Monthly Archives: January 2013

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By Craig Smith

There was a time when a deal could be finalised with a handshake and that was that. A ‘gentleman’s agreement’ was good enough for most people without the need for any paperwork and trust played a big part in this. These days it always seems best to have some form of written agreement, not just in the lettings world but for almost everything in life. Whether it is buying a new sofa or signing for a mortgage, there always seems to be some form of contract to sign.

The reason for this is simple; it protects all parties involved and everybody should know exactly what they are signing for before they do it. There is even a campaign setup to ensure that any legal agreements are easy to understand and don’t baffle people with its complex wording (you may have seen their logo on something you may have already signed).

Tenancy Agreements

This leads back to lettings as it is always strongly recommended that a written tenancy agreement is in place. Both the Landlord and the tenant should know their responsibilities as things could get very messy should a dispute arise later down the line. A tenant could argue that they weren’t aware of something they had to do, something trivial in the big scheme of things such as clearing out the gutters at a property. But if there is nothing written down, it could be one person’s word against the other!

It isn’t just the actual tenancy agreement that is important, don’t forget our recent post regarding the Prescribed Information for deposits. There is a whole host of other documentation that needs to be sorted out which all adds up to the smooth running of a tenancy.

Regular Contact

Landlords need to remember that a good contact base with a tenant can pay dividends when the tenant vacates. They don’t need to be best buddies but regular contact is always a good idea. Most good agents, ourselves included, will visit the property on a regular basis to check that all is well and to note any issues. We do this around every 3 months or so as this is the industry standard. We don’t want to make the tenant feel pestered but at the same time, our job is to ensure that the property is being looked after and to report back to the Landlord.

Of course, Landlords who manage a property themselves might not have a regular system like this. (We find that having a good software system helps to keep us on track with so many properties to manage!) By keeping in touch regularly and visiting the property is almost always helps to prevent the risk of any disputes at the end of a tenancy.

Well Trained

Landlords who manage their own property don’t need any governing bodies to rent out a property but they do need to be aware of their responsibilities. I would never want a Landlord to ‘walk in blind’ to lettings as there is a lot more to it than just handing over the keys and waiting for the rent to come in. It could end up going wrong and we would always recommend them seeking advice from a professional agent before taking the plunge. (There is talk of having a national register of Landlords but we’ll no doubt find out more on that later.)

At the moment there is no legislation that says an agent needs to have any specific awards or qualifications in order to look after property. Although thinking about it, it would be silly to setup a business and not have any idea what to do! One of the key things that always reassures a Landlord when they look for an agent is the kite marks from specialist organisations, such as ARLA.

It All Adds Up

Some Landlords prefer to manage a property themselves because of the cost of involving an agent. Whilst most agents do try to keep costs as reasonable as possible, Landlords can have tight budgets with mortgages etc.

Regardless of who manages a property, the Landlord should always be aware of their obligations as the consequences for not looking after their property and tenants properly can be dire.

By Craig Smith

In another recent case a Landlord has been found to have not complied with legislation when protecting their tenant’s deposit. It can be a bit of a minefield if you are new to the industry but the rules are becoming clearer and clearer.

Not Just Deposit Protection

Where a deposit is covered by the legislation it isn’t enough to just protect the deposit. The Prescribed Information (PI) must be provided to the tenant at the start of the tenancy, usually within 30 days of the deposit being paid. The PI contains the information the tenant needs to know about where the deposit is going to be held and who has access to it. This recent case also proves that the tenants must be provided with the terms and conditions of the relevant deposit scheme.

What Information to Give?

You may have read my post about the DPS before so you’ll know that it is that scheme that our office uses. We must always give our tenants a set of the DPS terms & conditions which is a lengthy document but is worth its weight in gold should a case arise. The legislation states that it is the responsibility of the Landlord to ensure the information is given to the tenant and it is not up to the tenant to go looking for it. The terms and conditions are an important part of the PI as the case has proven. In this instance, the Landlord had registered the deposit in line with the legislation but hadn’t given the correct PI to the tenants.

There are also a lot more handy documents available through the DPS giving both tenants and Landlords advice on how to use the scheme. Don’t forget that each scheme differs slightly in the way their information is presented and they may not have an official set of terms and conditions, so to speak. 5 minutes checking you have the right stuff is better than 5 years recouping unnecessary costs!

