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The best time to let your property? Now!

It goes without saying that we’ve had a long, cold winter and some might say we are pretty much skipping Spring all together and heading into a long hot summer (or so we hope!).

Given the extended period of cold, grey days, more tenants have delayed looking for their next home. As the weather is improving, with lighter and brighter evenings, people will start to get moving, and now really is the time to put your property on the rental market.

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GFW Letting in the news

As reported in a number of North East business publications recently including Bdaily, BQ, North East Business Insider and North East Times, GFW Letting has doubled in size, following strong growth in the region.

The letting agent appointed a new Regional Operations Manager, Donna Cheney, who has developed the business steadily, and rapidly, since she came on board. Donna has grown the business by 18% and doubled its employees, creating a fully experienced, and highly regulated, specialist team of 10 property experts who work with landlords’ needs in mind. In the last year alone, the business has increased the number of properties under management by over 10%.

Commenting on GFW Letting’s success, Donna said: “As well a buoyant property market – now is a good time for landlords to purchase buy to let properties because the demand is so high – GFW Letting offers something a bit different to others in the industry. Our service is highly personalised and tailored to a landlord’s specific needs. We adopt a very customer focused approach which sets us apart from those larger agencies which are highly departmentalised, avoiding the pitfalls of intermittent service, and smaller, one-man band businesses who don’t have the manpower to provide a comprehensive, fully regulated service to a wide range of clients.”

The business has expanded its services across the region, with offices now in Alnwick, Barnard Castle, Wolsingham, Bedale and more recently, Newcastle City Centre. The City Centre location is brand new, and ideally located to help expand the agent’s professional landlord portfolio.

Donna added: “Regulation is a key concern in the letting industry, with many poorly regulated agencies putting landlords and tenants at risk. Regulation is a huge priority for us – we’re focused on ensuring all members of staff receive continued training and undertake specific exams so that they can meet regulation requirements. Recently, three team members have just passed their Propertymark Level 3 legislation exams. Very few agents do this, or provide continued training to their employees, but GFW Letting does, so that it can provide the best level of service it can.”

Tenant Fees Bill: a fairer playing field for all is needed

MPs are currently debating the proposed Tenant Fees Bill, that’s due to be made law next year. The Bill recommends tighter regulations on tenancy deposits, holding deposits and default fees, proposing that all payments, apart from rent, default fees, security deposits of up to six weeks and holding deposits of up to one week, are prohibited.

As a member of ARLA, we are fully in favour of regulation – and behind the aim to safeguard tenants by ensuring renting costs and fees are affordable – however, we do feel that a complete ban on fees is unfair and counterproductive. For example, not allowing agents to retain the holding deposit when a tenant fails the referencing check will only serve, in the long term, to negatively impact tenants, not protect them, as these costs will have to be picked up somewhere else down the line and most likely by tenants, through rental increases, for example.

MPs are also debating how much security deposit a tenant should legally be required to provide. The current draft Bill states six weeks, but the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee believes this should be reduced to five. We generally charge four weeks’ rent as a damage deposit but there are definitely circumstances where we feel a higher deposit is warranted. For instance, where there are pets in a property, and we are concerned that the legislation will prevent a landlord from doing this, which puts them at greater risk of financial loss from damage, as in some circumstances, even six weeks rent would not be considered enough to safeguard the landlord in case anything goes wrong.

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Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) Changes: what you need to know and why

This month, we are focusing on the changes in MEES legislation, which were effective from April 1. Here, our Residential Lettings Consultant, Simon Harrison and Senior Project Manager, Rob Hamilton answer some key questions…

In a nutshell, what’s changing?

“It’s now law to ensure a property that’s let out, for residential or commercial use, must meet a Minimum Efficiency Standard,” explains Simon. “A sub-standard property is one that fails to meet an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of E.”

“EPCs have always come with a list of recommendations to help you improve the energy efficiency of your property.” adds Rob. “Until now, there has been no policy to enforce these changes, meaning the EPC was only advisory. However, this is no more. The new MEES regulations mean landlords will be unable to let out a property, or renew an existing tenancy or lease, if the property fails to meet the E rating. Those landlords with properties with an F or G rating will have to carry out improvement works, benefiting the property’s utility costs, the tenant, and the environment.”

How does this affect landlords of residential and commercial property?

“It affects them quite seriously,” says Rob. “A tenanted property cannot be lawfully re-let to new or existing tenants until sufficient measures are taken to improve the performance of the building to an EPC rating E or above. There are instances when the building may be exempt from these regulations; such as if the building is listed, or a temporary structure, but it is always best to check with a qualified assessor.”

“If a landlord does let out a home or business premise that is rated below the minimum standard,” explains Simon, “Then they will face civil and criminal charges for signing a new tenancy or renewing an existing one. Given that one in 10 privately rented properties currently fail to meet the new efficiency rules it’s important that landlords seek advice and are guided through the changes so that it doesn’t negatively impact their investments.”

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Are you an energy efficient landlord and does your property comply?

Under the Government’s Green Deal initiative, the law on Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) will change as of 1 April. It will have a big impact on the Private Rented Sector and landlords must prepare appropriately for it, or face being unable to let their properties, and a hefty penalty of up to £5,000.

From April, all rental properties (new lets and renewals of tenancies) are required, by law, to have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). For existing tenancies, the law will change on 1 April 2020. Without an EPC rated E or above, the property will be deemed unfit to let – so those rated F or G – and if it is rented out at a lower rating, landlords will face civil and criminal charges for signing a new tenancy or renewing an existing one.

Given that one in 10 privately rented properties currently fail to meet the new efficiency rules, this could leave many landlords with a big headache. To avoid encountering problems, it’s important that landlords are given the right advice and guided through the new ruling to understand the impact on their investments, what they need to do to protect these investments, and also comply with the law.

The role of the agent

Choosing an appropriate agent to work with is really important. A good agent will provide the right information to landlords and guide them through any key decisions and changes to the industry.

With the new energy efficiency measures, diligent agents would have been speaking to their clients for the last few months, like we’ve been, and making them aware of the legislation and what action they might need to take and why.

GFW Letting manages the whole process on behalf of landlords. In the first instance, we will ensure your properties have valid and up-to-date EPCs that take account of any changes and improvements made to a property. In some cases, we have carried out a new EPC to get the latest recommendations and the new software used to calculate the ratings has improved the EPC to a higher rating with no work being done so we strongly suggest re-doing an EPC as the initial course of action.

If the EPC is still failing to meet the minimum measure and is still an F or G after being repeated, then a Green Deal Assessment is required.  Again, we will manage this on a landlord’s behalf, working with a Green Deal Assessor who will conduct this. An Assessor will visit your property and then discuss with us its energy use and help decide if you could benefit from Green Deal improvements.

If any home improvements need to be made, and can be funded under the Green Deal, then these will be done at no cost to the landlord. If works cannot be funded under the Green Deal, then the property can be registered for a five-year exemption. The main exemptions include the situation where all required works have been carried out, but the EPC rating is still below E, or the necessary works cannot be completely financed at no cost to the landlord. Whatever the circumstances, GFW Letting will liaise with the Assessor regarding any available funding or exemption registration on your behalf and ensure that you’re adhering to the new legislation.

To discuss an EPC assessment, please email or call Donna Cheney on donnacheney@gfwletting.co.uk or 0191 284 7171.