We are delighted to announce the acquisition of The Happy Tenant Company. 🎉
This is our third such acquisition in the last 18 months. With more than 8,000 properties on our platform to date, this latest acquisition further cements our position as one of the leading players in the online lettings space and demonstrates our plans for ambitious growth over the coming months.
As a business, The Happy Tenant Company already shares our ambitions to make the rental market a better place for landlords. Happy Tenant Company was created in 2012 and founded by landlords who felt there needed to be massive changes to the way that properties were managed by letting agencies.
Extortionate maintenance fees and excessive markups by letting agencies had been the main drive to create The Happy Tenant Company. The Happy Tenant Company’s mission is to have total transparency and integrity first by having fixed fees for landlords and passing benefits back to members.
“The founders of The Happy Tenant Company have built a great business. Their brand values and ethos align with those of Howsy and we’re confident we can offer a greater selection of services for Happy Tenant customers to further enhance their experience,” says Calum Brannan, founder and CEO of Howsy.
With winter fast approaching, now is the time to think about doing some roof maintenance checks on your property to ensure your tenants keep warm and cosy over the colder months.
It’s recommended that you carry out two inspections each year – in Spring and Autumn (before the snow sets in). This is so you can have time to check and see how the roof is doing and pre-empt any larger scale problems before they occur. Often damage can occur before it’s noticeable and before any mold or leaks occur. So doing some roof maintenance can ensure you’ve got this covered before waiting for something drastic to happen.
If your roof isn’t properly maintained, water can infiltrate into your attic, damage insulation, wood framing and structural steel. This can cause the design and look of the property to drastically change – so long curb appeal!
Maintaining your roof and doing checks upfront acts as a way to prevent any larger scale roof emergencies, making the house safe for those living there. Ensuring your roof is in good condition will ultimately give you peace of mind and help to prevent the need for a full scale roof rebuild, saving costs in the long run.
How to do roof maintenance checks
Here are some of the ways you can carry out roof checks to make sure your roof stays in good condition. You can do these checks from the ground up or you can get up on a ladder and get in there and take a look. Just be careful not to lean your ladder on the guttering as you could break it. If you do get on the roof, do so only if you feel safe or you have the proper safety equipment such as an extension ladder, safety harness, 700kg breaking strain rope and soft shoes with grip.
Clean out gutters, as clogged gutters can cause rain and snow to not be able to drain properly. Clearing out a gutter is fairly easy and it’s just a case of removing leaves and moss.
Roof algae can cause your roof to age and cause black streaks which doesn’t exactly give your property curb appeal. If you see green, get it cleaned.
Trim your trees to prevent them overgrowing, resting or falling on the roof. Keep branches trimmed and remove from the gutter.
Pay attention to shingles. Look for any curling in a shingle, as that indicates moisture has made its way to its interior. A shingle with any damage should be replaced immediately to avoid leaks or further structural damage.
Check for any damaged roof tiles or ones that have slipped and are out of position. If they have slipped, you can pick them up and just re-adjust them, making sure all the tiles around are firmly placed down.
Check inside your home, if you see any damp on the ceilings or up the side of an internal wall, then it’s likely you have a problem with the roof. If you see daylight through the roof boards then you need a repair.
Look for sagging. Your roof should follow a straight line along a ridge. If it doesn’t and it looks like there’s a dip this could be the result of too much weight on the roof from snow and this could result in the roof collapsing.
Flashing – check your roof for flashing damage. This is the material, usually made from aluminium around the chimney, skylights and roof vents which directs water away from critical areas of the roof. Look for any rust that may have appeared as this indicates there’s damage to the material.
Think about your energy bills. Are they higher than normal? This could be due to air leaking from the roof and the heat escaping.
Check for any cracked mortar or caulking around the joints and chimneys must be sealed.
Hopefully these checks will help to keep your roof in good condition and give you ultimate peace of mind you’ll have a secure and warm home over the colder months.
The lettings landscape is always changing and for landlords it can be difficult to keep up with changes in legislation. The most recent change to the rental sector is how right to rent checks are done during the pandemic. We’ve put together the below blog to help you keep up to date and compliant as a landlord during this time.
What is right to rent?
The right to rent scheme, implemented by the Home Office, is there to ensure landlords check that the tenants living in their properties have legal status to live in the UK. The Home Office introduced Right to Rent checks as a deterrent to those looking to seek to live in England illegally. Only those who are able to live in the UK have a right to rent.
Who needs to carry out a right to rent check?
Before a landlord or letting agent can rent out a home in England, they are required to check a potential tenant’s passport and complete the necessary immigration checks. Anyone who is also a live-in landlord renting out part of the house or a tenant subletting one of the rooms out in the property, should also carry out these checks. If a tenant fails to help and doesn’t want to comply with a check being carried out, they could face being reported.
Who is subject to a right to rent check?
Since 1st February 2016, any tenant in England that is renting a property must prove that they have legal status to live in the country. You must check all new tenants. It’s against the law to only check people who you think aren’t British Citizens.
Who doesn’t need a right to rent check?
You don’t have to check tenants that are moving in to the following accommodation:
a care home, hospice or hospital
a hostel or refuge
a mobile home
local authority accommodation
Housing provided as part of their job
Property with a lease that’s 7 years or longer
How is a right to rent check done?
A landlord or letting agent must carry out the following:
From a list of acceptable identification documents, an original document must be checked to make sure the tenant has the right to live in the UK legally. This could include a UK/EU passport and a permanent residence card or travel document showing indefinite leave to remain.
Anyone 18 or older that’s living in the property, also needs to be checked, even if they aren’t on the tenancy.
These documents must be copied for reference purposes and be securely stored and the original documents returned once the check is complete.
Checks always had to be carried out face to face with all prospective occupiers using original documents. Yet due to Covid 19, there have been changes in the way documents are verified.
How Covid-19 has changed the right to rent check
Checks now don’t need to be done face to face. Due to the pandemic and the need for social distancing where possible, these checks can be done via a video link. To verify a tenant’s photographic I.D, the tenant can just hold this up next to their face during the video call so the landlord or letting agent can confirm who they are. A scanned copy of the document then needs to be sent electronically by the tenant to the landlord so they have this on file.
However, as the key to the property is usually handed over in person, this means that the verification process could still technically be done face to face but socially distanced. Where once the verification must be done face to face, the checks now allow for verification virtually.
