Check Internet Broadband Speed In Your Area
Is the speed of your internet or the mobile phone coverage in your area affecting your property rentals?
According to a survey carried out in UK, by RootMetrics, an independent mobile phone research company, 64% of the 2,000 who completed the survey said that good mobile phone reception was a consideration for them when considering a property.
The survey was carried out with the questions being based on buying a property but as the age group in question (16-24 year olds) are more likely to rent/let a property, then it may be a safe assumption to assume the same about the rental/letting market.
How to check Mobile phone coverage in your area
The biggest mobile network providers have coverage checkers on their sites. These online tools can give you an indication of 2G (voice and text) and 3G (mobile broadband) coverage according to your postcode. These are to be used as a guide only and not a guarantee of actual signal coverage.
Click any of the links below to check the signal:
Tesco Mobile coverage checker (uses the map of its partner O2)
Many rented properties do not have telephone land-lines as the ‘switching on’ is usually and extra cost for renters when they move in and also an additional monthly bill. Landlords may therefore start to get asked the question ‘what’s the mobile phone coverage like around here?’
How to check Internet speed in your area
The government’s aim is to have 90% of UK homes and businesses to have access to super-fast broadband by 2015, with the other 10% being able to download at speeds of at least 2Mb.
You can find out the broadband speed in a street/area by clicking INTERNET SPEED CHECK . This service allows you to check the speed of the upload and downloads on a particular street, ideal for those who are looking to buy/rent and super-fast internet is a priority.
If you are thinking of BTL (Buying To Let) then you may wish to add mobile phone coverage and internet/broadband speed onto your ‘wish list’ as it may be THE advantage that your property has over others similar.
Where Has My Deposit Been Protected?
As a landlord you have to secure/protect the deposit that the tenant has given you. Guidelines on this change from time to time but it currently stands at that it has to be secured within 30 days of receiving the deposit and you have to provide the tenant with the relevant information (usually a certificate and prescribed information).
BUT, sometimes for one reason or another the paperwork gets lost or someone else takes over the admin and the protected deposit information gets misplaced. You can still find out where your deposit is protected by searching through the schemes that are available by following this link Find My Tenancy Deposit
Once you have found out who the deposit is protected/secured with you can then get all the details you need in order to unsecure it, dispute it, print off certificates and prescribed information or update it.
Do I Need A Certificate Of Service When Issuing Tenant Notice?
As a landlord you have to issue a section 21 or section 8 to a tenant in order to give them the required notice that you want your property back.
You may have heard someone mention getting a certificate of service (also known as N215) after giving a tenant notice and wondered if you needed to have the same?
This depends on whether you are the landlord or not. If you are the landlord of the property you DO NOT need to have a certificate of service. An N215 (certificate of service) is only needed if the person serving the notice is NOT the landlord so either an agent or a 3rd party.
A Certificate of Service is a document that states what documents are being served to the tenant outlining the tenants name, property address and how it has been served. It is a legal notice that is required for the process of claiming the property back through the courts.
If you do need a certificate of service then you will need to add this notice when/if you are applying to the courts for possession of the property. You must always keep a copy of this notice for your own records and it would be advisable to get a reciept for the original from the courts.
FREE Download Certificate of Service (Form N215)
You can get more information and download a free copy of form N215 at http://hmctscourtfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/n215-eng.pdf
UPROAR As Private Landlords Find Out That It’s One Rule For One And One Rule For Another On EMPTY PROPERTY TAX
New council tax rules that came into force on 1st April are proving to be no April fool joke for landlords in the private rented sector .
As most landlords will know from the 1st April new rules came into force allowing each local authority to set their own level of exemption for council tax on empty property, rather than the blanket exemption of 6 months each council can charge up to 150% of the council tax on an empty house from day 1 .
This is causing a lot of problems for private landlords and can only lead to rises in rent, one of the objectives the new rules were supposed to prevent.
Tenants have a legal right to peaceful enjoyment of their home which includes and rightly so, being able to refuse any landlord or agent request to show any prospective new tenants around before they hand over the property at the end of their tenancy or notice period. This leaves landlords in a position of not only having to turn the property around and carry out repairs quickly but also not being able to market the property (as tenant refusing access for viewings) until the end of a tenancy but still in many council areas having to pay full council tax as soon as the property has been handed over.
Now this would be all well and good if there were a level playing field but as landlords are finding out there isn’t.
Many housing associations some of them formed by the transfer of existing council house assets are set up in such a way that they are registered charities and can claim Class B exemption which gives them the luxury of 6 months council tax free.
