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Is it safe to manage your property yourself? With all the new legislation.

March 24th, 2019

New Rules to Help Tenants in Unfit Rental Properties

What does the Homes (Fitness) Act mean for landlords and tenants?

‘Fitness’ just means the standard of the property in the context of it being a person’s primary home.

With this in mind, the Homes (Fitness For Human Habitation) Act (2018) does three main things:

  • Revives old protections for tenants regarding fitness of property during the tenancy
  • Adds new protections
  • Gives tenants new means to compel landlords to perform work (court action)

What are the old protections and why are they coming back?

The Landlord and Tenant Act (1985) describes:

  1. A condition that the house is fit for human habitation at the commencement of the tenancy
  2. An undertaking that the house will be kept by the landlord fit for human habitation during the tenancy

So what does ‘fit for human habitation mean’ here? The Act demands ‘regard be had’ to:

  • repair
  • stability
  • freedom from damp
  • internal arrangement
  • natural lighting
  • ventilation
  • water supply
  • drainage and sanitary conveniences
  • facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water

But these protections were only given to tenancies whose rent was less than £52 (or £80 in London). This of course means that today, these demands apply to no new tenancies priced at market rates.

The new Act applies the listed considerations to tenancies in England, without the old price exemptions.

This means that, after the Act is fully implemented, it will apply to all new tenancies with terms shorter than 7 years.

What are the new protections?

In addition to the above, the new Act also adds the hazards listed in the Housing Act (2004) as factors to be considered when assessing whether a property is fit for human habitation.

There are 29 of these, including mould, safety against intruders and noise.

  • damp and mould growth
  • excess cold
  • excess heat

There are many more but the above on the general ones, we as letting agents whom only rent out good accomodation – are likely to see.

Who decides what is ‘unfit’? Is the council still involved? Can my tenant take me to court?

Importantly tenants have now been given extra powers, and are able to take the landlord to court.  They no longer need to rely on the local council to come out inspect the property.  With the new act, tenants do not need to rely on the local authorities, they can now enlist a solicitor or a surveyor to help prove their case; or they can gather evidence together themselves and use this to prove the landlord has broken the covenant implied by this new act.

The court will then make a ruling which the landlord and tenant will have to abide by.

There are some familiar looking exceptions to the work landlords can be expected to perform in order to address fitness of dwelling:

  • if the problem has been caused by the tenants failing to act in a ‘tenant-like manner’, e.g. deliberate damage to the property.
  • ‘Inevitable events’, e.g. damage caused by fire, storm, flood, etc.
  • Repairs of items that the tenant can remove, e.g. their own furniture in an unfurnished property.
  • Works which would breach the landlord’s other obligations, e.g. planning permission.
  • Work that requires third-party consent, e.g. from the freeholder.

Openrent.

 

 


 

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A list of all the certs your HMO will need, is your property a HMO?

March 11th, 2019

Definition of a HMO:

It is rented to 5 or more people who form 1 household, some of the tenants share a toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities, at least 1 tenant pays rent (or their employer pays it for them).

Even if the property is smaller, and has less people in it, depending on which are it is in, it may  still be classed as a HMO.  This is called Selective Licensing. 

 

As an owner of a HMO, you will need to ensure that the property has all the necessary safety certificates, this list isn’t exhaustive, but these are the most important ones:

HMO license

Gas Safety Certificate

Electrical Certificate

Portable Appliance Test (PAT)

Fire Detection System Certificate (FDS)

Emergency lighting Certificate (EL)

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

Legionella Certificate/Risk Assessment

 

Before you get your HMO license, there is a a variety of criteria your property must match up to, and it will be inspected.  It ranges from a minimum size for bedrooms to the standard of amenities and evidence of certificates.  You may need to improve parts of the property before you get the license.  However a HMO officer will inform you of this once they have visited the property.

 

 

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To manage or not to manage ….

February 8th, 2019

To manage or not to manage?
Accidental landlords always have the dilemma as to whether they should use and agent to manage their property. The can be under the illusion that paying an agent is unnecessary. Here are the positives of using a good agent!

Better quality tenants! – a good management company will always thoroughly reference the tenants. The agent wouldn’t want there to be any issues at a later date.
Less wear & tear on the unit – photographic inventory/frequent property checks.
Less chance of rent arears – the agent keeps on top of them!
Maintenance dealt with keeping the tenants happier!

