Reduce your tenants’ fuel bills by up to £300 and you may also avoid rent arrears.
Lettingaproperty.com are giving readers another chance (meet our previous competition winner) to win some cash this side of Christmas! For a chance to win £250 towards your winter fuel bills, simply enter our competition!
According to the Landlords Panel survey conducted by the National Landlords Association (NLA) in August, rental arrears are on the rise. Just under 50 per cent (49%) of landlords had experienced rental arrears in the previous 12 months and 37 per cent of landlords are worried about instances of arrears in the months ahead. A typical NLA member landlord, with an average portfolio of 12 lettings, has 4 tenants in arrears and the average arrears owed by tenants is £2,363.
In January this year Citizens Advice Bureau announced that 43% of people were worried about their next fuel bill, since then many suppliers have increased their charges and according to ThisisMoney.co.uk “Thousands of householders are rushing to lock into affordable gas and electricity contracts before...
The new legislation regarding squatters has been in force for just a few short weeks but already private landlords and local authorities are putting it to use to protect their residential properties from trespassers.
For the very first time under the new anti-squatting provisions, located in section 144 of the Legal, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, trespassing and entering a residential building is a criminal offence but what does this mean for private landlords?
Extra protection against squatters
The act essentially gives landlords that own residential property in England and Wales the extra protection they need against trespassers or squatters, which is something that landlords have never had since the Protection Against Eviction Act and Criminal Law Act were introduced back in 1977. These 1977 acts made it a criminal offence to actually remove a trespasser or someone who opposes entry from even your own property and through this ‘squatter’s rights’ were born.
Powers to arrest and remove
The new legislation will give police powers to arrest and remove trespassers as long as there is hard evident that implies that the trespasser intends to live on the premises. Despite the first person being sentenced recently under the act, many are still confused at what constitutes hard evidence. Many are in fact wondering whether the civil remedies used to remove squatters for the past 35 years would actually be less hassle despite...
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) 2005, which came into force in October 2006, charges the responsible person in control of non-domestic premises and the common areas of a House in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) with the safety of everyone in the building, whether working, visiting or living there. This duty of care includes the provision of emergency lighting. Article 14 (2) (h) of the RRFSO states:
“Emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting”.
As noted in the local government LACORS publication Guidance on fire safety provision for certain types of existing housing (August 2008, p 26):
“When a fire occurs, people will be escaping in haste and in a probable state of distress or even panic. At night, when they have been awoken abruptly, they may be disorientated. With this in mind, the staircase and escape route must be adequately lit”.
Local government guidelines indicate that the only exception to this may be in the case of “small blocks of flats of no more than two storeys, with adequate levels of natural or street lighting (borrowed lighting)”. However, “where borrowed lighting is not reliable, e.g. the street lighting is switched off during part of the night, emergency escape lighting will be required even in two storey blocks” (Fire safety in purpose- built blocks of flats, July 2011, p 102).
What is emergency lighting?
The British Standards Institution (BSi) publication A Guide to Emergency Lighting Second Edition (2012) defines emergency lighting as follows:
“For the purposes of the British and European standard BS EN 1838, ‘emergency lighting’ is the generic term for equipment that provides illumination in the event of failure of supply to the normal lighting” (p. 1). There are two main types of emergency lighting: (i) emergency escape lighting; (ii) standby lighting (p. 2).
Emergency escape lighting is defined as “that part of emergency lighting that is provided to enable safe exit in the event of failure of the normal...
Do I need a Fire Risk Assessment?
It’s a question I’ve been asked with surprise, curiosity, even with incredulity. And it’s hardly surprising, since there is a distinct lack of clarity around requirements and responsibilities for fire safety policy and procedure within rented accommodation and in particular House in Multiple Occupation – HMOs. In my line of work as a professional fire risk assessor, I have come across many landlords who struggle to understand and define where their responsibilities begin and end – especially in terms of what is required of them by the law. And it’s not just one-man-band landlords being caught out – some of the big names in property management have recently been named and shamed as failing in their fire safety duties.