Why do our politicians repeatedly make these mistakes when it comes to housing policy? Do they not sit down and think things through and see that there will be unforeseen consequences ?
This rule change is a bureaucratic burden it will increase rents for tenants, it will increase costs for private landlords and it will increase resentment by once again implementing a change in the tax rules that are seen not to be fair and uniform throughout the PRS.
Taking Deposits, Security or Liability For Landlords?
Taking deposits used to a be an added security for a landlord but now many landlords feel that taking a deposit has turned into a liability.
On reflection a number of landlords give back 90+ % of their deposits back in full with no deductions Usually deductions are taking for cleaning and touching up the paintwork. Some tenants would argue that this was wear & tear and if that did go to dispute then the chances are that the ruling would go in the tenants favor (unless of course the property was trashed).
Landlords take a deposit as added security that if the property is damaged or the tenant doesn’t pay the rent (or in some cases the utility bills) then the monies owing can be taken out of the deposit. Since the changes the Tenancy Deposit Schemes this year have enabled tenants to claim the deposit back in full PLUS up to 3 times the amount of the deposit PLUS not issue a section 21 until the prescribed deposit protection information has been served to the tenant, it is understandable why some landlords now feel that taking deposits from tenants has turned into a liability rather than the intended added security it was suppose to be.
Speaking to John Newsome who is a private landlord and rents a number of properties in Yorkshire. John has decided against taking deposits and said “it was the best decision I’ve ever made”. John now has no void periods as the issue of finding a deposit has been eliminated and is looking to buy more properties as he can’t keep up with demand for his high quality 1,2,3 bedroom properties.
John goes on to say that he still reference checks his applicants and always gets a guarantor (reference checks them as well) In John’s words “The guarantor IS my deposit and also my rent collector. It is amazing how tenants don’t forget to pay their rent and make it a priority when their parents or boss are breathing down their necks’.
With the amount of hassle, admin, paperwork, additional costs and perceived ’threat’ that taking a deposit now involves, it is no wonder some landlords are deciding that it just isn’t worth it, not to mention the added void period whilst trying to find tenants who can pay bond+rent+fees in advance.
Is taking a deposit 6 of one and half a dozen of another? Read another article entitled ‘ Deposit Or No Deposit? ‘
landlords should also also ask themselves the question ‘Does taking deposits increase void periods?’
Quick, Easy and Reference Checking For Under £10
The first thing you need to do is use your common sense. The old saying, “if it looks like fish and smells like fish then it’s fish!” should be your starting point. Use your gut instinct, ask lots of questions such as:
- How long have you lived in your previous property?
- Was it let through a private landlord or letting agent?
- How long have you been employed?
- Are you fully employed or working through an agency?
- When did you last work and when are you returning to work?
- How much rent do you currently pay?
- What is council tax band of property?
- How did you get on with current landlords?
- Do you have friends/family in area?
- What rental term are you looking for?
- Do you have pets?
- Do you have family living local?
Once you start to ask questions you build up a profile of the applicants, at this point this image is in your head but when and if you decide to let the applicants apply for your property then you can use the answers to these questions to validate the tenant referencing process.
A good free download is available at Tenants Application Checklist Give this list to the applicants so they will know what kind of information you need in order to reference check them. It will also let them know what formal documents (proof of ID etc) you need and why you need them. It will also help overcome the embarrassment which some landlords have of asking for PROOF OF INCOME or NATIONAL INSURANCE NUMBER as the form explains why you as a landlord need it.
When you have all the information that you need you can then work your way through the paperwork. Much of this should be done in front of the applicant as you should not take away bank statements or original documentation such as proof of ID. You need to keep a copy of ID (for your files) but ensure that the applicant brings the original and the copy (for you to keep) so you can validate it.
The only thing you should have to pay for when doing tenant referencing is a CREDIT CHECK. These can be done for as little as £8 and are Experian credit checks completed by Private Landlord Directory with a guaranteed 24hr turnaround. You can see an example of the credit checks at Sample Credit Check.
Once you have built up your applicants profile you can then assess if that applicant would fit in well with the rest of your tenants, this is especially important if you manage a block of flats of properties next door to each other. Example, do you allow pets and families in top floor flats? Do you allow 4 single students in a block of mainly professional working tenants?
The main reason you are completing a reference check is that you are working towards getting a bigger picture of the applicant and if you want to rent your property to them. You can even include social media in this. You are making sure the applicant(s) will:
- Be able to afford the property (rent + bills +living expenses)
- Are suitable tenants in terms of demographic
- Are looking for a long term let and not intending to move on every 6 months
Most importantly and above all else; Make sure YOU LIKE THEM and think that you will have a successful landlord/tenant relationship with them.
