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In this three-minute read, we look at the ten most important things a landlord needs to succeed.
If you’re contemplating becoming a landlord, here’s a helpful checklist explaining what it takes to let a property.
You may wonder why a checklist is necessary. After all, how hard can it be? You buy a property, find a tenant, and boom, you’ve got the whole landlord game figured out. Wrong!
The private rental sector is subject to so many rules and regulations that even experienced landlords get caught out and make costly mistakes.
Here’s what you need to know.
1 Legal matters – There are at least 175 laws that apply to landlords in the UK, covering everything from evictions to electrical checks. You need to be on top of all of them. Claiming ignorance (or that the dog ate your tenancy agreement) won’t get you off the hook if you get caught out.
2 Record keeping – It’s vital to maintain a clear paper trail so that if you get into a dispute, you have evidence to support your case. If you’re the kind of person who files important paperwork down the back of the sofa, consider getting someone to do it for you.
3 Vigilance – No matter how nice your tenant seems to be, regular inspections are a must as they allow you to nip problems in the bud. Lax landlords run the risk of discovering that their property has been sub-let, trashed in a series of all-night parties or, holy smoke, turned into a cannabis farm.
4 Take out insurance – We’re not talking about standard home and contents insurance, but specific landlord insurance. (It’s usually a condition of buy-to-let mortgages.) Various policies are available, ranging from top-tier versions that cover almost every eventuality, to no-frills options.
5 People management – Dealing with people is a major part of being a landlord. Most tenants are reliable and honest, but some, unfortunately, can be infuriating. If a tenant falls into the latter category, you need to remain cool-headed when dealing with them. Good landlords make business decisions, not emotional ones.
6 Maintenance – Routine maintenance stops minor issues becoming major structural problems. It helps to have a network of reliable tradespeople who you can call on when you need work done.
7 Tenant selection – Invest time at the beginning of a tenancy to find the right tenant. Never rush the process when it comes to reference and credit checks.
8 Tax implications – The tax rules covering rental properties have been significantly reformed in recent years. It’s worth getting advice from an expert to ensure you understand what you need to pay and what you can claim back.
9 Understand the market – Successful landlords in Havering understand the lie of the land, so that when it comes to setting the rent, they are bang on the money. Getting the price right means your property won’t be sitting empty for long periods.
10 Back-up – Good landlords don’t blunder their way through – they have back-up in the form of a reputable letting agent. If you want support dealing with complicated legislation, handling problematic tenants and managing day-to-day admin and maintenance, get yourself a good letting agent. Remember, mistakes can be costly.
Here at Accord Sales & Lettings, we can help you to become a successful landlord and to see healthy returns on your property investment.
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Ways to Make Your Havering Home More Efficient
In this three-minute read, we look at ways to make your home more energy efficient.
With 40% of UK carbon emissions coming from households, the road to a cleaner, greener planet starts at home.
First, the good news (yes, there is some)
In 1990, the average UK home generated 12.8 tonnes of CO2. (To get this figure, the Committee on Climate Change analysed data on heating, electricity, transport, aviation and waste.)
By 2014, this figure had dropped to 8.1 tonnes of CO2. The aim now is to get the average down to 4.5 tonnes of CO2 by 2030.
One way to reduce our emissions is to re-think how we heat and cool our homes. There are some tried and tested ways to do this, along with some new technologies that are now commercially available.
All these measures will reduce your carbon footprint, cut your energy bills and add value to your property, making it more marketable should you wish to sell it at a later date. Win, win, win.
It's not new, and it's not sexy (well not to us anyway), but insulation is one of the best ways to retain heat in your home.
A home loses a quarter of its heat through the roof, so if you haven't insulated your loft yet, get cracking.
Homes built after the 1920s are likely to have cavity walls – another source of heat loss. Insulating cavity walls is a job for a registered specialist. Do not try it yourself.
2 LED lights
Replace halogen lights with LEDs. Along with saving energy, LEDs last longer meaning you won't have to replace the bulbs as often.
Admit it, for years you thought your Nan's Dachshund draught excluder was a bit naff. Well, who's laughing now, eh?
Often as properties age, small gaps form around windows, letterboxes, loft hatches and fireplaces allowing warm air out and cold air in. There are lots of DIY products available to help you to plug these gaps.
4 Double and triple glazing
Double glazing cuts heat lost through windows by half (Source: Energy Saving Trust). If you want even more bang for your buck, opt for triple glazing.
5 Air source heat pump (ASHP)
An ASHP can heat your home and your water. It works by transferring heat in the air outside into your home (and works even in minus 30 temperatures).
ASHPs produce low levels of heat for long periods, unlike a conventional boiler system where you crank up the radiators for a brief spell until they're hot to touch. ASHPs work best with underfloor heating or larger radiators.
6 Solar panels
These convert the sun's energy into electricity for your home. Solar panels work best on south-facing roofs with a pitch angle of about 30 or 40 degrees and no overhanging trees.