This means landlords and letting agents can still complete the appropriate checks needed. By adapting to the current climate, landlords can still ensure they can let out properties and still be compliant.
Yes, as a landlord, you have a right to decide who is the best letting agent to manage your property needs.
If you aren’t happy with the service you are receiving, you have found someone who offers a package that you prefer, or costs have crept up, you are perfectly within your rights to jump ship and move to an agent who better fits the bill.
However, it is important to remember that an agreement between a landlord and a letting agent is a legal document, so it is important to follow the correct steps if you choose to make the change.
Are there any legal issues to consider when I switch letting agent?
When you enter into a relationship with a letting agent, you
will sign a contract outlining the details of the relationship. Whilst these
contracts are designed to continue on a rolling basis, there are opportunities
to remove yourself from the contract if you choose to.
This clause, usually called the termination clause, should
give you details of how you have to notify your agent of your intention to
terminate the contract, and the notice you have to give. The clause is similar
in principle to a break clause in a tenancy agreement, in so much as it gives either
party the opportunity to break the contract early without repercussions, as
long as certain rules are followed.
Termination clauses vary agent-to-agent, so check your contract for yours. If you are still unsure, we are happy to have a look for you – pop it over to our team at [email protected], and we’ll check though it and let you know exactly where you stand.
How do I do it?
Check your contracts: Check your contract for your termination clause and see how you can exit the contract without repercussions.
Give official notice: Send your agent official notice that you would like to terminate your contract. The best way to do this is in writing, so that they have evidence that you have done so.
Build a paper trail: In the same way that a paper trail is important when it comes to managing tenant disputes, it is vital to document every stage of this process carefully. Once you have notified your letting agent of your decision to remove yourself from the agreement in writing, continue to document every move every step of the way to give a clear timeline of your actions throughout the procedure.
Refresh your paperwork: Ensure you have all of the relevant paperwork for the property that the outgoing agent holds, that you may need copies of. This includes copies of your EPC, gas safety certification, inventory, tenancy agreement, deposit protection details etc.
Notify your tenant: You should let your tenants know exactly what is going on. Your agent has an obligation to do so, and it is important that you engage with them too.
Engage with a new agent: If you are looking to engage with a new agent, make sure you do so in plenty of time. This will give your new agent a chance to liaise with your previous agent and make sure that any important information is passed across and no details are forgotten.
Collect your keys: At the end of the notice period, don’t forget to collect any keys that the agent may be holding for your property. If you have alarms or key boxes at the property, it is good practice to reset the codes.
Obtain final sign off documents: When your notice period is complete, make sure you receive a document from your outgoing agent to confirm that the contract has been terminated and that the contract has ended. This should confirm that all fees are paid, and that you no longer have any relationship with the agency.
Will it cost me anything to change letting agent?
If you give adequate notice to your agent and abide by the
terms of your contract, you should be able to leave the agreement on an even
If you have experienced bad practice from an agent, and they have failed to deliver on the terms of the contract that you signed, you may be able to exit the contract early and get any early-exit fees waived. If you believe that your agent has failed to fulfil the terms of their agreement, you can contact Citizens Advice to discuss the case. It is up to you as a landlord to prove that the agent has failed to provide an adequate service, so it is important to have good evidence and clear information ready if you are looking to go down this route. The team at Howsy are happy to advise on exactly what service a good agency should be providing, so give us a call on0330 999 1234 if you’re unsure whether or not this could be an option for you.
If your property is under management, you may find that your agent has a clause in their contract that states that you are required to pay management charges as long as the tenant (that was found by the original agent) continues to occupy the property. Generally, a very dim view is taken on any clauses that tie an individual into a contract and do not give them any ability to leave. If your contract contains a clause like this, our free legal helpline can offer assistance in working out exactly where you stand. Give us a call today on 0330 808 1079
Do I have to give notice to terminate the agreement with my letting agent?
Yes. A termination clause will generally have a notice period of one to two months; however, this may vary depending on your agent. It is important to check your contract carefully and make sure that you are clear on this timeframe.
Could switching letting agents mid-contract impact my tenants?
If you choose to switch agents, there is no need for this decision to have any impact on any existing tenants. Keeping a good relationship with your tenants is key – you can read more about it here.
It is important to remember that there are two contracts to
consider here – your contract between you and your letting agent (the one being
contested), and the tenancy agreement between you and your tenant. Whilst this
important legal document may have been prepared for you by your agent, it is
between you and your tenant – and shouldn’t be in contest at this stage.
In order to make sure that the change-over doesn’t have any wider effects, there are some points that you should be sure to consider:
Make sure you have all of your tenant’s contact details. You should have this anyway, but make sure that the details you have are up to date, and that your tenant’s contact details haven’t changed from those that you already hold.
Ensure you have all of the relevant paperwork for the property that the existing agent holds, that your tenant may need copies of (you will need all of this paperwork anyway!)
Make sure your tenant has contact details of the new agent, and a way to contact them should they need to. It would be wise to send a clear email with details about what is going on, with all the relevant details so that is in one place.
If the agent has managed the deposit for you, make sure that this has been transferred and protected again, either under your name or that of your new agent. Don’t forget that once you have re-protected the deposit, you will have to issue Prescribed Information again to everyone who has contributed to the deposit (including guarantors).
Ask your new agent to draw up a new tenancy agreement, providing the details of the new letting agent as soon as possible. This isn’t the time to be making big changes to the agreement, just amend the contact details.
Can my new letting agent handle this process?
Yes, much of this can be handled by your new agent. Here at
Howsy, we help our new landlords with this process as much as possible. Of
course, you have to make the first step in letting your existing agent know
that you are looking to leave, but once that is done, we can take over in
managing the rest of the process.
We understand it can be daunting to consider jumping ship,
but it needn’t be. Your property is a huge asset, and you need to be confident
that the very best people are looking after it.
If you’re considering switching letting agents, simply complete this form to see how we can help and start the process. Switch today and save money tomorrow.
The Coronavirus pandemic has been worrying and stressful on so many levels. The worry of keeping yourself and your loved ones safe from a harmful virus is enough. Yet, combining this with lockdown and too many life changes overnight, losing your job can just add to the ever growing stress, worry and loneliness.
