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As coronavirus continues to contain the UK, the government guidelines are clear on viewings; no face-to-face viewings can go ahead in the current climate to help stop the spread of coronavirus.  Please read all our current advice here. If you have an empty property to let, apart from in exceptional circumstances, the fact is that you will not moving any tenants in under current guidance.

However, this will change.  When the restrictions are lifted, there will be pent up demand for tenants looking for a new home.  Prospective tenants are still looking at properties online now, short-listing potential homes for when the doors are flung open.  Having a digital, distance-proof, video of your home could put your property to the top of the ‘to see’ list.

Your smart phone gives you the ability to record video property walkthroughs, allowing you to showcase your property to potential tenants.  It’s a great introduction to allow future renters to really ‘get to know’ your property, without setting foot inside.

Check out our simple five-step-guide to recording the perfect video:

Step 1: Plan your video

  • You will already have a clear idea of the rooms that have the most ‘wow’ factor in your property. Make sure you have plenty of time to focus on them. Tenants won’t need to see details of the airing cupboard, but everyone will want to see the kitchen, bathroom, main living spaces and master bedroom.
  • Plan your route: have a clear idea of the route that you are going to take through the property. The first view will set the tone for the rest of the film, and the final room is the one that will remain in memory, so make sure you choose really strong spaces to stick in people’s minds.

Step 2: Prepare your property

  • It goes without saying that you should make sure that your property is looking its best, just as you would if you were preparing it for a real-life viewing. Make sure it is spotlessly clean, and any excess clutter – junk mail, or coffee cups – are cleared away.
  • The importance of great lighting shouldn’t be underestimated, make sure lights are switched on, so that there are no gloomy corners.
  • Pick the best time of day when there is the most natural light.  Sun streaming through (clean) windows will make the property look appealing.
  • Make sure any doors are open (leave them ajar) ready for you to move smoothly through. You don’t want to be fumbling over a door handle whilst trying to juggle a camera.

Step 3: Film your video

  • Make sure you are confident with the video technology that you are going to use. Do some practice runs before you get cracking with the real thing.
  • Videos look better on Rightmove and Zoopla in landscape format, so to ensure that your video maximises space, hold your phone horizontally to record.
  • Hold your phone at chest height when you are recording. This allows you to hold the camera steady (using both hands and keeping your arms clamped close to your sides will give extra stability) and gives continuity as you move around your property.
  • Wherever possible, position yourself in the corner of rooms, recording a wide pan shot of the room. This makes the room look as large as possible, and gives the viewer a clear view of the space.
  • If you can, try and position your camera so that you can see out of any windows in the room. This not only showcases any views that you may have, but also makes the space look bigger.
  • Don’t worry if there’s elements that you want to crop, most phones have editing software for cropping elements out built in, so you can snip any mishaps out of the finished product.

Step 4: Talk viewers through the video

  • Decide whether or not you are going to add a voice over to your video – there’s no right or wrong choice here, but if you are not confident don’t do it.
  • If you choose to include a voice-over, this can be recorded live as you record the visuals. Make sure you have given some thought as to what you are going to say beforehand, and are confident of your facts.
  • Including basic information such as the size of the room and any furniture that will be included is really useful, as well as drawing attention to any extra special features.

Step 5: Getting your video seen

  • In order to share your video, you will need to first upload your video to YouTube. You’ll need a YouTube account, but this is easy to set up. Head to www.youtube.com to create a new account. You’ll need to enter an email address, and provide a password, which will enable you to create an account and upload/create videos.
  • You can record directly using YouTube, Howsy Founder and CEO Calum Brannan talks you though the process here.
  • It is important to be aware of online safety, so be careful not to add the property’s full address or your personal contact details. However, it is a good idea to include the property’s road name, city and Howsy contact details for tenants to contact us for more information:
    0330 999 1234
    www.howsy.com  
  • When you have uploaded your video, each upload has a unique shareable link, bespoke to the video. Send this link to your team at Howsy, and we can add your video to your listing on Rightmove and Zoopla.

Don’t worry if you don’t produce a Hollywood classic.  Everyone in the country is in this together, and potential tenants understand that any videos are home made because of the current circumstances. 

As with everything, it is important to ensure that safety is the primary concern.

As well as ensuring that you are conscious of your internet safety (don’t identify the property’s full address or yourself in the video), it is vital that you are maintaining all safe and sensible precautions with regards to coronavirus.

Full details of the latest government advice on how to manage coronavirus as a landlord, or tenant, is available here, and whilst recording a video is a great marketing tool, you should never do it at the cost of safety.  Only attempt this if the property you are recording is entirely empty and you can always practice social distancing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVNJN0gSd1g

[UPDATED 12th May]

First and foremost, I hope that you and your loved ones are well. We have all read or used the clichés “unprecented”, “uncertain” and “challenging” times, but the fact remains that none of us have seen anything like this.

As a predominantly online business, we were able to adapt quickly to the government restrictions, so it has largely been business as normal for us apart from the team are almost exclusively remote working.

With the situation changing daily, like everyone, we are monitoring the news closely to see how the government will work to ensure that the nation’s landlords and tenants are protected during this period.

On 29 March, the government published full advice for Landlords and Tenants. On 12 May, this was updated to allow property viewings, prepare properties for renting and move home, effectively restarting the lettings market. Whilst there is no specific mention of social distancing, it goes without saying that it is expected all these activities need to happen whilst maintaining a safe distance from others. There is a lot of reliance on all of us to use our common-sense.

