New Council Tax Ruling is a ‘tax on Landlords’

Council tax relief may end on rental property depending on the local council

How will the new Council Tax regulations affect the Rental Market?

Rented property as Second Home 
If you own property that is rented you officially have a second home. If this property is furnished and empty for a period between tenancies, Local Councils have been obliged to offer discounts of between 10-50% on Council Tax, although in practice most councils only allowed a 10% reduction in fees.

This situation was already biased against the rental sector when you consider that a single occupier of a property can apply for a 25% reduction, but a Landlord could only get 10% relief.

Previous Legislation on Rented property and Council Tax
Previously if a rental property was empty and unfurnished there was no Council Tax due for six months, and after that period it could also qualify for up to 50% discount, as per the furnished property detailed above.

Second homes have long been controversial because owner non-occupiers have been accused of tying-up available living space while effectively draining the economy, by not being fully involved in the local community. However we argue that Landlords do not fall into this category. In fact they may be the only ones providing affordable housing in some areas of the country.

New Council Tax rates
New Government regulations announced last week, give responsibility to Local Councils for setting Council Tax discounts on second homes. As each Council comes under growing financial pressure it becomes increasingly likely that Councils will scrap any relief on Council Tax on second homes, and rental property.

While property undergoing major repair work or structural changes remains exempt from Council Tax bills for up to 12 months, each Local Council will chose what constitutes ‘major work’. It is unlikely to include upgrading heating systems, replacing windows, or redecorating – all of which responsible landlords will do periodically to protect their investment and to keep up the standard of housing.

No incentive for landlords to refurbish property
In a week where a landlord in Plymouth is in danger of getting an ASBO because of the condition of his properties, does this send out the right message to responsible landlords?

This new legislation does not take into consideration the financial pressures on private landlords who are often working on tight margins or indeed could be subsidising their investment now to gain long term benefits as ‘pension plans’ for the future. In effect they are being penalised for being fiscally responsible.

The Council housing sector is not able to place all the people who need to rent property, so if Councils put more pressure on private landlords they may decide to sell up and put their money elsewhere. After all being a landlord is not ‘easy money’.

Riley Marshall are Sales and Rental sector agents. Our blogs are intended to inform, and we welcome debate, please feel free to comment on this page or visit our Facebook page.


Gas Safety in rental property – What your agent does for you Part 6

Landlords: If you have gas appliances in your rental property they must be checked every year, and an annual Gas Safety Certificate issued by a Gas Safe engineer. We explore why you should use a letting/management agent?

Gas appliances must be checked by a Gas Safe Engineer


How does your letting agent help?
Any gas installation and appliances in rented property should be safe. In the UK it is a legal requirement for landlords to have gas appliances checked by a Gas Safe engineer annually. Your Letting or Estate agent can arrange these inspections on your behalf. This can benefit you by finding the most competitive rates. They will liaise with tenants to get access to the property for workmen. Once the work is done the bills can typically be paid from the rent collected. Perhaps the most important role your managing agent plays is the keeping records of due dates and certification.

Letting and managing agents build up good relations with reputable local tradesmen and this often leads to these engineers giving priority to their agents when there is an emergency or urgent job to deal with. It is in their interests to make sure a bigger client like a letting/estate agent is happy in circumstances where they might keep an individual waiting.

Tenants are often not as patient as homeowners when it comes to repairs so this can be beneficial to landlords who value hanging onto their good tenants.

CORGI replaced by Gas Safe
The old approved registration for Gas installers was called CORGI, and many people still refer to it even though it been replaced by the Gas Safe Register. Any gas fitter in the UK, Guernsey, and Isle of Man must be on the register to work legally on gas installations and gas appliances. Any reputable agent will only allow any gas related work at your rental property to be carried out by a Gas Safe engineer. If your agent does not comply with this basic standard then they put you and themelves at risk of prosecution, in which case you should get yourself a new managing agent.

