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How to maintain your tenanted property during winter

As a landlord, taking care of your let should be your priority, both for the tenant you’re currently providing a home to, and the long-term appeal of your let as a home that will be leased without much difficulty year on year.

During winter, it’s especially important to ensure your property is in good condition. Extreme weather changes, darker nights, and below freezing temperatures can all take their toll on the condition of a house or flat so it’s important that you take extra care of your tenanted property during the winter season.

Residential Property

Below, our Regional Operations Manager Donna Cheney, has some tips that will ensure your property remains safe, secure and in good condition during winter:

  • With the darker nights now in, perhaps it’s worth investing in security equipment for your tenanted property such as lighting or a burglary alarm. A well-lit or alarmed home with help your tenant feel more safe and secure or, if the property is vacant, such security measures could help to deter burglars.
  • As a landlord, you should perhaps think about getting an exterior cleaning specialist to clear the gutters of the property if you’re unable to do it yourself. Keep them free of leaves, moss, and general natural clutter. This will ensure that the gutters keep working as they should with no drainage issues and, by keeping them clean, they’re less likely to freeze during a cold spell.
  • This one is vital – have the boiler serviced. As a landlord, legally you must have a gas safety record in place, but too many landlords don’t have the boiler serviced annually. If you do service it once a year, this will reveal any potential issues which may cause a problem for your tenant over the cold winter months – the last thing you want is for your tenant to be without heating and hot water and then to struggle to get a gas engineer booked in for an urgent repair.
  • Ensure that pathways and steps are kept clear of leaves and other debris. These will help to provide a safe environment for your tenant as not doing this risks a serious fall hazard for the tenant or any other visitors if the property is vacant. Keeping pathways clear not only increases the ‘kerb appeal’ of your property, but also ensures that visitors are safe and secure when visiting, too.
  • Ensure that you as the landlord or your letting agent has sent a ‘Winter Letter’ to the tenant advising them to keep the heating on a constant temperature (minimum 16 degrees centigrade) to ensure that the pipes don’t freeze, to help the home provide a warm and safe environment for tenants living there.

If you’d like to discuss how to keep your tenanted property safe, secure, and in good condition during winter in more detail, please do pick up the phone or drop me a line on 0191 284 7171 or donnacheney@gfwletting.co.uk

Landlords: are you leasing property lawfully?

Being a landlord isn’t an easy job to take on, there’s a myriad of legislation that landlords must comply with, otherwise they could face hefty penalties and unwittingly put their tenants at risk. However, if you do your research, work with a good agent who can manage your property portfolio for you and ensure you are kept up to date with legal requirements and changes, there’s no reason why property letting couldn’t provide you with a great revenue stream and a responsibility that can work alongside your day-to-day job.

Below is a handy ‘to do and to don’t’ guide that can help get you up and running, protect you and your assets and also ensure you have a happy, long-term tenant.

GFW Letting Ribbon

DO

Take care of your property

Do try and keep the property looking as good as it can, even if this sometimes means spending a few pennies! Replacing a worn carpet or re-decorating every 2-3 years will keep your property looking fresh, and you will be more likely to either keep a good tenant, or attract a new one more quickly.  It will also keep up the capital value of your investment.

Aim to put aside 10% of your rental income each year to invest back into the property for minor repairs, refurbishment or for unexpected bills. Remember, being a landlord involves taking responsibility for your property, and this will inevitably sometimes involve cost.

Ensure you’re Gas, Electrical and Energy compliant

By law, landlords must carry out annual gas safety checks by an engineer who is registered on the Gas Safety Register (which has replaced Corgi). A copy must be given to the tenant before they move in and the check must have been carried out within the 12 months before the new tenant takes up occupation.

Similar laws apply to electrical appliances. The landlord must ensure that all hard wiring in their property is safe – the only way this can be done is to have the electrics fully tested by a qualified electrician.

Landlords must be able to present an Energy Performance Certificate (EPCs) to the tenant when they move in, which provides an estimated cost of how much it would be to run the home in terms of utilities like central heating.

Landlords in England are also required to provide smoke alarms on every floor of their property and a carbon monoxide alarm in every room with a solid fuel source.

If you don’t comply with these legal requirements, landlords in England can face penalties which include fines, potential prison terms, or being unable to gain possession of their property when they wish to.

Be clear when it comes to deposits, fees and rent

By law, you must protect a tenant’s deposit in an authorised deposit protection scheme (there are three main schemes) under an assured short hold tenancy within 30 days of receiving the deposit.

You must ensure that you have clearly outlined how much rent is due, on what date, and in what way within the tenancy contract. It is also important to not confuse advance payments of rent and non-returnable administration fees with deposits. You should always make clear to tenants what money is being taken for; otherwise it could be regarded as a deposit which shall be protected under one of the deposit protection schemes.

DON’T

Manage tenants illegally

This may sound obvious but, under any circumstance, you must not harass your tenants. It is unlawful to evict a tenant without a Court Order. Even if a tenant hasn’t paid their rent for one month or three, or is breaking terms of their tenancy agreement, you cannot evict them. Landlords, by law, must go to Court to get a possession order. Any possession order obtained must be enforced by the Court Bailiff.