7 Shutters or brise soleil
Ironically, some new builds are so well insulated that heat retention is the central issue. As temperatures continue to rise, some UK householders are installing Mediterranean-style shutters to keep their homes cool in summer.
Brise soleil – shade structures that deflect sun at the hottest part of the day – are also becoming more popular.
The Green Home Grants scheme helps cover some of the costs of making a home more energy efficient. Learn more here:
Here at Accord Sales & Lettings, we're happy to advise on the best ways to create a more energy efficient home that’ll start saving the planet and be kinder on your pocket.
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In this three-minute read, architect Nigel Bidwell shares his tips on what to look for when buying a property AND ways to add value to your current home.
Since the easing of lockdown restrictions, the property market has roared back into action.
This has been turbo-charged in England and Northern Ireland by the stamp duty holiday announced last week on the first £500,000 of property sales. (Take out in Wales and Scotland).
If you’re thinking of purchasing a property or simply looking to add value before you sell, Nigel, a partner with JTP, suggests you do your research.
That way, you will be able to identify properties where there is potential to add value.
If you’re selling, these tips will give you some useful ideas about the key features to highlight in marketing material.
Ignore the superficial stuff - Buyers
If you don’t like the carpet or wallpaper, it doesn’t matter. Don’t get hung up or put off by someone else’s taste in décor.
“Look at the bones of the property to see how spaces flow from room to room,” Nigel says. “Look for opportunities to change the way the rooms connect. Don’t be scared to tap the walls and to ask about the planning history of the property.”
The light touch works - Sellers
“Light is the key to the enjoyment of any space,” Nigel says. “Light, bright rooms, high ceilings and large windows all contribute to the overall quality of a property.” Look for ways to open small rooms, increase the size of windows and add more light.
What have the neighbours done? Buyers & Sellers
“Study other properties in the street to see if they have been refurbished or extended. Also, look on Google Earth to see if neighbouring properties have dormers or rooflights – a sign that they have converted the loft space.”
Reviewing homes in the same street will give you some good design ideas and an indication of what is likely to get planning permission.
Outdoor space – Buyers & Sellers
“Interaction with nature makes us feel happier and improves our well-being - something that came to the fore during lockdown,” Nigel says. “As a result, people appreciate external space more than ever and are placing increasing value on gardens, balconies and roof terraces.”
It’s great to blur the boundaries between inside and outside – think kitchens with glass doors that open onto gardens, or inside spaces filled with plants.
Get the right aspect – Buyers & Sellers
“Consider how you will use the property, not just now but in the future,” he says.
South-facing gardens are the most sought after, but if you’re a commuter who spends time outside in the evenings, west-facing might be more suitable. Go for an east-facing property if you love having a sunny breakfast in the garden.
Sustainability - Everyone
“Sustainability is becoming more important in the way we view the value of a property,” Nigel says.
“Increasingly with climate change, it’s not just about heating, it’s about cooling too. New builds are so well insulated these days that the problem is more likely to be how to cool a property.
“You want to be able to open windows to ventilate a space. If there is a busy road nearby, there may be noise implications around doing this. Also look for active measures such as solar panels, photovoltaics, and air-source heat pumps as these will reduce running costs.”
We hope these tips help you as much as they have many of our clients across Romford and Upminster.
Whether you’re buying or selling, at Accord, we’re here to help you make your next move in the property market a successful one.
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Another update for Landlords covering a range of topics relating to the legal and safety requirements for property standards and requirements.
MINIMUM ENERGY EFFICIENCY STANDARDS
Energy Performance Certificates are used to indicate the energy efficiency of a building, ranging from Band A (very efficient) and Band G (inefficient). They work as an indication on how much a building will cost to heat and light, and what its carbon emissions will be.
Part Three of the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 outlines that private sector landlords must not grant a new tenancy (including an extension or renewal) after 1st April 2018, and must not continue to let a property on an existing tenancy after 1st April 2020 where the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating is below the minimum level of energy efficiency for private rental properties of Band E.
Part Two of these Regulations gave tenants the power to request permission from their landlords or agents to make energy efficiency improvements to their rented property.
We have some fact sheets which explain these regulations in more details. If you would like to know more, please ask for a copy.
FIVE YEARLY MANDATORY ELECTRICAL INSTALLATION SAFETY CHECKS – COMING SOON
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 included an enabling power for the introduction of electrical safety standard requirements in the private rented sector. A Working Group was set up to determine how five yearly electrical safety checks in the private rented sector could be introduced. The Working Group’s findings were passed onto the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. In July 2018, the UK Government announced that all private rented sector landlords will have to have all electrical installations in their properties inspected and certified safe every five years. An implementation date has not yet been announced. Should these recommendations be implemented, landlords who do not comply could expect a fine of up to £30,000 or a banning order. More information is here.
ANNUAL GAS SAFETY CHECKS
Finally, a piece of legislation that actually benefits landlords is coming into force. As it stands, a gas safety certificate is valid for 12 months from the date it is issued. That means that if you struggle to book an engineer for the day the current certificate expires and have to take an earlier appointment, you have essentially ‘lost’ time that you’ve already paid for. And, because good engineers tend to be booked up well in advance, you may end up having to have the check several weeks before the renewal date.
