Monthly Archives: June 2012

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By Steve Roulstone

I have had cause of late to look at the tax allowance for Landlords in relation to insulating properties (Landlords Energy Saving Allowance) and with the intention of providing a good service for the Landlords we manage property for, I have been looking at how to get the message across in letters to not only the Landlords, but also the current Tenants who will of course benefit from lower bills, indeed most of the interest has come from Tenants who are able to claim grants against insulation costs in some cases at virtually no cost at all, in seeking permission to have insulation installed in loft or walls.

Little interest.

The problem seems to be that very few people are actually interested despite all of the talk around the Green Deal which is due to be introduced by 2018 and was again in the news last week, although the Government release gave very little content or actual information to assist you in understanding what this bill will mean to Landlords.  The problem though seems to be lack of knowledge of what is currently available and this is probably because it is still too little for Landlords to consider.

The Industry.

I have looked for information from one of the leading insulation suppliers to help get the message across but it would seem that not only do they have no literature to explain the current assistance Landlords can claim but have very little knowledge as employees either. This is a bit surprising considering the tax allowance of £1500 has been available for many years but what seems to be more surprising is that it is due to be phased out by 2015.


There is certainly very little knowledge amongst our Landlords and that is one reason why I wanted to go through this procedure, because as Agents we should always advise our Landlords, but apart from a release by the Residential Landlords Association which is very current, I have seen little other promotion or discussion.


You would think given the current legislation surrounding EP Certificates that Tenants would be on the ball! But since the introduction of EPC’s, we have carried out on well over 3000 viewings (as a conservative estimate) and yet we are still never asked for the EPC more than once a month. Roughly 1%. However, when Tenants are able to benefit from installing insulation at very little cost, then that is where interest does grow and why shouldn’t it?


What this does seem to show is that whatever the end result of the Green Deal, what is on offer, is going to have to be easy to understand and attractive to all concerned if it is to be a success. Otherwise it will be ignored and clearly if this is enforceable then we will once again have further legislation that will produce a black hole for Councils looking to enforce matters such as Houses of Multiple Occupation legislation and indeed the current EPC legislation which only come to light when those who ignore it are caught. This is purely because Councils do not have the man power to seek out Landlords who fail to comply and the danger is that this legislation will fall under the same heading!

By Steve Roulstone

In part two of this Blog having explained the possible Management structures your property could be controlled through, I now move on to the reasons why the situation can cause confusion.

Different rules for different schools.

This is at the hub of this Blog because of my experience with so many sites from Management Company controlled to sites where the Freeholder still appoints the Managing Agent and the site is therefore not run by a Management Company Limited. So until you know the way in which the site you are considering is run you will not be able to understand for yourself. Not that any decision should be made to buy or not, rather by being aware, you will better understand how your property and your responsibilities fit in with the site. 

Residents Committees.

What bought this matter to mind at present and the reason I stated I would return to Freeholder managed with site participation, is because we have become involved with a site where the Freeholder allowed communication with the Residents through a Residents committee. The problem that occurred on this site was a lack of trust between one half of the residents of the site and the other half containing the committee. In this case the Freeholder has stepped in and instructed us how to manage the site which will allow us to look after our Clients interest as Managing Agents. This kind of scenario is unusual and would never be explained by the questions asked by your Legal Representative.

Legal position.

More importantly to me is the total lack of explanation of the legal position surrounding the obligations the Leaseholder now holds. Of course those that ask do not understand. Conversely, those who do not ask probably do understand. So we only hear from those who do not, but that is still too many. The Lease that they have entered in to explains fully their financial obligation and rights surrounding the charges they must now pay. As these include buildings insurance, grounds and internal area maintenance, as well as any funds being held in reserve for costly requirements that may be required at a later date, explains why these obligations should be explained in full prior to completing any purchase.

Speak to those who know.

What never happens is the purchaser phoning and speaking to the existing Managing Agent to enquire about the site and how it is run and to have the financial idiosyncrasies of the particular site explained yet the legal representative of the purchaser does ask a series of set questions surrounding this very subject, including current and past accounts. For me it is a simple step from this position to that of speaking with us and of course what could be better than an introduction and explanation of the manner in which the site is currently run.