NEVER FEEL PRESSURED TO ACCEPT AN APPLICANT
If in doubt SAY NO. You don’t have to tell them why you don’t want to rent the property to them (but it may increase their chances of success if you do) Sometimes as a landlord you just don’t ‘click’ with people, there is no malice in this and as a landlord you are fortunate to be in the position that you can say no. Choose your tenants wisely as a wrong choice can cost you a lot of time and money.
Finding Out Who Your Landlord Is
As a tenant you are within your legal rights to ask the letting/managing agent to provide you with the landlords name and address. They have to provide you with this information within 21 days as per the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 Section 1 (example below)
This request has to be in writing and you need a receipt of delivery. If you are posting the letter, send recorded delivery so that you have proof as the agent will have to sign to receive it.
You can download and use this template: Standard Letter To Request Landlord Details
Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
1985 CHAPTER 70
1 Disclosure of landlord’s identity.
(1) If the tenant of premises occupied as a dwelling makes a written request for the landlord’s name and address to
2 (a) any person who demands, or the last person who received, rent payable under the tenancy, or
(b) any other person for the time being acting as agent for the landlord, in relation to the tenancy, that person shall supply the tenant with a written statement of the landlord’s name and address within the period of 21 days beginning with the day on which he receives the request.
(2) A person who, without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with subsection (1) commits a summary offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.
(3) In this section and section 2—
(a) “tenant” includes a statutory tenant; and
(b) “landlord” means the immediate landlord.
A full copy of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 can be seen at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1985/70
Sub-Letting Your Property May Land You In the Courts
Well I am sorry to tell you but did you realise that sub-letting your rented property could see you ending up in jail?
Tenants sub-letting their rental properties without the knowledge or consent of the landlord is becoming an increasingly widespread issue and one that is being highlighted more and more as sub-letting scams are currently on the increase.
Many tenants may be subletting the property without even realising they are doing it. Example; letting a friend/family member stay in the property for a few months whilst you work away for a while or go travelling. Kind of like house sitting but paying the rent in your absence. I would advise anyone in this situation to have a conversation with your landlord just to make it clear and more importantly ASK THEIR PERMISSION.
Most AST (Assured Tenancy Agreements) have a clause within them stating that sub-letting is not allowed and the tenant will be in breach of their contract, this is because most landlords will not allow tenants to sub-let as it may cause gaining the possession of the flat more problematic.
What can Happen If I Sub Let Without Landlords Consent?
If you sub-let part or all of your property not only will you have to face the wrath of your landlord but you may well find yourself in court especially if it is found that you have been profiteering from the sub-letting.
According to an article written by Property Core, “a woman was found guilty of letting eleven properties and subsequently sub-letting them to multiple tenants without the knowledge of the landlords highlights the severity of punishments, she was sentenced to four years in prison on fraud charges. Another couple in Sussex who rented a property and sub-let it to make a profit whilst living in their own home. They were charged, found guilty, sentenced to 4 months imprisonment and held liable for over £7,000 in legal costs.”
Shelters stance on this is ” If you sublet your property to another tenant without permission, and have made a profit from subletting, your landlord may also be able to take you to court to claim damages.”
Be honest and open with your landlord. If your friend is coming over for a while and ‘paying their way’ all you need to do is pick up the phone and speak to the landlord about it.
So the question you need to ask yourself… Is it worth going to court for?
As a private landlord I have always used my judgement and my integrity when doing my job.
When I have met a prospective tenant, I have always used my due diligence and carried out a tenant reference the same way as I would do all tenants.
Once the tenant has been ‘approved’ and I have carried out all the necessary checks, if they can not move into the property for more than 2 weeks, I ask for a holding deposit. This is usually half of the bond and is deducted from the full bond payment when they move in.
The holding deposit is my guarantee to them that I will not let the property to anyone other than them and in return it is their assurance to me that they fully intend to rent the property. The holding deposit is non refundable as this protects me as the landlord should the tenants decide not to take the property at the final hour and I have to start to market the property again and have lost out on valuable rent monies.
Upon signing of this agreement, the tenants have my word and agreement that I will rent them the property. I personally would not go back on that word regardless of being approached by other applicants.
To my complete surprise and shock (if I am honest) I was appalled when I read a recent article on holding deposits, which lead me believe that a holding deposit wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
What has happened to honesty, integrity and above all, accepting a persons word and shaking hands on it? Surely it hasn’t gone by the wayside for an extra £10, £15, £20 a month?