The government has had a blanket approach so far in financially helping people, by offering some companies the option to furlough existing staff and offering to pay 80% of salaries through PAYE. Yet some people have slipped through the net, with companies pulling roles and not being able to furlough staff if they’re not on the payroll in time. Some HR departments have said that furloughing staff can cause a range of issues for them with time and resources. Other companies just simply haven’t done it and made redundancies.
Freelancers and companies can get government grants, however this hasn’t covered everyone. Thousands of individuals have been left looking for jobs at a time when things have stood still.
This has left people without adequate financial help and the only other support has been Universal Credit/job seekers allowance. If people are renting, often the housing benefit doesn’t cover the cost of the rental amount and so this needs to be topped up with Universal Credit. This doesn’t leave much room for Council Tax (even with a reduction), bills and food. For some renters, they’ve had to make the decision between paying rent and affording food.
The economic impact of lockdown has hit people unequally but it has caused immediate impacts on mental health. The Mental Health Foundation reports that “a quarter reported not coping well with the stress of the pandemic (twice as many as those in employment), almost half were worried about not having enough food to meet basic needs.”
First steps to take
If Housing Benefit or Universal Credit doesn’t cover all of your rent and you need more money, you could make a claim for a discretionary housing payment (DHP). A DHP is extra money from your local council to help pay your rent.
You could also look to get a council tax reduction if you haven’t already done it here.
4. You may also be able to speak to your utilities company and try and get a payment plan to help with the costs, discover more.
Speak to your landlord
If you’re unable to get additional financial help and still you’re struggling to pay your rent, speak to your landlord as soon as possible. Please let them know what your situation is and that you’re struggling. They may be able to come to an arrangement. Perhaps you could pay half of your rent and then when you’re back on your feet, you can increase it over the coming months. Landlords would rather know the situation than receive radio silence and then no money at the end of the month. Your landlord may even be able to have a mortgage break and then pass this break on to you.
If you aren’t able to come to an agreement with your landlord, get in touch with Citizens Advice who can signpost you to a range of help and advice.
Speak to housemates
If you’re a lodger in a property, then speak to your live-in landlord and see if you could take on some additional work to lower your rent like cleaning. If you live with other housemates too, look to club together to buy food to help reduce your costs. Perhaps see if you could distribute the rent amongst yourselves differently to help each other out – if others are in a more stable position.
Can I be evicted if I can’t keep up with the repayments?
Your landlord can’t evict you if you don’t keep up with your rental payments as there is now a tenant eviction ban in place until 31st March 2020. Your landlord will have to give you six months notice to leave. This doesn’t apply where there is domestic abuse or anti-social behaviour within a property.
If domestic abuse is occurring within a property that you are in, get in touch with the National Domestic Abuse helpline. If you’re in life threatening trouble, ring 999 and if once dialed you can’t speak, press 55.
We would strongly urge tenants to seek as much financial support as they can get and to be open and honest with their landlord about their current situation.
We understand that dealing with financial worries can result in a range of issues and if you are struggling with your mental health as a result, please check out these links for advice and support.
Finding the right tenants is so important for a landlord. Ultimately you want to trust the people that are living in your investment. The last thing you want are disputes with tenants, not receiving rent or damages to your property. According to Property Investor Today, “The most common causes for tenant disputes are delayed rent (43%), damage to property (41%), cleanliness (33%), disputes over bills or deposits (10%), pets (9%) and sub-letting (7%)”
If you’ve spent a lot of time, effort and money to get your home up to a high standard to be let, ideally you’ll want tenants to keep it that way. On average, data from LV=Gl revealed the average landlord spends over £3,000 a year on general maintenance. Landlords spend the most money replacing/repairing flooring (£322), white goods (£298), other items (£256), cleaning at the end of a tenancy (£178) and removing forgotten items (£149). You could end up making a loss if there are numerous damages beyond the general wear and tear.
For many landlords, renting a property is vital for pension income, an additional salary or to cover other living costs. You’ll also ideally want to have tenants that you know will pay you each month, on time and won’t mess you around.
If you do find that your rental income isn’t secure, you can guarantee your rent with the Howsy Protect plan.
What tenants do you want?
There are various ways to find tenants. Sometimes people look to family and friends to rent out properties and it’s ideal if you know you can rely on them to look after your place. Yet there isn’t always that option to find someone you know and trust, so you’re left seeking out tenants.
Consider the type of tenants you want. Do you want tenants on a short term let? Are you going travelling and want to let your property out for a short period of time. Do you want tenants that are in it for the long haul and want a property to really make their home. Would you rather have:
Professionals and want to rent out per room?
This can then help you gauge where to advertise your property.
How to market your property
Get your property online
In order to attract tenants, utilise websites such as Rightmove, Zoopla, On the Market and Facebook marketplace to advertise your property. Look at having a premium listing on RightMove to help you gain more potential renters.
Take decent photos
Ensure your property is well photographed and the property is looking at its best before you take the images. Declutter your home and let some natural light through. It can be difficult for tenants to look past the clutter to imagine themselves living in that home. Also, de-personalise your home. Take out personal items in the bedroom and bathroom and clean up dirty dishes in the kitchen, store photos and any ornaments or childrens toys.
Although you can take images on your smartphone, the images don’t always do your property justice, particularly in small spaces such as a study or a bathroom. It’s worth investing in some professional photography to help take attractive photos. A rental property listing with good quality images will be let 70% faster. For further tips, discover our blog on using photography to market your property.
360 virtual tours
Having a virtual tour can give potential tenants a great insight into what your property is like and can encourage them to get in touch for a viewing. During the Coronavirus pandemic, virtual tours have been really valuable in showcasing a property. This has enabled landlords to still let their property.
How to screen tenants
Once you’ve had interest in your property, it’s a good idea to screen your potential tenants and carry out some background checks.
Character assessment – Try and meet your tenants in person and go with your gut instinct. Speak to them and get to know them and this will help you gauge what they could be like as tenants. If you can’t meet, perhaps get a character reference.
Landlord reference – Ask their current landlord if they’re reliable and pay rent on time.
Employment reference – gain further information on whether they will be able to afford to rent the property too. You could ask for bank statements or other evidence for proof of income. Alternatively, it may be worth asking if they have a guarantor to fall back on if they’re unable to pay their rent at any point.
Do a credit check
Do they have pets? Is there anything that could be a deal breaker?
Are they smokers?