What I believe all of this misunderstanding dictates is that as a potential buyer of a leasehold property, it is right and correct that you not only rely upon the information gathered by your legal representative, but also ask to speak to the Managing Agent, because whichever side we work for and to be able to do both is not straight forward, we can at least ensure you understand how the site is run and that you fully understand what you pay and more importantly why. We will also be able to point you in the direction of the lease, which is designed to be the rule book for the way in which all parties must operate, but that is probably for another Blog!

By Craig Smith

If you are a pet owner looking to move into a rental property you will perhaps already know that finding a Landlord who is willing to accept isn’t as easy as it sounds! Many Landlords prefer not to accept cats and dogs due to the damage caused by them and irresponsible owners.

Of course, Landlords know that the majority of pet owners are responsible and wouldn’t have a pet in the first place if they weren’t going to care for it. The issue here is that it only takes one irresponsible owner or uncaring tenant to cause a huge amount of grief for a Landlord.

Tenant Referencing Prior to Tenancy

Most letting agencies, including us, have a process of referencing a tenant prior to them being agreed for a tenancy. The vetting process (no pun intended!) usually includes credit & employer checks along with a reference from their current Landlord. The credit checks won’t tell a Landlord if they care for their current property but their previous Landlord reference might just do that.

Credit referencing agencies usually ask the referee to complete a questionnaire based on how the tenant has behave or how they have performed their obligations. It is always difficult to give a bad reference as by doing this, a Landlord could find themselves with a tenant who is unable to move as no-one else will accept them! However, if someone refuses to give a reference they usually have a good reason why and this should start to ring alarm bells for the prospective Landlord.

Additional Deposits for Pets

As a general rule through Castle Estates we usually ask for an extra £100 in the deposit per pet, subject to the Landlords approval. (You will probably find that most agencies around the country have a similar system with the additional cost varying.) We find this works quite well as this re-iterates the point to the tenant that the property must be looked after because there is more money in the pot to be lost if they don’t and the Landlord can sleep soundly knowing that there is more deposit money available should it be needed.

Undeclared Pets Cause Upset for Landlords

Some tenants feel that they have to keep their pets a secret which is bad news all round. You will find that most tenancy agreements contain a standard clause that prevents any animals being kept at a property which means that, if the Landlord finds out about the ‘secret pet’, they could have valid reason to ask you to leave the property.

A recent case that came through our office was that of a tenant who had moved into one of our managed properties and, a few months into the tenancy agreement, began looking after a family members dog. To be fair, the tenant had suggested that the dog had no-where else to go but this shouldn’t have prevented them from asking for permission and instead they left it until one of our periodic visits when we found the dog sat looking up at us in the hallway! The Landlord in this instance was reasonable and gave the tenant plenty of notice for which to have the dog removed form the property and after a lot of aggravation (and damage to the property by said tenants) the property was eventually returned to its original state.

Pets That Leave Their Unwanted Guests Behind!

Another problem that we have heard is when a tenant with a dog has left the property and at the final handover, everything appears to be fine. It was only later on, once their deposit had been returned, and a viewing was taking place that little black blobs started to appear on the viewers’ legs. Fleas!

I looked into this and found that fleas can lay eggs and will only hatch when they are vibrated. Whilst they are laid on the back of a cat or dog this is usually only a problem for the animal but once they find their way into the carpets you probably won’t even know they are there! With this particular property being completely empty until the viewing took place, the eggs had lay dormant until the carpets were walked over again.

It is always a recommendation that any carpets or fabrics are thoroughly cleaned at the end of the tenancy and, if done professionally, keep the receipt as proof!

By Steve Roulstone

It is strange how issues worthy of writing about as far as Block Management are concerned have been somewhat thin on the ground and then within the space of two weeks several matters arise which  are worthy of note. This time it is the question of Fire and Health and Safety information in a block of leasehold flats.

The Story.

What happened here is we received a letter from the Fire Brigade, telling us of a call out they had received from a resident at a block that we manage because an alarm was set off over the bank holiday weekend. The problem here was that the letter was accompanied by an invoice for a wrongful call out, effectively billing the site for wasting the Fire Brigade’s time. A fine in effect, which they priced at (and no doubt the courts would uphold) £500.00.

The Impact.

We phoned the Landlord, who self manages the flat (looking after the Tenant themselves) and informed them that their Tenant had failed to read the notice displayed on the ground floor, or that the Landlord when moving somebody in had failed to point out the correct procedure, which clearly stated that when the alarm sounded, the first person to contact was our service providers Chubb Fire. This was the mechanism put in place to ensure the Fire Brigade were not called out as a false alarm.