I would advise anyone thinking of writing or signing a holding deposit ‘agreement’ to read the following article: http://www.county-homesearch.co.uk/2012/11/26/holding-deposits/
Written by Amanda Whaley
Maintenance, a major concern for landlords
One of the common areas of concern for any landlord is property maintenance. The dreaded phone call from a tenant at an unusual time of day or night usually means that something has broken down or leaking. It is actually one of the main concerns that completely puts landlords off managing their own properties.
Truth be told, if your property is in a good state of repair then the unwanted calls you receive should be few and far between, it also depends if you rent out your property with white goods (fridge, freezer, washer). There are certain goods that you will have in the property, heating system,boiler,shower, fires, cookers that will be subject to repairs and maintenance from time to time but as long as the appliances are well maintained, (and annual inspections carried out as legally required) cleaned and looked after these shouldn’t cause too many issues.
As well as the appliances within the property there are also the fittings and sockets that need to be kept to a good standard of repair. Whilst it is not as yet mandatory to have electrical testing carried out in residential lets, it is the duty of the property owner to ensure that the electrics for fixtures and fittings are in good working and safe order. No loose wires are visible no dodgy wiring, lights turn on when they should etc. This is something that the landlord or agent can check on the 6 monthly inspections.
Repairs to internal walls, re-decorating, mending dripping taps, resealing sinks/bath/showers, re-grouting tiles, ensuring suitable ventilation of a property should be areas which a landlord can address under general maintenance. This could be done during a void period or before re-letting a property. These are all areas which when left for a number of years will make your property start to look shabby and less appealing even though they aren’t big jobs in themselves.
External repairs to the property are again an area which can be done during void periods. Weeding the garden and driveway, painting and mending external windows, fences, outbuildings,re-seeding the lawn. Changing double glazed glass that has ‘blown’. Lagging pipes and dealing with the issues such as security, insulation and facia boards are all bigger jobs, but again jobs that need to be carried out after a number of years of renting a property.
Keeping up with the maintenance on a property will not only make the property more appealing to tenants but also help to maintain the value of the property and save it going into dis-repair. It will benefit you in the long run, so whilst you think it is a cost, it is actually making your ‘life’ ‘job’ as a landlord easier. Word travels fast and if you can be known as a ‘good landlord’ that people are happy to recommend, that alone is something that money can not buy. Keeping up with property maintenance and dealing quickly to repairs and maintenance issues that arise in the property will enhance your referral status.
Depending on the size of your portfolio you may choose to do most of the property maintenance yourself which for many is the most cost effective way of doing it. Alternatively you can hire individual tradesmen or a property maintenance person who specialises in all aspects of property maintenance.
Top Tip… It is always a good idea to show the tenant where the water stop tap is, the electrical circuit board and the gas and electric turnoff switches are, as this could prevent not only a full property disaster but also save you money on needlessly sending out emergency repairmen. It also helps to put the tenants mind at ease.
Written by Amanda Whaley
Credit Checking A Tenant
In my opinion a credit check should be used as a referencing document. It is mini audit, a risk assessment, a source of information that you can pay for which helps you to evaluate an applicant and back up their ‘story’.
It’s true, the worst tenant in the world can have the best credit score, because unless a case went to court you would never know from looking at a credit check if the applicants previous tenancies had been good.
Due Diligence prior to starting a tenancy is always handy when the tenancy ends (for what ever reason). The more you know about the applicants and their ‘habits’ before you sign the tenancy the better.
Here are some of the questions you can ask whilst completing a credit check and doing your due diligence, don’t forget that you can get a credit check guaranteed within 24 hours for only £8. £8 Credit Check For Tenants
Due Diligence Questions To Ask An Applicant Applying To Let Your Property
Q. How many years how you lived at your previous address?
Why? Are they are serial renters? Only living in properties less than a year. Do you want a longer term let? It is expensive to turn a round a property so do you want someone in who has a history of short lets?
A. The credit check will show you how long they have been registered on the voters roll at that particular address. It will also show you address links for the applicants with dates. This gives you an indication of how long they have been at that address If they say that they have been living at an address for the last 4 years but not registered on the voters roll and have address links to another address within last 2 years, you need to ask why.
Q. Do you have any adverse credit history?
Why? More and more people in this economic climate are having money problems. It is now quite common. You are asking the applicant to be honest and open with you. Honesty is always the best policy.
