By Steve Roulstone

 There has been a lot of confusion caused by the Housing Act of 2004, where HMO property is concerned as introduced in April 2006 surrounding licensed buildings, but the changes are actually simpler than they first appear.

 To license or not to license?

 This is the real question for Landlords and the real crux behind the changes. It is also where a clear definition of what represents a House of Multiple Occupation. Conversely, it is also this area that has given rise to the biggest area of confusion amongst Landlords and the mistaken belief that if there house does not match these criteria, that HMO regulations can be ignored.

 Two families and the Council decide.

What all Landlords need to be aware of and appreciate is that any property that has more than two families living at the property (More than two families represented who are not co-habiting) as their permanent address, then as far as the Council are concerned, it is an HMO! Maybe not one that needs a license, but as far as safety is concerned and this can mean Fire doors and surrounds, Fire walls and escape windows, then the Council will in all probability order that such safety measures are installed for the safety of the Tenants.

The Council decides, or not!

And here is the next problem facing all Landlords. Not all Councils take the same view or level of safety when considering identical styles of property! Prior to its introduction I spoke to and worked with my Council, who independently of other areas, decided to take a review of all property that they believed was operating as an HMO through there register of student homes in the Town. This gave me both an insight and early approach to both the knowledge needed and ensuring my Landlords, existing and new, were well informed.

Confident letting.

 So what my advice to all Landlords is, if you are renting to more than two family units, then your local Council will definitely consider it to be a House of Multiple Occupation. Unless it requires licensing by number of stories or people residing, then you could be forced to take appropriate changes to the safety of the building as your Council sees fit, so take advice first and speak to the Council before you find out the hard way!

Steve Roulstone

By Steve Roulstone

No matter what industry you want to review, whether it be Business to Business, Business to Public, retail, office, or home based or a man with a van style Franchise, when considering your future in Franchising, you need to be well informed.

The initial Package.

The difficulty for Franchisors, especially if the industry concerned is a complex one like my Company, Castle Estates with varied and many areas of legislation as well as being an industry that provides different levels and styles of service, is the initial package of information sent to Prospective Franchisees, can only give a brush stroke image and never the full picture.

Grasping the message.

All Franchisors make every effort to provide quality literature, especially those who are members of the BFA but if we try to give too much information, then it is very difficult for the Franchisee to take it all on board from the written word. The answer has to be to offer an open day where the story can be told using a structured approach, giving the prospect the opportunity to ask those all important questions.

Franchise Opportunities

This is why so many organisations involved with Franchising both offer or recommend a visit to the respective Head Office and a few hours to understand method, purpose, Industry, path, and so much more. So when you get asked to attend an Open Day, do not be concerned, it means that the Company providing the Franchise wants to ensure that before you make that all important Franchise Investment, you have all the information you need. In my Industry the term Location, Location, Location, is well known, but I want to be sure that anybody who contacts Castle Estates, is in a position to receive Information, Information , Information as well!

By Steve Roulstone

Landlords Legal Expenses and Rent Guarantee (LERG)Insurance is a vehicle that has been available for many years to protect Landlords from loss of rent and the cost of taking action against Tenants not fulfilling their obligations. The knowledge their income is protected has to be a serious consideration for all Landlords.

Only one way do it – the right way.

As both a Landlord and a professional Letting Agent holding LERG cover is a position I always recommend. Almost all LERG policies as a prime benefit of full management carry professional referencing as a prerequisite to being able to take the insurance so further credence is given to the Tenant wishing to rent your property when a pass is achieved. In fact, it could be said Landlords without LERG are taking unnecessary risks if, when presented with the option, the Insurance is not taken out.

Security in the System.

Yet amazingly, I have this week been advised of a situation where an agent acting on behalf of a Landlord, instead of offering referencing services to their client, simply requested ‘Referees’ from the prospective Tenant and then asked for a Guarantor, presumably because they did not like the look of the Tenant!

Renting your House or Home

I wish here to give as much credence to the ‘Agent’ as possible, but as a Landlord, I would not be happy committing the security of my property to somebody who decided themselves if the person in front of them was a good Tenant or not. We all think we can take such decisions because we have the necessary experience and after the years I have spent in this industry I would consider myself to be a good judge, but I would never put myself in the position of taking a risk with somebody else’s investment! This is simply not a good idea where referencing is concerned.

Follow the professional recommendation

If industry bodies such as ARLA recommend referencing and or simple credit checks to ensure security through agents, then surely all agents should make such arrangements to protect their clients. Sounds like I’m beating the same old drum – you bet I am!!

By Steve Roulstone


Agent Legislation – A missed opportunity?

Our new Government have announced that they will not be pursuing the recommendations of the Rugg Review from last year and there will be no professional registration for Letting Agents. The recommendation that all Landlords be required to register will also be dropped.

Door still open for lack of Knowledge.

This could be a lost opportunity as at the very least, other Agents who look to the rental sector for income when other income falls away, would have at least be forced to carry out the role with a minimum of qualification and letting agents who do cut corners would be held to account.

Professional Agents.

But will this change effect the Professional Agents in our Industry, certainly for us at  Castle Estates as we saw this situation, as a possibility to be seen as professional leaders within our Industry? This aim will not change, but we will now wait with interest to see exactly how our Professional bodies react and for this I will be looking at ARLA and NALS for positive leadership.

Government reaction

It was stated by the Housing Minister Grant Shapps that he was ‘Putting Councils on alert’ that they should pursue Landlords and Agents who do not look after their Tenants or Properties and act unethically and that Councils should ‘Use the range of powers already at their disposal’ in doing so.

Time to step to the mark.

