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Two hands pulling a key in different directions, representing a property dispute

How To Resolve Tenant-Landlord Disputes Without Going To Court

Every landlord needs to be prepared for a deposit dispute because it’s an inevitability that comes with the job. Whether a minor quibble or a larger dispute, knowing how to handle those conversations professionally (and without the need to take the matter to court) will save you a lot of time and money. There are a few ways you can achieve this. Read on for suggestions of how to deal with tenant-landlord disputes quickly and calmly.

Prevention is the best cure

As a landlord, the old phrase ‘prevention is the best cure’ couldn’t be more appropriate. You don’t want to be wasting time constantly handling disputes with tenants, so it’s best to avoid them in the first place so that a dispute is a rarity rather than a common occurrence.

Many arguments over deposits arise because either the tenant or the landlord don’t realise they’ve broken their part of the lease agreement, or they don’t understand their rights. The best way to achieve this is to know the law fully and stay abreast of any changes to housing legislation, so you can make the necessary amends. It results in happier tenants and lowers the chance of you having an empty rental property for too long, as well as reducing the risk of legal issues arising.

Communicate face-to-face

So many problems with tenants can be resolved quickly simply by having a face-to-face conversation with them and ironing out any issues in person. Keep your temper calm and don’t let the conversation get out of hand. There may well be an honest solution to the problem which both parties are blowing out of proportion, and trying to resolve it over text or email only makes the likelihood of that happening higher. Another way to keep tensions at bay is to meet in a neutral environment, so everyone feels safe and able to say their piece.

Contact a mediator

If you’ve met and tried to discuss the problem to no avail, a professional mediator can help you make progress and find a solution that works for you both. In a mediation, both parties come together with an impartial mediator to reach an agreement and resolve the dispute.

The mediator will be trained to deal with these types of situations so they’ll be able to act as a neutral but experienced party. They don’t assist with working out the issue directly. Instead, mediators guide the parties to negotiation in a constructive way. Mediation isn’t as formal or expensive as the litigation process so it works well for tenants who are seeking an informal solution and landlords looking to save on costs.

Keep detailed records

Having detailed records to hand makes it much easier to resolve disputes because you’ll have evidence of what’s been agreed and what has occurred since. From correspondence with the tenant regarding the issue at hand, to photographic evidence of the property before they moved in and its current state, a paper trail makes it much easier to fall back on hard facts when the time comes. And, if you need to escalate the issue to a legal team, records will be very helpful to show that it’s not just a case of your word against your tenants.

If you handle multiple rental properties, you should keep a file for each one, whether paper or digital, so you can keep your property management records organised and up to date. It can deter a tenant from taking the matter to court themselves if they know that you have evidence to back up your claims and disprove theirs.

Hire a specialist solicitor

If the problem has escalated and you haven’t been able to informally handle it, then the next step is to hire a specialist solicitor who has experience of landlord and tenancy law and will be able to advise you on the best course of action. Contact from a solicitor can often dissuade a tenant from taking the matter further and may help you both reach a fair agreement outside of court.

A specialist solicitor will be able to advise you on your legal rights, and those of the tenant, as well as the likelihood of you getting the result you’re looking for. It’s certainly an expense that you don’t want to pay for, but it can be a beneficial step to take if court is looking likely.

Put it in writing

Putting your complaints, or having the tenant put their issues down, in writing formally dictates any misgivings either party has about the property that’s being let. It’s important when you do this to be as specific and accurate as possible, from the occurrences being disagreed upon to the dates the dispute spans. It’s also important to take into account any previous correspondence.

The reason for doing this and having a record of the issue is that if you aren’t able to handle it out of court, having a document in place that outlines exactly what the issues are will come in handy when resolving it with a legal team. It also ensures you won’t forget any details further down the line, as court proceedings can take some time.

Court involvement as a last resort

Where possible, both parties should avoid taking the matter to court, as it’s time-consuming and incredibly costly. But sometimes it’s the only way to reach a decision. Just know that if the matter reaches the courts, you could be in for a long wait and a lot of legal expenses to have the matter settled, so it’s not a decision to take lightly.

The housing industry has been on a rollercoaster of activity in the last few years and it’s led many people to invest in rental properties. But it’s vital that you understand the issues that can arise with a buy-to-let and know how to mitigate them as much as possible, to save yourself time, money and the need to find new tenants. The smoother you can make your relationship with tenants, the better it is for you and them, so it’s worth making clear who is responsible for what and having thorough records in place to reduce the risk of a dispute.

What Will Really Matter In The 2023 Property Market?

Buying a home is a huge decision, and one that is obviously going to be influenced by the prevailing economic climate and personal financial situation. That said, while the housing market, along with the rest of the economy, may be experiencing a period of uncertainty at the moment, this doesn’t mean that people won’t be moving home.

When it comes to choosing the right new home, every buyer has a list of must-haves and need-to-haves that will be used to assess properties listed for sale. So, what is it that buyers are looking for in 2023? According to a recent survey, 54% of potential buyers were looking for a garden as their top asset, 50% wanted a nice kitchen, 44% prioritised parking or garage space, and 36% were looking for a nice bathroom. Add to that the rising importance of having an energy efficient home, and a picture appears to be emerging. Let’s take a closer look.

Energy-saving features

According to Rightmove, buyers are now increasingly searching for sustainable properties or homes that have at least some eco-friendly features. Not that long ago, green home features were seen as nice to have by homebuyers keen to make a positive contribution to the environment. However, the current cost of living crisis, skyrocketing energy bills and the global oil and gas crisis have put energy-saving features firmly into the ‘must have’ camp.