The engineer will test that the appliance is working safely and write a report on their findings. This will include any mandatory work, any recommended work, and an any notes for the future. If you are arranging an engineer yourself it is worth checking that they are Gas Safe registered (and not just claiming to be) you can check their credentials on the Gas Safe Register site here.

When to get your Gas Safety Certificate
Your letting agent should arrange your Gas Safety Certificate to be issued before you let your property. Do not leave it until the tenants move in. We understand this means you incur costs before the property is let but moving tenants into a potentially unsafe environment has legal implications for you as landlord and for your letting/management agent. You may have a valid Landlords Gas Safety Certificate already in place from a previous tenancy and this is perfectly acceptable. Your letting agent should have a copy for their own records. You do not need to have a gas safety inspection carried out at the beginning or end of each tenancy – just on an annual basis.

Renewing your Gas Safety Certificate when appliances are serviced saves you money
If you are not sure when to have appliances serviced and maintained, it is worth noting that although anniversaries of renewal are likely to be dictated by the first tenancy, it is actually a good idea to have gas appliances tested, serviced, and maintained in the spring and summer. That way if there are problems to be addressed the tenant will be less inconvenienced. Finding a reliable GasSafe engineer, with time to make repairs, will be much easier in the summer too. There is no problem with having two Landlords Gas Safety Certificates issued within a year if you decide to make your dates coincide, just don’t wait for longer than 12 months t have your safety certificate issued.

Remedial works – your agents role
If the engineer finds a gas appliance or installation is not safe he is obliged to disconnect it and place a warning sticker on it (like the one below), so the tenant cannot use it, until it is repaired. This can upset tenants and so it may be helpful for you to have a letting agent as a middleman to deal with their concerns.

One of the best ways to prevent this inconvenience to your tenant is to have the appliance serviced when you have it tested. This is most appropriate for gas boilers and fires. Many landlords assume that their appliance will be serviced as part of the fee, but actually it is more like a car MOT – the engineer is simply testing performance and not carrying out any maintenance work. Your managing agent can arrange to have the appliance serviced at the same time as the annual gas safety check, and it is often cheaper to have this done together, rather than on two separate visits.

Remedial works are tax deductible and any good managing agent will receive the bill on your behalf, deduct the amount from rent paid by the tenant and pay the contractor for you. Your letting agent will keep records and issue statements which you can use to fill in tax returns.

About Riley Marshall Limited
Riley Marshall are Estate agents who specialist in letting and management of properties in South East London. If you would like us to come out to discuss managing your property around Greenwich, Shad Thames, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Deptford, Lewisham or New Cross areas then please do contact us for a free valuation. For other blogs on matters relating to property please visit our main blog page.

What your agent does for you – Part 5 Feedback

The benefit of the feedback you get from your agent cannot be overestimated. Agents spend their days talking with tenants so they know exactly what tenants want and can quickly react to trends in the market. Fluctuations in the market occur for a number of reasons throughout the year, (which could be the subject of another blog) and a good agent is an excellent tool for measuring demand. This blog explores how best to utilise this valuable resource.

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Your agent should give you regular feedback on viewings at your property. Make time for them to do this for you, tell them what methods of contact you prefer and when you like to be contacted. Some landlords like to be called each time we visit and others prefer a quick email, some want a weekly roundup.

You can do your part by remaining receptive to what your agent is telling you. It is much easier for an agent to advise you if you are clear about what you are, and are not, prepared to consider in respect of tenants’ requests. These may include: removing or providing furnishings; negotiating on rent; agreeing move-in dates; and improving décor and maintaining the property.

It might help for you to have a best scenario in mind, and an idea of your lowest limits. For instance the table below shows what you would really want, but gives the agent an idea of what you might be able to accommodate if a tenant requests it. You don’t have to prepare it in such a formal way but it might help you to list them in a way that you find appropriate, and then discuss the points with your agent. Don’t forget to keep re-evaluating this throughout the process if things change.

