Braced for the worst winter in decades, forecasters have warned that the UK is set to see severe temperatures below freezing, brutal winds and snow fall. Both Landlords and Tenants need to be vigilant during such times, ensuring that the necessary precautions are taken to protect their property if it is becoming vacant or if the tenant is going away on holiday.
Indeed, frozen pipes can have a catastrophic effect on a property, often bursting pipes and cascading water into a property and damaging not only the fabric of the building, but also the Landlords and Tenants contents.
It is therefore important to ensure that your property is protected from the weather and severely low temperatures and often switching everything off if you are going away can be the worst thing to do, as pipes can then freeze and burst if there is no heating left on. Empty properties where a tenant has moved out though, can have the water systems drained off or the heating left on, which ever the Landlord prefers, but bursts while a tenant is in occupation can mean that a tenant is negligent and it may cost them thousands if the Landlord's insurance does not cover the effect of the burst.
Here are some winter guidelines for both Tenants and Landlords to consider :
1. Ensure that any chimneys in the property are swept at least once a year to prevent chimney fires from occurring.
2. Ensure that any water pipes and water tanks are adequately lagged and insulated.
3. Ensure that any outside taps and toilets are turned off and drained down.
4. Advise tenants to keep the heating on if they are going away at a minimum of 15 degrees. It is also sensible to open the loft hatch, allowing air to circulate into the roof helping to prevent freezing pipes.
5. If the property is to be left empty for any prolonged period of time, it is sensible to have the heating / water system drained down.
Hopefully, if we all take on board these precautions, we may all have an event free winter.
Following a recent survey by one of the country's largest online agents, the Top Ten Qualities of a good landlord are said to be :
1. Easily contactable
2. Friendly & polite
3. Doesn't interfere too much
5. Should build personal relationships with the Tenant
6. Landlords should deal with issues quickly
7. Landlords should maintain their properties
8. Landlords should consult tenants on the timing of any repairs
9. Landlords should give plenty of notice to enter the property
10. Tenants would like regular communication from the Landlord or Agent
The best rated Landlords apparently deal with problems swiftly, provide the tenant with plenty of notice before entering a property, consult tenants on the timing of repairs and keep in regular contact. Other behaviour that clearly annoys tenants is those Landlords who moan about the cost of repairs, those that rely on cheap furnishings and those that treat a tenant as an income stream and not a person.
Source : UPAD
One in three renters end their tenancy due to the poor condition of the property they are living in.
This is according to a new survey carried out by shower manufacturer Methven and the National Landlords Association (NLA), which found low quality fixtures and fittings are a major cause of tenant grievances. It also revealed that less than ten per cent of respondents were completely happy with the condition of their home.
Close to two-thirds of tenants said the standard of bathrooms in rental properties is normally average or below, while 16 per cent said they are poor. A further 53 per cent claimed a good shower is an essential feature of a home.
The study revealed that decorations and quality are the most important thing renters look for in a property, with 33 per cent citing it as their top priority. Location is the factor tenants consider second, with 30 per cent highlighting this as important.
Where more and more people are renting, it is no longer acceptable to offer properties for rent with poor quality fittings and fixtures, indeed, renting is becoming the tenure of choice for an ever increasing portion of the population and they require standards of accommodation that they would expect if they were buying a property.
Good landlords generally recognise this and they ensure that their properties are well presented and maintained throughout the duration of a tenancy and also prior to reletting, often refreshing the paintwork and professionally cleaning throughout.
The survey also revealed tenants take water and energy efficiency into consideration when choosing a place to rent, with nearly three-quarters of respondents saying this is important to them.
The survey demonstrates that tenants refuse to put up with below par conditions, but by instigating a relatively small number of improvements and eco-efficient measures, landlords could benefit from the long term financial security of having happy tenants. This is proven in a number of properties that PWR manage, including a lady who has occupied a property in Kirkby in Ashfield for over 15 years now, where the landlords have actually changed the kitchen and redecorated throughout while she has been living there !
The results of this study provides an insight into what influences tenants when choosing a property and by taking this on board, agencies and landlords can work to improve their portfolios.
The UK housing market is showing signs of recovery, with the latest data from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) revealing that house prices rose at their fastest pace in 11 years in September 2013.
Coinciding with the launch of the government's Help to Buy scheme on the 8th October, there has been speculation that the figures mark a shift in the residential property landscape, with the new initiative set to assist first-time buyers in securing mortgages.
However, rising prices may well provide good news for landlords in the private rented sector.
In addition to representing growth in the value of the initial investment, higher property values may also price many people out of purchasing a home, boosting demand for rented accommodation even further than it is already.
The Treasury Select Committee yesterday warned chancellor George Osborne that the three-year Help to Buy scheme is likely to drive prices higher, with more people competing for a limited number of houses for sale.
