UK Flood risks increase insurance premiums

With one of the wettest summers on record we thought we would look into the impact this has on landlords and tenants in relation to the  cost of insuring properties against flood damage, how to minimise the impact of flooding and what to do if you are struggling to get insurance because of where you live.

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Around 5 million people in the UK live in areas that are at risk of flooding.The environment agency publishes a flood map showing the areas that are most at risk so you can check out the likelihood of having a problem before you rent or buy. They also run an alert service that direct to your phone, mobile, email, SMS text or fax by calling 0845 988 1188 or visiting the Floodline website.

Some insurances have increased by by five times the original premium and some policies have an excess of £5,000 for incidences of flooding. Figures from the AA show the average buildings insurance bill is currently £176, this follows rises of 7% and 12% in the previous two years.Flood map - city of London

Because so many households are affected the government is in talks with the insurance industry to agree a levy on all insurance in order to provide cover for those most t risk of their homes flooding. This could add an extra 10% to the average householder’s insurance bill, as typical flood claims are between £20-£40K

The government has budgeted £2.1 billion to spend on flood defences and other flood measures.

If you live in property in areas liable to flooding remember that your personal safety should take priority over protecting your belongings, however there are some precautions you can take.

Roll up rugs and remove curtains from downstairs rooms.

Place antique and valuable furniture in upstairs rooms.

Unplug electrical items if flooding is imminent and where possible move them to upstairs rooms.

Take a moment to consider items that are outside – can bikes, ladders and other garden equipment be stored in the rafters of a garage or shed? In any case they should be secured to prevent them causing damage if floods hit and start to carry off loose items.

Sandbags may prevent water getting into the property – or minimise the impact.

If a flood hits your property advise your insurer immediately

Ask your insurer what they expect you to do with any items that are flood damaged, as they may want to assess them before agreeing payment.

The charity nationalfloodforum.co.uk has lots of advice  on their website and they continue to lobby the government on improving measures for those at risk of flooding.

Rental housing safety – Carbon Monoxide

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Infographic showing Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – Image from Gassaferegister.co.uk

In a series of blogs about safety practices Riley Marshall explores what you can do to keep yourself safe in the home. This is important information for landlords, tenants and homeowners alike.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a natural gas given off while burning fuel. It is tasteless, odourless, and colourless, but it is poisonous. Do not confuse it with C02 (Carbon Dioxide) which is not poisonous, even if it may have an environmental impact on the planet.

Carbon Monoxide is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’, because high levels can build up in the home without anyone noticing. However in smaller concentrations it can also cause health threatening symptoms, especially in those who already have underlying health issues.

The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death

Symptom severity is affected by the level of CO in the environment, and how long the exposure has gone on for. Levels of CO in the body can be easily measured by blood tests but ideally tenants and homeowners should have warning devices fitted in the home to detect dangerous levels before they start to suffer symptoms.

There are many ways you can protect yourself against this danger and they are listed here.

  • Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Most appliances should be installed by qualified professionals. Have the heating system professionally inspected and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owners manual when performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning equipment.
  • Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space such as a garage, house, or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.
  • Install a Carbon Monoxide alarm. While a CO alarm can provide some added protection, it is no substitute for proper use and upkeep of appliances that can produce CO. Do not cover the alarm by furniture or curtains.
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers to heat your home.
  • Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
  • Do not cover the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with aluminium foil. Doing so blocks the combustion air flow through the appliance and can produce CO.
  • During building work, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by debris or materials. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.

Do follow the Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign from the website. They are also on Twitter and Facebook, so follow them to get the latest updates and news.

If you are a landlord of rented property speak to your agent about fitting Carbon Monoxide alarms – we are always happy to arrange this for our landlords.

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Investor landlords need to know about HMO – Part 3

change ahead

As part of our ongoing policy to advise landlords about the rental market, we present the third in our series of blogs about HMOs – Houses in Multiple Occupation, and what this means to investor landlords.