Finding tenants can be time consuming. If you do want help finding tenants, Howsy can look after the whole end to end process. From viewings to photography and advertising your property, discover our ‘Rent it Faster (Pay Later)’ plan to help accelerate the letting process. Once we’ve found tenants, our dedicated concierge team will fully screen them and carry out reference checks. Speak to our friendly team for more information.
One of the main causes of electrical fires in the home is faulty and/or old wiring. Landlords can directly reduce the risk of a fire damaging or even destroying their property by regularly checking the condition of the wiring, fuse board, etc. This is where an electrical condition report (EICR) comes in.
Part of HMO and Scottish landlord’s safety checklist for years, EICRs are nothing new, however a recent change in legislation has now switched on the legal requirement for all landlords in England too, no matter the size of your property.
What is an EICR?
An EICR is the document issued, following an in-depth inspection and test to check the condition of the electrical installations (electrical outlets, wiring and consumer units) in a property against the national safety standard for electrical installations. It also picks up any potential safety issues. Think of it as a MOT for the electrics, if you will.
The checks must be carried out by a professional electrician, and the EICR issued by them. If passed, an EICR gives the green light to keep using the electrics in the property as they are. Which explains why they’re often asked for at the start of a new rental tenancy.
Any faults will be listed on the report, along with an explanation of why that electrical system failed the EICR. The faults will also be graded:
Code 1 or C1 means ‘Danger is present’, risk of injury is likely and IMMEDIATE action is required. The electrician will fix these there and then or at least make them safe before arranging to return to correct them.
C2 means ‘potentially dangerous’ and remedial action is needed urgently, which the electrician can quote for.
C3 means improvement to your electrical system is recommended, but not required because they see it’s safe. It’s the only code that can appear on a report that’s passed the EICR test.
Make sure your electrician is correctly qualified. They should be NIC EIC-accredited at approved contractor level. Or approved by another electrical regulatory body at a similar or higher level, which you can easily check on the Electrical Safety Register.
How much do they cost?
The cost of an electrical safety check depends very much on the size of your property – there is no simple one-price-fits-all answer. You can expect to pay anywhere from £160 for a one bedroom flat, rising to around £250 for a five-bedroom property. Of course, the larger the property, the higher the price tag. Your engineer will have to closely examine the safety of cover all electrical outlets, wiring and consumer units, so the price reflects the hard work that goes in to producing this important safety document.
What is tested?
In general, your electrician will check that:
your fuse board is safe and compliant with the current regulations.
Everything is correctly earthed – to prevent potentially fatal electric shock.
The wiring in your sockets, lights, switches and accessories is installed correctly.
What if there’s an issue?
If your engineer’s report flags up any issues with the electrical condition of your property, you are duty bound to act immediately, to guarantee the safety of your tenants, and other residents in the property’s surrounding yours.
Work should be carried out quickly, by a qualified electrician to bring the property up to standard. The engineer should provide written evidence on completion, detailing the work that has been carried out, and that the required standards have now been met. Once you have this evidence in writing, you should provide it to your tenants as proof that the property is now safe, and meeting all of the appropriate requirements.
Local authorities have the power to arrange remedial action is repairs and improvements are not acted on swiftly, you have up to 28 days to get work underway. Failure to do this can lead to the council carrying out emergency remedial work on the property on the landlord’s behalf, and presenting the landlord with the bill!
Is an EICR a legal requirement?
Landlords in Scotland, and HMO landlords across the UK will already be familiar with the requirements to carry out EICR checks. However. Following a change to the law this month, the new Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 states that it is now a legal requirement for all rented properties in England to have a valid Electrical Condition report in place from July 1st 2020 at the start of a new tenancy.
Just as you would a gas safety check, you must ensure that your property has undergone a complete inspection, by a compliant engineer, and the relevant paperwork is supplied to all of your new tenants before they occupy the property. Subsequent checks must be supplied to all tenants within 28 days of completion. Once complete, the check is valid for five years, and can be supplied to subsequent tenants. There is no need to have a new check at the start of each new tenancy (within the five years validity window).
By April 1st 2021, the rules will apply to all tenancies, new or existing. If you have tenants in situ, you must still ensure that you carry our an EICR check, and supply the documentation to them within 28 days of the check being completed.
It is worth noting that if a prospective tenant requests a copy of the EICR, you must also provide this within 28 days. Additionally, if your local authority requests a copy, you only have a seven day window in which to provide them with the relevant documentation.
What are the penalties for failing to comply?
Failing to comply with the new regulations could hit landlords hard.
After 1st July, if you do not carry out an EICR before a tenancy commences, you could find yourself facing a hefty fine of up to £30,000, issued by your local Housing Authority.
How often does it need to be done?
There are no strict guidelines. Both campaigning charity Electrical Safety First and the Institution of Electrical Engineers recommend that private landlords get a new EICR done with every change of occupancy, or every five years, whichever is soonest.
With so much change facing the nation and unanswered questions leaving landlords feeling nervous and unsure, it is no surprise that both landlords and tenants are finding things confusing.
Many of you joined the Howsy team and Landlord Action’s Paul Shamplina as we worked through some of the trickiest issues facing landlords today – from how to manage essential maintenance, to managing tenant relationships.
You can watch the video playback of the webinar below:
We received many questions regarding this topic, and have done our best to answer them fully. You can check out the answers below:
Q. Is there any help from the government for landlords? A. There are a few schemes that landlords can take advantage of that are aimed at preventing money being spent – such as rental property mortgage deferrals. Scottish landlords (who own five or less properties and are not classed as businesses), can now benefit from interest-free loans which cover up to 100% of lost rent if their tenants are having difficulty paying rent during the crisis. However, there are currently no grants or loans specifically aimed at landlords.There are a number of grants, loans and tax breaks that could help landlords during this time, but much depends on personal circumstances. To see what you personally are eligible for, click here.
Q. In the event that a tenant is made redundant and is unable to pay the rent, what can the landlord reasonably expect and for the long term? A. This really does depend on the tenant and landlords’ circumstances. It is likely that the tenant will be in the process of claiming Universal Credit or housing benefit, so it might be worth looking up the Housing Allowance for your area and starting with that as a base figure. Speak with your tenant about their outgoings and what they can reasonably afford – it is better to receive a guaranteed amount for a period, than ask for an amount that they won’t be able to afford, even on month one.