Best Will accept Will not accept
Rent £1000 per month £900 per month Less than £880 per month
Professional tenant students with guarantor students without guarantor DSS tenants
Furnished as it is removing any furniture apart from the beds adding furniture or removing the beds
Décor as is Painting the living room and kitchen and external paintwork Painting any other areas or replacing windows/doors
Move in 1st December 2 week lead time More than a month lead time without increasing the rent

If you have laid out your wishes to your agent in this way they will still bring offers to you – indeed they are obliged to put offers forward, however they will have been able to negotiate ‘best terms’ offers with the prospective tenants based on your wishes, before approaching you. This should save a lot of time for you and the tenant, and allows us to act more efficiently as your agent.

See more in our series of Blogs on What your agent does for you

What your agent does for you – Part 1 Marketing

We like to blog in series – giving our clients information in bite sized pieces that they can easily digest. In our latest planned group of blogs we are going to look at the role that the agent plays in … Continue reading →


What your agent does for you – Part 4 Tenancy Agreements

In this section we look at the role the tenancy agreement plays in ensuring a successful tenancy.

A good agent will ensure that the agreement is fair, current, and written in clear language, to ensure that both parties are fully aware of what they are signing and what they are, and are not, responsible for.

The agent’s experience of drawing up these documents and altering clauses where necessary can save the landlord money on solicitor’s fees. The costs of a solicitor drafting a bespoke document for each tenancy are likely to be higher than the agent using their standard documents and clauses. Where additional legal advice is needed Agents often have access to legal advice at competitive rates because of their long-standing relationships with legal representatives.

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Your agent should be willing to spend time explaining any terms and conditions to the landlord or tenant, if they do not understand what is meant in the Agreement. Time spent at the beginning of the tenancy in ensuring each party is happy with the document can save so much time and energy later because then each side enters into the agreement in full understanding of what they are agreeing to.

An efficient agent will get documents drafted in plenty of time to allow for all this to take place. It is important that if the document is to be relied on in any later dispute that the tenant was given time to fully understand what they were signing.

Although the agent is working for the Landlord they have a duty of care towards their tenant too, so they should ensure that the tenant has time to read any documents before signing and if necessary the tenant should be allowed time to consult with legal representation, or in the case of non-English speakers they may want to get the document translated before signing.

If the document becomes evidence in a legal dispute at some point in the future it is in the Landlords interests for the agreement to be seen to be fair in its terms and clear in its meaning.

It goes (almost) without saying that a good agent will ensure that any Tenancy Agreement that they are using complies with current legislation. although laws in this area are well established and change infrequently there are matters that need updating from time to time. The may also other documents that need to be served correctly on the tenant in order to ensure tenancies are correctly set up, for instance if the landlord is not setting up a Shorthold Tenancy they are obliged to serve a notice informing the tenant of this fact.

Not all tenancies are Assured Shorthold Tenancies, and where they are not used correctly then statutory tenancies are created which may grant the tenant more rights than the landlord intended.

Assured Shorthold Tenancies allow landlords to let their property for a short period only between 6 and 36 months and

  • The Tenant must be an individual not a business or holiday let
  • The property must be the Tenant’s main home
  • The  rent cannot exceed £25,000 per annum and there must be some rent payable
  • The Landlord must not occupy the same property – this includes flats converted from a larger building in which the landlord occupies a portion of the building even if they are both self-contained.

If court action is needed, this can be obtained on a number of different grounds against the Tenant.If the property is let under an Assured Short hold Tenancy, the Landlord can gain possession by issuing a Section 21 Notice which guarantees him possession once the original term has ended. This must give the tenant at least 2 months notice.

In practice although a tenancy can be set up for less than six months it is unlikely that a court will grant possession to the landlord within the first six months under a Section 21 Notice. However if a tenant has breached the terms of their agreement by nuisance or not paying rent then possession may be granted sooner.

If you want further advice on how we can help you to let and mange your property please do get in touch, one of our experienced team in our London Office would be happy to help you 020 7394 1160.