The Responsibility.

As I have confirmed here, it is not our role to advise sub-let Tenants how the site runs. Their contract is with the Landlord and his agent and that is clearly where the legal duty lies. But this was not the reason given as why the Tenant did not deal with the incident in the manner instructed. Rather because they were Polish they were unable to understand or read clearly the instructions. I will leave aside the course of action any Landlord should take in ensuring their Tenant is well advised although the answer does lie partly in that fact.

The Information.

Several years ago during our first Health and safety check of the site, I had held a heated debate with the Company charged with carrying this inspection out, about the need to have notices in several differing languages, to ensure we were seen to do our best to ensure everybody on the site understood the necessary safety  instruction. My point was that the walls of the corridors were only so big and it would be impossible to supply sufficient translations to cover all possible nationalities and there subsequent language needs.

The Solution.

There is a serious point here, which is that it is impossible to supply a copy for all possible language requirements. Therefore our solution was to offer free translation, which it is not that difficult to do, for all requested languages. This way, whilst the legal responsibility does not lie with us, as stated, the relationship is between the sub Tenant and the Leaseholder, we could be seen to do our best for our Leaseholders and to reinforce what was happening, we wrote confirming this as part of a change to what have been called site rules, which we advised all owners are to be handed over to all subsequent owners. We also confirm this when we are able through requests for information for new owners as purchase questions are raised by the legal profession.

The Outcome.

All of this though definitely confirmed that the current Landlord is wrong in their assumption that the cost was not the responsibility of the Polish Tenant who called the Fire Brigade in the first place because he could not read the instructions correctly, therefore they will remain liable for this cost. The fact that we were accused of failing to supply a translation sits squarely with the Landlord as we had not been asked to supply one. What remains a fact is that It is impossible for us to cover every eventuality, and Landlords should realise that they are the party, as the second signatory to the agreement along with the Tenant, that carries the responsibility for ensuring the Tenant is correctly informed.

By Steve Roulstone

As a Letting agent who also offers Block Management services, it is a common scenario for us to have Landlords who have just purchased a Leasehold property to question what is behind the charges that are linked to Leasehold properties. We feel this is because, whether purchased new from a developer or through a Private sale, it seems the information given by the legal profession in explaining why and what the charges cover can lack depth.

Part one- who does what.

So this Blog which is in two parts is to confirm the differing scenarios you can be faced with when buying a Leasehold property. You would think this part would be straight forward, but it is not, as we fulfil a role where we can be employed by either side of a responsibility fence and at times made to look as if we are on the side of the Freeholder and at others holding up the rights of the Leaseholders. Complicated it is, but here as ‘Part one’ are the differing Management structures.

Freehold Controlled.

The Freeholder, if a Right to Manage (RTM) Company has not been set up, will control who does run the site, usually through a Managing Agent that they appoint and this is where the major difference lies. The Agent is therefore beholden to its client the Freeholder. The Leaseholders still pay in the same way as they would under any RTM but it is the freeholder and not the Leaseholder that has the power to control the budgets. It can therefore seem to the uninitiated that the Agent is working against the Leaseholder especially if the Leaseholder does not get their way when considering the site requirements.

Freeholder controlled with Resident input.

This is why on many sites where a Management Company has not been set up either by the Freeholder or the  Lessees through RTM a Residents Committee will exist enabling lessee input into day to day decisions about the running of the site. This is where problems can occur, because clear lines of authority become vague concerning who can request what and with what authority. It is a situation I shall return to.


More often than not nowadays, plans are drawn up for the site to be handed over to the control of a Management Company Ltd, who will be written into the Lease as the organisation responsible for running the site and appointing a Managing Agent. Handover would normally happen once a site is complete; this allows the builder to run the site until completion, although the payments and expenditure items will be a liability of the Leaseholder from day one. The Management Company would then take over the formal running of the site and be run by Directors appointed from Leaseholders with again, the Lease directing how such appointments are made. These positions are confirmed through the AGM attended by all Leaseholders once a year. Once the site is completed, the Freehold is then also passed on to the Management Company, who may or may not as the Company decides, continue to collect Ground Rent.

 RTM with Freeholder.

The other manner in which sites are run is where the Freeholder retains the Freehold and collect Ground Rent, however the RTM Company continues to run the site is exactly the same manner as the Freehold owning RTM and in fact little will be heard of from the Freeholder under this style of Management. This would normally happen on a smaller site developed by a smaller builder, but once again the Lease will dictate the rights and requirements of the parties concerned.

