Monthly Archives: November 2010

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By Steve Roulstone

As a Landlord I have experienced that dreaded call from the Tenants on many occasions, the one about the leak when the weather is -5 and giving no sign of letting up. Now as a Tenant and a Landlord, I am currently experiencing both. I must admit that I have had a good look around the property I now rent to see if any weak spots exist, but even in temperatures as low as we have experienced this weekend all seems well!

When problems occur

But when problems do occur especially at this time of year, it can be a nightmare for those concerned. I know that plumbers, who of course work all hours when we have cold spells of this nature, have to turn work away and often work a fortnight in advance. What all concerned have to do here is realise that (as agents) we do not have the right to demand contractors arrive at the property we manage before and in advance of their other customers. The problems occur when Tenants feel they should not have to wait because they are renting the property. Well now I may be in the same boat, but I know that I will understand if we are faced with any delays.

Delays in Agent services

It is not just plumbing where problems can occur, all types of property maintenance services can be delayed and on one occasion this month I am aware of a Tenant who felt sufficiently aggrieved to raise a complaint against the agent concerned. The security of the property had been placed at risk because of the actions of others and whilst there are many occasions where special arrangements can be made for all manner of maintenance issues, on this occasion none were. The point being that in the vast majority of cases special arrangements are not made and neither should they be. When you own a property you do not have all manner of immediate response contracts with every service conceivable, but unfortunately because Tenants pay rent sometimes we are expected to provide such cover.

Services not serviced

As agent of the Landlord we are charged with looking after our Landlords interests and this of course includes the property, we will therefore note all special arrangements in existence and provide services when needed, for whatever may befall the property in our charge. But that does not mean for example that we are going to stand guard over a broken front door for a weekend whilst the Tenant goes shopping! Of course the vast majority understand our responsibility and take sensible steps to cope until we can do our job.

Patience is still a virtue

What we all need to do is give some patience and assistance by way of availability and flexibility of when property can be accessed (I know of one Plumber who will work until midnight under circumstance that currently exist) that way more will be done sooner and let’s not forget, human nature makes us all try harder for those who treat us nicely! I know that’s how we treat our Contractors and that’s how we manage to get that little bit extra that so often makes the difference!

By Steve Roulstone

We have been operating our Blog now for over six months and I thought it time to put some explanation behind the near 50 blogs we have so far posted which will of course continue to climb as the weeks pass. The idea is to post blogs under specific headings, covering both Property Lettings and our Franchise so that all aspects of our business are covered. We could of course increase the number of headings and may do so in time, but I feel we have managed to cover the whole aspect of our industry within the headings used, so I feel, to use a well known saying,  we can indeed claim to deliver, exactly what it says on the tin! So the individual headings:

Franchise News

‘The tin’ in this case is anything revolving around the running of the Franchise, including Industry news and views. The recent National Franchise Exhibition for example was always going to be linked as Franchise News, as are reports concerning the Lettings Industry such as trading trends, or anything which affects our group nationally, such as the recent Launch of our new ‘To Let’ boards. It has also included Blogs about our trading partners such as the banks, as well as training related news.  

Rental Issues

This is the section that sweeps up all breaking news surrounding Letting property, including legislation, where it is being reported in its broadest sense, rather than the effect any legislation has on property or Landlords. It could also be described as the Tenants section, not purposefully, but when I look back at Blogs that have been included in this section information relating to Tenants does appear in this section more often than elsewhere!

Property Landlord advice

This can rightly be described as the main section and has been left to last intentionally. This is the main reason the blog was created. Customers for Letting Agents are, by law, our Landlords (Because we act under the law of agency on the Landlords behalf) It is under this section, that the intention was from the start to advice and inform the Landlords throughout the UK of the problems and trends affecting this industry of ours, to keep them well informed and in tune with market trends. Under this section we have written Blogs covering legislation effects, housing opportunities, warnings about property scams, explaining about our Industry and how we operate and the advantages of the services provided through Professional agencies.

In summary

I hope that helps and I hope it assists you in finding the posts that are more relevant to you as individuals. In writing and reviewing our Blog, I have noticed how many times we use the word professional. I do not apologise for this, rather, I expect we will continue to promote Professionalism in our industry. Enjoy reading them and please let us know your thoughts or indeed requests for further information or new topics for us to add. and finally, Thanks for visiting our site.

