Monthly Archives: March 2012

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By Craig Smith

At the beginning of February we posted about how some Landlords might not be fully aware of their responsibilities when letting a property. The Landlord doesn’t just have responsibilities at the start of the tenancy but throughout as well and, likewise, the tenant must ensure that they keep to their side of the contract too!

Tenant General Repairs

Common sense sometimes needs to be applied with regards to how far a tenants responsibility would reach. For example, a tenant would be responsible for changing a faulty light bulb or mowing a lawn regularly. Believe it or not some tenants will ask a Landlord to do some of the simplest tasks!

Another common area of dispute between a tenant and Landlord is when drains or pipes become blocked. Usually, this cost of having a drain unblocked would fall to the tenant, especially if they have lived at the property for some time. Whilst most tenants do take care of the property they live in like it was there own, occasionally items such as wipes will find their way into the sewer system. Generally, the rule is if a tenant has caused the issue then the tenant would be responsible for the cost of its rectification and this rule extends to most of the fixtures & fittings of a property.

Wear & Tear on a Rental Property

Over time some items will become worn regardless of whether the property is let or lived in by an owner. Electrical appliances such as washing machines or dishwashers will no doubt eventually break down. Of course, if the reason for the breakdown is the fault of the tenant (for example no salt being put into the dishwasher) then the tenant would be responsible as they should treat the appliance as their own, or in a ‘tenant like manner’. If the appliance has been looked after and has broken down due to age then the Landlord should be prepared to bear the cost.

Wear and tear is easily explained on appliances provided at a property but less so on the actual décor. Again, a tenant should make sure that wallpaper, carpets etc are looked after but a reasonable amount of wear & tear should be expected. The number of tenants can also determine the amount of wear expected, a family of 5 might cause heavier wear than a single person for instance.

Who Looks After the Garden?

Most tenancy agreements will state that the tenant should take care of the garden. Occasionally Landlords might include a gardener in the cost of the rental, more often so with large gardens or those with large trees & shrubs. Tenants would be expected to keep any lawns mowed, borders free of weeds and keeping the garden tidy. This will depend on the individual tenancy and, if a tenant is unsure, they should always check before entering into a tenancy.

Best Advice

As an agent, we always make tenants aware of their responsibilities before they sign any agreements with us. This helps to avoid any disputes further down the line and we would urge all Landlords to do the same! 

By Craig Smith

When a tenancy comes to an end, there will often be some work needed to return the property to its original condition. Although it is not always needed, the most common costs from a deposit include cleaning, gardening and rent arrears.

Start the Tenancy Properly

It is not always necessary, best practice is to have a written tenancy agreement in place for any tenancy. Along with the tenancy agreement, to avoid any disputes at the end of the tenancy, should be an inventory. A written inventory should always state any fixtures and fittings but a good inventory will also state its condition.

You may think that an unfurnished property may not need an inventory, a term we hear quite often is ‘… but there’s nothing in there.’ Fair enough, there may be no furniture such as sofas, beds and tables but don’t forget that walls are still wallpapered/painted, carpets should be left clean and kitchens/bathrooms left in good condition.

Keep the Inventory up to Date

A number of changes can be made at a property, particularly during longer tenancies, so the inventory should be amended to reflect this. This is particularly important if a tenant has asked permission to redecorate or replace items in the property along with any documentation to support any permissions granted. For example, if the tenant wanted to repaint a room and the Landlord agreed subject to the property being returned to its original colour upon the tenant vacating.

A Good Move Out Report

Not only should an inventory be taken at the start of the tenancy and agreed by all parties, a good move out report should be taken in order for any comparisons to be made from start to end of tenancy. If an agreement cannot be reached regarding any costs, the dispute would either go to dispute resolution (if registered with a deposit scheme) or even go to court. This is where a good inventory and move out report will be crucial to any decision made by the adjudicating team.

Protect Yourselves

An inventory will not just protect the Landlord for any damages but also the tenant to prevent any unfair charges at the end of a tenancy. Don’t forget that the inventory should always state the condition of items at the property and should contain as much description as possible to be relied upon. 

By Mike Edwards

There are lots of them and here are just some the rest follow in Part 2.

OK so times is ’ard and Landlords think letting properties is like shelling peas and they can do just as well. Consider these reasons why if you are a Landlord you should  use an agent. And if you are an agent reading this, then make sure you push these benefits to win yourself some business!!

1.         Depending who you pick they are the professionals

Select the right agent i.e. not just on price, and you have a pro on your team. OK so 40% of agents are not even registered with the Property Ombudsman because it is a voluntary scheme unless your agent belongs to ARLA, RICS, NAEA or NALS in which case membership is compulsory for them. And choosing an agent that is a member of a regulatory body doesn’t guarantee all will be sweetness and light – but you’ll have a better chance that it is.

