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Honestly? Choose your agent wisely…

The buy-to-let sector is a thriving industry. Indeed, latest statistics show that the number of privately rented homes in England has reached a record high of 4.7m. This is an increase of around 75 per cent over the past decade; some 20 per cent of households in England are now privately rented, up from 13 per cent in 2007.

Becoming involved in the private rented sector is a serious business. Landlords need to ensure that they’re able to find and retain good quality tenants and handle maintenance and repairs issues efficiently. Choosing the right agent to guide, advise and support them in a way that helps them to best manage such situations, and create a profitable property portfolio, is therefore vital.

There are so many inadequate and, at best, mediocre, agents out there. They’ll agree to market and manage properties on behalf of landlords but don’t provide the service behind this, which is the most important aspect. Agents will simply put a property on the market with no plan, or even discussion with the landlord, about how it would market better and, essentially, be leased much quicker at a rate the landlord desires. Questions every landlord should ask themselves include:

  • Has your property been on the rental market for more than a few weeks?
  • Has your agent discussed how your property could be more attractive to potential tenants?
  • Have they had an honest discussion with you about the wear and tear of your investment and whether it’s time to make some improvements, so that it can be tenanted quicker and potentially let out at a higher rate?
  • Are you an out of area landlord who has rarely or never seen your investment?
Honesty is the best policy

Being honest with landlords and upfront about the improvements they need to make in their properties, to secure tenants and a good return on investment, is something all agents need to do but many simply don’t. A rental property needs some TLC every now and then and we recommend a landlord budgets for putting 10% of their annual rental income back into the property for its upkeep such as decorating, new flooring, and furnishings where required.

Unsatisfied landlords often get in touch with us to appraise their properties that have been on the market a while. When appraising them, we have discovered some very basic issues that can be fixed easily. For instance, some are dirty, or need painting, or are overpriced for the current market. I recall one visit to an apartment recently which had been on the market for three months with no interest from viewers.

Following our assessment of the property, we advised the landlord to complete a deep clean and carry out some minor decoration work, which all cost less than £200. Within two weeks, after we had put it back on the market, we secured tenants on a 12-month lease. This landlord lost over £2000 due to no occupancy, which could have been avoided if the right agent advice was given from the outset.

If an agent is not honest with you about current market trends, the condition of your property, or the correct rental amount, then they are costing you money in terms of a void period and the monthly outlay of council tax on your vacant property.

At GFW Letting, we are focused on providing a professional, friendly but ultimately honest service, ensuring landlords are given the best advice to let out their property, even if it involves spending some money upfront, so that their property stands out among the rest in a fast moving, highly competitive sector.

If you’d like to have a chat about your property portfolio, please feel free to give Donna a call on 0191 284 7171 or email on donnacheney@gfwletting.co.uk .

Our Regional Operations Manager is Up for An Award!

We are delighted to announce that our regional operations manager, Donna Cheney, has been shortlisted for a prestigious North East award!

Donna has been named a finalist in the ‘Best Newcomer’ category for The Glass Slipper Awards, which recognises and celebrates women across the region in business and the wider community.

The awards have been running for six years and are organised by The Chronicle, as part of fundraising efforts for its Sunshine Fund which provides specialised equipment to children with disabilities in the North East of England. A panel of five judges agreed on the shortlist of three nominees in each highly competitive category.

“It’s an honour to be nominated for this award, especially when you look at the calibre of the other nominees, said Donna. “It should be a great day, where businesses, not for profit organisations, and exceptional individuals are recognised for their work in, and contribution to, the North East. I am really looking forward to the event.”

The award ceremony takes place at Hilton Newcastle Gateshead on Friday 23rd February 2018 from 12pm. Good Luck, Donna!

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.