The best place to start is to define who does and doesn’t need a Fire Risk Assessment. If you are the Landlord of any type of property, you must have an up to date fire safety assessment unless you fill ALL of the following criteria:
• The property is a private residence, what the Fire Safety Order terms as a “domestic premises”
• The property is being let as a single domestic premises
• The property is not subdivided in any way i.e. a mix of residential and commercial
• The property is not sublet in any way
• There are no shared or common areas
This definition tends to rule our private landlords – people who are simply letting a second home for example. However, it does leave a substantial grey area for HMOs, since it can be difficult to genuinely differentiate between a private rented house, a shared house, an HMO and even residential flats.
The government does issue guidelines, defining and HMO as a house in which:
• at least 3 tenants live, forming more than 1 household
• those tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants
The confusion comes around the definition of ‘household’ and whether a group of people living together constitute a household or not. Here are some simple rules which can help. The following would be classed as a household:
• A single person living on their own
• Members of a family living together
• A married couple, or a couple living together (including same-sex)
However, the following would not be classed as a household:
• Friends living together in a house which allowed them their own private...
This free event will feature an exhibition (view floorplan) and a series of informative seminars (see agenda and speaker information) to help you as a landlord learn more about your business, how to improve your housing standards, how to meet your legal obligations effectively and how to work and gain from your local council.
The day officially opens at 10:15am and features:
• An exhibition• Seminars throughout the day• A key note speech• An expert panel discussion• A free mince pie and drinks reception• A networking session
Whether there is a specific area of advice you are seeking or if you are interested in learning more about how a particular issue will affect you, this event is an absolute must for landlords looking to make contacts and develop their business.
A café is on site and the venue is within walking distance of London Kings Cross Station. Parking is available nearby, please see a location map here.
Register for your free place (tickets are not required) and sign in on the day to claim 5 CPD points with the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme and to be entered into a draw to win 1 of 5 free RLA memberships!
This event is open and free to anyone interested. Attendees are welcome to arrive on the day without pre-registering, but may take longer to enter.
Book your free place todayOr interested in exhibiting? Download an exhibitor information pack today www.lase-landlordsday.org.uk...
Landlords could be billed for their tenant’s water rates arrears if they fail to advise the utility company of the tenant’s details. This is the outcome of recent changes to the law.
Up until recently, a tenant’s arrears of any of the utilities: water, electricity, gas or telephone had not been a concern of the landlord. The contract for the supplies is directly between the legal occupier and the supplier, and the letting agreement should state clearly that the tenant is responsible, so the landlord is invariably in the clear.
This has always been the case until now, except for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), where the landlord is always responsible for utilities supplies to the property and is expected to recover from the individual tenants.
Following the introduction of the Water Industry Act 1999, water utilities companies, unlike all the other utilities, had their traditional threat of cutting off supplies to non-payers withdrawn – they are no longer allowed to use this sanction by law, and effectively have their hands tied on the issue.
This has lead to increasing concerns from the water utilities companies faced with ever increasing debts from tenants, especially when landlords fail or refuse to notify them of tenants’ details.
Following Ofwat and government reviews on how water charges are to be collected, and specifically over this landlord issue, the recommendations have now lead to changes in the law under Part 2, s45 (1-3) of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, which came into force in October 2012.
Effectively, what this means is that landlords failing to notify the suppliers (water companies) of a tenant’s details will become jointly and severably liable with their tenants for overdue water charges. Invariably, the easier option for the water companies, therefore, will be to pursue the landlord for the debt, rather than trying to trace and recover from the tenant.
Landlords should always make a point of informing, in writing (and in view of this measure perhaps by recorded delivery for water utilities) all the utilities suppliers of the tenants’ full details when a new tenancy starts. Likewise, when a tenancy ends, the landlord should again inform the utilities companies, providing a forwarding address for the tenants whenever possible.
When agents are employed they should inform the utilities companies on behalf of their landlords, so landlords should confirm this is being done. Bear in mind that this may not be the case with a let-only contracted agent.