"Given the chequered history of government interventions in residential property, great care will need to be taken in both the construction and running of this scheme.
"Mistakes could distort the housing market or carry threats to financial stability. The Government has yet to allay the committee’s concerns about the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme. It may not have the effects intended," the cross-party group of MPs warned.
The data published by RICS shows that prices in all regions of the UK - with the exception of the north-east - rose last month, with the balance of respondents expecting prices to grow by a further 2.6 per cent over the course of the next 12 months.
More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of surveyors polled reported an increase in enquiries from potential buyers.
Source : RICS
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has pledged to clampdown on tax avoidance in the private rental sector (PRS).
It has launched the 'Let Property' campaign in a bid to collect the hundreds of millions of pounds that is estimated to have been unpaid by the sector.
However, as a reputable agent, PWR Lettings advise its clients to take independent advice on their tax affairs if they do not fully understand the HMRC requirements to rented property and if they haven't already, our clients should take this opportunity to get their affairs in order.
HMRC recognises that there will be instances where individuals have either deliberately not declared rental income on let properties or made an honest mistake and the sooner these are corrected the better for our clients.
It is likely that those who choose to put their head in the sand and ignore the requirements, can expect to face much tougher penalties and even run the risk of a criminal prosecution, according to some tax experts. HMRC is using increasingly sophisticated software, which means that the chances of successfully avoiding tax is becoming significantly reduced.
If you are unsure of your obligations, we urge you to take independent advice sooner rather than later.
Recent press coverage by The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) has stated the importance of a detailed inventory when it comes to tenant disputes regarding decorating.
The AIIC has warned property owners are failing to protect themselves by not accurately recording the condition of a home at the start of a tenancy and not making it clear to tenants what constitutes a neutral colour.
PWR Lettings ensure that a full inventory and schedule of condition is undertaken on all of its managed lets and the detail of each inventory is of the utmost importance in order to benchmark the condition of the property at the start of each letting, not only to protect the tenants deposit, but also to protect the Landlords property.
There are a lot of disputes that arise through the deposit schemes where parties agreed to the tenant redecorating, but the precise details were not clearly defined. PWR Lettings always ask for a tenant to specify exactly what decorating is to be undertaken, where it is to be undertaken and in which colours and finishes.
If approved by the Landlord, the tenant is sent a letter setting out exactly what the decorating permission is for, where it applies and which colours and finishes have been agreed. We also state in all circumstances, that any decorating must be completed to a professional standard in order to ensure that any emulsion is not splashed on skirtings, etc. Often, a paragraph in the letter will stipulate whether the property must be returned to its original colours at the end of the tenancy as well. A copy of this letter is then held on file with the Inventory, pending the checkout at the end of the tenancy.
By taking this approach, PWR ensure that our managed properties are only redecorated in colours and finishes approved by the landlord and we rarely come across issues with tenants undertaking unauthorised redecoration as a result.
Residential property prices in England and Wales posted their strongest monthly rise since May 2007, with values rising 0.5 per cent in September compared to the previous month, according to fresh figures released by Hometrack. Prices were up 2.4 per cent from the corresponding month last year, the biggest annual increase since December 2007.
The latest data from the monthly national housing survey from Hometrack shows that 41 per cent of markets registered price rises in September, up from six per cent a year ago.
The latest property price rise reflects growing market sentiment, with rising demand, low mortgage rates and falling supply all combining to push up house values.
Property price rises were led by gains in London and the South East, where 70 per cent of markets registered price increases month-on-month, supported manly by a major supply-demand imbalance.
Richard Donnell, Director of Research at Hometrack, commented, “Housing market conditions continued to strengthen across the country in September 2013. Growing confidence amongst buyers, continued growth in sales volumes and a drop in the number of homes for sale pushed house prices 0.5% higher over the month – this is the strongest monthly increase in house prices since May 2007.
“The impetus for higher growth is coming from a burgeoning recovery across regional housing markets, especially across the South East. Over the last few years the housing market has been split between a buoyant London market, boosted by overseas demand, and a trend of falling prices across other regions on weak domestic demand.”
The Hometrack survey also highlighted a steady improvement in underlying market conditions outside of London since early 2012.
“Now we are seeing continued house price growth in London combining with modest gains across other regions and creating a picture of a broadening market recovery,” Donnell added.
He continued, “Price rises were registered across 41% of the country in September, the highest coverage of price rises for 80 months [February 2007]. The coverage of house price growth has accelerated in the last nine months across all regions. However, price rises remain limited to less than a third of the market in seven out of ten regions.”
The Hometrack data supports other property price indexes which also show that residential values are on the up.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently said that home prices in England reached a record high in July, with values 0.9 per cent above what it was at the previous peak in January 2008.
Source : Property Drum
The Prime Minister David Cameron has revealed that the Government is to launch the second phase of its Help to Buy scheme three months early, despite mounting concerns that the scheme is contributing to a new housing bubble.
