purposefully ignored a product recall notice, a third won’t return an item if it seems too inconvenient and a fifth would not go without a luxury product such as a television or hair straighteners.
LetRisks has put together a checklist to help you protect landlords and tenants:
- Register your contact details with the manufacturer for any new appliances when purchased. This is not just for marketing purposes – it may save a life.
- Property management staff and inventory clerks should record the make and model numbers of each of the landlords appliances and check them against the Product Recall information websites (see below).
- Ensure that appliances are checked regularly: The law surrounding Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) simply requires you to ensure that their electrical equipment is maintained in order to prevent danger. New equipment should be “supplied in a safe condition”. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidance on how to maintain equipment including the use of PAT.
- Remind tenants to check that any electrical appliances are safe and refer them to the Product Recall information websites. It is a condition of most tenancy agreements that the tenant must not bring on to the premises anything that might be a fire hazard.
- Retain forwarding addresses for tenants and arrange for mail to be forwarded, if possible. It may include product recall information.
- Use the Product Recall information websites (see below)
- Electrical Safety Council (ESC): www.esc.org.uk/recall. You will need to enter a model number, brand name or description of a particular item. If the product has been recalled, the website will advise on next steps.
- RecallUK is the primary product recall site that lists all UK product recalls, for all product types, announced in the last few weeks: www.recalluk.com/default.aspx
- White Goods Help – Archives for Safety Warnings & Appliance Recalls: www.whitegoodshelp.co.uk/category/safety-warnings-recalls-houshold-appliances
- Arrange appropriate insurances, for both the structure of the building (that includes fixtures and fittings), and contents. Make sure that the insurance is suitable for let property and includes Property Owners Liability. Even if you are letting an unfurnished flat, we recommend that you arrange cover for limited contents (covering carpets, curtains and white goods) which will also come with cover for liability to the public and injury to tenants.
This was our first experience of using iConn Ltd to rent out our home and it was a seemless and problem-free experience. The personnel were knowledgeable, professional and responsive to our numerous questions! Most importantly, they were proactive and arranged good quality viewings which resulted in several offers within a week of taking on the property. I would not hesitate to recommend that other prospective landlords use iConn and am delighted that we chose them to work with.
Vicky Owen, Office Manager at iConn Property Management writes:
Over the past few years the way we advertise and market properties to rent has evolved dramatically! Prospective tenants have replaced peering in the window fronts of local agents with anytime internet search sites giants like Rightmove, Primelocation and Findaproperty.
In a age where Internet is King – with nearly 98% of our sucessfully let properties coming from an internet enquiry, it is important for us to keep up with our prospective tenant habits.
We now take “Featured Property” slots on the three largest property portals – www.rightmove.com; www.primelocation.com; www.zoopla.com meaning that our clients properties are advertised at the top of the page, seperating them from the competition, highlighting them first and giving their properties a head start.
Now we see another change to the media market with the use of social media sites becoming more popular and opening companies out to interactive, on the spot feedback; the biggest being Facebook and Twitter… even the mighty property portals now provide links for people to “Like” or “Share” their properties on their page!
We have now signed up to PropertyPlace which is an app on these sites created to advertise properties which has over 10,000 monthly users showing the evolution of these social sites to a place of advertising potential.
Our social media sites are growing by the day, with our company Facebook page having nearly 350 likes, our Twitter account has over 600 followers coupled with our blog following and our LinkedIn sites and the new Google+ page – we are bringing our properties to a new market.
Although this highlights the benefits to our Clients as this new advertising potential unfolds, there is a huge benefit to the prospective tenants – social media is instant, with property portals taking up to 24 hours to update their new listings – social sites provide an exclusivity in a fast moving rental market. It provides interaction for the customer not only with the company that is advertising but also with their friends: liking a property or commenting on a post spreads their activity to all their friends who then comment with advice or provide feedback for that person.