By Steve Roulstone

Once again I find myself reading a report condemning the rental sector, this time  as the background to the thrust of the actual article, which is about increasing trends in the rental sector. The reason given is financial insecurity which should come as no surprise to anybody, but the article takes the unreasonable opportunity to condemn the rental sector without providing any evidence for the statements made.

Hidden reasons.

Of course the reason why is to suggest that the Government (this is after all a left wing paper)  are forcing families down a road to unsettled and poor condition housing, when in reality, and I can only comment from what I know about, the truth is nothing like the picture painted and indication given within the report.

Bad Housing, Bad Landlords and High rents.

As a professional letting Agency, we will only take on property that is to standard and when allowed upgrade property as required. I say when allowed because only this morning I have been discussing a Tenant who will not allow access to make alterations which will vastly improve a bathroom. Equally, we always and ONLY advise Landlords of the correct path and procedures surrounding the property and their Tenants. Also, rents in Staffordshire are not rising and Tenants are benefitting from the number of properties on the market by making offers.

Source of information.

Because of this and with the knowledge that not every property or Landlord is perfect and therefore accepting that problems do exist, I would suggest that like most of what facts are listed in the article, it is the London market that is the source of the information. But it would be so much better if either the article were split into two, sticking to the point made as the reason for the increase and giving the chance for the detail behind these damning statements about the rental market instead of providing no evidence what so ever!   


I would agree however, as I have stated on oh so many occasions before, that the intended route the previous Government was intending to take, to ensure all agents were approved, is still the best possible route for the Industry. For if this is still a major problem, and as I have sated I can only comment on my local market, then the Industry itself, having launched ‘Safe Agent’ cannot be blamed for doing nothing to improve standards. The problem still seems to be in the Self Managed Landlord or the Agent who ignores all professional bodies and here all Tenants have a clear choice! Ask which bodies the agent belongs to that will protect them!


One of the first issues that I cannot agree with is that of legislation, because if ever an industry has been targeted it is the rental industry, with every facet of what we do coming under the legislative microscope for the last few years. The comment about deposits for example is a ‘throw away comment’ which cannot be supported, because any Tenant who suffers at the hand of an Agent or Landlord who does not use the Deposit legislation can be heavily fined and the Tenant has a clear route to take.

Tenant problems.

Of course what this could refer to is the number of Tenants who have found themselves loosing when being processed through the Deposit legislation, because although most do win because of badly prepared defences by the Landlord or Agent, I know as a fact, that if the Tenant looses when going through arbitration, they still blame the Agent and talk about the cost as if they have been treated unfairly. This of course is not the case, but as the article gives no background to the statements made we will never know!


But one bit of background I can supply is that the percentage of people renting privately has been increasing for years and particularly so over the last two years. I asked the Department of the Communities only last week if the overall privately rented % for 2011 was yet available and it is not, but I expect it to reach 20%, a rise of nearly 5% in the last two years. Therefore to state it may be 36% by 2025 (which let’s not forget is still over 12 years away) when twelve years ago it was at 9% would reflect a rate of increase through good AND bad times that at current trends will stand at 31% anyway!

Bad Journalism.

So I am afraid that overall I label this article as bad journalism, trying to score a political point without any confirmation of the statements made attacking an industry which is not represented and quoting figures, which, when you are aware of the background, are really not that surprising. But it does touch on one major factor. Unless the availability of mortgages for Buy to Let Landlords is improved, the supply of rented property will quite possibly dry up! But where I will concur, is that by failing to introduce Licensed Agents and Landlords, the standard of the current source of rented stock, namely properties that fail to sell could well continue to suffer. For without legislation, as we all know, when finances are strained, shortcuts are taken!

By Steve Roulstone

Part 4; Just how flexible is the house?

Finally in my humble opinion, you need to consider how easy the property will be able to be used as a rental house, not just for you as Landlord, but also by the Tenant. It is these practicalities that will be in the mind of any possible Tenant when they visit the house in the first place and my experience of such is littered with examples.


The number of times a rental has fallen through because the Tenant could not get his furniture (usually the settee) in the lounge is by far the most common. The size of room is not usually the issue, rather where are the doors situated. I myself have turned down a house because the Landlord had built a conservatory with an entrance from the lounge, which meant there were three doors and a fireplace to contend with. The end result was a total lack of wall space. There is also the issue of tight corners and narrow staircases. They do still exist and if for example the bedrooms do not have fitted wardrobes, you have to imagine how such large pieces of furniture are able to be manoeuvred around any tight corners.