“Our clear plan will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process from viewings to removals…. [and] is based on the latest guidance to ensure the safety and protection of everyone involved. This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”
– Robert Jenrick MP, Housing Secretary

Protect yourself

Most importantly, make sure you are keeping up to date with government advice. Washing hands, working from home, social distancing – all things that you’ve seen in the news that are important changes for all of us. Whilst it does appear that restrictions are slowly being loosened, for many of us things won’t change immediately.


Protect others

From 10 May, the edict from the government changed from “Stay at home” to “Stay alert”. Whilst there is more that is open to interpretation, the key messages are:

  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Work from home if you can
  • Limit contact with other people
  • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from others
  • Wash your hands regularly

If you or anyone in your household are showing any symptoms of coronavirus, then you must self-isolate yourself immediately for the protection of those who are most vulnerable. This is incumbent on all of us.


Response times

Our teams are almost exclusively working from home, and whilst this is not unusual for us as a modern technology company, it is exceptional that so many of us are working remotely at the same time.  As a result, our response times could be affected. We are trying to prioritise responding to urgent requests or those from the more vulnerable, so please bear with us if we don’t get back to you quickly.

However, we are still open 24/7, and we’re on hand to help both landlords and tenants as usual.


As I mentioned, circumstances are changing, and we’re ensuring we’re keeping updated and adapting quickly.  We know that the government is never going to be able to provide details to cover all scenarios.  So in absence of specifics, we hope decision making and issue resolution will be done with a mixture of common sense, empathy and compassion for all.

Click here for advice specific to Tenants

Click here for advice specific to Landlords

Please stay safe and look after each other. 

Calum Brannan
Founder & CEO, Howsy




Advice for Tenants


Problems paying rent

If your circumstances have changed and you are struggling to pay your rent, please let us know immediately.  Don’t wait until after you get into arrears. We will explain the situation to the landlord, and they may give you more time to pay or agree to a repayment plan, although you may be asked to demonstrate that your ability to pay has changed as a result of coronavirus.  A repayment plan means you’ll make smaller payments to your landlord over a longer period of time. You’ll still have to pay everything back – but it could be easier than paying the full amount in one go.

You may also be entitled to benefits to help with housing costs if your income has reduced, even if you’re still working. Whilst there are various groups lobbying for ‘rent holidays’ during the coronavirus crisis, there are no details on any plans to introduce this yet.

It is important to note that your total rent will still be due as normal.  Landlords may be willing to make arrangements with tenants to delay or reduce rent payments but they are currently under no obligation to do so.  Don’t offer to pay more than you can realistically afford – you could make the problem worse if you can’t keep up with your payments.


Evictions

On 18th March, the government announced a ban on evictions

However, the Coronavirus Act that became law on 26 March, doesn’t actually ban evictions, it just extends the statutory notice period from two months to three for most renters.  In effect it means landlords can still serve notice and claim possession at the end of that period.  There may be additional emergency legislation, or the legislation could be extended, but that is unknown at the moment.

The change in law only applies to notices served on or after 26 March. However, for existing possession claims there are likely to be significant delays to hearings as court hearings are also suspended.


Moving out of your property

Legally, you can only end a fixed term tenancy early if either your contract (the ‘AST’) has a break clause or you negotiate an early end to the agreement with your landlord.  Please let us know if you want to negotiate an early termination – your landlord may be sympathetic to your request to leave, but bear in mind that they will need to find new tenants to cover their costs too.   Whilst the government asked mortgage lenders to make provision for mortgage holidays for landlords, they still need to pay that mortgage – it is a deferment, not a cancellation of their mortgage costs.

Conversely, if your tenancy is due to end soon but you’ll like to stay where you are, please contact us so that we can help negotiate an extension with your landlord.

On 12 May, the government announced that there are now no restrictions on moving house, other than ensuring it is done within social distancing guidelines.


Inspections and Repairs

In line with government guidance from 12 May, inspections and repairs can start again. Landlords also have legal responsibilities to carry out gas safety checks, so they have been continuing to be done. If you are self-isolating, then gas safety checks can be delayed, as long as we have documented the reasons why. Please let us know via email as soon as you enter self-isolation, so that we can ensure the safety of you and any maintenance teams are protected during this time.

Please ensure you practice social distancing if any repairs or legal checks are required at your property during this time.


Working from home

If you are now working from home, make sure you maintain good physical and mental health during this period. Although it is second nature for many, it can be surprisingly challenging, particularly for extended periods. The BBC website has some simple tips which will help.  We can provide short term work from home furniture packages on a monthly basis in the London area for £30 a month, click here to find out more.





Advice for Landlords


Evictions

On 18th March, the government announced that eviction processes are to be suspended for three months, with no possession proceedings taking place during the crisis.  The intention was to give all tenants complete security that if they are unable to work, due to social isolation, lock-down or needing to be at home with children, they are safe in their home and do not have to worry about the risk of an eviction.

However, the Coronavirus Act that became law on 26 March, doesn’t actually ban evictions, it just extends the statutory notice period from two months to three for most renters.  In effect it means landlords can still serve notice and claim possession at the end of that period.  There may be additional emergency legislation, or the legislation could be extended, but that is unknown at the moment.  

The change in law only applies to notices served on or after 26 March. However, for existing possession claims there are likely to be significant delays to hearings as court hearings are currently suspended.