A. The credit check will show you any adverse credit history that the applicant has had if this is available on public record CCJ’s (County Court Judgments) You are able to drill down to find date of judgement, if it is satisfied and also the value.
Q. Who intends to live in the property?
Why? You want to know how many people will be living in the property, are there children, grandparents, friends who intend to stay there?
A. The credit check will show you known aliases and associations to the tenant and what that aliases or association to that person are. Example: They may have recently completed a joint Experian application together or have a bank account together. This will help you to decide if the tenant is applying for a single occupancy if in fact there is a chance that they are going to share or if the reason they are applying solely is due to bad credit/tenant history of the other aliases.
Q. Have you ever been turned down for a property?
Why? You will want to find out if they are coming to you as a private landlord as they have been turned down by letting agencies.
A. The credit check shows you how many previous searches there has been within last 0-3 months, 4-6 months and 7-12 months. This gives you an indication that applicant is either applying for a lot of consumer services i.e, credit cards, hire purchase, bank loans, store cards, utilities, mobile phone. The applicant will know they are applying for these services as they have to give permission to have the searches completed.
Completing a credit check is your confirmation that what the applicant is telling you is true. You are completing a risk assessment / mini audit. It is also adding to the check list of other information that you need. Even to the point of confirming simple things like D.O.B and current address.
What also has to be mentioned is that more and more insurance companies are asking for proof of tenant referencing before paying out on a claim. They are expecting landlords to do due diligence before accepting applicant and signing tenancy agreements.
Is Taking A Deposit Worth It?
This is a question that many landlords are now considering.
With the changes in legislation for securing deposits opening up big issues in compliance and the need for landlords to ensure they not only incur the costs of securing the deposit (if using a insured based scheme) but making sure that they ’get it right’ or pay the consequences, it is no wonder more and more landlords are approaching the No Deposit Required approach.
Many landlords have been skeptical about the Deposit Protection Scheme that was introduced in 2007 and labelled it another money making ploy introduced by the government to not only gather the information on the number of deposits landlords are holding but also to gain access to more ‘funds’ when people were securing the deposits through the custodial service.
Could it be wrong to think that recently the DPS changed tact and now offers an insured as well as custodial service, having realised that landlords were willing to pay the costs to hold onto the deposit monies and use the insured backed schemes such as my deposits and deposit guard?
It is quite staggering the image that the Deposit Protection Scheme has of being solely in favor of the tenants and the report written by Steve Harriott, Chief Executive of Tenancy Deposit Protection entitled An evaluation of the legislation, five years on in July 2012: only goes to highlight this. You can read that report by clicking Evaluation of TDS after 5 yrs
Can it also be said now that the general public and the ‘authorities’ that are advising tenants on the deposit schemes seem to be onto the win win culture? With the landlord having to pay the deposit back in full, up to 3 times the deposit and not being able to issue a section 21 (notice) to the tenant, if the paperwork is not completed accurately or within time (not the fact that the deposit has been secured legitimately!) there is again no wonder that landlords are growing increasingly concerned about taking deposits.
Having recently chatted to a number of landlords, half of them did not take deposits as they felt that they were leaving themselves open to ‘abuse’ by the deposit scheme system. One landlord said that on reflection when he considered how many deposits he had returned back in full, how much he had deducted from the deposits not returned in full, the veiled threat of not supplying the mass (up to 40 sheets of paper) of paperwork, when (as he put it) “most will go in a draw and probably get lost and the tenant will have to go online and download it all again”, the ‘risk’ was far greater to take a deposit. He also said, ‘It all ends in the courts anyway and is up to the judge to decide what is reasonable and what their interpretation of wear and tear on a property is.’
The landlord in question said that he felt more comfortable taking no deposit and getting a home owner guarantor for each tenant. That way he could pursue the guarantor as well as the tenant for any damages. It seems to work for him. His properties are fully let as the tenants don’t have to have to find cash deposits and he has a ‘heavy on-board’ in the form of the guarantor if there are any issues with late payment of rent or damages as the guarantor doesn’t want to be taken through the court system.
Whilst I am sure many landlords feel like this, many landlords still like the added security that taking a deposit gives them. As was pointed out to the landlord who doesn’t take deposits: If a tenant puts an iron burn on your carpet which was going to cost £200 to replace, this would not be classed as wear and tear and could be deducted in full from a deposit. If there was no deposit then you would have to pursue the tenant via other ways, invoice, money claims online, courts for the £200. Which is the most hassle?
Sounds like 6 of one and half a dozen of the other BUT the jury is still out!
Written by Amanda Whaley Private Landlord Directory