News

Fire Safety – What’s your responsibility as a residential Landlord?

Smoke Detectors PicWould you want your family living in a house with no smoke alarms?

Fire and rescue authorities say new laws making it mandatory for all private landlords to install smoke alarms should be established as soon as possible.  By law, private landlords must issue a gas safety certificate annually for private tenants.  However, it’s not compulsory for private landlords to fit smoke alarms in their properties unless they are rented out as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).  Because of this, the call for additional fire laws comes as no surprise!  If new laws were enacted, private landlords would have to install smoke alarms in all of their properties.  Cllr Jeremy Hilton, Chair of the Local Government Association’s fire services management committee, said: “Many people will be shocked that most landlords are not obliged to install smoke alarms.  The current laws are outdated and inadequate – and without question lives are being put at risk.  While the majority of private landlords are reputable and voluntarily install alarms, there are a small minority who don’t, needlessly putting lives at risk.”

With the private rented sector seeing unprecedented growth and playing a more significant role in where people want to live, it will come under greater scrutiny.  In the middle of 2014, Labour MP Nick Raynsford called for it to be mandatory for all private rented properties to have working smoke alarms fitted. There has been overwhelming support for the motion with 245 MP’s behind it and just 8 opposed.  This has certainly moved the law a step forward.  He said: “Real progress has been made in the past decade to reduce the number of domestic fire deaths, but much more can be done.  Almost one in five privately rented homes still do not have a smoke detector, putting over 650,000 households at increased risk of death.

Here at Hayfield Robinson we echo the suggestions put forward by MP’s and the fire authorities.  A smoke alarm can be purchased for as little as £5 and with the battery lasting years, it can make all the difference between life and death.  We recommend at least one good quality inter linked detector be fitted per floor of a property and that is should be tested and in working order on commencement of the tenancy.  For further advice on practical issues for landlords please feel free to contact us.

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Landlord’s Liability or Tenant’s Task?

Tenancy Agreement Pic

In the face of a challenging property market, more and more of us are becoming either landlords or tenants and choosing to rent our homes, but both parties need to be clear on their responsibilities according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).  New ARLA President gives guidance on responsible renting.

Interior upkeep, garden maintenance and insurance are just a few areas where tenants and landlords alike are often unclear where liability rests. Without a good understanding of the responsibilities associated with a tenancy ARLA warns there is the potential for costly disputes further down the line.

Tenants will often be happy to push through with a rental contract so they can move into their new property as soon as possible. But ensuring you understand what is expected of you during the rental period is essential as this may have a bearing on the return of your deposit at the end of the tenancy.

From the landlord’s point of view any clauses and agreements covering non-essential property maintenance and improvements should be agreed in writing beforehand to avoid any disagreements once signed.

With this in mind, the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) is reminding tenants to carefully check their contract before moving in to ensure their stay in a property goes smoothly.

Susan Fitz-Gibbon, President of ARLA, said: “People sometimes forget that renting comes with associated responsibilities and liabilities.  As well as looking after your rental property, always check with the landlord before making any changes or alterations beyond those expressly permitted in the contract.

“Understanding the terms of contract is also important, going through it with a legal expert will ensure obligations by both parties are understood and fulfilled; this process can allow a tenant to enjoy their home without worrying about any disputes when they move in, or about the procedures around, for instance, being away from the property over a certain period of time.”

If you have any questions or queries over the responsibilities placed upon landlords or indeed the expectations of tenants then please feel free to contact either Lee Bilbrough or Donna Lewis who will be more than happy to help.

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Longer Term Tenancy Proposals to Hit Landlords

Moving House Medium[1]The charity Shelter have put forward proposals for a new fixed-term, five-year tenancy agreements to be introduced for all tenancies in the private rented sector, with rent increases linked to inflation and tenants able to leave the contract at any point with two months’ notice for no apparent reason. This is a privilege that would not be extended to the landlord which would adversely affect the tenant/landlord relationship.

Whilst the Residential Landlords’ Association (RLA) believes that longer tenancies should be used where needed, it does not believe that such a model should be the default position.

Richard Jones, the RLA’s policy director, said, “Whilst Shelter continues to suggest that landlords are actively looking for opportunities to throw their tenants out altogether, the reality is that just nine per cent of tenancies are ended by a landlord, showing that the majority much prefer to keep tenants on than face an empty property”.  “Moreover, with the average length of private tenancies now reaching 20 months, it is clear that the current tenancy model already provides for longer term tenancies when they are needed for families”.

The RLA is now consulting on proposals that would achieve the right balance of rights between the landlord and tenant while maintaining the confidence of mortgage lenders.  Shelter’s proposals would not work, not least given that many tenants, especially younger people, such as students or those who are eventually looking to buy a home of their own, seek a short term tenancy.

Shelter’s calls for contracts with index linked rent rises would be bad news for families who are presently seeing average market rents (outside of London) increase by less than inflation.
It maybe that the best way to prevent rents becoming unaffordable is to support the smaller scale landlords to invest and bring much-needed new property to the private rented sector.  The plan for longer term tenancies could result in landlords being no longer willing to invest.