The law applies to all reasons for evictions including, for example anti-social behaviour.  If you have an anti-social tenant, then the best course of action is to keep in close telephone and email contact with your tenants and neighbours during this difficult time.  Try and diffuse any situation as quickly and calmly as you can remotely, especially if the tenant is going to remain in your property. In this situation, it’s best to show constraint and compromise. 


Rent arrears

It is likely that some tenants may find themselves unable to work during this time.  The government has effectively promised to cover the wages of many workers, but it is still possible that tenants may find themselves facing difficulties paying rent. 

The government has urged landlords and tenants to work closely whilst the situation unfolds, and should it be necessary, establish an affordable repayment plan when the tenant’s circumstances return to normal.    It is important to be realistic about how this can be managed. Setting a repayment plan that is too high could lead your tenant into long-term financial difficulties which could result in long-term rental arrears for you – simply extending the problem.  Please let us know if you want us to help with any drafting of a rental repayment plan. Similarly, if you do agree a plan directly with a tenant, please inform us.

There are rental guarantee insurances available that still protect you against any missed rent payments, and the government has implemented additional measures – such as mortgage breaks – that can ease your burden.


Protecting your income – rent guarantee insurance

There are a number of rent guarantee insurance products in the market which will cover your rent in the event of rental arrears. Because of the changing situation, the rental protection scheme providers of Howsy’s Rent Guarantee and Guaranteed Rent (as part of our Protect package) have now withdrawn their product to new customers.

You may still be able to find rent guarantee schemes with another provider, but please make sure you check their terms in relation to coronavirus.

You should be aware that any rent guarantee scheme may become redundant as the situation changes. We therefore cannot advise on whether taking up rent guarantee protection is a prudent decision or not.


Mortgage payment holidays

On 18th March the government announced financial support packages including a three-month mortgage holiday for those whose income was impacted by the virus.   From 19th March, mortgage lenders also suspended all possession orders, and will not be starting any new court actions against non-payment of mortgages for 90 days.

For landlords who find themselves with rental income interrupted by tenants who are unable to pay, this could be a real help, allowing a break on either your own personal mortgage, and/or that of your rental property. Be aware that this option may mean your monthly mortgage payment goes up after the payment holiday ends.

You must be up-to-date with mortgage repayments to apply, and be able to prove that your tenant has been directly affected (fallen ill themselves) or indirectly affected (lost their job, financially impacted etc) by the Coronavirus. Contact your individual mortgage provider directly for details of how to implement the break. 

It is worth checking to see if you have insurance that will cover your mortgage payments – for example, mortgage payment protection insurance or through your current account – as this may be more cost effective for you.


Renewals, tenant changes and evolving circumstances

On 12 May, government regulations were updated to allow people to move home, as long as they can adhere to social distancing guidelines. If your tenancy was due to end soon, but you and your existing tenant are happy to stay, then please contact us so that we can help negotiate an extension. They may be grateful for the security, and happy to stay in the comfort of a familiar home. 

For a tenant wanting to end their tenancy early, while you legally could enforce the terms of the tenancy and claim rent for the remaining period, it may be better to negotiate an end to the tenancy with the tenant or arrange a rent holiday with the tenant.  Please show compassion and empathy.


Inspections, repairs and safety checks

In line with updated government guidance, we can restart inspections and non-urgent repairs, as long as it’s possible to adhere to social distancing guidelines. 

There is no change to legislation with regards to compliance checks, such as gas and electrical safety – these have always been a requirement. If there is a reason they cannot happen (for example your tenants are self-isolating), then we will document any delays why the checks cannot be carried out and ensure that they are done as soon as reasonably possible when safe to do so. If you arrange these checks yourself, please also document any delays and send to us.

We have continued to fix urgent repairs during this time and this hasn’t changed. If you are arranging any repair work to be done, it is important to stress to any tradespeople and your tenant that government advice surrounding social distancing must always be observed. It is likely that these issues will also take longer than normal to resolve, due to demand and possible difficulty in obtaining parts and labour.   


Finding tenants and marketing your property

Even since the initial restrictions since 23rd March, we have seen sustained tenant for future moves. Historically, uncertain economic environments also tends to drive more rentals as people are less likely to buy property.  So we expect the lettings market to remain relatively robust overall.

On 12 May, the government lifted restrictions on the lettings market. Effectively immediately, you can now:

  • Hold property viewings
  • Prepare properties for renting (e.g. taking photos, inventory)
  • Move home

Guidelines on social distancing must be adhered to at all times still. If you, your existing tenants or prospective viewers are reluctant to attend a viewing, we can host virtual viewings for you, as well as recording a video walkthrough of your property which we can get on your property advert listing. If you produce your own video, remember that such a video is part of the marketing of the property and falls within consumer protection legislation. It must not contain false images or omit anything that could be a material consideration for a tenant in deciding to let the property.  You cannot simply ignore things like broken fixtures, damp or mould in such videos. They must be an honest representation of the property and its facilities.

With much of the country now working from home, more and more of us are finding ourselves at a loss as to how to manage the demands of combining home and work life.

If you are reading this with your laptop balanced precariously on the arm of your sofa, or leaning uncomfortably against a kitchen worktop, fighting for space with the kettle and toaster, the Howsy Concierge team has a solution for you.