Tom Entwistle, Editor – comment on this article here or send your comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Deposit disputes have always been a bane of contention, the most common form of dispute between landlord and tenant. Once a tenancy comes to an end, both parties have their own agendas and one man’s idea of what is clean and tidy, broken or usable, damaged or pristine, is not a universal concept or in any way an absolute standard.
Since April 2007, with the introduction of legislation in the 2004 Housing Act, damage deposits in England & Wales (and since in Scotland) have become the subject of statutory rules. Since then, the process of deciding who gets what has been taken out of landlords, agents and tenant’s hands.
Now, a tenant’s damage deposit must be protected in one of the 3 approved government schemes. This is either the custodial scheme, which is free to the users but the money must be paid over, or one of the two insurance backed schemes, where the landlord or agent retains the deposit until such time as a dispute arises.
This process introduces a new dimension as far as the landlord or letting agent is concerned. Whereas before the disputes was handled between the landlord and tenant directly, often ending in a stalemate situation, now, any money amount in dispute is handled and decided by an independent adjudicator appointed by the scheme.
Author, Tom Derrett is a lawyer specialising in the deposit protection system. Having long experience adjudicated in hundreds of deposit disputes, Tom now trains adjudicators himself and operates a deposit protection consultancy – depsoitclaim.com
A common view of adjudication by landlords and sometimes letting agents is that the whole process is biased and heavily staked against the landlord. This view is somewhat supported by the statistics: since the schemes started only around 8% have resulted in an outright win for the landlord, with 43% being a compromise and 49% when the landlord loses the whole amount.
Clearly, there is something amiss, but as Tom points out in this excellent guide for landlords and letting agents, countless decisions have been made in favour of tenants, wrongly. But this is not because of bias on the adjudicators’ part, or any antipathy toward landlords, it’s purely on the basis that the landlord or his agent has not produced sufficient evidence.
In any dispute, whether it’s a money claim or deposit dispute in the small claims court, or when before an independent adjudicator, having hard evidence, presented in a concise and clear way, is the key to winning the dispute.
Clearly, many landlords do not appreciate the importance of this and have not developed their skills and processes sufficiently, when managing their tenancies, to make sure that they have sufficient organised evidence available when it is required. Very often the evidence is readily available, it’s just that landlords don’t realise how important it is to collate it, or they just can’t be bothered, believing they are so obviously in the right.
In his book Tom Derrett explains why landlords lose disputes and how to remedy this. He explains in detail the differences between the custodial and insurance based schemes and how to handle claims in both. He also explains the pros and cons of opting to use the small claims court system instead of independent adjudication, and when you should consider this.
The dispute process is explained in detail, setting out how to put your claim together in a logical, clear and systematic way, how to present and process the claim and how to respond to your tenant.
This is a relatively short guide of around 50 pages or so, easy to read and absorb this vital information. I would say its contents are so important that every landlord and letting agent should read it.
This publication is in e-book format and can be read on all computer and mobile devices.
Organisers of the Landlord & Letting Show have three reasons to celebrate at their forthcoming Midlands event.
AEP Media are celebrating the 25th Landlord & Letting Show at their new Midlands venue, Stoneleigh Park, where visitor numbers are also expected to boom. The organisers have also joined forces with Homestamp and the Midlands Landlord Accreditation Scheme (MLAS) who will be celebrating the 2000th member.
With the visitor numbers increasing year on year, landlords, letting agents and associated professionals are once again proving that the free to attend Landlord & Letting Show is the only place to be for access to the best advice and information in the industry.
The next 25th show, coming to Stoneleigh Park, Wednesday 28th and Thursday 29th November, will be no exception. Managing director Oliver Romain said: “The decision to change the venue for the 25th show paid off. Providing free undercover car park and easy access from everywhere in Midlands has already resulted in 10 per cent increase in visitors booking free tickets compared with last year’s exhibition at the NEC.
“We are committed to providing excellent value for visitors and from now on all our events held outside London will include free parking and where possible all events will offer free wifi.” Stoneleigh Park is renowned for large-scale indoor and outdoor events, trade fairs and public exhibitions in its purpose built exhibition halls, is easily accessible and it offers plenty of free car parking and free wifi for all.