By Samantha Knight

The Prime Minister said the Government may introduce “fixed period” tenancies to ensure new social housing tenants can be evicted if their circumstances improve. People who are given council houses are currently awarded an indefinite “secure tenancy” if they successfully complete a 12-month trial tenancy. This means they can only be evicted through the courts if they fail to pay rent, cause serious problems for their neighbours or in other exceptional circumstances. If they die, their secure tenancy can be passed on to a partner or child. Mr Cameron said the current rules meant that people in more severe need of housing were being kept on council waiting lists while some tenants’ situations got better.

Controversial statement:

“At the moment we have a system very much where, if you get a council house or an affordable house, it is yours forever … And actually it ought to be about need,” Mr Cameron told a public forum in Birmingham. His comments came in response to a mother of two teenagers, who told him she slept on a blow-up bed for two years because her council could not find her a bigger house. Your need has got greater,” Mr Cameron told her, “and yet there isn’t really the opportunity to move.

“There is a question mark about whether, in future, should we be asking, actually, when you are given a council home, is it for fixed period, because maybe in five or 10 years you will be doing a different job and be better paid and you won’t need that home, you will be able to go into the private sector.” A total of 1.8 million families are currently on waiting lists for council housing. The Government advises local authorities on how they should ration properties but councils also use their own criteria,

Changes will be difficult.

Local families living in cramped conditions and people who are homeless or have medical conditions being made worse by their houses are usually prioritised. Only some local authorities consider the income of applicants. It is thought councils and housing associations would be left to decide how long local fixed-term tenancies would last. Mr Cameron conceded that an attempt to reform the system would cause “a big argument” but was necessary. “Looking at a more flexible system I think makes sense,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that any changes would not, however, apply to people already in social housing. The Conservatives pledged in their general election manifesto to protect the rights of existing tenants. All good news for private landlords, making investing in rental property with affordable rents a safe bet.  If the Prime Ministers plans go ahead, we will have a queue of tenants now in need of private rental properties.

By Mike Edwards

Tenants will no longer be at the same risk of losing their home with little warning if their landlord defaults on their mortgage, because new rules have come into force giving judges the power to delay repossessions in order to give tenants time to find a new home.

Prior to the change           

People could previously be evicted from rental properties relatively quickly if their landlord defaulted on the mortgage and had failed to inform their lender that they were renting out the property. In most cases tenants were totally unaware of the situation until a Court Summons was received or bailiffs arrived to enforce the Court

New Legislation

Under new rules tenants with a valid tenancy will be able to attend Court possession hearings for the first time. Judges will be able to take their situation into account and delay repossession by up to two months though but even now if a lender is seeking possession under Ground 2 it is 2 months notice and only then can proceedings commence. However the tenant may be unaware that proceedings have commenced.       

Lenders must also ensure tenants know that their home is going to be repossessed by sending a letter to the property giving them notice of a court hearing date. Again however having said that lenders have been under such an obligation since the Civil Procedure Rules were changed many years ago requiring lenders to write to the property addressing the letter to The Occupier.

This letter should be sent at the earliest possible opportunity when it becomes apparent that a lender is likely to institute proceedings against a borrower but most lenders have consistently failed to do so only advising of the proceedings very shortly before they were listed or even after the event thus adding to the problems.

The end Result

Once a repossession order has been granted, the lender must without fail send a second letter to the property telling tenants they have a warrant for its possession.
The tenant can then request a delay of up to two months if they have not previously had the opportunity to do so and this is the big change introduced by the new rules.

By Steve Roulstone

Twice a year all of the Castle Estates offices get together for a Network Day and later this week we will be holding our autumn meeting in Birmingham. These are days that I always look forward to and once again we will have a busy day ahead of us, with presenters from all aspects of our Industry and new ideas being discussed whilst old acquaintances catch up with each other.

Network Day agenda

We will be looking at new Landlord marketing ideas as well as reviewing the plans discussed last Spring, discussing the Tenants Deposit Scheme with a senior representative from one of the Government approved schemes, looking at how an Insurance and Referencing Company who we do not currently employ can possible give us better service and discussing new training methods as well as catching up with the current training schedule and planning. Not forgetting to mark the progress we continue to strive for in our web profile. A busy day for all!

Board Launch

But the most exciting part of the day for me, will be the launch of our new ‘To Let’ board, pictured above. Of course, as offices have needed to replenish supplies, they have started to use the new board over the last two months, but we still need to mark that official moment in time when the old boards are no longer available and because we have advertised the event, with most offices having the ability to comment about the design over the last six months, our offices will be ready for the change and order new stock without delay.