Searches for properties for sale that have solar panels or heat pumps fitted have increased significantly over the last few years, and the trend is set to continue. Even without any new technologies, buyers are now more concerned than ever before about energy efficiency.

From double-glazed or even triple-glazed windows to loft insulation and cavity wall insulation, high-efficiency boilers and LED lighting and more, there are many ways that a property can achieve a favourable EPC rating and add value.

Private outdoor spaces

Ever since the recent pandemic-induced lockdowns have shown us the importance of having access to a garden, a patio or even just a balcony, properties with outdoor space have become much more sought after.

A simple, lawned garden space may be all that’s required for buyers to be interested, as long as it’s well-maintained and easy to look after, or presents an opportunity to get creative. Wooden decking or paved patios are also high on the list, either as a no-maintenance urban garden option or for dining, socialising and entertaining and as a peaceful space to relax.

Creating a seamless connection between outdoor and indoor living spaces is another major trend, epitomised by the ubiquitous bifold doors adorning kitchen/diners and living rooms. And it’s not just about ‘bringing the outside in either. These days, ‘taking the inside out’ means creating living spaces in the garden, be it outdoor kitchens, alfresco dining rooms, or lounging and chillout areas. The latest pergola designs come with retractable roofs and side panels for shade and shelter as you can see here, fully able to withstand the elements and ensure year-round use.

Large family kitchens

The kitchen has long since been hailed as the heart of the home, and this trend isn’t going anywhere fast. This is the room where family and friends congregate, and not just at mealtimes.

Some would argue that the kitchen is the most important room in the house and it’s a well-known fact among estate agents that kitchens sell houses. A generously proportioned, welcoming and convivial space with a kitchen island is what most buyers will want to see.

Kitchen redesigns can be expensive and disruptive. A recently updated kitchen with modern cabinetry and plenty of storage, and in a style that complements the rest of the property, is one home improvement that is sure to pay big dividends.

Open plan kitchens/diners are still the gold standard for interior layouts, however people are also rediscovering the advantages of having separate living spaces. Perhaps the lockdowns are also responsible for this shift in perspective. After all, when the entire family is spending time at home, it’s useful to have doors you can close to provide peace and privacy. Even a separate snug, den or box room can make all the difference – plus it has the potential to be transformed into a home office for working from home.

Indulgent bathrooms

Kitchens may sell homes but bathrooms are also receiving a lot of attention. As the concept of self-care is becoming more widespread, buyers are looking for recently updated bathrooms that have separate showers and baths to accommodate different needs: function and rest. A traditional shower over the bath can be seen as old-fashioned and not up to speed with current lifestyles.

Bathrooms are also a prime contender for underfloor heating, which adds a luxury feel. There’s nothing like stepping out of the bath or shower onto warm floors below, especially during colder months, and especially in our temperate climate. Indeed, luxury and indulgence are the main watchwords for bathroom features.

Finally, it is interesting to note that the absence of a downstairs WC can be a dealbreaker for many potential buyers. Whether there’s space under the stairs to fit a small washroom, or it can be added (along with a utility room) with a house extension, it’s an investment well worth making when it comes to sell.

Home security system

Having a modern home security system to protect the property against intruders is proving to become a popular feature that home buyers are looking for. From smart doorbells to security cameras or intruder alarms, there are many ways to add extra security features to keep the occupants safe.

Then there’s the automatic control of electronic devices in the home, such as lighting or heating but also including Internet-of-Things devices such as smart fridges and home security devices, via internet technology that can be controlled remotely to make life more convenient and save on bills. Whether you’re a property manager looking after a property for sale or rent, or you’re a homeowner looking for your next home, smart home automation is the gold standard.

5 Steps to Easier End-Of-Tenancies

[Image source: Deposit photos]

It is in everyone’s interests to ensure the end of a tenancy is handled as smoothly as possible. While there is a lot to think about, making preparations early on means it doesn’t need to be a headache.

Read on for five steps to easier end-of-tenancies.

1. Give the appropriate notice period

The end of a tenancy starts with your tenants giving you notice or you terminating their tenancy. The exact amount of notice required will depend on the terms of the contract but a minimum of four weeks is usually required from either party.

This period allows time for a tenant to find a new property and remove their belongings from their current one. It also provides you with some time to seek new tenants or list the property for sale if you plan to reduce your letting portfolio.

Before the deadline for ending the tenancy comes around, it’s wise to be prepared for what you will need to do as a landlord. There are various things to consider including your legal responsibilities, such as:

  • requesting the release of your tenants’ deposit from the tenancy deposit scheme
  • inspecting the property and
  • making any necessary repairs and renovations.

2. Inspect the property

Before you return your tenant’s deposit it’s essential to visit the property and conduct a thorough inspection of the furnishings, fittings and goods. It’s good practice to draw up a property inventory at the start of a tenancy as it’s this document that you can refer to when it’s time for your tenants to leave.

A property inventory details the contents and condition of the property at the start of a tenancy. It should include a full list of fixed features, from walls and ceilings to cupboards and doors, as well as any appliances and fittings. It’s important to remember any external buildings such as sheds or greenhouses and make a note of their condition and contents too.

Having an inventory means that when you inspect the property at the end of a tenancy you can compare its current condition with the way it was at the start. You can then make any relevant deductions for damage or missing items from the deposit. This reduces the chance of any disputes over deposits.

3. Return your tenant’s deposit

Once you have thoroughly inspected the property and agreed upon the cost of any damage or missing items with your tenants, you must return your tenants’ remaining deposit within ten days. Since 2007 it has been a legal requirement that landlords must put deposits in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme for any property rented on an assured shorthold tenancy.