ARE YOU USING THE CORRECT TYPE OF TENANCY AGREEMENT?  If the worst happens and you end up in court with your tenant it is essential that your documentation is in order.  Please contact us for a free, no obligation review of your tenancy.

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Do you need an Inventory on an Unfurnished Let?

Throughout the private rental sector, there remains confusion as to whether unfurnished properties require an Inventory or whether it is just an unnecessary expense.

After looking at a number of forums with posts from landlords and tenants, regarding unfurnished property inventories and it was clear to see that there is quite a lot of confusion about what an Inventory actually is – with some believing that it is simply a list of items and that the actual ‘fabric’ of the property is not included, such as:

  •  Walls
  • Floor coverings
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Locks
  • Kitchen units and worktops
  • Bathroom fittings
  • Electrical sockets
  • Smoke detectors
  • Garden and parking areas

Here at Hayfield Robinson we believe a detailed inventory is essential on all types of letting and should include both the content and ‘fabric’ of the property and also provide a schedule of condition.  This means that even if a property does not contain white goods and is literally as unfurnished as it could possibly be, providing an Inventory has been agreed by the tenants at the outset, a landlord will be able to make fair deductions from a deposit if there is cause to repair, replace, redecorate or clean any items.

Failing to produce an Inventory could severely leave a landlord out of pocket – take for instance this scenario…..

A property which was completely redecorated with all of the walls painted a neutral magnolia colour is rented to tenants without an Inventory being prepared.  During the course of their tenancy, the tenants decide that they are fed up with the neutral pallet of the property and paint every single wall a luminous pink!  On the day that the tenants vacate, the landlord visits the property and is outraged that the tenants have re-painted the property in shocking pink and immediately seeks to deduct monies from their deposit to repaint the walls back to the neutral tone.  Knowing that there was no Inventory to evidence the colour of the walls in the first instance, the tenants dispute the deductions and the case is sent to arbitration.  Of course, the arbitrator’s award in the favour of the tenants as there is nothing to prove the landlords claims.  The cost of redecorating the property therefore has to be funded by the landlord so the lack of Inventory proves to be an expensive mistake!

Of course having an Inventory in place doesn’t prevent a tenant from deciding to re-decorate the whole property in the brightest shade of pink imaginable (or any other colour), but what it can do, is reaffirm to them the clauses in their Tenancy Agreement to seek permission before redecorating and more importantly it provides clear, undisputable evidence as to the colour of the walls at the time that the tenant moved into the property.  Quite simply it is crucial to have a detailed Inventory regardless as to whether a property is furnished or not.

HR L&M Ltd include an inventory and photographic schedule of condition in both our Let Only and Management Services and unlike the majority of other agents this does not attract an additional charge to either the landlord or tenant.  For more details on this or any other of our services please feel free to contact us.

 

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Rent in Advance or Deposit???

There are a number of common pitfalls encountered by landlords however an unusual complication has recently been removed by the court of appeal who have recently ruled that Rent paid in advance does NOT count as a deposit.
The landmark ruling means that landlords and agents are not obliged to treat rent paid in advance as a deposit which requires protection under the Housing Act 2004.

The Court of Appeal’s decision was in the long-running case of Johnson v Old, where the tenant was offered a six-month tenancy and because she did not have a set income was asked for six months’ rent in advance.

The agreement in the case provided a muddling factor, because it said the rent should be paid monthly in advance, but also said that the rent should be paid six months in advance.
The tenancy was renewed on the same terms before becoming a periodic tenancy where the rent was paid monthly in advance.  When the landlord tried to serve a Section 21 notice to gain possession of the property, the tenant, Anne Old, countered by saying that a Section 21 could not be served because she had paid rent in advance which should have been treated as a deposit and protected.

The tenant’s argument was successful at the first hearing, but was then challenged successfully by the landlord at a second.  The tenant appealed, and with the help of legal aid, the case then went to the Court of Appeal, which gave its decision in favour of the landlord.

The Court of Appeal had applied the test of asking how the tenant would have responded had she been asked to make a further payment of rent for one of the months covered by the six months. It decided that the tenant would have said she had already paid it.

Had the landlord lost the case, with the Court of Appeal deciding that the rent in advance was a deposit, the penalty would have been the return of the six months’ rent in advance plus a penalty of up to three times the amount.

The case was complicated by the drafting of the tenancy agreement, underlining the need for care and clarity.

However, news of the decision will be greeted with relief by landlords and agents concerned about whether they should accept rent in advance.

Steve Harriott, chief executive of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, said: “This is a very helpful clarification of an issue which has been concerning landlords and agents.  The judgement in this Court of Appeal case should assist those landlords and agents who want to ask for rent in advance and who can be reassured that this is not a tenancy deposit that needs protecting under the Housing Act 2004”.

Category : News

Attitude of Modern tenants makes good reading for Landlords!