For a definition of Houses in Multiple Occupation and licencing details please visit Part 1 in this series. For why it is important to licence and maintain these HMOs please visit Part 2 in this series.

What happens if there are changes in circumstances in my HMO?
If there are changes that affect the status of your property you must be aware of the implications and be prepared to notify the local authority.

The following situations can easily arise during or between tenancies:

  • the house is no longer in multiple occupation
  • the tenant has allowed more people to live there than the HMO licence allows
  • the licence holder (usually the landlord) is no longer suitable – fit and proper – to hold a licence
  • the management is no longer suitable to manage an HMO
  • the landlord wants to change the HMO licence holder
  • the HMO is no longer suitable to be considered an HMO
  • the landlord wants to change the HMO to occupation by a single household
  • the landlord wants to sell the property

It is clear that these changes can be a consequence of actions by the tenant, landlord or the local authority and so the landlord must be aware of what is happening in the property. We would suggest that HMOs are regularly inspected to make sure that the conditions of the licence are being adhered to. Riley Marshall carries out regular checks on properties under their management scheme, and your agent may do the same for you. However if you do not have an agent to manage your property then we would suggest that you keep records of your visits in case the Local Authority need proof that you have taken your responsibilities seriously.

Obviously if you are the landlord and you are planning changes that affect the status of your HMO then you should tell your local authority as soon as possible. They may need to cancel it, alter the conditions of the licence being granted, or grant a different licence.

If the tenants change their circumstances then you will need to negotiate with them to bring them back within the terms of the licence and if this is not possible then you should contact the Local Authority for advice.

Landlords should be aware of how changes in circumstances affect their HMO licence, and you should consult your letting agent and your local Council if you have any queries or concerns.

This is the last in our HMO series but we will be sending out information on other aspects of the rental industry, if you want to find out the most up-to-date rental issues we are talking about then please click through to our main blog.

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Investor landlords need to know about HMO – part 2

HMO houses in multiple occupation part 2

Protect the value of your HMO investment by regularly inspecting and maintaining your rental property

As part of our ongoing policy to advise landlords about issues about the rental market, we present the second in our series of blogs about HMOs – Houses in Multiple Occupation, and what this means to investor landlords.

Houses in multiple occupation HMOs – For a definition and licencing details please visit Part 1 in this series.

Why Licence HMO properties?
HMOs are considered a greater risk for health and safety issues because of the size of the accommodation and the numbers of people living in the property. Licencing them allows the local authority to keep an eye on how they are maintained in respect of these aspects.

Landlords must comply with the terms of the licence issued by the local authority of the area that the property is located. These may vary but always include a requirement for the landlord to:

  • give their contact details to the tenants
  • keep fire escapes clear and maintain fire fighting equipment and alarms
  • ensure that the property design and structure will not cause any injury
  • provide adequate, uninterrupted water supply and drainage
  • provide adequate supply of gas (if any) and electricity
  • check annual gas safety certification (if gas is supplied) and electricity safety every five years
  • keep the property and any shared gardens in good repair
  • provide suitable rubbish disposal
  • This is in addition to the usual obligations that a landlord has in relation to Tenancy Agreements, deposits, legal Notices, ending tenancies etc.

Within five years of a landlord applying for a licence the local authority must carry out a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) risk assessment. This will detail any works that are required to bring the HMO up to legal standards, and will give a timescale for the works to be completed.

Good Maintenance is an important aspect of your rental business
Well maintained flats and houses attract better tenants and improves property values so as a landlord you should not be worried about this ongoing assessment of your property.

If you embrace the idea of keeping a careful eye on the condition of your property you will benefit from the cost savings of timely repairs and maintenance, a better relationship with your tenants, and an investment that holds its value in the marketplace.

We are always happy to discuss the legal and financial implications of purchasing different types of property with our Landlord clients, so please do get in touch if you want to discuss any aspects raised by this blog article.

Our third (and final) part in this HMO series comes out here next week, but if you can’t wait please click through to part 3.

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