Our team can help arrange for a dedicated workspace to be delivered directly to your home. Our series of space-saving workstations are designed to seamlessly fit into the smallest space, and help provide a clean and clear space for you to work-from-home productively, for as long as necessary.

We understand that many people may only be looking for a short-term solution, and have a range of products available instantly, for just three months. All prices include free delivery within five days, installation and a free White Chair. All products are easily cleanable.

Larry Desk

Larry Desk
White Chair
Months Subscription3612
Cost per month £30£25£21

 Price includes free delivery within 5 days + Installation + White Chair*. (London area only).

Charles Desk with drawer

Charles desk with drawer
White Chair
Months subscription3612
Cost per month£39£30£25

Price includes free delivery within 5 days + Installation + White Chair*. (London area only).

What if my needs change?

As well as providing you with great looking home office, the benefits of Howsy Concierge mean that you can switch up the look of your furniture when the seasons change! With new looks being introduced all the time, we can switch your old Howsy Concierge furniture and deliver you a new set at the end of your term. Collection and delivery are free, so there’s no additional cost to keep your look fresh, and your desk fresher!  

I love the desk! Can I keep the furniture?

Howsy Concierge is a furniture rental service, so generally speaking you don’t keep the furniture, although on our 12-month plan, the much-loved White Chair is free to keep. Our styles change all the time, and there may even be a desk you love more just around the corner, many Howsy Concierge customers love the service as a great way to experiment with the look of their property every few months! However, if you find that your desk and chair fit your property so perfectly you simply can’t let them go, speak to the team and we can provide a final payment quote.

How do I get started?

Howsy Concierge is a furniture rental service, so we have to tick the box to make sure you are suitable to proceed before signing up. As a Howsy customer, the checks we conducted when you signed up with us should cover this off, so there should be nothing holding us back from getting started. If there are any additional paperwork, it shouldn’t take any time at all and can all be carried out remotely, our team will be happy to help

If you’re fed up sitting on the carpet, working on the coffee table, contact the Howsy Concierge Team today on [email protected] to see how we can help.

Terms and Conditions

The *White Chair is provided at no additional charge. The White Chair is free to keep on our 12-month plan or we’ll collect it as normal for free, along with the desk, on our 3 or 6 month plan. Please note this is a furniture rental plan. Unless specifically stated all furniture will be collected (for free) at the end of the term. All offers are subject to availability and approval.

Don’t speak too soon, but there are signs that spring may finally be on it’s way…

As people’s thoughts turn to hazy summer evenings in the garden and plenty of Bank Holiday’s coming up, this time of year traditionally sees a significant increase in lettings activity, as tenants look to start planning a move.

But, as the market picks up, what can you do to make sure that your property stands out online? Check out our top tips for maximising your property’s potential this spring!

Set to the spring cleaning!

Freshening up a property before letting is always a good idea. Once your existing tenants have moves out, it’s wise to take a critical look at the property, empty is you can, and see if there are any areas that could do with a little attention. A lick of paint or some fresh sealant in a bathroom can make a huge difference, and lift a property from looking a little tired, to sparkling new again.

In a busy market, making sure your property looks as good as it can is key. It is unlikely that a tenant will want to settle for a slightly scruffy option, if there is a property down the road that is as neat as a new pin. A little time now can save plenty spent languishing on the portals!

Don’t neglect the garden

If your outside space survived the recent storms, it is likely to be in need of a little post-winter TLC. A great harden is a huge plus point for many tenants, so if you have outside space, make sure it is working as hard as it can for you. Before any photographs are taken, make sure that the grass is freshly cut, shrubs are trimmed and any leaves swept up – and if there is space that is ideal for a table or BBQ it can be a good idea to pop one in place, to suggest how the space can be used.

Make the most of your hard work

Once your property is looking at it’s very best, it is important to show it off! Think of your portal advert as an online shop window – a great set of professional photos will really help showcase your property, whereas a fuzzy mobile phone shot (possibly with added thumb) might not have quite the same impact!

A professional photographer will understand exactly how to frame the perfect image, showing off exactly the details that your prospective tenant will need to see. Nobody needs to see a loo on an advert, but plenty may be interested in whether there is a shower or bath…

This time of year is a great time for capturing images. Throughout the winter everything can look a little dark, drab and miserable, but with bright sunshine streaming through the windows, your property (and garden!) will look great.

Sell the lifestyle in your description

Creating the perfect description for your advert can feel like a bit of a mountain to climb… there’s so much to say, but you don’t want to waffle!

Don’t forget that your tenant is likely to have found your property through a search feature, discounting anything that does not meet their non-negotiable requirements.

A short list of key features highlights the immediate ‘need to knows’, such as bedroom/bathroom numbers, location and parking availability, however there is plenty of scope to go into more detail.

Your description is a great place to highlight anything that really makes your property stand out from the crowd, and help sell your prospective tenants the lifestyle that they could enjoy if they lived there. For example, if there’s a great local park right next door, mention it. If there’s a private south-facing garden that gets the sun all day, you’ve got a huge selling point. If you are smack-bang on top of an Underground station making commuting into central London a breeze, let them know.  

Take advantage of longer days

With your property looking great, and your advert showcasing what a dream lifestyle can be had living there, you’ll soon have people queuing up to view.

With the clocks going forward at the end of the month, we’ll soon have an extra hour of the day to utilise. As evenings get lighter, you can make the most of this extra time by conducting viewings in the evenings, outside of working hours, and still get the benefit of them seeing the property in the daylight, when it’s looking it’s very best.