Shorter void periods! – a good agent will ensure the property is ready to re let, quickly and efficiently.
Determining the best rental price – too high and it will sit on the market!
Effectively marketing your property – they know what the tenants look for, and how to show your property in the best way.

Better tenant retention – tenants like a good management company, it makes them enjoy their life more. They want maintenance dealt with swiftly. They love good communication. They also like it when a property is thoroughly cleaned and all maintenance carried out before they move in. It gives them confidence when they have a good inventory – it means less hassle for them if they move out. All things points make them stay longer as they are comfortable. Particularly if items are improved or upgraded when needed.

Railton-Meeks

 

 

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New HMO legislation 1st October 2018 – are you ready?

September 25th, 2018

New HMO legislation confirmed for October 2018

The government has confirmed that there will be an extension of the licensing rules for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and that all landlords covered by the rules must apply for a licence by 1st October 2018. Here is a brief summary of what you need to know.

The ‘three-storey rule’ has been removed. As of 1 October 2018, a property will be considered a HMO if it is occupied by more than four people and these people form two or more separate households. The requirement for it to cover three or more stories of a property has now been removed and it is estimated that this Change will mean that some 177,000 rental properties will now be classed as HMOs. Tenants may be considered to belong to separate households even if they have a joint tenancy agreement. For example, if a property was let to five students then it would probably be classed as a HMO even if the students took out a joint tenancy agreement. It is not always straightforward to determine whether or not a particular tenancy situation would require HMO licensing so landlords may want to Ask a lawyer (or get a HMO licence to be on the safe side if the costs are affordable).
The proposed 6-month grace period has been abandoned.
Properties which are already covered by an HMO licence will continue to be covered as before, but landlords of properties which require new licensing must apply for a licence by 1st October and in order to ensure that your application is granted (or at least to minimise the chances of it being refused), you will need to ensure that your property complies with local authority requirements.
You may need to update your mortgage lender and insurance policy.
If you have a mortgage and/or insurance which currently excludes HMOs then you will need to contact the relevant companies and work something out with them. Do not be tempted to skip this step and carry on as normal and just say you forgot if something happens, as it could land you in a lot of trouble. There is however, no need to panic as lenders and insurers both do good business with landlords and therefore it’s in their interests to find a reasonable way to address this situation.
The minimal-size rule has not been applied at this point
At this point in time, there is no centrally-applied minimum-size rule for rooms in HMOs, although some local authorities may have their own requirements. While the minimum-size rule has triggered widespread criticism, there may be an upside to it. If the government can be persuaded to set the minimum size at a national level rather than giving local authorities the ability to set their own rules, then landlords would at least have a level playing field and a degree of certainty as to where they stand.

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EPC (MEES) deadline.

January 13th, 2018

Many landlord needs to be prepared for the 1st April 2018. It’s when new-to-market investment properties need to meet new Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES). It will actually be illegal to let out a new property if its EPC rating is lower than an E, so both landlords and agents will need to check EPC ratings with care.
As for existing lets – those that are already in the market – there’s another date to watch. From April 2020, all buy-to-lets will need to meet the new MEES standards. It’s worth examining the EPCs of your managed buy-to-let portfolio now so you can identify properties with F and G EPCs and flag the issue up to landlords. This gives them two years to get the energy standards up to scratch and book a new EPC for a reviewed rating.
Two years may sound like a long time but in terms of accessing a rented property to carry out potentially major and disturbing works, it’s important to have as much notice as possible. If letting agents aren’t actively working with landlords, they may face losing stock because it has become illegal to let.

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Rent your perfect student house along with 2 FREE VIP weekend 2017 Parklife tickets!

May 22nd, 2017

 

We understand the struggle of finding the right student accommodation; Is it close enough to university? Is it affordable for the student life? Is it party proof? Does it have enough bathrooms? Is it close enough to the Manchester night clubs?  Would my parents be happy with it?

These are the questions we ask ourselves when looking for the perfect property for students to ensure we are meeting your specific needs. With a student on board our team to provide us with the right insight into what you Manchester students are looking for, this differentiates ourselves to other agencies offering student properties. We know what you want, we therefore offer nothing less, but more. So..Still not found your perfect student property for 2017-2018 academic year?

Railton-Meeks are offering a beautiful three story Georgian house, located in the heart of Fallow field with a 2mile radius from The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, a 10 minute bus ride into Deansgate locks, or Manchester’s Drum’n’Bass heaven Factory! The property offers 7 large bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms each, extremely spacious living room expanding onto a sleek modernised kitchen.