Marking the new era.

This is what is most significant for me, as a group we are now focused with the future in mind and the new board for me is the centre of that focus, significant in its message and new style of design, it mirrors the way in which Castle Estates has changed over the last 18 months and is a visual declaration of our intent to move in to a new era of style and Management. Bring on the future!

By Steve Roulstone

And that is not just my opinion, indeed it is not just the evidence of my own Franchise office in Stafford, but more and more people are agreeing that the demand for rental property is growing quarter on quarter. From my standpoint as a Franchisor this is of course good news, especially for our network of offices, but also because of the large number of entrepreneurs looking to become Letting Agents, that we are currently interviewing as a result of the National Franchise Exhibition in October.

Buy to Let Mortgages.

But of course this is not the whole picture, because the large number of Tenants need a large number of houses to live in and at the moment, whilst I am confident there are a large number of Landlords looking for the opportunity to buy, the vehicle they require, is not yet readily available. Those who are closest to the situation, will be aware that some Building Societies appear to be ‘testing the water’ with offers that are only available for a short space of time. The reasons for this could be many, but I would surmise that two very good reasons are initially to see what interest such offers attract and secondly to see what reaction there is from the industry and regulatory bodies to any easing of cash availability in the mortgage market.

Market forces will dictate.

Certainly, one offer drew such interest, that it became impossible for the brokers to action all requests in time, before the offer was withdrawn. This of course confirms that where there is a demand, the market will provide. The natural outcome, as our offices confirm, is that Landlords are keen to buy, but only when the market shows confidence, the available deals are consistent (Nobody wants to buy when better offers are just around the corner!) and property prices become stable.

Reporting good news.

So hopefully and sometimes I have my doubts, the media will start to print, confirm or just talk about the positive things happening in the rental sector and stop making headlines out of property prices, especially  when historically they have always shown a decline at this time of year! In October, even when one agency confirmed an increase month on month, it did not achieve the status of the report from a differing agency the week before that house prices had fallen ‘Yet again’ as the report gleefully confirmed!

 UK Letting Agents will prosper.

But the facts are that during all of this time of property uncertainty, the Rental sector has prospered and letting Agents in the UK are now set for another increase in business as the economy recovers and the increase in rental property continues across the UK. I believe that trading over the next decade could be as good as it was at the beginning of the last decade as we enter a period of sustained growth. This is of course, all good news for those looking to join our ranks as franchised Professional letting Agents!

By Steve Roulstone

As the property sales market begins to recover, Landlords are starting to make that decision to look at buying property to rent. There is no doubt that there are more and more Tenants looking for property as renting becomes a safer option in these difficult times, and because of the number of Landlords who rented property when the sales market collapsed, quite a number of these are in effect, first time investment buyers.

What makes the perfect property?

 Of course, not every house is right for the rental market and at Castle Estates we have noticed that many Landlords who rented for the first time are now selling the original property and looking for a better investment house to offer to the market, a property which is more liable to rent and will give a better percentage return.

Good property advice

But it is what your agent does for you at this stage, which could define the standard of agent you are dealing with, because our advice should go past a rental value and pure safety advice, we should be discussing what changes can be made to make it more attractive and cause it to stand out against other property available at any given time!

TV not always wrong.

I know that at many of our offices, we also advise on decoration and carpets, gardening and amenities, because it is not just a case of making the best of what is available, rather to make what is available the best!  There are many programmes on property at the moment all trying to look at appearance from differing viewpoints, but at the end of the day, the basic advice they give holds true. Prepare for the market, not for ourselves!

Inherited family home.

This is also true when we are asked to comment on inherited property where circumstances usually make the situation more personal and therefore more difficult, but good advice is good advice and so many times business is gained because our customers see that in the long term it is in their interest to make the changes now!

Tenants appreciate good houses.

And so we rent them quicker and because work is carried out before we rent, Tenants can also see that the owner cares about the property. To me, this is natural reaction; the better a house is cared for the better Tenants will appreciate the house. The end result, by concentrating on key areas and giving practical advice gained through experience, the better service we offer and the better the Tenant will look after the property. I call that a result!