In any situation, at any time, a landlord has to serve a minimum of 2 months’ notice to a tenant (called a Section 21 notice). A landlord cannot just ask a tenant to leave at the end of a tenancy, or expect the tenant to move out without having served the legal notice on them.

Charge tenants for property repairs

Repairs and works to a property are solely your responsibility, as a landlord. A tenant is expected to look after a property in a “tenant like” manner, and deal with things such as changing lightbulbs, but they’re not responsible for a broken boiler, for example, or can’t be asked to repair a washing machine belonging to the landlord. Legally, this is the landlord’s responsibility.

Entrust an agent

Don’t try and manage a property yourself to save a few pounds, especially if you’re a first-time landlord and/or don’t know what you are doing. GFW Letting is regulated by the Association of Residential Lettings Agents and our teams have to sit and pass legal exams to be able to do what we do. As a landlord, you may end up in very hot water or paying out more money in the long run by not employing a managing agent for your property.

For more information about our landlord services, please contact Donna Cheney or Simon Harrison on 0191 284 7171.

 

Christina Campbell: Welcome to the Team!

Christina-Campbell

We are thrilled to introduce you to our newest recruit, Christina Campbell!

Christina will be working in our Newcastle office as a Lettings Administrator; she will be assisting our property managements and lettings teams with their responsibilities.

Christina originates from the North East and outside of work she is involved with a brass band, playing the trombone and is also a trustee of the Alice Ruggles Trust, fantastic charity that raises awareness of coercive control and stalking to bring about lasting change in order to protect victims.

Scottish Private Rented Sector (PRS): how the law will change in December 2017

Under the new Private Housing (Tenancies) Act, The Private Residential Tenancy (PRT) will start on 1st December in Scotland, replacing short assured tenancy agreements, and is aimed at providing better security for both tenants and landlords. Lorna Morris, who manages the residential lettings department in our Alnwick office, explains what the new changes mean to landlords with property in Scotland.

Residential Property

What do I need to know?

Landlords won’t have the right to end a tenancy at a fixed end date, without reason. Landlords with Scottish property from December must now have good reason, under one of the 18 grounds in the new Act.

Unless they have one of the listed reasons for eviction, which includes wanting to sell, or extensively refurbish, the property or if the owner wants tolive there or wants a family member to live there, the tenancy will continue until the tenant terminates it. Other reasons include criminal behaviour by the tenant, three month’s rent arrears or some other breach of the tenancy agreement.

I don’t think the mandatory requirement of good reason should cause great cause for concern for landlords as the reasons, on both sides, are fair and shouldn’t cause any issues for landlords who want to gain possession of their property when the need arises.

The main negative for landlords is that there will be no fixed minimum term under the PRT, unlike short assured tenancies which have a minimum term of six months. A tenant will also be able to bring a PRT to an end on 28 days’ notice at any time. By having no minimum term, it means that a tenant could move out within the first month of taking on a new tenancy, leaving the landlord with the headache of re-let costs and high-volume turnover of tenants in their property which can affect wear and tear of it, and increase the cost of repairs that need to be carried out.

HMO Investment

HMO landlords will be particularly affected by the no minimum term change as it could lead to student properties coming available at times in the year when there is no market to secure replacement tenants. So, for instance, if a student leaves a property mid-term it could be difficult for the landlord to fill the space, leading to potential void periods. The removal of fixed term leases means that landlords are no longer protected from loss of income during the academic year cycle.

Under the new Act, the landlord must also give 4 weeks’ notice to evict if the tenancy is within its first six months or, after that, 12 weeks’ notice to evict. Even if no one is living at the property, the landlord still must wait three months to gain possession. This, in effect, means losing out on three months’ rent, which will negatively impact a landlord’s bottom line.

Some landlords might also be affected by the new rental laws as local authorities will be able to apply for an area to be turned into a rent pressure zone, whereby Scottish Ministers will set a rental cap on that area which can last up to five years.

If you would like to chat about the Scottish tenancy law changes further, and how they might impact you, please do get in touch with me on lornamorris@gfwletting.co.uk or 01665 511989.

Five Minutes with Donna Cheney…

We asked our Regional Operations Manager, Donna, a few questions so that you could get to know her a little bit better.

How did you get into the letting industry?

I worked in recruitment for about 9 months after I graduated university in Newcastle, and was recruiting for a national property company.  They called me and offered me a Lettings Negotiators job as they were impressed with my recruiting work!

What is it that you love most about your job and working in a letting agency?

I love the pace of lettings.  It is a very fast paced industry, and highly time pressured, but I thrive in that environment and enjoy seeing quick results from our work.  In my current position I love working with the people that I do – I enjoy coaching and developing people to be the best that they can and achieve what they want to in their careers.

Three people you’d love to have dinner with?

Brian Cox as I am fascinated by space and astronomy

Hugh Jackman as I find him very pleasant to look at!

Michelle Obama as I think she is a highly intelligent woman with a great deal to offer the world

Guilty pleasure?

I am afraid I am a bit of a Keeping up With the Kardashians fan…  a bit of mindless entertainment on a Sunday evening!

What’s your passion outside of lettings?

I love the outdoors and am lucky to live so close to the coast and the beautiful Northumberland countryside and love walking.