It is simple to return a deposit via the online account you will hold for the tenancy deposit scheme. But bear in mind that if you plan to make deductions from the deposit you should be able to provide evidence for your reasons in the case of a dispute.

As long as your tenants agree with your repayment instruction or claim the deposit will usually be released in a couple of days.

4. Enlist professional help with cleaning

Your tenants have responsibility for leaving the property as clean as possible when they move out. But this doesn’t mean it’s going to be ready for the next tenants to move straight in.

In order to benefit most from rising rental yields and attract reliable new tenants it’s important to show off the property in its best light. Depending on the length of the previous tenancy that could mean a thorough deep clean is recommended.

You could do this yourself, of course, but it’s usually better left to professional cleaners. Agencies that specialise in end-of-tenancy cleaning services are used to carrying out the many tasks required to leave a property looking (almost) like new

The specifics of what is needed will depend on the state in which the property has been left. But you should expect a clean to include jobs such as cleaning of internal and external windows, all carpets and upholstery cleaned; the kitchen and bathroom de-greased and deep-cleaned and the oven, hob and extractor thoroughly cleaned.

5. Carry out repairs and renovations

With any luck, you won’t need to undertake any significant work when your tenants move out. If the property is well-maintained and generally sound, the most that will probably be required is giving walls and woodwork a fresh coat of paint.

However, it is your responsibility as a landlord to make any necessary repairs to basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings, maintain heating and hot water systems and ensure the building is in a good condition structurally. The longer you spend on these tasks, the more time you will lose out on rent or leave your property vacant and vulnerable to break ins. So it often pays to enlist professional services for security support or property maintenance. Whether it’s clearing gutters, supplying new appliances, safeguarding empty homes or changing the locks, these specialist teams have the experience and capacity to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

By bringing in professional support – and putting processes in place in good time – you’ll cut down on lost income and be ready for another successful tenancy.

6 Ways Landlords Can Keep Properties Secure With A Minimum Spend

Your landlords, have a responsibility to keep your rental properties as safe and secure as possible. Tenants want to know that they can live comfortably and safely in their home, and it can help to minimise tenant turnover as people who feel safe are more likely to remain in the property for longer periods. But, security can often be an expense that they don’t want to shell out for.

The good news is that there are ways to make a home more secure without it costing a fortune, reducing the risk of vandalism and theft. Here are a few ways that landlords can create a secure property with minimum expense.

1. Install a security system

A high-tech security system isn’t just a benefit for landlords, but it also provides peace of mind for tenants too. It could spell the difference between the best tenant choosing one property over another. Security systems don’t need to be complex to be effective. In fact, technology has evolved enough that you don’t need to spend a fortune to feel as though you’re securing the property effectively.

From smart alarm systems to alert unauthorised access or attempted entry, to motion sensors to detect movement and CCTV cameras. You can create a master code for security systems and enable tenants to have their own personal access codes for privacy.

2. Light up the home

An easy but highly effective way to make your tenants feel safe, while also preventing criminal activity, is to add outdoor lighting. Would-be criminals tend to be deterred by well-lit areas as it makes them vulnerable to witnesses, so it’s always a good idea to have lights fitted to the exterior of the property to keep it safe and avoid a break-in.

Solar or LED lights are an effective solution that provide a great source of lighting and are very affordable, as well as being low maintenance as you won’t need to worry about replacing batteries or an increase to your tenants’ electricity bills. Fit these lights near entry points to the property but also near driveways and gardens where criminals may try to gain access from.

3. Automate the garage door

If the property comes with an adjoining garage, it’s vital that it’s kept secure because not only is it likely to store valuable, expensive items that could be stolen but it could also serve as another entry point for burglars. One way to increase security is to make sure your garage door is automated. Automation isn’t just a convenient feature for tenants, but it also makes it much harder for vandals and criminals to do damage or gain access to the property. Garage doors are common targets for entry to properties, and they’re also often overlooked by property owners, so don’t neglect this area when securing your rental property.

4. Secure windows and doors

Windows are a vulnerable area of any home, and are a common target for opportunist thieves. Even if the windows of your rental property have a mechanism to prevent them from being opened from the outside, they can still be broken into. And if the windows don’t have a lock, it’s even easier for your property to be accessed by someone other than your tenants.

Installing locks is the first step to making the property more secure, but it’s also important to remind tenants to lock up if they’re leaving the house. Window sensors can also be installed for a relatively low cost that will sound an alarm if the windows are ever meddled with, with alerts sent to your smartphone so you know precisely when the property is at risk. For added peace of mind, encourage tenants to use a door jammer for additional protection.

5. Find the right insurance

Landlords may be thinking of the physical changes they can make to your rental property, but have they considered the unforeseen costs that will come your way if the home is broken into? Landlords need to have the right insurance policy in place to protect the assets of the property and any furnishings. Liability insurance is a worthwhile addition to property maintenance, making sure that the home is protected, for only a small amount of money every month. The right insurance will give landlords the confidence that the home is protected from a financial perspective as well as physically. It is worth remembering that securing your garage to prevent easy access for would-be thieves will also keep your insurance company happy.

5. Conduct regular inspections

In the property market, prevention is always cheaper than the cure, so you want to do all you can to avoid costly repairs. By dropping by a few times a year, you can check on the health of the property and spot any issues that tenants may not have seen as a problem. For example, a lock might be broken on a window, there might be a blind spot on the security cameras or the smart doorbell might not be working properly.

These faults could cost you and your tenants if they lead to a break-in, so make sure that you’re scheduling in visits periodically to give the property a scan and check for these issues before they cause problems.

A rental property is an investment so it stands to reason that you want to protect it from damage. Keep your buy-to-let home secure to protect it from break-ins while also giving tenants the confidence that they can live in the home safely.