The next phase of the scheme will start next week, with three state-backed banks - Nat West, RBS and Halifax - offering the taxpayer subsidised mortgages.
Phase two of the initiative, which helps buyers purchase any residential property worth up to £600,000 with just a five per cent deposit, was scheduled to launch in January. But Cameron told the press that he decided to bring the launch date forward in order to help more “people get on the housing ladder”.
Help to Buy was first launched in April this year, providing first-time home buyers with state-backed loans worth up to 20 per cent of the price of a new build home, helping to drive up demand for new homes.
In the first four months after its launch, some 12,500 reservations had been made through the Help to Buy scheme.
Help to Buy has clearly been a success. It is addressing a lack of mortgage availability, which is the main constraint on the market, and if people can buy, builders can build. However, many housing commentators fear that Help to Buy risks creating a new housing bubble.
Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, recently raised questions about “whether it [second phase of Help to Buy] should come into effect in light of the changing market conditions”.
In voicing his concerns publically, Vince Cable joined the growing list of high-profile critics of the Government's flagship property scheme, which includes the IMF, the Office for Budget Responsibility, Treasury select committee, the Bank of England, the Adam Smith Institute and IMLA.
Talk of a potential property bubble is wide of the mark say other commentators. People are worried about the bubble despite the fact that as Cameron said over the weekend, ‘If you talk about a bubble to people where I am in Manchester they’d laugh in your face’, he commented. If there was any criticism it would be the upper limit, £600,000, which is frankly double what it should be.
Source : Property Drum
In the United Kingdom, a recovery appears to be taking hold. But the legacy of adjustment and repair left by the financial crisis means that the recovery is likely to remain weak by historical standards.
CPI inflation rose to 2.9% in June and looks set to remain around that rate in the near term. Against that backdrop, the Committee has provided some explicit guidance regarding the future conduct of monetary policy. The MPC intends at a minimum to maintain the present highly stimulative stance of monetary policy until economic slack has been substantially reduced, provided this does not entail material risks to price stability or financial stability.
In the Committee's view, a sustained recovery in both demand and supply appears likely. The outlook for growth is stronger than in May, mainly reflecting a marked improvement in business and consumer sentiment. This stronger demand is assumed to be largely matched by an increase in effective supply capacity, such that the outlook for inflation is similar to May, with inflation expected to fall back to around the 2% target over the forecast period.
The policy decision.
A recovery appears to be under way, although its strength and sustainability remain unclear.
Inflation remains well above the target, but seems likely to fall back to around the 2% target in the latter half of the forecast period.
The exceptional weakness in productivity means that there is considerable uncertainty about the supply capacity of the economy as demand recovers. As a result, the trade-off between the horizon over which inflation returns to the target and the speed with which output and employment recover is unusually uncertain. Misjudging that trade-off could have significant costs in the medium term.
In these unprecedented circumstances, explicit policy guidance can enhance the effectiveness of monetary stimulus in three ways. It provides greater clarity regarding the MPC's view of the appropriate trade-off between the speed with which inflation is returned to the target and the support given to the recovery. It reduces uncertainty about the future path of monetary policy as the economy recovers. And it delivers a robust framework within which the MPC can explore the scope for economic expansion without putting price stability and financial stability at risk.
At its August meeting, in the light of both the economic outlook and these considerations, the MPC voted to maintain Bank Rate at 0.5% and the stock of asset purchases at £375 billion.
Source : ARLA
An increasing number of novice landlords are entering the rental market, according to new research by Paragon Mortgages. Their confidence tracking survey has revealed more than a fifth (22 per cent) of intermediaries' buy-to-let business in the second quarter came from individuals who are new to the sector.
This is good news for the Private Rented Sector as there is a distinct lack of good quality properties available to meet the demand from those who would otherwise be buying a property. Letting Agents have generally got an under supply of suitable property coming on to the market and the specialist agents are often letting most of their stock if it is priced correctly and in good order, within the month it is taken on.
Paragon's research also revealed the number of landlords looking to grow their portfolios is on the rise, as more than half (57 per cent) of the intermediaries surveyed claimed they have seen an improvement in the availability of buy-to-let finance.
With perceptions shifting in terms of the improved availability of buy-to-let finance too, the lending industry is in a good place to support the ambitions of both new and experienced landlords, however, making sure that the investor gets the correct advice before buying is always an issue.
This is particularly the case where a novice investor takes advice from the Estate Agent looking to sell them a property, as they are only usually interested in gaining the sale and do not generally have any vested interest in the ongoing letting and management of that property for the investor.
In order for investors to make the right decisions about Buying to Let, they should seek expert advice from a reputable Letting Specialist who is confident in achieving the target rental for a property. PWR Lettings are Specialists in the Acquisition, Letting and Management of Residential Property across Nottinghamshire.