Visitors attend the show to gain advice on all aspects of letting through a comprehensive seminar programme and wide variety of expertise and product knowledge available in the event’s exhibition. This year's event will include nearly 50 exhibitors and over 25 free to attend seminars located in three seminar theatres.
The full programme can be find online, www.landlordshow.info and will be available in the show guide, which you will be...
Forget the Oscars, Brits or Grammys. There is only one ceremony that is on the minds of all private rented sector professionals... the Landlord & Letting Awards.
Now in its third year, the Awards promises to be bigger and better than ever and the awards organisers, Landlord and Buy to Let Magazine, anticipate that even more companies and individuals will come forward in the hope of having their achievements recognised.
Landlord & Buy to Let Magazine’s editor, Oliver Romain, commented; “We have organised the, independently judged, awards annually since 2009 and have attracted a steadily increasing number of entries every year.
“We wait with baited breath to see how much many more entries we will receive this year, and anticipate a lot of hard work ahead for the judges, who will be tasked with whittling down to submissions to a shortlist for each category.”
Oliver was inspired to launch the Landlord & Letting Awards in 2009 after Landlord & Buy-to-Let magazine was shortlisted for a publishing award and discovering there was no equivalent for the private rented sector.
The aim of the Awards is to celebrate achievements in the private rented sector and reward industry professionals for their high standards. The continued success of the Awards is helping to prove Oliver’s theory that the awards present the industry in a positive light and help to dispel some of the myths about the sector.
LandlordZONE scooped the 2010 Website Award and 2011 Website - Supplier Award. The founder, Tom Entwistle was delighted with the results: ”We were thrilled to win this Award. The competition was tough, so we really see this accolade as recognition of our long-term contribution and commitment to the industry and it’s testament to the hard work and commitment of our team.”
The accolade of simply being shortlisted reaps benefits for the entrants, with many receiving extensive press coverage, obtaining new customers and praised by clients, all thanks to their participation in the Awards. Now that the Landlord & Letting Awards are even more widely recognised throughout the industry as they enter their fourth year, Oliver Romain believes there will be even greater benefits in store for those who enter 2012.
He comments: “the Awards receive the industry wide support. You only need to browse the internet and discover all the press coverage and Awards logos...
Landlords need to act now to avoid their central heating systems being turned off after 31st December 2012 when new Gas Safety regulations come into force.
Landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that the heating system that we supply is maintained in full working order throughout the tenancy.
We can supply temporary heaters if a system breaks down and there is a delay in obtaining parts but, in my experience, tenants are not happy with this even for a short time and I usually offer to pay compensation to help them with any additional cost of running temporary heaters and for the inconvenience this may cause.
There are times when this situation cannot be avoided but new regulations is not one of those times and we need to be sure that any work that is needed is carried out before our next Gas Safety Inspection is due.
So many systems now provide both heat and hot water and we cannot leave tenants without hot water. If the system needed to be turned off during a cold spell or where this meant the total loss of hot water the tenants would have the right to ask a landlord to provide alternative accommodation until the issue is resolved.
The Gas Engineer will not be able to issue a certificate before inspection hatches are in place, if they are needed, if he is carrying out his inspection after 31st December 2012.
You will find full details here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/fluesinvoids.htm
This is to give you the basic information
Under the new gas safety regulations gas engineers are legally required to check the flue after carrying out any work on the boiler and this included Gas Safety Inspections. The original installer and every subsequent servicing or maintenance engineer need to be able to check that:
• the flue is continuous throughout its length;• all joints are correctly assembled and are appropriately sealed; and• the flue is adequately supported throughout its length.
Unless the gas engineer can make these checks they cannot ensure that the flue from the boiler is safe in order to comply with their legal duties and they will not be able to issue a Landlords Gas Safety Certificate which means that the system should be shut down because it is not lawful to let a property without one.Fitting inspection hatches in the ceiling (and, where relevant, stud wall) will ensure that the engineer can carry out his inspection and issue the Gas Safety Certificate that landlords need to comply with the law.