The secret to this social media growth is connectivity, interesting and relevant posts and recommendations. Please take a moment to explore our sites and by providing recommendations or getting involved and interactive with us helps us to broaden our auidence which in turn benefits our clients and tenants.
Click on the links to join in:
You can link with our personal Linkedin Profiles here to:
Iris O’Connell, Managing Director of iConn Property Management writes:
I am writing to advise you of a Government initiative which takes effect from January 2013.
In order to detail and explain the initiative clearly, I have taken abstracts from literature from The Department of Energy & Climate Change for your information.
The Green Deal is a government initiative to improve energy efficiency in UK households; its aim is to encourage people to make their homes more energy efficient in a cost effective way. The scheme will be available to home owners and tenants (with the consent of their landlords) and has also been extended to businesses.
The scheme lets customers pay for some or all of the improvements over time through their electricity bill. A home assessment will be undertaken by a Green Deal assessor who will create a report recommending the best improvements to minimise the utility bills in your home. If you are interested, you will be able to choose a Green Deal provider who will offer you a quote for a Green Deal Plan and access to the finance. The financial package is not a loan; although interest is added to the final total. The debt is attached to your property rather than you or the tenant, so it will not be means tested, therefore credit checks will not be undertaken.
In order to have any improvements undertaken, the improvements must be eligible under the Green Deal and recommended for your house following your home assessment. These measures will be expected to be able to show real savings over the repayment period. This is the Golden Rule of the Green Deal which states that the expected savings made from the home improvement must be the same or greater than the total cost of implementing the improvement itself. This rule protects the property owner, ensuring that they are not paying back more money as a result of the Green Deal scheme than they are actually saving on their energy bills.
Once the home improvements have been undertaken, the Green Deal will be paid back in installments attached to the electricity bill. The repayments will be affordable to everyone as they will be based on the savings made by the household as a result of the new home improvements.
In order for the home improvements to be beneficial, the Golden Rule states that you should not be paying more money on your repayments than you are saving on your utility bill. For example, if you have had new insulation fitted, and this gives you a saving of £25.00 on your heating bill each month, then you will be expected to pay less than £25.00 on your repayments.
Additionally, the length of time for the repayments should not exceed the expected lifetime of the home improvements itself. For example, if solar panels were to be installed and they have an expected lifespan of 30 years, then the repayments should not last any longer than 30 years.
Your tenant needs your permission before taking out a Green Deal. If your tenant wishes to take out a Green Deal Plan, they will first need your agreement to both the improvements and the financial aspects of the plan, If you do not agree to all, some or any of the assessors recommendations; the tenant is not permitted to proceed.
Click on the link for the official brochure provided by The Department of Energy & Climate Change for a comprehesive guide:
If you require any further information, please feel free to contact me.
Vicky Cranthorne M.A.R.L.A, Office Manager for iConn Property Management writes:
To help you get the best out of your property investment, iConn Property Management have come up with a few ideas to get you on the road to success.
Set a bit of money aside each month
in case of any works/repairs that arise. This way, you won’t miss the money so much, and if there are no repairs that need doing during the year, you can buy yourself an extra little something at the end of the year!
Improve neighbourhood relations
and hire a monthly gardener. This will keep the local residents happy and your property will always look nice and tidy.
Look into updating furniture
this will make your property more appealing when it comes to re-marketing.
By spending a little more time and money on your property now will help reduce maintenance problems in the future.
Get ahead in the student market
Most tenants find it hard to keep on top of bills with all the essays they have to write! Include broadband in the monthly rental and make it more appealing to students.
arrange for the roofs, gutters, drains to be checked regularly to avoid any major problems.
Get in the know
iConn Property Management are happy to advise you of any recent changes in laws and regulations, just give us a call and we will be happy to help!
Sam Douglas, for iConn Property Management writes:
These tips listed in our welcome packs may come in useful for some of our tenants:
Please clean your filter regularly on your washing machine, normally located on the front at the bottom of the machine. This is often the cause for the washing machine to stop working or stop draining properly. Also ensure you do not over fill the powder drawer.