With a series of storms raining chaos down on the whole of the UK, it is fair to say that this winter has been one that we are all keen to see the back of.

With heavy rain and high winds tearing through the country, there are very few properties that have escaped entirely unscathed – with some unfortunate homes being hit not once, but twice with severe flood damage.

As we cross our fingers that Storms Ciara and Dennis are beating a retreat, is there anything we should be doing to brace our properties against the worst of the weather?

Is dealing with storm damage my problem as a landlord?

Yes. As a landlord, under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, you have a responsibility for the repair and maintenance of your properties structure and interior.

Unless you have been unlucky enough to have been in the worst-effected areas and been victim of severe flooding, it is likely that the majority of the weather-related damage will be to the exterior of your property. You have a responsibility to ensure that the property is safe and secure for your tenants, and that includes the maintenance of:

  • Roof
  • External walls
  • Foundations
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Drains and exterior pipes
  • Guttering and water collection
  • Fences

If the wintery weather has caused damage that is not causing an immediate risk to your tenant, rather it is of a cosmetic nature, you do not have to repair immediately, however, do bear in mind that some issues can be worse than they first appear…

For example, if blustery winds have dislodged some tiles from a porch, there is unlikely to be an immediate risk to your tenant, but the subsequent risk to the property if left unattended can be internal leaks and troublesome mould. It is usually in your best interest to manage maintenance issues like this as soon as they arise.

It can be tempting, when looking at the weather forecast and seeing storm after storm rolling in to leave maintenance until the weather is brighter, but do look at the bigger picture – don’t let a small job turn in to a costly and time-consuming repair!

Do my tenants have any responsibilities?

When your tenant moves into a property, the property becomes their home, and they have a right to live in it undisturbed. However, you own the bricks and mortar and must maintain them, so they have a responsibility to keep you informed of any issues that arise in order for you to do this.

Your tenants are the only people who can give you a clear overview of exactly when is going on inside your property during bad weather, so it is a good idea to touch base with them and make sure everything is as it should be. A quick text or email checking all is well can be enough to prompt them to mention a broken fence or slipped tile, and allow you to action maintenance as quickly as possible – the faster you catch a problem, the easier it is to solve!

Which areas should I be keeping an eye on in the terrible weather?  

Whilst it is certainly tempting to hide inside and curl up with a cuppa, braving the elements (only if it is safe to do so) and having a walk around your property to see how it is weathering the storm, can be a very useful exercise.

There are certain areas that are far more susceptible to weather damage than others, so it is worth keeping a close eye on them if the weather gets particularly unpleasant.

The roof

If caught early, roofing issues needn’t send your budget sky high. If you or your tenant notice any bowing/misshaping of the top of the roof line, or slipping/movement of tiles, it is a good idea to get a professional in to check out the roof and loft joists. Long term leaks caused by tiles slipping in high winds can weaken the joists in your roof, and if left un-treated end up causing a pricey problem.

External walls

With high winds and lashing rain, exterior walls really take a battering in bad weather. If your property has any cracks or damage to brickwork, water can find its way in easily, which can lead to a whole host of damp and mould related issues – you can read more here.

Whilst you’re unlikely to want to be carrying out any major exterior works whilst the weather is still bad, it is wise to be aware of any potential problems so you can be on top of your maintenance as soon as the sun starts shining again (soon, hopefully)!

Guttering

One of the key culprits for causing water ingress in walls, and damp problems internally, is dodgy guttering. It’s fair to say that with the amount of rain we’ve experienced, our gutters have been working overtime recently. With leaves and debris flying around in windy conditions, it doesn’t take much to block a guttering system, and once blocked, even the lightest rainfall can cause a soggy overflow.

Fences/gates

A flapping fence can be a real hazard, and if your fence has taken the brunt of a gale it is important to get it fixed, for the safety of your tenants and their neighbours. This may not be safe to do whilst the weather is still bad, but it is wise to secure the damaged section, or remove it completely (speak to the neighbours about this first) so that there is no risk that a ‘drunk’ panel can cause damage to property, or cause injury.

How can I prepare my property for the winter weather?

Whilst we can’t change the weather, there is plenty you can do to make sure your property is as well prepared as possible to stay safe in a storm. There are a few simple tasks you can ask your tenants to carry out too, so between you, all bases should be covered.

Landlord preperation:

  • Check for loose roof tiles/bowing and repair
  • Ensure drains and gutters are free of blockages
  • Repair wobbly fences
  • Check walls for cracks or holes and repair where necessary
  • Prune trees/vegetation near to the property

Tenant preperation:

  • Secure windows and doors
  • Park cars away from trees – ideally in a garage wherever possible
  • Move outside furniture or movable objects into a garden shed or inside

What do I do if my property suffers damage that I can’t fix?

Should the worst happen, the first thing to ascertain is that your tenants are safe, and if they can remain in the property. Their safety is paramount, and you need to make sure that there is no danger to them. If they cannot remain in the property, it is a good idea to work with them to come to an alternative arrangement. Most insurance policies will cover you for alternative accommodation for your tenants if the property is not habitable, check your individual policy – however don’t be surprised if your tenant would prefer to stay with friends or family than in a hotel!

Once this has been clarified, you will need to contact your insurance company and let them know about the incident straight away – do be aware that there is likely to be a bit of a wait for this, you probably will not be the only person in the area trying to make contact after a big storm!