Gutter Gleaning Illustration

Sustainable Property Maintenance Jobs Agents Shouldn’t Ignore

Property maintenance doesn’t just improve the aesthetic quality of a home, it also helps to retain value, or even significantly increase it. Regular maintenance could increase a home’s value by at least 1% per year while neglecting it can cause properties to depreciate.

Any home is a valuable asset and when it comes to selling, those in better condition understandably tend to fetch a higher price. That’s why it’s essential to carry out regular maintenance on a property or asset, yet some remedial projects are easier to work on than others.

Running the vacuum cleaner around and trimming the hedges is one thing, but grabbing a ladder or some heavy-duty equipment isn’t something most people can do on a whim. Here are our essential green property maintenance tasks that agents shouldn’t ignore when talking to their clients.

Upgrading insulation

Insulation is essential all year, not just in the winter. Effective insulation can help to regulate temperature during the summer months and retain heat when the chill hits. Insulation materials come in many forms and if you are looking for sustainable materials we recommend natural wool, cork, hemp or cellulose.

Using natural materials to insulate a property rather than synthetic or man-made ones does mean that they have a relatively limited lifespan, however. For example, cellulose insulation is typically good for 20 to 30 years but can begin to degrade by the 15-year mark.

Upgrading a property’s insulation provides an energy efficiency boost and makes it more sustainable as fewer resources are required to maintain a comfortable temperature. From cavity walls to the roof and floors, there are plenty of opportunities to upgrade the insulation in a home to improve energy efficiency. And, with the cost of living crisis pinching wallets, being energy efficient is more important than ever.

Gutter cleaning

Perhaps one of the most common household maintenance tasks that gets forgotten or neglected is cleaning out the guttering. They can get clogged with leaves and debris that blows in throughout the year and this causes a blockage.

It is a relatively simple fix but often requires the assistance of a long ladder or a high-level platform to give you the access you require. Without the gutters diverting any rainwater away from the home you are putting your property at risk of water damage.

That water can pool in places which causes leaks that seep into the roof as well as the frames and fascia of a property. If left unattended this water can lead to mould, rot and mildew which risks your tenants’ health and can cost thousands to repair.

General roof surveys and maintenance jobs

The roof is often a property’s first level of protection against the elements, be that the wind, rain or even the sun. But, unlike other areas of a property, it’s difficult to check on the status of the roof due to how high it is.

You just can’t see the roof well enough from the ground so it’s important to gain a better perspective, particularly following a heavy downpour or strong storm. High-access equipment hire allows you to inspect any roof damage from a better vantage point.

Having the right high-level equipment allows for other maintenance tasks to be completed, such as:

  • replacing any broken or missing roof tiles

  • cleaning the outside of windows

  • repointing the chimney breast

  • repairing the roof and gutterings

  • painting elevations and chimney pots, and

  • inspecting solar panels (if the property benefits from having them installed).

Having a safe platform in place to make these comprehensive maintenance checks can also help you to oversee whether a property’s renewable energy sources are running effectively.

Creative and sustainable landscaping

Landscaping and gardening is a job that many people put off but once completed can transform how a home looks and feels. Not only will the outdoor space be easier on the eye, but it can also be more welcoming to residents’ guests and encourage local wildlife to flourish if you take an eco approach.

Many people are opting to include a wild zone in their outdoor space to promote any wildlife to move in, and potential tenants looking for outdoor space may wish for an eco-friendly environment outside their rental home. Ideas include ponds, allowing a patch of grass to grow wild and uncut and composting facilities. It’s important to reclaim as many materials as possible for any landscaping project to help make it as environmentally friendly as possible.

Also try to consider using plants that are native to your area. For example, bell heather is prominent in Kent and adding some to your wild garden will help boost the numbers of bees, moths and butterflies that thrive on it.

Install rainwater collectors

Countries like the UK experience plenty of rainfall throughout the year, even when it’s summer and the sun is meant to be shining. Rainwater harvesting allows homes to conserve water by collecting it throughout the year and using it for common household chores. For instance, harvested rainwater is ideal for flushing toilets, washing cars or watering flowers during hot and dry spells.

This allows residents to cut down on their water consumption, which is not only good for the planet but also helps reduce water bills. Modern toilets use as much as five litres per flush, while older models made before 2001 use up to 10 litres per flush. Depending on how much space you are working with, rainwater collection barrels can collect as much as 210 litres.

Electric car charging point

Perhaps one of the most important upgrades property management companies can make to a modern home concerns transport. Electric cars are very much the future of the automotive industry and with the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to end by 2030, that future is rapidly approaching.

Requiring a qualified electrician, electric car chargers are an important upgrade due to the prominence of electric vehicles on our roads. Zero emissions cars continue to grow in popularity and an electric car charger at home is beginning to be a must-have.

With homes that have an electric car charging point installed selling for 30% more than those that don’t, it is a significant consideration to make. Electric car chargers can cost up to £1,000 to install but considering the value they add to a home, and the convenience they provide, they are a worthwhile and sustainable home upgrade.

man_surveying_property

Snagging Report or Home Survey – Which Option Should Agents Recommend?

A property purchase is a major financial commitment and most residential home buyers are in need of professional help to understand whether the asset they have their eye on is indeed a good investment. Stories abound of ‘nasty surprise’ building defects or issues that can cost thousands of pounds to remedy after the transaction is completed.

Independent home surveys and snagging surveys can be invaluable to help prospective purchasers gain valuable insights into the condition of the building, providing the necessary facts for informed decision making. But with so many different types of surveys to choose from, which one should estate agents recommend?

What is a snagging report?