Now for the big one! It is to be hoped that the garden is not the main reason anybody buys a rental home, but a fiddly set of borders and rockeries are a definite disadvantage to a Tenant. Exactly the opposite of flexible! It should also be remembered that just because a garden is immaculate when handed over, does not mean that the Tenants are expected to know when to cut plants back or down in accordance with the RHS Gardening year book. The expectancy on a Tenant to look after a garden is that of what is considered reasonable in very general terms. In other words, one man’s Eden project is another man’s Butterfly garden. Both are acceptable, providing they are not left alone completely. So make them easy to start with, it will pay in the long run. I am not suggesting concrete wall to wall, but perhaps a new lawn is better than a rockery and vegetable patch.


If you are lucky (just like my Landlords) The Tenant will rent for several years and decorate top to bottom himself. As a Landlord I have never been so lucky. So you need to consider how easy it will be for you to decorate, which will be needed along the way and ideally between Tenants. This means that dado rails and wallpaper are not the best way forward. Anaglypta however is perfect, because you can apply a coat of paint easily and quickly. Likewise anything other than sapele doors are more difficult and will probably need several coats. White painted doors fit the bill, look clean and are again neutral in colour and therefore better all round. The point being that these issues are not deal breakers, but by changing or decorating or dealing with them at this stage, you could remove difficult decisions from a later date and make the property more flexible during its lifetime as a rental property.

 Thats all folks!

This four part article is by no means the definitive ‘what to do when buying’, but hopefully it is a big enough one to provide you with a basis to start. In all seriousness it is your Agent (and everybody else you know who is a Landlord) that will help fill in the gaps. I have said before you will be surprised just how many people you know own at least one other property which is rented out. One thing for sure, is that the trends we are currently experiencing show no signs of slowing down. Even quite periods, the like of which we have witnessed since Easter are only a week away from a busy one. Only two weeks ago, we were discussing just how many properties we have available at present. After what are possibly two record weeks renting those very same properties, I know the ‘we need more properties to rent’ discussion is only a couple of days away!

By Steve Roulstone

Part 3; Will the house be popular with Tenants.

The next area for consideration when buying a house for the rental market, now you have your major suppliers sorted and know the property itself is sound of construction, is to look at the area itself and what facilities are going to attract Tenants to rent your property. The prime example is always the schools but access to public transport can be equally as important.

Style of House.

And in this case I do mean style! If you moved in tomorrow, would it provide everything you wanted? Would your furniture (and therefore anybody else’s) fit with the decoration. Making it easy for a Tenant to move in to a house is half the battle, if they do not have to compromise because their furniture does not ‘go’ with the decoration they are being asked to make a decision. If the decoration is neutral then it is one less decision to be made and that might just be the reason why your property is chosen. This means not only decorating as needed but fitting new carpets as well. Nowadays, the range available means that it is possible to find a quality finish such as the range of Berber which will be very pleasing on the eye and still hard wearing.

Bathroom and kitchen.

Now for the two most important rooms in the house. I always say it because people remember the description when put like this, that Tenants must be able to see themselves cooking in the kitchen and naked in the bathroom. This principal has never changed and with the number of properties available, if you are making a decision now then it is one to bear in mind from the start. A small kitchen does not allow for the vision of playing the chef and similarly a cold bathroom or one with poor decoration does not encourage people to feel comfortable in the house! These are important matters and ones that are not to be forgotten. I would suggest if the property you are considering does not offer these two rooms in good order, then either add the cost of replenishment or look elsewhere. I well remember looking at a house to confirm the Landlord had found a good property only to realise that it had no bath, just a shower. They are therefore ruling any Tenant with a small child out of the market for their home. Why reduce options if you do not need to?


So now let’s consider what is outside the front door and what your Tenant is liable to want. As mentioned, a house in a good school catchment area is always going to be popular. So you will need to find this out, although the price will reflect this as well (as would the achievable rent) but this will be the very reason why this property will cost more – popularity! Next, how do they get about? Is the local transport system close to hand, nobody wants to walk a mile to the bus stop, especially if kids are involved (this will just mean Mum and Dad Taxis Ltd!) On the other hand is it close to a local station, or a place of employment such as a hospital? By looking at the area and scoring the pluses against the minuses you will get a clear picture of how popular a property could be, but be realistic, those of us who like the countryside sometimes find it difficult to see why others do not. This is not about your opinion, but that of others, be sure it is their opinion you are thinking about.