2.         Using an agent gives you someone to sue!!

May seem a mercenary reason but if you use someone claiming to be a professional, or that it was reasonable for you to consider they were professionals, if it all goes wrong you at least have someone else to blame – and sue. A Court will expect an allegedly professional agent to set and demonstrate higher standards – might be useful if you do end up with the tenant from hell.

3.         They know how best to present a property and the best market for it

Doubtless your property is the best in the street or the block, and doubtless you have high personal standards. But there is nothing like objectivity to really discover just how ready for letting your property is – a professional agent knows what your property is up against locally and the standards your property needs to meet to compete in that market, and will advise you what needs doing to maximise your rental and speed of letting.

4.         They can let your property quicker than you can

Or they almost certainly can and if any good they should do. At times of near insatiable demand such as we have now any property that is presented in a half decent location and condition, and at the right price, should let within at most a month of going on the market and really should be spoken for by a tenant being referenced within 2 weeks or so.

Agents have access to massive marketing power and will use property portals such as Rightmove, and will probably have their own website too. Some agents also advertise via social media such as twitter and facebook. Note to mention their shop front in the high street where people looking for accommodation can browse the professionally taken photographs.

The only way a Landlord lets privately themselves quicker than an agent is usually if they have simply taken the first prospective tenant that came along.

5.         They will make sure you stay on the right side of the Law

Your professional agent will know all the legal requirements and will be able to advise you on everything from the right tenancy agreement that you need to making sure you have a gas safety record before the tenancy starts.

Life is getting more complicated and in April there will be revised rules and regulations relating to Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and even more crucially, tenants deposits. If you are not an experienced landlord you will need professional help. 

By Craig Smith

There are many reasons why someone may want to let out their home. A lot of home owners at the moment are struggling to sell their property but still need to move on with their lives, perhaps a job offer in a different part of the country or moving abroad. Putting a tenant into the property can keep the mortgage paid and the house looked after whilst the Landlord is away.

Basic Health & Safety

A lot of these Landlords can come into this situation knowing nothing at all about renting a property and it is our job to keep them on the right path. The Landlord would be responsible for ensuring that the property is safe, for example ensuring that any gas appliances are tested annually and that anything that the tenants are left with a safe environment to live in. Don’t forget that Landlords can (and have been) jailed for failing to ensure that their rental property is safe!

Then there are the less well known items that can catch out unsuspecting homeowners, such as ensuring that stairways are safe. One property that we looked after for a Landlord had no banister rail along the stairway and although it did look great, something did need to be done before a tenant moved in to prevent any accidents occurring. A simple banister was fitted in order for the stairs to be deemed safer, the Landlord would much rather have a small expense at the start of the tenancy than a claim for damages from an injured tenant!

General Repairs

Repairs also need to be covered by the Landlord throughout the tenancy, not just to the building itself but also to any items that have been left for use by the tenant. Of course, if a property has been let furnished and a tenants pet has ripped the cover on a sofa then the tenant would be liable for the damage. But it is the Landlord who should cover any wear & tear such as a cooker breaking down or rotten window frames.

Who Can Carry Out the Repairs?

For general repairs such as gardening or decorating a lot of Landlords prefer to do this themselves which will help to reduce any costs but for more specialist items such as electrics, qualified contractors need to be used. Some of the most well known include using a GasSafe registered engineer for works to gas appliances and most electrical works that are carried out must now be certified under Part P building regulations. 

By Craig Smith

Oh no! Not another post about deposits! Around 12 months ago we posted the importance of dealing with deposits correctly. In December of last year we wrote about a court ruling regarding a deposit for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy that had not been protected by the Landlord. Since then a number of changes have been announced that change the way in which deposits should be dealt with and these changes come in to force on 6th April 2012.

Prescribed Information for AST’s

Under the ‘old rules’, Landlords would have 14 days in which to serve the Prescribed Information to the tenant. This is the document that gives the tenant certain information about where the deposit is held and what happens to it. With the changes that are due to come in to force in April, Landlords will now have 30 days to protect the deposit and issue the Prescribed Information.

But this doesn’t mean relaxed rules for Landlords as if the deposit has not been protected within those 30 days, the tenant can take the Landlord to court to claim this back. Neither can the Landlord wriggle out of any penalties by protecting the deposit at that time as this will now not be accepted as sufficient protection for the deposit. The fines for non protection of the deposit used to be a mandatory 3x the amount of the deposit, plus the original deposit to be paid back to the tenant. Now it can be any amount between that of the original deposit and a maximum of 3x the deposit amount.