Q. My rental rate has been fixed for 3 years and is now up for renewal. What is a reasonable fair amount to increase it by? A. Now may not be the best time to consider increasing your rent, with most household taking significant hits on their incomings. However, if you do choose to, it is worth only increasing to within the market rent of your area, otherwise you risk pricing your property out of the market. Have a look on Rightmove and Zoopla for similar properties in the area, and set your figure accordingly.
Q. My overseas tenants plan to return home before the end of the contract. Are they still liable for the rent? A. Yes, the contract is still active for the duration, unless it is ended by mutual agreement or invoking a break clause. If your tenants are returning home and you are happy for the agreement to end, you can agree to agreement mutually and remarket the property, which would require the agreement to cease to be set out in writing (email is fine).
Q. Can a tenant ask for payment holiday without providing any evidence of having been financially affected by COVID-19? A. Your tenant is able to can ask, but you are under no obligation to agree to it. It is advisable to ask for some evidence of financial impact, as you many need to pass this on if you are planning to apply for a mortgage holiday.
Q. My tenant’s friend is replying to messages on her behalf saying she is in Intensive Care, and can’t use her phone to organise rent payment. What do I do? A. That’s a tricky situation! If you have a guarantor, it may be a good idea to make contact with them – initially, gently to see if there is anything you can do to help, if the property needs checking etc. If you are unconvinced that the tenant is in hospital, their guarantor should be able to confirm or deny. If they are not in hospital, you could then pursue the guarantor for unpaid rent (if the tenant still fails to pay). Tread very carefully though, and remember to be tactful, it’s a horrible, horrible situation and one that nobody hopes to find themselves in.
Q. If my tenants are furloughed to 80% of their monthly wage, is it my duty to reflect that by offering a 20% discount on rent? A. You don’t have a legal responsibility to do so, but at this time, it is a nice gesture if you are able. Building strong relationships with your tenants is key to a smooth ongoing relationship, and if you are able to work together to get through the tough time we are all facing – hopefully short term pain – they are more likely to be able to stay in the property, a great benefit to you in the long run!
Q. How do I set a repayment scheme if tenants fall into arrears? A. Theoretically, the easiest way is to work out the defect, and the length of time left on the lease, and split the amount evenly. If there is an arrears of £1200, with six months left to go, you could add £200 to the monthly rent, for example. Whilst on paper, this makes sense, do consider that it is highly likely that your tenant will have ongoing financial issues that extend past this initial pinch point, so hiking the rent could lead to further arrears later down the line. If you are able to swallow any of the arrears, it’s great to do so, and then spread the repayments evenly, to a more manageable figure. Make sure everything is documented, and that the tenant agrees to the plan in writing.
Q. My retired tenant refuses to pay rent during the current lockdown. What do I do? A. If your tenant has been reliant on a pension to pay the rent, it is unlikely that their income will have been impacted too heavily by the current crisis. It would be a good idea to ask for proof that there has been an income impact. If they are unable to provide this, notify them that you will have no option but to pursue for unpaid rent on once the ban on court actions is lifted, unless they are able to start payments again.
Q. Is it best just to negotiate with tenants who may not be able to pay this month’s rent? A. Absolutely. Speak to your tenants and try to understand their financial situation If you can come to an agreement, it makes life significantly easier, and you will all know where you stand.
Q. Tenants moved in Dec and moved out January after one month. Since then the house has been empty. I’ve tried to ask for 3-month holiday on mortgage and been refused. What is the next step? A. If the tenancy agreement has been ended, you can market your empty property, and see if there is an opportunity to get a new tenant in place. If the agreement is still ongoing, the tenant (and their guarantor) is still liable for the rent. There are also plenty of government schemes in place that may help you in the meantime, you can find out more here.
Q. My tenants are not paying. They claim it is because of C-19, yet they receive benefits. What do I do? A. There has been no change to the delivery of benefits, so your tenant will still be receiving the correct amount. If you are in an area where Universal Credit is in place, you may be able to apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (there are certain requirements that must be met, more details are available here) where housing allocation is paid directly to the landlord. Speak to your local authority, they should be able to help.
Q. My tenants are self-employed and without income. How do you suggest I negotiate changes to the rent to both party’s benefit? A. Registration for the Self Employment Income Support Scheme opened this week, which allowed individuals to check their eligibility and register for Government Gateway details. Those who are eligible will be able to claim a taxable grant worth up to 80% of their average trading profits up to a maximum of £7,500 (equivalent to three months’ profits), paid in a single instalment. It is hoped that payments will be made by the end of May. Self-employed loans have also been launched, which are available now, if eligible. Up until now, there has been little support for the self-employed, so if you can it may be worth speaking to your tenants about what they can afford now, or if they will be able to make a lump sum payment when the grants come through.
Q. Can I apply for managed Universal Credit payments without informing tenant? A. Yes, you can do so online or through the post. You can start the process online here.
Q. If my tenant requests a rent payment holiday, does he have to make up arrears at later date? A. Yes. Rent payment holiday is a red herring, the correct term is rent payment deferment, meaning that the amount payable is simply being shifted over to a time when the tenant can afford to pay the rent back. However, many landlords are choosing to allow complete breaks for their tenants, understanding that a significant drop in income is going to make it difficult to make p such a hefty deficit.
Q. How to get gas safety certificates done during lock down period? A. If your gas safety check needs to be carried out during lockdown, you should make all efforts to ensure that it is still done. Speak to your tenant and engineer before it takes place, and remind them both of the relevant social distancing requirements – this may be tricky but it is very important. Your engineer may also be wearing PPE (face masks etc) so pre-warn your tenant that this may be the case.
Q. What to do when tenants refuse access for gas safety tests, as potentially this means you can’t serve notice. A. If your tenant is self-isolating, it is likely that they will not want an engineer to enter the property, nor would it be safe for the engineer to do so. In this instance, correspond with your tenant in writing (email is ideal) getting dates of isolation, and ask them to confirm in writing that they will not allow access. Ask for a date in which they would be happy for you to gain entry, and arrange the check for as soon as possible after this date.
Q. What legionnaire measures to take when returning after the lockdown, as the sealed system has been turned off by the tenants. You can read more about how to check your property for legionella here.
Q. Electrical safety survey is due to be done. Will my liability insurance still be covered if it is not done due to Covid-19? A. You should check with your insurance company; many are being very understanding of this unusual situation. If your tenant is willing to allow access, do try and still have the checks done if it safe to do so. If access not possible, make sure you build a paper trail showing that you have tried to gain access, and your tenant has refused (and why).