You may need to arrange to have emergency repairs carried out straight away. If this is the case, make sure you keep detailed records of everything that is done and spent by you and your tenant, including quotes and receipts, which you will need if you need to make an insurance claim.

Managing damage to your property can be a real headache, and when the storm is raging on, it can be the last thing you feel like tackling. The alternative is to explore Howsy Protect, a management plan that offers full protection for you and your tenants.

From just £90 a month, the Howsy Protect team are on hand to swoop into action should disaster strike. We are always available to manage a home emergency, from roof damage due to a fallen tree, to complete failure of the gas, electric or heating system, and we’ll even cover the cost of alternative accommodation for your tenants if your property is deemed unsafe.

You can read more about Howsy Protect here.

There’s plenty of properties available that, with a little TLC, have the potential to make wonderful homes. However, there are a few things to bear in mind before you pop the lid off the first tin of paint. Check out our top tips for renovating your rental!

Make sure you understand your target tenant

Depending on the type of property that you have purchased, you may be looking to renovate for very different target markets. For example, if you own a house within a catchment area of a great primary school, chances are you may get a lot of interest from families with young children. Tenants like this are likely to be looking for a property with a bath in the bathroom, rather than an all-singing-and-dancing power shower.

Before you start any work, making sure you do this research thoroughly could save all your hard work being in vain. Failing to hit the mark with your tenants could leave you with a perfectly polished property that nobody wants to rent, so it is important to get it right!

Prioritise work that will make the biggest difference

If you have a property which has a front garden space, but is on a road with bad parking availability, consider applying for a dropped kerb and creating parking space in the front of your property. Whilst garden space is great, parking is a huge priority for many!

Something that always hits the mark is a great looking kitchen and bathroom. Fresh and clean spaces, in neutral colours with great appliances are always popular with tenants, and can really add pounds value to your property’s rental rate.

Finally, clean and neutral décor is a good way to finish your project. Easy-to-clean flooring and a simple colour on the walls allows your prospective tenants to walk in to your property and envisage their lives translated onto your blank canvas. Bright colour schemes and punchy prints may be your preference at home, but in a rental property you have to appeal to as many people as possible, so keep the bold design choices for your own home!

Work out what you are prepared to do yourself

Undertaking a renovation project is a lot of work, and depending on the nature of the jobs that need completing, it can be a hefty workload to take on yourself.

Whilst decorating and simple gardening jobs can be tackled by a keen DIY-er, any skilled jobs are better managed by professionals. There’s nothing worse than attempting a job yourself only to not quite get it up to scratch and have to budget for more materials and a specialist to come in and put it right!

Also, make sure you take into account the time it takes to renovate a property. Whilst you may imagine that you can fit this project into evenings and weekends, it may be more cost effective to pay a professional to come in and get the job done quickly. The sooner it is complete, the sooner your property will be ready to let and start earning you a rental income. If you think you might take six weeks to oversee the project yourself, versus one week with a contractor getting the work done, consider how much potential rent you would lose with that five-week difference.

Make sure all work is compliant

Time and cost aside, no matter how competent your DIY skills, there are certain jobs that you should definitely call in the professionals for.

Also, as every landlord knows there is plenty of landlord legislation that you need to comply with, and renovating gives you perfect scope to make sure that your property is ticking every legal box.

If you are looking to install new gas or electrical elements in your property, you should make sure that these are fitted by a fully registered and compliant engineer, and that you have the fitting certificated. More details on your requirements regarding gas safety are available here.

Also, with renovations underway you could consider making upgrades to your property’s green credentials. There are plenty of changes you can make, from simple tweaks such as pipe lagging, to hefty switches such as new double glazing, that all count towards making your property more energy efficient. Of course, if you do make any changes, don’t forget to update your EPC to reflect the upgrades! Details of how to do this and why it’s so important are available here.

Be practical, not personal

Don’t forget that your property is a business, and whilst you want to make sure it looks as great as it can, you need to be savvy about the choices you make.

Expensive fixtures and fittings can be more of a curse than a blessing, with complex controls and fiddly features providing potential confusion for tenants, and high cost for you to replace should they go wrong. Whilst you want your new tenants have a great home to be proud of, bear in mind that you should replace any fixtures and fitting like for like should they go wrong, so don’t leave yourself open for hefty cost further down the line if and when a pricy item needs replacing.

Similarly, think carefully about big items like floor coverings. Whilst you want to be sure that your property is welcoming and stylish, with a rental property it does pay to think a little more about the practicalities than if you were looking at carpeting your own home. If you chose to fit fluffy white pure wool carpets throughout your home, you could insist on people removing shoes, and ban red wine from entering the building – however this isn’t an option as a landlord! A more forgiving option, that is easily cleanable, or replaceable without breaking the bank, might be a more sensible choice.

Find the perfect match

When your property is perfectly polished and ready to rent, the next step is making sure that it is on the market as quickly as possible. After all, you want to find the perfect tenant to appreciate all your hard work!

Here at Howsy, we understand the importance of finding the ideal match for your property. Schedule a call with one of our team today, to discuss how we can help match your pristine property, with a tenant who will love it as much as you do!

Schedule your call here today.

It’s an exciting day here at Howsy towers!

We are delighted to announce that we have acquired online letting agency Upad from liquidators, and are excited to be relaunching the much-loved brand.