A snagging list is typically drawn up at the end of a construction project. As such, it is associated with new-build properties, where building issues are identified by the prospective buyer to be addressed by the developer as a condition of sale. It’s not a survey as such, but rather a list of defects that can be passed on to the builder for remediation either before or after completion.

A snag is simply a defect that needs repairing – usually a minor or cosmetic issue such as a cracked tile or chipped paintwork. However, it could also apply to substandard workmanship such as faulty window and door installations, leaking pipes or poorly installed insulation, and could even include structural defects. The snagging list will cover everything, from ensuring that heating systems and smoke alarms operate as they should, to highlighting decorating defects or poorly finished joinery, to checking that Building Regulations have been complied with.

The snagging survey can be carried out by any building expert; they don’t have to be Chartered Surveyors. Ideally, they should operate independently of the housebuilder, so that an unbiased assessment can be provided.

What is a home survey?

A home survey is an independent property survey carried out by a RICS Chartered Surveyor. There are currently three types of inspection endorsed by the RICS:

  1. A basic Condition Report

  2. A mid-level HomeBuyer Report, and

  3. An in-depth Building Survey (formerly known as a full structural survey).

Prices for surveys start from around £300 and vary depending on the level of investigation as well as the value of the property.

  • Level 1 Condition Reports average from around £350+

  • Level 2 HomeBuyer Reports cost about £500, and

  • Level 3 Building Surveys cost approximately £900.

Here’s a useful overview of costs.

A Condition Report provides a snapshot overview of the condition of the building on the day of inspection, without adding much detail. An intermediate HomeBuyer Report consists of a visual inspection of the property inside and out, checking the condition of all building elements and identifying issues, such as damp, subsidence and other potentially serious issues. It will also advise on possible causes of such issues and will recommended any repairs and possible maintenance required. A RICS Building Survey is suitable for older and larger properties and those with complex surveying requirements, and delivers a comprehensive analysis of the condition of the property alongside ample professional guidance.

Who is responsible for repairs?

If the property in question is a new-build, the housebuilder is responsible for rectifying all the agreed snags for as long as the property is still under warranty, which is normally up to 2 years after completion. This puts the onus on the buyer to find all and any issues as soon as possible.

For resale homes, the seller is not obliged to repair any issues detected, whether these are flagged up via a snagging report or home survey. However, if issues of concern are identified, the buyer may ask for the valuation to be revised downwards for the sale to proceed or they may pull out of the transaction. If the property is a fixer-upper, it would be unwise for the seller not to disclose known faults.

Which type of survey is most appropriate?

Estate agents are likely to be asked for their professional advice and recommendations regarding the best survey for the property. Buyers will assume that you have a clear idea of the condition of the property and if you wish to maintain your reputation and ongoing trust of buyers, it is essential that you are transparent about known flaws of any property you are marketing for sale.

Recommending any kind of pre-purchase investigation is therefore a prudent move that can protect you from any accusations that you hid what you knew about the property and potentially poor reviews for your agency.

A snagging survey is the obvious choice for new-build homes or properties that fall under warranty. Even if there are additional costs associated with a snagging survey, it is an excellent opportunity for the buyer to ensure that problems are fixed by the contractor before signing on the dotted line. There is no risk in recommending that buyers spend their money on a snagging survey. What’s more, you may even be able to benefit from building a network of qualified and trusted snagging surveyors to recommend.

Essentially, the right survey to recommend will depend on the type, age and apparent condition of the property and the buyer’s plans for it. For a new build, a snagging list is likely to be the best option, although a RICS Condition Report may also be an excellent choice. Potentially, both types of survey could be carried out alongside each other for a comprehensive check and peace of mind for the buyer that no unforeseen issues will emerge.

For resale homes, older buildings and period homes, the choice won’t be as straightforward. While a RICS home survey is likely to be the better option, there are different levels of investigation available that only a qualified surveyor should be able to recommend directly to the buyer. Your best bet is to have the names of one or two experienced local surveyors to hand that you can pass on to prospective buyers, and let them take it from there. As estate agents, it is your job to provide buyers with the available options so they can choose what’s best for them.

Newpaper with headline that reads Changes in legislation

How Landlords Can Tackle Rental Reforms and Energy Changes

The government’s plans for the rental market will see some big changes in the coming years. In fact, landlords have started to make their homes more energy-efficient. Rental properties must already have an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of band E or better.

About our guest blogger:
Dakota Murphey has experience in property management with her portfolio of properties expanding in the South of England. Her passion for renovation and home improvement projects is shared through her writing to help educate and inspire others.

However, the government wishes for rental properties to be better insulated and rated in band C by 2026 for all new tenancies. Existing tenancies have until 2028 but for landlords with a large property portfolio, that means beginning to consider changes now.

Data from March 2021 shows that 63% of existing dwellings have an energy efficiency rating of D or worse. This represents a considerable chunk of the property market and presents a challenge to landlords to improve their ratings. It may even see some landlords step away from the rentals market as the costs involved to upgrade their ratings no longer make it financially viable.

Proposed rental reforms plan to introduce lifetime deposits for tenants and to ban Section 21 evictions. The introduction of this bill has been delayed due to the pandemic but it is expected to be published in 2022. So, what can landlords do to tackle these proposed changes and make their properties more compliant?

Making homes more energy efficient

Landlords have an extra year to ensure their new-let properties achieve band C after it was extended from 2025 to 2026. That still requires plenty of work to be done to upgrade the efficiency of these homes. And, the 2028 deadline date for existing lettings looms large. A fifth of landlords have already improved their energy ratings and here are some ways to improve yours.