Q. My tenants are reluctant for tradesmen to conduct EPC & gas safety certificate renewals. What are the consequence for landlords? A. Failing to ensure that you have all vital landlord legislation carried out can have serious ramifications. With regards to a gas safety check, if this is not carried out correctly, any remedial work acted upon and documentation issued to your tenant, you will be unable to issue a section 21, potentially face a hefty fine or even a criminal conviction should anything go wrong with the gas installations within your property. EPCs are less important to complete urgently, until you come to market your property. At this stage, a valid EPC must be provided to new tenants, or you will not be able to issue a section 21, should you need to.
Q. What particular responsibilities do managing agents for blocks of flats have at this time? A. Managing agents are still responsible for anything that they are contracted for, however many are finding some of the physical checks difficult under current conditions. Speak to your agent and make sure you understand exactly what they are still able to oversee – ultimate responsibility will fall to you, the landlord, if legal requirements are not complied with, so be sure to know what is and isn’t being carried out.
Q.What should I do about about fixing fences? A. You have a responsibility to ensure that your property is safe and secure, and often a fence will be a big part of this. If safe to do so, and you can obtain the materials, it would be ideal to fix the fence. Additionally, you should be able to adequately socially distance in a garden.
Q. What PPE would you recommend if visits to a rented property are required, and how should I to achieve social distancing (e.g. for repairs)? A. We would suggest following government advice with regards to PPE. Currently there is no strict measures in place, however a face mask is a great idea if you are going to be working in close contact with other people. Following social distancing guidelines are a must, you can find clear information on these measures here.
Changes to the eviction process
Q. Can a tenant be evicted if they stop paying and break contract without notice? A. Not at the moment, no. All court action for eviction is on hold until at least 25th June 2020.
Q. Is a Section 8 notice served prior to lockdown still valid to commence possession proceedings or does a new notice need to be served? A. Effectively, a pause button has been pressed on any notices that were served prior to 26th March, that were currently progressing. These will recommence after the 25th June, when courts reopen. No new notices will need to be served.
Q. I have a possession order and was awaiting a date for a bailiff to attend. What is the current status regarding bailiffs? A. Bailiffs are not working currently, and will not do so until courts reopen on 25th June.
Q. What is happening with new tenants, viewings and move ins? A. Current government guidelines suggest that property moves should not be undertaken unless essential. With regards to viewings, you could consider utilising video technology to carry out a digital viewing, you can find information on how to do this safely here. If you don’t fancy taking on the task yourself, Howsy are now offering virtual viewings at empty properties, speak to us today on 0330 999 1234 to find out more
Q. During restrictions, if a tenant vacates a property at the end of an AST can another tenant move in straight away? A. It is not advisable to move into a vacated property straight away. Recommendations suggest leaving a clear 72-hour period without any interaction in the property allows any risk to be minimised, which helps make the process safer for everyone.
Q. How can I market my properties in central London during COVID-19? A. Here at Howsy we are working as normal, and are able to help you get your property live and marketed! You don’t pay a penny until a tenant moves in, so now is a great time to take advantage of plenty of people browsing the portals! Additionally, we are offering three months’ free management to new landlords during this period, so it’s a perfect time to get started on our simple management platform too.
Q. How do I manage inventories with disputes on cleaning/damages? A. Inventories are tricky currently. If your tenant has vacated the property, it’s a good idea to leave the property empty for 72 hours (the ‘safe time’) before going in and carrying out an inventory review as normal – take lots of photos, and make comprehensive notes. You can then send an outgoing inventory report digitally, and raise any concerns via email, making sure to keep a paper trail. All deposit services are still working fully, so will be able to help with any disputes, as normal.
Q. Are video visits being advised? A. Absolutely! Read more here. If you don’t fancy taking on the task yourself, Howsy are now offering virtual viewings at empty properties, speak to us today on 0330 999 1234 to find out more
Q. What is the situation for empty rental properties which the government will not allow people to move into? A. The government are currently allowing moves to take place, if the move is deemed essential. We are following the changes closely, and recent news suggests that letting and sales agents will be among the first organisations to be allowed to get back to ‘business as usual’ – great news for landlords and tenants. Keep an eye on the blog for further information.
Q. Any suggestions about checking a property when tenants leave? Do we trust videos before refunding deposits? A. Whilst it is great for your tenants to provide a video to you, it is still advisable to check your property yourself if you can. Do wait 72 hours after the tenants have vacated before visiting the property though.
Q. What advice would you give on preparing a void and reletting during the current situation? A. You can market a property as usual, but possibly prepare yourself that the process may take a little longer than usual.
Q. We have tenants leaving on 31 May. If we observe social distancing, can we market the property during May? A. You can market the property during May, but it would be unwise to consider any viewings – before or after your tenants have moved out. Once they have moved out you could consider creating a video walk through, which can be added to your online marketing.
Q. Can ASTs be signed digitally? A. Absolutely. An AST can be signed using digital technology, and complies fully with the Electronic Communications Act 2000. The only exceptions to this are if the tenancy agreement is for longer that three-years. It is also important to remember that guarantor agreements are a legal deed, and signing must therefore be witnessed and cannot be safely signed electronically, in case of dispute.
Q. I have student tenants with tenancies due to start in July, with tenants possibly being unable to move in. What is your advice? A. We hope there will soon be some new on what we can expect for students, after all, time is creeping ever closer for those looking to head to uni come September! Until we have definite facts, it is difficult to judge on a good course of action. If the universities go back as normal, you want to keep your properties ready for the students, but if not, you need to cover your cots. You could consider short term holiday lets as an option should worst-com-to-worst, but as the news changes quickly and details flood in, if you can hold out until the end of May, you might have some more definitive answers.
Q. I am looking to rent out a property which until now has been holiday lets only. Is now as good a time as any to begin an AST? A. Now is a good time to get your property on the portals, there is nothing lost by getting it up and potential tenants viewing it! It’s believed that lots of landlords will be exiting the market, so if you are able to provide a property for tenants who may be looking to move, it could be a great time!
Q. My insurance states that tenants have to be in professional employment but some of them have lost their job. What to do? A. Speak to your insurance company – most are being very understanding about the challenges that coronavirus is causing, and it is unlikely that this situation would cause your insurance to be invalid. However, all insurance companies are handling this situation differently, so be sure to check with yours to see what their policy states.
