News & views from Urban.co.uk

Urban.co.uk Q&A: I have inherited a property and want to let it out. I've heard that the early stages are the most vital, is this right?

Posted by: Adam Male on 25 September 2016
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Q.

I have inherited a house which I plan to let out and I’ve heard that I need to be careful at this early stage to get everything right in case I needed to evict the tenant in the future. Is that right? 

 

A.  

Yes - careful pre-planning is now essential at the time of setting-up Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST). 

The Section 21 eviction process for ASTs in England and Wales is a very valuable concession for landlords: it allows for no-fault (no reason required) eviction of tenants. But recent changes in the law means it is more difficult to use Section 21. 

You need to be aware of the following circumstances in which the law says that a landlord cannot seek possession against a tenant using section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

  1.  

    Where the landlord has not provided the tenant with (a) an energy performance certificate, (b) gas safety certificate and (c) the Department for Communities and Local Government’s publication “How to rent: the checklist for renting in England” (see the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notices and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015)
  2. Where the landlord has not complied with the tenancy deposit protection legislation.

  3. During the first four months of the tenancy. If the tenancy is a replacement tenancy, the four month period is calculated from the start of the original tenancy and not the start of the replacement tenancy.

  4. Where the landlord is prevented from ‘retaliatory eviction’ under section 33 of the Deregulation Act 2015. See Urban.co.uk Q&A on Repairs 

  5. Where a property requires a licence but is unlicensed. 

It’s worth noting that any AST starting on or after 1 October 2016 needs the new form of Section 21 Notice - Form 6a.

As you are new to being a landlord you may want to think about whether to use our Tenant Finder Premium package until you feel confident about the administrative and legal side of renting a property. 

New research reveals the most frequently-cited rules broken by tenants. So what are they?

Posted by: Adam Male on 21 September 2016
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The new research by Direct Line Landlord insurance may not come as a surprise to some landlords. Top of the broken rules was 25% failing to pay rent, followed by 21% smoking when forbidden, and 18% keeping a pet without permission. 

Other broken rules that tenants admitted to included changing the locks, causing disturbances or a nuisance to neighboring properties, subletting without permission, not cleaning windows, and decorating without permission. 

Nick Breton, Head of Direct Line for Business, advised ‘Tenants who break the rules of their contract can face anything from the loss of their deposit to eviction, so for peace of mind, landlords should ensure they have a watertight legal contract in place to fall back on should anything happen to their property’. He also advised that it is a good idea to go through all of the clauses and penalties with the tenants before they sign the agreement to ensure that they are clear on the rules of the tenancy and then maintain a dialogue with tenants as well as making scheduled visits to the property to ensure it is being maintained to a level that was agreed in the contract.

The sanctions available for breaking tenancy rules include losing some or all of the deposit which happened to 52%, followed by 22% having to pay for any damages and in some extreme cases some 4% were evicted. Landlords may have grounds to use the deposit for a professional clean at the end of the tenancy to remove any issues caused by smoking or pets. However, in order to enforce this a good inventory  would be needed which was drawn up at the beginning of the tenancy. Otherwise it may be difficult to prove that the damage was caused by the tenant. 

But landlords take note: 21% of tenants say that the landlord never found out about their misdemeanors! Thankfully, the research also revealed that 65% of tenants do stick to the rules!

How to: Conduct your own viewings

Posted by: Adam Male on 16 September 2016
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One of the tasks that can be the most daunting when you come to sell or rent your property is handling viewings.

 

However, here at Urban.co.uk, we find that our potential buyers and tenants really appreciate being shown a property by the owner or landlord. After all, who could possibly know your property better than you? By managing this job yourself, you are able to answer any queries a viewer may have instantly, so they leave feeling confident and positive – rather than full of unanswered questions.

 

All you need to do is follow a few simple tricks to make sure you are able to get the very best out of every viewing, and hopefully have your home off the market in no time at all!

 

Prepare your property

  •  It goes without saying that a clean and tidy property will be more appealing to a viewer. You don’t have to say ‘yes, come immediately’ every time, if you need an hour to get the place straight, take the time you need.

  •  Do try and clear away as many personal bits and bobs as you can, making the property as appealing as possible to a wider range of viewers – you never know, your prized artwork or full set of drums in the corner of the sitting room could be enough to put someone off your property.

  •  Wherever possible try and keep young children and pets clear of the property when you’re conducting a viewing – you want your sole focus to be on the people you are showing round. Now is definitely the time to call in baby-sitting favours from friends and neighbours!