The acquisition sees Howsy taking on a number of Upad’s assets, including the company name, contracts and operating platform.  

The news of Upad’s sudden closure at the end of last year came as a shock to everyone. The organisation was closed following founder James Davis suffering a health scare, and we were saddened to see such a vibrant business in our sector close its doors.

With such a strong reputation for excellent customer service and an industry leader in the online rental sector, we were keen to ensure that this did not signal the end for Upad, and began the process of acquiring the firm’s assets.

Why have Howsy bought Upad?

We are keen to build an unrivalled rental platform, utilising seamless technology, highly skilled staff and a bank of rental-know-how to offer bespoke solutions to landlords across the UK. Upad’s technology delivers some fantastic solutions, and their loyal customer base represents a cross-section of UK landlords who we hope we can continue to deliver a great service to.

What does it mean for Howsy customers?

Upad was one of the founders of the online letting agency model, alongside Urban.co.uk who we also acquired at the end of 2019. Working together with existing Howsy teams, these purchases allow us to offer a great tenant find option, tailored to suit the needs of today’s landlord.

We’re over the moon that a number of Upad and Urban.co.uk experts have joined the Howsy team and are providing us with the benefit of their knowledge in this particular sector of the rental market – what they don’t know about finding your perfect tenant just isn’t worth knowing!

Of course, this addition to the family doesn’t change the Howsy you know. We will still continue to provide end-to-end property management services, combining cutting edge technology with round-the-clock personal support to make sure that every element of your rental journey is taken care of.

What does this change mean for Upad customers?

Day-to-day, there will be no changes to the Upad that existing customers know and love. All of the technology and features you have come to expect will all still be in place, only to be backed up further by the round-the-clock teams here at Howsy.

All of the great features you look for when finding a new tenant are still available, with the option to seamlessly move onto a Howsy management plan if you are looking for a more end-to-end solution.

As a larger team, we hope that we will be able to continue Upad’s vision in driving innovation for landlords and tenants, and make a real change to the private rental sector.

Looking forwards

2020 is shaping up to be an exciting year, with lots of positive news to come.

We are always keen to hear any thoughts on how we can change things to make them work better for our landlords, and urge you to get in touch with any ideas. There’s no better feedback!

As we move into a new year, plenty of us make lots of resolutions. Gym memberships soar, healthy food fills our fridges and exciting new hobbies fill our time.

However, as a landlord starting a new decade, what are the key rental resolutions that you should be making, and making sure that you stick to in 2020 (and beyond)!

Property maintenance

The newly announced Renters Reform Bill focuses heavily on improving standards of accommodation for tenants, with large penalties for landlords who do not provide properties that are safe and healthy. Whilst the majority of landlords obviously would never consider providing sub-standard living accommodation, this legislation is designed to crunch down on the few rogues that give the industry a bad name.

Winter weather can wreak havoc on property maintenance, so to ensure that your property is maintained and ticking all the letting legislation boxes, there are a few vital points that you need to remember:

  • Make sure all heating and hot water is well maintained and in full working order. The cold winter months are miserable enough without adding a boiler breakdown into the mix.  
  • Everyone wants to come home to a warm toasty house at this time of year. If the radiators in your property need bleeding, they won’t be getting up to temperature, and your tenants will be feeling very chilly. A few minutes per radiator is all it takes to remove any air-blockages.  
  • Damp in a property is one of the most common tenant complaints, and is often much worse in the winter when windows are kept shut against the chill. But managing ventilation in the property, with airbricks or extractor fans will help minimise the risk of damp and mould causing havoc in a home. You can read more top tips on how to manage mould here.
  • Rain, wet leaves and damp, chilly nights are a recipe for disaster when it comes to blocked gutters, leaks and potential damp. Making sure the exterior of your property is maintained and kept clear of debris is a (damp and messy) but necessary winter maintenance job that can pay dividends.

Refresh your contracts

As we woke up on January first, plans to clear cupboards, refresh wardrobes and declutter the day-to-day started to form. But why should you stop at the physical? Now is a perfect time to have a long hard look at all the contracts that are overseeing your landlord life, and question whether they are still working well for you.

As your letting lifestyle changes, you may find that your current letting agent no longer delivers the requirements that you are looking for. You may have decided that you want to take a more active role in 2020, or even want to take more of a back seat, and be looking for an agent that allows you to do just that.

But can you make the decision to switch?

You are perfectly within your rights to make the decision to end the contract with your existing letting agent, should you decide that there is a better option for you elsewhere. The contract that you have in place is a legal agreement, so there are steps that you have to take in order to exit the contract correctly, however it absolutely can be done.

You can read more about how to make this change here, or speak to a member of the Howsy team, who will be happy to offer you advice on the process. Give us a call today on 0330 999 1234.  

Get your paperwork in order

In the land of lettings, a clean and concise paperwork trail is key. Making sure you have all the relevant documents in order is very important.

As part of your rental resolutions, going over all the documentation relating to your property, from gas safety certificates to right to rent forms and making sure they are all in date and nothing has slipped will stand you in good stead for the year ahead, and help you plan your key dates and ‘to-dos’ for the coming months.

Understand tax changes

2020 is a big year for tax changes, and some of them are likely to have a real impact on landlords. Whilst not exactly a resolution, identifying tax changes that could directly affect your bottom line is something that is important to understand.