The property is undergoing a full refurbishment, in which fully insulated walls will be developed specifically designed to meet the student budget!

Just to make the start of your move to a new home even more exciting, we are offering 2 FREE  VIP Parklife weekender tickets for 2 people!

HOW?  Refer Railton-Meeks with a group of students seeking accommodation for academic year of 2017-2018.

 

 

 

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To Buy or rent – A Guide for Graduates

April 21st, 2017

To Buy or Rent – A Guide for Graduates

So far in the way of living arrangements, you have experienced the works. From the family home you grew up in, to living with a bunch of strangers in halls or off of campus, and now you are about to come face to face with a whole new chapter of living. Not as a student, but as a fully-fledged graduate.

You may have already started to consider your options and how to go about making your first steps, but it always pays off to receive some extra guidance when it comes to making the next big decision in your life. Everybody’s situations are different too. So in this guide, we hope to provide a thorough breakdown for those considering solely buying, renting and for those stuck in the middle.

Sensible saving

As you approach the end of your academia, it is important to consider your spending and budgeting. Most students are blessed with a weighty student loan. If you are one of the lucky ones, allocate a small part of your time to sitting sown and budgeting your remaining loan to enable yourself to put aside some of it for when you finish. This is important to do, buying or renting, as you will require a deposit for wherever you decide to move to and being strapped at the beginning of your move isn’t a position you want to be in.  However, if your student loan wasn’t substantial, you can still be thrifty with your spending. it wouldn’t be unfair to sit out on a few student nights out so you can save up what you would have spent that night and also, make sure you budget your food shop by shopping at cheaper supermarkets to save extra pennies. The whole point of saving now is to make your money go as far as possible and to spend what you really need to live off. By getting into the habit of careful budgeting and regular saving now you will give yourself the best chance of staying on track and building up sizable savings for when you come to make your decision.

As well, getting a job, either on or off campus will help you to gain some extra money together and help boost your credit rating which will give you a head-start when it comes to applying for a mortgage, as you will need payslip evidence of a regular income to qualify for mortgage financing if you believe buying is a more suitable option for you.

The House Hunt

Buying a house is a massive commitment but an amazing opportunity to get started on the property ladder sooner rather than later if you are in the position to do so. If you are seriously considering this option make sure to do your research. It is all too easy to fall in love with properties at first glance, but don’t rush into anything without seriously weighing up some other choices. Assess the market and the area you’re interested in. If you don’t have a car, are there shops and supermarkets nearby? Are you near to a train or bus station? These are aspects which need weighing up so the property matches your lifestyle. If you’re looking to rent instead, the same applies in the way of suitability to your wants and requirements. If you use the gym, is there one within walking distance? Is the neighbourhood what you want? Additionally, with renting you will need to make sure that the property is within your budget, so you can afford to pay additional bills which you may incur such as gas and electricity, water and TV licence.

Being a graduate, you won’t have the years of experience that your parents have in buying and selling property, so you need to research the local property prices to spot any market fluctuations and to get the best possible deal when making an offer on a property. Remember, if an advert seems too good to be true, make sure to do some homework. Identify where any hidden costs may catch you out down the line. If you decide to buy, you may need to deal with damp or structural repairs. If this is the case, you can make a low offer that takes into account the costs of putting things right. Alternatively, if a careful and objective appraisal of a property reveals significant issues, it might be best to walk away on that occasion, to continue searching elsewhere.

Bountiful Borrowing As a studious graduate, you are probably aware of how difficult it is to save money for property which continues to rise at an ever growing rate. But, where there is a will, there is a way. The government offer a variety of schemes to help you on the pathway to affording your very own home. It will pay off to work out the best loans, ISAs and deals available to you so that you know exactly the ins and outs of what you are being offered and how it will work in the long-run. One of the most popular and successful options is the government’s Help to Buy ISA. What this entails is that if you put money into this ISA once a month at a maximum of £200, the Government will boost your savings by 25%. So, for every £200 you save, you will also receive a government bonus of £50. The maximum government bonus you can receive is £3,000 if you have savings of £12,000 or more.

Additionally, you could look into the Help to Buy loan, which provides a loan of up to 20% of the purchase price of a new-build home. This loan is also interest-free for five years. Many parents are also on hand to chip in with their children’s first home, but only consider this option if you are sure that your parents can do this without putting themselves into any financial difficulty.

Do make sure to research all of the peripheral costs of buying a property, such as stamp duty and valuation fees, as well as understanding how the process of buying a property works.