Finally, look at the options for Tenants; this is a lot simpler than it sounds, because it is what the house offers that enables Tenants to use the house in differing ways.  In its simplest of forms, does the house have more than one reception room? Is there a garage or a shed, or a conservatory? All of these are going to allow the property be utilised in a more flexible manner. The more flexibility a Tenant can see in the home, the more reasons they can find to rent it. I well remember one of the reasons a house in Stafford was chosen above another was because there was a small office at the rear of the garage that was accessible from the house. The Tenant saw just how he was going to separate his children from the household when they had homework. Even though it was a smaller property than the other options he had, it was the flexibility that worked for him and the reason why that property won over others.

Knowledge is all.

The important point at this stage is to think about the scenarios around renting, imagine yourself in the house and how you would live in it and remember that the Agent you choose will be a vital source of information on all of these areas. This and all sources of information should be considered at this stage.

By Steve Roulstone

Part 2; Make sure it is sound for the future.

In this second of four Blogs about buying a house to rent, I am going to concentrate on the property itself and its long term sustainability. A rental property as an investment should be looked at as at least a ten year term. This is the period of time that history suggests all property will show an improvement in value in. That is what you are purchasing after all, an investment, so at this stage it is important to be sure the property is going to give you the life span you wish for trouble free. Of course, that cannot be guaranteed at such an early stage, but there are several areas that can be researched now to limit any possible expensive problems further down the line.


The first major area is the floors on both levels. What are they made from, do they look in good order, is there any evidence of damp on the lower floors? Are the carpets in good order? Does the property smell of damp? If there is a cellar, do not forget to look at the floor boards that will be exposed, this will help you understand the condition of the floor above. Problems apart from damp are if either electrics or heating have been installed as a secondary installation.  Alterations to a house are not always under the heading of modernisation. In the rented house I currently live in, so much was cut away from floorboards to cater for Central Heating pipes, new boards have had to be installed.


If at all possible, always look in the loft. Old or badly fitted roof trusses can cost a fortune to replace and if you do not get in to the loft (You can always take your own step ladders and torch) you may never find out. Although it is not just the roof of the house you are looking at that will give any problems away. Have the neighbours had new roofs? If so why? No harm in knocking on a door to find out.  Upstairs the problems to watch out for are the same, only this time the damp will be from the roof, so look out for signs of damp ceilings or condensation spots, such as old bathrooms with new appliances, the two do not always go together.


Two points for consideration here, firstly have the electrics been modernised and secondly do they need to be modernised. To look at the latter first, with today’s electronic requirements, a lack of plug points becomes a serious problem. I have known Tenants to phone and ask for increased plug points when a property only had two per room, and because the Landlord said no, they moved. Risk of an empty property is always to be avoided! The point that must be considered is do you want Tenants to have to run extension cables everywhere? If plug points are not supplied, they will have little option. Therefore re-wiring is a cost that will have to be born at some stage. If it has already been done, then a certificate by a competent electrician will have been provided. You will need to see it before proceeding, to prove the installer was competent and that the work was carried out to safe standards. Because of your duty of care to a Tenant, without such evidence, it would be difficult to prove you had provided it!


Another area where DIY installations are to be avoided! I was once asked to manage a house, where the DIY work was so bad, three Tenants could have died in the same instance, two from electrics and the third gassed because of lack of ventilation. Luckily we checked it all first. Central Heating which works and is efficient is a given nowadays. It has to be remembered that the selection of property is growing, cutting corners with either insufficient heating or inefficient heating is a situation to be avoided. Therefore, if new heating has been fitted then again, you need to know when and by whom? Ask for running costs as they should give you a feel for a problem if you think one exists. The boiler is then the piece of equipment that could cost the most, check its age and if it has been serviced on a regular basis?

Eyes open.

The first viewing, which if possible should be avoided at a time when the property is empty (else who will answer your questions?) Is the time to remove yourself from the feeling of being a proud owner of property. This is the time to consider all possible problems, who owns which boundary? Is it clear where boundaries lie? I always stop in each room and turn slowly, then do the same outside, front and back, garage and sheds, this is the best time to walk away – before you have actually started!