Existing Tenancies to be Protected

The new rules also require deposits for any existing AST’s to be registered within 30 days from 6th April 2012. This is regardless of whether the tenancy began before or after the date that Tenancy Deposit Protection came into force (6th April 2007) but of course any AST’s that started, or renewed, from that date should already be registered!

The reason for this is that the new legislation states that any new tenancy should be registered and the wording in the Housing Act 1988 means that any tenancy that goes to a periodic status is classed as a new tenancy. 

Tenancies Not Under the Housing Act 1988

The legislation is still yet to reach other types of tenancy agreement, such as Company Let or Assured Tenancies. Of course, this may change in the future but we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it! Non-AST tenancy deposits may still be registered if all parties are in agreement but it is always best to check before registering. 

By Steve Roulstone

Well it would seem we have reached the ‘All of the votes are in’ stage of the Localism Act and the changes in Law and its effect on the Tenants Deposit Protection legislation . These changes are now imminent, I have written before about the impact as charges were first of all discussed and then debated for the work which this act now confirms need to be carried out for virtually all Assured Shorthold Tenancies in the UK. Yes that’s right, all agreements entered in to that have now passed the initial six months (or longer?) fixed term, now need to be checked.


To be fair, this change in the Law clarifies the initial legislation. It has also been described as a way of closing all the loopholes, but without doubt, you need to add the judgement in the Swrpere case of last summer to the effect on what now needs to be done.

1988 Housing Act.

All Assured Shorthold tenancies that have passed their initial fixed term become periodic tenancies.  The Act itself does state exactly this as Section 5 of the Housing Act 1988 reads ‘A new Tenancy arising at the end of the fixed term’. So although no new tenancy agreement is entered into, the Law states a periodic is a new tenancy and therefore the necessary steps under the TDP provisions – deposit protection and PIN service – must be completed. The deposit will already be protected of course, but action may still need to be taken in respect of the two insured schemes. But what really matters and especially in the light of the much focused comments in the Swrpere v Nice 2011 judgement, is the serving of another PIN form within 30 days of the tenancy going periodic from now on, or by 5th May for existing periodic tenancies. This has always been ignored before the Localism Act 2011 for two reasons. First it was overlooked simply because no new Agreement is signed.  Secondly under the original TDP legislation and Court decisions it was always possible to protect the deposit and serve the PIN late. But The Localism Act 2011 closes off all these escape routes – protect AND serve later than 30 days, either of them, and you have committed an offence with no escape.

Correct procedure.

The act becomes law on the 6th of April and allows all details to be corrected by the 5th of May. So action will need to be taken sooner rather than later. All of our Landlords and Tenants will be receiving letters confirming how we will deal with the corrected procedures next week, as we look to deal with the issue at the first possible opportunity. It is centred on the Prescribed Information that all Tenants complete at the commencement of an agreement (The PIN Form) and ensuring this, as well as the Terms and Conditions of the scheme the Deposit is registered with, are served again in the case of the PIN and have been served correctly in the case of the T&C’s.

Not stopped there!

For the first time, the legislation will also apply to ALL AST’s as it looks to ensure that ALL agreements even if they pre-date the TDP Legislation, will now have a protected deposit. This of course means ensuring Tenants who will have now occupied a property for at least five years will have to be considered, have the scheme explained and dealt with by May 5th this year. There is no doubt that should this not be done, then it will be an offence under the Localism Act punishable by fine. It also needs to be said, that I am aware of enquiries by the ‘No Win – No Fee’ Solicitors as to the implications and procedures – could this be the next wave of adverts?


Not easy, but suffice to say a broad brush approach should be taken and all Tenancies should be reviewed without delay. The whole Industry will need to get this right, and that means many questions will be asked and an understanding of the new legislation and the procedural changes this introduces will be needed by all concerned. We are fortunate to be associated with Companies who evaluate and advise about the impact such matters bring with them, which I believe will not stop with this topic alone. A case of watch this space, as further parts of the Act are clarified over the next few days with what defines a deposit next on the agenda!    


By Steve Roulstone

It is good to see ARLA posting some advice for Landlords and Ian Potter in his latest release has done just that by providing his top ten list of’ what to do as a new Landlord’. It is a good article and reflects what we at Castle Estates have been stating for some time now, namely, take good advice!! Ian concentrates on several areas, most of which are similar to those I commented on as listed in my local paper, and as then, I would like to add a little more meat to the bone through this post, something that is of course difficult for Ian to do as a representative of our Professional body, rather than a ‘Letting Agent’ parse.

More property needed!