Bolstering insulation

One of the easiest ways to make your property more energy-efficient is to improve insulation. Poorly insulated windows, walls, doors and roofs cause the largest amount of heat loss in the home. Windows, doors and walls contribute to approximately 35% of heat loss, while the roof is estimated to lose a further 25% of generated heat.

Heat escaping from poorly insulated homes is incredibly inefficient as it costs so much more to keep heating a room. Rather, retaining the generated heat for longer means tenants can lower their heating bills and therefore their costs of living.

With the costs of living beginning to spiral to the point of unaffordability for many, it’s important landlords make their homes efficient for their tenants. Ways to upgrade your insulation include replacing windows and doors, and taking the time to insulate your roof.

Regular servicing of boilers

Energy efficiency comes in many forms but one of the best ways to improve your property’s rating is through regular servicing of your boiler. If your property’s boiler is over 10 years old then it’s worth looking into its efficiency. This might mean replacing the entire boiler or just installing newer parts to ensure it is running smoothly. The same applies to homes that use oil tanks for heating.

“Annual boiler services remove sludge deposits that can clog your system, increasing heating costs and reducing heating efficiency”, says oil tank experts, SG Tanks. “If your boiler is well past its best, investing in a modern and better model is the way to go. Modern boilers are more energy-efficient and fail less often than old ones”.

Look at your lighting

One of the aspects of a property that EPC surveys check is the lighting. An assessor looks at the number of fixed light fittings plus how many low energy light bulbs are fitted. Low energy lightbulbs include CFT and LEDs.

“The average LED lasts 50,000 operating hours to 100,000 operating hours or more”’ says LED light installation company Stouch Lighting. “That is 2-4 times as long as most fluorescent, metal halide, and even sodium vapour lights”.

LED light bulbs, for instance, require just 3.3 watts to produce 400 lumens which is the equivalent of a 50-watt incandescent bulb. To put the costs into perspective, that 50-watt incandescent bulb, running at 8 hours a day, would cost £21.90 to run for a year if you are charged 15p per kWh.

The LED bulb, by comparison, costs just £1.45 per year for the same usage and rate. Now, consider how many bulbs are in your property and do the maths on the savings tenants could make on their yearly energy bills.

Preparing for the proposed rental reforms

While there are things we can do to improve how energy-efficient rental properties are, it’s a tougher task to prepare yourself for the incoming rental reforms. Although the rental reform bill hasn’t come into effect yet, one of the biggest challenges to come from it will be the proposed abolishing of Section 21. This section allows landlords to end rolling tenancies with two months notice without giving a reason.

Legally evicting tenants will become much more difficult so it’s important for landlords to be satisfied with the people living in their properties. This might mean introducing a stricter background check process that gives you a better indication of who is moving in.

Another proposed change to the rental industry is the removal of security deposits for tenants. Instead, a ‘lifetime deposit’ will be introduced that is supposed to stay with the tenant, wherever they move to. This could make it harder to withhold a security deposit and require better evidence of the tenant doing something against their terms of tenancy.

Speculation surrounding the Renter’s Reform Bill includes proposals for an independent industry regulator or a national landlord database. Both would require the actions of landlords to be better documented.

Further rental reform proposals

The government is looking to give renters more of what they want and further proposals include:

  • Making it easier to rent with pets

  • Better enforcement on criminal landlords

  • Making open-ended tenancies the norm

Landlords may no longer have the peace of mind of knowing that their tenant is going to occupy their property for a certain period if open-ended tenancies become the norm. That might mean putting procedures in place to replace tenants unexpectedly. This could be done by associating yourself with an agency or creating a bigger financial buffer to cope with the loss of income.

Renters looking for a property that allows pets have struggled in the past and the new proposals would seek to change that. It is implied that landlords will have to object to pet requests in writing and this can only be rejected if there is a ‘good reason’. An example of a ‘good reason’ would be if the property is too small and the pet’s introduction would be impractical.

Households bought 3.2 million pets during lockdown, creating a huge rise in demand for pet-friendly living. It’s something to prepare for in advance by introducing more durable flooring, enclosed gardens and less exposed electrical cables into your properties.

Smart Security Tips For Tech-Savvy Property Managers

In today’s day and age of technological advancements, smart properties are becoming more and more popular throughout the UK.

However, while advances in technology may generally be seen as a good thing, the increased connectivity of smart devices can create a haven for wannabe hackers, creating all sorts of vulnerabilities when fitted incorrectly.

For property managers, landlords and letting agents, taking advantage of smart tools and installing them with security in mind is crucial. As such, when it comes to installing a smart property or using smart-home technology, it is imperative to consider all these potential challenges – especially from a security point of view.

Here are some helpful hints and tips around property technology to help you manage and install smart-home technology and facility-management devices more safely.

Don’t make outdoor smart devices obvious

About our guest blogger:
Dakota Murphey has experience in property management with her portfolio of properties expanding in the South of England. Her passion for renovation and home improvement projects is shared through her writing to help educate and inspire others.

With reasons to prioritise building security already, the chances are that you will have fitted a fair few video doorbells and smart cameras in recent times. However, did you know that – while they may have been designed to make properties more secure – certain reports have found they can actually do the opposite?

According to Consumer Reports, video doorbells were found to have more than 11 security vulnerabilities, potentially exposing homeowners and property managers to issues like hacking and data breaches. What’s more, while video doorbells may have been used to deter burglars, certain wannabe criminals have recently been specifically targeting homes with video doorbells, believing them to be a sign of wealth.

As such, you should use this knowledge to your advantage, installing doorbells and smart cameras in areas of the home that are out of sight yet retain a clear view of the front of the property.