Landlords please don’t wait to check whether your flue is visible and if not get inspection hatches fitted in the next couple of weeks because, as we all know, if a boiler is going to breakdown it is going to do so during the next few months and the engineer will turn it off unless he can comply with the new regulations.A simple explanation of the issue, the risks and how the matter can be resolved, as well as a number of frequently asked questions...
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Many landlords wrongly have the impression that evicting a tenant is a lengthy and difficult process, but despite the fact that the law in this area is not easy, it can still be straightforward to evict a tenant providing you follow the correct processes and procedures.
Most tenants in the UK occupy their property under Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs). These are the default tenancy agreements used in England and Wales, and allow for a short period of assured or secured occupancy. ASTs were introduced by the Housing Act 1988, which was later amended by the Housing Act 1996.
Section 21 notice
Most landlords can evict their tenants by handing them written notice to quit the property, pursuant to section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. The law states that the landlord must give two months’ notice, but states that a section 21 cannot be used in the first six months of an AST or in the first six months of a periodic AST (periodic ASTs run indefinitely from one set period to the next).
To be valid a section 21 notice must be in writing, must offer at least two months notice to quit, and must explicitly state that it is issued pursuant to section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. It is worth noting that a section 21 notice may be held invalid if as a landlord you failed in your legal obligation to hold your tenant’s deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme.
Other reasons for eviction
A landlord also has the power to evict a tenant during the tenancy for a range of other reasons, including non-payment of rent arrears and damage to the property. Unlike section 21 notices,...
With around 90% of home hunters beginning their search online, advertising your property to let on the internet is crucial to secure quality tenants quickly, and with minimal voids.
Traditionally, the only way to access sites such as Rightmove and zoopla has been to place your property with a high street letting agent. Now there is a new kid on the block; the online letting agent. But are online letting agents really a credible alternative to the high street agent?
Online letting agents, such as The Online Letting Agents, offer a cost effective solution to hands-on landlords. The model is simple; the online letting agent will advertise your property on all of the major property websites and put landlords in touch with prospective tenants. They also handle referencing, drafting of the tenancy agreement, and offer advice on all things relating to letting a property. Viewings are normally conducted by the landlord. This self service approach reduces costs significantly, with fees around 90% less than high street agents. But is it for everyone?
Traditional high street agents are a well-known entity for landlords, offering the comfort of an office that can be visited, accompanied viewings and a local brand. Of course the costs associated with high street agents reflect their higher overheads, with a typical fee of around 4 weeks rent for a basic tenant find service.
With the significant savings associated with online letting agents, it is no surprise that landlords are using them more and more. The increasing popularity of online letting agents has lead to speculation that the days of the traditional high street agents are numbered; not so. Online letting agents are the perfect solution for landlords who are willing and able to devote some time and effort to finding their perfect tenants. However, this will clearly not suit all landlords. Online letting agents may not be the ideal choice of those landlords who prefer a totally hands-off approach, or who simply can not dedicate time to meet their prospective tenants.
Both landlords and tenants are still distrustful of letting agents. Even the most...
Investment is about becoming financially better off. Investing in commercial property can be rewarding provided you know what you’re doing, otherwise risky.
Commercial property is a generic term for all types of business premises; offices, factories, warehouses, shops, supermarkets, retail warehouses, factory outlets, trade counters, pubs, restaurants, and leisure.
Essentially, a commercial property is a fixed asset whose investment value requires sufficient appreciation to at least counteract depreciation. Successful investment is about judicious choice and timing: what to buy, how much to pay, how to manage, when and how to sell.
Generally, assuming the objective is investment, not development, landlords want both capital value and the rent to least keep pace with inflation. Property has a reputation as a long-term hedge against inflation, but not all properties make good investments. Any potential for capital gain and/or rental growth depends on the variables.
The tenant’s objective for the property is a marketing device for the tenant’s business. The tenant does not care about the landlord’s investment. When costs and overheads overshadow the advantages, the tenant moves on.