Part 5 will come out next week.

What your agent does for you – Part 3 Getting References

In our previous posts we looked at marketing and finding a suitable tenant

We are now going to look into the next step, which is to obtain the references. At this stage we will have already met the tenant and discussed their requirements and their background to ensure it meets your requirements as a landlord. Now we need to formally confirm this and to ensure that the tenant is likely to be able to afford the rent.

Obtaining references

While it could be argued that finding a tenant is relatively easy in London where population levels are high and decent property can soon be let if the landlord will accept the first offer. The agent’s job is to find the right tenant for the property. This is built up from a number of indicators including the impressions the tenant gives when dealing with the agent; their demeanor and attitude; their credit rating; previous landlords’ references and employer’s reference.

We use specialist referencing companies who are able to concentrate on getting financial and employment information quickly. This is an efficient way of building up a tenants profile, plus they can also offer a range of rent guarantee products to our clients. This is an improvement on trying to contact each of the references yourself, chasing people up and trying to speak to the right person all of which can take up valuable time at times that you are trying to work yourself.

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Occasionally tenants do not fit into the boxes that mark out the perfect tenant but with some background digging and gathering other financial information about the tenants it may be possible to satisfy the landlord that the tenant is a genuine case. It is in these cases that a good agent can really earn their keep by using all their experience to rule out poor tenants and include good ones.

Obviously if it turns out that the tenant is not going to be a good risk then we advise the landlord who is likely to then make the decision not to proceed with at tenant. Again this avoids a confrontation for you as landlord as we are used to handling this process in a professional manner – to avoid personal conflict.


We are addressing this out of order as the negotiating is done prior to the reference procedure, but it ties in to the last point about personal confrontation. Many landlords struggle to negotiate a good deal find because they find it stressful as tenants haggle for the best terms they can get. Using an agent imparts an emotional distance to these negotiations and often results in a better deal for the landlord.

In our next post we will look at the legal paperwork surrounding tenancies and how your agent can help you with these.

Part 4 will come out next week.

What your agent does for you – Part 2 Finding the right tenant

In the second of our series looking at the role of the Letting Agent we focus on actually finding the right tenant for you as landlord.

Finding a tenant

This includes the agent ‘qualifying’ each tenant before they see the property to ensure that they meet the landlord’s criteria and that they will be able to fulfill the tenancy if they decide to proceed. Although this is simple series of questions it is often a step that a private landlord might miss – either because they are not sure questions to ask or how to ask them. our agent should know what to ask and how to ask it in order to quickly build up trust and rapport, and to gain a valuable insight into the tenant’s lifestyle.


Equally there is no point in taking hundreds of tenants to see a property that doesn’t meet their requirements, we would be just wasting everyone’s time if we did this. While this predominantly inconveniences the inefficient agent it can also alienate prospective tenants, and any current tenants in your property who get fed up of having a trail of uninterested people trouping through their home.  It is far better to have a few qualified viewings (and to secure a tenancy from one of those), than to take everyone who is prepared to view it and risk not getting a tenant because none of them are seeing what they want.

A good agent will listen to the landlord to find out what pointers are most important to them, if the landlord says no smokers then a simple question to a prospective tenant will avoid any problems later. Your good agent will also listen to what a tenant finds most important and they will then try to marry one to the other (although not literally, a good agent often operates like a matching agency).

Another benefit of using an agent is your agent can usually arrange to accompany viewings at times that you may find inconvenient. This includes the ability to react quickly for a request for viewings. Many tenants will line up a series of viewings over a day or two and then just pick the best of what they can get in to see. The commitment of renting is not the same as buying and so tenants make decisions much quicker than potential homeowners. Flexibility and convenience often clinch a deal, particularly with time-poor professional tenants, who tend to be the landlord’s preference.

There will be more in this series but in the mean time please do contact us if you have any questions.

Part 3 will come out next week.