If you decide to rent for a while, give yourself this time to build up a deposit to buy in the future. Both options need careful planning and organisation so find out what deposit you’ll need, what your monthly repayments will be, and what the other costs of owning a property are likely to be. Additionally, make sure you are clued up about renting your chosen property and the area you are looking at, so you don’t end up living somewhere you’re unhappy with.

So, to conclude, whether you end up buying or renting, make sure that your moving checklist is planned down to a ‘T’, so that your move from Uni to adulthood goes as smoothly possible.

By Holly Berry.

 

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Problem tenants and how to deal with them

February 15th, 2017

PROBLEM TENANTS –  ‘all guns blazing’ or ‘softly softly’? 

Many landlords and agents panic when a tenant misses one month’ rent.  Getting to know your tenants payment habits helps very much when deciding what action is needed to be taken.  Do you go in ‘all guns blazing!’ or with a more ‘softly softly’ approach?

To begin with it is always beneficial to have a good working relationship with your tenants, be good to them, respond to their emails in a timely fashion, communication is key!  Respond to maintenance issues quickly and update the tenant where possible on the progress and the outcome.  Managing tenants expectations works wonders, for example inform the tenant that maintenance is dealt with as quickly as possible, and once they report a maintenance issue then they should expect the ‘trades-person’ to be entering in the next day or two.  Drop them a text if you can to let them know when they are due- this would be a perfect scenario. Tenants get to trust you and know that you are looking out for them.  On this basis, when things gets tight, and their rent is late, they will communicate with you.

When tenants don’t respond to a gently text reminder that the rent is late, or ignore your emails – this can be a warning sign.  At this point we go our of our way to make contact.  We gently ask them to respond, and to let us know ASAP if there is an issue, so we can help them find a solution.  In 99% of case there is always a solution.

Here is a step by step approach for you:

FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING WRONG

Make contact ASAP, give them a couple of days grace following the missed payment. Always take things softly at this stage, don’t be aggressive.  There can be many reasons why a payment is late, they may have swapped jobs and their employer pays later, and they just need to get back into the swing of things.  Maybe the standing order failed – and it will go out on the second attempt.  We all occasionally misjudge funds in and funds out.  In desperate situations, such as loosing a job, the tenant may need prompting to start a housing benefit claim.  If  the claim is started, it can even cover them for a few weeks.  Better to be proactive!

Speak with your tenant, find out as much information as possible to do with their current situation, so you can determine whether this is a blip, or a larger issue. Maybe they would prefer to vacate, don’t suggest this yourself! However the tenants questions may lead to this.  For example ‘how much notice do you require?’ . You the landlord will know if they still have months to go in their fixed term.  Sometimes its easier to re let, than to force a tenant to stay committed when it is going to get them in a worse position.

DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.

Keep a record of letters, texts and emails – you may need to show at some point, what steps you took to get the tenant to pay;  these  come in handy if you have to  evict the tenant at a later date.

With students, who are jointly and severally liable, if their payment is more than two weeks later, it is always a good idea to let the rest of the group know, in a joint letter to all parties.  If the tenant has a guarantor in place, let the tenant know my email and letter, that your next steps are to inform their guarantor, unless they make contact and arrange a payment schedule.  This usually pushes tenants to make contact!

PAYMENT SCHEDULE/OFFERING A SOLUTION.

Hopefully this is just a blip with your tenant, and with a little help and patience from you, they will get themselves back on track with a payment schedule.   Work out what they can afford to pay and when, and get them back on track ASAP.  If they are making a housing benefit claim, ask for evidence every step of the way.  Ask them to give the HB department permission for you to track the claim.  This is very important, as you can ensure its not be left in limbo!

It an be helpful to the tenant to agree to spread a debt over a few months, and tag it on to each months rent moving forward.  Ensure that this won’t delay the inevitable, by asking them to show you how they will be managing their income and expenditure moving forward.  They may not be too keen on this idea, no one likes income and expenditure sheets!

BEGIN THE NECESSARY STEPS TO GAIN POSSESSION – LEGAL ACTION.

Explain to the tenant, that you are issuing a section 21 notice to quit, and that if they get up to date with their payments or adhere to a payment schedule then you will not pursue the notice. However this notice sits in the background in case they fail to keep to their agreement.  It saves time later, when you are left no other option to get them out.

KEEP GOOD RECORDS OF ALL THE TENANTS PAYMENTS. 