During the tenancy, tenants want to reduce property costs and minimise liabilities but often at the expense of the landlord. To get landlords to be accommodating, tenants use manipulative tactics, such as claiming business is bad, not being able to afford more, and without concessions the tenant would go broke. Some landlords, especially when mortgaged to the hilt or petrified of voids, are so scared they’ll agree to anything.
Many unrepresented landlords fall for tenant ploys. It is easy to be influenced by doom and gloom. Of the economy, hardly a day goes by without news of another business collapse or rationalisation, jobs lost. However, the economy rarely has any bearing on individual businesses.
The total market for goods and services comprises sectors and segments. Businesses are not all in the same boat. The world does not owe the tenant a living. In my opinion, most problems are self–inflicted, through failure to address operational short-comings.
For landlords whose commercial property is in dire straits, any suggestion of rent review might seem alien. All property belongs to someone. There is nothing new about commercial property ending up in the wrong place: localities, ‘High Streets’, are not sacrosanct, buildings often out-last their useful shelf-life. Tenants go broke by not anticipating change, investors get it wrong by ignoring warning signs.
In stable and thriving areas of the commercial property market, landlords look forward to rent review. Presented with a plea for clemency, any decision whether to implement the review should be made after the rent is agreed or ascertained.
To decide against on the basis of a sob–story invites the question ’how do you...
With squatters’ rights having recently ended, property guardian organisation, Guardians of London, believe commercial buildings are still at risk from squatters occupying them rather than facing criminal action.
With squatting in residential buildings across England and Wales now a criminal offence from 1st September this year, squatters will face jail or a fine if they occupy residential properties.
This new law is believed to offer better protection for homeowners and "slam shut the door on squatters once and for all". The maximum penalty will be six months in jail, a £5,000 fine, or both.
Before the new law was introduced, squatting was treated as a civil matter and homeowners - including councils and housing associations – had to go to a civil court to prove the squatters had trespassed before they could be evicted.
From 1st September, however, it became a criminal matter, and the theory is that a homeowner can now simply complain to the police who, if satisfied that the claim is genuine, can take action and arrest the squatters. The new law will also protect owners of vacant residential properties such as landlords, local authorities and second-home owners. In addition, the new law now applies to existing squatters to "stop trespassers rushing to occupy residential buildings before the offence came into force".
However, although the introduction of the new law goes some way towards preventing squatters occupying residential properties, empty commercial buildings will still go unprotected. Head of Facilities at Guardians of London, Gavin Handman, believes that commercial buildings now need greater protection from squatters, who have now turned their attention to vacant commercial properties rather than face the risk of prosecution.
Guardians of London (http://www.guardiansoflondon.com) have successfully helped landlords of empty residential and commercial properties to protect their buildings from the threat of squatters. The guardian scheme allows carefully vetted ‘guardians’ to occupy the buildings to live in and look after them 24 hours a day, Guardians of London are helping landlords prevent invasions by squatters, damage to their properties and the need to hire expensive security firms. Vacant possession can be given...
Becoming a landlord can be an aspiration for many, but few rarely take the plunge and make it a reality. For those that have, they often find the investment greatly rewarding, not only financially but rewarding in terms of the satisfaction they get from “doing a property up” ready for the rental market and then successfully letting it to a happy tenant.
If you are thinking about investing in the buy to let industry, now is a great time to pursue that idea – the Letting’s Industry is one of only a handful for industries in the UK which is experiencing strong growth, with very little sign of it slowing down. This combined with the relatively low mortgage rates currently available because of the record low base rate means that the profit has an all-time high potentially.
Many private individuals are choosing to invest in a buy to let property as an alternative to a traditional cash pension. Cash pensions have had a great deal of value “wiped off” them during the banking crisis and this may be another factor which is encouraging people to think about alternative ways to fund their retirement.
5 Tips for ensuring your buy to let property investing
1. Research your location. Traditionally the most popular locations for rental properties are where there is the highest concentration of employment areas. For example, near a hospital or shopping center would make good locations. But it is always important not to ignore the out of town areas or even village locations, as rental property here maybe harder to come by and therefore you may be able to charge premier...