If you haven’t done so already, it is also time to take advantage of other low-cost, but valuable contactless technology. To keep track of key security, download a simple and smart key fob solution on your smartphone to know instantly what a certain key is for and who is responsible for its use. Such essential smartphone technology can benefit facility supervisors, agents and property managers alike.

In general, you should encourage your client to make improvements to their property’s security, ensuring their Wi-Fi network is set to private and that they are using a strong password as a sign in for the smart devices’ associated software.

Isolate smart networks

Smart devices are defined as ‘smart’ for a reason, utilising the latest technology to stay interconnected with other devices around the home.

However, while it may be easier to set properties up with one continuous network, it’s important – from a security perspective – to isolate smart networks from existing networks within the property.

Say, for example, you are setting up the security profile for a smart fridge. By creating this as its own isolated network, this will – in turn – render it unable to access the client’s emails or bank account details should anyone manage to infiltrate it, since it will be operating separately from the network housing that information.

Likewise, improving the router setup in a property will significantly improve the security profile of the smart property network. Regular routers often fail to offer decent security features, making it a good investment to purchase a replacement that is capable of identifying and combatting any potential threats.

Going one step further, it could also be worth getting a professional in to do a penetration test or ethically hack the existing smart home setup. This, as a result, will help identify any existing vulnerabilities, enabling you to source the relevant solutions.

Smartphone vulnerability

When setting up a smart property, all the devices will need to be connected to a smartphone of some kind. As such, it stands to reason that, the less secure this smartphone is, the more vulnerable it will be as well. Therefore, it’s imperative to set smartphones up in a way that is as safe and secure as possible – even in the event of being stolen.

From simple things like updating to the latest security patches to investing in fully-fledged smartphone-based security software, there are a wide number of things you can do to protect smartphones against potential hacks.

However, while it may sound fairly obvious, one of the most effective things you can do is ensure strong passwords are being used across the smart home network – whether that be on each individual smart device app or on the home screen itself.

This defence, coupled with a router system that has its firewall enabled, its main computer account set to an administrator-level and WPA authentication turned on, will provide your client with the best possible defence against potential smartphone-focused hacks.

Why Buy-to-Let Purchases are Rising in 2022

Despite the challenges we have faced over the past two years, a surprising outcome of the pandemic was the boost it caused to the property market. And in the upcoming months, the buy-to-let market is expected to see even more growth.

About our guest blogger:
Dakota Murphey has experience in property management with her portfolio of properties expanding in the South of England. Her passion for renovation and home improvement projects is shared through her writing to help educate and inspire others.

Following the exodus from cities at the start of the pandemic, more people are returning to city life and seeking the flexibility that rentals offer as a result. The increase in tenant demand is pushing property values and rental prices up and could see remortgaging in the buy-to-let sector hit new levels. As a result, it’s anticipated that landlords will be looking to expand their existing portfolios or dive into the market as a way to maximise their profits.

Boosted rental prices

Rent prices are rising fast, which serves as a great opportunity for those invested in the market. In fact, while the Office for National Statistics has indicated that rents have increased by 1.8% across the UK over the past year, business consultants believe that the figure is closer to 8%.

Neighbourhoods in central London, Yorkshire, Birmingham and Manchester have seen a rise in rental prices, making these destinations particularly popular with investors. Tenant demand is expected to remain strong throughout 2022, and as prices for rental properties increase, the desire for investors to put their money into buy-to-let properties will follow suit.

Increase in remortgaging activity

One of the key themes for lenders, brokers and landlords in the coming year will be the increase in remortgaging activity. The new underwriting standards which were introduced back in 2017 by Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), were coupled with low interest rates of that period to encourage longer-term mortgages. But, those five-year fixed-rate mortgages will be coming to an end which is expected to boost the remortgaging sector considerably.

What’s more, fears of soaring inflation have led many experts to suggest that the base rate of interest will rise in 2022. Since most landlords investing in a buy-to-let property will obtain a mortgage to do so, particularly in locations where properties are more expensive like London, borrowers will be keen to secure a loan sooner to avoid a hike in interest rates. According to a report from Shawbrook Bank, 34% of landlords intend to buy at least one more property in 2022 and many more are likely to utilise borrowing as a way of expanding their portfolios.

Student cities repopulating in droves

Another reason why buy-to-let looks set to be a popular investment option is that after a period of uncertainty for the student community, filled with remote studying and living away from campuses, high numbers of students are returning to campus. Likewise as the travel sector and global travel returns to normal, international students are returning to the UK to resume their studies leading to rising rental demand. Such movement has bolstered the rental demand in student-heavy areas and it’s an issue that’s not only prevalent in the UK but across Europe.

In cities such as Leeds, properties over the last few months have been reserved solely after virtual viewings in many cases in order to secure homes for the academic year, and many students are paying premium prices to lock in properties.

With student populations at their limit, and courses at numerous universities oversubscribed, it offers a huge opportunity for the buy-to-let market and for letting agencies, since students now appear to have larger budgets and a willingness to pay a premium for the best properties close to amenities. Since tenants are increasingly happy to rely on virtual viewings and signing on for properties without physically seeing them, letting agencies can complete property transactions for clients much faster.

The year of build-to-rent

One of the proposed solutions to the demand for rental properties is build-to-rent, and 2022 has been dubbed the year that this solution really takes off. There are estimated to be over 205,000 build-to-rent homes in the UK, and according to research from the British Property Federation, the number of completed build-to-rent developments has jumped up by 27% in 2021 compared to 2020. This growth shows no signs of slowing down and 2022 could well be the year that build-to-rent becomes the go-to solution.

This option commands a premium price tag and is intended to appeal to younger renters, since the developments offer on-site facilities and contemporary furnishings, but many investors have expressed interest in catering to modest incomes and families seeking rentals too.

