New licencing requirements for landlords in Newham

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Licencing of rental properties Newham could start a trend in the rental sector

Newham Landlords who rent out properties privately are the first in the country to face mandatory licensing which came into effect on the 1 January 2013.

Following a 10-week consultation on proposals to introduce a licensing scheme for all private landlords in the East London Borough, the scheme was approved by Councillors  making it a requirement for private landlords in Newham to show that they are “fit and proper persons”.

Landlords are now required to fill in an application form which allows the council to check the credit background of landlords as well as requiring them to provide proof of safety checks. Follow this link for more information from Newham Council, including a link to the form for licencing.

Newham Council ran a pilot scheme for 18 months prior to the Olympics charging £500 for a licence, or £300 for early applications.
The aim of the council is to improve the quality of private rented housing in the borough and eradicate so called ‘rogue landlords’ who do not take their obligations seriously. The discounted fee has been extended from the 1st January to the 31st January 2013 but it is unlikely to be further extended.

Newham mayor, Sir Robin Wales (above), said: “We want to ensure that private sector rented properties are well managed and meet a good standard.” He added “We also want to deal with the crime and anti-social behaviour that is sometimes associated with bad private sector rented housing,”

A national regulatory scheme to protect tenants was proposed by the previous Labour government after the Rugg Review, a reported on the private rented sector. The then government proposed plans to establish a national register of landlords, make written tenancy agreements compulsory and regulate letting and managing agents.

However, Coalition government housing minister Grant Shapps rejected the regulations as he believes the majority of England’s three million private tenants are happy with the conditions of their housing.

In 2010 he announced to landlord: “I am satisfied that the current system strikes the right balance between the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.” Going on to promise “the government has no plans to create any burdensome red tape and bureaucracy.”

We would advise landlords who run their rental property as a business with the rights and responsibilities that incurs are unlikely to have any problems getting licenced by Newham or any other borough. Riley Marshall have noticed a marked increase in demand for new property in the rental sector over the last twelve months which is obviously good news for property developers, and investors. New properties are not likely to have any problems with licencing if it does come into effect more widely, but as long as your property is well maintained there is no reason you should have a problem even if it is an older building.

The Riley Marshall Blog intends to keep you up to date with property matters – why not check out our series on what you agent does for you click here to go to part 1 – Marketing.

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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 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.

Negotiating

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.

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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.

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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Concierge services are in demand in rented housing

porters and concierges can influence tenants decisions on renting

Concierge or porter services:

Concierge services have been common in certain parts of the world for many years especially in the Middle East, America and Far East. Nearer to home the French concierge has been a long-standing fixture in communal buildings. They have become an almost fabled literary figure – a cross between caretaker, nosy neighbour and guard-dog.

The costs of running a concierge or porter service is added to the service charge, which is paid by the Landlord. However these properties can command a higher rent. Britain is beginning to catch on to the idea of concierge services, and most new developments in London, of any scale, provide one.

Why is a concierge facility becoming so popular?

One of the main reasons is security of course. Having a person in the building at all times of the day (and possibly night) helps to make residents feel secure. This is particularly important for single women and for people who spend a lot of time away from their property.

Tenants also like concierge services is that as residents they have someone to complain to if things are not working properly within the building, which means they feel they have some control over the place where they are living. Many concierges adopt a proprietary manner and will go above and beyond their brief to make sure that buildings are kept clean, tidy, and in good working order.

Another convenient benefit to landlords and tenants in property with Concierge facilities is when work needs doing there is someone on site to hold a key and grant access to workmen. In fact the porter/concierge will often have their own list of reliable tradesmen for the job. They soon get to know who is good and who is not.

Unlike the stereotype of the European ‘live in’ concierge most London concierges are smartly uniformed, professional and they definitely take a pride in what they do.

Tenants appreciate the ‘little touches’

Many concierges will organise laundry services, booking travel, taxis and theatre tickets, making restaurant reservations, and carrying luggage. Some concierges in more exclusive developments may even go so far as to stock the fridge, regulate the heating, and water the plants for residents while they are away.

The smaller services such as having someone to take in mail which saves all that hassle of calling into the (not necessarily very) local sorting office to collect, can make life so much easier for the busy professional.

Tenants like the convenience of having a concierge service with their local information and their practical knowledge of the building. It is amazing how many tenants do not have a practical nature and so it is handy for them to have someone able to change a lightbulb just down the stairs.

As experienced letting agents we have noticed that if there is a choice between a property with or without concierge services tenants will often opt for the one with the added benefit, even if the rent is slightly higher.

Landlords also benefit from concierge services

For landlords having a concierge on site offers another level of protection to their property. They will usually keep an eye on empty property for absentee landlords.

Letting agents soon get to know the concierges in their area and they will be tipped off if any of their tenants are not behaving in a proper ‘tenant-like’ manner. This enables the managing agent to intervene before costly problems occur.

If you like the sound of investing in property with concierge services talk to us about which are best. We always make a point of knowing which developments have the best porters.

Philippa Edwards blogging for Riley Marshall Limited – a dynamic sales and letting agency which provides a personal, professional and considerate service, with pride and integrity as driving principles. Based in Surrey Quays, covering South East London and Docklands.

National Rent increases confirmed by RICS report

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have confirmed what most letting agents must know – that UK residential rents have increased over the last year. The national rise is 4.3% and RICS are forecasting a rise of a further 3.9% in the next 12 months.

This is due to a rise in demand for rental properties which so far this year has outstripped supply. This is good news for landlords, but harder on tenants. There are regional variations of course, but the South East is one of the areas with increasing rents despite high levels of building in the London Area.

RICS global residential director Peter Bolton King said: “. . . it is clear we have seen rents grow steadily right across the UK for some time. This is partly down to the problem of the scarcity of mortgage finance and the large deposits required by lenders.”

Buy to Let Landlords were finding no problem in securing mortgages during the same period, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders in their report this month. They noted an increase in Buy-to-Let lending of some 25%.

Price Waterhouse Coopers are expecting a long term return on capital of some 2-3% pa over the next 13 years. They are suggesting that the returns on properties will be similar to the return from gilts and equities.  John Hawksworth, Chief Economist for Pricewaterhous Coopers, said: “Given that housing returns will not be perfectly correlated with returns on equities and gilts, including housing, an investment portfolio together with these other assets could have some advantages in terms of diversifying risk.” He was also careful to point out that investing in property is not without risks in itself however.

For anyone considering starting a property portfolio as a long term investment plan Riley Marshall would be happy to discuss the merits of properties for rental and make suggestions on your shortlisted properties in terms of rental yields.

Demand is outstripping supply despite new developments across London.

If you are considering increasing your existing holdings we can review your current properties and discuss what else to include as your portfolios grow. Please contact us to discuss this further + 44 207 394 1160.

We are happy to call you back at a time to suit you – simply send us an email with your number and a guide as to when you prefer to be called. Please put ‘Investment Landlord’ into the subject bar.