But, as of 6th April 2018, the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 come into force. The new ‘MOT-style’ approach means landlords can have the annual check any time in the 2 months before the expiry of the current certificate and still retain the original expiry date. For example, if your gas safety certificate expires on 23rd July 2018, you could have the annual check on 27th May 2018 and the renewal date would still be 23rd July 2019.
This change in the law benefits landlords in three ways:
- You don’t have to worry about trying to find an engineer who can carry out the inspection as close to the expiry date as possible because you have a two-month window
- You don’t lose any of the value of the cost of the annual check
- It makes your administration easier, as the expiry date will be the same each year.
We must be careful not to get the timings wrong, because if the inspection is carried out less than 10 months on from the last check, it will ‘reset the clock’ and the new 12-month period will begin from that date.
The other thing you need to know is that you must now keep hold of the record of the last two gas safety checks. Even though it is the gas engineer’s duty to date the certificate, it remains your legal duty, as the landlord, to be able to demonstrate that the checks were made within the required timescales.
HOMES (FITNESS FOR HUMAN HABITATION) ACT 2018
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 comes into force on 20th March 2019. Replacing the existing fitness for human habitation clauses in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, this new legislation will apply to all human habitation tenancies lasting up to seven years. Essentially, it exists to protect tenants and ensure their property is fit for purpose and allows tenants to take legal action should this not be the case. Read a summary here.
More updates will follow. If you want to discuss anything or require further clarification, information or advice, please contact 01708 748956
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Important news for landlords which may have a huge affect the lettings industry.
TENANT FEES BILL – Comes into force on 1ST JUNE 2019
At Accord we are proud to have never charged excessive fees to landlords or tenants. Our current tenant application/referencing fee is just £120 inc VAT per tenant or guarantor, that is just £100 plus VAT. Fortunately this means that not being able to make this charge to tenants will not be catastrophic. Other agencies, particularly larger agents will have a fee structure which costs tenants between £500 and £1000 per tenancy. Time will tell us the result of this legislation but it will very likely mean a rise in fees charged to landlords. Here is a run down of what the proposed legislation involves. This is reported from directly ARLA Propertymark’s latest news on the issue.
The Bill will ban almost all charges made to tenants. Other key measures of the Bill include:
- Security deposits must not exceed the equivalent of five weeks’ rent. (Originally six weeks but amended recently to five.)
- Holding deposits will be capped at no more than one week’s rent. The Bill also sets out the proposed requirements on landlords and agents to return a holding deposit to a tenant.
- The amount that can be charged for a change to tenancy will be capped at £50 unless the landlord demonstrates that greater costs were incurred.
- A fine of £5,000 for an initial breach of the ban with a criminal offence where a person has been fined or convicted of the same offence within the last five years. Financial penalties of up to £30,000 can be issues as an alternative to prosecution.
- Trading Standards will enforce the ban and make provisions for tenants to be able to recover unlawfully charged fees via the First-tier Tribunal.
- Landlords are prevented from recovering possession of their property via Section 21 until they have repaid any unlawfully charged fees.
- Enabling the appointment of a lead enforcement authority in the lettings sector
- The Consumer Rights Act 2015 will be amended to specify that letting agency transparency requirements should apply to any third-party websites such as property portals.
- Local authorities will be able to ring-fence any money raised for future local housing enforcement.
Some interesting details are below:
- A contract (tenancy agreement) must be signed within 15 days of having received a holding deposit. At Accord, we usually get the tenancy agreement signed on check in but this may have to be done sooner, which will mean the full balance of funds will need to be received from the tenant before the agreement can be signed. This 15 day period can be extended with express (written) agreement of the prospective tenant.
- It will no longer be possible to take a higher deposit if the tenant/s have a pet. A possible answer, other than not to permit pets of course, is to charge a higher rent to tenants with pets.
- A holding deposit must be returned if references fail, except if the tenant has been deceitful. So it will be important to have a comprehensive tenant application form. If the tenant states on the application form that they have no CCJs but they do, then they have lied and the holding deposit can be retained against costs.
- In future, will tenants apply for multiple properties because they have no risk of losing their holding deposit. They could go through several referencing processes (which cost £s to the agent) and then make a decision to go ahead with just one and request holding deposits be returned on all the others.
- Tenants can be charged for a breach of tenancy but these must be listed in the tenancy agreement. For example for late rent, lost keys, missed appointments, unreasonably refused contractor appointments, etc.
- The cap on tenancy deposits will only affect new tenancies on or after the ban comes into force. However, one year after the introduction, all tenancy deposits must be compliant on renewals. So any tenancies where the deposit is higher than the capped level, will need to have the amount over that level refunded to them.
- Fees for a change of sharer of £50 are deemed acceptable.
- If a tenancy is surrendered, reasonable fees may be charged to that tenant but cannot be more than the value of the rent for the remainder of the tenancy.
We will keep you informed of what all of this means in relation to the properties we manage on your behalf.