By Steve Roulstone


I have just rented a property for the first time, mainly because it has made sense for me to accept an offer from a third party to rent my own home for several years and the offer was too good to miss! But whilst that is the reason why I have rented, I wanted to comment on the relationship I have developed with my new Landlord and how trust and good relationships can still matter.

Lesson to be learnt.

I am dealing directly with my Landlord rather than through an agent and it has enabled me to get across our wishes in relation to the property so much easier than what I know would have happened if I had been operating through a Managing Agent. I know because I know how I would have reacted if I had been that agent and this is the lesson for us all – too many times we forget to look behind the request at the individual and are too scared to advice anything but caution in relating Tenant requests to our Landlords.

Improvements to the Property.

Of course, I am in a position where the last thing I would want is negative press about my dealings as a Tenant in my home town, no that would be just too embarrassing, and I feel that my Landlord knows this, and this has helped her to trust that we will indeed improve her property with our wishes, it also enabled me to negotiate a long term agreement as well, which was exactly what we wanted. But it is the fact that so many people do have good intentions which we as agents may be losing by taking a defensive line instead of putting more work in too finding ground and grounds upon which a Tenant could be allowed to put their own stamp on property they wish to call home, especially if it encourages them to stay longer. It has been a long term belief of mine that we should do everything to encourage Tenants to stay as long as possible on behalf of the Landlord anyway, less footfall, less movement in and out, is bound to be in your Landlords interest in looking after any property in our charge.

Keeping the Tenant happy – as well!

Of course I am not suggesting we throw caution to the wind and allow Tenants what they want when they want (we have to stay within a legal framework at all times) but rather that we should try that little bit harder to recognise good intention and look closely at what Tenants are proposing, especially if the property will benefit and therefore our Landlord also, in the long run. There is nothing like experiencing matters at first hand to remind us that in keeping our duty of responsibility to our Landlords, ‘No’ is not always the best answer and not always in the best interest of all concerned. We should always keep in mind that a happy Tenant looks after a house and pays the rent. I do not know about you, but as a Landlord as well, these are the very things I want from and for my Tenants!!

By Steve Roulstone

It has come to my attention on two or three occasions lately that Building Societies are being particularly harsh in withholding permission when mortgagees apply to rent their property. For so many owners, renting has become the vehicle that has allowed them to move on with their lives, especially in a flat sales market and we as a National Company, have seen a vast increase in Landlords because of this trend over the last two years.

Permission Withheld!

But now it seems societies are withholding permission in some very strange situations and it would seem, with little thought to the reasons why and the consequences of their actions. The main target for their refusal would appear to be a Company let, which is where I cannot understand there stance, especially when the Company on at least two occasions has been HMCR the agency who look after accommodation for our forces personnel. Although in favour of the Societies, it would help if HMCR did not insist on a release clause for any immediate change of circumstances!!

Strange reasoning.

But the case I will concentrate on is one where permission was refused without taking any of the facts in to account and on appeal, the Landlord was told that not only would they not discuss the issue, take the individual circumstances in too account or consider the Company or the experience of the owner (Even though the amount left on the mortgage was small and represented less than 15% of the value of the house)  but that to tell the owner why permission had been refused would in their words ‘encourage the owner to commit fraud by allowing him to then state that the new conditions had been met, even if they had not’ To state that I was flabbergasted when I heard what was said would be missing how I actually felt by a short space trip!!

Human rights.

Now forgive me for raising this issue as Human Rights, but the last time I checked, in this Country you were indeed innocent until proven guilty and to make such a statement flies in the face of this fact with such impunity that it cannot be ignored. The last thing I would recommend would be for an owner to go against the wishes of their Mortgage Company and I believe in this case a re-mortgage is taking place with a Company who know and approve the situation (and I am made to believe at a cheaper rate to boot!) but come on Building Societies, the recent problems have not been caused by your paying customers, and to act it such an arbitrary way towards us is not acceptable. The least you could and should do is give individual consideration to each scenario and stop acting like some medieval Baron running your own court as both Judge and Jury!


We are told that it is not in their interest to have houses re-possessed but really, what is happening if permission is not given or individual circumstances heard as against this blanket decision approach, is people who need to move to gain employment, are being forced to accept lower prices for property where if in negative equity, the effects could damage people’s lives for years to come, if not indefinitely! Not to forget that when statements like that repeated above are made, and such blanket policies are enforced, they merely prove themselves to be ignorant of how the rental market works and therefore unqualified to make decisions that have such an impact on our lives.