Final Advice

Some of the information that needs to be provided may seem trivial but it is very easy to get hold of. Certainly with the DPS, the documents are free to download and can be found with a few clicks on their website.

The majority of tenants seem to ask what they need to do at the end of the tenancy anyway as the documents seem to get overlooked. You only need to read the details of the case mentioned here to see how really important they are!

By Craig Smith

From 28th January 2013 the Green Deal will be coming into force as part of the Energy Act 2011. The idea is that households can have a grant from the Government to install more energy efficient improvements which will then be paid back as part of their utility bills.


The basic way that the deal will work is for a homeowner to have their property surveyed to see if they could benefit from the grant. The grant would only be given if the savings that could be made would outweigh the installation costs as there would be no point otherwise! Some of the more well known improvements include loft insulation or installing a more energy efficient boiler.

Once the improvements have been carried out, the homeowner would pay back the grant over a set period of time as part of their energy bills but this would not come to any more than their regular bill payments. This way, in theory, they start to enjoy the savings almost straight away.

Clearly, the longer you live at the house the more savings you should make. Even if you did need to sell up or move quicker than expected, the grant repayments would stay with the property itself rather than the owner so the new occupier would pick up the bill but also enjoy the savings!

Landlords and Tenants

Having this done in your own home looks like a great way to save money, particularly if you don’t plan on moving any time soon. But when it comes to rental properties, it gets a little more complicated.

A tenant could still save money and help the environment which can only be a good thing. However, tenants may not be so keen to take part in the scheme if they aren’t planning on staying put for very long. A lot of tenants, for example, only rent because they need to move around for work and may need to move on again in a few months time. Don’t forget that in the majority of lets it is the tenant who pays for the utilities, thus covering the extra bill and saving very little in the short term.

Good or Bad News for Letting?

Some tenants may see this as them paying for improvements to someone else’s property. And whilst they may enjoy some savings when they are living there, they wont gain anything when they vacate.

However, what sounds like a disadvantage for some Landlords could be beneficial to others, depending on the tenants in the property. Longer term tenants may want to benefit from the savings and could also improve the Landlords property at the same time. Perhaps a longer term tenancy agreement could be agreed for some tenants who would be willing to take up the grant? This would ensure that the tenant benefits from the potential savings and also gives both the Landlord and the tenant security of having the home let for a longer period.

Stricter Rules in the Coming Years

This deal comes in at just the right time as from April 2018, it looks set that no property with an EPC rating of a band E or lower could be legally let. (The aim is to not just save money but to reduce the impact on the environment from energy usage.) This could be bad news for Landlords of the more rural or older properties. We don’t yet know if the sales of such properties will be affected but with energy usage becoming bigger and bigger news, it does look as though it will have some impact. Would you want to buy a property knowing it would cost a fortune to run or not be able to let it out?

By Craig Smith

They say there is a first time for everything and here we are commenting on a big issue made aware by a TV soap!

There is a storyline currently running where one of the residents in Coronation Street has suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning thanks to a dodgy boiler repair. This doesn’t just make good viewing but also raises the awareness of having someone competent to do the right job.

Competent Worker

The boiler had been repaired by a friend with some mechanical knowledge as a goodwill gesture. OK, this is soap land but these kinds of things could happen in your street. What starts as a helpful neighbour could turn into something disastrous if not done properly.

By law, anyone working on a gas appliance such as a boiler or gas fire needs to be Gas Safe registered and hold the necessary skills to carry out any works. Carbon monoxide has no odour and in many cases can kill or seriously harm someone without them having any idea there is a leak.

Work in Other Areas

The same principles apply to other times of work such as electrical installations & repairs and day to day maintenance. Electricians must hold the correct certifications in order to install or replace any fittings or appliance and in general day to day repairs, you wouldn’t ask a roofer to put up some shelves, would you?!

The Consequences

The results of a bodged repair can not only affect the people in a property but also the person who was responsible for the work. With regards to gas safety, the person responsible could not only be fined but could also face a jail term as punishment.

Always Check

This is the reason you should always check who is coming to work on your home. This is important not only if you are an owner occupier but more so if you are a Landlord. If you instruct someone who is not suitably qualified to carry out the relevant works, you could be putting the lives of your tenants at risk and could also be held responsible!