Please clean the filter regularly as failure to do so is likely to cause the tumble dryer to overheat and stop working.
If any other electrical appliances fail to function correctly, please call the office and we will organise for the appliance to be repaired, replaced or removed.
Light Bulbs and Shades
It is the responsibility of the tenants to replace light bulbs when they have blown and to replace any damaged shades when they leave.
Pictures and posters.
We appreciate that tenants may wish to put pictures and posters up, however please be aware that using substances like blu tac may cause damage to the wall covering or paint work. You are responsible for any repairs required when you leave.
Windows and Curtains
Please ensure that all windows are closed when the property is unattended. You can be sure that insurance companies will not pay out if windows are left open and you have been broken into when you have left the property unsecure.
Heat sensors and smoke detectors.
They are not to be removed, disconnected or the batteries taken out. If the batteries fail, you are responsible for replacing them. Please note that disconnecting or removing the batteries long term will invalidate any insurance taken out by yourselves or the landlord.
Any issue with infestation i.e. wasp nests, bees nest, mice etc are the responsibility of the tenant. The issue should be reported directly to the environmental department at Canterbury City Council. Please do not encourage any unwanted pets by leaving rubbish inside or outside the property long term. It can be costly for a contractor to be called out to sort such issues and on top of that, there are obvious health implications to consider. You will be charged if we have to send out a contractor.
Guttering & Drains
All guttering and drain maintenance for the property is again the responsibility of the tenants as laid out in the tenancy agreement.
Drains block very easily, most common causes are food and oil being put down the kitchen sink and hair from showers and baths. Last year we had numerous reports of blocked drains; all reports were caused by tenants and in all cases the tenants had to pay the bill as they were responsible for causing the problem.
Tenants are reminded that there is to be NO SMOKING inside of the property
If iConn manages the property, your Landlord has instructed us to carry out periodic property inspections. The inspections are to ensure that the property is being looked after by yourself and for any maintenance repairs that may be required as part of your Landlord’s obligations. We will write to you in advance notifying you of any inspections that may be due, giving you the opportunity to be present whilst the inspection is being carried.
Sam Macdonald, Lettings Negotiator for iConn Property Management writes:
ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) supplies lots of answers to common questions which tenants might need to know.
This link takes tenants direct to their website: https://www.arla.co.uk/information/tenants/rights-of-access/
Here is one of the questions I spotted earlier which I thought would be useful to know:
What About Rights Of Access To The Property, What Are The Rules?
A landlord, or his agent, or someone authorised to act on his behalf has a right to view the property to assess its condition and to carry out necessary repairs or maintenance at reasonable times of the day. The law says that a landlord or agent must give a tenant at least 24 hours prior notice in writing (except in an emergency) of such a visit. Naturally, if the tenant agrees, on specific or odd occasions to allow access without the 24 hours prior written notice, that is acceptable. [A clause in the tenancy agreement which tries to diminish or over-ride a tenant’s rights in this respect would be void and unenforceable.]
Vicky Cranthorne, Office Manager from iConn Property Management writes:
Our friends from Propertyads have provided us with their top tips for Landlords – Hope you find them useful.
Top tips for landlords considering buy-to-let properties
Buy-to-let properties can be an excellent way to supplement your income or your pension, and a little research and a bit of clever property market know-how can help you make the most out of your buy-to-let property. So if you’re considering adding a little extra to your pocket each month, here are our top tips for potential landlords looking at getting into buy-to-let properties.
1. Investigate the best area for good investment Before you buy a property, you have to think about what kind of tenant you want, and where you want to buy. Your rental property doesn’t even need to be in the same city! For example, buy-to-let properties in Sheffield and Canterbury, student cities, are a great investment. Each year new students arrive to study, and each year they need additional accommodation. Investing in a student area is an excellent idea when you’re looking for almost-guaranteed income. Much like student rental properties, investing in a business-oriented city near a financial district such as Canary Wharf in London will be a costly venture, but will also help you to secure a tenant relatively easily.