Six out of ten tenants do not think they will ever own a home, according to a recent report carried out by Castle Trust.

The housing investment and mortgage provider found that three million social renters and 1.5 million private tenants do not expect to buy a property.

Meanwhile, of the three million people who do envisage themselves owning a home, half think it will be at least five years before they look to buy.

Earlier this year, Castle Trust carried out research that showed the number of renters in the private sector grown substantially. There were 3.8 million private tenants in 2012, which is an increase of 23 per cent on the 3.1 million figure for 2008.

Sean Oldfield, chief executive officer at Castle Trust, said: “Many people are either unable to get on the property ladder or stuck in their current home, despite interest rates still being at an all-time low.”

Category : News

BUYERS BEWARE! New landlords need to consider all options before buying to let

The rental sector is witnessing a boom in inexperienced landlords snapping up buy-to-let (B2L) properties in the hope of protecting their financial assets from plummeting savings rates.

These people are putting themselves at risk of being left out of pocket if they do not consider all the issues landlords have to deal with when both letting and managing residential property.  The most common problem is that many are not prepared for the costs or for the legalities and responsibilities of owning a B2L property.   Lee Bilbrough commented “Not only are there many costs involved in owning and letting houses but void periods are also often overlooked which can be a big hole in the annual income and may even be the difference between a B2L being a viable proposition or not” 

Lee did however say that many individuals “can do very well” from B2L investment, but it is important to carry out thorough research of the market and plan for all eventualities.

HRL&M Ltd offer a comprehensive investment service which can identify the right property type and location and more importantly our skills and knowledge can help discount those properties and areas to avoid

Category : News

Rent arrears – Don’t let them get out of hand!

The main worry both existing and new residential landlords have when they decide to let a property is “what happens if the rent doesn’t get paid?” With the UK still slowing recovering from a double dip recession money is tight all around and with some tenants still struggling financially and many finding it increasingly difficult to meet their monthly commitments the possibility of a tenant falling into arrears must be considered very closely. Many tenants experience problems due to changes in personal circumstances, such as redundancy or pay cuts, rather than intentionally refusing to pay rent.

There are of course a number of insurance policies available to landlords such as rent guarantee schemes, which must be taken out prior to the commencement of the tenancy, however if insurance is not in place then there are still a number of options open to landlords before resorting to possession proceedings.

The best advice is to act quickly and try and resolve arrears or late payment with the tenant and try to understand why the rent is not being paid. Discuss the possibility of a realistic repayment plan with the tenant and encourage them to pay what they can each month to keep down their arrears. A little amount often is much better than ignoring the problem and seeing arrears escalate to a point where they can very quickly become unmanageable. If the tenant refuses to pay, or are not in a position to do so, then it is often best all round to serve notice at the earliest possible opportunity and then follow the legal process for eviction in order to recover possession. Once the tenant has then vacated and legal possession obtained the landlord can still look to recover the outstanding debt by using the security deposit and the courts if necessary.

In a nutshell, arrears should not become a problem if landlords deal with them sympathetically and more importantly act swiftly to minimise any losses.

If you are a landlord experiencing issues with tenant arrears then feel free to contact us and we would be happy to provide a free, no obligation review of your situation.

Category : News

LANDLORDS – Don’t get your fingers burnt this Bonfire Night!!

A landlord friend of mine, although I’ve been trying to convince him to allow me to look after his properties properly, has a couple of properties that he lets out himself. He has let one such property out to a friend of his and his mate.  Given that one of these tenants was a so called “mate” he decided to cut the usual corners and let the property out without drawing up a tenancy agreement or do the necessary checks etc.  A decision he quickly grew to regret!!!

These tenants have now stopped paying rent and are proving to be the stereotypical “nightmare tenant” It also appears that the one of the tenants has a solicitor as a father and are able to quote their rights and are happy to sit in the house, without paying rent until they are lawfully evicted.

Even  though there is no written tenancy, there is still a verbal agreement so a Section 21 Notice can still be issued giving at least 2 months notice to leave (with an eviction date ‘after’ the end of a tenancy period (e.g. if rent is due on the tenth of the month, the Section 21 must expire after the ninth).   The one problem he will face is that, because there is no written tenancy, if the tenants do not leave he will not be able to obtain a possession notice through the accelerated process and will have to go to court. 

Our advice to all Landlords is, while it can seem a pain getting tenancy agreements, inventories, references etc done when the relationship is amicable at the start, it is much, much easier than resolving an issue later on when you haven’t.  Never could the saying “prevention is better than the cure” be truer.

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Strong Demand for That Something a Bit Special

Despite the strong lettings market the lettings team at HRL&M

Despite the strong lettings market the lettings team at HRL&M have been surprised at the level of interest in “above average” rental properties. When instructed to market a 3 bed Keighley property at £800 per calendar month, we were somewhat apprehensive at the level of interest it would receive. As it turns out however, it seems the severe lack of this property type in this area would have resulted in us being able to let the house three times over.

Category : News