Make a note of all the payments received by the tenant, and forward a receipt to them.  Up date your tenant regularly, so they can see what they owe.  It is better to keep an accurate record from the off, rather than trying to work it out later.  This can lead to a dispute also, and is unnecessary.

TAKE THE RIGHT LEGAL ADVICE.

Ensure the paperwork you issue is correct.  Use the proper forms.  Do  not try and wing it, this is fatal!  Any mistake in the paperwork or its content can  result in you not being granted possession of the property.  There have been many legal changes in the last year, so it is worth checking and getting the correct advice.

REMEMBER.

Landlords should not go to the property unannounced, too many visits can be construed as harassment. It could be argued that you are preventing the tenant from having ‘Quiet enjoyment of the property’, so always ensure if you are visiting to give 72 hours notice.  Stay professional, don’t give the tenant ammunition to pursue a claim for damages. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Ways to being a tidy student!

November 22nd, 2016

7 Ways to Being a Tidy Student

Heralded as ‘The best years I ever had’, starting university is both daunting and exciting at the same time. An opportunity that enables you to fly the nest into a new environment filled with other nervous fledglings, just like yourself to embrace the life of student living.  As you embark on starting the next stage of your life, naturally, you will have become accustomed to your belongings and the items you have accumulated over the years. But, you may need to think twice about how you are going to now store said items. So, in this ‘space’ I have included the top seven space saving tips to help you make the most of your experience at university without being dubbed  ‘a stereotypical student’.

Laundry Basket

Invest in a laundry basket so that your dirty clothes are stored away rather than strewn across your bedroom floor. Make sure that the basket is tall rather than wide to minimize valuable floor space. A tall woven white wash design will be easy on the eye and will brighten up your room.
Stationery Holder

T0 optimize your space, a standard pencil case may not cut it, but a stationery holder will organize your academic belongings into one neat and tidy display on your desk, which will be easily accessible when carrying out your studies.
Wall Space

In most cases, using blu-tack or pins on the walls of student rooms will be sure to get you in trouble with the accommodation office. The alternative in this case is to buy some 3M Command before setting off for University. This way, you will be able to put pictures on the walls, without taking up space on the window sill or your desk. Home inspired items such as fairly lights, bunting and sports memorabilia will have a place on your walls rather than taking up valuable surface space.

Door Space

Effective storage means making the most out of every inch of available space, even the back of your door. A door rack can house shoes, books, hair appliances and any other items that you would otherwise stash away in a drawer or on the floor of your wardrobe or underneath your desk or bed.

Hanger Connectors

Hanger connectors are a great way to create space in your wardrobe whilst still keeping a uniform and tidy look. Only use them if your wardrobe is tall enough to avoid your clothes dragging on the bottom of the wardrobe floor. If you do have a short wardrobe, use hanger connectors with clips, to clip up your longer items.

Bed Organisers

Bed organisers are a brilliant alternative to bedside tables, which would most likely take up too much space in your bedroom anyway. This little organiser can hold glasses, headphones, and other items like books, iPods and toiletries, right by the bed so they’re easy to reach.

John Lewis has clip-on options that will do the trick perfectly.

Storage Boxes

Piling your stuff in different areas of your bedroom, wherever you can find some space, will just look messy and will slowly drag your mood down, making academic work more of a struggle to carry out. Stacking the pile neatly into sensible storage boxes is the solution to this problem. Don’t be tempted to skimp on storage boxes – choose your sizes wisely and then take an hour or two to sort through all your possessions. By getting a system going your belongings will be stowed away in no time, leaving your room de-cluttered and organised.

Remember, your living space at university is precious, and you need to make sure that there is enough space for all of your academic work as well as making it a space to feel like a home from home environment. Make sure to take advantage of every inch of it. Be creative, yet innovative and make sure that your space is free from clutter in a personalized style.
 

 

 

 

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Letting agents worth the fee?

November 10th, 2016

Buy-to-let investors have traditionally had two choices when it comes to finding tenants and managing properties – pay a letting agent a sizeable fee or do it themselves.

Lettings agents will typically offer a “let-only” service, where they will find, interview and vet tenants, do the paperwork and take the deposit and first month’s rent for a fee of around £600 plus VAT. Then there is a “full management”service, which can cost 10 per cent of the rent or more. Here, the agent will continue to collect rent and deal with the day-to-day running of the property.

An agent’s services can be essential for landlords who have properties far away or a large portfolio to manage. But for those seeking a more hands on approach, Railton-Meeks can offer a more bespoke option to the landlord, see our list of services in our management section.

Happy to discuss your personal requirements.

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