  •  Try and book your viewings during daylight hours wherever possible. A sunny outlook makes everything more appealing, and you can really show your home and garden off to its full potential.

 

 

 

Make a plan

  •  It is likely that your property has a room which delivers the ‘wow’ factor - decide whether you want to show this off first, or keep it for last.

  •  First impressions count, so even if you’re not starting with a wow factor room, don’t kick off with the cupboard under the stairs… show off a room which gives a taste of what’s to come.

  •  Make sure the last room you end up in gives scope for buyers to stand or sit comfortably, so they can feel at ease to ask any questions that they may have. You don’t want to be wedged in a damp cellar talking about council tax when you could be sat around a kitchen table.

  •  Make a mental note of all the points you have to tick off as you walk around the property. House hunters are prepared to pay a premium for certain benefits, but it’s up to you to highlight them. Make sure you point out period features, additional storage solutions, any new energy efficient modernisations, proximity to great schools and transport links - be sure to let them know what added value your property offers.  

 

Pre-empt the questions

  •  Before the viewing, think of the main questions that you think a viewer may need, and prepare the answers. How much is council tax? What are the average monthly bills? How far away is the station? Is the local Chinese takeaway any good?

  •  You could note down the questions and answers, and prepare a document to hand to the viewer – there will be so much for them to take in when they are looking around, and this gives them the option to take the information away and digest it in their own time.

 

 

Urban.co.uk viewing checklist

 

Do…      

  1.  Always prepare yourself, and your home before a viewing – it’s ok to ask for an hour to get ready!

  2.  Be friendly, welcoming and warm - but stay professional

  3.  Host viewings during the day whenever possible

  4.  Offer the viewers the chance to look around on their own once you’d carried out a tour

  5.  Prepare for questions and respond honestly

  6.  Be clear on the next step – should the viewer contact you, or your agent if they wish to proceed

 

Don’t…

 

  1. Conduct viewings alone for safety reasons
  2. Hover over your viewers, give them space to explore a little
  3. Rush the viewing – 10-15 minutes is around average, any longer is a great sign!     
  4. Push for a decision on whether the property is right for them

 

Are you ready for Gas Safety Week?

Posted by: Adam Male on 15 September 2016
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Monday signals the start of a very important week in the work of lettings… of course you will all have it marked in your calendars, but just in case – it marks the first day of Gas Safety week!

Organised by the Gas Safe Register, Gas Safety Week (19-25 September) has been designed to bring gas safety to the forefront, and remind all landlords of their responsibilities.

Just as a refresher, here’s a quick tick list of everything you need to be doing as a landlord to make sure you have got your gas related responsibilities fully under control:

  •  Make sure you arrange and oversee a full inspection of al pipework, gas appliances and flues on an annual basis. This must be carried out by a registered Gas Safe engineer.

  • Records of all inspections must be kept for two years, and you must supply the records to your tenants within 28 days of the inspection taking place. A valid certificate must be presented to a tenant at the start of each new tenancy.

  • It is your responsibility to ensure that all gas appliances, flues and pipework is maintained to a safe standard, that complies with manufacturer’s instructions. This maintenance should be carried out by a registered Gas Safe engineer.

On a side note, it is also a legal requirement to provide Carbon monoxide monitors in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance – this doesn’t include gas boilers, but many landlords choose to supply a monitor anyway, for added peace of mind. 

 

Ever been embarrassed to admit you're a landlord? You're not alone!

Posted by: Adam Male on 14 September 2016
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Have you ever been embarrassed to admit you’re a landlord? If so, you’re not alone!

According to research from The National Landlord Association’s Quarterly Landlord Panel, one in five buy-to-let landlords are embarrassed to reveal their investments!

Of the 777 landlords polled, 21% noted that they tended to keep quiet about their position, with those in the East of England and the East Midlands the least likely to reveal the information, with 29% keeping schtum.

Landlords based in the South East, Yorkshire and the Humber were less shy however, with only 18% reluctant to spread the work. The most vocal were Scottish landlords, with only 13% keeping their position under wraps.

The report, which revealed findings from 400,00 further landlords from across the UK, revealed that the embarrassment could be due to a stigma attached to the bad press that the private lettings industry receives, caused by the few ‘rogue landlords’, and the ongoing negativity from Westminster. However, Richard Lambert, Chief Executive of the National Landlords Association believes this needs to change:

‘The stigma attached to being a landlord never seems to change. It’s the minority of rogues and criminals that make the headlines and these have a negative impact on everyone else. The majority of landlords are hardworking individuals who put their own money into providing homes for others and they should not be ashamed to say so.’