A year with ample potential for investors

With rents likely to rise by as much as 4.5% by the end of the year, according to a study by Zoopla, and the reopening of the economy post-pandemic, there are certainly opportunities for rental investments throughout this year. Investors need to stay mindful of the needs of tenants and market trends when putting money down on a property.

Despite much research carried out, the need to protect investments has never been stronger given the challenges of the past year, which is why investors should remain prudent and use letting agencies and property managers to help them manage property portfolios more effectively and make stronger investment decisions. With legislative changes occurring all the time, a simple mistake could cost investors considerably.

Which Eco-Savvy Techniques Boost Property Values?

With rising energy costs and increasing awareness of the environmental impact of property, home energy efficiency improvements are high on the list for agents and landlords alike. There are plenty of eco-savvy techniques that property owners can deploy to not only help lower their tenants’ utility bills, but also dramatically improve the value of the property.

Take a look at the chart below, courtesy of Money Supermarket research data, to see the clear correlation between higher EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) ratings and an increase in property value.

Source: https://www.moneysupermarket.com/gas-and-electricity/value-of-efficiency/

A growing number of homebuyers now look for green credentials as an important requirement for their future home. These days, many buyers will check the EPC ratings of a property before making the decision to view it, discarding some properties on the basis of poor energy performance even though they might otherwise be perfectly suitable homes.

Eco-friendly features that add value to a home are increasingly on the radar, both for buyers and sellers, and it is clear that buyers are willing to pay a premium for a property if they can see how sustainability features can save them money over the long term.

What are the best green investments for a property?

Draught proofing

About our guest blogger:
Dakota Murphey has experience in property management with her portfolio of properties expanding in the South of England. Her passion for renovation and home improvement projects is shared through her writing to help educate and inspire others.

Draught proofing is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to save energy in a building. Unwanted gaps around doors, windows, floors, walls and pipework can lead to cold air coming in and warm air going out. You may even be able to feel a tangible cold breeze. The result of uncontrolled heat loss is a home that doesn’t feel cosy and can cost a fortune to heat. Draught-free homes, on the other hand, are comfortable at lower temperatures and save the homeowner money on energy bills.

Draught proofing costs will depend on the exact areas that need attention and the size of the job. A typical semi-detached property should cost in the region of £200 for professional draught proofing, according to Energy Saving Trust, and DIY options will of course be cheaper.

Cavity wall insulation

Wall insulation is one of the best individual contributors to EPC improvements. Good cavity wall insulation can reduce heat loss by up to 1/3, cutting energy bills by up to £255 a year, says EDF Energy.

Walls are insulated by injecting mineral wool, polystyrene beads or polyurethane foam into the cavity from outside by drilling holes through external walls. Expect to pay upward of £950 for professional cavity wall insulation. Free insulation grants are available through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) government scheme for low income households.

For home extensions and new build projects, using thermal insulation building blocks in the construction is a good way to ensure maximum energy efficiency from the outset. Older buildings with solid walls instead of cavity walls – typically buildings constructed before the 1920s – can be insulated by way of fitting internal or external insulation to achieve the same effect.

Doors and windows

External doors and windows can be a major source of heat loss in the home. Single glazed doors and solid material doors have a high ‘U-value’, meaning they are comparatively thermally ineffective. Double glazing options and composite materials are designed to reduce heat transfer, and are a good energy efficiency upgrade option. Any door installed before 2002 should be reviewed. The smaller the U-value, the less heat is lost through the door.

The same goes for single glazed windows. Upgrading the property’s windows is an excellent investment to increase energy efficiency. Double glazed windows throughout an average three-bedroom house is likely to save around £110 in heating bills per year, and improve the property’s EPC rating. Triple glazed windows could save an additional 50% on top of double glazing figures!

Loft insulation

Around a third of heat loss occurs through uninsulated roof space, which makes effective loft insulation one of the most useful ways to improve energy efficiency in a property. Given that heat rises, simply lining the loft floor can make a big difference. Building Regulations guidance stipulates a minimum depth of 270mm, which equates to a thermal resistance R-value of 6.1, and up to 300mm thickness is recommended.

Good loft insulation helps reduce a property’s carbon footprint and combat climate change. The reduced heat loss means that the central heating system doesn’t have to run as long, reducing the amount of fossil fuels needed to keep the home warm. A detached house can expect to save around one tonne of carbon dioxide each year, according to this heating expert.

Boiler upgrade

Upgrading the central heating boiler to a more energy efficient option can have a significant effect on the property’s energy consumption. Old boilers can lose an inordinate amount of heat, while modern combi boilers are among the most energy efficient appliances around. On a detached house, the difference can be as much as £400 in lower energy bills. An A-rated boiler can also greatly improve the property’s EPC rating. A new combi boiler and installation should cost no more than about £3,000 but it’s a worthwhile home improvement that will contribute to a higher market value for the property.

In terms of environmental impact, heat pumps and biomass boilers offer a fossil fuel free heating option, but buying and installing this technology does come at a price.

What do homebuyers really think?

A recent eco-home survey report asked 2,000 potential homebuyers which eco-savvy property upgrades they valued most and which they valued least. The results make for interesting reading. Draught proofing, installing thermostats and smart metres came top as the most valued green home improvements. This is excellent news for sellers who are choosing to invest comparatively little on eco upgrades and are achieving healthy returns.

Source: https://www.money.co.uk/loans/eco-homes

Interestingly, ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps and biomass boilers top the list of least valued eco-improvements. With many people yet to be convinced of the economic feasibility of the new technology the jury is still out on whether homeowners are likely to get their money back on the investment when selling their property.

Source: https://www.money.co.uk/loans/eco-homes