2. Decorate for demand to cater to your tenants Decorate and furnish your home according to your ideal tenant’s requirements. If you’ve bought a buy-to-let property in Canterbury, for example, make sure that each bedroom is furnished with a bed and a desk to allow multiple students to rent out the rooms. A large living room and plenty of storage space in the kitchen are also preferential, so make sure you don’t clutter it up with unnecessary décor.
3. Plan for empty flats As a landlord with a buy-to-let property, it’s important that you make financial provision for empty flats. If you’re unable to find a tenant you will still need to make mortgage repayments. Make sure you have access to funds if you need to do this. Another option would be to sign with a rental agency that guarantees rentals for your flats so that you’re always covered, or take out an insurance policy that insures you against non-payment of rent during a rental agreement.
4. Write in increases to your tenancy agreements and set up a direct debit Make sure that you write in annual increase agreements in your tenancy contracts to make the most out of your rental property. Setting up a direct debit agreement will guarantee the rental income on a particular day (instead of collecting funds on different days each month when the tenant remembers to pay)
5. Protect your property with insurance Landlord’s insurance can help you protect yourself against unpaid rental, theft by tenants, or damage to a property due to tenant negligence or weather damage. A good insurance policy is a good investment when you’re in the landlord market to make money out of your buy-to-let property – especially if it is situated in a different city to your own residence
If you are looking to grow your portfolio or first time invest into the property market in the Canterbury area please contact us for free independent advice.
We came to iConn from an agent that was always asking us to reduce rent and offering incentives to the tenants; because of this attitude we always felt that the agent was working for the tenant rather that us. We were pleasantly surprised with the complete reversal in the attitude to us with iConn. They are most professional in their attitude, but always there to help and give us advice, and nothing is too much trouble. They keep us up to date with emails and phone calls; the money side of the company is always professional and correct, which was not so our previous agents. We have never had a year when our houses are not let. Thanks to iConn we can relax and definitely get our ‘moneys worth’.
We have been using iConn Property Management Ltd for the past three years. We have always found the staff incredibly helpful with all enquiries we’ve had.
They provide a very professional and friendly service. If ever we have a problem or issue it is always resolved in a matter of hours where other agencies in the past have taken much longer even to acknowledge the issue. Having built up a rapport with the staff, it makes it easier for all when looking for a new property as the team already know our likes and dislikes.
We have always received a quality service from iConn. They care about you, your situation and how you want to live, they don’t just forget about you when you sign the contract. We would recommend them to anyone looking for a Property Management / Lettings company
From the start I have been impressed with the efficiency of iConn. Tenants were found within a couple of days for our property and all matters relating to it have been dealt with efficiently and well. I would have no hesitation in using iConn again in the future.
I have been using iConn in it’s various stages of development for the last fifteen years as a rental agency for my house in Canterbury. The company has been extremely professional in finding suitable tenants every year, maintaining the house in good condition and relaying problems, suggestions and legal matters promptly to me by mail and E-mail to my addresses abroad. This year my family will be returning to take up permanent residence at our Canterbury home, and I can heartily recommend the company to anyone who wishes to either rent out or rent an abode in the Canterbury area.
We have 2 properties which have been let by iConn since around 2005. I only have positive words to say about iConn, the staff that we have contact with (namely Vicky) is always helpful, friendly and efficient. Any problems have been dealt with professionally and swiftly and therefore we have the utmost confidence in them. I also know that they are helpful to our tenants. We have the pick of lettings agents here in Canterbury, but as we receive such an excellent service, I have no reason to move my business elsewhere – a completely satisfied customer on all counts!
The service level of iConn in terms of professional communication on all matters from tenancy agreement, proactive property inspections, quotations for works required etc. and looking after the landlords interest as if the property is their own is better than I have experienced from any other letting agent. With iConn’s managed services package I’m confident our properties are in good hands and therefore have not had to visit our properties that are managed by them for the last 8 years.