Q. Would agreeing to a temporary rent reduction invalidate our AST? A. No, you are only agreeing to a temporary adjustment, so the figure stated on the ST is still the rental rate. However, you should be sure to confirm the amount that you are adjusting to in writing, with the dates that the change is implemented from and to, and when your tenant will be expected to go back to paying the full amount. If this needs reviewing, issue another document with revised dates, but keep the original!
Q. My tenants’ 12-month agreement ends in July. Can I roll this on to a monthly basis for them? A. Yes, you can. If you do nothing, your tenant’s current contract will naturally become a periodic agreement, which rolls onto a monthly contract. The details all stay the same (rental rate etc), the only change is that your tenant will now only have to give one month’s notice to leave (as each month is effectively the start of a new month long contractual period), whereas you still have to give two (when you are allowed to give notice again). If you want to make any changes to the agreement, you may be better to bring the current agreement to a close and reissue a new fixed term contract. This allows you to make changes to clauses within the contract, should you wish to. This will need signing, and you will need to issue all the documentation that you would need to at the start of any tenancy in order for it to be valid. This is a lengthier process though, and if you don’t need to make any changes, an unnecessary complication.
Q. If a tenant cannot pay the rent, can he just hand in the keys and walk away? Is there anything the landlord can do? A. If a tenant hands in the keys and walks away, legally they are still responsible for the property unless a surrender is agreed with the landlord. You can still pursue the tenant, or their guarantor, for rent payments, however do consider that no courts are currently working at this time. If you believe that the tenant is unlikely to return or make any further rent payments, you could consider agreeing to an early surrender, which is a voluntary ending of the lease. This would forfeit any right the tenant has to the property and bring the lease to an early end, allowing you to re-market your property.
Q. How do I manage, viewings and repairs at HMOs during the lockdown? A. Make sure you speak to all tenants, to make sure none of them are self-isolating, or displaying any symptoms before you visit the property. You should only carry out essential maintenance during this time, so anything other than that (viewings, inspections etc) should wait until it is safe to do so. If you have to attend, ask all tenants to respect social distancing rules, and make sure you stick to them yourself too. You can find up to date information here.
Q. A tenant in my HMO says he doesn’t want me coming into the house in order to check a departing tenants room state. Can I? A. Coronavirus aside, your tenant is within their rights to deny you access to the areas of the property which they have exclusive access to (their bedroom and any other rooms that they pay for private use of), although you are allowed access to the shared areas. You should always give notice to do this, although unlike non-HMOs, you do not legally have to provide 24-hours’ notice (it is best practice to do so though). Legally, they cannot prevent you from accessing the property and the empty bedroom, however given the current situation, you should check why the tenant doesn’t want you to attend. Could they be self-isolating? Or displaying symptoms? If so, it may not be safe for you to enter the property anyway.
Q. Have empty en-suite room in HMO with individual contracts. Can a construction worker who is building a hospital move in on May 17th? A. This is a tricky one, as moving any new tenants in will ultimately put your existing tenants at risk, as you cannot expect your new tenant to self-isolate in their private room and not make use of the shared facilities, such as the kitchen and living space. It may be wise to speak to your existing tenants, and get their thoughts on the matter. Whilst it is great to be able to offer support to key workers at this time, if this risks your existing tenants wanting to leave and potentially defaulting on rent, you should weigh up the risks versus benefits of the decision. On the other hand, they may be quite happy to take extra precautions in the property, in which case you would be able to proceed.
Q. My tenant of five years has sadly passed away. Is there anything different that I need to do at the end of the tenancy? A. Legally, your tenant’s estate remains responsible for the tenancy for the duration of the lease. Generally, it is best to make contact with your tenant’s executor and agree an early surrender of the tenancy, which would allow you to re-market your property, and leave your tenant’s family free of the responsibility of the lease. It is also worth considering whether or not the tenant was a sole occupier in the property. If the tenant lived with a spouse or civil partner, as long as the property was the partner’s principle home, they have the option to ‘inherit’ the lease, and become a successor to the tenancy. This is not mandatory, but is an option that is open if they choose to take it.
Q. Do you charge full management fees if renters don’t pay rent? A. Here at Howsy, we understand that this is a very troubling time. We have extended an offer of three months free management during this time to try and alleviate some of the pressure for our landlords, and hope this may go some way to helping smooth the way. For more information, contact the Howsy team today on 0330 999 1234.
Q. Who is responsible for licence imposed by the local authorities? A. The landlord of the property is responsible for ensuring the property licence is in place. Whilst many local authorities are hectic at the moment, licensing is still a hot topic, and we urge any landlord who requires a licence to make sure that documentation is in on time to avoid a hefty fine.
Q. Do you know how soon you will bring back your Howsy Protect service? Is it likely to be soon after lockdown has ended? A. As soon as possible! We’re keeping a close eye on the government advice, and as soon as it is safe to bring back this much-loved service, without putting tenants or our on-the-ground teams at any risk, or contravening any government guidelines, Howsy Protect will be back!
Q. Should the same process be applied to lodgers as tenants, or is there a distinct technical difference between the two? A. There is one very big difference. Eviction proceedings for lodgers is not covered by the eviction changes, so if you have a lodger living in your property, you are still legally allowed to ask they to leave. You do still have to give them reasonable notice though.
Q. Are holiday lets a better option moving forwards if staycations take off? A. This very much depends on where you are based, the demand and your time! If there is a booming holiday market in your area, holiday lets can be a great idea, but can also be quite a lot of work – so do some research into how busy you think your area may be and how available you are to keep up with weekly check ins and check outs!
Q. Any suggestions on how to deal with tenants inviting visitors to communal gardens against social distancing regulations? A. Your tenants are entitled to quiet enjoyment of the property, which means, unless their behaviour is anti-social (in which case, you can contact the police) there is not a lot you can do, no matter how frustrating it may be.
Q. What is the best approach for cover for rented properties: e.g. boiler, electric, is it through separate or combined policies? A. We believe that the fewer policies you have to juggle, the easier life is! Nobody wants to rifle through reams of paper when you have an emergency on their hands. Here at Howsy, we have a Home Emergency, Boiler and Appliance cover, available for only £35 a month with our standard package (which is currently free for three months for new landlords!) – you can read more here.