The background to the piece is again, the increasing opportunity that exists in the current market for the investment Landlord, with figures quoted of over half of those Agents questioned believing that demand is outstripping supply. I would have hoped the figure were more like three-quarters, but would concede that the market is rising after a quite Winter and that it should continue to do so until well after Easter, the traditional time to see the Market develop momentum for the year.

Research Research Research!

Ian has stated rightly so, that a new investor will need to look at what gives any one property an advantage over another, but I believe we can be more specific here. The investor may not know at present which are the better schools, where catchment areas start and finish and such basic matters as what DOES make a difference to Tenants when looking at property? This is of course where experience of an area comes in to play and not just as a Letting agent, but how long in this market. I do not wish to turn this into an Estate Agent Vrs Letting agent piece, but suffice to say, most Estate Agents have only just started renting property and I would say look to the longer established specialist before deciding who to speak with.

Present well and Know the market.

Ian is correct to point our areas where a property can stand or fall and in some cases is ignored by Landlords, that is the appearance against what else is available for the Tenants to choice from and an understanding when doing the calculations, of what actually happens between Tenants during void periods. Both of these matters reflect on the financial and are well lined together. We always advise all Landlords, especially new to buying property as an investment, to look at the income based on ten months occupancy (but would normally be able to supply eleven as our track record confirms!) and even if the property is good enough to market without delay, work out how long before decoration should be planned! Cost implications of both need to be built in to every financial plan and if you are unsure about condition of decoration, then it probably proves the property would benefit from work being carried out now!

 Insurance and Inventory.

I link these together because everybody knows that Insurance protects, but not everybody gets that an Inventory does as well, because the Inventory has become one of the most important documents when renting a property. Landlords and agents have to be able to prove any dilapidations at the end of the Tenancy and without an Inventory I fail to see how this can be done. One simple challenge from a Tenant for the Landlord to prove what condition the property was in at the start of the Tenancy and without an Inventory, the Landlord cannot comply!

And for the rest?

It is all great! The more the subject is looked at the more you will realise that there is a process, not always the same,  but one that will make sure the first time Landlord does not slip up at the first hurdle. The other point is that there will never be a shortage of people willing to spread their knowledge and all that any new Landlord needs to do is ask! All the Landlord has to do is ask the right person. That is why I believe in professional qualifications and vote for experience every time!

By Steve Roulstone

So we arrive at the time when we start to think of the spring, when Tesco sell more fabric conditioner than any other time of the year, when we all confirm our first sighting of a spring lamb and when the property market looks towards an increase in business as people look to make that move after the winter (said with the full knowledge that next week we are getting winter weather again, at least temperature wise!)

Normal Pattern.

It is normally the case that the spring is a busy market for the rental market and while we have seen more activity since the last cold snap, the question that remains unanswered and will go a long way to proving if confidence in the economy is rising again, is will we see the expected rise in activity or not. Apart from a return to normal temperatures next week, if we do get another bout of winter weather, it will definitely slow movement down, because after viewing property in the dark, nobody wants to spend a day looking at houses with snow on the ground!

Job confidence.

No weather aside, it is the job market which will provide the ammunition as apart from natural movement around Landlords selling or wanting to choose bigger or smaller accommodation, it is people moving with work, which in the main is new posts being filled, that feeds the market and provides a base for any busy period. So the link between a good market, sales or lettings, is clearly linked to confidence in the economy overall.

Nobody knows.

The problem at the moment is nobody knows and whilst we have just gone through a quieter winter than normal, London, which is usually the barometer that the rest of the country follows, has maintained its movement and after a slow period, we usually get a natural climb purely because people catch up on the move they were going to make, but waited to see how matters panned out? (Mainly financial of course) So all the signs are there and not just in trends:

Mortgage matters.

There has also been a rise in all matters surrounding the Mortgage market, with increases in numbers and availability of specialist mortgages, as the ‘Buy to Let’ market is also showing signs of increasing again, which adds fuel to the fire that house prices have stopped declining. In fact stories centred on the mortgage market abound at present and I wonder how many are reporter led and how many are industry fed?


And of course with an impending budget and whatever impact the markets take on the content, will undoubtedly play a major part of any increase in activity. For me, it is not so much what is stated, unless the chancellor has some hidden move to stimulate housing, because nowadays most of the changes are heralded well in advance, it is how the financial report on the current state of play of United Kingdom PLC is received that will have the major effect.


Well this is something that I do not normally do, but for what it is worth, I think that we will see slow movement until after the Budget and depending upon those figures and any adjustments made by the chancellor to reflect the performance, it will be after the budget before we see any major change (a kind of Housing Equinox if you will) and this will reflect just how confident the markets are in that performance and the chancellors views going forward, so I am afraid I am sitting on the fence, good confidence, good growth, poor confidence and we will see a steady market for probably the next six months.