Back in 2015, changes were announced surrounding tax relief on mortgage interest payments and fees, as well as fees and interest on any loans to buy furnishings for properties, with plans for the changes to be phased out over a five-year period.  These changes were introduced in the tax year 2017/2018, with claimable relief being reduced to 75%, then down to 50% in 2018/2019, 25% in 2019/2020. By the final stage of the change, tax year 2020/2021 (which starts in April), landlords will be unable to claim any tax relief on mortgage interest payments at all.  

From then, landlords will only be able to subtract a flat 20% tax credit on any interest payments from rental income when filing a tax return.

In addition to this change (which has been five years in the pipeline) there are significant changes to Private Residence Relief being introduced, which is bad news for any landlords looking to sell a rental property.

Currently, if a landlord wants to sell a rental property that was once their home, they are able to claim Private Residence Relief for all the time that they personally lived in the property before letting it to tenants, plus an additional 18 months after moving out. This means that landlords have the potential to claim up to around £40,000 in Capital Gains Tax relief upon the sale.

Come April, this final 18-month period will be reduced to just nine months – cutting the available period in half. The landlord also has to be able to prove that they were living in the property at point of sale to be eligible to claim.

Additionally, the period for payment of the Capital Gains Tax bill will change from January 31st in the year after the sale, to just 30 days after completion.

Be environmentally aware

Many people have made new year’s resolutions to be more environmentally aware, and it’s certainly a great way to start a new decade.

For landlords, there is even more reason to be highly aware of the green routine, as any every residential property will be required to have an EPC rating of E or above from 1st April 2020, including those with existing tenancies.

The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) were introduced in March 2015, but came into force on April 1st 2018, when in order to legally grant a new tenancy, renewal or extension to a tenancy, the property had to have an EPC rating of E or above. Landlords were encouraged to make relevant changes to their properties to boost their EPC rating to avoid a hefty fine, however there are a number of exemptions available should it be impossible to crack the rating ceiling in your property.

Full details of MEES, simple changes that you can make to your property to boost your rating, and a full list of exemptions can be found here.

Change your thinking around deposits

No matter whether it is 2020 or 3020, making sure your property is properly protected has got to be high on the list for most landlords.

Following the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act back in the summer of 2019, deposits are a hot topic. As part of the changes, come June 1st 2020, landlords will only be able to take a security deposit equivalent to five weeks’ rent (or six weeks’ when the annual rent exceeds £50,000).

Landlords with existing deposits held with schemes will have to reduce the amount held by this date, and failure to do so can be a pricy mistake – with fines of anything from £5,000 to £30,000 expected.

There is no doubt that there is a lot to consider, and there is plenty to go wrong. With deposits being removed, returned, re-registered – it’s a recipe for disaster! However, there is another way…

Here at Howsy, we think it’s high time that deposits were turned on their head. Despite the five-week cap being introduced last year, the average deposit still sits at over £1,000 (£2,000 in the capital!) – a huge sum of money for tenants to stump up and often the barrier for great tenants to get their foot on the private rental ladder.

We’ve launched an innovative new system destined to change the way deposits work for everyone. Replacing the outdated lump sum payment with a small monthly fee paid by the tenant (or household), the insurance-based scheme guarantees a simple, stress-free system for the landlord, and a financially seamless option for the tenant.

You can read more about Howsy Club here.

Manifesto promises have been made, rumours have been rife, but the Queen’s Speech today confirmed that new measures are being introduced to make big changes the private rented sector. Housing is devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so these changes will only impact landlords and tenants in England.

What are the plans?

The Renters Reform Bill has been designed to introduce a ‘package of reforms to deliver a fairer and more effective rental market’, with an emphasis on:

  • Improving security for tenants in the rental sector, delivering greater protection for tenants and empowering them to hold their landlord to account.
  • Strengthening the rights of landlords who need to gain possession of their property when they have a valid reason to do so.
  • Improving the experience of those living in the private rental sector and the affordability for tenants when moving from one tenancy to the next by introducing a new lifetime deposit.
  • Improving standards in rented accommodation, driving out rogue landlords and helping to professionalise the sector, with all tenants having a right to redress if their rented properties are not safe and healthy.
  • Professionalise letting agents, to the benefit of tenants and landlords.

The main points

There are a few key elements to the bill, which could see major changes within the rental industry. One of the most notable, which has been a talking point amongst landlords, tenants and politicians for years, is the confirmation that no-fault evictions via Section 21 will be abolished. This will mean removing Section 21 from the Housing Act 1988 and reforming the grounds for possession.

Further to this change, another major reform is to the remaining possession legislation, Section 8. The act notes that landlords will be granted more rights to gain possession of their property through the courts when there is a legitimate need for them to do so, and a reform of the current legislation will be undertaken to facilitate this (you can read more about the current legislation and process here). A pledge has been made that the current court process will be improved, making the possession procedure simpler and faster, so landlords can regain possession of their property sooner should they need to under new legislation.

The government are also looking to introduce a new lifetime deposit scheme, enabling tenants to ‘port’ their deposit with them from property to property, only having to supply one deposit and transferring it to the next property when they move.

Whilst a transferable deposit would alleviate the pressure tenants face with regards to finding a deposit whilst their funds are still tied up in an existing property, raising a deposit in the first place is still a big ask for many. Here at Howsy we’ve turned the idea of deposits on their head with Howsy Club, a revolutionary scheme designed to remove the need for up-front funds from tenants, whilst still providing peace of mind and protection for landlords. You can find out more here.