Q. If a property is left empty by choice now, why are councils still charging council tax? A. There is no guarantee that they are. If your property is currently unfurnished and empty (with no tenant in place, rather than a tenant who has temporarily moved out to manage lockdown elsewhere) it is exempt from council tax for six months. After six months, an up to 50% discount applies. A furnished, empty property receives an up to 50% discount for six months. The discount rate is variable by council, so check with your local authority on the rates in your area.
Q. What can you do when your tenants are already in arrears, and you feel your estate agents have been negligent? A. Currently, it may be tricky to pursue outstanding rent, however once courts and bailiffs are operating fully again, you can pursue unpaid rent via the normal channels. You should always be confident that your agent is working in your best interest. Don’t feel compelled to stay with an agent who you do not believe are working as hard as they can for you. Changing agents mid-way through a contract is viable, if you believe that the contractual agreements have not been met. You can read more about how to do this here.
Here at Howsy, we understand that the current crisis is making landlord life tricky and hard to manage. We’re offering a special offer for three month’s free management for new landlords courtesy of the team at Howsy during this difficult time.
For more information on how we can help, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 0330 999 1234 or arrange a callback for more information.
We’re all in this together, and we will get through it! Stay safe, and we’re here to help wherever we can.
With everything going on in the world at the moment, it is easy to forget the other things that are important to us.
Today is Earth Day, and across the world we are (remotely!) celebrating the largest environmental movement designed to drive transformative change for people and the planet.
Since 1970, the Earth Day Network’s mission has been to drive positive action for the planet, but is there anything that landlords can be doing to play their part in this major step towards a greener future?
Boosting your bottom line
As well as a positive boost for the environment, making green tweaks to your lettings portfolio can also have a really great impact on your pocket too. More and more tenants are looking at the green credentials of a property as a very real concern, and they play a big part in choosing their perfect home. Failing to take this seriously could end up having a major impact on the scroll appeal of your online marketing.
Most modern properties are built with energy efficiency in mind. This is great news for landlords and tenants, more energy efficiency benefits often mean far lower bills! However, if you have a property that was built before the mid-1980s, it is likely that energy efficiency wasn’t at the top of the agenda… Either way, there are plenty of things owners of properties both new and older can consider to boost their home’s output:
Insulation: Most new properties will be well insulated, but older properties may be lacking a little, and this can make a real difference. Effectively insulating a property, in areas such as the loft and cavity walls, is like wrapping the entire building in a cosy coat, and traps heat in the home – saving your tenant a fortune on heating bills and really helping cut down on the overall energy usage.
Double glazing: Windows with wind whistling through aren’t going to win any awards for efficiency, nor are they going to be popular with chilly tenants on a winters evening. If your property is in a conservation area, and covered by an Article 4 directive, you may be unable to upgrade to double glazing, your local council will be able to advise.
Eco-lightbulbs: Sometimes the smallest things can be the brightest ideas! Making the change to LED lightbulbs throughout your rental properties can make a real difference to the energy output. Admittedly, they’re fairly pricy to buy compared to a standard bulb, but they last around 21 times longer (no more call outs for blown bulbs in hard-to-reach places!) and are brighter, and more efficient.
Top rated appliances: As well as considering light, it’s worth considering the appliances you supply. Appliances are graded A to G on the efficiency scale, with A being the best and G the worst. Fridges and freezers have three extra ratings, A+, A++ and A+++, and washing machines have three efficiency ratings for energy consumption, washing and spinning (you’d be looking for an AAA).
Low-flush toilets: With every visit to the loo using up to 12 litres of water, the average fixture is literally flushing good environmental sense away! Fitting low-flush toilets could save up to 60% of the water per use. An upgrade to the old-fashioned hack of a brick in the cistern, modern low-flush systems are a savvy way of saving water and reducing energy usage.
Water-saving shower heads: Everyone loves a long hot shower after a hard day, but with a power shower using up to 22 litres of water every minute, this isn’t the most economical form of relaxation! Water-saving shower heads can protect the power, but stop water wastage running down the drain.
Thermostatic radiator valves: Not only a great option for environmental efficiency but also one for household harmony, thermostatic radiator valves help moderate the temperature of each radiator when the individual room temperature is reached. Perfect for when you don’t want to spend money heating an unused room, or if you have a heat lover in one bedroom, and a chilly sleeper in another. At £10 to £20 per valve, it’s a small cost for a big difference.
Bleed your radiators: Perfectly balanced radiators are no use if the system isn’t working efficiently. Regular maintenance to ensure that there are no airlocks in the system causing blockages is vital. Make sure to schedule maintenance in the summer months, so as not to receive a cool reception from your tenants!
Block up chimneys: Original fireplaces can look great, and be a real selling point. However, leaving your chimney unchecked can leave your property opens to more than just Santa! If the fireplace is unused, a simple method is to fit a chimney balloon, inserted up the chimney and inflated, blocking cold draughts, rain and debris.
Document your changes
If you are planning to make changes to your property to improve your energy efficiency, it is important that people know about it! The key document that highlights your property’s green credentials is your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This is a mandatory document that must be in place in order to start marketing your property. You can read more about recent changes to EPC legislation here.
An EPC lasts ten years, so it is likely that you already have one in place, however, as you improve and adapt your property, the score you have may change. It is important to ensure that your EPC always reflects the most accurate results – after all, you want to show off all your hard work!
As we stand today, face-to-face contact is an obvious no-no. With strict social distancing requirements in place, it is clear that the market as we know it may take some time to return to normal. Many landlords are reporting that their traditional high street agents are understandably finding the transition tricky to manage.
Here at Howsy, we work with strictly digital platforms – a great asset in the current situation. However, even when guidelines are relaxed and we can get back to relative normality, technologies like ours are still great from an environmental point of view!
Cutting down on your carbon footprint is one of the biggest ways an individual can help do their bit. To let a property the traditional way, there’s plenty of to-ing and fro-ing, meaning that footprint soon ramps up! Journeys to and from your agency to sign contracts, process paperwork, oversee deposits, and that’s before you consider numerous viewings.
Here at Howsy everything is carried out digitally, with very few journeys necessary. Even initial viewings can be hosted remotely via a video (although we do definitely recommend an in-person appointment before proceeding with a tenant). Clever bespoke technology can be used at every stage to simplify and cut down on unnecessary people movement.
For more infomation on how we can help, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 0330 999 1234. or visit www.howsy.com today.