But will they? And what will our Governing bodies do to promote such action? This is definitely where I will be placing my time in both speaking with my own Council, with whom I have had both contact and a working relationship for many years, in particular during the introduction of HMO regulations and ARLA and NALS in asking what policy they will pursue in ensuring that Councils carry out their role and police the Rental sector as directed.

By Steve Roulstone


The Golden touch of Magnolia.

Surprisingly, or maybe not when you understand why, it is still the simple touch that gets the approval from Tenants. Unfurnished and plain walls with plain carpet in good order and no matter what you feel, Magnolia fits the bill. The first Golden Rule of rentals.

Flat or House to Rent.

The choice is still the same. Tenants need to be able to see their own Furniture and belongings in the property they wish to rent and if the walls and floors are in neutral colours, then there is an increased chance they will pick your property.

Avoid the Regulations.

There are two points about why a Landlord should avoid Furniture, firstly the whole question of what is allowed and what is not can be avoided if no soft furnishings are included and secondly, no matter what furniture is included, experience tells me that something will come under question, either the lack of what the Tenant perceives as items that should be included or the wish to be able to bring their own bed or three piece, making said item you have provided extra to requirements and leaving you with the problem of storage.

Unfurnished Home to Rent.

So maximise your options in this ever growing market and making it easier for your Tenant to choice your home, is the next best thing. To prove the point, consider this: In all of my time at Castle Estates I have always received agreement when I point out that Tenants look after their own property better than the Landlords! This is only natural and I believe we would all be the same the upside is that they will also look after the house better when populated by the Tenants furniture.

Unfurnished, not Unimpressive.

But do not forget the power of impression. Imagine yourself Cooking in the Kitchen and Bathing in the Bathroom of your property. Now if you would be happy so would your Tenant. Quality Kitchens and Bathrooms in a neutrally decorated and carpeted house will put you at the top of the property rental selection tree!


By Steve Roulstone

All those stories about Tenants trashing rented houses, you would have thought that in all these years I would have heard so many!

The truth often Surprises!

In Eleven years of Property Management at Castle Estates Stafford I must have Managed or been involved increating well over 2000 tenancies on properties for rent. Yet the stories number no more than the fingers on one hand!

Renting property – As popular as ever!

I have witnessed a significant change over the last decade and I see no reason why more property should not continue to be offered to the rental sector in the UK year upon year. Ask the Estate Agents why they get involved in Rental Property?

Renting property – As safe as Houses!

And this is where we can bury the myth! People rent now as a real option in their lifestyle and because it is a life choice for the majority, the Houses they Rent become part of that lifestyle our Tenants look after and respect the houses that give them that choice.

The Future is bright!

Because the UK shows no sign of changing its trend towards the flexibility offered by the rental market and because the Market, Government driven (Government responce to The Rugg Report) is becoming Professional day upon day it is becoming clear that Industry Regulation and Landlord Registration is the future.

So choose the Professionals.

Whether you are a Tenant or a Landlord looking to invest in Property, the choice is becoming clearer. By choosing the Professional Agents in the Rental Market, you will be looked after by People who know how to protect your interest and your property will be Tenanted by the kind of people you want, People who understand the facility you are offering and understand what it represents, People just like you!

 By Steve Roulstone

OK, so you want a buy a Franchise! But in what Industry? Let me list some of the reasons I chose a Property Franchise.


Well let’s face it the Property Market could not be any bigger could it? Everybody needs somewhere to live and modern patterns dictate that we move more often and the Nation is following the European way and moving towards Property Rental more and more.

Legal matters!

The Property Law is complicated and confusing and is an excellent base for running a business. Surely the more complex the more room the market gives for professional services? Is this not why we all have a Solicitor? So yes Legal does matter and is the basis for running a professional Property Management Company.

The all important £.

It is not just that each property can give a return of four figures per year, but also that it gives that return without being prompted! The Property Rental market is set up so that Letting Agents are paid quickly and efficiently, so Cash Flow is always positive. I know how important that was to me.

Time on the Job.

I found that so many Franchises offer a return based on how much you can do in a day. Property Management is so different. Yes, the more you manage, the more you have available, but, it is also true that the more you manage, the less need involvement every day, leaving you free to develop new business, whilst the existing business looks after itself.

Put it all together and I found Castle Estates!

I chose a Property Franchise because of these reasons if you think you agree that a large professional market, offering a reasonable return for each unit of sales quickly and without delay, whilst still offering the opportunity to develop further income then property Management could also be for you!

Steve Roulstone - Director, Castle Estates

By Steve Roulstone

The traditional route of starting a business on your own is not always the route taken to Franchising, for example, the Business Franchise can be stated in many ways. In certain markets, existing offices where the Franchisee is retiring or changing direction are available for sale and can offer an instant trading return.

Other Franchise opportunities

There are also specialist agencies who market existing portfolios in certain industries, such as the Lettings Industry, that can give the same trading start, but offer the possibility of giving the existing brand fresh impetus that a recognised Franchise name can deliver and be very profitable. Sometimes, with careful research, this can be the best way forward for any entrepreneur.

Business to Business opportunities

It is also noticeable that more existing independent Letting Agent brands are approaching Franchising to ensure they are well informed and trading at the front of an industry where such information and advice has been expensively purchased in the past and Franchising now becomes a value for money method of ensuring compliance.

Being aware of what Franchise Opportunities exist

Has to be a part of any Franchisor’s strategy, At Castle Estates we make sure that we listen to every potential Franchisee’s so we can make them aware of what is available to them in this ever evolving market of ours. Partnerships, existing offices for re-sale, opportunities with existing Companies and existing portfolios, all need to be considered. What we should do is make sure our customers are aware as well.